By Deb A.
Max Ernst's widow once judged La forêt to be his greatest piece. It was not actually his.
When Rotes Bild mit Pferden by Expressionist painter Heinrich Campendonk went up for auction in 2006, it was lauded as a "defining piece in modernism" by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It sold for 2.4 million euros, a record for Campendonk's works.
But like La forêt and hundreds of pieces believed to be by over 50 artists including Ernst and Campendonk, it was revealed as a brilliant fake painted by artist and art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi.
In a recent interview in Die Zeit, Beltracchi defends his status as an artist, insisting that "counterfeiting was a creative process." He has a point. Unlike many forgers, he did not copy works—instead, he created pieces that he felt would have completed a specific artist's portfolio. He notes that at times, his biggest challenge was simply to refrain from making a piece better in order to more accurately reflect the realities of the era and the weaknesses of the artist in whose name he was painting.
Beltracchi was a meticulous researcher as well as a gifted artist in his own right. He spent days in the locations artists had painted. He delved deep into their lives and the times in which they lived. "It wasn't just about money," he explained, "but also the joy of painting."
In terms of technique, Beltracchi's forgeries are impressive. But the irreplaceable, inimitable aspect of the original artists are what add true—albeit intangible--life to their paintings: they are pieces of their biographies and testaments to their lives, their beliefs, their passions. Beltracchi, on the other hand, had a passion for filling in the gaps. He masterfully appropriated artists' skill sets and demonstrated astounding insight and dedication, but in the end, a forgery, no matter how technically brilliant, can achieve greatness only as a forgery. Rotes Bild mit Pferden cannot be a defining piece in modernism, even though it possibly should have been.
By Deb A.
While much ado is being made of how the temperatures in North America compare to those on Mars, a small section of the population sees another reason to talk about the Red Planet.
One can be forgiven for not counting the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum amongst the world's most important artistic hubs. And yet, the images on display in the Spirit & Opportunity: Ten Years Roving Across Mars exhibition are a collection of awe-inspiring landscape photography that remind us all of the many ways in which art lies at the heart of science.
NASA has also grasped the artistic value inherent in the images sent back to Earth from its spacecraft. It rounded up a panel of artists, photographers, and photo editors to overlook scientific value and select images based solely on aesthetics for its Mars as Art collection. Made on Mars and processed on Earth, the impressions are hypnotically sublime.
Spirit & Opportunity: Ten Years Roving Across Mars is open at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (U.S.A.) until 14 September 2014.
By Deb A.
Only five days into January and it may already be a little late in the game to replicate Ann Morgan's modus operandi... but it's never too late to try.
After realising that she tended to gravitate toward books written by men, despite being a female author herself, Ms. Morgan devoted 2011 to reading women's literature and blogged about each book she read. Slowly but surely, a new bias emerged: her reliance on English titles meant that the bulk of her reading list came from English or North American authors, with a spattering of writers from South Africa, Australia and India.
It was time for a new project.
For 2012, the Londoner pledged to read one book from every country by the end of the year, and A year of reading the world was born.
The endeavour posed both practical and broadly philosophical challenges from the very beginning: How would Ms. Morgan read and write about four books per week while maintaining her regular daily life? How would she define nationhood? How would she read books that hadn't been translated into English, and how would she find stories in nations with a culture of oral storytelling? And what makes a book 'from' a certain nation in the first place? With unwavering support from a global audience – some fans even wrote or translated works into English specifically to help her reach her goal – she was able to read and crowdsource her way into workable answers.
The enthusiasm and diligence with which Ann Morgan embraced the adventure has won her a dedicated audience as well as the usual accolades and recognition: interviews, events, and, of course, a book of her own to be published in 2015. It has also brought her a treasure trove of suggestions for glimpses into the essences of every nation on earth, and they didn't stop when the year was through. Last week, one year after the end of her initiative, Ms. Morgan updated her list of literature from around the world based on the feedback she'd received, and while no single book can define a nation, this is as good a place as any to start.
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