Saturday, July 19, 2008

Talk Tuesday on Vermeer forger who fooled Nazi

Edward Dolnick, a former Boston Globe science writer now living near Washington, D.C., reads from his new book “The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century” at the Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 22. The event is free.

The publisher describes the book thusly:
“The Forger's Spell" is the true story of Johannes Vermeer and the small-time Dutch painter who dared to impersonate him centuries later. The con man's mark was Hermann Goering, one of the most reviled leaders of Nazi Germany and a fanatic collector of art.

It was an almost perfect crime. For seven years a no-account painter named Han van Meegeren managed to pass off his paintings as those of one of the most beloved and admired artists who ever lived. But, as Edward Dolnick reveals, the reason for the forger's success was not his artistic skill. Van Meegeren was a mediocre artist. His true genius lay in psychological manipulation, and he came within inches of fooling both the Nazis and the world. Instead, he landed in an Amsterdam court on trial for his life.
Dolnick told NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday:
Van Meegeren found that a forgery that was close was almost worse than if he hadn't tried at all, because as soon as it was close, the experts would focus on the difference between the forgery and the real thing. What turned out to be a much better strategy for van Meegeren was to make a painting that had a few hints of Vermeer but that wasn't like any of the known Vermeers, and then let the experts fill in the gaps themselves. Let them say, "Aha, didn't I always tell you that Vermeer had much more to him than you thought? It's not all ladies reading letters, it's sometimes completely different paintings like this new one we've just found."
Read an excerpt here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Eric Carle Museum seeks director

Founding director Nick Clark leaving?

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst has begun a search for a new executive director. It seems to be seeking a replacement for H. Nichols B. Clark (at left), the founding director of the museum which opened in November 2002, but since it is after regular work hours I’m unable to confirm at this time that Clark is leaving. (Monday update: The museum is seeking an executive director to free up Clark, who is staying on, to focus on organizing exhibitions and events, according to the museum.)

A job listing on the museum’s website, which was also posed to the New England Museum Association site on July 3, begins:
“The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is seeking an Executive Director with strategic vision ready to lead it through its next phase of growth as it becomes a highly recognized international art museum. This is an exciting opportunity for an articulate and energetic manager with bold vision who can develop funding sources and oversee operations of a start up organization.”
More to come.


“Meat After Meat Joy” at Pierre Menard

From my review of “Meat After Meat Joy” at Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge through Sunday:
Last Wednesday an e-mail arrived from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demanding that Pierre Menard Gallery take down “Meat After Meat Joy.” My first thought: “What took you so long?” The show, guest-curated by Heide Hatry of New York, has 10 artists who make sculptures of meat or art depicting meat to investigate “the paradoxical relationship meat has to the body.”

“Unless you’re Hannibal Lecter, there’s nothing ‘artistic’ or ‘joyful’ about meat,” PETA senior vice-president Tracy Reiman said in the press release. “If it’s unacceptable to kill humans for an art exhibit, then it should be unacceptable to kill animals, too.”

“They’re only looking at the show from one angle,” gallery director Nathan Censullo said of PETA, “and not trying to consider it from another one that might be respectful and reflect their views.”
Read the rest here.

More on PETA’s complaint here.

“Meat After Meat Joy,” Pierre Menard Gallery, 10 Arrow St., Cambridge, June 21 to July 20.

Pictured from top to bottom: Tamara Kostianovsky’s "Abacus,” 2008, articles of clothing belonging to the artist, ink, shellac, wire, meat hooks; and Betty Hirst’s “Baby” and “Bust,” both 2008, raw meat sculptures.

MA House approves 1st in nation Creative Economy Council

Wednesday the Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill that would create a “first in the nation” statewide Creative Economy Council. The proposal now moves to the state Senate.

This follows Governor Deval Patrick’s appointment in June of Jason Schupbach as the state’s first "creative economy industry director," which was also billed as a “first in the nation.”

Dan Hunter, executive director of Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, & Humanities, reports:
"The council will work with the Office of Economic Development to ‘develop a statewide strategy for the enhancement, encouragement, and growth of the creative economy in the commonwealth, and to promote through public and private means responsive public policies and innovative private sector practices.’ … The council will consist of 23 members including legislators, the director of MAASH, the director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and other leaders in the creative economy movement.”
The bill was proposed by Rep. Dan Bosley (D-North Adams), House chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

Saul Leiter in Gloucester

Plus Ab-Ex and Photography

Above is a shot New York photographer Saul Leiter took when he spent a week visiting Gloucester’s Lanesville neighborhood with, uh, friends as a 35-year-old in 1958. It was featured last month in his exhibition at New York’s Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Gloucester was a summer destination for major American artists from Winslow Homer until the Abstract Expressionists. Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb all summered there.

I don’t know who Leiter’s Gloucester friends were that summer, but he began his artistic career as a painter and took up photography in the 1940s at the encouragement of Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was then experimenting with photography and gave Leiter a camera. Leiter’s photos often have broken-up, abstracted compositions that echo New York abstract painting of the time.

It’s another example of the exchange of ideas and inspiration between the Abstract Expressionists and photographers – a subject touched on by Boston College’s “Pollock Matters” exhibit last fall. That show made a convincing case that Jackson Pollock drew inspiration for his signature drips and compositions from his pal Herbert Matter’s experimental abstract photos. But the subject got buried by the curators’ focus on whether the recently-found, alleged Pollock paintings there were authentic. (The curators leaned to yes; the scientists leaned to no.)

A couple other photographers to consider in the relationship between Ab-Ex painting and photography are Aaron Siskind (who also summered in Gloucester) and Rudy Burckhardt. With Burckhardt, I’m thinking in particular of the abstracty shots of grass and things that he made for ARTnews to publish with his portraits of Ab-Ex artists, if I’m remembering correctly.

Ab-Ex and photography is an exhibition waiting to happen.

As for Leiter, there’s been something of a resurgence of interest in his work since the mid 1990s, when he began printing his color slides from the late 1940s to ‘60s. He had printed few of his lush color photos back when he shot them because of the expense of color printing; instead he presented them as slide shows. The result of the new prints was his first museum solo show at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2006 (some of this work appeared at Boston’s Gallery Kayafas in January 2007).

Pictured: Saul Leiter, “Lanesville,” 1958, chromogenic print, printed later, (c) Saul Leiter/Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sad, sad

My pal Matt Nash has responded to one of my previous posts in which I argued that “It’s not just the number of galleries closing – but which galleries are closing.” I was responding to one of his posts.

I have one more thing to add to the discussion. Mr. Nash is trying to buck us up, which is a very worthwhile thing to do. I think he’s trying to say, let’s all take a deep breath and not get too freaked out by the Boston gallery closings, this is just the normal cycle of art life, new and exciting things will sprout up, we’ll come out fine.

In my head I pretty much agree with his analysis – though who knows what the future holds, sometimes things die and better stuff doesn’t come around. But my mind is telling me to be optimistic like Mr. Nash.

But my heart is telling me that this is the time for grieving our loss. This won’t stop our efforts to make and show and see more exciting art here. But this is the proper moment to pause and feel the sad. Tomorrow we can get back to the progress.

Leif Goldberg

Here’s the cover and one inside page from Providence artist Leif Goldberg’s new book, “National Waste 7,” which is available at Armageddon Shop, 436 Broadway, Providence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“Here & Now” on “Art Critics Out”

Plus the future – and finances – of web arts journalism

Yesterday “Here & Now” on WBUR radio in Boston broadcast a report called “Art Critics Out,” which looked at online arts coverage in the face of cuts to the ranks of arts critics at newspapers nationwide.

“In the past year, 121 music, dance, film and book critics lost their jobs, as newspapers try to shore up their bottom line,” the radio program explained. “We speak with Doug McLennan, editor of the arts journalism blog He says the future of professional art criticism might be online.”

Of all the people to talk to about this subject, McLennan is an odd choice, considering that ArtsJournal is primarily an aggregator of newspaper reports (and not a blog exactly). It does host blogs, which are practically the only original reports on the website. But asked by “Here & Now”'s Robin Young if he pays his bloggers, McLennan said, “We’re actually about to start doing that. The problem with blogs is that they don’t by themselves perhaps generate enough income to have a large pool of advertisers. But my sense is that if we network a number of like blogs together that then you expand the number of advertisers. And so the bloggers will get the revenue from that.”

In other words, most all of the website’s content is generated at no cost to him. This is not any sort of model for the future of professional arts journalism – or any journalism – if your definition of journalism includes, say, producing news content.

So it felt odd for him to be criticizing newspaper business models. He said (accurately, I believe) that newspaper readership has shifted significantly to the Internet, but newspapers haven’t yet figured out how to make as much money for online ads as they do for print ads. “It’s a failure of business, rather than of journalism,” he said.

“Even though this is a very painful transition from one model that doesn’t work,” McLennon went on, “ultimately what will come out is something much, much better than what we’ve had. The question is what will that be.”

So what will it be?

Times are tough for newspapers and will continue to be – particularly for editorial staff (who face more job cuts) and printing press workers (whose jobs will be eliminated forever). Some newspapers will close. But my thinking is that at some point within the next five years the newspaper industry will tip and most all newspapers will shift to web-mostly.

Newspaper readers have already switched to the web. Last fall the Globe claimed "2.3 million combined and print online readers in the Boston market" versus 360,695 daily paid circulation. The definition of these terms is confusing to me. (What's the difference between "4.2 million unique visitors to the website" and "combined print and online readers"?) But if I'm understanding the numbers correctly, the Globe is saying it has 1.939 million online Boston readers versus 0.361 million print readers. That means that its web readership is more than five times print readership.

What will web journalism look like? Probably a lot like the brew of web words and multimedia that we’ve got now – but perhaps a bit faster, smoother, prettier. Maybe more customized news. Perhaps more social-networking-type stuff.

Already pretty much everything in print newspapers is posted to web as well – plus added web features (podcasts, video, reader forums) that aren't in print. The newspaper shift that’s coming isn’t about what new stuff will be online, but that newspapers will spend less effort on print – and perhaps abandon it all together.

Some other interesting web-only journalism models to consider include sites like Talking Points Memo (which seems to be making money) and the blog Modern Art Notes by Tyler Green (which has hardly any ads and based on McLennon’s comments I’m assuming is a money loser). These act and look a lot like vigorous newspaper sections or magazines devoted to specific subjects: politics/op-ed or arts.

Once newspapers switch to web-mostly, I think newspaper ad revenues will steady and then grow. One of the problems for newspapers now is that advertisers have a better bargaining position than newspapers do. They can argue that ad space is less valuable because newspapers are losing print readers, and it's unclear how big and valuable their web audience is. And advertisers can take advantage of newspapers being generally weak.

But once newspapers commit to web-mostly, newspapers will be in a stronger bargaining position. They won't be competing against themselves by selling ads in print and online anymore. Most ads will be web-mostly, so advertisers will have to buy web ads or nothing. The readership will be online. And newspapers will be back to the local near monopoly or bi-opoly status that they had enjoyed in most major metro areas. So they'll be able to charge more for web ads.

There’s already a financial model for art blogs like The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research that attract a readership equivalent to that of, say, a small suburban weekly newspaper. The model is small suburban weekly newspapers, which through advertising dollars are generally able to financially support at least one full-time reporter, plus at least a part-time editor. It’s not a model that would get you rich, but it’s a start.

But how can art bloggers begin selling ads without creating conflicts of interest? Sure there are restaurants, art schools, art supply stores, and frame shops that you could get advertising from and not necessarily write about. But what happens if you get advertising from people you cover – like the museums who advertise in newspapers and magazines?

Another question is will newspaper arts coverage grow more robust if the web switch settles out and ad revenues improve? Will owners use their improved finances to add back staff being cut now? A journalism professor pal of mine who specializes in online news predicts most newspaper owners will keep staff levels as is and pocket the difference. I suspect she’s right.

The Globe’s Geoff Edgers blogs about the state of newspapers and arts blogging.
The Seattle-Post Intelligencer’s Regina Hackett blogs about how arts organizations can produce their own critic-bloggers.
ArtsJournal's Doug McLennan on "Who Put These Guys In Charge? (Why Newspapers Are Failing)."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LaMontagne’s BBQs

This summer LaMontagne Gallery in South Boston has been hosting a series of free BBQs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The gallery explains: “Creating a communal experience of sharing food and ideas every week this summer we attempt to strip down art elitism through a casual social art gathering.”

One of the, uh, issues of the Boston art scene is that there are relatively few places and times when we cross paths and just hang out. So I like what LaMontagne is attempting.

An added bonus this week is that tomorrow's guest host is William Stover, assistant curator of contemporary art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Maybe you can get him to spill the beans about what is going on at the MFA.

And did I mention that this week they’re offering “grilled vegetarian delectables and freshly caught fish served alongside a selection of refreshing iced drinks”?

Irving, Doyle, McCarthy, Clover, Daltry, “Thought Process”

From my review of Mark Doyle, Eric Irving, Tim McCarthy, Sarah Clover and Jen Daltry at AS220 in Providence and “Thought Process” at the Moses Brown School’s Krause Gallery in Providence:
“When they first started doing the construction these things just started appearing,” Eric Irving tells me about the T-shaped highway support columns in his dramatic new set of color photos at AS220’s Main Gallery. Hammerhead piers is the technical term for them. They would support the relocated I-195 highway in Providence. After work, Irving would stop along Allens Avenue to photograph the concrete “monoliths” in the evening light. Standing alone, without a covering roadway deck, they read like uncanny totems.
Read the rest here.

Mark Doyle, Eric Irving and Tim McCarthy at AS220 Main Gallery, 115 Empire St., and Sarah Clover and Jen Daltry at AS220 Project Space, 93 Mathewson St., Providence, July 7 to 27, 2008.
“Thought Process: Li Jun Lai, Llewelynn O. Fletcher, Manette Jungels and Kristen S. Street,” Krause Gallery, Moses Brown School, 250 Lloyd Ave., Providence, July 8 to Aug. 1, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Eric Irving, #5860—5/21/2006 8:05:02 PM; #5909–5/23/2006 7:45:52 PM; and #6854—9/07/06 7:00:11 PM.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lantern fest at Forest Hills Cemetery Thursday

Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston holds its 10th annual Lantern Festival from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 17. Visitors are invited to make paper lanterns and set them afloat on the cemetery’s Lake Hibiscus at sunset.

The Forest Hills folks explain:
“This ritual is based on the traditional Japanese Bon Festival, a time when a door opens to the world of the ancestors, allowing us to send messages to the other side. People enjoy picnics on the grass and a multi-cultural program of music and dance. They decorate their lanterns with calligraphy and notes to those who have died. At sunset, a candle is lit in each lantern, and the glimmering lanterns are set afloat. Drifting and flickering with the wind, the lanterns symbolize the soul’s journey when life ends.”
Also featured: gospel singer Ron Murphy, Master Tsuji’s Samurai Taiko Drummers, and students from Showa Institute and Chu Ling Dance Academy.

Admission is free, but there’s a $10 parking fee (take the T). And a $10 donation is requested per lantern. If weather doesn’t cooperate Thursday, the event will be postponed to July 24.

RISCA announces grants

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts today announced $832,977 in grants to 109 applicants, in the first round of grants for the 2008-09 season.

The largest grants went to:
Trinity Repertory Company, General Operating Support, Providence, $110,000
RI Philharmonic Orchestra, General Operating Support, East Providence, $87,000
RI School of Design Museum of Art, General Operating Support, Providence, $85,000
AS220, General Operating Support, Providence, $45,000
Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, General Operating Support, Pawtucket, $30,000
Festival Ballet Providence, General Operating Support, Providence, $28,464
Everett Dance Theatre, General Operating Support, Providence, $28,292
Perishable Theatre Inc, General Operating Support, Providence, $28,000
Newport Art Museum, General Operating Support, Newport, $23,567
Island Moving Company, General Operating Support, Newport, $21,000

Individual artist fellowships were awarded to:
Kelli Auerbach, Fellowship in Fiction, Providence, $5,000
Kelli Auerbach, Fellowship-Play/Screenwriting, Providence, $1,000
Michael Fishel Bresler, Fellowship in Folk Arts, Providence, $5,000
Amanda Brown, Fellowship in Crafts, Providence, $1,000
Laura Colella, Fellowship in Film & Video, Providence, $1,000
Jill Colinan, Fellowship in Crafts, Providence $5,000
Edward J Delaney, Fellowship in Film & Video, Providence, $5,000
Christine Evans, Fellowship-Play/Screenwriting, Providence, $5,000
Edward H Hardy, Fellowship in Fiction, Cranston, $1,000
Allen L Hazard Sr., Fellowship in Folk Arts, Charlestown, $1,000
Jonathan Laustsen, Fellowship in 3-D Art, Pawtucket, $5,000
Amy Lovera, Fellowship in Photography, Providence, $5,000
Mary Beth Meehan, Fellowship in Photography, Providence, $1,000
David O Connell, Fellowship in Poetry, North Providence, $5,000
Barbara Schweitzer, Fellowship in Poetry, North Smithfield, $1,000
Linsey Wallace, Fellowship-3 Dimensional Art, Providence, $1,000

The entire list is here (pdf).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

“Useless Map – Only $5”

. . . that’s the title of an e-mail I got from the brilliant Institute for Infinitely Small Things today. It's a wonderfully self-deprecating advertisement for their awesome “City Formerly Known as Cambridge” project. Read more about it here.

Governor approves MCC, cultural facilities funds

This afternoon, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick approved arts funding in the fiscal year 2008 state budget at the levels that the state Legislature approved on July 3, according to Dan Hunter, executive director of Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences & Humanities. This means the Massachusetts Cultural Council will get $12.7 million and the state Cultural Facilities Fund will get $6.5 million for the fiscal year that began July 1.

"Carnival of the Arts” at Axiom

Scenes from Axiom gallery's "Carnival of the Arts" on Saturday, July 12.