Danh Vo Facsimile Object (V1)

Danh Vo Facsimile Object (V1), 2021, dye sublimation pigment on aluminum, 297 x 210 mm

Previous mentions of Danh Vo do not begin to account for the extent to which his work has influenced the Facsimile Object project.

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.

Danh Vo, 2.2.1861, 2009, ink on a4 paper, installed at Massimo de Carlo through Oct 2021

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.

Rachel Harrison, 2020 Solidarity print from Between Bridges

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.

Previously, related: Facsimile of Authenticity
Is it just the cover of the first printing of the exhibition catalogue for the 2018 Guggenheim show that doesn’t have DANH VO TAKE MY BREATH AWAY printed on top of the letter?

KJM FO (M1)

Self portrait with Kerry James Marshall Facsimile Object (M1), 2021, 8×6.5 in., dye sublimation print on aluminum

While working on the Scipio Moorhead Facsimile Object a couple of months ago, I started trying to figure out the challenge of a Kerry James Marshall Facsimile Object, too. Marshall’s portrait of Moorhead fills the gap in the historical record–there is no known depiction of or signature work by the painter considered to be the first Black artist in America. Meanwhile, the deep, multihued blacks of Marshall’s signature figurative style counter the uniform whiteness of American/European history painting, while also exposing how under-optimized the prevailing systems of image reproduction and circulation are for accurately depicting Black skin. Reproductions of Marshall’s paintings regularly fail in this specific way to mirror the experience of seeing them in person. So they are an excellent challenge for the Facsimile Object construct.

Kerry James Marshall, A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980), egg tempera on paper, installation view at MCA Chicago via CADaily

The calculation for making a Facsimile Object of a Kerry James Marshall work is pretty elegant in one respect, though. The epic scale immediately excludes most of his paintings. And the breakthrough work that marked a turning point in his practice–and that anchored his Met Breuer-filling retrospective a couple of years ago–is a headshot, a perfectly sized egg tempera on a sheet of sketchbook paper.

It took several attempts to find a good reproduction of A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) that would reproduce on aluminum. This multistep filtration process, going from work to image to jpg to print, really gets a workout here, or at least, the apparatus gets seen operating in ways that might otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes the work’s saturation is pumped up to bring out the red of the figure’s gums, for example, or the brightness is increased to emphasize the painting’s striated facture. Sometimes it’s printed in duotone, flattened into a pair of floating white eyes and an exaggerated grin. It extends the reach of Marshall’s own practice, “forcing the issue of perception by rendering an image that is just at the edge of perception.”

That Marshall knew his carefully calibrated painting was still at risk of being reduced to an undifferentiated black field, a shadow, is perhaps indicated by the title itself. That this was interesting to him is perhaps indicated by his subsequent decades-long practice of depicting Blackness in a world that is still catching up with him.

Previously, related: Moorhead-Wheatley Facsimile Object (MW1)
Marshall talked with Antwuan Sargent about “this very calibrated image” in 2016 [interview magazine]

Meanwhile, In Sodom,

Old English Hexateuch Facsimile Object (H1), the Destruction of Sodom, 8.5 x 7.5 in., with wonky cropping

There was something beautiful and haunting and unexpected about the depiction of the destruction of Sodom from a medieval manuscript that got tweeted across my timeline the other day. Medievalist Dr. Erik Wade’s thread highlighted the blissed out, same-sex residents comforting each other, even as the city burned around them. I was also taken by the delicate line drawings, more refined than marginalia, but clearly less than fully filled in. I hesitate to say it is unfinished, though. The tangle of figures look so similar to each other, for a minute I wondered if the illuminator was tracing them.

closeup view of FO (H1)

It’s from a late 11th-century manuscript known as The Old English Hexateuch, the earliest known English translation of six books of the Old Testament (basically, the Torah plus Joshua). Cotton MS Claudius B.iv, a name derived from one of the founding collections of the British Library, includes almost 400 illuminations in various states of detail. They depict the stories of the Bible set in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon milieu the manuscript’s lay audiences would recognize immediately.

Detail from Dürer Facsimile Object (D2.38), 2021

I did not plan on making a Facsimile Object of Dürer’s verso painting of the Destruction of Sodom, but the brushy allure of the flames raining down on the cities proved irresistible. Now again, I find that the delicate lines depicting the victims, and especially the sketchy flicks of flame everywhere, made me want to hold the manuscript in my hand. As this was impossible, I made another Facsimile Object. Now I have an unlikely diptych, from centuries and countries apart, of an unlikely and terrible scene.

Depressing but beautiful: Facsimile Objects of the Destruction of Sodom

Not gonna lie, they hit a little differently now, when wildfires are raging across three continents, than in May, when I made the first one. So far Facsimile Objects have engaged with the present only temporally, by marking a (lost) moment in time: a missed auction preview, a pandemic-closed museum, the sale of a painting, a surprise Summer show. But with some religionists repeating the medieval model of blaming a conflagration on the existence of gay people, this pair of Facsimile Objects connects on a content level as well.

Cotton MS Claudius B.iv [bl.uk]
The Old English Hexateuch [wikipedia]

Tania Facsimile Object (N1)

Tania Facsimile Object (N1), 2021, 7.5 x 6 in., dye sublimation print on aluminum, with copy of same for scale, $70 shipped, with handmade COA on Arches, was available through Sept. 11.

On April 3, 1974, a photograph of kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst posing with a machine gun, a beret, and the seven-headed snake logo of the Symbionese Liberation Army was delivered, along with a cassette tape of the fourth recorded message from Hearst, to KSAN Jive 95, a counterculture radio station in San Francisco. The recording said Hearst now called herself Tania, a name taken from a comrade of Che Guevara, and she reiterated the SLA’s revolutionary demands for her release.

Early Tania Facsimile Objects appearing on UC Berkeley campus,
supposedly around 4/15? uncredited image bettmann via getty

Wire services reproduced the photo, which appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world the next day, Thursday, April 4th. On Kawara clipped his copy of it out of the Washington Post. By the weekend, and presumably before Hearst was identified as one of the armed SLA members who robbed a bank on April 15th, WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers appeared on the campus of UC Berkeley, from whence she’d been kidnapped.

These may now be considered the first Tania Facsimile Objects.

Untitled (Tanya), 2014, graphite and ink on photocopy on bond, 11 x 8.5 in., ed. 50

In 1989, presumably in relation to her large-scale, silkscreen on aluminum sculpture Tanya as Bandit, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, artist Cady Noland created a work on paper titled Tanya. The cropped photocopy, a generation or more removed from the Tanya as Bandit source image, was put up for sale at Christie’s in London during Frieze Week 2014. In anticipation, the sale was pre-commemorated on this website by an edition, Untitled (Tanya).

In addition to an impulsive celebration through commerce of an exceptional object’s appearance at auction, in Untitled (Tanya) can be found some of the impulses of the Facsimile Object project. The edition indicates the possibility of realizing a perfect [sic] copy of Noland’s work, but only by cutting away the elements of designation and authentication–title, number, date, stamp, signature–thereby destroying the edition itself. An authentic but nearly worthless work is displaced by an equally worthless but iconic copy of another work. Their fate is in the collectors’ hands.

Tania & Friends: Tania Facsimile Object (N1), 2021, 7.5 x 6 in., dye sublimation print on aluminum

Tania Facsimile Object (N1), 2021, drops into this visual lineage, paying homage to the original, ad hoc WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers of 1974, as well as Noland’s later appropriation. At 7.5×6 inches, Tania Facsimile Object (N1) shares the dimensions and cropped composition of Tanya (1989), while utterly transforming the object’s material characteristics. The high-gloss, dye sublimation print on aluminum is an exploration of how far the Facsimile Object format can diverge from referent works, how big a gap can be created, while still maintaining that facsimilated, auratic glow. Or maybe it’s just the light reflecting from the window.

Each Tania Facsimile Object is accompanied by a full-size, certificate of authenticity, handmade, signed and numbered on Arches. It will include, of course, a disclaimer to affirm to everyone that Ms. Noland was neither involved in nor consulted on the realization of this Facsimile Object, which will be available until September 11th, 2021. [update: Though Noland’s show was extended without announcement until September 18th, availability of this Facsimile Object ended September 13th. Thank you for your engagement.]

Previously, related: Wouldn’t You Like To Be A Tania, Too?
Untitled (Tanya), 2014
Cady Noland Photocopy
An Anthology of Cady Noland Disclaimers

Not A Manet Facsimile Object

Édouard Manet, Bouquet de violettes, 1872, 22 x 27 cm, private collection Paris, image: wikipedia

David Rimanelli posted this beautiful Manet to instagram today, Bouquet of Violets, an 1872 painting that if I’m reading the note in the painting itself, first belonged to Berthe Morisot. Of course, my first reaction to these sorts of things now is, “Manet Facsimile Object?”

And the answer is, alas, no.

[Wow, ok, in exchange for critiqueing the characteristics of this stock image of a public domain painting, I will let you autoinsert your giant-ass caption onto my website, AKG-Images] 2-K40-S3-1872-2 (297213) E.Manet, Veilchenstrauß Manet, Edouard 1832-1883. ‘Bouquet des violettes et éventail’ (Veilchenstrauß mit Fächer), 1872. Öl auf Leinwand, 22 x 27 cm. (Auf dem Briefbogen eine Widmung an Berthe Morisot: ‘A Mlle Berthe Mori- sot. E.Manet’). Paris, Privatsammlung. E: E.Manet, A bunch of violets, 1872 Manet, Edouard 1832-1883. ‘Bouquet des violettes et éventail’ (Bunch of violets and fan), 1872. Oil on canvas, 22 x 27cm. (On the letter a dedication to Berthe Morisot: ‘A Mlle Berthe Mori- sot. E.Manet’). Paris, Private Collection. F: É.Manet / Bouquet violettes et éventail Manet, Édouard 1832-1883. – ‘Bouquet de violettes et éventail’, 1872. Huile sur toile, H. 0,22 ; L. 0,27. (Sur la lettre, dédicace : ‘A Mlle Berthe Morisot. E.Manet’. Paris, coll. privée. ORIGINAL: The bunch of violets, 1872.A tribute to Berthe Morisot, to whom the letter in the painting is addressed. The same flowers are used as a corsage in Manet’s ‘Berthe Morisot with a bunch of violets’. Oil on canvas,22 x 27 cm Private Collection, Paris, France

The size is perfect–22 x 27 cm–and it’s both very desirable and inaccessible. But without a lot of digging, the only image that shows the full canvas is a stock photo. And so the dimensions of the widely circulating–and cropped–Wikipedia image are slightly off. Also the color is different enough to take a quick whip-up off the table.

But the main dealbreaker for me is the sheer numbers of commercialized print options for this public domain image. Even if none is a Facsimile Object, there are tons of objects which are facsimiles. Like art, Facsimile Objects aren’t supposed to be functional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do something IRL. In a case like this, the facsimilating is being done, and at scale. I’m going to need to think this through.

Previously: Actually, Manet Facsimile Object

Marcel Duchamp Facsimile Object (MD1)

Marcel Duchamp Facsimile Object (MD1), study, 2021, sublimated dye transfer on aluminum, 35 x 20 cm, well, really 13.75 x 7.75 in., which is not quite 35×20, which, well, read on

If a history of the Facsimile Object is written, credit for the term will be given to Gerhard Richter (or his printmeister Joe Hage? Inquiring art historians will want to know!), but the inspo for us all will obviously be Marcel Duchamp.

Continue reading “Marcel Duchamp Facsimile Object (MD1)”

Moorhead/Wheatley Facsimile Object (MW1)

Kerry James Marshall, Scipio Moorhead, Portrait of Himself, 1776, 2007, Acrylic on PVC panel, 28 × 22 in., image via David Zwirner

Director Barry Jenkins said one of the inspirations for The Gaze was a painting by Kerry James Marshall. In The Gaze, shot on the set of The Underground Railroad, actors embody ancestors, people who lived and died without much or any visual record of their existence. Marshall created a similar series of paintings depicting Black people of history for whom no visual record survives, and Jenkins called out Scipio Moorhead portrait of himself, 1776, a 2007 painting (above) which he saw at the Met Breuer in 2016. I think Jenkins is quoting a text from the Met:

“In this painting Marshall created an imagined self-portrait of a real African American artist, Scipio Moorhead, who was active in the 1770s. Few if any images of Moorhead exist in the historical record. Everything we know of his legacy is based on Phillis Wheatley’s first book of poetry, published in 1773 while she was a slave [sic] in Boston. The book’s title page illustration is an engraving of the writer, reportedly modeled on a painting by Moorhead. The engraving remains the only visual proof, however tenuous, of Moorhead’s existence.”

From what I can find, no images of or by Moorhead survive, only some mentions of him in correspondence; marginalia identifying him as the subject of one of Wheatley’s poems; and the etching that is supposed to be based on his portrait of Wheatley.

Somehow the Met has a print that was not bound into one of the 300 copies the book Wheatley first got published in England. It was soon published in Boston after her return as a free woman, in 1773.

The preface to Wheatley’s book includes a statement signed by 18 prominent Bostonians who examined her and her manuscript and pronounced them genuine, despite her background as “an uncultivated Barbarian” who labors “under the Disadavantage” of being enslaved by the Wheatleys. Which, one must imagine, is an extraordinary thing to have experienced.

Wheatley married, wrote poems criticizing slavery and praising the American revolution, then died young, at 31. A new book by poet and professor Honoré Fanonne Jeffers includes previously unpublished letters showing her husband’s attempts to publish a second book of poetry after her death. Except for Wheatley’s book and a couple of other mentions, Scipio Moorhead’s fuller story remains unknown.

The “Lancellotti Discobolus,” the first Roman marble copy of Myron’s lost bronze original to be unearthed, in 1781, was sold by Mussolini to Hitler in 1938. image: wikipedia

Marshall’s depiction of Moorhead is notable for the size of the historical void it occupies. The greatest sculptors of ancient Greece are only recognized as such because of later Roman copies of their work. Having no known work survive certainly hasn’t hurt the legacies of Phidias, or Polykleitos, who are foundational for European art’s history of itself. What would our culture be like if Moorhead’s Phyllis Wheatley were as influential as Myron’s Discobolus?

Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley of Boston, in New England, London, 1773, collection NMAAHC

Moorhead/Wheatley Facsimile Object (MW1) is based on the frontispiece and title page of the first US edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, by Phillis Wheatley in the collection of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. At 6.75 x 9 inches, it is true to the octavo size of the original. I’ve been having some issues with cropping, and this one is not quite right, so I think it’ll have to be a proof. But it felt good to get it up in time for Juneteenth.

Moorhead/Wheatley Facsimile Object (MW1) 2021, proof, octavo, 6.75×9 in. dye sublimation print on aluminum, based on the NMAACH’s copy of Wheatley’s book.

Previously, extremely related: The Gaze (dir., Barry Jenkins)

Samuel Morse Facsimile Objects

Samuel F.B. Morse, The House of Representatives, 1821-22, 256 x 363 cm, Corcoran Collection, now at the NGA

Samuel F. B. Morse expected his 1822 epic, 9×12 foot painting of the chamber of The House of Representatives in the just-repaired US Capitol would tour the country to paying crowds, and then be triumphantly acquired by the politicians he made famous. That did not happen. The tour was a flop; the painting he’d spent months creating in a makeshift studio next to the House chamber was sold in Europe, and eventually ended up at the Corcoran. It was only with the dissolution of that museum in 2014, almost 200 years later, that Morse’s painting came into the collection of the nation, at the National Gallery.

Morse chose not paint the chaos and occasional violence that typified the House’s deliberations over such controversies as the Missouri Compromise or the displacement of Indian populations. Instead, perhaps aspirationally, he depicts a calm moment where hardworking servants of the people were preparing for a night session.

Samuel Morse Facsimile Object (M2), 12 x 9.75 in., dye sublimated print on aluminum, detail of The House of Representatives (1821-22) at the National Gallery of Art

Eighty recognizable politicians, journalists, and others are depicted–Morse sold a pamphlet diagram for viewers to identify them all-but the dramatic focus of the painting is an unidentified lamplighter. The figure stands on a ladder, against the giant chandelier, which has been lowered for his reach. [My first favorite thing about this painting was the thin, black line extending from the top of the painting to the chandelier, His back to the picture plane, but his profile reveals him to be a Black man. Was he enslaved? It’s not clear; the US government did not as a practice own slaves at the time, but slavers regularly leased the enslaved for government work–like rebuilding the Capitol after the British burned it in 1812. Morse was a supporter of slavery (also an opponent of immigration), which may explain why the central figure of his painting goes unnamed.

Samuel Morse Facsimile Object (M1), 9.75 x 12 in., dye sublimated print on aluminum, detail of The House of Representatives (1821-22) at the National Gallery of Art

The only other non-white person in the painting, however, was well-known in Washington. Petalesharo was a Pawnee chief who traveled to DC as part of a Great Plains delegation to negotiate the fate of his and other tribes. He is shown seated in the House spectator’s gallery, with an impassive expression that resembles the portrait Charles Bird King made at the same time for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Petalesharo had become famous through the promotion of missionaries, who’d reported that the chief had stopped his tribe from killing a young Comanche girl, either as part of human sacrifice or in revenge for a theft. This show of civilized mercy was probably appealing to the man to Petalesharo’s right, Jedidiah Morse, the Calvinist minister and geographer, who was also the artist’s father. Jedidiah had come to Congress to share a massive report he’d written on the US relationship with the Indian tribes. After traveling for several years and meeting with Indian leaders and communities, Morse argued for white coexistence with the Indians, along with a heavy dose of assimilation and missionary-led Christianization. His recommendations were ignored in favor of abrogating treaties and exterminating Indian populations who would not remove themselves from newly claimed lands. Next to Papa Morse is Benjamin Silliman, Samuel Morse’s chemistry professor at Yale. Years later, after Morse would develop the telegraph and Morse Code, Silliman became the first person to distill petroleum.

Samuel Morse Facsimile Objects (M1 & M2), installation concept, 9 x 12 feet

While viewing Morse’s painting the other day at the freshly reopened National Gallery, I got up close to study these standout figures; their unusual compositions, one obscured at the center and the other pushed and fenced off at the margins; one with a glowing chandelier and the other amidst brushy abstractions of the grand chamber’s marble columns; and to contemplate their significance, long unsung, to the history of this scene and this nation. Which prompted my gallerygoing companion to say, “Uh-oh, here come the Facsimile Objects.” [Reader, I married her.]

Morse Facsimile Objects M2 & M1 installation facsimile with lamp, ideally 9 x 12 unencumbered feet, which would take a lot on this wall, tbh

As another experiment on cropping my way to Facsimile Objects, I envision this as a diptych extracted from the painting, each realized at full scale, and installed where Morse put them in the original painting. Seeing these definitely reminded me of Titus Kaphar’s 2016 painting Enough About You, in which he isolates and frames the face of an unidentified enslaved boy in a portrait of Elihu Yale. But I’m still figuring out how these compositions read apart from the larger painting, and in relation to each other. Unlike Kaphar’s work, an awful lot is missing here.

The first proofs just arrived, and while they’re great images, they’re a little low-res; even a big jpg of a 12-foot painting is not really big enough to work with, so I’m going to shoot the details myself. Which feels a little extra, but also necessary here. brb.

Prof. Jennifer Raab provided a useful analysis of Morse’s The House of Representatives [nga] in the context of history painting in the Summer 2015 issue of American Art. [jstor]

‘Turn Feelings Into Things’, On Warhol’s Objects

Yet, in a way, abstract art tries to be an object which we can equate with the private feelings of the artist, the canvas being the arena on which these private feelings are acted out. Warhol presents objects which, in a sense, we can equate with public, communal feelings…In a way [Warhol’s works] might be said to objectify experience, turn feelings into things so we can deal with them.

Gene Swenson, unpublished draft, 1964 via sichel/oup

It’s awesome to hear about the experiences of people other than me who are now living with Facsimile Objects. I’m glad to know it’s not just me who finds them interesting.

Lately I’ve been thinking about them as objects, trying to explore the implications of the term and format I adopted semi-ironically from Gerhard Richter, who used it to explain the unsigned stacks of giclée on aluminum reproductions of paintings he began authorizing for museums as fundraising editions. [As their numbers and critical acceptance have grown, Richter has since classified them under the less obscure and/or more market-friendly term “prints.”]

Warhol was not on my mind, then, but like learning a new word and suddenly hearing it everywhere, I am now hypersensitized to any mention of objects or objecthood. And to asking, “But what does it MEAN [about MEEE]?”

Continue reading “‘Turn Feelings Into Things’, On Warhol’s Objects”

Facsimile Objects Update

Dürer Facsimile Object (D2.38)? a FO of a 9×14.5 in. section of a Dürer, plus Vermeer Facsimile Object (V0.9)?, both at the newly reopened National Gallery, Washington, DC. Plus a FOOL FO (W1), positively glowing in the morning sun as it rests against its hand-stitched flannel packet

News from the Facsimile Objects front: barring any exceptional developments, the National Gallery in London will reopen on Monday (5/17), and so the Dürer there, the heavenly phenomenon on the back of the St. Jerome, will be visitable again. At that point, of course, the corresponding Facsimile Object (D1), will no longer be needed, and so will become unavailable. Get one while you can, I guess. The Karlsruhe agate-like painting on the back of Dürer’s Sad Jesus will, sadly, still be available, while Germany’s COVID numbers remain so high.

Recently I made a couple of Facsimile Objects related to works in the National Gallery in Washington, DC, which has been closed for several months. They will not be issued in any numbers, partly because the NGA just reopened. In fact, we were there yesterday, the first day back, when the shipment of test FOs arrived in the mail.

As you can see from the installation photo above, though, they look nice. Other than their uselessness, I’m pleased with how they turned out.

Continue reading “Facsimile Objects Update”

FOOL Facsimile Object

Christopher Wool, Blue Fool (for Glenn O’Brien), 1990, 12 1/8 x 7 5/8 in., enamel on aluminum, image via: Simon Lee Gallery

Kenny Schachter is selling a sweet little Christopher Wool painting that once belonged to Glenn O’Brien. It was a gift from the artist. The way Die Zeit heard O’Brien describe it in a 2014 puff piece, it was the priceless first prototype of Wool’s most famous body of work.

What O’Brien probably said was that it was a study for the giant four-letter enamel on panel paintings Wool made in 1990. Because he’d been making stencil-style text paintings since around 1987, when he’d famously said he was inspired by seeing
SEX
LUV
freshly stenciled on a white panel truck by a graffiti artist in the East Village.

The way Kenny tells the story, is that he was reminded of FOOL–which he bought from O’Brien in 2015–when he saw a similarly tiny text-on-aluminum Wool painting in a backroom at Miami Basel. It was $900,000, but was actually worth more like $2.5 million; a bargain even for Wool, who apparently bought it back.

If you are in the market for that piece–and you’d be a FOOL not to be; it is at once important, fantastic, and adorable–then you need read no further. You are set. You are good to go, and godspeed you. Despite his recent NFT hijinks, Kenny still loves that fiat money, and has surely earned this deal the hard way, on those mean Miami streets. Go cash him out. From here the discussion turns away from mad money and toward Facsimile Objects.

Continue reading “FOOL Facsimile Object”

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.

Continue reading “Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects IRL”

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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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