By Deb A.
'Neanderthal' often functions as a synonym for 'culturally primitive,' but a recent discovery shows that in fact, Neanderthals were Europe's first artists, creating paintings and drawings well before Homo sapiens.
This week a study in Science announced that Neanderthals were making cave paintings in Spain over 20,000 years before modern humans came onto the European scene. This discovery does not mean that Neanderthals were the world's first artists--that honour goes to Homo erectus, who carved lines into ochre in South Africa 100,000 years ago--but it does indicate that we are not the only species to find creative expression through abstract art. We appear to have more in common with Neanderthals than we'd thought.
Scientists have been unable to decipher the meanings of the art found in the Spanish sites, but study co-author Professor Alistair Pike of the University of Southampton notes that "as to the meaning [of the artworks], I don't think we'll ever know. But I think we're pretty happy to say it's meaningful." The artworks' messages may remain a mystery, but the very fact of their existence means that it's time for us to once again rethink our place in the world.
By Deb A.
Four Olympians are in Pyongchang right now as artists-in-residence. A runner/filmmaker, a javelin thrower/artist, a biathlete/artist and a fencer/artist will all lend their creative skills to the Olympic Art Project, a programme created to "bring the Olympic values to life through art."
There are perhaps only a handful of professional athletes who are also known for their creative endeavours. Here's a look at three individuals who can be found in the middle of the Venn diagram of artists and athletes.
Ernie Barnes claimed to have always been more interested in art than football. He gave this account of ending his football career to paint:
One day on the playing field I looked up and the sun was breaking the clouds, hitting the unmuddied areas on the uniforms, and I said, 'That's beautiful!' I knew then that it was all over being a player. I was more interested in art. So I traded my cleats for canvas, my bruises for brushes, and put all the violence and power I'd felt on the field into my paintings.
(via the New York Times)
His most famous painting, Sugar Shack, graced the cover of Marvin Gaye's album "I Want You."
Christoph Finkel became world champion of sport climbing in 1992, the same year he began studying at Nuremberg's Academy of Fine Arts. He later coached the German national team, and bowed out of the sport completely in 2000. He continues to work as an acclaimed artist, incorporating his climbing skills and his reverence for nature into his works: carefully carved wooden bowls and sculptures created from fallen tree trunks that he drags out of the southern German mountains. Mr. Finkel's art can be found in prominent collections and museums around the world.
Erik Boomer is both a world-class kayaker and a renowned outdoor photographer. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Outside and National Geographic.
By Deb A.
February is the shortest month, but it's no less packed with interesting tidbits from the worlds of art and literature.
A must-read: After the controversy surrounding the temporary removal of a pre-Raphaelite painting at the Manchester Art Gallery, Ellen Mara De Wachter at Frieze investigates the issues that arise when cultural institutions incorporate activism into their programmes.
Masterpiece found: Ben Ewonwu's long-missing portrait of Nigerian princess Adetutu Ademiluyi has been located in a North London flat. (The Telegraph)
An Olympic champion: Whether you follow every triple Salchow or not, you will want to take a look at this extraordinary pavilion. It's covered with Vantablack spray, not the pigment that can only be used by Anish Kapoor. (Dezeen)
Not recent, but related (and amusing): Stuart Semple has protested Mr. Kapoor's exclusive rights to Vantablack with the pinkest pink, the glitteriest glitter, and the blackest black that's actually available to artists. You can purchase any of these as long as you're not Anish Kapoor.
Reading the unreadable: The woman who deciphers centuries-old handwritten documents. "You see [Jane Austen's edits to Pride and Prejudice], and you think—that's so much better than it was before." (Atlas Obscura)
By Deb A.
If you're more likely to be able to name a city's top art galleries than its local sports teams, there's still a good reason for you to be interested in the outcome of today's Super Bowl. It turns out there's more at stake than a trophy and a parade.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Art have upped the ante by betting paintings: The winning city's museum will receive a free loan from the loser. Here's what's at stake.
If the Philadelphia Eagles win, the city will host Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis), painted around 1763 by John Singleton Copley:
If the New England Patriots emerge victorious, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will proudly display Philly's Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky by Benjamin West (ca. 1816).
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