Let’s stipulate that this and all other portraits of the dog said to be “‘Pompon, a beloved dog of Marie Antoinette,” are beyond reproach as sublime objects whose puppily gaze pierces the viewer—and the artist before them, the ur-viewer—to the very soul, and that the muses attend them, shining their divine rays from the upper left corner to light up that shaved ass at least a dozen times. Let’s stipulate, too, that while there is no explanation under the sun or the Sun King for why these paintings should be $4-11,000 one day, and $279,400 the next, the buyer of this painting yesterday, and all their fierce but unsuccessful rivals, are all connoisseurs of the most sophisticated taste and judgment.
All that can be true, and yet when you look at this painting—surely a masterpiece of its own singular genre—alongside paintings made by artists whose careers in service to the queen and the court of Versailles, it just don’t add up. It just don’t add up.
[The anti-Semitic defacement of Lincoln, the 1958 Robert Rauschenberg combine sold last week at Christie’s, was first reported yesterday in Kenny Schachter’s post-auction recap on artnet. Schachter said Lincoln was “infamous” for the racist vandalism that took place at some as-yet-unconfirmed point, when the work was owned by the Art Institute of Chicago. IYKYK, but so far, I’ve found no news or art text mentioning it. So what happened, and when?
Like Arthur Jafa’s Love is the message, the message is death, which opened a few days later, this amazing painting of a sad clown by eventual Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline is fused in my memory to the moment in history when it failed to sell at auction, in November 2016. I find myself searching for it every few months, and today, on the 113th anniversary of Kline’s birth, I figured I’d make it easier for me to find it again.
5 Nov 2016, Lot 577, Franz Kline, Buffoon, 1930, oil on canvasboard, 16×12 inches, est. $10-15k [ragoarts]
Until 2018 Edisto Island meant one thing in the contemporary art world. Then after, it meant another. Or rather, it meant two things. On August 6, 2018, Cameron Rowland bought an acre of land that had once been part of an enslaver’s plantation; then was part of a “forty acres and a mule” Freedmen’s reparations order; and then was almost immediately repossessed by the former enslavers. Rowland bought the land and placed restrictive covenants on its deed that remove any use or monetary value. The land and the deed constitute their work, Depreciation, and Dia just announced stewardship of it.
The work comprises the land and the deed, but that is not all. Depreciation is owned by 8060 Maxie Rd, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation Rowland established to execute the work. The company is named after the land’s address on a road named after the enslavers. Rowland maintains the corporation, and thus ownership of the work, and has put it on extended loan with Dia.
Does the algorithm have me? I was unable to resist the suggested instagram post featuring this Enzo Mari autoprogettazione project at the Salone in Milan. But I at least did track down the actual designer and the actual project, rather than credit the insta-clout-chasing design aggregator.
Daisuke Yamamoto’s FLOW project is an exploration of material reuse and recycling that proposes to make furniture out of decommissioned light-gauge steel (LGS) beams. In Milano Yamamoto made chairs not only by Enzo Mari, but by Gerrit Rietveld and others. The origins and evolution of the project are documented by the Melbourne-based Japanese design site IDREIT.
Life-sized portraits of lap-sized, wide-eyed poodles aren’t the only thing Sotheby’s is selling tomorrow. It’s also selling one of Gerhard Richter’s greatest paintings, 4096 Farben, CR-359, (1974). The 64×64 grid of 1024 different colors, each painted somewhere four times, is sort of a capstone of Richter’s color chart project. At least until the Köln cathedral windows, of course. And those are not for sale.
Please sit with this image of this painting by Jacques Barthélémy DeLamarre of Marie Antoinette’s purported dog for a minute. It will be sold tomorrow at Sotheby’s. There is no reserve, and the estimate is $3-5,000 US, so it will sell.
[Day after the sale Update: by now one of the most interesting things about this painting, for most people, anyway, is that it sold for $279,400, 50x its original estimate. There is no logical explanation for this. 15 bidders were reported, though by the time it got into six figures, I suspect only a couple remained. Please note the update from the day before the sale at the bottom of this post. It seems to indicate that when this painting sold at Bonham’s in 1986, the narrative of Pompon and Marie-Antoinette was missing. So far, I haven’t been able to find when it comes in, either. Whether this is just a moment of Pomponomania (as Michael Lobel calls it), or a wider spread Pompondemic remanins to be seen.]
From the minute this post goes live until the minute the painting sells, I will make a full-scale Facsmile Object of it available on this website for $300, 10% of the low estimate of the painting. It will include a handmade, full-scale Certificate of Authenticity, signed, numbered and stamped.
[Thursday Update: I misread the auction, which *started* today, and continues for eight days. I was pacing myself for a Pompon sprint, not a marathon, and I think we’ll all be better off without a week of wheezing Pompon hype. The Facsimile Object is no longer available. Within hours there were 20 bids; the price now stands at $US 6,000 220,000. Holy smokes, this is where it ended, $279,400. Thank you for your engagement.]
There is absolutely no reason anyone should buy this Facsimile Object or, for that matter, this painting. Within the next 24 hours, someone will clearly do the latter, which should be folly enough. It is buck wild to me that in that same time frame, someone will also do the former. Because they will want to have the physical experience of sitting with this picture, and sitting with an image of it on a screen will not suffice. I absolutely get it. [Huge shoutout to artist Jeanette Hayes who says, understandably, “I have never loved a painting more.”]
It’s fascinating to think of the history of this carved walnut statue hollowed out with a little shelf in the back. Of its genre, a Sedes sapientiae, or the Seat of Wisdom, that depicts the enthroned Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap. Of how it probably adorned a church in central France from some point in the 13th century, until who knows when, it’s not clear.
Of how it survived the centuries, worn, aged, saved and ignored in some fortuitous combination, gathering the rough patina of a deconsecrated, or at least not ostentatiously venerated, relic.
Of how it made its way to the capital, Paris, to rest for a moment under the authenticating connoisseurial gaze of an online antique dealer specializing in ancient and medieval sculpture.
And then of how, in the last several months, it was purchased by a Vietnamese artist who, using a simple, wedged plank and a stick, transformed it into a birdhouse, and installed it in the greenhouse/performance space of his communal garden/farm/studio outside Berlin. As the Psalmist declared, “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house” [Ps. 84:3].
And of how it traveled from Güldenhof to Brussels, where it perched atop the bookcase of an influential art dealer, and where until last week the rich and powerful of Europe traveled to be in its presence, or perhaps to put a hold on it via pdf.
Whatever the future hold for this object, it is likely to be dramatically different from what it might have expected even as recently as a year ago. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows [Matt. 10:31], but if you ask successfully, perhaps the value of 10% fewer sparrows.
This is not an Ellsworth Kelly blog, I swear, but with the 100th anniversary of Kelly’s birth coming up in a few weeks, the Kelly Information Complex is kicking into high gear.
Or maybe seeing a Kelly show makes me more attuned to entirely random Kelly content floating by. Like this slightly wild meta-Kelly, a Kelly sketch. It’s a large drawing of a trapezoid made of two lines and the edges of the paper, with the colors—green and white paper—in each section. A piece of paper is collaged at the bottom that reads, “Voor Vincent van Gogh.”
I think it’s the printer’s schematic for this poster, part of a series of artist posters published by the Stichting Van Gogh in 1990 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that artist’s death. Lichtenstein did one, de Kooning did one. Or had one done. And apparently Kelly did one. Or had one done.
This drawing [sic] has sold twice already, going up about $5,000 each time. So maybe it’s less like a poster design and more like a security. [This is not investment advice.]
Because just a couple of weeks earlier, I’d been researching Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, trying to find out what protest message it had been tagged with when it was exhibited at the Seagram Building in 1967. And though I was unsuccessful, I’d found and bought a vintage press photo of Broken Obelisk in Houston in 1980, with most of the traces of the previous year’s neo-nazi vandalism erased.
And then within days of finding a photo of an incident I’d known nothing about, a photo of an anti-racism demonstration surrounding Broken Obelisk ran at the top of Andrew Russeth’s ARTNews review of a double biography of John and Dominique deMenil. It was from the same vandalism incident.
We went to Glenstone to see the Ellsworth Kelly exhibition last week, which is wonderful. The show is an overwhelming physical experience the likes of which I don’t recall having with Kelly’s work, even at the Guggenheim. So that’s interesting. The loans were tremendous; the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s roomful of later paintings makes sense, as they’re taking the show. It also felt interesting that some major collectors of Kelly’s work weren’t involved. It didn’t diminish the show, though.
There were spiderwebs on the torqued ellipse, both across the sunnier surfaces inside, where they were like glitter, and also in a few of the gaps up high. The Koons was still unplanted, I guess I’m glad they didn’t feel the need to rush it for the Kelly opening.
The floor work was incredible. After all this, I didn’t realize it was considered by the artist to be a new work, not just a reinstallation of the original 1990 piece at Portikus. It felt like a Turrell, or a Doug Wheeler. There’s something extraordinary, though, about the Rales’s capacity to recreate an architectural space of a specific, historic dimension, to accommodate an artist’s work. It’s here with the Gober room, and with the Kelly. In the Kelly’s case, there is also a fascinating vitrine outside with documentation of the work, and Kelly’s involvement in realizing it at Glenstone, including the specs for the support and the recipe for the color. Let a thousand bootleg Kelly floor pieces bloom.
We took these cookies home to plant them, in hopes that they’ll grow to fill the room. Stay tuned.
I was sure that the smaller Color Panels for a Large Wall, Kelly made for himself, which were at Marks in 2019, was in Glenstone’s collection, but it doesn’t show up on the list rn. It is so great up close. So here is a picture of it from far away.
I was going to write about how the only problem with the Kelly show was the difficulty of getting reservations to see it again, but then I checked, and there was an opening today, so I rearranged my schedule, and am heading back.
A few hours later update: The way the Glenstone pieces are grouped together is interesting, like concentrated emphases on Kelly’s practice. It feels more seriously engaged than, say, the Vuitton Fondation buying four works from a late show.
The loans, meanwhile, are mostly from museums and private collections arranged by Matthew Marks. It reminded me of Emily Rales’ conversation with Charlotte Burns last month on The Art World: What if…? podcast, where Rales talked about being a little surprised that Glenstone agreeing to almost every loan request was definitely not standard exhibition procedure. I pictured an inordinate amount of goodwill, more fungible than the niceties of donor development museums are prone to.
For that matter, Rales also talked about Glenstone eventually building a board, and thinking through the question of what a board looks like that is not beholden to fundraising. Though they are surely respectful and perhaps even friendly—as well as competitive—toward other collectors, Glenstone is not beholden to them. And Glenstone’s relationship with other collectors will not necessarily follow the paradigms other museums have created.
And for that other matter, taking more time to study the documents for Kelly’s Portikus floor work felt of a piece. Portikus’ Yellow Curve and the other floor panels were all created in relation to a specific, existing space. When Glenstone acquired their Kelly, in 2015, they created a space in their original Charles Gwathmey building [now called The Gallery], to fit the Portikus work. And then Kelly made it [again.] That realization, during the construction of the new building, was never publicly shown, just an extraordinary treat for the collectors, made possible by an extraordinary deference to the artist.
the most significant critical information we have on the artistic practice of Slinky Palermo comes from just two sources.
The first is the Dia Art Foundation, which exhibited Slinky Palermo works from 1964-1997 in 2011, as seen in the results for two slightly differently worded Google searches:
It may be possible that additional Google searching will yield more detail from these truncated excerpts, in the way that you can, in desperation, search phrase by incremental phrase in a Google book snippet view.
Whatever it may have been in the past, from this point forward, Slinky Palermo is an artist who sees abstraction as a Google search into the philosophy of epistemology.
Given the absence of actual books in the Google Books results, it seems likely that most Slinky Palermo mentions can be attributed to OCR software that predates Google’s own scanning initiative. Whether it’s a steadfast commitment painting in the face of untenable something, or glitching industrial-scale digitization, Slinky Palermo is a tenacious artifact—a bookmark, if not a flagbearer—of a specific historic moment and context, and for those that inhabit and revisit it. Which, looking prospectively, is all of us.
Trying to trace the whereabouts of Jasper Johns’ 1960 Painting With Two Balls around 1987, when Sturtevant made her Johns Painting With Two Balls, I note that it was reproduced in color in Michael Crichton’s catalogue for Johns’ 1977 Whitney Museum retrospective.
From the notes in the Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonée, I see that the painting has been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, beginning March 1979.
Also, that some of the collage pieces date from December 1959.
Also, the construction is as follows: “four mending braces are attached to the canvas with screws, and a strip of wood runs under the bottom edge of the painting.” [Sturtevant’s version has no such strip.]
Also, THOSE ARE NOT JASPER JOHNS’ BALLS. THE BALLS WERE STOLEN. TWICE. AND REPLACED. TWICE.
When the painting returned from a traveling exhibition in November 1962, the original balls were missing and had to be replaced.
That exhibition, 4 Americans: Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Stankiewicz, traveled from the Moderna Museet to the Stedelijk to the Kunsthalle Bern, presumably went off without incident until the end. Presumably, the artist made the replacement balls.
The second set was later stolen while the painting was on view at the Venice Biennale in 1964. According to the artist, the balls were replaced again and paint was applied to them with his approval.
So these balls were handled by Italians. They are, in fact, Italian balls. Palle di Venezia. Meanwhile, four of Jasper Johns’ balls are on the loose, last known location: someone’s pockets in Europe. Keep an eye out, I guess.
If you were thinking we just saw Sturtevant’s Johns Painting With Two Balls at auction, you were right. Gerald Finberg bought the 1987 work in late 2019 at Phillips, and, I assume, had a couple of great years with it.
Now it’s on the rebound at Christie’s, who spice things up a bit by letting us hit it from the back. The three panel construction and the tapered cross bars are clearly visible and—presumably—like Johns’ 1960 original.
The higher-res images also help make legible some of the fragments of the International Herald Tribune Sturtevant used (from April 23, 1987 at least, when the Stanley Cup was also underway) as she painted this thing in Paris[?].
The way we understand Sturtevant’s practice is that she repeated works but didn’t reproduce them, painting from the image in her mind, if not exactly “memory.” But the placement, shape, and even the layering of the brushstroke knots here makes me suspect that’s not how Two Balls went down. I think she used a color image for reference, and maybe even projected it. This is a stroke-for-stroke remake—a drip-for-drip remake, even—which feels categorically different from Sturtevant’s other projects [or at least how they’re presented and understood.]
It feels like there’s a Rauschenberg Factum reference here I can’t quite tease out. It’s not just as if two different people made Factum I and Factum II. It’s two different people made paintings with two balls, 27 years apart, and both of them were there when Rauschenberg made the Factums in the first place. But only one made this comparison possible, decades later, and that’s Sturtevant.