Spice DAO Facsimile Object (S1), 2022

Study for Spice DAO Facsimile Object (S1), 2022, 11.5 x 15 in., high-gloss dye sublimation pigment on aluminum panel, installed between FOOL Facsimile Object (W1), 2021 and Vermeer Facsimile Object (V0.9), f/k/a Girl Unmuting, here titled Girl Voting Her Tokens To Burn The Book After Scanning So No One Gets Sued For Copyright Galaxy Brain, 2022

Congratulations to Spice DAO, which announced yesterday [sic] that they had successfully purchased a rare copy of a book containing the concept art and storyboard sketches for Alexander Jodorowsky’s legendary adaptation of Dune. The sale took place at Christie’s Paris on 21 November 2021, three days after Constitution DAO failed in its attempt to buy a printed copy of the US Constitution at Sotheby’s in New York.

Constitution DAO raised $47 million, only to be outbid by hedgie/collector Ken Griffin, whose privately negotiated guaranteed bid of basically $47 million and one dollars also included a rebate on the auction house’s premium, bringing his net to just $43 million. Spice DAO, no doubt quick learners, went into their auction for the EUR25,000 book with a EUR2.667 million bid, and managed to eke out a win.

Spice DAO’s purchase–technically, a private purchase and a transfer to the DAO, since Christie’s didn’t recognize the DAO–of Jodorowsky’s Dune bible was actually revealed last December, when it was still called Dune DAO. The story then was that these enthusiastic Dune fans were banding together to liberate the long-hidden copy of the lost, unmade masterpiece they’d gotten glimpses of in Jodorowsky’s Dune, a 2013 documentary directed by Frank Pavich. It was only when they tweeted their plans to,
“1. Make the book public (to the extent permitted by law)
2. Produce an original animated limited series inspired by the book and sell it to a streaming service
3. Support derivative projects from the community”
that copyrightlulz twitter was like, “lmfao YEAH NO,” and the buyers of $11 million worth of Spice DAO tokens became aware of the limits of the blockchain’s ability to overcome all humanity’s problems.

So while the governance discord debates selling NFTs of scans of the pages of Copy Number 5, then burning the actual book so they won’t get sued for copyright infringement [0.<], I am ready to move forward with the Spice DAO Facsimile Object (S1).

As much as I thought I’d leave Facsimile Objects in 2021, I realize that the Spice DAO Community needs them. Spice DAO Facsimile Object (S1) presents a perfect, facsimile of Copy Number 5 of Michel Seydoux Presents Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune from Frank Herbert’s Novel. Design by Jean Giraud. Machines by Chris Foss. Special Effects by Dan O’Bannon. Dialogue by M. Demuth and A. Jodorowsky, as it was sold at Christie’s on November 21, 2021. Printed at full-size, in high-gloss dye sublimation pigment on an 11.5 x 15-inch aluminum panel, the Facsimile Object embodies the true octavo (210 x 295 mm) presence of this historic, physical, artifact. It is accompanied by a similarly full-scale, handmade certificate of authenticity, executed in ink on handmade Arches paper, signed, stamped and numbered, and will ship in a handmade case.

Unlike previous Facsimile Objects, which were created for the world, Spice DAO Facsimile Object (S1) is only available to verified hodlers of Spice DAO governance tokens. The first 10 verified orders will be priced at 0.5ETH, payable in USD at the ETH/USD price on coinbase for the date of purchase. After that, the price will increase to 1.0ETH. Availability of Spice DAO Facsimile Objects (S1) will be continue until morale improves. DM or email to get started.

[update: the price of the Facsimile Object is after taxes. Whether you sell ETH to buy the Facsimile Object, at whatever your basis, or you use your pre-existing fiat is not relevant, and greg.org will not pay your capital gains taxes. Thank you for your understanding.]

Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects Redux

Dürer verso diptych as installed and hyped by the National Gallery, London, via twitter

I cannot emphasize enough how much I did not imagine being at this point in the Facsimile Object universe. An Albrecht Dürer exhibition opened in London at the National Gallery, just as an Omicron tsunami crashes around the world.

I mean, by the museums in Germany and the UK reopened last May, and the Dürer Facsimile Objects in that first diptych were discontinued, I did bleakly anticipate their related Dürers might become unvisitable in person again. I was also naively relieved to not be in the business of selling Tastily Painted Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah pictures. And here we are.

What I did not anticipate, however, was that at a moment when travel restrictions were returning, the National Gallery would title its new Dürer show, “The Credit Suisse Exhibition: Dürer’s Journeys.” And I definitely did not imagine that they’d promote the show using a literal diptych of verso paintings. Why, just look at A Heavenly Body[? A Heavenly Vision?], on the back of the National Gallery (London)’s own St. Jerome; and the Lot and His Daughters painted on the back of National Gallery (DC)’s Haller Madonna, together at the very center of the awkward and weirdly empty exhibition photo up top. We’ve come a long way, and yet we have not.

The thing I’m most appalled by, though, is that despite a 60% jump in COVID case levels since I started *writing* this post, to the highest levels of the entire pandemic, and 10x even New York’s current spike, it appears that the Her Majesty’s Government is dragging their feet on issuing any restrictions, for fear of what impact a negative public reaction might have on Boris Johnson’s hold on power.

Dürer Diptych: Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Objects (D3.38) and (D1), together for the first time, thanks to the omicron variant surging into The Credit Suisse Exhibition

So while previous Facsimile Objects mitigated art encounters you couldn’t have, this new Dürer Diptych based on the National Gallery’s exhibit is meant as a hedge for an experience you shouldn’t have, at least right now. And so, The Credit Suisse Dürer Diptych: Dürer Facsimile Object (D1) A Heavenly Vision is available along with Dürer Facsimile Object (D3.38), The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a full-size detail of 38% of the original painting, conceptualized last spring when the NGA reopened, that focuses on the painterly joys of fire, brimstone, vegetation, and that brushy, little black pillar of salt that used to be Lot’s wife.

Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Object (D1), 2021, 9 x 6.75 in., dye sublimation pigment on (obv) high gloss aluminum panel, available again, only as part of The Credit Suisse Dürer Diptych

If you think about it, a fiery meteorite crashing to earth and sulfur and fire raining down from heaven go together quite nicely; the apocalyptic symmetry was surely not lost on a young Dürer who, with the year 1500 fast approaching, was already thinking about the end of the world.

Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Object (D3.38), 2021, 9 x 14.5 in., dye sublimation pigment on high gloss aluminum panel, available as part of a Dürer Diptych, or separately, while Omicron rages

[For those who really, really need the full image to stand in front of, try one of the Lot and Daughters Flee The Destruction of Sodom and Gommorah tea towels in the National Gallery shoppe. They’re not to scale and out of stock, but I’m sure they’ll be back soon.]

The National Gallery Dürer Tea Towel, featuring the destruction of Sodom & Gommorah, £8.95

In consideration of those who might have acquired an AD FO (D1) already, AF DO (D3.38) will be available separately. Each Facsimile Object is accompanied by a full-scale, certificate of authenticity handmade in India ink on Arches. ADFO(D1) certificates will be distinct from those produced last spring, as a treat.

If the National Gallery actually does close to slow the spread of COVID, these Facsimile Objects will be available only until it reopens, or until, like with the Vermeers, it becomes official that the show will not reopen. If the National Gallery and its partner Credit Suisse don’t do anything, and just take their couple of days off during Christmas break, I will probably end this futile folly when that becomes clear, either on January 27th, or January 2nd. What a world.

2 January UPDATE: Turns out making shiny facsimiles of paintings or parts of paintings available is not enough to defeat the omicron surge. If only I’d sent them to every house in the UK instead. Or even to every Credit Suisse client.

Platinum Facsimile Object (P1), 2021

Study for Platinum Facimile Object (P1), 2021, 4.3 x 3.37 inches, dye sublimation pigment print on aluminum

OK, now it gets kind of interesting. As soon as I saw the short cg animation for the new American Express Platinum Cards by Julie Mehretu and Kehinde Wiley, I thought of two things: 1) the low-key beats and the art-embedded card spinning shinily on its corner remind me of the McRib NFT, and 2) what do you call art printed on small, shiny metal?

On the one hand, to do a Facsimile Object of an AmEx card feels like asking for trouble in ways that not even a Cady Noland-related Facsimile Object could even conjure. And yet it’d be so tasty!

On the other , the dye sublimation print process requires a minimum 4 inches per side, and even art credit cards are 3.37 x 2.125 inches. So I doubled up. Surely no one involved would these mind lifesize-but-make-it-a-diptych Facsimile Objects now.

detail of screenshot from the AmEx twitter promotion, too low-res to cop. also, I’m sure they’ve been members since before 2022?

[An unusual footnote: the public announcement page for American Express’s artist x Platinum cards includes separate jpegs of Mehretu’s and Wiley’s cards, as seen in the study above. Not seen: that the filenames got the artist credits reversed. If I go ahead with it, that glitch is just the kind of thing that gives this project that famous must-buy-now! vibe the kids crave. But after seeing animations of cards with the artists’ own names on the front, it’s hard to settle for Charles F. Frost on a Facsimile Object. And while it would be possible to try to get the artists to scan their own respective card-size works, I would not want to compromise their actual four-digit code there. Most of all, I don’t want my own account canceled.]

Exhibition Interrupted: Vermeer Facsimile Objects

rendering of Johannes Vermeer Facsimile Objects (V2), (V2.1), and right, (V3), as they might be installed. Note that yes, a different source image means the color levels are slightly different for the Glitch one

I did not want us to need Vermeer Facsimile Objects, but here we are, at least through December 12. [DECEMBER 12 UPDATE: Staatliche Kunstammlungen Dresden has extended the closure of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, and thus the Vermeer exhibition, through the 9th of January. But the Vermeer show has a hard stop on Jan. 2nd, and so will not reopen? I realized this only in the course of writing this update. Vermeer Facsimile Objects will be available only through tonight, 12/12. Sorry you can’t see the show in Germany, but thank you all for your engagement.]

Continue reading “Exhibition Interrupted: Vermeer Facsimile Objects”

FOOL (Facsimile Objects On the Loose)

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.]

Tweet from @GO_NFTParty, who was bringing the FOOL heat to NFT.NYC this week

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), 2021, A4 size, with the COA behind it.

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.

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 (D3.38), 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]?”

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Facsimile Objects Update

Dürer Facsimile Object (D3.38)? 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.

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