Days End Shoe Tree, 2021

David Hammons, Days End, 2021, awaiting shoes, image: whitney.org

If it’s really going to exist, what this new David Hammons sculpture needs is some old David Hammons. Let’s start by throwing 25 pairs of sneakers over the 8-inch steel beams, and then we can assess.

David Hammons’ Shoe Tree, 1981, on Richard Serra’s T.W.U., 1980, image: probably Dawoud Bey

Previously, related: Stop and Piss: David Hammons’ Pissed Off

Christopher Wool Richard Prince Joke Painting

Christopher Wool & Richard Prince, My Act, 1988, 80×60 in., enamel and flashe on aluminum and steel, image: maxhetzler.com

While looking around at early Christopher Wool text paintings, I just saw this. Maybe Wool’s collab with Felix Gonzalez-Torres just looms too large, but I can’t say I’ve ever really thought about his collaboration with Richard Prince.

In a 1997 interview quoted on Max Hetzler Gallery’s site, Wool makes it sound like the most natural thing in the world:

That was actually before he’d even made the jokes into paintings. He had just done the written, he would write me on paper. And, he proposed this collaboration. I know I’m really impressed with someone’s work, when I have that feeling, “Oh I wish I had done that.” And with the jokes that was really the case, I thought that was quite an exciting thing to be working on. So he gave me his repertoire and I made a couple of paintings, and that was our collaboration. I ended up doing “I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name,” actually I chose the ones that fit into a painting the easiest, because it was really hard for me at the time to figure out how to make them. But they were all about change of identity, so it was kind of great. I titled it “My Name” and I felt like I was Richard Prince for a day. The other one was the psychiatrist one: “I went to see a psychiatrist. He said ‘Tell me everything.’ Now he’s doing my act.” I titled that one “My Act”. So it was like I was doing Richard’s act. 

I know the feeling.

Better Read #034 – Mike Kelley’s ‘Pay For Your Pleasure’

In 1988 Mike Kelley created Pay For Your Pleasure as one of three works for his show at the Renaissance Society in Chicago.

It consisted of a hallway hung with 43 banners by a signpainter, depicting portraits of great men of arts and letters, plus a quote from each about the transgressive nature of creative genius. There was also one self-portrait by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who’d taken up painting in prison, and whose work was, controversially, garnering market and media attention. Sort of the George W. Bush of his day, except Gacy actually went to jail.

David Rimanelli posted this work on his Instagram recently, and it prompted me to revisit Kelley’s installation, and the quotes he assembled. The Renaissance Society’s documentation includes a text that rightly criticizes those in the spectacle-driven culture who turned a murderer into a celebrity artist. [The work mitigated its own centering of a Gacy painting by including donation boxes for victims’ rights organizations, though, if you think about it, that gesture only offloads the scale-balancing to the viewer.] but it seems oddly silent on what I think was Kelley’s most devastating critique, the consistency with which icons of white male-driven culture seek to excuse themselves from moral obligations to anyone but themselves.

The work was acquired by MoCA in Los Angeles in 1989, and hand to heart, the description is, “Oil on Tyvek, wood, an artwork made by a violent criminal in (location of exhibition), and two donation boxes.” Christopher Knight captured the damning site-specificity and guilt-assuaging in 1992. I would pay a hundred dollars to see this work in Dallas or DC with a W painting.

Listen to Better Read #034, the quotes from Mike Kelley’s 1988 installation, Pay For Your Pleasure [mp3, 8:37]

Mike Kelley: Three Projects, 1988 [renaissancesociety.org]
Mike Kelley, Pay For Your Pleasure (1988) [moca.org]

In The Manner of Giorgione

Beat af painting, “in the manner of Giorgione,” oil on canvas on panel, at Rago’s Spanierman sale, est. $600-800

I am low-key transfixed by this painting, and not just because it barely manages to hold it together enough to meet the definition.

Rago is auctioning it on April 29 as part of a 2-day sale of the collection/inventory of Ira Spanierman, whose eponymous gallery was a leader in the field of American Art for decades. In fact, it feels like just yesterday when Doyle held multiple sales of Spanierman Gallery’s inventory–but it was 2012. Anyway I guess there was still more stuff.

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Sol LeWitt Fold Piece, 1972

Sol LeWitt, Fold Piece, Sixteen Squares, 1972, 10.5 x 10.5 in., image via Hindman Auctions, where it will be sold May 4 (not April 9 as I first imagined somehow)

Without access to museums or galleries, I notice I have been looking at far more art via auction sites than is typical. I am OK with this.

Especially when it surfaces objects like this, a piece of square paper creased into sixteen smaller squares, by Sol LeWitt. It is signed and dated March 1971 on the front, 1972 on the Max Protetch label on the back, where it is called “Fold Piece” instead of “Folded Paper Piece,” an insignificant difference magnified in our Google-based world.

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Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects IRL

AD FO (D1) & (D2), 2021, in their full, experiential glory, indexing the limits of digital image reproduction. Dye sublimation prints on aluminum, dimensions: 23 x 17 cm and 30 x 18.4 cm, available separately or together, for now, each with a full-size, handmade certificate of authenticity

Do paintings, like people, have a fabricated online persona, and a different, “real” character offline? Or do paintings, like people, have one real existence, different aspects of which are manifested online and in the real world?

These Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects have been propped, taped, and laid out in front of me for a little more than a week now, and while I expected them to live different than their 500-yo painted counterparts, I am struck by how they also differ from their digital images.

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Why Does The National Gallery (Still) Have This Benin Bronze Sculpture?

Benin bronzes have been in the news lately, and finally for a good reason: museums are finally starting to acknowledge their culpability in holding the thousands of Benin bronze sculptures and other royal artifacts that all made their way out of Africa the same way: via the British imperial troops’ so-called “punitive expedition” that destroyed the capital of the Kingdom of Benin, in present day Nigeria, in 1897.

Fowl, bronze & cast iron from the Kingdom of Benin, stolen in 1897, currently at the National Gallery

The British Museum and the Metropolitan each have hundreds of objects frankly labeled as the spoils of this massacre. Very unusually, and for absolutely no reason that I can find, the National Gallery of Art has exactly one: this c. 18th century Benin bronze rooster. Every couple of months for the last couple of years I’ve tried to uncover how this object got to the National Gallery, and why an African object would even be accepted, never mind kept, by a museum with no African art–and with almost no art beyond the European and American tradition. All I can figure is that this Benin bronze sculpture doesn’t belong at the National Gallery of Art, even if it weren’t stolen.

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Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects

Verso: Heavenly Body, aka Cosmic Phenomenon, attributed to Albrecht Dürer, c. 1494-7, 23 x 17cm, oil on pearwood panel, collection: National Gallery, this low-res image, of the unframed panel, is via casaforte.blogspot.com, but originated on tumblr before 2013. I would really like to know the source, because the National Gallery’s image is cropped, and loses the wax seal in the upper right corner, as well as the general sense of objectness.

There is no more than two paintings by Albrecht Dürer in a public collection in the United Kingdom. One is this swirling, brushy depiction of an explosive, cosmic phenomenon on a small pearwood panel. The other, a meticulous devotional picture of St. Jerome in the wilderness, is on the other side of the same panel. The panel was only attributed to Dürer in 1957, and was acquired by the National Gallery in London in 1996.

Like all England’s museums, the National Gallery has been closed to visitors since December 2020, when a Tier 3 lockdown went into effect to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. According to current government indicators, museums will remain closed until at least May 17. So assuming it’s really by him, England’s only Dürers will remain inaccessible for at least several more weeks.

While considering whether an Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Object could offer even a partial experiential hedge during this challenging, Dürerless time, another, similar Dürer suddenly became similarly inaccessible.

Albrecht Dürer, painting of a slice of agate, c. 1492, oil on panel, 30.1 x 18.4 cm, collection: kunsthalle-karlsruhe.de

Another small oil, c. 1492, depicts a swirling abstraction of sliced agate or other hardstone, painted with a transparency that permits the grain of the fir panel to show through. On the other side of this panel is another small devotional painting, a gold ground picture of Christ, Man of Sorrows, which was attributed to Dürer a few years before 1941, when the Nazis’ favorite art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt sold it to the Musée des Beaux Arts in occupied Strasbourg. It subsequently crossed the Rhine, and is now at the State Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, which was closed on March 22 when German health officials abruptly declared lockdowns to thwart a “third wave” of the pandemic. The government then changed some restrictions after a backlash, but I think the Kunsthalle is closed until at least April 18.

Verso: a flaming color spectacle? c.1492-3, oil on panel, 37x26cm, collection State Gallery in Karlsruhe, via Google, obv

“If a work is on Google Street View, does it even need a Facsimile Object?” is a question that came to mind. But then I wondered what would happen if these two works were decoupled from the paintings they are physically twinned with, the works they were fated to be “behind,” always understudied and overshadowed by? Facsimile Objects might hit different with this not-quite-a-pair. So let’s see.

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Find The Lawrences: USCG Painting Photos @ Swann

It feels like a good time to be looking for lost Jacob Lawrence paintings. The publicity around the Metropolitan Museum’s show of his 1942-43 series The American Struggle has so far helped surface two of the original 30 works. Three more remain unlocated, and one of those is known only by its title.

See those four Jacob Lawrence paintings on the left that aren’t from The Migration Series? Coast Guard paintings. image: MoMA, 1944

Which is still more information than is known about the works Lawrence made next, in 1944-45, while serving as a combat artist for the US Coast Guard. Tallies differ, but Lawrence painted either 17 or 48 paintings in the Coast Guard, and all but three are lost. Images exist of twelve more, including the eight shown at MoMA in 1944. And except for a few mismatched titles, that’s it. Until now.

A group of 14 publicity photos for Lawrence’s 1944 MoMA show is up for sale at Swann Galleries next week in New York, and it includes pictures of four previously unknown Coast Guard paintings. Along with one photo that was first published in 2015, that makes five paintings which don’t appear in the artist’s 2000 catalogue raisonné. According to Swann, it appears none of the five were included in MoMA’s show.

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Joseph Carrier, RIP

Danh Vo, Good Life, Army Boys, 1966/2007, selected from photos taken by Joseph M. Carrier in the mid-1960s in Vietnam

I just learned that Joseph M. Carrier, the former RAND Corporation analyst in Vietnam, who cruised Danh Vo in 2006 at an artist talk for a residency in Pacific Palisades, then invited him to his house, showed him his vast archive of photos, documentation, research, ethnographic material, and erotica, then invited him to go to Vietnam together, has been alive all this time, and only passed away at the end of November 2020.

Carrier has been an important presence in Vo’s work and career. Vo first showed creepshots Carrier took of young men on the streets of Vietnam as Good Life (1966/2007) at Bartolozzi in Berlin, but these homosocial images have been included in many of Vo’s shows since. He’s discussed them both in terms of Carrier’s own experience as a gay man fired for his gayness, and as projected autobiographical content of Vo’s own lost life in the war-wracked country he fled as a child in the 1970s.

As Vo explained to Adam Carr in 2007 before the Berlin show opened:

What is incredible is that he kept diaries, papers from the RAND Corporation, love letters and lots of photos and original negatives. What’s more incredible is that he gave it all to me! 

Primarily I think this whole affair I have with Joe’s material is an act of divine justice for not really having my own history. As a refugee my parents left it all behind, mentally and also physically. No pictures or documents of my family’s life in Vietnam exist, and its a kind of magical coincidence that I got this archive which I strangely but sincerely feel belongs to me. 

Sure enough, at an Art Basel Statements installation in 2008, Vo exhibited a copy of Carrier’s will, which mentioned Vo’s inheriting Carrier’s archive.

Danh Vo, “Boys seen through a shop window,” Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln, 2009, installation view via GB

The three-way affair between Vo, Joe, and his material also manifested in a 2009 show at Buchholz in Cologne, “Boys seen through a shop window.” Carrier wrote the press release for the show [pdf] in strikingly personal first-person non-artspeak, but the show really did look like Vo had cleaned out Carrier’s house and turned it into one giant installation piece.

But Carrier was still alive and going strong in 2010, when Vo talked of staying with him on another trip to LA, before his Artists Space show which featured photogravures made of Carrier’s images.

At the time the perceived dynamic of Vo’s relationship with Carrier was colored by Vo’s relationship with Michael Elmgreen, who he was dating at the time, but whose signature he also secretly forged on a Danish Arts Council grant so he could go to the opening of Prada Marfa as a photographer’s assistant.

Vo talked a bit about the ambivalence and instrumentalization of relationships and relationship structures in 2007 [when he was still marrying friends and immediately divorcing them, just to add to his official last name], in the context of a refugee’s desperate survival tactics. But, as he said even then, “I was a boat refugee when I was four, but I’m pretty dry now.”

Vo’s work, and his collaborations, especially early on, were unsettling, not just because of what he called “parasitism,” but because of his forthright ambivalence even then to forefront his questioning of the fundamental assumptions of human interaction. Finding out about Carrier’s death–and the fascinating, complicated and varied life he led–underscores the efficiency of the art context to reduce him to a sort of found object. But it also exposes the limitations we all face in understanding the nuances of someone else’s relationships. Which feels like part of Vo’s point all along. Meanwhile, I think Danh’s gonna need a bigger storage unit.

Obituary: Joseph M. Carrier [palipost.com]

The World’s Most Unwanted Baldessari Will Finally Find A New Home

Lot 543, John Baldessari, Untitled (Free All Artists), 2010 (sic), ink stamp on mat board, 8×10 in., image: sothebys

The provenance of this John Baldessari states that it was purchased at the 2010 installment of Incognito, the Santa Monica Museum of Art’s popular annual sale of identically sized, anonymous artworks donated by hundreds of local artists, famous, not, and in between. It is an inkstamp on an 8×10 mat board that reads, “FREE ALL ARTISTS.”

same, but backwards

It is listed as an open edition, executed in 2010. Which is cool, except that there’s an Incognito label on the back of the mat board–again, this is the entire work, an ink-stamped mat board–from 2008. And then that date is crossed out, and replaced with the date of the 2009 sale.

Can you just see how this went down? Hundreds of people buying VIP preview tickets in order to scan the hundreds of anonymous works, and to scope out the big scores, the big names, before anyone else. And for two years in a row, they left the Baldessari, the biggest name in town, sitting on the shelf.

It was only in 2010, that the art advisor Will Kopelman told the LA Times that he’d gotten a Baldessari, a Ruscha AND a Pettibone by getting to the front of the line at the preview. Was this the one? Was this the moment? Did he really have to elbow his way toward it? Was there a tipoff, perhaps, three years in, that a visually slight but conceptually robust Baldessari was lurking in plain view?

form filled out by John Baldessari in 1978, later published in The Form, 1970-1979, image: burningbooks.org [pdf]

When I googled to see how large this open edition was, I found two things. The source of the text seems to be one of the stamps Baldessari used to fill out the form Melody Sumner Carnahan sent him in 1978, which ended up in The Forms, 1970-1979, the debut title of her independent press, Burning Books.

The second thing is that every other mention of this edition seems to be this same print. Before yesterday’s auction, it has been put up for sale two times–once in 2014, and once last year–and it has failed to sell twice. So it was unloved twice when it was anonymous, and it was unloved twice when it was a Baldessari. It cannot catch a break.

This third time, it had no reserve price, and I so I bid a dollar for it, guaranteeing that it would, at least, find a new, happy home. Then today, someone outbid me. Right now the bid is $200, with fees, it’s close to the $300 the Incognito buyer paid for it. Meanwhile, if this is really an open edition, only one example of it seems to have surfaced; so what was unloved as a Baldessari edition may turn out to be a unique work. And right now it is quite a bargain, if not free.

Lot 543: John Baldessari, Untitled (Free All Artists), est. $3,000-4,000, auction ends March 18, 2021 UPDATE: sure enough, it sold for a top bid of $2,400, or $3,024 with premium. Finally. [sothebys]

Nyan Cats & FO Dogs

a facsimile object of Chris Torres’ nyan cat dot gif, ganked from giphy

Earlier this week a restored original animated gif of nyan cat sold for 300 Ethereum. And today the order book was closed for Édouard Manet Facsimile Objects when Manet’s painting, le chien Minnay, sold for EUR520,800 in Paris.

@drouot_estimations hyping the sale of Minnay on IG

Both of these transactions take place in a world where the experience of art is decoupled from a physical artwork. In one case, a digital object is rendered auratic through a purchase premised on an imaginary scarcity. In the other, frank facsimiles of a unique and long unseen object mitigate the inability to travel and experience the object in person.

Minnay selling for EUR420,000 (nice) plus premium, image via @drouot_estimations

It was literally not until after the auction of the Manet, despite spending weeks thinking about it, and weeks of seeing people talk about NFTs as Niftys, that I saw that Facsimile Object, abbreviated, could be pronounced faux, as in FO Dog. So you’ll excuse me if I can’t elucidate on the concept of a unique copy of a restored original animated gif.

Minnay Display Day

It’s my dog in a box, baby! image via @drouot_estimations IG

The day is here, and I am not. Édouard Manet’s Minnay went on public view today at the Drouot galleries in Paris, the first time in its history. It will be on view again tomorrow, and for a brief hour on Friday, before it is sold.

I doubt you will be allowed to pet it, but maybe go and find out? These do make me wonder if the Facsimile Object should have been a cutting board. image: @drouot_estimations IG

If you are there, or will be there, look at it, study it, and send a pic. But do not get a Manet Facsimile Object (M1), because it will do you no good. It is not intended as a souvenir of your visit, but a cover for the gaping void in the lives of the rest of us who cannot see the painting itself.

–– Woof, ‘grammed the oldest auction house in France. image: @drouot_paris via drouot_estimations

Turns Out This is Not Cy Twombly’s First Picasso

A screenshot of Simon Watson’s photos of Nicola Del Roscio’s house in Gaeta, including a copy of a Picasso which Cy Twombly painted over one of his own works. image: nytimes.com

In 2015 T Magazine ran this feature on Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly’s partner, studio assistant, and the head of the Twombly Foundation, and his house and palm tree garden in Gaeta. On the dining room wall was a copy of a Picasso which Twombly made, painted over one of his own works.

This instantly reminded me of the big Arts & Leisure profile that Twombly dutifully sat for when he had his 1994 MoMA retrospective, where the artist talked of the first painting he recalled making: a copy of a Picasso portrait of Marie-Therese Walter. I always understood this to have been in his teens, under the influence of his first art teacher/mentor, the Spanish painter Pierre Daura, who settled in the rural Virginia of his wife’s family in 1942.

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Chien Sauvage

Triptych of Manet Facsimile Object proofs, of incorrect size (L) and a couple of cropping formats.

Now that I got the size right–or closer to the original, at least–I moved to the question of whether the Manet Facsimile Object (M1) should be cropped or not.

As soon as I put this triptych up on the wall, I saw that the tidier, cropped version on the right not only misses a couple of brush strokes that you’d kind of want to keep; Minnay is slightly larger, too. So I ordered a slightly smaller version, the equivalent of slicing off the unfinished 1/4″ edges of the uncropped object in the center. That should be a definitive pair from which to make a decision.

“So we are really in front of a small masterpiece by Manet”: Édouard Manet’s le chien “Minnay”, as seen on the Instagram page of @drouot_estimations

And then I found a brief video about Minnay on Drouot Estimation’s Instagram. There is the painting, fierce and frameless, on a tiny chevalet de table, and I cannot believe there’s even a question. It’s a facsimile object, after all, not a facsimile picture.

Manet’s Minnay on a Sennelier on a Louis (facsimile), image via @drouot_estimations

And if you want to display your Manet Facsimile Object on a Sennelier RS N.24 support de table en bois, I heartily approve. [I’m still going to look at the cropped and uncropped versions side by side, though; because it’s on the way.]