Monday, August 15, 2016

Art World | New Book Reveals the Greatest Rivalries in Modern Art

New Book Reveals the Greatest Rivalries in Modern Art

They say the strongest steel is forged in the hottest flame.
Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Courtesy of YouTube.
Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Courtesy of YouTube.
In his forthcoming book, The Art of Rivalry, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee turns our attention to four key relationships in the history of Modern art, and he digs deep.
His survey covers the mystifying relationships between Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, who embarked on an obscure and enduring friendship after World War II; Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, who struggled for leadership of a new, 20th century avant-garde; Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas, whose tender relationship collapsed following a skewered painting; and Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, whose lives and work would be inextricably bound beyond the grave.
Central to the book’s theme is also an element of intimacy, which Smee skillfully articulates in anecdotal accounts. Disappointingly, women assume little more than secondary roles in these epic romances. Smee admits in his introduction to focusing instead on the “homosocial” relationships between the artists in question as “uncomplicated by heterosexual passion or chauvinistic condescension.” Gertrude Stein, for instance, plays rebel-rousing sovereign in Matisse and Picasso’s Parisian art world; and artist Ruth Kligman is reduced to “a glamorous younger woman” who embarked on an affair with de Kooning shortly after surviving the car crash that claimed her lover Pollock’s life.
To draw your own conclusions on the most treacherous rivalries in modern art, we offer the following excerpted passages.
Lucien Freud, <em>Reflection (Self-Portrait)</em>, 1985. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. <br>Francis Bacon, <em>One of Two Studies for a Self-Portrait</em> (1970). Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Lucien Freud, Reflection (Self-Portrait), 1985. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Francis Bacon, One of Two Studies for a Self-Portrait (1970). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
On Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon
[Artist] Anne Dunn would later claim that Freud “had a kind of hero-worshiping crush on Bacon, though I don’t think it was ever consummated.” What seems undeniable is that the relationship was not only intense but asymmetrical. Bacon was attracted to Freud, who had a way of talking about art that the older man found immensely compelling and tried to emulate.
Insecure about his own lack of facility as a draftsman, Bacon was also eager to learn what he could from his younger friend. Freud was “funnier and more intelligent than Bacon’s average acolytes,” according to William Feaver. But Bacon was indifferent (or so Freud believed) to his work. (When asked if his own interest in Bacon’s work was reciprocated by the older man, Freud replied: “I’d have thought he was completely uninterested. But I don’t know.”) Freud, on the other hand, for one of the only times in his life, was truly in thrall to another person.
Henri and Pablo
Left: Henri Matisse, Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt (1906). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Right: Pablo Picasso, Portrait with Uncombed Hair (1896). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso
Picasso surely told himself that what he got from African art was very different from what Matisse saw in it. It was more extreme, more potent. The discovery, by his account, was not only more dramatic than Matisse’s curio shop pottering; it was fired by superstition, by magic. Matisse, for his part, would never have dramatized his conception of art in this way. It was not in his interest to do so: People thought he was crazy enough as it was. Better to emphasize ‘planes and proportions’ rather than magic and exorcism.
In any case, an idea of harmony, achieved through sublimation, mattered profoundly to Matisse in a way that it did not to Picasso. Matisse was always shoring himself up against chaos. Picasso meanwhile thrived on dissonance. He welcomed collision and strife.”
Left: Edouard Manet, <em>Self Portrait with a Palette</em> (1879). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Right: Edgar Degas, <em>Self-Portrait</em> (1855). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Left: Edouard Manet, Self Portrait with a Palette (1879). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Right: Edgar Degas, Self-Portrait (1855). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas
Soon after their fateful 1861 encounter in the Louvre, Manet and Degas were seeing each other several times a week. There were natural affinities between them—not least social and class factors marking them out from most of their bohemian artist peers. But Manet must also have recognized in Degas something brilliant and inimitable. As a student, Degas had worked tirelessly at drawing at drawing. He had a stupendous aptitude for it, one that far outstripped Manet’s.
But he was also disciplined. He had taken to heart the advice of his hero, the formidable neoclassist Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, whose home he had visited as an awestruck student in 1855. Ingres told him: “Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist.”
Left: Willem de Kooning, <em>Woman III</em> (1953). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Right: Jackson Pollock, <em>Number 3</em> (1948). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Left: Willem de Kooning, Woman III (1953). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Right: Jackson Pollock, Number 3 (1948). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
On Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock
Pollock’s triumph made de Kooning acutely conscious that he, like every other struggling American avant-garde artist, was in Pollock’s shadow. But de Kooning was smart enough to realize that the game had changed. Pollock had achieved what none of them had hitherto looked capable of: He had forced people to look at his work. And he had made sure that once they did, they would not look away without having formed a response that was geared to the aggression in the art itself.
He had done more than just break the ice; he had put his fist through the glass pane separating modern American art from its potentially enormous public. New vistas opened up. De Kooning saw all this. But of course, Pollock’s achievement wasn’t simply about connecting modern art with a public. It was about generating possibilities for the creation of art itself.
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, by Sebastian Smee, hits shelves on Tuesday, August 16.
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People | See the Top Collectors in Asia Who Are Driving The Market Right Now

See the Top Collectors in Asia Who Are Driving The Market Right Now

Thriving demand and wealth accumulation make for a powerful combo.
Kim Chang-Il. Courtesy Arario Museum.
Despite major shifts in the global auction market—including steep drops in volume seen at the recent major spring New York sales at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips—buyers from China, Japan, and Hong Kong have consistently racked up headlines in recent months with big-ticket purchases.
Related: Chinese Collector Uses AmEx to Buy $36-Million “Chicken Cup”
The surge in buying can be connected, in no small part, to the pointed trend occurring in the region. According to the latest CapGemini World Wealth Report, the Asia-Pacific region recorded robust high net worth individuals (HNWI) and wealth growth rates (9.4 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively). It was the highest across the  globe, edging past North America to become the region with the highest HNWI wealth of $17.4 trillion (yes, that’s trillion).
Related: Here Is What Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa Has Bought At Auction So Far
With this in mind, artnet News surveyed experts to see who are the top collectors in the region and what they are buying. Some names will be familiar to readers of the artnet News Index: The World’s Top 100 Art Collectors, but others are new.
Related: artnet News Index: The World’s Top 100 Art Collectors for 2016, Part One and Part Two.
Yang Bin. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Yang Bin. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
1. Yang Bin (China)
Yang Bin has been described as one of Beijing’s most public collectors. His habit started in the 1990s when he asked an artist friend to supply work for a newly purchased residence, and then became fascinated with the oil paintings hanging on his wall. Though he started with Chinese realist painters, his contemporary art collection reportedly numbers more than 1,000 pieces. In interviews, the car dealer has described collecting contemporary art as  “a style and a way of living,” emphasizing: “It is not just a decoration.”
With his wife, Yan Qing, he owns Aye Gallery in Beijing. He owns work by Mu Boyan, Anish Kapoor, and Jorg Immendorff, and has been a champion of Liu Wei. He has also mentioned that hosting daily parties at his house was a great way to learn about contemporary art.
Wang Bing. Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.
Wang Bing. Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.
2. Wang Bing (China)
In 2014, Wang Bing founded the New Century Art Foundation (NCAF) in Beijing, aimed at studying and promoting Chinese contemporary art. NCAF provides support for Chinese contemporary art outside of the existing “art ecology” according to its website. Wang’s sizeable collection features a strong focus on Chinese contemporary stars including Qiu Xiaofei, Wang Yin, Cao Fei and Liu Ye.
Pierre Chen. Courtesy Andrew J. Loiterton/Pierre Chen.
Pierre Chen. Courtesy Andrew J. Loiterton/Pierre Chen.
3. Pierre Chen (Taiwan)
Though Pierre Chen, said to be Taiwan’s top collector, has more recently stepped down from the helm of his electronics component empire, Yageo, he said art and music was always a way to balance his life. He formerly described his work life as “fighting everyday because there is always some new technology coming to the market,” in an interview with Sotheby’s magazine. His collection includes work by Georg Baselitz, Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, Marc Quinn, Andreas Gursky, and Mark Rothko. As reported in artnet News’ top 100 list, he made his biggest purchase at Christie’s this past May when he snapped up Scottish artist Peter Doig‘s Swamped (1990) for $26 million. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.96 billion and he ranks number 13 on its list of Taiwan’s richest.
Related: Chicago Art Dealer Says Painting is ‘Kryptonite’ in Peter Doig Trial
Kim Chang-Il. Courtesy of the Arario Museum.
Kim Chang-Il. Courtesy of the Arario Museum.
4. Kim Chang-il (South Korea)
With a collection that numbers over 3,700 works, the South Korean entrepreneur counts Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, and Nam June Paik among the artists in his collection, as reported in our top 100 list. He opened the Arario Museum just two years ago. It currently has branches in Seoul and Jeju Island.
Adrian Cheng. Courtesy photographer Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images.
Adrian Cheng. Courtesy photographer Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images.
5. Adrian Cheng (China)
Cheng, who is among the world’s youngest billionaires, is the founder of the K11 Art Foundation (KAF), a Chinese non-profit which promotes contemporary art. A residency program for emerging Chinese artists at New York’s New Museum, as artnet News reported on last month, is the latest in a string of art world power moves by the real estate heir.
This past March, he joined the board of directors of New York’s Public Art Fund. He is also a board member of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, a board director of the National Museum of China Foundation, trustee of Royal Academy of Arts, part of the visiting committee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, a member of TATE’s Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee, and a member of International Circle of Centre Pompidou.
Hikonobu Ise. Courtesy Hikonobu Ise.
Hikonobu Ise. Courtesy Hikonobu Ise.
6. Hikonobu Ise (Japan)
This year marked Hikonobu Ise’s debut on artnet News Top 100 list. He buys widely across areas including Japanese decorative arts and Chinese ceramics, as well as Impressionist, modern, and contemporary art.
In an interview with Christie’s this past June, where he was named one of Asia’s most powerful collectors, Ise said his collection includes about 70 works and named some of his favorite objects, including a Chinese “palace” bowl that he says “grabbed my heart” at a preview; a still life by Paul Cézanne and a Japanese painting, A Rooster under the Tree, by Jakuchu Ito.
Wang Jianlin. Courtesy of Greg Baker/AFP Photo/Getty Images.
Wang Jianlin. Courtesy of Greg Baker/AFP Photo/Getty Images.
7. Wang Jianlin (China)
With an estimated net worth of $33 billion, according to Forbes, businessman Wang Jianlin ranks as Asia’s richest man. Acquisitions in recent years include Pablo Picasso‘s Claude and Paloma (1950) for $28.2 million and Claude Monet’s Bassin aux nymphéas, les rosiers (1913) at auction.
Wang’s spokesman told Forbes that since the acquisition of the Picasso canvas, “We have been devoted to collecting original and important works representative of key developments in art history.”
Alan Lau. Courtesy West Kowloon
Alan Lau. Courtesy West Kowloon.
8. Alan Lau (China)
As a member of the Tate’s Asia-Pacific Acquisition Committee, Alan Lau began collecting roughly a decade ago but had long been fascinated with art, according to a 2013 interview in online art platform Ocula.
Growing up in Hong Kong, he says he read eagerly about artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Claude Monet, and recounts the jolt he got from visiting Saatchi Gallery and “seeing a shark in a tank and a pool of oil,” and wondering whether it was in fact art. The first piece of art he purchased was by Tsang Tsou Choi, known as the “King of Kowloon” for his graffiti. More recently, Lau donated conceptual artist Tino Sehgal’s Guards Kissing (2002) to the M+ Museum of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District.

9. Yan Lugen (China)
Chinese real estate magnate Yan Lugen started buying works by Western artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Gauguin in the 1990s. He founded a private museum in Nanjing, the Baijia Lake Museum, which hosts the Nanjing International Art Festival.
As he told Peak Magazine in an interview last year: “Art brings all nationalities together. It shouldn’t matter whether the artist is from the East or West, because art is not bounded by geography.” Lately, Lugen has been introducing modern Chinese ink paintings to a wider audience through traveling exhibitions. His private museum showcases, among other works, a  major oil painting—reportedly worth $4 million—by Chinese artist Chen Yifei.
Yusaku Maezawa. Image ©Yusaku Maezawa.
Yusaku Maezawa. Image ©Yusaku Maezawa.
10. Yusaku Maezawa (Japan)
Billionaire Japanese fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa exploded on to the scene this past spring when he dropped $98 million at auctions in just two days at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. His pricey purchases included a $57.3 million Basquiat, a $9.6 million Richard Prince, a $6.8 million Koons, a $5.7 million Alexander Calder, and a $1.7 million Bruce Nauman. He was also behind the record price for in-demand Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie. We expect Maezawa’s hot streak to continue in future auction seasons: Forbes puts his net worth at $2.7 billion and ranks him as number 17 on Japan’s 50 Richest list.
Asia20-Zhang Rui 2
11. Zhang Rui (China)
Telecommunications entrepreneur Zhang Rui is considered part of a group of mainland China’s so-called “super-collectors,” with a collection so large—at 800 pieces—that much of it must be kept in storage since his Beijing mansion is already at capacity. In a 2012 interview he said buying art for oneself is “important” because it reflects one’s “appreciation of beauty.” Luckily for him, he got in before the huge Chinese contemporary art market boom of 2005, and remained committed even during the steep downturn in prices in 2008-09. He says he never sells, even in challenging economic times. For those who know this segment of the market well, it is telling that he was able to buy a work by Chinese art superstar Zhang Xiaogang for about $10,000. Not surprisingly, it’s now worth upwards of about $3 million. He also owns work by Wang Guangyi, Fang Lijun, and Yue Minjun. One of his most prized artworks is a portrait by Zeng Fangzhi, who is best known for his “Mask” series. “I have the first one, where he takes off the mask,” said Zhang, who bought the painting for ($12,667) in 2004.
Budi Tek. Image: Courtesy Budi Tek.
Budi Tek. Image: Courtesy Budi Tek.
12. Budi Tek (Indonesia)
When artnet News sat down with Budi Tek last summer for an interview, he waved off questions about how he got started collecting because he said he would rather focus on the present and his current major projects. These included bringing the famous Rain Room, designed by Random International, to his Yuz Museum in Shanghai.
Tek is also in the process of creating an Inhotim-type art-park that will be called “Budi Desa,” meaning “Budi Village,” in Bali. He explained that land must be bought piecemeal in Indonesia, so he has slowly been acquiring parcels to create his art-filled village for roughly the past two decades. The planned museum will occupy five forested hectares and will display the sort of monumental works Tek favors, including Anselm Kiefer’s Velimir Khlebnikov: Fates of Nations: The New Theory of War (2011–14), which consists of two huge vitrines containing rusting miniature submarines. Tek says when the Rain Room eventually goes to Bali on permanent view, it will be “Rain Room in the Rain Forest.”
Robert Tsao. Courtesy of Christie's.
Robert Tsao. Courtesy of Christie’s.
13. Robert Tsao (Taiwan)
Taiwanese businessman Robert Tsao started collecting in the 1990s and has largely adhered to traditional tastes. Christie’s named him as one of its foremost Asian art collectors, noting his 2007 purchase, for nearly $9 million, of an Imperial brush pot from the Qianlong period at its stellar Hong Kong sale.
Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei receiving the certificate from Christie's for their purchase of a record-priced Tibetan tapestry. Photo: Phillipe Lopez, courtesy AFP.
Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei receiving the certificate from Christie’s for their purchase of a record-priced Tibetan tapestry.
Photo: Phillipe Lopez, courtesy AFP.
14. Wang Wei and Liu Yiqian (China)
In 2014, former taxi driver Liu Yiqian turned art world heads with his $32 million purchase of a Chinese “chicken” cup that he purchased with a Black American Express card. The art market show of strength demonstrated by he and his wife, Wang Wei, was even more intense in the past year, including their acquisition of Amedeo Modigliani‘s Nu Couche (1917) at Christie’s New York for $170.4 million, and this past June, Jenny Saville‘s Shift (1996-7), at Sotheby’s London for a record $9 million. The picture, which features nude women squashed together like sardines, was shown at Charles Saatchi’s landmark exhibition, “Sensation” show in 1997.
Liu has also made news for announcing plans to open a Chonqing outpost of his Long Museum, which already has two locations in Shanghai, and for acquiring shares of the Beijing Council International Auction Company. He also made waves this year at Art Basel for purchasing a mammoth Gerhard Richter canvas at Marian Goodman.
Related: Liu Yiqian Snaps Up Massive Gerhard Richter at Art Basel
15. Andrew Xue (China)
Andrew Xue is a board member of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) and is also a board member of Wang Bing’s New Century Art Foundation. This past May, together with Adrian Cheng, Zhou Dawei, Zhao Lingyong and Budi Tek, he donated Zhao Yang’s Spring to Centre Georges Pompidou. It was a great boon to the Parisian institution.
Wang Zhongjun. Courtesy of Sotheby's.
Wang Zhongjun. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
16. Wang Zhongjun (China)
Chinese movie tycoon Wang Zhongjun shelled out $29.9 million for a Picasso canvas auctioned from the legendary Goldwyn family collection at Sotheby’s New York this past May.  Femme au Chignon Dans un Fauteuil (1948), was a portrait of the artist’s lover Françoise Gilot.  The media mogul is chairman and co-founder of Huayi Brothers Media Group, a major Chinese movie company, and is one of his country’s richest men.
Earlier this year, Zhongjun made headlines when he snapped up Vincent van Gogh‘s 1890 painting Still Life, Vase with Daises and Poppies for $61.8 million.
Qiao Zhibing
Qiao Zhibing.
Photo: Courtesy of LeapLeapLeap.
17.   Qiao Zhibing (China)
Chinese entrepreneur and nightclub owner Qiao Zhibing is frank about the fact that he first started buying art as a way of decorating all the empty wall space in his clubs, but it wasn’t long before it became a serious habit in its own right.  He opened Qiao Space in September 2015 and has organized major solo shows for Wilhelm Sasnal and Cheng Ran, in addition to displaying his own collection.
He recently told artnet News that he is planning to open a second Shanghai space in December 2017. The complex will consist of plazas, gardens, a bookstore, an education center, restaurants, and more than 100,000 square feet of exhibition space. Among the artists in Qiao’s collection are Antony Gormley, Olafur Eliasson, Sterling Ruby, Thomas Houseago, Theaster Gates, Martin Creed, and Matt Saunders.
Richard Chang. Courtesy of photographer A. De Vos, © Patrick McMullan.
Richard Chang. Courtesy of photographer A. De Vos, © Patrick McMullan.
18. Richard Chang
Real estate, hotel, and media tycoon Richard Chang collects across the board from emerging to established artists. One area he has focused on in particular is German artists, such as Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke. In the mid-career category, he has been buying several American abstract painters such as Laura Owens and Jacqueline Humphries. Chang is also an avid supporter of young and emerging artists, such as Harold Ancart and Kevin Beasely. He is currently vice chair of the International Council at Tate and is also the president of Performa, as well as a trustee of MoMA PS1 and the Royal Academy of Arts.

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Eileen Kinsella

Senior Market Editor

The world’s most famous landmarks – and the pictures you never see

August 10, 2016 6:03 am

The world’s most famous landmarks – and the pictures you never see

Photographer Oliver Curtis has been turning his back on famous monuments, exploring the landscapes that remain forever overlooked
Taj Mahal, Agra, India©Oliver Curtis
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
A simple idea that raises interesting questions and leads to aesthetically successful results: show up at some of the world’s most visited — and therefore photographed — monuments and sites, turn your back on the very thing you have come to see, and record the view that no one else is interested in. It’s not the same as photographing a famous site from an unexpected angle — from behind the HOLLYWOOD sign, as Robert Frank did in the 1950s — in order to reveal its local or grubby underside. Often, in Oliver Curtis’s series of photographs, the monuments do not even get a look-in. What we get, instead, is an idea of what they look at.
Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel©Oliver Curtis
Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel
In films, a character’s point of view is often conveyed by showing that character from behind while looking over his or her shoulder. Without this bodily reminder we would see without knowing who was doing the seeing. Once the viewpoint has been fixed — once we have entered the mind of the looker — these glimpses of the consciousness-bearing body can be dispensed with as the film unfolds. But what of a photograph which isolates and is stuck in a single instant of time? A picture by the Danish photographer Per Bak Jensen shows a statue seen from behind and slightly to one side. But it also conveys what it is like to be that statue, to be confronted with the same view, day after day, year after year. Without the statue the picture would offer a relatively uninteresting view of landscape. By framing the picture as he does Jensen introduces the idea — or, even better, induces the feeling — of unsentient or dormant consciousness.
Stonehenge, Amesbury, UK©Oliver Curtis
Stonehenge, Amesbury, UK
If we saw a single, uncaptioned picture from Curtis’s series, it could appear quite meaningless or pointless. Once we’ve seen a few, with the locations indicated, we begin to understand what we are looking for in each new picture, even if we don’t know exactly what we are looking at. Even without recourse to the identifying captions we can try to get our bearings and, if we have visited the place in question, might be able to work out where we are in spite of the absence of the very thing that is where we are.
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil©Oliver Curtis
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It depends on the place, though. Some of the most spectacular places in the world provide a fully immersive experience in that they offer abundant views of themselves from themselves. Angkor Wat, for example, is a superb place from which to see Angkor Wat. Perhaps that’s why, in Curtis’s series, it is nowhere to be seen. Sometimes the site offers a view of somewhere less famous, less historically freighted with meaning, but still quite pleasing. Elsewhere we are confronted, in exalted form, with what might be called the non-reciprocity of real estate.
Parthenon, Athens, Greece©Oliver Curtis
Parthenon, Athens, Greece
A house is on the market for a price well in excess of £2m: a fabulous place with gorgeous rooms, perfectly designed and maintained exterior, and enormous windows. These windows afford unobstructed views of the building opposite: a social housing block, covered in satellite dishes, entirely functional, done on the cheap and devoid of any visually pleasing features. The rooms are small and the ceilings low but it has one great thing going for it: the windows, though small, are filled with the sight of the splendid house opposite.
Statue of Liberty, New York, US©Oliver Curtis
Statue of Liberty, New York, US
With their views from — but not of — sites of world-heritage splendour, these photographs take the side of the large house described in that vernacular dilemma or relationship. That they are about looking is slyly suggested by the way that quite a few of them seem to contain a symbolic eye — or pair of eyes — that returns our gaze. Once we notice the staring floodlights under the grating at the Statue of Liberty gazing at us, wide-eyed, then the circles formed by other technological or architectural features double as a discreet chorus of passively inquisitive eyes. Look at that cartoonish fire hydrant (if that is indeed what it is) with eyes and ears cheekily eavesdropping on the Wailing Wall from its perch by the steel fence. Then there are all those windows — etymologically “wind-eyes” — offering their own form of blank surveillance. But mainly, of course, it’s people who are looking.
Reichstag, Berlin, Germany©Oliver Curtis
Reichstag, Berlin, Germany
In their way, these destinations are monumental equivalents of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror” (“Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall”) but instead of a solitary viewer occasionally coming into view they are each day treated to an international cast of thousands turning up to relieve the long monotony of time. Often the view includes a road leading out of shot, back into the city from which these pilgrims and visitors have trudged and swarmed. They come to see, to pay their respects and to make and take souvenirs of their seeing in the form of photographs.
'Mona Lisa', Louvre, Paris, France©Oliver Curtis
'Mona Lisa', Louvre, Paris, France
Magnificent in themselves and, for many centuries, content to bask in the sunlight and rain of their mythic renown, these monuments have in the past century and a half become increasingly dependent on the tributes paid to them in the form and currency of photographs. (If Martin Parr, in his 1995 book Small World, showed this global tourism economy in action, then in a perfect world — a perfect small world, as it were — one of Curtis’s pictures would show Parr in the process of snapping a grinning group of Chinese or a couple of earnest Scandinavians. That would circle the photographic square, so to speak.) Without the daily and annual testimony of photographs, monuments would crumble in the sense that they would disappear from tourists’ itineraries — how could a place be worth visiting if no one had bothered photographing it? Effectively, it would cease to exist. And so, in a sense, views of rubble- and garbage-strewn emptiness at Giza or Hollywood are prophetic glimpses of what such places — sites of eroded or vacated meaning — might look like when that has come to pass. In this light they are photographs showing a world in which there is no reason to go somewhere and nothing to see when you get there. In such a world there are only photographs and — look behind you! — people looking at them.
‘Volte Face’, by Oliver Curtis, is published next month by Dewi Lewis, £30; An exhibition of the photographs is at the Pavilion Gallery, Royal Geographical Society, London SW7, September 19-October 14. Geoff Dyer’s most recent book, ‘White Sands’, is published by Canongate
Photographs: Oliver Curtis
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Art World | The Art Books Our Editors Are Reading This Summer

The Art Books Our Editors Are Reading This Summer

It is national book lover's day, after all.
artnet News's summer art books. Courtesy of Amazon.
artnet News's summer art books. Courtesy of Amazon.
Just in time for National Book Lover’s Day, celebrated on August 9, the editors of artnet News have rounded up an eclectic mix of art-related fiction and non-fiction. From Just Kids, Patti Smith‘s lyrical account of a legendary moment in the New York City art scene, to I Hate the Internet, Jarrett Kobek’s dynamic novel raging against the digital dystopia, here’s what we’re reading this summer.
Patti Smith, Just Kids (2010). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Patti Smith, Just Kids (2010). Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Just Kidsby Patti Smith (2010)
I’ve been catching up this summer on all the books my friends were talking about a couple of years ago, to be honest.
I read both of Ben Lerner’s infuriatingly good novels, Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. In the former, the narrator witnesses a museum-goer having “a profound experience with art” and worries that he is incapable of same, while in 10:04, Lerner proves himself to be a better art critic in passing than I am even on a good day; his commentary on Christian Marclay’s The Clock was, for me, more enjoyable than the piece itself.
Then, on a staycation, I read Donna Tartt’s super-entertaining The Goldfinch, in which a Carel Fabritius painting plays a central role in a tale of international intrigue. Now I’m halfway into Just Kids, Patti Smith’s reminiscences of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. If you, like me until recently, still have these books on your bedside table, waiting to be read, well, get to it.
—Brian Boucher, Senior Writer
Noah Hawley, <em>Before the Fall</em> (2016). Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
Noah Hawley, Before the Fall (2016). Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
Before the Fallby Noah Hawley (2016)
The perfect beach read, Noah Hawley’s suspenseful novel tells the tale of the suspicious, fatal crash of a private plane leaving Martha’s Vineyard. Chartered by the head of a Fox News-style television station, the plane has only two survivors: A young boy and Scott Burroughs, an unsuccessful middle-aged painter whose apparently inexplicable presence aboard the ill-fated aircraft is ripe for conspiracy theory in the Malaysia Airlines-esque media blitz that follows the tragedy.
The nerve-racking tale is an undeniable page turner, but also does the art world justice with its description of its protagonist’s disappointing career trajectory, and interstitial chapters about Burroughs’s chilling, disaster-inspired canvases.
—Sarah Cascone, Associate Editor
Tiffany Jenkins, <em>Keeping their Marbles</em> (2016). Courtesy of Oxford University Press.
Tiffany Jenkins, Keeping their Marbles (2016). Courtesy of Oxford University Press.
Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums – And Why They Should Stay There, by Tiffany Jenkins (2016)
Tiffany Jenkins makes the (unpopular) case for the British Museum keeping the Parthenon Marbles in this well-researched if not entirely-convincing critique. While Jenkins may be too quick to dismiss the concerns of those calling for restitution, she does an admirable job of examining the issue throughout history, including Napoleon’s extensive, oft-overlooked art looting. I particularly enjoyed the detailed history of the birth of museums in the UK, as well as Jenkins’s breakdown of the complicated issue of human remains in institutional collections.
Pair with Sharon Waxman’s excellent 2009 tome, Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, which generally makes the case for restitution, for a more thorough understanding of the issues at hand.
—Sarah Cascone, Associate Editor
Rachel Corbett, <em>You Must Change Your Life</em> (2016). Courtesy of Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet / The Image Works.
Rachel Corbett, You Must Change Your Life (2016). Courtesy of Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet / The Image Works.
You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, by Rachel Corbett (2016)
This is, first of all, just a wonderfully readable work of art historical biography: Corbett manages to throw light not just on the central bromance between the author of Letters to a Young Poet and the sculptor of The Thinker, but also the whole social constellation around them, giving gracefully rendered intellectual portraits of woman like Paula Modersohn-Becker, Camille Claudel, and Lou Andreas-Salome.
But Corbett also tells this story through the prism of a concept: “Empathy,” a new psychological category that emerged in artistic discussion before finding its way into psychological vocabulary. The result is that this excavation of the dramas of this fin-de-siècle social scene is also the story of the coming-to-being of a whole way of thinking about what it means to be human, through art.
—Ben Davis, National Art Critic
Robert Katz, Naked by the Window (1990). Courtesy of Atlantic Monthly Press.
Robert Katz, Naked by the Window (1990). Courtesy of Atlantic Monthly Press.
Naked by the Window: The Fatal Marriage of Carl Andre and Ana Mendieta, by Robert Katz (1990)
Striking the perfect balance between intrigue and fact, Naked by the Window is a gripping exploration of the mystery surrounding Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta’s death and the question of whether her husband—famed Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre—is innocent or guilty.
Mendieta plunged to her death in 1985 after falling out of the window of the 34th floor of the Greenwich Village apartment she shared with Andre; he was subsequently charged with murder but was later acquitted due to lack of evidence. Published in 1990, just five years after Mendieta’s death, Naked by the Window continues to maintain contemporary relevancy, as Andre remains an active member of the art world and protests are still staged today by the activist group WHEREISANAMENDIETA, most recently in June outside the Tate Modern, London.
—Caroline Elbaor, Editorial Intern
Paul Chan, Selected Writings (2014). Courtesy of Artbook.
Paul Chan, Selected Writings (2014). Courtesy of Artbook.
Selected Writings (2000–2014)by Paul Chan (2014)
Artist, activist, and eternal social media skeptic Paul Chan knows how to seize a reader’s attention—and keep it. His anthology of essays, Selected Writings (2000–2014), offers up a satisfying collection of critical inquiries. There’s his seminal essay, “The Unthinkable Community;” various meditations on his favorite artists; and even a tongue-in-cheek commencement speech in which he condones student loan evasion.
His unwitting candor, perhaps, best explains why he can get away with contemplating Britney Spears and Lacanian psychoanalysis in the same paragraphic breath. If you, dear reader, are often struck by art world malaise, this one’s for you.
—Rain Embuscado, Assistant Editor
Simon de Pury, <em>The Auctioneer</em> (2016). Courtesy of Amazon.
Simon de Pury, The Auctioneer (2016). Courtesy of Amazon.
The Auctioneer, by Simon de Pury 
The Auctioneer
 is a witty and entrancing look into the world of Simon de Pury, one that while filled with familiar names and places is still, somehow, an echelon apart.
Beginning with his tutelage under the famed Swiss art dealer and collector Ernst Beyeler (they were both from Basel), De Pury moved on to be the curator of the renowned collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Agost Gabor Tasso Thyssen-Bornemisza (“Baron Heini”) and then on to Sotheby’s where he ascended to the position of chairman of Sotheby’s Europe before breaking out on his own. If you have a taste for the art world at its most high-flying, this surprisingly candid (and at times self-searching) memoir will be hard to put down.
—Rozalia Jovanovic, Editor-in-Chief
B.A. Shapiro, <em>The Art Forger</em> (2012). Courtesy of Amazon.
B.A. Shapiro, The Art Forger (2012). Courtesy of Amazon.
The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro (2012)
In The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro, a famous Edgar Degas painting that was part of the massive—still unsolvedIsabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston in 1990, turns up at the studio of artist Claire Roth.
In what can only be deemed a Faustian bargain, she agrees to duplicate the work at the behest of a powerful dealer in exchange for a solo-show at his prestigious gallery. But things get even more thorny when she begins to suspect that the work, After The Bath, may not be the real deal to begin with.
—Eileen Kinsella, Senior Market Editor
Teju Cole, <em>Known and Strange Things</em> (2016). Courtesy of Amazon.
Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things (2016). Courtesy of Amazon.
Known and Strange Things, by Teju Cole (2016)
Teju Cole is the photography critic for the New York Times Magazine, as well as a wandering photographer himself. He’s a fan of fait divers, those weird and sometimes grim news items that are lodged into our consciousness by way of what Roland Barthes calls “a relation of causality.”
His latest book, Known and Strange Things: Essays by Teju Cole, arrived on bookshelves August 9, and includes essays about artist and photographer Roy DeCarava, who collaborated with Langston Hughes, along with essays on poetry, travel, and finding your way “back into the light.” (Also, Punto d’Ombra, a book of Cole’s solo photography exhibition in Rome, will be published in English April 2017 as Blind Spot.)
—Kathleen Massara, Managing Editor
Will Gompertz, <em>What Are You Looking At?</em> (2013). Courtesy of Amazon.
Will Gompertz, What Are You Looking At? (2013). Courtesy of Amazon.
What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Artby Will Gompertz (2012)
Written by Will Gompertz, the former director of Tate Media at the Tate in the UK and current arts editor at the BBC, this book offers a compact and accessible introduction to the history of modern art and how the development of western art starting from Pre-Impressionism led to the contemporary art movement of the present day.
If you know very little about art history, this book will improve your understanding and give you a great overview. And even if you consider yourself an art history expert, you will still enjoy the well-written and entertaining narrative filled with interesting tales and anecdotes.
—Henri Neuendorf, Associate Editor
Arthur Lubow, <em>Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer</em> (2016). Courtesy of Harper Collins.
Arthur Lubow, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (2016). Courtesy of Harper Collins.
Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, by Arthur Lubow (2016)
Released on June 7 (about a month before the Met Breuer’s exhibition of photographs from the “best seven years of her life,”) Arthur Lubow’s biographic book, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, deep-dives into the connection between the photographer’s personal life and the lives of those reflected in her photographs. In drawn out interviews with close family members and friends, Lubow tells the story of the influential photographer, highlighting reasons why certain people fascinated her enough, and why we, as art lovers and people, are just as captivated by them.
—Daniela Rios, Editorial Intern

Jarrett Kobek, <em>I Hate the Internet</em> (2016). Courtesy of We Heard You Like Books.
Jarrett Kobek, I Hate the Internet (2016). Courtesy of We Heard You Like Books.
I Hate the Internet: A Useful Novel Against Men, Money, and the Filth of Instagram, Jarrett Kobek (2016)
Not strictly an art book, this fact-based novel of ideas taps directly into the real-life digital dystopia that produced Facebook and Google data mining and Trump-like troll culture.
Set in the fully gentrified San Francisco of 2013, I Hate the Internet takes on the following urgent questions and more: “Why do we applaud the enrichment of CEOs at the expense of the weak and the powerless,” “Why are giving away our intellectual property” and “Why is activism in the 21st century nothing more than a series of morality lectures typed into devices built by slaves?”
Kobek’s been called the American Houllebecq, but I prefer to think of him as our era’s Paddy Chayefsky—the writer of Network. He’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. Neither should we.
—Christian Viveros-Fauné, Art & Culture Critic
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