Tuesday, May 31, 2016


The Best Photos of the Day

Best Photos of the Day
Sri Lankan bystanders take a photograph of a giant display featuring a seated Buddha during the annual Vesak Buddhist festival celebrations in Colombo on May 25, 2016. Sri Lankan Buddhists are celebrating Vesak, which commemorates the birth of Buddha, his attaining enlightenment and his passing away on the full moon day of May, which falls on May 21 this year. LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI / AFP


Museum of Russian impressionist art opens in Moscow
In this file photo a policeman drives a car in front of a poster picturing Moscow's Kremlin near the Red Square in Moscow, on May 26, 2016. VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP.
MOSCOW (AFP).- A museum of Russian impressionist art opened in Moscow on Saturday amid efforts to promote the country's little-known art movement to a global audience. 

Housed in a historic former chocolate factory, the private museum features a permanent exhibition of some 70 works by Russian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries including Konstantin Korovin, Valentin Serov and Pyotr Konchalovsky. 

It is based on the personal collection of entrepreneur and philanthropist Boris Mints, who invested some $20 million into a project seeking to help both Russians and foreigners learn more about Russia's contribution to a movement which originated in France in the 19th century.

"Up until now, only the icons of Andrei Rublev and the works of avant-garde artists (Kazimir) Malevich or (Wassily) Kandinsky were known all over the world," said museum director Yulia Petrova. 

"However, between these two periods there is an artistic movement which deserves to be discovered."

Designed by British architects, the museum, housed in a new circular building boasting ultra-modern lines, has been built on the site of an old sugar silo of a famous Soviet-era confectionery factory, the Bolshevik.

The move is hugely ironic: the Bolsheviks, who glorified Soviet realism, shunned impressionist art up until the political thaw of the 1960s. 

The works of some well-known Russian impressionist artists including Valentin Serov, the author of The Girl with Peaches, are now experiencing a popular revival.

This past winter, an exhibition of paintings by Serov, renowned for his society portraits, broke attendance records at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, with visitors queing for hours in the snow and even breaking a door. 

"The Russians are drawn to impressionist artists because their works are joyful," said Petrova. 

But "in the West, the works of Russian impressionist artists are strangely undervalued and often cost 10 times less than those of their French counterparts," she added.

Impressionism is arguably the most famous French painting movement. 

It originated with a group of Paris-based artists in the 19th century and has become known for the artists' innovative techniques, their bold use of colour and loose brushstrokes.

Some of the most famous impressionist artists were Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Pierre Auguste Renoir.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse


The fascinating tale of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain

The fascinating tale of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain

Photographed by Alfred Stieglitz, urinated on by Brian Eno, sometimes cited as the work of a German baroness, Marcel Duchamp's Fountain was arguably the first ever piece of conceptual art and harbours a fascinating backstory
The original Fountain - Marcel Duchamp 1917 - photographed by Alfred Stieglitz
The original Fountain - Marcel Duchamp 1917 - photographed by Alfred Stieglitz


Photographed, then subsequently thrown away, by Alfred Stieglitz, urinated on by Brian Eno and sometimes cited as the work of a Bauhaus baroness rather than the man it is most commonly associated with, Marcel Duchamp's Fountain is arguably the first piece of conceptual art ever, certainly the most famous ready made in art history, and has inspired countless artists from Grayson Perry to Damien Hirst, Richard Hamilton to Richard Wentworth and inspired many others to 'interact' with it in the most obvious way in gallery and museum settings. .  .
In the gently flowing curves of Fountain Duchamp biographer Calvin Tomkins claimed one could discern ‘the veiled head of a classic Renaissance Madonna or a seated Buddha or, perhaps more to the point, one of Brâncuși's polished erotic forms. Others have likened the work to an erect penis and testicles or even “a modest woman with her head covered”.
One thing is clear: for such an important landmark in art history Fountain was incredibly short lived. After photographing the piece in his studio, Alfred Stieglitz disposed of the urinal, meaning that what you will gaze upon in any gallery or museum now will be one of 17 replicas commissioned by Marcel Duchamp in the 1960s.

Marcel Duchamp and Bicycle Wheel (1913)

Marcel Duchamp and Bicycle Wheel (1913)

With Fountain Duchamp pretty much invented conceptual art and thus cut the accepted link between an artist’s labour and the supposed ‘merit’ of the work. It has been mooted that in putting the urinal forward as a work of art Duchamp, who came from a small town near Rouen, close to the battlefields of World War One, was discrediting the power and standing of the virtuoso artist and the critics who sat in admiration and judgment in the same way that the awful atrocities of the war had discredited the powers of authority.
With Fountain Duchamp, who had arrived in New York from Paris in 1915,  revolutionised the ‘creation’ of art and effectively posed the questions: Who is an artist? And what is art?
Duchamp had begun deliberating on the idea of a ‘readymade’ a year or two earlier.  The first, in 1913, was a bicycle wheel on a stool which he said he simply ‘liked looking at’. Despite its equally lowly beginnings, Fountain was an altogether sexier offering – sexual attraction and sexual difference being two of Duchamp’s obsessions.

Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

Of all Duchamp's readymades, Fountain is the best known perhaps because its symbolic meaning takes the conceptual challenge posed by the readymade to its most visceral extreme. Duchamp, who saw America as the land of the huckster and Fountain as much practical joke as it was a serious attempt to reconfigure the art world, signed the porcelain urinal ‘R.Mutt (a possible reference to the gambler Mutt in Bud Fisher's Mutt and Jeff cartoon) and it was submitted for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, the first annual exhibition by the Society - of which Duchamp was a board member - to be staged at The Grand Central Palace in New York.
However, Duchamp was not known as its creator (though most suspected him to be). Instead, as Alfred Stieglitz wrote “A young woman sent a large porcelain urinal on a pedestal to the Independent(s).”
Duchamp never identified his ‘collaborator’ – if indeed there was one -  but the young woman of Stieglitz's description has variously been identified as either Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an eccentric German poet and artist who loved (but who was jealous of) Duchamp; or Louise Norton, who contributed an essay to (the art and Dada journal) The Blind Man discussing Fountain.

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

Certainly, Freytag-Loringhoven had created broadly similar, scatological works but nothing that held the thinking expressed in Duchamp’s piece. Norton meanwhile, was living at the time in an apartment owned by her parents at 110 West 88th Street in New York City, and this address is partially discernible (along with "Richard Mutt") on the paper entry ticket attached to the object in Stieglitz's photograph.
Duchamp later said that he had not made his own identity known because of his position on the society’s board. As ‘R Mutt’ was an unknown Duchamp thught he could test the board’s openness to art that didn’t conform to conventional standards without compromising his relationship with the other board members.
But Fountain was rejected by the committee, even though the rules stated that all works would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. After some consternation and a brief discussion it was decided that the six dollar submission should be returned to 'Mr. Mutt' with a letter stating that it had no place in an art exhibition. Duchamp immediately resigned from the society stating that “The only works of art America has given (the world) are her “plumbing and her bridges”.

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Philosopher Stephen Hicks believed that Duchamp, who was quite familiar with the history of European art, was making a profoundly provocative statement with Fountain:
“The artist is a not great creator—Duchamp went shopping at a plumbing store. The artwork is not a special object - it was mass-produced in a factory. The experience of art is not exciting and ennobling - at best it is puzzling and mostly leaves one with a sense of distaste. But over and above that, Duchamp did not select just any ready-made object to display. In selecting the urinal, his message was clear: Art is something you piss on."
Learn more about Marcel Duchamp, conceptual art, readymades in The Art Book, Art in Time, Art & Today and our two books on Dada.

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