Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Multitasking in Action

Thanks to Телеканал "Культура I have discovered Milan's La Scala Musical Director Daniel Barenboim as a pianist (actually, he is returning to his old profession)! This is not the piece I have seen recently (Pierre Boulez as a conductor of  performing Liszt piano concert), but I hope you will enjoy Barenboim's interpretation of Beethoven and how he both conducts and orchestra and plays! Multitasking in action!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Leonardo's invention: Viola Organista

Probably some of you have seen Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches and even models based on these sketches at some science museums. Sławomir Zubrzycki went further by creating Da Vinci's hybrid musical instruments - viola organista and performed some pieces during Conradfestival in Kraków this October!

This is how the musical instrument looks like...

...and this is how it sounds

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The False Mirror and Sky Blue

To celebrate Rene Magritte's, one of my favorite artist, birthday and inspired by MoMA and a Tumblr blog that links Queen B's song lines to artworks, I have decided to unite my favorite artists and poets. The poem by Baratashvili (1841) is as if it written as a description to Magritte's The False Mirror painting. 

Rene Magritte, The False Mirror, 1928

Sky-Blue by Nikoloz Baratashvili (1841)

The azure blue, the heavenly hue,
The first created realm of blue; 
And o'er its radiance divine 

My soul does pour its love sublime. 
My heart that once with laughter glowed 
Of grief, now bears a heavy load. 
But yet it thrills and loves anew 
To view again the sapphire blue. 
I love to gaze on lovely eyes 
That swim in azure from the skies; 
The heavens lend this colour fair, 
And leave a dream of gladness there. 
Enamoured of the limpid sky, 
My thoughts take wing to regions high, 
And in that blue of liquid fire 
In raptured ecstasy expire. 
When I am dead no tears will flow 
Upon my lonely grave below, 
But from above the aerial blue 
Will scatter o'er me tears of dew. 
The mists about my tomb will wind 
A veil of pearl with shadows twined, 
But lured by sunbeams from on high 
'Twill melt into the azure sky. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Some Thoughts on Museums After Reading Tomislav Šola. Part II - Museo del Novecento

read part 1 

A study no one asked for 

from rather unstructured thoughts on museums and art centers in CIS countries inspired by Tomislav Šola's book extract, I would like to finally share some observations and findings that turned my unplanned visit to Museo del Novecento in Milan to a small unsolicited consulting initiative. 

My exult from new museum opening almost three years ago, back in December 2010, has been slightly changing to irritation and the last visit concluded my mixed feelings into final decision that despite its great collection, heritage and filling an empty gap and need for such a museum on Milan's, if not whole Italy's cultural map, it is a triumph of architecture over functionality and visitor experience

Museo del Novecento (aka 900 Museum) is one of the museums that in the quest for creating an unforgettable experience reaches the purpose by punishing the visitors who leave its walls with sore legs from needless walk: as a visitor who went there three or four times since its inauguration, I was frustrated and tired of my multiple failures to reach the open space area to enjoy the best in my opinion view to Duomo square for free (FYI, on certain days and hours before closing time some museums do not charge entry fee). 

This is where I was aiming to go to enjoy the view. Succeeded on the 4th attempt

As in Šola's example when an art museum director to a question whether there was a place to drink a cup of coffee in his museum replied that he would love to have one, but the architect did not permit it, the architect Stefano Boeri did not care for me nor any other visitor short in time and willing to explore art or reach certain parts of the building without unnecessary exploration of his architectural wonder - a made-on-purpose labyrinth-like space. As a visitor I found myself trapped in a sequence of escalators some of which work only one-way, so as in a department store in which one is forced to cross entire floor (which is done on purpose to incite an impulse shopping act), a visitor has to cross half of the museum in order to get back to the previous spot. In my particular case, it took up to 10 minutes and two stops to ask for directions, first I walked all the way to the restaurant, then went back to the ground floor, then had to repeat my ascent and descent once again but on different levels. I remembered about a spacious area with round windows and comfy sofas to get some rest before continuing my quest that should have been on my way anyway, but I never found itMy irritation and fatigue were growing exponentially to the time lost in these arty labyrinths. However, to reward my spatialization failure,  the Fatum or a Museum God brought me to the area of kinetic art that I kept on skipping all the previous times due to another shortfall. I vaguely remember the audio guide briefly mentioning* it as something one can later return to check out while proposing to continue exploration of Futurism and Modern art exposition omitted the fact that at the end of the audio tour a visitor is asked to descend and immediately finds himself in the ground floor guided to the exit with little independence to decide what to do. I suppose very few remembered about that turn to the left on some floor and even if they did the hassle to get back and try to find that path turned down many in the middle of their journey.

At the end, I reached the area I wanted to go and I had a second discovery of the day - Lucio Fontana's room. The result of this second discovery are few images below together with some problems spotted and potential solutions.

I don't expect the museum to react or follow up, but if they are I really hope they will at least raise the level on which their signage to paintings are placed (check out the sixth image below with the photos of bending visitors). 

In addition, what kind of audience does the museum target in the mornings (10:00 to 12:30) and afternoons (15:00-17:00) in the middle of a working week? Even housewives are busy! This is very sad...

...as well as this...  

*Another part of me suggests that the audio guide did not even mention about kinetic art - something I should probably check next time I take friends visiting me in Milan.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Some Thoughts on Museums After Reading Tomislav Šola. Part I

Contemporary Nomad - Some Thoughts on Museums After Reading Tomislav Šola
Few days ago I was reading an article in Artguide, an extract from a book about 25 deadly sins of contemporary museums by Tomislav Šola (which trace I failed to find on Amazon or any online/offline retailer).  This article summed up my own concerns and thoughts about how many museum fail to make the exhibitions interesting and even visitor-friendly. For Croatian Šola and his colleagues visitor-friendliness includes interaction and ability to learn, comfortable chairs, readable and legible signage, no queues in the toilets, ability to get a cup of coffee, etc. - all those indispensable characteristics of a good modern museum. 

What about the atmosphere itself? It’s de-facto that a visitor is welcomed to a museum as he/she agrees to spend both the time and the money there. Museums compete for sponsors' money, visitors' attention and positive feedback in social media, all interlinked and important. But this basic and incontestable free market economy's rule of making your client/customer happy is non-existent in most of ex-Soviet countries' state museums, even those that are considered the titans and elite in museum world, relatively progressive and open-minded, time to time show hostile attitude to a visitor. A centuries-long "Who is to Blame?" question posed by a Russian writer Hertzen can be also asked in this matter, but it is a type of question that cannot be answered in one sentence, yet the attempt to answer it will drive me away from the main purpose of the post. 

When I step in a state-owned museum, be it in Russia, Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan, I feel very unwelcome as if I disturbed someone at 2AM with my call or unexpected visit. There are, of course some exceptions, those who truly enjoy their work and for whom low salaries or other challenges/problems do not leave a mark on their face and overall mood, but usually museum employees seem to be always irritated and speak through set teeth or stare at you with suspicion while you move from one item to another controlling that no photos are taken or a cellphone is picked to answer a call. To me it was twofold surprising to experience this kind of strict control over phones and cameras usage in The History of Soviet Pavilions, Part I exhibition curated by Marina Loshak who in her interview to Russian TV along with discussing her vision of being a newly appointed director of State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow highlighted the fact that she is against controlling visitors or prohibiting them to take pictures as this is a way of interaction and learning. 

Unfortunately, Manez has no English language website - 
a shame to one of the best Moscow's contemporary exhibition spaces

Prohibiting taking no-flash pictures, in my opinion, is inappropriate and badly managed anyway. This tendency did not come by private art centers. In artist-owned Gapchinska gallery in Kiev I was explained that this is artist’s will and a way to fight copycats. In private Pinchuk Art Center before I made a disappointed face the guide had told me that I could find high quality pictures of all pieces from ChinaChina exhibition online, so I was happy at the end. Still, I believe that whoever wants and needs to take a picture will definitely leave the place with a bunch of photos or find them online elsewhere. On this occasion, I have an unforgettable story of a challenge when in a group of three we spent around 10-15 minutes to distract attention of Turin's Castello di Rivara's attendants so that our friend takes a photo of Maurizio Cattelan’s Novecento piece (a taxidermied horse hanging from the ceiling) that I actually now found on artist's website! Probably, the level of excitement, fun and childish mischief we all shared can be only knocked off by Godard's scene of running through Louvre.

Maurizio Cattelan, Novecento, 1997. Photo by Paolo Pellion di Persano. Courtesy of the artist

Even with no photo policy, Pinchuk's center holds the garland of victory in my list of contemporary art experiences in five ex-Soviet countries I have been so far, maybe since it is private, organized by a passionate art collector who invests a lot to develop new activities managed by a foreigner. Going to state museums unless it's Hermitage or anything as significant and target international visitors, is usually depressing. The Night of Museum in Almaty made me regret of leaving my hotel room as all expositions were closed, the biggest attraction was taking a photo with parrots and sleepy owls at the entrance, inside there was a fair of badly made crafts displayed in self-made booths and creepy things like a book titled "Life Through The Prism of Death" that I even was afraid to open... Maybe it is wrong to generalize the entire country's museums based on the visit to the Central State Museum, the biggest in whole Central Asia, but the photo of the hall below speaks for itself.

On the photo: people dancing under weird music mixed with Yuri Gagarin's historical April 12, 1961 speech. 

In all CIS countries I've been so far, private art centers are more innovative and dynamic, yet relationship management and communication ethics is uneven: I left Moscow's Winzavod with mixed feelings as I really enjoyed the site, but not that much restaurant service or my conversations with some of the galleries employees finding them extremely rude or arrogant (or both) once they have cleared that I am not intending to buy anything on the spot. Owned by Dasha ZhukovaGarage Center for Contemporary Culture (GCCC) in Moscow had expensive tickets, but well-curated events. Plus, it was the first time an  employee, a young female, smiled and wished me a nice day when issuing the ticket! However, I did not get why in such a small perimeter there were so many employees, ca. fifty vs. at most twenty five-thirty visitors. In addition to young attendants dispersed few meters away from one another and thus outnumbering the visitors in the exhibition space, there were few London-club bouncer-like males dressed in Men in Black style suits walking in the park. These professional bodyguards' mission remained unclear to me as neither Dasha nor her rich husband were anywhere close, the artists on display were famous, but not contemporary art superstars like Gerhard Richter or Jeff Koons, so I felt very sorry about these emotion-free guys looking so odd around children's playground and hipster-favorite outdoor resting zone. Ah, and of course, cameras in each corner complemented the feeling of Big Brother silently watching every step one takes. 

I didn't have guts to take a picture of Men in Black bouncers, so instead enjoy the 
picture of Garage's ad - a friendly invitation to be in the center of contemporary culture 

Despite all of above pitfalls, it will be wrong not to mention that both state-owned Manez and Winzavod/Garage CCC exhibitions were exceptionally interesting and enriching and sooner or later I finally finish editing my posts from this summer. Also, Šola would be probably happy to discover that Garage's restaurant offered a very nice menu, had a summer terrace and restaurant's employees were friendly enough to let me leave my laptop charging while I walk around the exhibitions with a phrase "sure, we will keep an eye on it, but no one will steal it anyway" (a double-meaning phrase that either sheds some light why they would need those bouncers-like security in the garden or just an acknowledgment that my ugly Lenovo work laptop was not sexy enough to be stolen in Moscow's center for contemporary culture).  

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Art in Fashion

If you don't have millions to afford original Damien Hirst's piece, find a set of 12 plates quite pricey as well as a skull for ca.€4000 a bit too much for a small and useless interior design object, now you can buy something arty yet practical to cover your neck from approaching winter cold and wind. 

Starting from today a limited collection of contemporary artist's designs for Alexander McQueen brand is found in stores. I admit to like Hirst as a textile designer more than an artist, maybe because I like scarves and crave for the one of McQueen.

Probably, the history of collaboration between art and fashion goes even beyond Salvador Dali's drawing a lobster on for Elsa Schiaparelli's dress. Btw, do you know that Dali was an exceptional jewelry designer: when he was short in money and his paintings were not sold he was doing exclusive and exquisite jewelry pieces. My favorite is brooch with a mechanism that imitates human's beating heart  (according to doctors mechanical heart pulsates as a real one).

Among recent portable art projects, I can recall Louis Vuitton's summer 2012 collaboration with Yayoi Kusama that allowed to embellished her recognizable dots on bags and sunglasses, turning them into eccentric accessories and Anselm Reyle for Dior in 2011. Who will be next?

Since high-end fashion brand designers and stars make limited edition collection for H&M, some contemporary artists should join them as well making early 20th century communist slogan "Искусство в массы" ("Art into Masses") reach fashion masses. Do you think this might dilute gallery and auction prices for these artists' works? 

February 6, 2014 addition: 

Inspired by Andy Warhol and model Twiggy, Pop Wrap Limited Edition collection celebrates DVF's 40 year anniversary of the wrap dress. The video is made by Alia Penner.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Picasso Baby or almost Olympic Records in the Art Market

Yesterday, November 12 2013, Christie's New York auction in Rockefeller Plaza has broken more than one record: the auction itself gathered unprecedented $691,5 mln in total sales of which  $142,4 mln. were paid for Francis Bacon's triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969). This sale smashed previous record of the most expensive painting ever sold in public auction - Edvard Munch's The Scream (1985) which went for $119.9 mln. on May 2, 2012 on the competitor's auction. 

According to Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Bacon was the “(that) man who paints 
those dreadful pictures”. This triptych depicts Bacon's friend and rival Freud and was sold almost twice as much as it was estimated by Christie's 

Edvard Munch's The Scream has several variations. 
This one is tempera and pastel on board (1893)
but very few of you probably know this painting 
called Despair, oil on canvas (1893-94) 

Meet Jeff Koons' 12 ft "Balloon Dog (Orange)" - the most expensive piece of art by a living artist sold on a public auction at a record $58,4 mnl. Jeff Koons made five variations of colored sculptures (red, orange, magenta, blue and yellow) aiming at reflecting "<..> joy of celebrating a birthday or a party." This theme has been well-marked appearing in many topnotch cultural and art sites such as  Grand Canal in Venice to the roof terrace of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Jeff Koon's 12 ft "Balloon Dog (Orange)" from 1994 "Celebration" series 
Gerhard Richter's Cathedral Square, Milan until 
yesterday was the most expensive painting of a living artist

Still, the unbeatable record is Paul Cézanne's The Card Players (1894-95) sold on April 2011 for $259 mln in private sales to the Royal Family of Qatar which earned Sheikha Al Mayassa the title of the most influential art persona of 2013 by the Art Newspaper because of her agency’s “vast purchasing power”George Embiricos, a Greek shipping magnate and former owner of the painting, made a good business by selling the only privately held piece in the same year of few big retrospective exhibitions of Paul Cézanne, including the one in Paris and Milan. 

The Card Players 1892–93. Oil on canvas, 97 × 130 cm

Cézanne have made numerous studies and five paintings of the theme which is very significant for art history and is a cornerstone in the artist's artistic career, a prelude to his most acclaimed works. 
The Card Players, 1892-95,Courtauld Institute, London 
The Card Players 1894–1895, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
The Card Players, 1890–92, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Card Players, 1890–92, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Olympic Games' motto Citius - Altius - Fortius, the three words in Latin that mean Faster - Higher - Stronger, can be attributed to art world as well. Maybe the reason of sky-rocking prices can be explained by Nicolai Iljine's, an art consultant for the Guggenheim, phrase: “There is not much great art left on the market and there is a lot of competition to get it.”

If you are curious, the list of the most expensive art pieces ever sold (ca.50 items) in auctions include nine Picasso's and five Vincent van Gogh works, buyers apart from mostly American museums include Arab royals, quite a few hedge fund founders and businessmen, and ex-prime minister of Georgia, also a successful businessman. IMHO, Picasso is a Louis Vuitton of art world - or you crave it and adore (especially, the real luxury models), or you find it too mainstream like some of LV's model that made one of my consultant colleagues specializing in luxury say that LV is an "aspirational brand for secretaries" (no offense, plus, this colleague has so many leather goods  with LV monogram). Myself, I like a more figurative blue and pink periods of Piccaso and the time of his collaboration with Braque. 

Coming back to aspirational point of art, I want to finish the post with famous rapper Jay-Z's recent song Picasso Baby

"I just want a Picasso in my casa, no, my castle
I'm a hassa, no, I'm an asshole
I'm never satisfied, can't knock my hustle
I wanna Rothko, no, I want a brothel
No, I want a wife that fuck me like a prostitute
Let's make love on a million
In a dirty hotel with the fan on the ceiling
All for the love of drug dealing
Marble floors, gold ceilings
Oh, what a feeling, fuck it, I want a billion
Jeff Koons balloons, I just wanna blow up
Condos in my condos, I wanna row of
Christie's with my missy, live at the MoMA
Bacons and turkey bacons, smell the aroma"

If you want to read more about this, I suggest to check out SF MOMA's blog post.

If you love rankings, then check out the top 20 most expensive contemporary art auction prices list of 2013 compiled by Blouin Artinfo