examples of Taliesin Square Papers from the Frank Lloyd Wright Library at Steinerag
Welcome to Better Read, an intermittent experiment at greg.org to transform art-related texts into handy, entertaining, and informative audio. This text is excerpts from a pamphlet essay by Frank Lloyd Wright, “In the Cause of Architecture: The “International Style” (Soft Cover), published by Taliesin Fellowship in February 1953. It would be the last of what were called the Taliesen Square Paper Series. The editorial was republished in the July 1953 issue of House Beautiful magazine with the title, “Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks Up.” Wright was 85 years old at the time, and he hated hated the International Style.
I could not find print copies of either of these publications available anywhere. Library holdings of House Beautiful are spotty and incomplete. When I tried the authoritative-seeming, five-volume Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings, I also came up short. There are only five copies of Vol. 5 (1949-1959) listed in libraries in the US. How could this be? I ended up buying a used copy for a couple of bucks from Goodwill in Michigan, which turned out to have been deaccessioned by the library in a federal prison. Anyway, the text comes from there [pp. 66-69].
I wanted to find this text because it is the source of two popular zingers from Wright: the great opening line, “The ‘International Style’ is neither international, nor a style,” and saying supporters of modern architecture are not only totalitarians, fascists, or communists, they “are not wholesome people.” This line came up, for example, in a recent Atlas Obscura article about Hollin Hills, a nice but innocuous mid-century modernist subdivision near Washington DC.
I wanted to see the fuller context of Wright’s criticisms, partly because one of the objects of his scorn, the MoMA-affiliated architect Philip Johnson, was actually a Nazi and an aspiring leader of US fascism at one point. [I’ve come to think Johnson recognized the disadvantages of political affiliation for his real interest: himself and his career, and that his devotion for the rest of his life to establishment power was quite sincere, but that’s not the point right now.]
The main reason is because Wright’s communist and anti-modernist bogeymen sounded familiar, like they might resonate with the conservative or rightist campaigns against everything modern, from abstraction to Brutalism to Post-Modernism, to Tilted Arc to the Culture Wars, Wojnarowicz, you name it. Wright’s architecture has been generally assimilated into our historical narrative, but, I thought, it’s come at the cost of our understanding of the political context in which he created it, and from which he attacked those who didn’t ascribe to his own views, or pursue his particular agenda.
Anyway, Wright’s text is after the jump, or you can listen to the text read by a robot.
better_read_frank_lloyd_wright_intl_style_20160505.mp3 [dropbox greg.org, 18mb mp3, 13min or so]
About five years ago I began collecting dead websites. It started in 2010 with Thomas Hirschhorn, after his first website, made for the Bijlmer Spinoza-Festival in Amsterdam, disappeared from the net. The Spinoza project was the third in a series of temporary projects dedicated to philosophers.
Hirschhorn calls these “presence and production” works. Here is a 2009 interview with Ross Birrell:
“Presence” and “Production” are terms I use for specific projects which require my presence and my production. It means to make a physical statement here and now.
I believe that only with presence – my presence – and only with production – my production – can I provoke through my work, an impact on the field.
When the project is over, the programs end, the materials are dispersed, the artist moves on, and a couple of months later, the website where the entire thing had been documented disappears. Then the links go dead, the URL expires, and gets scooped up by some zombie ad network. All that remains are some jpgs illustrating Marcus Steinweg’s Bijlmer lectures.
I’d been to the first at Documenta, the Bataille Monument, in 2002, but not the Spinoza Festival, and so the website was it for me. I’d wanted to read and see more, longer. And then I discovered I couldn’t. It was gone.
So when Hirschhorn launched his second website the next year, for CRYSTAL OF RESISTANCE, the Swiss Pavilion at the 2011 Venice Biennale, I was ready. Almost. I grabbed the whole site several times, but l missed some galleries. And then it was gone.
The GRAMSCI MONUMENT site in 2013, I definitely got that one. And Hirschhorn’s project at the Palais de Tokyo in 2014, FLAMME ETERNELLE, I got that one too.
When the greatest website in the world got edited into oblivion, I grabbed it from the Internet Archive and made a piece out of it last year: Untitled (Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide).
Then a few months ago I heard MOCA had deleted the informative and interactive mini-site for Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s Land Art show, so I rebuilt that one. Or I’m in process. I still have to reconnect the Google Earth links. [Google’s deprecated KML API may have led to the page’s demise.]
This is how I started posting them as subdomains, similar to found texts or found web objects. In the case of Hirschhorn, I was very aware since Venice that these were different, and very much not his work: “This website is neither an artwork, nor part of the artwork <
But wasn’t, but now it was, but of a different work. Hirschhorn’s projects required his presence and his production, and my sites had neither. They appeared the same but were the opposite.
They weren’t just for me anymore. At least I didn’t have to think so.
I do edit them, leave my mark, track changes, in the text somewhere, or the source, in ways that are invisible or imperceptible, where I imagine literally no one will ever know or care. At one point, in a more cynical mood, I rewrote the entire Gramsci Monument to be entirely about me. But the more I consider Hirschhorn’s practice, the less sure I am that the gesture works as critique. [Of him, anyway. Of me, OTOH… At least I kept a clean version too.]
For example, here is something I wrote in the source of Ends of the Earth:
Though it is still available on the Internet Archive, this is the kind of thing that should, I feel, exist within an art context. It is too off-the-cuff to imagine these two mirrors as a site and non-site, but that is an apt reference, I won’t throw it out. What ultimately motivates this repetition of the site is a bafflement at why MOCA removed it in the first place. Huge shoutout to Kim Drew (@museummammy) for calling this to my attention.
I just feel like I have to grab these things, even the ones that get scraped into the Internet Archive. It’s an urge that I can’t dismiss, even when I can recognize the futility of it. I have to save them.
Michael Heizer, Munich Rotary, 1970, transparencies and projectors, installed here at LACMA in 2012, but on view at the Whitney through Apr. 10, 2016
Michael Heizer talked about Munich Depression (1969) and Munich Rotary (1970) with Heiner Friedrich and the Whitney folks, and Interview Magazine is ON it.
HEIZER: I have a genius friend named Maris Ambats, whom I talked to about making a projector to project an image at the actual size. The deal was to let the camera be a translator between reality and a replicated reality, which means making the photograph as big as the thing itself. So here it is. It gets squeezed down through the camera, and then it’s blown back up to the same size.
…MANCUSI-UNGARO: And the first time you showed Munich Rotary was in 1971 in Detroit…
HEIZER: Sam Wagstaff [who was then the curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Arts] introduced photography to the modern-art market. He liked photography so much he wanted to show it in the grand hall in this classical museum. It’s a big, big classical building–it’s like the Louvre inside with huge rooms. He put my piece in this huge 200-foot room. It was really good, and it was intended to be a photographic offering, a photographic artwork. Wagstaff had the nerve to do that. The trustees wanted him to remove that sculpture of mine he exhibited, too, and he resigned because of it. But he had the nerve, and he believed in it. He was right. It’s become so insidious. Photography is everywhere now. Back then, it wasn’t an art-world technique. But, the thing is, you can’t separate the film derivation from the real thing. Munich Depression and Munich Rotary are different works of art, but they come from the real thing. So you can’t escape it.
DE SALVO: You can’t uncouple them.
HEIZER: No point in trying to.
This hits a lot of buttons for me, first because of what’s not really discussed: the full-scale photomurals of boulders Heizer showed alongside Munich Rotary at LACMA in 2012, in a show called “Actual Size.” [Actually, Munich Rotary is or has been called Actual Size: Munich Rotary, too.] This felt like a photo representational rebuke of MOCA’s 2012 Land Art show, which Heizer refused to participate in.
But it really all makes me rethink how photography operated in this era as both a mode of art production, and as a means of circulation. The difference between the image and what it depicts, photography’s built-in distortions of “the scale of the world,” as Sontag put it.
Destroyed Richter Painting No. 013, 2016, installation shot
The double distortion by photography and the market is what drove me to make the Destroyed Richter Paintings. I want to experience the difference (or the similarities) between a photo of a painting (or a jpg of a 4×5 slide) and an actual size reproduction of that (image of that) painting. Some have size info attached, but at first all the Destroyed Richter Paintings dimensions were extrapolated from the painting in them, and the studio space they inhabited. While figuring this out, I definitely considered conceptualist folks like Joseph Kosuth or Mel Bochner when I looked back at these issues, but Heizer and his photos were unknown to me. I sure look at them now, though.
And apparently I need to look at Audubon, too, who insisted on illustrating his birds life-size, and letting the printing people just deal. William S. Smith discusses Audubon and Actual Size in Art in America, and looks at scale and representation as analogs for control:
Heizer’s actual-size photographs of Munich Depression establish control over the context in which they are viewed–a control he could never assert over the site on which it was made. Photographs of variable scale can be reprinted, republished, circulated and annotated in popular magazines. But the actual-size works have to be seen in person in a setting where the placement of the projectors can be tightly controlled. They are photographic oddities, resistant to reproduction and circulation. This resistance, too, comes at a cost, because it makes the work, conceived supposedly in innocence of “commercial and utilitarian concerns,” entirely dependent on institutions with the resources and space that Heizer requires.
Huh, this installation view of Michael Heizer’s “Actual Size” show at LACMA in 2012 is really about the museum. Broad wins again. via x-traonline.org
This is not to just hitch my wagon to whatever 60s star is riding through town. I am actually in the middle of sending out photos of the Destroyed Richters, and unless it’s a flagrant installation shot, the works keep ending up looking like the photos. I find myself stuck in this same representational gap, in a hole, I have dug for myself. But at least I am not alone. While looking around for photos of Heizer’s “Actual Size” show, I realized they are really all about LACMA, and their giant pavilion. And though all those megaliths are presumably still where Heizer photographed them 46 years ago, the work that’s inextricably coupled with Munich Rotary, Munich Depression, created on an active suburban building site, was destroyed within months of its completion.
Michael Heizer’s Munich Depression, May 1969, Perlach, Munich, Germany
Michael Heizer by Heiner Friedrich [interviewmagazine]
One to One [artinamericamagazine]
In 2010 the kid took a weekly studio class at the Hirshhorn with Dan Steinhilber. It was fantastic, but unfortunately, it was the last one the museum offered for non-teens. It was held in the education space in the sculpture garden, a space which could connect under the road to the museum, but for various logistical reasons, does not.
This incredible framed poster from Gerhard Richter’s 1987-8 exhibition was there. The painting in it, A B Dunkel, or Abstraktes Bild Dunkel (Dark), (CR: 613-2), 1986, is from what is considered Richter’s breakthrough year for squeegee painting. For me, though, it’s the gaffer’s tape that makes it special.
Now that I have declared it a work, I called the Hirshhorn. It is still there. There are no plans for it at this time. I called the museum shop, which has an endlessly interesting selection of books and exhibition catalogues for sale from the museum’s own library, but which does not, it turns out, have any 28-year-old Richter exhibition posters lying around.
It’s possible that it’s not even a product, but marketing material or signage; I couldn’t find another example of this poster mentioned online. So for now, it is ed. 1/1. Plus a study.
Now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m kind of amazed at how much the ideas that led me to Chop Shop resonated with the discussion Phyllida Barlow had at the Nasher Sculpture Center with Tyler Green. The live conversation was on MANPodcast in July 2015.
Phyllida Barlow, tryst, 2015, installation at Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas [image: manpodcast.com]
I was listening to it again tonight on the way home and pulled some highlights: like this idea of fragments:
It always seems to me extraordinary that our lineage of Western art is dependent on broken fragments of things for which we have no proper-I mean, we look at torsos that don’t have limbs, that come from Hellenic times…and they’re iconic. ‘This is great.’ and Western art runs out of that greatness. And there doesn’t seem to be an issue that the arms are missing, or the legs are missing.
So the fragment and the half-finished has for everybody-it does for me-a certain beauty. it’s sublime. [9m00s]
This notion of the fate of art:
Really a question that emerged very early on, which is, ‘Where does art end up?’…Do you, as in my case, enjoy it, or as I was doing in the 80s and 90s and just putting it on the roof of our car, and taking it somewhere and just putting it on the street corner? And abandoning these things, and finally, after a few years of doing that, one night at 3 o’clock in the morning, I took them all to Blackfriars Bridge and chucked them in the Thames. [Laughing] Such is the way of artists, you know. It was one of the most liberating things I’d done. [13m15s]
Barlow talks about touch, and how the anticipation of touch is more powerful than touch itself:
I think this issue of touch is, for me, problematic. I think touch is a language, a non-verbal language, and how you imagine touching something seems to me to be more important than actually reaching out and touching it, where the minute you’ve touched it, the mystery, or the imaginative process, gets solved. You know, that’s closure on it.
I think there are…numerous art objects where there is a longing to touch, or an interest in what this thing is. But I think that it’s up to us to work out, what we then imagine what this might be? Is it hot or cold? There are artists who very much play that; Pierre Huyghe made a sculpture that is very much hot when you touch it. I think that’s a sort of fascinating game. I found that work, for me, you know, the minute you’d done that action, I didn’t know quite what else there was to discover about it. [51m00]
Just now I listened to this and the action I thought of was cutting the Barnett Newman painting and the Gursky Rhine. The thought of cutting, and the process of composition, the decisionmaking, the weighing, these all feel vital, and different from the actual chops.
Chop Shop Newman Painting No. 1 [destroyed] and No. 2, both 2016
That experience is reserved for whoever buys it; by design it is not the same experience as the regular viewer. Taking Barlow’s perspective on touch would mean that considering the potential is more interesting. But I think what actually happens is that the decision to cut, crop, compose and define shifts a collector away from just seeing and toward creating. From the audience to the artist.
I don’t know much about Imi Knoebel’s Sternenhimmel photos, except they look awesome. And by awesome, I mean, like the gridded slice of sky seen captured by the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey photos I installed at apexart a couple of years ago.
Sternenhimmel is actually Sternenhimmel – für Lola, a portfolio of 54 prints, each 40x30cm, that Knoebel apparently shot in 1970, but only produced as an edition in 2006. He has a granddaughter named Lola who looks to be about that age, so maybe that’s why.
This is ed. 1/7, plus 2APs, and this is the second time it’s come up for sale at Christie’s. I’d like to think his 8yo granddaughter is not hard up for the £12-18,000 they didn’t sell for in 2014 or the £7-10,000 they’re estimated at now. But maybe she got an AP.
Not much is online about Sternenhimmel, except Joerg Heiser’s discussion of seriality and Knoebel’s 1975 Kunsthalle Düsseldorf exhibition:
The conceptual focus of the pictures of stars, which were brought together into one large picture in the exhibition, is that one star was added to each photo, but this information is not supplied in the catalog. The star motif makes the refusal to communicate sexy; it does not reflect obtuse mental sloth, but is mysteriously seductive due to the cosmic, unending series of stars. It is minimal techno, so to speak, long before it existed, digital in the analog age. Black and white as 0 and 1.
Imi Knoebel, Projections, 1974, 28 photos, ed. 2/9, image: christies
Knoebel was making a series of 250,000 line drawings (Linienbilder) and photos documenting the flashing patterns of lights in a closed room (Innenprojektionen, above), so maybe taking a picture of every star was just one more grand project doomed to futility. (Not to get too On Kawara about it, but if he kept it up, he probably could’ve finished the drawings by now. 250,000 drawings in 50 years is only like a dozen a day.)
14 Apr 2016, lot 168, Imi Knoebel, Sternenhimmel – für Lola, 1970/2006, est. £7-10,000 [christies]
Seriality and Color in Knoebel’s Work [db-artmag.de]
Chop Shop installation shot at SPRING/BREAK 2016, in the vault on the 3rd floor of Moynihan Station, image: Tamas Banovich
I am psyched to announce “Chop Shop”, a show of my work at SPRING/BREAK 2016. SPRING/BREAK’s keyword this year is ⌘COPY⌘PASTE, which is probably what gave Magda Sawon the idea to approach me about a project. “Chop Shop” coalesced around several subjects and series that have appeared recently on greg.org: creative destruction; authenticity; artist’s agency; a critique of collectors, the market, and the networks art traverses; and the interactions between our digital, cognitive, and physical experiences.
In just the last few weeks, the show grew more ambitious and felt like the whole thing might just veer off the rails, but thanks to Magda and her people, the flexible and gracious organizers of SPRING/BREAK, and the expert assistance of some brave painters and printers, it all came together. And it looks absolutely mindbogglingly great, almost exactly the uncanny combination of spectacle, aura, and outrageous WTF? that I’d imagined. And to top it all off, it’s installed inside A GIANT, FREAKING VAULT.
Chop Shop installation shot with Destroyed Richter Grid No. 4, Destroyed Richter Painting No. 8, Shanzhai Gursky Grid No. 1, and Destroyed Richter Paintings Nos. 12 & 11, image: Tamas Banovich
Every work in “Chop Shop” is something I’ve been imagining or visualizing for months, or sometimes even years, but which I had not experienced in person, until now. And this process of conceptualizing something, and then actually realizing it, and then experiencing it, is intensely satisfying to me. I look at tons and tons of art, not only online, but in person, too. And the differences between these experiences and the impressions they leave feel important. So it’s not just a nicety when I say I hope you will be able to see “Chop Shop” in person. [It runs from Tuesday March 1 through March 7.]
“Chop Shop’s” images are appropriated from the old masters, but its processes are lifted from collectors, dealers, and museum shopkeepers. The artwork on view has either already been destroyed, and brought back to life, or it’s about to be chopped up to order, or broken up and parted out.
The show includes: new Destroyed Richter Paintings, which are full-scale resurrections of Gerhard Richter paintings that now exist only in archival negatives or jpgs. Some are of paintings the artist destroyed himself (after photographing them, obv), and some are of paintings that have been destroyed in the wild. In a nod to Richter’s own practice of transforming his paintings into photos, prints, or other media, some of the Destroyed Richter Paintings in “Chop Shop” are printed on aluminum panels. They are literally dazzling.
Destroyed Richter Grid No. 1 A-L, 2016, UV pigment on aluminum, 50x60cm each, unique, image: Tamas Banovich
In another nod-or maybe it’s a critique wrapped up in an homage, it’s really too early to say-to Richter’s own destructive predilections, the Destroyed Richter Grid works transform [the jpg of] a lost squeegee painting into a set of prints on aluminum, which will be sold separately and scattered. Unlike Richter’s Facsimile Objects, which are produced in bulk, these grid pieces are each a lone, unique work, part of a whole that will only be visible together during the show. So Richter’s lost works stay lost, unless or until an enterprising curator in the future tracks all these panels down and reassembles them. And even then, what do we have, but a reconstituted jpg? We go to exhibition with the art we have, I guess.
Shanzhai Gursky No. 005, 2016, C-print, 185x303cm, will be destroyed in the production of Shanzhai Gursky Nos. 006 – whatever, 185cm x whatever, at Chop Shop
Shanzhai Gursky Grids are related to the Shanzhai Gursky series, which are produced full-scale from whatever the highest-resolution versions of Andreas Gursky’s images are available at the time. Except in this case, these new works, made for “Chop Shop,” will be themselves chopped and destroyed, with the fragments each constituting a new, unique work. Some are pre-chopped for your convenience, but others will be chopped to order, then properly mounted and framed for posterity. But the sight of these Gursky-looking works hanging, raw and exposed, naked, is just awesome. What a world, they make me think. What. a. world.
Study for Chop Shop Newman No. 1 and Nos. 2-6, 2015, jpg, but oh it’s real now, baby
Which brings us to the centerpiece of the show, Chop Shop Newman Painting No. 1, a full-scale repetition of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire (1967). It is literally awe-inducing, at least for me, and not just because I made it. [With conservation and materials research by the National Gallery of Canada, sage advice from David Diao, and the painterly talents of Tamas Banovich and Kyle Nielsen.] Newman made the 18-ft tall Voice of Fire to order for the 27-story geodesic sphere of the Expo67 US Pavilion. Chop Shop Newman No. 1 will be cut down into Chop Shop Newman Nos. 2 – ?? during the fair, with dimensions and compositions determined by the connoisseur collectors on a first-come, first-served basis. While supplies last.
There are so many variables and unknowns, and it’s crazy/fascinating ceding the fate of so much work to the hands of collectors-or to their indifference, if no one ends up caring, or engaging, or liking the stuff enough to take it home, which I suppose could happen. But it’s also immensely satisfying the way this show has me thinking through the systems of art, our expectations for it, and how we experience and value the world around us. So there’s that.
Press release: Magdalena Sawon presents Chop Shop by GREG ALLEN at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, March 1 – 7, 2016 [postmastersart]
SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2016, ⌘COPY⌘PASTE [springbreakartshow]
So slick, you can buy “Chop Shop” works directly online until April 30th! [springbreakartfair]
Who’s Afraid of Red & Blue? About Chop Shop Newman Painting No. 1 et al.
the original blog post, At Home with Voice of Fire
Previously, related: on Reassembling chopped up masterpieces after 500 years
on the still-hypothetical proposition that there is a non-traumatic way to chop up a Barnett Newman
On museums showing reproductions and being like, oh nbd
It was. the. jutes. Stefan Simchowitz just cold chopping up Ibrahim Mahama’s jute sack installations
“The outcome is a painterly concatenation of destructive and creative forces, capital’s relentless churn made both gestural and material.” [mostafa heddaya for artinfo]
“They look modest and a little scared. (Rightfully so: “Voice of Fire” (sic) lost its first chunk to an X-Acto knife on opening night.)” [jillian steinhauer for hyperallergic]
“Allen made an absurdist gesture by offering up fragments of copied masterworks of contemporary art for sale by the square foot, like pizza.” [chris green for afc]
— Roberta Smith (@robertasmithnyt) March 6, 2016
Fred Sandback installation at Proyectos Monclova, DF, via @monclova
It’s like how when you learn a word you start hearing it everywhere.
Fred Sandback installation at Monclova via Evan Moffitt for @frieze
I’ve been soaking in a lot of red and blue lately.
Gucci S/S17, image via ann_caruso’s ig
Webdriver Torso as found painting system, via
What to do with it? Turn over the decisionmaking to found or chance operations?
Webdriver Torso as found logo system, via
Appropriate? Outsource? Abrogate? Collaborate? Engage? Every strategy has its own context. Or rather, the context is mutable (too).
Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire installed in the space it was created for, the US Pavilion at Expo67 in Montreal, image via jack masey’s book
I made a repetition of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire recently, with the help of some excellent painters. It’s 18 feet high and 8 feet wide. For now.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Fantasia, 1940
At Chop Shop at SPRING/BREAK, collectors will reconfigure Newman’s red and blues to suit their own compositional and spatial needs. The results might be Newmanesque, or they might be something totally different.
Study for Chop Shop Newman, 2016
I was psyched to write about it, but now I’m kind of unnerved to see what people will actually do. What if they chop up the whole thing and cart it home? In big pieces or small ones? A lot or a little? What if they do nothing? Alan Solomon called Voice of Fire “virtually unsalable.” We shall see, but I think I have solved that problem.
The Gerhard Richter edition Pyramid, 1966, 92 x 98 cm, image: gerhard-richter.com
In 1966, Gerhard Richter made a small edition titled Pyramid, for a multiples group show in Karlsruhe. Pyramid is a photo printed on treated canvas of a 1964 painting, Small Pyramid, which is itself based on an offset photograph illustrating an encyclopedia entry. In addition to variations in mounting and frames, Richter made each of the 13 prints (ed. 10+3 proofs) unique by altering the exposure time.
Cage Grid I, complete
Richter’s made a lot of photo versions of his paintings, but I think this was the only time Richter used photo-on-canvas, and it came to mind a couple of years ago when I was looking at Cage Grid, the
only first time Richter used giclée prints.
Those Cage Grids were made for sale at/by Tate Modern during the retrospective, sort of a giant benefit edition. It’s a situation artists know well, where the museums and arts institutions who show them ask them to donate works to auction or fund a show. [The corollary is dealers being hit up to fund exhibitions, or the production of new work, which then turns the museum, or the biennale pavilion, into a showroom.]
Anyway, for an extremely successful artist like Richter, the willingness to support the many public exhibitions of his work is probably only surpassed by the eagerness of museums to get in on some of that Richter swag. Fulfilling every request for auction donations or benefit editions could probably consume the artist’s entire practice, becoming a distortion or distraction. And so a compartmentalized, systematic approach was needed.
Enter the “facsimile object.”
P1 “Abstraktes Bild”, 2014 “A Diasec mounted chromogenic print of: Abstraktes Bild, [1990,] Catalogue Raisonné 724-4″, image: gerhard-richter.com”
Facsimile object is Richter’s term for photographic reproductions of Richter’s paintings, produced “under Richter’s direction and approval,” in large, numbered but unsigned editions, which are sold through museum shops to support an exhibition. Since 2014, 13 facsimile objects have been created, all mounted on aluminum, and all but one in editions of 500. That’s more than 6,000 objects. They all sold out almost immediately at prices from EUR1,000-1,500. Whatever their status as art, facsimile objects turn out to be a highly efficient mechanism for crowdfunding Richter exhibitions.
Richter’s facsimile objects are created by a company called HENI Productions, which was founded by Joe Hage, a lawyer, collector, and Richter confidante. Hage was the force behind the artist’s website; he bought half of September; and he produced Cage Grid I. If he’s not the COO of Richter Gmbh, he’s at least in charge of biz dev.
P2 “Haggadah”, 2014, a 100cm print of a 152cm painting, image: gerhard-richter.com
As actual, signed editions, Cage Grids were a proof of concept; the first batch of official facsimile objects came and went without my noticing. P1 “Abstraktes Bild” , P2 “Haggadah” , and Bouquet (P3) were produced for sale at the Fondation Beyeler’s Pictures/Series show. I did pay attention when a P1 came through Sotheby’s a couple of months later with a £4-6,000 estimate. Because it sold for £41,250.
The first two Beyeler facsimile object subjects are significant in their own right. Richter used CR 724-4 as the basis for generating his Strip Series, and to produce a set of tapestries. Haggadah, CR 895-10, is a much-shown, much-reproduced 2006 squeegee painting that appears on the frontispiece of Tate’s Panorama catalogue, and in an atypically large set of detail photos on the artist’s website.
P10 “Bagdad”, 2015, image: serpentine galleries
From there things get merch-y pretty quick. P3 is a 1:1 facsimile of Bouquet (2009), a small, blurred painting of flowers that’s been overpainted with a squeegee. P4 – P7 are slightly enlarged pictures of the enamel-on-glass Flow series.
P8 – P11, meanwhile, were pictures of more enamel-on-glass for The Serpentine, which sold them all out at £1,500/each, thanks in no small part to vigorous flipping of P1 – P3, and the entrance of seasoned Banksy, Hirst, and Murakami print investors into the market. I think we’ve found the level of the room.
Despite the best laid terms & conditions of The Serpentine’s shop [pdf], all of these facsimile objects are being flipped constantly, in every contemporary auction, and on every online art sales platform. They’re the Richter plastic microbeads in the secondary market ocean. In almost every case, they’re presented as artworks, editions, and the description is entirely of the work depicted. For most art functions, especially shopping, these objects do indeed operate as perfect facsimiles.
And that fascinates me.
I was kind of obsessed with Richter’s facsimile objects last year. I was parsing the relationships between the object and its subject, the information around it, and its viewers, and ultimately, between the object and the artist. Whoever that might be. And then I put them aside, only to find, now, that they got even more interesting. Facsimile objects now have their own category on Richter’s website: Prints. The website text is slightly different than the object labels: “A Diasec mounted chromogenic print of: Abstraktes Bild” vs “A facsimile object of: / Gerhard Richter/ Abstraktes Bild,” for example.
These are not just facsimiles of Richter; they are by him as well.
P12 “Annunciation after Titian”, 2015, 125 x 200 cm facsimile object, image: gerhard-richter.com
The next objects seem to bear out the artist’s interest in exploring the nature of the gift shop souvenir. P12 “Annunciation after Titian” is a full-scale facsimile object of the iconic blur painting which Richter made after a postcard he picked up in Venice. [This Annunciation, now at the Hirshhorn, was reunited with the artist’s other four Annunciation paintings for the first time since 1973 in the Fondation Beyeler show.] Though they’re still unsigned, these 125x200cm objects number only 50, “+ 3 A.P.”, whatever that means in this context.
Which brings me back to the pyramid. The Thomas Kinkade Editions Pyramid, devised by the late artist’s company to explain the auratic and financial calculations of the various facsimile objects on offer. Because I think it’s time someone make one for Richter.
Huh, this adds up to 105%.
Richter told an interviewer at the time he made the Annunciations, “I wanted to trace him as precisely as possible, maybe because I wanted to own such a beautiful Titian…[laughs]” Exact replicas to sate the thirst for an otherwise unobtainable masterpiece? It turns out he’s been making facsimile objects all along.
Would you believe me if I told you this was Dürer’s Great Piece Of Turf and not an altered jpg?
In a fascinating and frustrating essay on aeon, art historian Noah Charney tries to very diplomatically address the fact that major museums are displaying reproductions of major works on paper by the likes of Egon Schiele and Albrecht Dürer. The museums often disclose this non-trivial fact very obliquely, or not at all:
That evening, art forgery was the subject of conversation in the museum’s stylish black marble restaurant. The patrons of the Leopold lamented that they could show their best Schiele drawings (the ones that drew pilgrims) only for a few months at a time. The rest of the time they were in darkened storage, to minimise their exposure to light, and reproductions were displayed in their place. Someone from the Albertina sympathised. She explained that Dürer’s marvellous watercolours, Young Hare and Tuft of Grass, are shown to the public only for three-month periods every few years. Otherwise they reside in temperature-, light- and humidity-controlled Solander boxes in storage. Had I had the chance to see them?
Indeed I had, and while I had been suspicious that something wasn’t quite right about them, I would be flattering myself to say that I immediately knew they were reproductions. Today’s printing technologies make it difficult to distinguish high-quality facsimiles from originals, at least not without taking them out of the frame and examining the back (which holds a wealth of clues about an object’s age and provenance), or looking at the surface in detail, without the interference of protective glass. In an intentionally shadowy alcove I could sense that something was off, but not exactly what.
“Three months every few years“? Did the Albertina leave the reproductions up when they loaned the originals to the National Gallery in 2013? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to just loan the reproductions, and let the originals rest in safety?
I wish Charney would have brought more contemporary notions of reproduction to bear here, beyond a namecheck of Benjamin. And the aeon context doesn’t help, teeing up with a clickbaity question “Is there a place for fakery in art galleries and museums?” and soliciting comments with a moot one: “When it comes to art, can a reproduction stand for the original?” When some of the world’s leading museums swap facsimiles as a matter of course, the answer is obviously yes. I’d just like to find out more about how they do it.
Is there a place for fakery in art galleries and museums? [aeon.co]
Previously: The Great Piece of Merch
A Gerhard Richter squeegee painting is coming up for auction in February. It is CR:725-4 fourth in a series of five large paintings [225×200 cm] made in 1990, a very busy squeegee year. From The Art Newspaper:
“The years 1989 and 1990 are the most sought-after in Richter’s works,” says Isabelle Paagman, Sotheby’s senior specialist, contemporary art. “During this time he really embraces the squeegee technique in his abstract paintings. More than half of Richter’s works from that period are in museums.”
Paagman says his use of grey in Abstraktes Bild also makes it highly sought after. Grey is of particular importance for Richter; in a 2004 interview he described it as “the ideal colour for indifference, fence-sitting, keeping quiet, despair”.
I’ve been looking at these late 80s and early 90s squeegee paintings a lot lately and am intrigued by this kind of financial sifting. Equally interesting is the use of indifference, fence-sitting, keeping quiet, and despair as record-breaking selling points. I hope it sells for £100 million.
Abstraktes Bild CR:725-4, 1990, 225x200cm [gerhard-richter.com]
Gerhard Richter painting being auctioned by Malekis could topple record [theartnewspaper.com]
A 2004 interview with Jan Thorn-Prikker that doesn’t include this quote was published in the NYT. [nyt]
Dust Breeding (Bull), 2016, dust, museum, reflection of Picasso sculpture.
Last week I went to see the Picasso Sculpture show at the Modern again. That’s when I noticed the extraordinary amount of dust on the window ledge in the last gallery. I took a picture of it with Picasso’s Bull in the reflection because it was amazing, and because it obviously reminded me of Dust Breeding, Man Ray’s photo of six months worth of studio dust and street grime settled on the surface of Duchamp’s Large Glass.
Man Ray, Dust Breeding, 1920, contact print, from Roxana Marcoci’s Photography of Sculpture catalogue.
I’ve loved Dust Breeding for a long time. Colby Chamberlain wrote a nice piece on it and Anthony McCall’s work in a 2009 issue of Cabinet on dust that has stayed with me for its conclusion: the antipathy between august art institutions and dust. I think MoMA has complicated Colby’s thesis.
My first comment on Instagram about wanting to donate a vacuum cleaner, but I kept thinking about Matt Connors’ noticing the same ledge situation I had, and having it trigger a similar reaction. After a couple of days, I decided to make the situation a work.
And since then, I’ve been wondering what the existence of such an artwork might mean for someone, or more precisely, what knowing it exists might do for the experience of seeing that ledge.
On the one hand, it might be amazing to have people think of me and my work when they glance out the window into the atrium. Isn’t that associative frisson better even than wanting to have an endowed Roomba drone named after me? Just think of the dialogues!
Right now the gallery is filled with jaw-dropping sculptures Picasso put together out of junk and scraps of wood, in a show that includes artworks made from cigarette-burned napkins. Dust blends right in. But in a few weeks, the Museum’s permanent collection will return in some form. What interaction might happen then? Duchamp put a little sign next to Large Glass: “Dust Breeding. To be respected.” Is it possible for that dust on MoMA’s ledge to engender respect?
Though I’m willing to find out, I’m skeptical. A few years ago, I pointed out to a guard on the 2nd floor that someone had written on the wall. She smiled benignly and informed me it was a Yoko Ono instruction piece. Which, of course it was. How cute. I was annoyed, partly for not recognizing it, but mostly that my good intentions had flipped back on me. Instead of being thanked for my civic responsibility, I was being schooled on Ono’s whimsy. I somehow doubt I was experiencing what the artist intended.
Whisper Pieces installed at MoMA in 2010, image: moma
Claiming MoMA dust bunnies as art might be seen as even lamer than Banksy, who surreptitiously stuck his own work on a museum wall and gloated about how long it took the museum to take it down. It’s just a stick in the eye of people who live to look.
Does declaring it an artwork just seem like so much ledge-half-full spin, a passive aggressive way to shame the Museum needs to break out the cherry picker and the Swiffer? Until I decided it was an artwork, I would have thought so. But now I feel actual dread knowing it’ll be gone. Some unknown day soon, maybe as soon as Walid Raad’s installation gets cleared out of the atrium, a Museum staffer is going to unceremoniously obliterate my piece. I’ll walk into the 4th floor to see some Naumans or Hesses or Broodthaers or whatever, and it’ll be gone.
But it will also be back; that’s not ten years of dust we’re looking at. And while Dust Breeding‘s parenthetical collabo right now is Picasso’s Bull, that will change too. And as it comes and goes, I’ll document its condition, and its neighbors. And if you see it, please take a picture and let me know. #dustbreeding
UPDATE WOW: From MTAA‘s Michael Sarff comes this bombshell of a project: the MoMA’s Dust Windows Community on Facebook, established OVER TWO YEARS AGO to document and appreciate the dust that gives “voice to time, memory and entropy set against the ideals of what a museum is often thought to reflex.”
@gregorg Jan 1, 2014. You are a bit late to stake out a claim but I'm willing to share the responsibility and stewardship 🙂
— michael sarff (@mriver) January 16, 2016
I am the prodigal dust son, make me as one of thy dust-loving servants!
[LOL. As I write this, Ann Temkin is actually live on Periscope, offering invited guests to honor Duchamp and the 100th anniversary of the Readymade, a term which first appeared in a letter the artist wrote to his sister on 15 January, 1916. Perfect.]
Previously, related: Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.)
Richard Prince, “New Portraits,” installation shot, Sept. 2014, Gagosian 976, image:richardprince.com
According to his copyright infringement lawsuit against Richard Prince, Rasta-fetishizing fashion photographer Donald Graham sells limited edition prints of his 1997 photo, Rastafarian Smoking a Joint in two sizes: 20×24 inches (ed. 25) and 48×60 inches (ed. 5).
A rasta/model/whatever named @indigoochild ‘grammed Graham’s image in February 2014. It was regrammed in May by another r/m/w, @rastajay92, three months later. In May Prince commented on it, then took a screenshot, which he eventually printed at 4×5′ and showed in his “New Portraits” show at Gagosian Madison in September 2014.
Donald Graham, Rasta Smoking A Joint, 1997-, Lambda print, 20×24, ed. 5/25, sold at Heritage Auction in Nov. 2015
In his complaint, Graham’s attorneys detail the alterations Prince made to Graham’s image, including making a screenshot, cropping, adding text and emoji, adding all the UI and empty space, and printing at low resolution and large size on canvas. Prince’s depiction is clearly of a photo on/in Instagram, with all that entails. It is clearly different in appearance, color, finish, and context, unless you’re seeking a significant amount of money, in which case these differences become invisible or irrelevant.
Unfortunately for Mr. Graham, he only registered his copyright for the image after Prince’s show, so even if he were able to prove infringement, he would only be able to recover actual damages. Since Prince sold his New Portrait to his dealer Larry Gagosian, those actual damages probably range between the profit from one 4×5 photo print and $18,500, Prince’s half of the $37,000 retail price for the IG works at that time.
greg.org, Study for Untitled (Re: Graham), 2016, Donald Graham Lambda print cut down and collaged on inkjet on canvas, 30×24 in., ed. up to 25, I guess
It strikes me that the quickest and easiest solution is to buy one of Graham’s prints, cut it up, and collage it on top of the infringing Prince. They’re already roughly the same size. For proof of concept, I’m glad to make a study using one of Graham’s smaller, 20×24-inch prints. As it happens, the only two ever to come to auction surfaced after Prince’s show: in November 2014 in Paris (EUR2600), and in Nov. 2015 in Dallas ($2,475). Delivery date’s a little uncertain, but at these prices, I’m sure we can make it work. Win-win-win.
Dan Duray has an excellent scoop on an unheralded auction last spring to liquidate the art collection of Glafira Rosales, the only person convicted so far in the Knoedler Gallery forgery scandal.
About 236 lots were sold by the US Marshals via their auction contractor. Only one, a portrait of Rosales herself, betrays any connection to the caper, but that doesn’t mean they’re unrelated. Most of the works were bought at auctions since 2010, which means they were presumably bought with proceeds from Rosales & co’s fake postwar masterpieces.
The obscurity of the sale and the omission of the works’ criminal connection practically demand a Glafira Rosales Provenance Project. Maybe in the new year.
Right now, though, I’ll just call out two fascinating works:
This 1957 drawing by Ellsworth Kelly is of David Herbert, a dealer and gallery employee who worked with key NY figures like Betty Parsons, Sidney Janis, and Richard Feigen. Herbert was also dragged into the center of the Knoedler scam; Rosales claimed that Herbert, who died in 1995, was the source for the paintings, which she said belonged to an anonymous, but totally fictitious, European collector. As Patricia Cohen described it when the Knoedler forgeries began to surface:
Herbert planned to use the works to stock a new gallery that was to be financed by the original collector. But the two men had a falling out, and the art ended up in the collector’s basement until his death.
Ms. Rosales does own a 1957 line drawing of Herbert by Ellsworth Kelly that was recently part of an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. What she does not seem to have, however, are any records that track the ownership of the two dozen or so Modernist paintings she brought to market.
Rosales had been introduced to Ann Freedman, Knoedler’s president, Cohen reported, by a gallery employee Jaime Andrade. Andrade was Herbert’s partner. He was, presumably, the one who sold or gave Kelly’s portrait of Herbert to Rosales. This is how provenance is made: it is inferred along a chain of relationships.
The other work is now my favorite. It is so perfect I have made it my own. Untitled (Glafira Warhol), 2015, is a poster for “Look at Warhol,” a 1970 exhibition at Galerie Thomas in Dusseldorf. It’s hard to top the Marshal’s lot description
Sheet folded at text in top margin and hinged to mat, full sheet = 35.75” x 26.75”. No frame, non-archival mat only.
That’s right. The master forger and con artist who sold dozens of modern masters to the most venerable gallery in the country without detection also folded a Warhol poster into a mat from Michael’s and tried to pass it off as a Warhol print.
In Glafira’s defense, she is not alone. The web is littered with these posters, which art grifters pretend is worth $1,500 or more, even as they sell from vintage poster shops for less than fifty bucks. The Marshal appraised Glafira’s handiwork at $85. It sold for $905. I can only assume it is because an astute connoisseur recognized the brazen shittiness of the hack as the ultimate souvenir of the whole Knoedler affair.
And while the original now resides in an unknown private collection, I will make Untitled (Glafira Warhol) as an authentic replica edition object as soon as the posters arrive.
Secret fire sale held of 250 works confiscated from dealer in Knoedler gallery scandal [theartnewspaper]
LOT: 104 (1) DRAWING: Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – ) Portrait of David Herbert 1957, sold for $15,200 [txauction, note: dead txauction links updated to archive.org]
LOT: 142 (1) SERIGRAPH POSTER: Andy Warhol [txauction]
Glafira Rosales’ collection runs from Item number 18381 to number 18616 [txauction]
Previously, 2013: What You See Is What You Believe: Barnett Newmans From The Knoedler/Rosales Collection
2012: Here’s that Knoedler Gallery Rothko
David Hammons Slauson Street Studio, Bruce Talamon, 1974, image: roberts and tilton
Like Jasper Johns a decade before him, David Hammons made prints of his oiled body. Hammons’ were more narrative, rich with content beyond just the impression of the artist’s own body.
Waiting Chairs, Gabriel Orozco, 1998, image: metmuseum.org
As is his wont, Gabriel Orozco found his narrative, this time in India, in the stone wall darkened by contact with the hair of people who rested against it as they sat in these seats. We don’t know who they were.
I am pleased to introduce a work that combines these two threads of presence and absence, specificity and universality, anonymity and celebrity, found object and markmaking.
Untitled (Joan Collins Toile de Jouy), 2015, 59 x 72 inches, patinated toile de jouy fabric, stuffing, wood
Untitled (Joan Collins Toile de Jouy) is a shaped work, a painting, really, comprising an upholstered headboard from Ms. Collins’ New York apartment, altered in collaboration over the years by her and, apparently, occasionally, (an)other(s).
Interested parties, or at least those interested in having physical custody of the work, should contact me quickly, before the 14th. That’ll give us enough time to get the headboard from the auction in LA. Me, I’m happy with it right where it is. And wherever it ends up.
Lot 43: JOAN COLLINS TOILE DE JOUY HEADBOARD [julienslive.com]
Previously, related: Untitled (Merce At The Minskoff)