Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Random Musings 15

Big news in the art world last night! More major auction records were broken at the Christie's New York post-war and contemporary art sale. The sale itself brought in a record-high amount of $691.58 million, and there were record high sales for major artists, including one that put Jeff Koons at the top for most-paid-at-auction-for-a-living-artist. The really big news of the night, however, was when Francis Bacon's triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969, stole the show, selling for the hammer price of $142.4 million, becoming the most money ever paid for a work of art at auction. (The actual sale price was $127m; the rest was the buyer's premium that goes to the auction house.) The previous record happened last year with a version of Munch's Scream selling for $119. (Here is more on my past musings about these records and art sales.) You can see the trio of framed works by Bacon in the image above (source: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times), hovering over the crowd as the frenzy of the auction took place. I'm wondering if some wise ass will claim that as a triptych each piece should only count for 1/3 of the hammer price and thus be much lower. For the record, Bacon worked in triptychs over and over, and even though the three pieces are framed separately, that doesn't mean they're separate works. Unlike the Scream, which was quite a big deal but not life-altering to me, I must confess that this sale excites me because I'm a fan of Bacon's work. Long-time readers may recall my post about Bacon's rise in fame back in 2008, just prior to the big retrospective exhibition that was being planned for London, New York, and Madrid. I find Bacon's work visceral; it hurts to look at it. If you think you can hear the scream in Munch's painting, you will feel in your gut the heart-wrenching agony bellowing from Bacon's paintings. Despite the pain and angst, though, there's something also energizing about his pictures. They are both figurative and abstract in a way that makes you question what you think figurative and abstract actually mean. And in my chats with painters, I've discovered they love him as a painter. His brushstroke and use of colors dazzle them and demonstrate amazing skill and handling that make him a rival to Picasso and Matisse as the leading painters of the 20th century. And now that he carries the highest record ever paid at auction for a single work of art, few can doubt hereafter his awesome presence in modern art. For more about the auction, see the news report by Carol Vogel in the NYT. Some of CultureGrrl's observations about the sale and Christie's bizarre disclaimer on buyer and seller buy-ins shows that the old days of equality in auction sales are long gone.

Among some other musings I've been storing up... About two weekends ago, AA and I took a short getaway trip to New Orleans for some R&R. We got to see the RL-DGs and their new baby NGL, plus play with the ever-adorable dog Penny. But RL--officially and professionally Russell Lord, photography curator--also had some incredible exhibitions on that we went to see. Edward Burtynsky: Water at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans was just beautiful. His photographs shot around the world highlight the importance of water in our lives and the ways in which we control it. The images are dazzling and breath-taking. He creates such complex compositions in colors so vibrant you would swear you were looking at abstract paintings. The image below is one of a number of these beautiful pictures (image: Dryland Farming #2: Monegros County Aragon Spain, 2010; copyright Edward Burtynsky). To top that show off, Russell also curated the thought-provoking exhibition Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Here, Russell explored how Parks's 1948 photographic essay, published in Life magazine about a Harlem gangster named Leonard "Red" Jackson, actually revealed a cropped, edited form of sensationalist journalism that belied the truth behind what Parks really saw in this so-called gang leader struggling to live an everyday life as a black youth in Harlem. Both of these shows are just fascinating, so everyone should go see them if you're in New Orleans. And while you're there, you can check out his third exhibition, a "best of" in the photography collection at NOMA.

For photography and architecture buffs who love New York City, there is a new fun website that appeals to all those people who love seeing pictures of cities and landmarks "then and now." Called NYC Grid, it allows you to use a yellow dividing-line bar over photographs to see how landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounding areas changed from the past to now. It's quite an amazing tool and demonstrates how fun Internet technology can be at times. There are currently only 32 works you can do this too, but the site has fun photography of different neighborhoods worth perusing as well.

Have you ever wondered how music sounded in ancient Greece and Rome? Mathematically and chromatically, scholars had determined in the past how it was constructed. Now with some clever tinkering of musical instruments, a scholar at Oxford University has demonstrated how Greek music sounded. You can read more about this interesting study here from the BBC, and click here to listen to a few of the recordings of vocal and instrumental music (in association with Archaeology magazine).

Finally...(drum roll, please!)...imagine my devilish delight when I discovered that my all-time favorite Disney villain, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, was being given her own biopic in non-animated form! I haven't seen a Disney movie like this in eons, so I'm looking forward to this. Maleficent really was wicked...and could turn into a dragon too. How cool is that? Angelina Jolie plays her in the film...creepy! OK, it's also a bit bizarre, I know, but's Maleficent! Here's the trailer for the film...

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