The Headlines

WITH PRESIDENT TRUMP SET TO LEAVE OFFICE IN ABOUT 48 HOURS, reporter Graham Bowley revisited the president’s repeated proposals to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. “The agency survived, its budget even grew a bit, not because President Trump ever wavered in his view of it as a waste of federal dollars,” Bowley writes in the New York Times, “but because Congress . . . voted to keep it alive.” Of course, the N.E.A.’s annual budget of $167.5 million (for 2021) is still modest compared to other sources of arts funding, he writes. For instance, New York City alone spends more each year on its cultural affairs. Meanwhile, in the San Francisco ChronicleDenise Sullivan takes a look at the history of president’s supporting arts in an article that stops with President Obama.

SPEAKING OF THE WHITE HOUSE, Joseph Robinette Biden Read the rest

These days, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and a host of other familiar names dominate at auction. But it wasn’t always so. Before the last couple decades, the Old Masters category—featuring artists who were active between the 14th and 18th centuries—was all anyone could talk about. Although its prominence has waned, the category has still set a number of auction records. Both public auctions and high-profile private museum acquisitions of works by art historical giants like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens, among others, have grabbed headlines, with works sometimes selling for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Major private deals of masterpieces in recent years have also moved the category to new heights. In 2019, billionaire J. Tomilson Hill, former chairman of private equity firm Blackstone, was revealed as the buyer of Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (ca. 1607) in a last-minute behind-the-scenes purchase made … Read the rest

Art Is Everything, a new novel by art critic and law professor Yxta Maya Murray, follows the life of Amanda Ruiz, a queer Chicana performance artist who writes essays about her life and art, over the course of about a decade. When the novel opens, Amanda is on the cusp of fame, at work on a mobile opera named Texit and an NEA-funded autocritical documentary she plans to film in Mexico, after having stretched a $10,000 Franklin Furnace grant over two years. All the while, Amanda writes her essays, which form the core of the novel’s prose and appear as essayistic captions on Instagram, Yelp reviews of exhibitions, Vimeo comments, and more, as well as descriptions for artworks posted to museum websites that are quickly removed.

Though Art Is Everything is imbued with humor, Murray also takes to task the racism, misogyny, and homophobia that run rampant in … Read the rest

“Eternity” (2019-2020), natural beeswax, wood, glass, Cor-ten steel, 230 x 100 x 100 centimeters. All images © Tomáš Libertíny, shared with permission

Tomáš Libertíny prefers to collaborate when recreating iconic busts and sculptures, although his chosen partners don’t join him in the studio. The Slovakia-born artist tasks tens of thousands of bees with forming the porous outer layers of classic artworks like the “Nefertiti Bust,” Michelangelo’s “Brutus,” and a large jug based on the “Nolan amphora” at The Met.

Encased in honeycomb, the resulting sculptures generate a dialogue between the newly produced organic material and art historical subject matter. Libertíny’s “Eternity,” for example, is based on a 3D model of the original portrait of Nefertiti and is “a testament to the strength and timelessness of the ‘mother nature’ as well as its ancient character as a powerful female reigning against the odds.” Similarly, the artist’s “Brutus” rests on … Read the rest

Not long after an insurrectionist mob of Trump supporters wreaked havoc in the United States Capitol Building, a group of curators and conservators was dispatched to survey the damage done to the cultural patrimony on display there. But before they could take stock of the situation—mere moments after the violent, largely mask-free rioters ended their siege—cleaners and maintenance workers retained by Capitol Hill were deployed to sweep, mop, and vacuum the broken glass, bodily fluids, and trash the vandals left in their wake. Given the white supremacist underpinnings of the attack, it is striking that those tasked with cleaning up the ravages were largely people of color. The photographs and television footage of those essential workers show them in sharp relief against iconic American architecture and artworks, evoking a larger heritage of racial inequality in particular sectors of the economy. This race-based labor hierarchy, manifest in art imagery throughout … Read the rest

By Andrew Hem

What brings you hope? That’s the central question behind a new group exhibition presented by Port City Creative Guild. Couriers of Hope boasts more than 120 original pieces from more than 90 artists—the list includes Rosanne Kang Jovanovski, Andrew Hem (previously), Sean Chao (previously), and Yoskay Yamamoto—all rendered on vintage envelopes. Prompted by the mail art movement of the 1960s, the exhibition features an eclectic array of watercolor, pencil, and mixed-media illustrations that transform the miniature canvases into the artists’ vision for the future, whether through relaxed otters, peaches, or vivid portraits. Many of the works prominently display original postmarks and stamps and serve as a reminder that communication doesn’t have to be digital.

Students from Long Beach Unified School District have the opportunity to acquire one of the envelopes by trading their own response to the artists’ same prompt, … Read the rest

After its longtime chief curator unexpectedly left last year, the Guggenheim Museum in New York has found a replacement in Naomi Beckwith, currently the senior curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Beckwith will start as the Guggenheim’s deputy director and chief curator in June.

Beckwith has been at the MCA Chicago since 2011. During that time, she organized a number of celebrated shows, including most notably a Howardena Pindell retrospective that opened in 2018 and later traveled to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts. She also worked on exhibitions devoted to Keren Cytter, Leslie Hewitt, William J. O’Brien, the Propeller Group, and Yinka Shonibare, among others.

Prior to the MCA, Beckwith was an associate curator at New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, where she established herself as a talent to watch. Her curatorial credits there … Read the rest

All images courtesy of People’s Pottery Project, shared with permission

People’s Pottery Project (PPP) has a simple mission: “to empower formerly incarcerated women, trans, and nonbinary individuals and their communities through the arts.” The value of the Los Angeles-based nonprofit, though, reaches far beyond the ceramics studio where its members carefully sculpt and glaze dinnerware to sell from its warehouse.

At the heart of PPP is mutual aid, a form of community support and solidarity that rapidly expanded at the onset of the pandemic but that has a rich history in political movements. The initiative is multi-faceted—it currently employs three people full-time and two part-time, and formerly incarcerated folks can drop in to help in the production process and be paid for their contributions. Depending on COVID-19 guidance and the ability to meet in-person, PPP also hosts community classes. As restrictions lift in the coming months, the organization plans … Read the rest

Widespread recognition is arriving over a century late for Berthe Morisot, a true innovator who died at the height of her promise. She was a founding member of Impressionism, whose marquee names counted themselves as both admirers and friends. But, unlike her peers, whose more experimental inclinations were tempered by a need to please patrons, her canvases bear vivacious brushstrokes and unusual figuration which nearly leapfrogged Impressionism to abstraction. She featured prominently in every annual Impressionist exhibitions, except one that she missed because she was recovering after the birth of her daughter.

These shows were generally met with acclaim. Critic Paul Mantz wrote in his review of the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877 that “there is only one true Impressionist in the whole revolutionary group—and that is Mlle Berthe Morisot.” Yet Morisot’s gender also played a role in how she was perceived. Writers in her day used terms … Read the rest

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Like history in general, art history is subject to recurrent revisions and reappraisals. Whether it occurs within their lifetimes or posthumously, some artists earn a place in the art-historical record, only to be forgotten and written out of the same . . . until and unless they are eventually rediscovered. Art history, in other words, is a malleable discipline, but understanding developments in art depends on it—or at the very least is enhanced by it. Accordingly, we’ve assembled a list of 12 books, both mainstream and specialized, that span the saga of art from classical antiquity to the present. Whether you’re an artist or lover of art, you might want at least a few of them on your bookshelf.

1. Janson’s History of Art (9th edition) by Penelope J.E.

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