It has been a while since realizing works like this. Partly, it’s just the world. As Martin Creed says, The Whole World + The Work = The Whole World.
But when it exists, it also feels wrong to ignore it. Untitled (Heist) was recently installed in San Francisco’s Union Square, following a flashmob robbery of several hundred thousand dollars (retail) of merchandise from the Louis Vuitton store.
When Broke Ass Stuart ran this installation shot by Hunter MacNair on their post, “Let’s Talk About The Louis Vuitton Heist,” I first thought it would be a deep dive on the street value of the various items that got jacked.
But BAS instead went deep on luxury-fueled capitalism’s complicity in gaping inequality. And that, along with LVMH’s recent appearances in the art news, seemed like a collab-worthy context in which to encounter this work. Which I imagine will remain on view through much of the Christmas shopping season, at least. Maybe minting it as an NFT would make it last even longer.
What is this? The Cologne auction house Van Ham says it is a Gerhard Richter. Kerze is an offset print on aludibond and face-mounted with diasec, so it is produced like a Facsimile Object. But it is signed on the front. There is no CR information, or even a date, but it is described as a benefit edition created for fiftyfifty in Dusseldorf. I vaguely remember that. Sure enough, in 2012, Richter donated 36 signed works to raise EUR300,000 for the homeless support organisation, including both this candle picture and Betty, his iconic portrait of his daughter.
None of these objects appear on the artist’s website, however, and the online gallery is long gone. Except for one snapshot in the Internet Archive. The list includes half a dozen signed posters, and one page from a catalogue, all face-mounted on UV diasec; a leftover signed print from 20,280, a newspaper edition Richter made in the Rheinische Post in 2010; and 5 or 10 copies each of six “Offset Edition (2011) from Tate Modern,” including Kerze, but also Betty, 4.096 Colours, and 100x100cm prints of two of the Cage paintings (4 & 5) that are the stars of Tate’s Richter offering. They sound like gift shop souvenirs, but signed.
Of course, that distinction is not so clear cut. Richter made a full-size giclée grid edition of Cage 1, which was also for sale at the Tate’s shop during his 2011 retrospective, Panorama. This all feels like the genesis of Richter’s Facsimile Object project, the experimental soup of form, editioning, signing, and auratic status–and from the artist’s perspective, at least, these fiftyfifty pieces are on the other, autographed side of the work/non-work line. And yet the quasi-canonization of the facsimile objects, and their proliferation in the market, help to make that line less relevant with every passing year.
The only Magrittes I’ve been OK with have been the de Menils’; basically, I trusted their take on Surrealism that included some Magrittes. But otherwise, I’m not really interested.
Except that the other day, on the artist’s birthday, Michael Lobel tweeted this early painting, l’Esprit Comique, from 1928, and I was very glad to see it.
Which is all I can do at this point, because I haven’t found any good writing on Magritte’s work generally, or on these early cut paper motif works from 1928-30 specifically, to understand what the artist was up to.
So all I’m left with is seeing, which is fine. Though a couple of online captions describe these works as cut paper, I think it’s pretty clear that this is all paint. How it’s painted, though, remains a mystery from afar. The way that gorgeous gradient sky peeks through the paper cutouts makes me think of a stencil. Do the edges between the figure and the sky bear that out? Cut paper alone won’t cut it, though, as this 1930 collage-style mess from the Boijmans shows.
Those brushstrokes defining the ground are worth the attention all themselves. Another work in this cut paper series, Annunciation (1930), at the Tate has a more elaborate rocky landscape with crisper contours; I like the simpler one better.
If I’m reading the captions right, this painting belongs to the Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch collection, which is on permanent loan to the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. So maybe I’ll just wait a bit for him to settle in, and ask Klaus about it.
It is a portrait of the artist, in a thick double-breasted topcoat and a somewhat tight hat, serving contraposto while leaning on the heel of a copy of an ancient statue of Castor and Pollux. As he gazes out across the Bay of Naples from the Villa Comunale, the late afternoon sun kisses the cheeks of our three heroes. And it throws a shadow of a figure onto the statue’s base, likely the photographer, likely Lucio Amelio, the Neapolitan avantgardist art dealer in whose gallery Twombly staged back-to-back shows in the winter of 1974-75.
This print served as the exhibition poster for the second show, “Allusions (Bay of Napoli),” of works on paper referencing Orpheus, Dionysus and Narcissus. The artist signed and numbered 80 posters. Twombly always did have beautiful posters, and this one, and they seem to selljust fine as ephemera, so if Bastian doesn’t include them in the CR, NBD.
Twombly showed with Amelio seven times between 1972 and 1991, including the first exhibition in Italy dedicated to the artist’s sculptures, in 1979. He also dedicated a painting to Amelio, whose death from AIDS-related illness came in 1994. The painting, Untitled (1993), depicting funereal barges, was formative in the development of the boat motif that occupied the artist’s late work. In a note on a 2008 Tate Paper on Twombly and Rilke, Mary Jacobus wrote,
Dedicating his funereal boat painting to the gallery owner Lucio Amelio, Twombly approximates lines from [George] Seferis Three Secret Poems, including: ‘Years ago you said, “fundamentally [essentially], I am a matter of light”’ (‘On a Ray of Winter Light’) and ‘The light is a pulse continually slower and slower [ever more slowly] / you think it is about to stop [as though about to stop]’
When it included the painting in the artist’s 1994 retrospective MoMA made no mention of Twombly’s association of the painting with Amelio. Neither was it mentioned on Wooster Street, where Gagosian Gallery debuted the massive, now boat-flecked painting Untitled(Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor), in coordination with the retrospective. Begun in 1972, the painting had hung unfinished in the artist’s Rome studio for two decades. Its title is a reference to a poem where a man travels home to see his brother, only to learn he’d died. The painting now hangs in the Twombly pavilion at the Menil.
“In retrospect, it seems astonishing that Jean-Paul and his daughters did not consider that the work might be authentic.” Ya think?
It is buck wild that in this, the 26th year of Antiques Roadshow USA, an original drawing by Albrecht Dürer would be sold at an estate sale for $30. I guess it was 2016, so only the 21st year? No matter. The point of this wild discovery, reported in The Art Newspaper, seems like a familiar one, like the Giotto in the kitchen, or the Caravaggio in the attic. And I salute the ability of the London dealer Agnews to pitch his Dürer to the Met and the Getty-for, oh I don’t know, how does $50 million sound?–in such an august publication. But there are some weird things about this discovery that make it clear this week’s report is not the definitive version of what happened.
While the discourse grapples with the nuances of the relationship between the digital art object vs its token of ownership, the old art world is not letting the concept of authenticity rest.
Why, just yesterday, this object appeared for sale online at Christie’s Amsterdam. It is “an unsigned trial proof [sic]” of Gerhard Richter’s 1990 edition, Besetztes Haus (Squatters’ House), based on a similarly titled 1989 painting that depicts a then-well-known squat near the artist’s studio in Cologne.
100 copies, signed in pencil, dated at bottom right, numbered at bottom left. 10 copies, signed in pencil, dated at bottom right, numbered in Roman numerals at bottom left. 10 trial proofs, signed in pencil, dated at bottom right, marked at bottom left: Probedruck or Druckprobe. 1 trial proof, signed in pencil, dated and marked on the image at top left: Druckprobe. 5 artist’s proofs, signed in pencil, dated at bottom right, marked at bottom right: a.p.
This sheet of paper, 49×70.5cm in size and still bearing the color bars and crop marks of the printer, is labeled on the side in an unidentified hand with “GardaPat 13” and “Farbe Fox Glanz,” references to paper and ink specs.
The “lot essay” is a single sentence: “We thank Hubertus Butin for the information he has kindly provided on this work.” What is that information? Did the editor of the Richter Editions catalogue raisonnée say that for an artist who painted color charts, and who deliberately uses commercial-grade printing methods, a salvaged print sample is as conceptually valid as an actually signed printer’s proof, for a third the price? Or that sure, why not, do you remember that one sheet from Dresden? Who knows? But apparently it is enough to know Butin’s seen this thing, because it already has a bid, and will sell for at least EUR3,000, plus fees.
Plus, of course, the Artists’ Resale Right royalty. If Richter accepts the 4% royalty for the sale of this work material scavenged from the printer’s floor, does that mean he recognizes it as an authentic work? Or will the real authentication only come if Richter adds the result to the sales tab on his site?
Writer and flaneur @CharlesFinch tweeted about seeing “this great and greatly weird” painting of New York, harbor, skyline and Statue of Liberty and all, at the Whitney Museum. Which is all the excuse I ever need to post about Stettheimer.
UPDATE: Wool’s BLUE FOOL sold on Nov. 17 for $1,179,500 which brings an end to the purchase window for FOOL Facsimile Object. Thank you for your engagement, and for those who purchased them, please enjoy your experiential prosthetic. For those who lost a million dollars or more on a Wool, my sincere condolences.]
Some big and surprising developments in the Facsimile Object-verse this week include: Kenny Schachter putting the Christopher Wool painting that inspired FOOL Facsimile Object (W1) up for auction at Phillips. Which will likely put a hard stop to the availability of the FOOL edition, assuming the last couple don’t sell out in the next week or two anyway.
It was also the moment where a FOOL– AND a Certificate of Authenticity, even–appeared in the wild for the first time. Glenn O’Brien’s NFT Party sounds like a riff on Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party, so the link between a scene and its documentation, and between Kenny, and art and whatever tf NFTs are, is strong with this one. It is fascinating to see how these objects function IRL, and it looks like they can be part prosthetic, and part bridge.
FOOL Facsimile Object (W1) is an edition of up to 10, plus 2 APs, and was available only until Kenny Schachter’s Wool, Blue Fool for Glenn O’Brien sold. It is lasercut, mirror-finish stainless steel, with a full-size, enamel-on-aluminum Certificate of Authenticity, in a hand-stitched wool envelope.
This artnet investigation by Zachary Small into attempts by his dealers to uncancel Chuck Close ends up highlighting the failures of the art world to deal with sexual harassment, especially when there’s money to be made. Or male power to be preserved. Small notes how Close’s gallerists at Pace protected him, thwarted attempts by those accusing him of coercion to seek accountability, and sought to reboot his presence and market–and who themselves turned out to be perpetrators of workplace abuse, for which they’ve suffered no professional consequences.
Rob Storr also turns out to be spineless when the artist whose MoMA retrospective he curated sexually harassed a student at the art school he’d invited him to, Yale.
Small’s article reminds me that though Close’s work is now not on view in many museums, his 2006 portrait of another sexual predator whose legacy remains unresolved, Bill Clinton, continues to hang at the National Portrait Gallery, with a two-sentence acknowledgement of Close’s accusers. [The new portrait of Donald Trump nearby contains no such disclaimer.]
But then, this is an art world where Carl Andre could keep showing with his dealer Paula Cooper, and could eventually get a five-museum international retrospective, after killing his wife. So it’s not like Arne Glimcher’s got no reason to hope.
Maybe the solution is for museums to lean into it, and present Close’s work as what it turns out to be: the product of a sexual harrasser in a system set up to coddle them. How does Close’s intense, close-up portraiture of his friends and the powerful reflect the male-dominated structures and networks that made his fortune? Museums should be free from worrying about what impact actual, critical curating might have on the market value of their Closes, right? Though it might be tough to get lenders.
Eight years ago, I was inspired by Ian Bogost’s article on the McRib to create a video work, untitled (where we all go), about art, love, and the inevitability of death. Bogost’s theory that the rare, seasonal appearance of the obviously artificial McRib sandwich helped to normalize the equally artificial McNuggets we see every day. This dynamic, I thought, also describes how the occasional spectacle of blockbuster art auctions create an economic logic for the rest of the art market all the way down the pricing pyramid.
This same scheme is now in full effect in the NFT space. Pyramids merged yesterday when McDonald’s launched a one-week Twitter sweepstakes to promote the return of McRib by giving away ten “McRib NFTs.” At the time of posting, it has received over 81,000 retweet entries.
Because I am never under any illusion that anyone listens all the way through these things, I will not be spoiling anything by telling you how this ends, which is that McDonald’s, Rarible, and any and all of their crew, “will have no liability whatsoever for, and shall be held harmless against, any liability for any injuries, losses or damages of any kind, including death, to persons, or property resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from acceptance of the NFT.”
A few days ago a friend with amazing superpowers for finding things sent an eBay listing from a European autograph dealer for a Richard Prince joke drawing. It was a hilarious forgery, but it was also only €1, and, I argued, it was well worth it. As we texted about it, I was like, dang, now I want to sell Richard Prince drawings on scraps of paper on eBay for €1! You should make them in puffy pen ink, my heroic friend said.
As it turns out, puffy ink is more of a bottle-based medium than a pen-based one. And it is intended for use on fabric, not Arches or fancy metallic scrapbooking cardstock.
The dimensionality of the text, along with the curling of the paper as the puffy ink dries, most assuredly transforms what I’d imagined were drawings into objects. Objects which might get crushed if shipped via a simple, stamped envelope. Objects which contain vital title, stamp and initialing elements on the verso, complicating simple framing and mounting.
And to top it all off, eBay insists I list my US-based items in dollars. But out of such difficult decisions is great art sometimes born. In the case of this little series, at least, I am certain they’re worth a dollar if they’re worth anything at all. Because every single one is guaranteed to contain an authentic Richard Prince joke. I could not make these up.
This untitled acrylic and watercolor seemed to stand apart from the several series of new works on paper Jasper Johns is showing at Matthew Marks this month.
It shows the “Green Angel” motif, an abstracted outlined form Johns used for a group of work only used around 1990, and whose source he long refused to disclose. [Artist Cristóbal Lehyt identified it this year: a photo of an unusual, little mashup of a Rodin sculpture of a minotaur holding a centauress torso.] But the date is 1990+2019, implying Johns revisited an old work.
The motif is there, apparently drawn out in dark lines on a multicolored ground, and then all the spaces are blacked out, right up to the lines. When any of this happened, or the impetus for returning to a decades-old work and reworking it, was not known. It would be interesting to check the drawings CR, though, and see how the “original” (sic) Green Angel work on paper fits into the flow.
When John Yau wrote about the Rodin discovery in May, I imagined this year would see a bounty of Johns reveals. We now know some of what Johns knew when he made this work, and when he reworked it. But as this photo of the artist’s studio from June shows, now Johns knows that we know, and he included it…anyway? As a little treat?
Shoutout to Brian Dupont, who yesterday flagged a recent challenge by Blake Gopnik to identify the comic strips Jasper Johns painted over in his small 1958 work, Alley Oop. Turns out one of Blake’s readers already did the same thing I just did: follow the second Google Images search result to a 20+ year-old flickr post by a guy whose self-appointed mission was to take down Roy Lichtenstein by tracking down all his comic book source images.
The Frenchness of the original Manet Facsimile Object drove me to decide the certificates of authenticity needed to somehow be French as well. I spent a couple of increasingly frustrated weeks looking for a calligrapher who could execute certificates in official 19th century French letter forms. Researching the history of French script, I kept running up against the realization that the image of French cursive in my mind had become Vietnamese.
2.2.1861 (2009 – ) is one of Danh Vo’s simplest, most elegant, and most powerful projects. His father, Phung Vo, copies out editions of a farewell letter Jean-Théophane Vénard, a 19th century Catholic missionary wrote to his father on the eve of his beheading for proselytizing. Phung learned exquisite, French-style penmanship in school Vietnam during French colonial rule, and converted to Catholicism as a gesture of political solidarity with the South Vietnamese regime–but he doesn’t speak French. He’s reproduced the letter hundreds, if not thousands, of times, and Danh includes the letter in all his exhibitions. Phung’s letters will continue as long as he’s able. In the mean time, the father’s elaborate calligraphic texts have become an evermore prominent element of the son’s work.
After deciding not to try to get Phung Vo to make them, I ended up copying his letter for practice, and producing the Manet certificates myself. It’s a pattern I’ve kept since, using period German script for the Dürer certificates, and so on.
I think Vo’s creating 2.2.1861 as a time-bracketed edition, available until it’s not, also informed my own approach to the Facsimile Object editions. Though a bigger inspiration was clearly limited-time editions that arose during the pandemic, like Pictures for Elmhurst and Wolfgang Tillmans’ Between Bridges. They’re available as long as they’re needed, or useful, or relevant, or I don’t know what. It’s not like they’re meant to be disposable, but there is a finitude to them.
Anyway, as much as I love 2.2.1861, I’ve never put one up; they feel pretty intimate, but also pretty fragile, the less handling the better. While wishing Vo and his family all the health and safety in the world, the last year-plus had me thinking about mortality more regularly. And I decided to order a letter now, while I knew they were available. When it arrived–the lead time was several months–I immediately felt like I knew what had to be done, and so I made a Facsimile Object of it.
In a way, this Facsimile Object complicates the relationship between itself, the artwork, and a COA. What would a certificate of authenticity even look like here, but a less expert copy of the original work?
Within minutes of my taking the photo at the top of the post, the tape slipped, and the object guillotined to the floor. It was totally fine, and will be hanging again by morning. It is very sturdy. I can’t tell for sure in the dark, but it also seems to have a slight lack of focus, or a pixel-level distortion keyed to the tiny waverings of Vo’s line. It reminds me of the visual tension present in Richter’s stripe series. Those images are created not by stretching, but by replicating an almost imperceptibly narrow vertical strip of a painting. Will producing a facsimile object cause an unanticipated, slight distortion that’s only visible in person, close up? Daylight can’t come fast enough.
[update: it does! actually, it feels a little blurry. perhaps something about the scanning, or the surface of the paper. Anyway, fascinating.