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A Plea to Preserve Italian Masterpieces

I often think about Italy. We know that Italy is the pioneer of the Renaissance Art Movement, and as an artist with a degree in art history and family living in Milan, I am worried about the future of this fascinating country. With everything else affecting the country, I am wondering if the government will be able to preserve the iconic artworks this country is so well known for, from the architectural masterworks like the Coliseum and Pantheon in Rome, to legendary paintings and frescos that adorn museums and churches in Milan, Venice and Florence.

 

The late seismic developments alone had a devastating effect on the country, when the earthquakes hit central Italy in August last year, with aftershocks lasting until the end of October. Last month, I had finally found time to subscribe for The Burlington Magazine, and received my copies of the journal’s March and April editions last week; in the March issue, I came across a great editorial piece by Alessandro Delpiori in which he discusses the subject.

 

Delpiori states that the quakes hit four regional administrations: the Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Abruzzo, and although these areas are not known for great museums, many of the towns and villages in this region have Medieval and Renaissance period churches and monasteries known for their fourteenth to sixteenth century frescoes and other artworks.

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The earthquakes claimed lives of three hundred people, and some towns, like Amitrice, were basically wiped out the day of the first earthquake. The damage many buildings and artworks in this area have suffered is equally of a devastating magnitude. While an estimated two thousand churches are wrecked or are unstable, and given all other economic, political and social challenges the country is facing at the moment, many art lovers wonder where the funds will come from for all required rebuilding and restoration work.

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San Benedetto basilica in Norcia. The building contained a large painting , St. Benedict and Total, by Filippo Napoletano, which was completed in 1621, and another painting from the mid-1600s, Madonna and Norcia Saints, by the Roman painter Vincenzo Manetti
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Amatrice’s town clock in the 16th century bell tower remains frozen at just after 3:36 a.m, the moment the quake hit

 

At the same time, lack of investment in restoration of these historically and artistically important edifices may lead to a slagging demand for tourism in those areas, which would be highly undesirable because it would lead to their further deterioration. I do hope that the government will make the restoration of the damaged region one of its priorities, and that future generations can experience and enjoy the stunning art this country has to offer for the years to come.

 

On a more upbeat note, earlier this week I attended a briefing and induction session for the upcoming en plain painting workshop that will take place in Florence this year at my mentor’s Andrew Lattimore’s house, and now I am really looking forward to returning to Italy again this summer to get inspired by its beautiful scenery and heritage (not to mention its great food and wine)! It was such a great workshop last year, where I had a chance to bond with fellow artists and learn new skills!

Guest Post

I asked a friend of mine, Andrew Lattimore, who is a renown artist himself and teaches painting to beginning and advanced level students in the USA and Europe to write a guest post on my blog, please enjoy reading his thoughts below.

Once again I return this summer to Florence, Italy, my beloved, spiritual home that I know so well.  It has been forty years since I first fell
under the spell and intrigue of this magnificent city, that which is considered the birth place of the Renaissance.  It’s history, wealth, genius
and above all it’s art, have inspired the world for centuries there after.  Florence has always been part of what was called the “grand tour” of
an artist’s training and an individual’s education in the esthetics and humanities.
This summer once again, I am thrilled to be taking another group of students and art lovers to enjoy the riches of Tuscany and experience my
intimate tour of the culturally rich and dynamic city of  Florence.  This year we are fortunate to be staying in Florence “proper” yet
we’ll still enjoy the Tuscan landscape as we paint in ‘plein air’ on the property of Art Hotel Villa Agape.
Of course, the abundance of art on our tour begins with Michelangelo’s colossal marble figure of David. (Attached is an extremely
foreshortened drawing of David I drew sitting at the base of his pedestal during my student years).   Among the numerous places we will visit, the magnificent Duomo, Medici Chapels, the Bargello, Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi Galleries, where Leonardo’s “Adoration of the Magi” has just been unveiled to the public again after 6 years of delicate restoration.
Another important point of interest is seeing the plein air landscapes of the Italian impressionists, known as the ‘Macchiaioli’.  Their
contribution to the ‘plein air’ movement is historically understated and in some cases unknown.  Their example will inspire us as we paint  the gardens and hills of Florence.  (Attached is a landscape demo of olive trees I did in ‘plein air’ at a previous Florence workshop).  There will also be painting demos in this workshop.
There is also the people of Florence.  Besides their love of life and the arts; is their passion for design, fashion, sumptuous food and wine.  To walk side by side with all Florentines in kinship, has always been one of the great cultural experiences of my life.  I look forward to the next chapter this July 3rd – 14th, 2017.
If you have any interest in joining us for this journey and experiencing the sublime beauty of Tuscany this summer.  Please contact:
Andrew Lattimore at lattimorestudio@yahoo.com or call (914) 819-8856.
Ciao.
Andrew

 

Foreshortened David-1977

Olive tree demo

ArtExpo 2017 Update

The first two days at the exhibition have been very eventful and exciting! The visitors are incredibly diverse, and it is a unique opportunity to meet art lovers from all over the world, and also to see some very uniquely dressed individuals – I am sure that Bill Cunningham to whom my tribute piece is dedicated would have found a lot of inspiration for his street fashion photography here!

The highlights of my first two days were meeting Mark Shapiro with his son and his son’s girlfriend, making friends with a rising artist from Uzbekistan who is exhibiting next to me and specializes in miniatures including Mogul art copies, being visited by a group of unicorns, and of course the many visits by my friends and family who found time to support me and visit my corner.

I was asked for an interview as a Rising Artist, and will share more exciting updates with you after the exhibition closes on Monday. Thank you to everyone for your support, and I am already full of new ideas for the next year’s exhibition!

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I and The New York Times Commemorating Bill Cunningham

I was pleased to read in the Sunday’s The New York Times that people fondly remember Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer and brilliant editor who passed away last year:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/16/fashion/bill-cunningham-easter.html?_r=0

The article mentioned that Bill had been covering the Easter Parade since the 1950’s. The parade started as a fashion statement after church services and swelled into an extravaganza of some excess as wilder costumes and hats entered the scene. The Times released a number of amazing photos taken by Bill that have never been published before, and no doubt the editor had so many options to choose from, considering that Bill took about 2,000 photos every week.

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I was hoping that this exceptionally talented and fascinating person who was always shy of any publicity would not be forgotten easily. As I was finishing my tribute painting that is dedicated to this extraordinary person, The Bill Cunningham Corner, for the upcoming ArtExpo exhibition this week, I had a great time reflecting on his unassuming personality that deeply impressed me when I accidentally bumped into him in Manhattan just over a year ago.

 

Bill captured so many people’s imagination with his photographic skills and insight and made people from all over the world to fall in love with street fashion the same way he did many years ago.

 

My tribute painting to Bill will be exhibited at the ArtExpo New York 2017 at Pier 94 on the Hudson River (54thStreet) this weekend. I hope that my work will remind people of Bill’s contribution to our society, and be a quiet but memorable celebration of his life.

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Bill Cunningham Corner, oil on canvas (in progress)

To find out more about the exhibition, please visit: http://artexponewyork.com/

MY ARTEXPO NEW YORK EXHIBITION UPDATE

The International annual exhibition ArtExpo will show my work from April 21th to 24th. The painting, Bill Cunningham Corner, oil on canvas 40×54 inch, is my tribute to Bill Cunningham. After accidentally meeting and talking to him last year, I was inspired to paint his picture. His death shortly after we met, gave me urgency to proceed with the project.

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Despite all the glamour he was surrounded with, his fortunate family upbringing and even a short stint at Harvard on full scholarship, he clearly avoided any publicity and shied away from any attention on himself. Despite many celebrity acquaintances and his open status, did he hide behind his camera and zoomed in only on people that were as unique as he was through his lens? Was he a manifestation of the New Yorkers’ special type of loneliness, which makes being alone particularly melancholic, amongst so many people, but also is so common today that it has been normalised in our society?

 

My ARTEXPO New York Exhibition

The International annual exhibition ArtExpo will show my work from April 21th to 24th. The painting, Bill Cunningham Corner, oil on canvas 40×54 inch, is my tribute to Bill Cunningham. After accidentally meeting and talking to him last year, I was inspired to paint his picture. His death shortly after we met, gave me urgency to proceed with the project.

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Here is what I learned about Bill Cunningham and my personal thoughts about his life.

A Very Public Enigma, Bill Cunningham

 

Most New Yorkers would say that they know who Bill Cunningham was. Local residents regularly bumped into him when walking their dogs or rushing to get their morning or lunch coffee fix on the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street, where he took snapshots of uniquely dressed people for decades. There is now a formal petition to officially name the spot in his honor, to become the Bill Cunningham Corner. Others will have read his fascinating columns in The New York Times. A former avant-garde milliner, he gave up his successful hat design business to dedicate himself to fashion writing and photography, and rubbed shoulders with high-profile celebrities in the fashion world and beyond.

 

But what do we know about him really? A notoriously shy and intelligent introvert, Bill Cunningham has never shared any information about his personal life yet as the first editor to cover gay events in the press. Despite all the glamour he was surrounded with, his fortunate family upbringing and even a short stint at Harvard on full scholarship, he clearly avoided any publicity and shied away from any attention on himself. Despite many celebrity acquaintances and his open status, did he hide behind his camera and zoomed in only on people that were as unique as he was through his lens? Was he a manifestation of the New Yorkers’ special type of loneliness, which makes being alone particularly melancholic, amongst so many people, but also is so common today that it has been normalised in our society?

 

After all, our knowledge of Bill can be summarised in a few standard labels that we have mostly picked up from a 2011 documentary made about him, Bill Cunningham New York: A fashion-obsessed bachelor editor for the Times, revered by the fashion community, with his own signature style of black sneakers, khaki pants and blue jacket, always on a bike despite famously losing over twenty bikes in various accidents and to bike thieves, living in a tiny apartment in the Carnegie Hall building. He sounds like so many other New Yorkers. But his identity as we know is not shaped by anything personal, specific, and deep. In spite of representing such a cliché, what makes him Bill Cunningham is his visionary pioneering of street fashion blogging, during nearly thirty years. His idea of taking quick snapshots on the streets of clothes he perceived as unique worn by people and posting them on his column differs from modern photo blogs only by the use of technology.

 

What is interesting about this is how his work de-personalizes the person wearing the clothes and turns it into a mannequin that demonstrates clothes, as Cunningham was very rarely interested in people for their own sake and fascinated by their unique styles. He famously took photos of Greta Garbo’s coat without being interested in her celebrity in the slightest, or ignored Catherine Deneuve ‘because she wasn’t wearing anything interesting’. At the same time, Cunningham pioneered the paper’s coverage of the then unspoken-about gay community, thus making the visible people invisible, and invisible people visible through his art. Like many other celebrities, his own public profile appears to be very visible as we all feel we know him through his work and the documentary about him. Yet if you are trying to find something personal about him, something that gives you insight into his heart and mind, you suddenly realize that the man behind the camera lens on the Bill Cunningham Corner with a bike waiting for him is a very public enigma which makes you reflect on how public identities get constructed, promoted, and naturalized in today’s society.

 

This painting is a tribute to the incognito public enigma, Bill Cunningham, who came to New York at the age of 19 and left New York forever in June 2016, dying of complications of a stroke at the age of 87. Reflected here as we think we know him, he stands for the ability of media to create powerful public identities and construct celebrity of people even despite their will. The current online petition to name his regular photography spot after him is the most recent example of imposing celebrity on people whose whole life proves that they desired to remain anonymous. One has to question, is the society creating our identities, rather than us presenting our identities in the society? The jury is out.

 

Finally, the Whitney’s Biennial is Here!

An article in the March 9, 2017 Arts section of the New York Times by reporter Jason Farago, discussed the fascinating upcoming exhibition at the Whitney Museum, which runs from March 17 through June 17. The show is overseen by two relatively young curators, which adds a hip flair to the Biennial this time. They worked closely together and have chosen 63 artists’ works scaled down from over 100 in past Biennials.

The Whitney’s Biennial took three years to develop. The last Biennial took place in 2014. However, with the move to 99 Gansevoort Street near the High Line, the exhibition took longer to mount this time.

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As it is expected from the Biennial, economic themes are very much in evidence. Moreover, portraits of immigrants, both legal and illegal, by the Mexican born artist Aliza Nisenbaum are presented and no doubt will attract much attention.

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Aliza Nisenbaum, La Talaverita, Sunday Morning New York Times, 2016. Oil on linen

 

Prominently displayed and already awakening curiosity are large red laminated glass boxes by the artist Larry Bell

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Larry Bell, Pacific Red, 2016. Laminated glass

Artists of all ages will be represented, including the 87 year old Jo Baer

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Jo Baer, Dusk, 2012. Oil on canvas

It appears that a great deal of effort was expended to mount the exhibition. I hope to visit the Whitney in coming weeks with Paul and on our way there, to get some nice views and a little exercise on the High Line.

To find more about exhibition please visit the Museum website:

The Latest On Controversial and Provocative Damien Hirst

An article in the New York Times on February 22nd by Robin Pogrebin discussed Damien Hirst’s upcoming exhibitions in Venice opening April 9. Hirst who was born in 1965 is one of the group called Young British Artists and became very popular in the 1990’s. His work commanded very impressive prices at his peak. A diamond encrusted skull sold for $100 million dollars.

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For the Love of God, 2012

 

But at various times, he has flooded the art market with masses of artwork that diluted his prices. He had an exhibition that depressed his prices on the day that Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.

Some of his collectors feel he has turned against them by flooding the market with his works. In 2008 he went behind the back of his galleries, Larry Gagosian in New York and White Cube in London and offered masses of works through Sotheby’s. This end-around ended up depressing the market for his work and owners of his works were upset. He is reputed to be worth $350 million dollars, so he doesn’t have to worry about money. One of his problems is that he is so prolific that the art market is unsure how much is behind the curtain, so to speak. In 2012 he took over all 11 of Gagosian’s galleries to offer a retrospective of his spot paintings.

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Mikey, 2012 Paintings, Houshold gloss on canvas

 

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Isovanillin, 2012 Woodcut print on paper

The Venice exhibitions will be at two locations owned by the French billionaire, Francois Pinault, who also owns Christie’s auction house. Mr. Pinault owns a number of Hirst artworks and there is speculation that he might be sponsoring the exhibitions to increase the value of his holdings. The art world will be watching to see how the reaction to Mr. Hirst’s will either revive or deflate his standing. It appears that controversy adds to the excitement in the art world.

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Virgin Mother, 2006 Sculpture, Bronze

 

 

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Away from the Flock, 1994 Formaldehyde

 

 

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The Miraculous Journey (2005-2013)

This sculpture was installed in Doha, Qatar. The baby is 46-foot tall anatomicly correct boy and is placed in front of Sidra Medical and Research Center devoted to women’s and children’s health.

To read more please visit

Art Fraud Comes to Closure

A chapter in a remarkable art fraud came to an end this week, when a dealer from Long Island was sentenced to time served. She could have been sentenced to over 15 years in prison, but will only be subject to 3 years of supervision with the first 3 months of home detention. The fraud involved over $80 million dollars and brought down the venerable art dealer, Knoedler&Co.

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The dealer, Glafira Rosales, who is 60, was able to keep the scheme alive for over 15 years. The fake works were painted by a Chinese immigrant who was adept at copying various styles of artists such as Jackson Pollack, Willem De Kooning and Mark Rothko. The copier, Pei-Shen Qian, has since fled to China as has Ms. Rosales’ former boyfriend, Jose Diaz, who fled to Spain. Mr. Diaz’ extradition has been stymied.

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Pei-Shen Qian said he was “stunned’ so many people were fooled by his work
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Clyfford fake painting
To read more visit Roanoke News website:

The fraud came to light when Domenico De Sole, the former chairman of Gucci and present chairman of Sotheby’s sued Knoedler over his purchase of a fake Mark Rothko painting that he had purchased for over $8 million.

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The lenient sentence was granted on the basis that Mr. Diaz was the mastermind of the fraud and he physically abused Ms. Rosales. On the surface one can wonder if she got off lightly.

To read more visit New York Times website:

The Oldest Art Club in New York

Salmagundi Club in New York is opened to all artists and it hosts exhibitions of paintings of new members every year and few times a year for members. The club’s membership consists of artists and art patrons. It was founded as the Salmagundi Sketch Club in an artist’s studio in 1871, by artists who were not yet accepted into polite New York society, but were well behaved despite a somewhat bohemian lifestyle.

In 1917 the Club purchased a lovely brownstone at 47 Fifth Avenue at 12th street in New York City.

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Last week we visited the Salmagundi Club to see an exhibition of paintings by new members. The invitation came from my fellow artist Chrissanth Greene-Gross. We met interesting artists there like Dorothy Lorenze, Todd Casey and others.

Members are primarily from the city and surrounding suburbs. Some notable individuals have been granted honorary membership such as Winston Churchill.

To read more visit club website