Election Day!!

Chris Marte in Chinatown. Photo courtesy of martenyc.com

Chris Marte in Chinatown. Photo courtesy of martenyc.com

The District 1 race for New York City's local elections today has involved a unique amount of participation by the art community, and by art galleries in particular. Zoning and gentrification are key issues in the race for District 1, which encompasses the gallery-rich neighborhoods of Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Soho and Tribeca. Christopher Marte, now 28, grew up on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side.

Marte's support among the art crowd in the district took off after he participated in events held by the community group Art Against Displacement, which was founded by the owner of 47 Canal gallery. Marte has subsequently enjoyed the support of a number of art galleries located in the district, including Gavin Brown's Enterprise, James Fuentes, Bodega and Essex Street.

Regardless of the outcome, Marte's campaign has served as a case study of how art galleries can constructively participate in political affairs at the community level.

Remembering Linda Nochlin

Photo by Adam Husted, courtesy of ARTNEWS

Photo by Adam Husted, courtesy of ARTNEWS

Linda Nochlin, one of the most influential art historians of the twentieth century, has passed. Nochlin is best known for her 1971 essay "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" which incited a profound shift in thinking among curators, critics and art historians and is a foundational text for feminist art history and theory.

ARTNEWS, which originally published her seminal essay in 1971, has published a thoughtful tribute.

Congratulations to MacArthur Fellowship Awardee Njideka Akunyili Crosby

The Nigeria-born, now Brooklyn-based, artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby was awarded a well-deserved MacArthur ("Genius") Fellowship for 2017. Her exquisite paintings, dense with visual information, are both immediately striking and rewarding of sustained examination.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Predecessors (2013). Courtesy of the artist via her website. 

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Predecessors (2013). Courtesy of the artist via her website. 

I first saw her work several years ago at a gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, before she joined Victoria Miro Gallery and acquired broad exposure. It was immediately obvious on first encountering her work that she was a major talent.

Notes by Einstein Far Exceeds Auction Expectations

Two handwritten notes by Einstein. Photo courtesy of AFP via bbc.com

Two handwritten notes by Einstein. Photo courtesy of AFP via bbc.com

A one-sentence, hand-written note by Albert Einstein was just auctioned in Israel for USD $1.5 million - far exceeding pre-sale expectations. Bidding for the lot began at USD $2,000.

The note, in which Einstein revealed his "strategy for a happy life," was written on stationary from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. The scientist, having recently received word that he had won the Nobel prize but without any change on him, wrote the note to a courier in lieu of a tip.

Given the price of the sale, Einstein's recommendation regarding how to achieve happiness seem quite ironic: "a quiet and modest life."

Trump Sketch Sells at Auction for $16,000

Trump's 1995 drawing of the Empire State Building via NYTimes

Trump's 1995 drawing of the Empire State Building via NYTimes

A drawing by Donald Trump of the Empire State Building sold at auction in Los Angeles for a hammer price of USD $16,000. Trump drew the 9" x 12" sketch in 1995 for a charity auction at his Mar-a-Lago estate. It initially sold for USD $100.

At the time that he produced the drawing, Trump was attempting to purchase the Empire State Building. The effort failed and he was ultimately forced to sell his stake in the landmark property.

In 2016, the median size of grants given by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was less than USD $20,000. As president, Trump has proposed to eliminate the NEA entirely. The NEA is working out of a temporary office space at present, having been displaced from the building which was transformed into the Trump International Hotel - Washington.

New Van Gogh Film Employs a Painterly Approach

"Loving Vincent," a new film from the UK about Van Gogh, is a technical marvel. Billed as the first cinematic feature in which every frame is derived from an individual painting, the film's production was a seven year labor of love by Polish animator and director Dorota Kobiela. Over 65,000 individual paintings were produced by a team of 120 painters to complete the film's visuals. On average, each 10 second shot of the film required 20 weeks of work by a painter. Although critics have been somewhat divided on the film's overall success as a dramatic feature (it currently holds a 77% score on Rotten Tomatoes), the sheer visual complexity of the work is stunning.

The plot for the film is structured around a posthumous effort to deliver the artist's final letter to his brother Theo. Live footage with an ensemble of actors was shot in London over 14 days, which served as a framework for the film's team of painters. The technique was similar to that used by American filmmaker Richard Linklater in his movies "Waking Life" and "Through a Scanner Darkly." A range of characters whom we know from Van Gogh's painting and letters are incorporated into the plot -- each visually-introduced from the same perspective as depicted by Van Gogh.

The film's narrative is ultimately too conventional for both its subject and its own visual approach, hewing dangerously close to a conventional "Whodunit?" storyline and indulging too many of the mawkish, melodramatic conceptions about the artist and his work. Yet, it still manages to provide an impressive degree of sheer cinematic pleasure for the viewer.

 

BBC segment detailing the production process for "Loving Vincent," the feature-length film about Vincent Van Gogh created from 65,000 individual oil on canvas works.

Tensions Rise in Gentrifying Chinatown over Art Exhibit

The current exhibition by Omer Fast, "August," has caused a firestorm of debate. Mounted at James Cohan Gallery in the Lower East Side of New York, the centerpiece of the exhibition is an immersive installation that alludes to the gallery's Chinatown location.

Courtesy of ArtNet News: Installation view, “Omer Fast: August,” James Cohan, New York, 2017. Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle.

Courtesy of ArtNet News: Installation view, “Omer Fast: August,” James Cohan, New York, 2017. Photo: Phoebe d’Heurle.

A large protest headed by community groups including Art Against Displacement, Decolonize this Place and the Chinatown Art Brigade was mounted last weekend.

The Chinatown Art Brigade issued the following statement:

"The conception and installation of this show reifies racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown. Your appalling exhibition should be shut down.”

The artist, who immigrated from Israel to the US as a teenager, has issued a response:

"...The point of this work was never to insult or incite but to talk about identity and immigrant experience – my immigrant experience – warts and all, in its complexity and in its contradictions, pitting essence against appearance. For what it’s worth, I think this is what this work does..."

Exciting Obama Portraits to be Unveiled in Early 2018

Photo of Kehinde Wiley by Chad Batka for the New York Times. 

Photo of Kehinde Wiley by Chad Batka for the New York Times. 

Barack and Michelle Obama have announced their selections of artists to complete the former first couple's official portraits and are receiving plaudits for their art-historically savvy, thoughtful choices: Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald.

Roberta Smith of the NYT notes of the selections, which were made by the Obamas themselves from a shortlist compiled by the National Portrait Gallery curators:

"Their choices...reflect the Obamas’ instincts for balancing the expected and the surprising, and for being alert to painting’s pertinence to the moment."

The paintings by Mr. Wiley and Ms. Sherald will be unveiled at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in early 2018.