Friday, August 31, 2007

The Future Can Wait - Artists Announced

The Future Can Wait - Artists Announced


McGinity 'Girl in Yellow Dress' Oil on canvas 165x120cm 2007.

LONDON.-Leading curators present the art stars of tomorrow – and today Tom Hackney, Tessa Farmer, Sarah McGinity, Gordon Cheung, Gavin Nolan, Stella Vine and Miho Sato are just some of the artists showing work in The Future Can Wait - the biggest ever museum-scale privately curated exhibition for breaking artists.

Curators Zavier Ellis and Simon Rumley have now announced the full list of artists set to exhibit in the Old Truman Brewery’s Atlantis Gallery, in what promises to be a seminal show in the future of art history. Ellis and Rumley have selected the best of what they describe as The New London School – artists whose work deals with the human condition in painting, video and installation, underpinned by an emphasis on technical expertise.

List of artists: Jennifer Allen, Dylan Atkins, Emma Bennett, Kiera Bennett, Louise Camrass, Juliana Cerqueira-Leite, Gordon Cheung, Simon Cunningham, Christopher Davies, Tessa Farmer, Nadine Feinson, Bettina Graf, Tom Hackney, David Hancock, Matthew Houlding, Sam Jackson, Chia En Jao, James Jessop, Kounosuke Kawakami, Cathy Lomax, Alexis Milne, Rui Matsunaga, Robin Mason, Sarah McGinity, Hugh Mendes, Richard Moon, Alex Gene Morrison, Rie Nakajima, Gavin Nolan, Tim Parr, Jaime Pitarch, Emma Puntis, Harry Pye, Miho Sato, Dominic Shepherd, John Stark, Erik Tidemann, Gavin Tremlett, Will Tuck, James Unsworth, Stella Vine, and Hannah Wooll.

Featuring the art stars of the moment, the show will bring together hundreds of future collectable works in one gallery space and all pieces will be for sale. The Future Can Wait will be bigger than anything of its kind that has gone before. It will also offer a contrast to the more limited viewing context of the art fair booth system by showing a wealth of work as it was originally intended – in a spectacular, spacious environment. Featuring these London-based artists for its inaugural year, The Future Can Wait will eventually take on global partners to become a primary showcase for international artists.

The Upper Belvedere Presents Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Artists Company

The Upper Belvedere Presents Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the Artists Company


Gustav Klimt, Sonja Knips, 1898, Oil on canvas, Belvedere, Vienna. © Belvedere.

VIENNA.-The Upper Belvedere presents Gustav Klimt and the Artists Company, on view through October 2, 2007. The Belvedere possesses the largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and the largest Gustav Klimt research archive in the world. Over 20 masterpieces have been integrated into the newly organized collection and provide a comprehensive view of the Austrian artist’s creative life. As one of the founders of the Vienna Secession and organizers of the Vienna Kunstschau (1908), Klimt played a key role in gaining international recognition for the Viennese avantgarde.

The Belvedere shows his development from the first confrontations with Impressionism and his Secessionist art (The Kiss, 1908) to his later work, which had a strong influence on the younger generation of Austrian artists, including Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele.

Klimt and the Artists Company - The exhibition focuses on the development of Klimt and the Artists Company with some 50 exhibits (including canvases and works on paper), beginning with Klimt’s earliest work and extending through the modern period. As part of its permanent collection, the Belvedere has prepared a selection of works by the Company as well as unique pieces by Gustav Klimt, Ernst Klimt and Franz Matsch, within the context Historicist art. Central works include Gustav Klimt’s Fable (1883) and early portrait of Sonja Knips (1898), Franz Matsch’s depiction of his children Hilda and Franzi Matsch (1901), as well as paintings by the Company from Peles Castle in Sinaia, which are being shown outside of Romania for the first time. The research conducted in preparation for the exhibition and for a catalogue raisonné of Gustav Klimt’s paintings has for the first time been able to clearly identify the contributions of individual artists to the Company’s collective works.

The Origins of Historicism - Driven by a sense for the picturesque and partly inspired by the Neo-Baroque - under such artists as Gottfried Semper, Carl von Hasenauer and the theater architects Fellner and Helmer – late Historicism prompted the construction of public monuments in Vienna. Painting and design were strongly influenced by Hans Makart (1840-1884). His large-format paintings featured mythological and allegorical subjects. Among other works of art, this exhibition includes a design by him for a mural for the Empress Elisabeth’s bedroom in her Hermesvilla castle in Vienna.

During his studies at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule), Klimt, together with his brother Ernst (1864-1892) and their class-mate Franz Matsch (1861-1942), founded the “Künstler-Compagnie” (Artists Company). The collaboration began with the design of a pageant, which Hans Makart created for the emperor and his wife in Vienna in 1879.

The Triumph of a Young Painters’ Collective - The young painters started to receive commissions for murals in palaces and public buildings. Their works were quickly produced and created an unusually bold and spontaneous impression. Commissions for the Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer for theaters in Austria-Hungary and in the Balkans were followed by works for the Romanian royal family’s Peles Castle. With the design of the spectacular staircases of the Burgtheater and of the Art History Museum in Vienna, the Company was able to establish itself as the “Ringstraße painters”.

After nearly 20 years, the studio collective was disbanded after the death of Ernst Klimt and prolonged discussions about paintings for the auditorium of the University of Vienna.

Art Students Become the “Ringstraße Painters” - Ferdinand Julius Laufberger (1829-1881), long-time director of the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, worked hard to procure artistic commissions for financially challenged students. After the sudden death of their teacher in 1881, three of his students – Gustav Klimt, Ernst Klimt und Franz Matsch – established a studio collective and began applying for public mural commissions as the “Künstler-Compagnie”. In 1884, Franz Matsch, who had taken on the management of the company, put together an impressive letter of application to Rudolf Eitelberger, who at the time was the director of the Austrian Museum for Art and Industry:

Most Estimable Sir!
Only now that we have managed to set up our studio and settle down to work, please allow us to briefly introduce the program of our company. As Your Honor will remember, we completed large projects under the direction of our unforgettable master Professor Laufberger. He created the foundation for our collaboration, which we continued under the direction of Professor Berger.

Our master’s teachings were of such a robust, universal nature that we consider ourselves infinitely fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from them. As we were students of the very same master, and it is the highest goal of each of us to respect his invaluable wisdom, we believe that we are on the right path to putting his teachings into practice by working together and mutually criticizing each others’ work.

In the explanation of the work we desire to carry out, allow us to make reference again to our blessed master, Professor Laufberger, whose great creations in various areas of art and applied art, serve for us as great inspiration. We believe that our collaboration is a decisive advantage, as thanks to our greater creative energy the commission will be completed more rapidly and the sum of our experiences will grow.

Up until now, the majority of our work has been carried out in the province and in foreign countries. Our utmost desire is now to complete a larger work for our great home city and perhaps this will be the opportunity to do so. As the new monuments in Vienna are approaching their completion, and the interior decoration will only be assigned to the most qualified, only the most outstanding artists will be engaged. We are thus now turning to Your Honor with the most humble request to make use of your kind influence to mercifully help us achieve our goals.

In consideration of the fact that during our time as students Your Honor allowed us to benefit from your goodwill, we would like to humbly request that Your Honor continue to confer Your benevolent assistance upon us, as we are very much in need of it. In conclusion, allow us to remark that thanks to a studio the use of which we have been granted free of charge, we are now very much able to carry out the program described above.

With utmost respect we are most humbly Yours,
Franz Matsch
Gustav Klimt
Ernst Klimt
Atelier VI. B., Sandwirthgasse Nr. 8“1

The Company presented itself with this letter as a capable team, qualified to carry out large-scale commissions, as they were able to complete the required work more quickly and yet just as uniformly as a single artist. This extremely practical and pragmatic approach to creative work was impressed upon them in the School of Arts and Crafts, meeting the demands created by the intense construction activity inspired by Historicism on Vienna’s Ringstraße and beyond.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Because I’m worth it - Jack VETTRIANO

Because I’m worth it


Jack Vettriano has no truck with artists who resent his success. He just knows how to sell his work

With the ease of a man for whom such things are now second nature, Jack Vettriano lets it be known that he’s playing hard to get. He is considering offers from “several” London art dealers, but he’s not saying which ones: only that he will choose from his suitors early in 2008.

This is an artist, we must remember, whose work now sells routinely for six figures; and whose huge fame is testimony to the value of astute marketing. Self-taught and sneered at by the art establishment, especially in his native Scotland, Vettriano has become arguably one of the best known painters in the world through the sale of reproductions of The Singing Butler — which sold for a record £744,000 in 2004.

Today, Sotheby’s will auction off Vettriano’s “Bluebird Collection” (paintings which hung in the Conran restaurant), predicted to fetch more than £1.2 million.

A gentle, essentially pragmatic man, he is irritated by those who carp at his success. “Artists say, how can I get only X for my work and Vettriano gets X thousand for his? Think, you stupid bugger. It’s not a bit about being a better painter than me, it’s about market forces.

“The art world is about personalities; it all depends which dealer you are with. Larry Gagosian is the most famous just now: he can take someone off the street and make them famous because everyone has faith in his judgment. A good dealer can place your paintings. Mine have very often gone straight from my easel into someone’s home, because the gallery has made a phone call. There’s a parallel with being a clothes designer: it’s not so much about your work, it’s about who’s selling it, and where.”

Last month Vettriano’s partnership with his last gallery, the Portland, run by Tom Hewlett, ended mysteriously amid unconfirmed rumours that Vettriano had failed to produce pictures for a promised exhibition. It was an exceedingly fruitful relationship while it lasted, however, and Vettriano talks of it almost in terms of a marriage.

“We had 15 great years together,” he says. “While I think that we both took a huge amount out of it in terms of putting each other on the map, we both felt it was time for a change and I’m afraid that’s all I’m going to say. I have been approached by several galleries but I’m not going to rush into any decisions because there’s no need to. I’ll think about it for the rest of this year, then make a decision early next year.” (Gagosian is not one of the dealers he is considering.)

Vettriano gives the impression of a man with a powerful sense of how fortunate he has been in his extraordinary rags-to-riches art career. The son of a Fife miner, he left school at 16 and prepared to become a mining engineer; when he was 21 someone gave him a set of watercolours for his birthday. If there is ego there, it is a very modest ego.

“Everything has worked out fabulously well. I get all the more pleasure because I never thought it was going to happen,” he says simply.

A book will be published next February called The Artist and the Studio, a photo-documentary of him at work. About 80 per cent photos and 20 per cent paintings, it will have a foreword by Ian Rankin, the crime writer, a fellow Fifer who favours the same noir interiors. “It’s shot in my studios in Kirkcaldy, London and the South of France. There are unposed pictures of me painting,” Vettriano says.

It will be as far as he has ever gone to reveal his private life, for some time the preoccupation of the tabloid newspapers. At 55, he says he is single, but does not, you sense, ever remain so for very long. Ask his friends and they laugh. “Jack just loves women,” they say. He flits between his three homes and confesses to feeling quite nomadic. “I will probably stay in France until Christmas. It’s so cheap and accessible to fly now. What’s lovely in the summer is that Globespan do a flight between Nice and Edinburgh for ¤ euros. I’m a materialist but only with my eye on investment. I didn’t start to make money until I was in my late forties and I fully understand the value of it; and I’ve seen what new money does to people, how it makes them buy gold chains and Rolexes.

“I don’t want to go out and be looked at. I refuse to go to lots of things I’m invited to. I don’t want to appear all over the place. In a way it lessens your art. I’m just uncomfortable with it and I’d rather stay in with a book.”

He was appointed OBE in 2003. But he has also, he revealed, achieved that other very British high-watermark: one of his early paintings appeared recently on Antiques Roadshow. It was signed Jack Hoggan, the name he was born with. “I started painting at 21, in 1973, and it wasn’t until 1989 that I decided to see if I could make a living and changed my name.”

During that period, he painted dozens of Hoggans, as he calls them, taking four or five at a time down to local charity fundraising exhibitions to sell for £50 each.

The expert on Antiques Roadshow said that the painting was now worth £20,000. “I disagree with that; they were just copies. I was just teaching myself to paint,” Vettriano says. “I trained myself to paint by copying other artists. That was how I learnt, by copying. I put all these different styles in a pot and there was a certain alchemy that took place and it created my individual style. Something unique came out, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Changing his name, he says, was a wonderful marketing ploy. He adopted his mother’s maiden name, Vettriano, which came from his Italian grandfather. “I’m a quarter Italian . . . ” he pauses, grinning, his hands framing his body from mid-thigh to waist “ . . . this bit.”

In both his art and in his conversation, Jack Vettriano returns to sex: not sleazily, but in a rather matter-of-fact way. This is after all the raw material, the commodity, that fuels his art. He describes the sight of the men and women near his home on the Riviera, as “a visual feast”. “Wherever you look, it’s a pleasure. The women are amazing.”

The men are probably amazing too, I venture. “I don’t look at men,” he says. Why should he? He’s the alpha male; it’s his louche fantasy. He admits that it’s usually himself he puts into his pictures. “I love the narrative of men and women. I do find it endlessly fascinating how we behave in matters of the heart, all that lying and deceit. I have never tried to deny that sex is a major interest to me and I think the difference between me and other men is that I admit it. People say to me, are you not ready to move on, but, hand on heart, all I ever wanted to do was paint people in situations I have been in. I wouldn’t deny that the work is fairly autobiographical.”

Unsurprisingly, given the dark, erotic forces in his work, if you ask him his favourite movies he lists Blue Velvet, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife & her Lover and Perfume.

Vettriano quietly gives a lot for charity and, endearingly, retains faith in human beings, as witnessed by his recent investment in a film company, Bright Shadow Films, set up in China by Charlie Moretti, a young St Andrews University graduate. One wonders how such a mentor would have changed his life at the same age. He dismisses it. “If someone had given me a helping hand, I’d be a chef by now,” he says bluntly. “If I had gone to art school I would have had all my figurative leanings knocked out of me by lecturers who didn’t like figurative art.”

Without that academic status, though, his rejection by art circles persists. His income of £500,000 a year from reproductions alone also causes jealousy. “Other artists thought I had sold out when I first agreed to sell posters, and that was for about £2,000 a year. Ask them now whether they’d like to be in my position and I wonder what they’d say. I am in a position to give a huge number of people a huge amount of pleasure, and some artists are filling their garrets with their work which no one will ever see.

“It’s a human thing to resent people that have got there faster than you. Leonard Cohen said there’s a curious side to us that, when in the company of someone whose star is shining too brightly, we try to extinguish it. That’s what happened to me in Scotland. People have been so disparaging.”

He is angered by the attitude of the Scottish establishment. “I’m the best known Scottish artist ever. I don’t say that because I’m the best painter, but because I’m the best known. The Royal Scottish Academy should be about recognising people that make an impact.”

Things may yet change. The “people’s artist” is now being courted by the Nationalist government in Scotland, and this edgy, intriguing man may yet come to get the honour he craves in his own land. Like or loathe his work, it seems only just.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ARTSingapore 2007 Southeast Asia's Largest Contemporary Art Fair

ARTSingapore 2007 Southeast Asia's Largest Contemporary Art Fair


Ananta Mandal, Grand Old Dame - I, 2007, watercolour on paper, 56 x 77cm, Indian Artists Network.

SINGAPORE.- It gets bigger and better every year. Held from 4 to 8 October 2007, ARTSingapore 2007 will occupy a staggering 5,000 square metres at Level 4 Hall 404 in Suntec Singapore. The fair will feature artworks from 86 galleries from 14 countries, with over S$20 million worth of art pieces on display and for sale.

Over its seven-year run, ARTSingapore, Southeast Asia’s biggest contemporary art fair, has established a reputation as a cutting-edge contemporary Asian art fair, where galleries take the opportunity to showcase classic artworks and launch new pieces by up-and-coming artists. For instance, past ARTSingapore fairs exhibited artwork by notables such as Xu Bing, Subodh Gupta and Yayoi Kusama.

As the only major contemporary art fair in Southeast Asia, ARTSingapore also serves as a trade and networking platform where gallery owners, collectors, artists and art aficionados can gather to forge business alliances, acquire new artworks, share ideas and exchange information. ARTSingapore 2007 offers an impressive array of art pieces from galleries across the region, including Australia, India, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as art pieces owned by private collectors. Some of the big names expected this year include: Affandi, Andy Warhol, Anthony Lister, Arie Smit, Chua Ek Kay, Eric Chan, Farhad Hussain, Feng Zhengjie, Fernando Botero, Guo Jin, Justin Lee, Lee Yong Deok, Liu Ye, Ngugen Xuan Manh, Prajakta Potnis, Ruan Xiaojie, Shibu Natesan, Sigma Polke, Sobodh Gupta, Srihadi, Tang Zhigang ,Soedarsono, Yayoi Kusama, Yue Minjun, Zao Wouki, Zhang Xiaogang, Zheng Delong, and Zhou Chunya.

“The art industry in Asia is growing rapidly, due to the rising wealth in the region, as well as the increasing appreciation for the visual arts among the affluent in Asia and globally. Leveraging on this trend, ARTSingapore 2007 is our biggest show ever in terms of both size and scope. Through ARTSingapore 2007, we aim to boost the visual arts market in the region with our optimal combination of the best modern art and exciting new talents from galleries and collectors all over Asia and the world,” says Chen Shen Po, organiser of ARTSingapore 2007.

In addition, collecting and investing in art is fast becoming a lifestyle statement, given Singapore’s rapid rise as one of the most affluent countries in Asia, with many comparing it to Zurich or calling it the Switzerland of Asia. With Singapore reportedly having the highest concentration of millionaires in Asia, ARTSingapore hopes to fill this niche by providing the best variety and quality of art under one roof.

ARTSingapore is more than simply an art fair. The event also offers a series of art talks by industry experts to provide art aficionados with more opportunities to interact and network with each other. Topics such as how to invest in art, the trends to look out for, as well as dialogues with prominent artists and art collectors, will allow visitors to gain some insights into the art industry, as well as fine-tune their own art collection and investment strategies.

In line with the show’s goal to enhance Asia’s visual arts scene, one of the highlights of ARTSingapore 2007 is Singapore-based Parvathi Nayar, a visual artist from India best known for her paintings and drawings which focus on the notion of fragmentary perspectives. Nayar will be displaying her works in a specially created booth and will be present at the show to interact and answer questions from fair visitors.

ARTSingapore 2007 is recognised and supported by the National Arts Council and Singapore Tourism Board. It is also part of “A Luxe Affair”, Singapore’s premium lifestyle program consisting of a lavish lineup of exclusive events, spearheaded by the Singapore Tourism Board. Presenting sponsor of ARTSingapore 2007 is Fortis and the fair is organised by ARTREACH Pte Ltd.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Giudecca795 Presents Minjung Kim

Giudecca795 Presents Minjung Kim


Minjung Kim.

VENICE, ITALY.- Giudecca795 is proud to present Minjung Kim on exhibit for the first time in Venice, from August 25 to September 13, 2007. Opening hours: 11am-11pm. (Opening 25 August: midday-midnight). Free adm. Actv (public transport) boat lines number 41, 42, 82 to Palanca. Born in South Korea, when she was very young she began the study of painting with the greatest masters of calligraphy. At 29 she moved to Italy and continued her studies at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where a knowledge of Western art fostered her artistic consciousness. Her works bear a distinctively Oriental stamp. At times they are painted on white rice paper in black ink, presenting the fluidity of motion. At other times, however, the fine surface of the paper is colored and signed with a flame, producing circular forms of varying sizes. These multicolored circles are then glued to each other in concentric sequences, from smallest to largest, forming wholes that look like delicate flowers. Arranged one beside the other, their polychrome corollas form an abstract texture, suggesting a sort of psychedelic vision with hypnotic effect - as Guido Curto suggests in the catalogue "Vuoto nel Pieno" by Electa.

But.. are they really "flowers"? - "My work has always been a visualization of Zen and Tao" -- the artist says -- In these great philosophies there is the idea of the two opposed principles of void and solid, between which there exists a continuous tension that causes reality to exist. It's a deeply philosophical vision. The two opposed principles change continuously, and this constitutes the essence, the driving force that moves the world. As a painter i have very limited materials, a sheet of paper on which to express this incessant change. What I wanted to achieve is the representation of the essence of chaos, the continuous alternation of the two opposed forces. I burnt part of the sheet, the solid, and so obtained an image that united both the solid and the void. I added another sheet of paper with a hole burnt in the middle and went on like that, superimposing voids and solids. You have to remember that fire is one of the ways of cinrcumventing time. It would take several millennia for the paper to disintegrate: I accelerate this log-term mutation. I call this superimposition of burnt sheets "Void in Fullness". Flowers have nothing to do with it, but if you call them flowers or anything else it doesn't trouble me, because the visible world is made up of the truth of all things... I let people say what they like, because in the end it all comes down to the same thing"

The Artist - Born in 1962, from the age of six she studied painting under various teachers, including the famous watercolourist Yeon gyun Kang, and then Oriental calligraphy, so that she could understand the fundamental precepts of Asiatic speculative tradition.

As Giangiorgio Pasqualotto wrote, the peculiarity of Oriental writing "lies in the fact that is able to design not just the structure of each object, but also, and above all, the action, the active power and the efficacy that the object, whether material or conceptual, contains and expounds. This capacity to make visible the activity or efficacy of an objects is in perfect harmony with the way earliest Chinese culture - classical Tao - understood the universe, as it had always considered everything that is real, not as a set of objects, but as an infinite universe of processes: on the basis of this conception of the world, everything, including apparently inert objects, is invested with an active power, an energy that is not secondary to its existence".

This is what we could describe as the oriental "action painting". The study of calligraphy did not just endow Minjung Kim with this vision of the world but also taught her to communicate by means of the extremely controlled use of the brush, which "channels" the energy and directs it onto the paper.

When in 1980 she enrolled in the Hong Ik university in Seoul, Minjung had already received a very thorough artistic education which was completed through the detailed study of Oriental painting under Taejun Ha, Sunam Song and Sukhchang Hong. Once her university course had been completed in 1985, she took a Master's degree at the same university with a thesis on the four basic material in ink painting (rice paper, brush, ink pigment and the pigment grinding stone).

In 1991 she enrolled at the Brera Academy in Milan. The works of Paul Klee and Franz Kline prompted her to approach a new aesthetic direction that look her progressively away from the figurative tradition towards an investigation of the expressive value of marks and maculas, two stylistic elements that combine perfectly with the 'process-based view of the world' and the ability to 'channel the energy', both o which she learned in her study of calligraphy. During her academic studies, she learned the basics of avant-garde concepts and the expressive freedom that typifies the more recent artistic trends.

Her exploration of the interrelationship between Oriental and Western techniques and conceptions continues outside the Academy. In her pictorial work - which she always executes on the floor in keeping with Oriental tradition, because both literally and metaphorically the floor is the basic support for all painting - Minjung tends to use increasingly concentrated watercolours in order to express effectively the intensity the colours contain.

In her works made during 1998 on overlaid layers of paper, she burned sections of them to generate an effect of three-dimensionality, to provide the viewer with a chronological dimension, and to indicate layers of time symbolised by the layers of paper.

Prints Through The Ages - Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints at Christie's London

Prints Through The Ages - Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints at Christie's London


Roy Lichtenstein, Crying Girl (Corlett II.1), offset lithograph in colours, 1963, signed in pencil. L., S. 434 x 596 mm. Estimate £20,000-30,000. © Christie's Images Ltd.

Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme au chapeau; Portrait de femme au chapeau et au corsage imprimé (Bloch 1072; Baer 1318). linocut in colours, 1962, signed in pencil, from the edition of fifty. B. 630 x 530 mm; S. 751 x 615 mm. Estimate £100,000-150,000. © Christie's Images Ltd.

LONDON.- The most varied and substantial array of Old Master, Modern and Contemporary Prints to be offered in many years at Christie’s London, will be auctioned in a two day sale on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 September, 2007. A particularly broad range of Old Master Prints include works by the three leading names Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt and Francisco de Goya, as well as an unusually large number of Italian 16th century prints .19th Century and Decorative prints are widely represented with works by John Constable, Samuel Palmer, William Blake, George Stubbs and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. The Modern section of the sale offers an extraordinarily strong selection of works by all the major names and is led by a Private Collection, Property of an American Collector. This includes Henri Matisse’s most important print Grande Odalisque à la Culotte Bayadère, 1925 (estimate: £180,000-220,000) and significant, rare works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Further modern highlights include an important group of vibrant Picasso linocuts. The Contemporary section offers sought-after Pop art and works by American artists Donald Judd and Robert Rauschenburg. Over 600 lots will be offered, with estimates ranging from £400 through to £220,000. The sale is expected to realise in excess of £5 million.

Leading Old Master prints on Tuesday 18 September at 2pm, Durer’s A Coat of Arms with a Skull, 1503 (estimate: £50,000-80,000), exemplifies the artist’s exceptional engraving skills which capture textures and intricate details with true finesse. It is very rare that such a good impression of this print is offered at auction. Rembrandt’s Great Jewish Bride, 1635 (estimate: £12,000-18,000) is one of many works by this sought-after master to be offered. Highlights from Italian 16th century artists who add a fresh dynamic to this section include affordable and interesting works such as Parmigianino’s very rare Madonna and Child (estimate: £2,000-3,000); a chiaroscuro woodcut by Ugo da Carpi after Parmigianino, Diogenes, circa 1527, (estimate: £4,000-6,000); Annibale Carracci’s Madonna of the Swallow (with six other works), 1587 (estimate: £3,000-5,000); Domenico Campagnola’s important engraving Battle of Nude Men, 1517 (estimate: £1,200-1,800) and also Giorgio Ghisi’s Vision of Ezekeiel, 1554; with Caius Marius (estimate: £1,500-2,500).

19th Century prints include works by a splendid role call of key English artists, such as John Constable’s famous ‘English Landscape series’ (estimate: £3,000-5,000). It is rare that this series comes to auction in its entirety, complete with all 22 velvety mezzotints. Samuel Palmer’s The Bellman, 1879 (estimate: £5,000-7,000) and William Blakes’ Illustrations for the Book of Job (estimate: £10,000-15,000), will also be offered. Works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler range in theme from London scenes in Old Westminster Bridge, 1859 (estimate: £2,500-3,500) and mythology with Venus, 1859 (estimate: £5,000-7,000), to Venetian subjects with The Palaces, 1879 (estimate: £10,000-15,000) and The Two Doorways, 1879-80 (estimate: £15,000-20,000). A selection of Decorative prints includes George Stubbs’ A Horse Frightened by a Lion, 1788 (estimate: £3,000-5,000).

Modern Prints on Wednesday 19 September, include the Property of an American Collector which features notable works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec. Pablo Picasso’s first print, La Repas Freugal, 1904 (estimate: £50,000-70,000) will be offered, as well as seven important subjects from his Suite Vollard, 1936, ranging in estimate from £10,000 to £50,000. Works by Matisse span his early, lesser known linear etchings of 1906, his woodcuts and include a significant number of lithographs from his famous Odalisque series. The most important subject of the series is his Grand Odalisque à la Culotte Bayadère, 1925 (estimate: £180,000-220,000). an excellent impression which perfectly captures the pervasive beauty and stillness of the model. Fine early lithographs, by Toulouse-Lautrec, range from intimate theatrical scenes, through to cabaret posters. Particularly fresh colours are exemplified in his L’Anglais au Moulin Rouge, 1892 (estimate: £75,000-100,000).

Other important Modern Prints present an excellent array of works, with great depth, by major names. A group of nine unusual early prints by Joan Miro from his Série Noir et Rouge, 1938 range in estimate from £4,000-22,000. Also offered will be one of the largest groups of linocuts, by Picasso, to come to the market in recent years. The 32 prints, which are predominantly artist’s proofs, cover the dominant themes of the artist’s work in the late 1950s; bull fighting, bacanals and bold portraits. Notably, Buste de Femme d’apres Cranach, 1958 (estimate: £80,000-120,000) is Picasso’s first significant linocut, whilst Buste de Femme au Chapeau, 1962 (estimate: £100,000-150,000), is the star of the group, exemplifying unusually fresh, dynamic colours. A select group of Otto Dix’s works include the rare, first trial proof of Kriegskruppel, 1920 (estimate: £35,000-45,000) which is one of the artist’s two most important etchings depicting the ravages of World War I. Also from this Dadaist period are some very early constructivist works in black and white by El Lissitsky. Intended for an edition that was never realised, Proun 1 and Proun 2, 1919-20 (each estimated at: £15,000-20,000) are both rare proofs and unusually each is signed by the artist.

American Post-War prints by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauchenberg, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol provide an energetic pulse to the latter portion of the sale. Works by Lichtenstein include iconic early pop images such Crying Girl, 1963 (estimate: £20,000-30,000), and mature works including Nude with Blue Hair, 1994 (estimate: £70,000-100,000). A group of six Rauchenbergs feature an x-ray of the artist’s own body, Booster, 1967 (estimate: £30,000-50,000), whilst works by Johns provide the opportunity to own one of his celebrated representations of the Flag, 1969 (estimate: £20,000-30,000), in lead relief. Some of Warhol’s earliest portraits of Elizabeth Taylor, 1964 (estimate: £4,000-6,000); Marilyn Monroe, 1967 (estimate: £40,000-60,000); James Dean, 1985 (estimate: £30,000-50,000); and Mick Jagger, 1975 (estimate: £15,000-20,000) will be offered. A unique trial proof, in gold, of Warhol’s Moon Walk, 1987 (estimate: £40,000-60,000) and a unique colour variant of Eva Mudocci, after Munch, 1984 (estimate: £70,000-100,000), are two of the most unusual works in the sale by Warhol, ‘the king’ of pop art.

Amidst the Contemporary prints, works range from Donald Judd’s minimalist portfolio Untitled, 1988 (estimate:40,000-60,000), to images by Francis Bacon, Peter Doig, Lucian Freud, Damian Hirst, David Hockney, Louise Bourgois and Chinese artist Fang Lijun with works such as No.7, 1996, (estimate: £10,000-15,000), a woodcut in three parts. Lijun utilises a traditional technique and format to create very contemporary scrolls.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dalí Illustrates the Bible in New Exhibition at The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg

Dalí Illustrates the Bible in New Exhibition at The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg


Salvador Dalí, The birth of Jesus, 1963-64 (Iesu nativitas), Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.-Although he is best known for his Surrealist works, Salvador Dalí incorporated countless styles and themes into his work throughout his long and illustrious career. Many of the images he utilized in his mid and late career were religious in nature, and works featuring those themes are among the most popular of the Salvador Dalí Museum’s permanent collection. Now for the first time, the museum is presenting an exhibition of Dalí’s illustrations of selected passages from the Bible.

Commissioned by Dr. Giuseppe Albaretto, a friend of Salvador Dalí and collector of his work, as a way to encourage Dalí to re-examine his spirituality and draw him back into the Catholic Church, Dalí’s Biblia Sacra encompasses 105 paintings based on passages from the Latin Vulgate Bible. The original illustrations were completed between 1963 and 1964, with a combination of gouache, watercolor, ink and pastel and published in 1967. Verses from the Old and New Testament of the Holy Bible accompany each illustration.

Raised by a Catholic mother and an atheist father, Dalí grew up among religious and moral conflicts, exacerbated by his father’s marriage to his deceased wife’s sister, and the artist’s affair with Gala Eluard, a married woman. Although Dalí began incorporating religious and historical images into his compositions; had audiences with Popes Pius XII and John XXIII; and even renewed his marriage vows to Gala in a church ceremony, the artist’s search for faith was a life-long journey. Dali’s illustrations for the bible are among his finest illustrated works.

Dalí’s Biblia Sacra, on display in the Raymond James Community Room Gallery, is curated by Dirk Armstrong, Assistant Curator. Fifty-three of the 105 works, will be on display through November 18, 2007.

The museum will present a lecture by Dr. Keith White from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Florida on the History of the Bible as Literature on Thursday, September 27 at 6 p.m. The lecture is free with paid admission ($5 after 5 p.m. on Thursdays). Admission is always free for members and USF students.

The 2006-2007 season is made possible by Progress Energy, whose continued support for arts in the community provides a benchmark for corporate engagement. Progress Energy has been a generous supporter of the Salvador Dalí Museum’s educational programs and exhibitions since 2002.

The Salvador Dalí Museum, which holds the pre-eminent American collection of the artist’s work and celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2007, is sponsored in part by the Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Department, the City of St. Petersburg, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Florida Arts Council. For more information about the Salvador Dalí Museum, please visit the Museum web site at or call (800) 442-3254.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007




"All modern art begins to appear comprehensible. . . when it is interpreted as an attempt to instill youthfulness into an ancient world," José Ortega y Gasset wrote in The Dehumanization of Art, adding that "Europe is entering upon an era of youthfulness."(1)

This was written over three-quarters of a century ago. A century before that, in the "Squibs" section of his Intimate Journals, Baudelaire wrote that "nowadays. . . youth itself is a priesthood -- at least according to the young."(2) The cult of youth, even of childhood -- what might be called the regressive search for the original freshness of being, for the innocent spontaneity and playfulness of the child -- is a constant of the avant-garde outlook.

Kandinsky called the child "the greatest imaginer."(3) When, in A Philosophy of Toys, Baudelaire wrote "I have. . . retained a lasting affection and a reasoned admiration for that strange statuary art which, with its lustrous neatness, its blinding flashes of color, its violence in gesture and decision of contour, represents so well childhood’s ideas about beauty,"(4) and when, in the manuscript Diverses Choses, 1896-1897, Gauguin writes that "man has certain moments of playfulness, and infantile things, far from being injurious to. . . serious work, endow it with grace, gaiety and naiveté," and that, in search of an image of the horse, he "go[es] back very far, even farther than the horses of the Parthenon. . . . as far as the toys of my infancy, the good wooden hobby-horse,"(5) he and Baudelaire are saying the same thing.

It is worth noting that both despised photography as a threat to imagination, for what Baudelaire called its "positivist" wish "to represent things as they are. . . supposing that [the self] did not exist."(6) Gauguin rejected Eadweard Muybridge’s rapid-sequence photographs of The Horse in Motion (1878), declaring that "when machines have come, art has fled," adding that "photography has never been beneficial" to artists.(7) Baudelaire’s and Gauguin’s hatred of mechanical photography is correlate with their love of children’s toys. Toys are the original primitive art -- more universally and fundamentally primitive than the so-called "savage" art of pre-industrial societies, such as Africa and Oceania, which inspired many avant-garde artists, and indeed, has become a cliché of avant-garde authenticity. Without African art we would not have Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon and Cubism, and without Oceanic art we would not have Gauguin’s barbaric "ancient Eve," as he called her. Unlike the "civilized Eve" of Europe, she did not turn men into "misogynists," as he wrote to Strindberg.(8) Nor, for that matter, would Baudelaire have gone out of his way to prefer his "Black Venus," as Ortega suggests he did, in order to repudiate the classic white Venus of Europe.(9)

For Baudelaire and Gauguin the photograph was symptomatic of industrial society and instrumental reason, and thus of the realism of maturity, which involves the realization that the world does not revolve around one’s ego. And they wanted the world to revolve around them. But this narcissistic repudiation of it had to do with their inkling, implicit in their awareness that the photograph could be reproduced ad infinitum, that modern society was fundamentally a mass society. For them mechanical reproduction was the beginning of the end of the imaginative self. Mechanical reproduction meant stifling reduction to sameness, the impersonal homogeneity of universal standardization, an instrument of procrustean social control. To be a modern adult meant servitude and submission to a mechanical system -- to indifferent administrative authority. They did not want to submit, for submission meant living death, and sometimes actual death, as the first world war, which spawned the Dadaist avant-garde, demonstrated.

The toy seems unfettered by social controls and administration, for it invites lively, spontaneous play, reminding us of what, from the perspective of rational adulthood, seems irrational and purposeless, if emblematic of a lost freedom. When Gauguin wrote that we suffer from civilization, and barbarism is rejuvenation, barbarism clearly means a return to youth. The barbaric works of art he found in Oceania were children’s toys for him -- playthings and spontaneous inventions of the primitive or instinctive psyche, which means the uncivilized and thus immature psyche, if to be civilized means to be mature and rational rather than the victim of one’s barbaric instincts, seemingly ever young. The imaginative toy is the enemy of the positivistic photograph for Baudelaire and Gauguin, for it overturns our everyday consciousness while a photograph reinforces it. It puts us back in an infantile frame of mind, rejuvenating us by embodying our instincts. Baudelaire and Gauguin agree that the child’s toy is the model and inspiration for the avant-garde work of art, that is, the work of art that is true to modernity, which is a new age of youth, indeed, a hopeful new childhood for humanity, free of the fetters of traditional models of behavior and thought. To be modern is to be young, and to be young is to be modern, and to rejuvenate one’s youth and instincts is to be eternally modern.

All these ideas of avant-garde art as a youthful new golden age of art -- presumably signaling a youthful new golden age of humankind -- are several centuries old. That is, the idea of being young and modern is timeworn, shopworn, and perhaps senile and obsolete. But let us ask whether the avant-garde has grown up since it first announced its presence, assuming that youth is capable of growing up, even if it doesn’t want to. "It is true that the great tradition has got lost, and that the new one is not yet established," Baudelaire wrote in 1846.(10) Has the new one finally been established? Has avant-garde art finally come of age? It seems so, as Harold Rosenberg’s theory of the "tradition of the new" suggests. According to him, the seeds of avant-garde art were sown in Paris in 1914, that is, shortly before World War I; and shortly after World War II, in 1947, they came to fruition in New York. For Rosenberg as well as Clement Greenberg, the most prominent critics in New York at the time, American Abstract Expressionism was the consummate avant-garde art.

The point was hammered home by William Rubin, the chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art and Greenberg’s disciple, in a series of articles that appeared in Artforum magazine in 1967. Rubin traced the origin of American Abstract Expressionism to French Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism, giving it a distinguished European pedigree. The point was made decisively in the old Museum of Modern Art building before it was remade into the new Museum of Modern Art building. On display, in sequence, was a Monet water lilies mural, Kandinsky’s paintings of the four seasons, arranged as though fragments of a mural, and, climactically, Pollock’s No. 1, 1948, another mural painting. The European paintings were presented as steps on the way to the American painting. The baton of avant-garde art had passed to New York, which won the race for it, that is, made avant-garde art palatable for the masses -- an exoteric rather than esoteric phenomenon.

Does this mean that the avant-garde ripened into a grand tradition in the central city of the New World -- an appropriate place for the New Art to become acceptable and widely respected -- shedding its youthful playfulness and irreverent novelty for a refined seriousness and wise maturity? I don’t think so. I think avant-garde youthfulness was prolonged by being institutionalized in America. It became peculiarly pretentious and over-objectified in the New York School. Ortega notes that in his "generation the manners of old age still enjoyed great prestige. So anxious were boys to cease being boys they imitated the stoop of their elders. Today children want to prolong their childhood, and boys and girls their youth."(11)

Thus, as T. W. Adorno writes, "avant-garde," a "label. . . for many decades monopolized by whoever happened to consider himself most progressive, begins to conjure up comical associations of aging youth"(12) -- an ingeniously decadent condition. Even as the avant-garde aged, it kept giving itself face-lifts -- or, as we say in America, "esthetic surgery" -- to keep itself looking permanently young, that is, immature if not fresh. Avant-garde art has a Dorian Gray complex: It wants to stay young forever. It wants to continue on its rebellious way without showing any signs of wear and tear. It refuses to recognize that it is impossible to be young and modern forever.

The rapid succession of avant-garde movements -- their endless number, each impatiently spawning another like myrmidons (impatience is endemic to avant-gardism) -- is an attempt to give avant-garde art eternal youth. Each movement is the equivalent of a face-lift. A face-lift is an artificial rejuvenation, a way of saving face -- ironically just when it begins to show character, that is, convey selfhood that can hold its own in the world, remain proudly independent even as it fully participates in it. We see such faces, intense with insight into reality, giving them their own noble reality, in the sculptural portraits of ancient Romans. Inner strength and outer fortitude uncannily mingle in their faces, giving them unique presence. The portraits show individuals stoically one with their destiny. They accept the inevitability of death even as they live intensely. Master of their own treacherous instincts and society’s treacherous ways, they have too much self-knowledge and worldly knowledge to be afraid and ashamed of aging. Indeed, they welcome maturity: They have no wish to remain young forever, for to be young forever is to be emotionally impotent.

Youth lacks the willpower and strength of character to unflinchingly face -- and cunningly outsmart -- time. Traditional art aims to do so, and decisively does so in classical art, the inspiration and source of most European art until avant-garde art repudiated and trashed it. What avant-garde art offers instead is a face-saving artificial paradise, which is Baudelaire’s idea of art. Paradise is a place where there is no time and death -- where one is always young and innocent, that is, does not have to face the real world, and have one’s face marked by it, because there is no real world. At least until one is expelled from paradise. But the avant-garde artist believes she will never be expelled from it as long as she keeps making young-looking art. In contrast, traditional art always discovers death in paradise, disillusioning us about youth, as Poussin’s Et in Arcadia Ego suggests. A face-lift is a fear-filled falsification of the truth of time, of transience. A face-lift is a futile attempt to deny the trauma of aging, decay and finally death. The signs of time can be eradicated on the outside, but time eats one up from the inside.

The face-lift the avant-garde gives art implies denial of death -- the inability to deal with tragedy, which is the tragedy of avant-garde art. I think the emergence of death imagery and memorabilia in post-avant-garde art -- art which uses avant-garde and traditional conventions to convey death in an unconventional and untraditional way, for example, the installations of Christian Boltanski, which use found imagery and objects in a grid construction -- portends a healthy future for art. I am always optimistic about art when it engages death, however inadequately -- and one can never adequately represent death and convey its inevitability.

The avant-garde wish and struggle to stay young -- which means not to change -- involves the fear of growing old and becoming traditional. It is an anxious response to the trauma of time, more subtly, the trauma of becoming obsolete, which often takes the insidious form of becoming merely of "historical interest," another period art rather than the ultimate truth of art, which is a dubious way of having one’s existence perceived and remembered, let alone validated. The avant-garde’s anxiety about growing old is a new kind of anxiety, different in kind from the anxiety in which its rebellious originality is rooted, and which haunts its creativity.

Yet the subtle anxiety about aging is reminiscent of the less subtle anxiety catalyzing avant-garde rebellion. That seminal anxiety was aroused by the intimidating impersonality of industrial mass society and the intimidating prestige of Old Master art. Both appeared to be fated -- inescapable. Both were of historical consequence, indeed, grandly significant. And both were indifferent to the individual -- to the difference an individual can make, the serious difference the avant-garde artist struggled to make, the urgently needed difference that would give her the identity and mastery she felt modern society and traditional art could never give her, for she could not identify with and inhabit them. They were too existentially alien to satisfy her need for a sense of self that could stand up to them and even survive without them. (One should note that the revolutionary look of authentic avant-garde art is the look of extreme anxiety, as Picasso suggested when he praised Cézanne for his anxiety. Such anxiety is indicative of alienation from industrial mass society -- Cézanne paints nature, which was more existentially friendly to him, and also more differentiated than industrial mass society, at least in his highly nuanced representation of it -- and the Old Masters, whom he claimed to admire but could not emulate, for they lacked the modern anxiety he wanted to convey through his so-called vibrating sensations. They vibrate not simply optically but emotionally, which is their secret.)

Endgame anxiety -- anxiety about losing the avant-garde spirit of rebellion and becoming commonplace, becoming a part of the artistic and social status quo (banality is the only artistic sin, a sign of creative failure, as Baudelaire insisted, for the commonplace signals stasis and stultification, the ultimate catastrophes of life as well as art) -- and game-initiating anxiety are equally adolescent. But endgame anxiety is a consequence of "adolescence prolonged beyond its normal end," to use André Green’s words,(13) while game-initiating anxiety is typical of precocious -- and provocative -- adolescence. The anxiety that the game will end -- implying unconscious recognition that it has in fact ended in redundancy, defensively turned in on itself because it no longer has existential purpose, because it has been welcomed by the society it rebelled against, because its abnormality has become normal, because its anti-sociality has been socialized, assimilated to the point of overfamiliarity, because while it continues to bark it has no bite, because its creativity has been exhausted, forcing it to rest on its laurels, primp itself for posterity because it has lost inner necessity -- is the emotional sign of avant-garde decadence, that is, the banalization of the avant-garde.

In contrast, the anxiety that initiates the avant-garde game is charged with creative potential as well as destructive perversity. Prolonged adolescence -- youth clinging to itself, absolutizing itself, refusing to go beyond itself and grow up -- involves what Green calls a "kind of disorganized trauma" accompanied by "disruptive anxiety states," that is, states that disrupt "the provisional ego" of the adolescent. Sometimes the anxiety leads to "psychosomatic regression" -- obsession with the body or any of its aspects -- sometimes to "perversion and character disorder," and sometimes even psychosis, often signaled by "precocious mental development. . . that impairs the development of. . . secondary-process thinking."(14) The disruptiveness of endgame avant-garde anxiety is a form of disintegration. So completely arrested that it has nowhere to advance to -- so immature that it has become indifferent to secondary-process thinking, incapable of transforming provocation and precociousness into the critical consciousness of a mature mind -- the avant-garde rots in place. It becomes institutionalized immaturity, embalming itself in the myth of itself.

Adolescence is inherently unstable and precarious (the two traits converge in adolescent impatience) and endgame anxiety, with its accompanying symptoms and disorders -- its disruption of development, completely stopping it in its tracks -- suggests that the avant-garde attempt to disrupt society and destabilize art was never more than an externalization of adolescent discomfort with itself, that is, adolescence’s way of projecting its unstable, precarious, impatient self -- for a provisional self is by definition unstable, precarious, impatient -- into the world, as though the world had deprived it of the foundation that would make it feel stable and safe, indeed, as though the world was no foundation for a self, no place that would protect one from the youthful follies of one’s impatient self. I suggest that Picasso’s 1915 turn to Classicism is less an artistic regression than a maturation into a balanced self -- a self that finds its balance and foundation in tradition.

Prolonged, adolescent malaise -- the youthful unhappiness, with its precious moments of artistic glory, fetishized by the romantics -- casts doubt on avant-garde creativity and originality. They were all along unstable and precarious, and as such flawed and uncertain, especially compared to the foundational creativity and originality of the Old Masters. As Eric Hobsbawm writes, "This uncertainty gives the history of the avant-gardes an air of particular desperation. They were constantly torn between the conviction that there could be no future to the art of the past -- even to yesterday’s past, or even to any kind of art in the old definition -- and the conviction that what they were doing in the old social role of ‘artists’ and ‘geniuses’ was important, and rooted in the great tradition of the past."(15) The latter conviction consciously defends against the avant-garde’s unconscious anxiety that it is creatively inadequate. Such catastrophic anxiety no doubt fuels its creativity.

These signs of prolonged adolescence are self-evident in the key avant-garde figures of Rimbaud, Jarry and Lautréamont -- role models for the Surrealists, as André Breton said. All were adolescent in spirit -- Rimbaud was literally an adolescent when he wrote his poems -- and none lived long beyond chronological adolescence. I will argue that the emergence of the avant-garde is correlate with and inseparable from the emergence of "adolescence" as a concept -- invented by the American psychologist G. Stanley Hall in 1898 -- and that to be avant-garde means to be an extremely anxious adolescent. Adolescence and avant-gardism are correlates, as the historical facts suggest. Avant-garde artists were literally adolescents, and adolescents had avant-garde spirit, that is, they were as irreverent and rebellious as avant-garde artists. Avant-gardism is the acting out, through art, of contempt for authority and established tradition, in an attempt to discredit and replace it. The rebellion is usually carried out in the name of a new order, but there is no clear conception of it, and in fact it is unrealistic and naive. Like the French and Russian Revolutions, the avant-garde revolution becomes a totalitarian reign of adolescent terror -- a more brutal tyranny than the tyranny it replaced, just as the Communist tyranny was more brutal than the Czarist tyranny.

Perhaps the first event that signaled the privileging of adolescence was the publication of Rousseau’s Emile in 1762. It introduced the scandalous idea that puberty was "a second birth." Its characteristics were "a change of temper, frequent outbursts of anger, a perpetual stirring of the mind." Shortly afterwards, in 1774, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther appeared. Its adolescent hero became a romantic role model. Werther had the "sacred and inspiring ability to create new worlds," but, as Jon Savage writes, he was subject to "extreme mood swings . . . sensitivity to social slights . . . and self-pitying rhetoric."(16) Finding no way out of this emotional trap -- unable to resolve his conflicts -- he committed suicide. Unable to grow beyond his adolescent way of feeling and thinking, with its unrealistic expectations from the world and himself, he dead-ended in premature death, in effect confirming his arrested development.

Werther was a fictional character, although somewhat autobiographical -- the novel was Goethe’s attempt to work through his own adolescent attitudes and frustrations (including a love affair gone bad) -- but Thomas Chatterton, who committed suicide in 1770, at the age of 17, by poisoning himself with arsenic, was a real person. In effect the first avant-garde poet, he was idolized as a misunderstood genius by Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth. But they were more interested in his youth than his poetry: as Savage writes, "made permanent by death," his youth "would never fade." Like Werther, Chatterton made suicide á la mode for adolescents -- a fashionable way out of one’s youthful problems.

Perhaps more important than Emile, Werther, Chatterton and all the pathologically romantic adolescents in the world, was Article 28 of the National Council of [Revolutionary] France. It was one of 18 codicils added to the Declaration of the Rights of Man in August 1789. It stated: "one generation cannot subject to its laws the future generation." Thus the generation gap began, as scholars have noted. In the 1840s, Henri Murger’s Scènes de la vie Bohème appeared. Dealing with impoverished struggling artists and the lower-class working girls who were their mistresses -- suggesting the artists’ identification with the proletariat underclass, which lasted only until the artists became economically successful and, with that, bourgeois, whatever their lifestyle -- Murger’s bohemian artist became the model for the avant-garde artist, who maintained a bohemian lifestyle. More importantly, bohemia artistically legitimated Article 28, that is, it was an artistic celebration of the revolutionary rights of youth, more particularly, the right of youth to revolt against the older generation and change the world, implying that as long as one kept rebelling one would never change and grow old oneself. In other words, adolescent revolt became an "artistic" way of remaining eternally young, at least in spirit if not in the letter of one’s body.

At the same time that the adolescent bohemian artist made his appearance, the juvenile delinquent appeared on the social scene. Mary Carpenter’s 1853 book Juvenile Delinquents: Their Confinement and Treatment defined juvenile delinquents as youths with "diminished responsibility." Carpenter’s influential book argued that there should be separate prisons for adolescent juvenile delinquents and hardened criminals in their 20s. It was too late to psychologically treat and socially rehabilitate hardened criminals, that is, to change them for the better, personally and socially, but juvenile delinquents could still be emotionally and morally saved. That is, they could learn responsibility, and thus not become lifelong criminals -- permanently incapacitated, irresponsible, uncivilized human beings, that is, social barbarians and emotional primitives.

Carpenter’s ideas remain in effect today. The term "juvenile delinquent" first came into use in 1824, when it was defined by the New York State legislature as a person under 21. This became the common-law line of psychosocial as well as chronological differentiation between childhood and adulthood. In other words, the adolescent juvenile delinquent was regarded as a child in attitude and behavior, however much he also showed his precocity -- a sort of ironical adulthood -- by committing crimes against society. It is worth noting that just a year later, in 1825, Saint-Simon, who introduced the concept of artists as the avant-garde of society, died, two years after unsuccessfully attempting suicide. In 1845, the Fourieriste Gabriel-Désiré Laverdant, in his essay "On The Mission of Art and the Role of Artists," said that "the artist who is truly of the avant-garde. . . must know where Humanity is going." How can the adolescent avant-garde artist know where Humanity is going when he doesn’t know where he himself is going? Indeed, when he wants to remain young forever, make juvenile and delinquent art forever, which is to go nowhere in art and life -- now there’s a serious revolution against nature and society.

Avant-garde art is not only self-defeating, suggesting its built-in obsolescence -- Renato Poggioli has demonstrated as much -- but its insistence on youthful newness as proof of originality degrades art. Art is an invitation to change oneself. As Rilke suggested in his poem Archaic Torso of Apollo, this means to change from being an immature youth to a mature adult. Avant-garde art is immature art, however much avant-garde art has matured into establishment art. I propose that what I have called New Old Master art -- art that returns to tradition even as it assimilates modern insights into color and form, enriching sensation and complicating structure -- is a new adult art. That is, it is an art for reflective and self-possessed adults rather than anxious and impulsive youth, which means that it is an art that wants to consecrate life -- without denying its problems -- rather than "desecrate everything in its path," as Jacques Vaché, one of Breton’s arrested adolescent heroes, said art should do, as Breton noted. Vaché had "a sense. . . of the theatrical and joyless pointlessness of everything," he wrote to Breton in 1917,(17) shortly before dying from a drug overdose, together with his male lover.

New Old Masterism is an attempt to fight Vaché’s kind of nihilism, which is a direct result of adolescence prolonged by any means. It is worth noting that Breton compared the delirious effect of automatic writing to that afforded by taking drugs, suggesting that he recognized that Surrealism was also adolescent. Such adolescent nihilism expresses the refusal or inability or failure to grow up, to mature into a purposeful adult with character -- a civilized person under the sway of the reality principle.

Avant-garde nihilism, whatever its creative fruits, is a sign of the adolescent’s lack of realism. It is worth noting that avant-gardism has been called "creative destruction," which happens to be Schumpter’s definition of capitalism. This suggests, as Adorno ironically does, that the avant-garde’s so-called permanent revolution -- which means staying young forever, which is what the revolutionary face-lift attempts to accomplish -- is the capitalist motto, as Fortune magazine suggested. Thus avant-garde art is an unconscious endorsement of the capitalism that supposedly is its bourgeois enemy, a view confirmed by the bourgeoisification and commodification of avant-garde art. Such adolescent nihilism, with its regressive rebelliousness and scatological insults -- neither any longer shocking nor sensational, for profanity has become commonplace in public, even in the hallowed halls of Congress -- is still strongly in evidence in today’s self-styled avant-garde artists, for example, Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, the American Sensationalist cousins of the British Sensationalists.

I want to use Alfred Jarry as my case history to make my point about the adolescent fatalism of avant-garde art, before moving on to an examination of the ambitions of the New Old Masterism. I will argue that Jarry perfectly exemplifies the psychoanalytic idea of the destructive and self-destructive avant-garde artist -- and of an avant-garde artist who has run out of creative steam once his destructiveness has spent itself. I will then argue that New Old Masterism is an attempt to reverse course from art invested in the subject to art invested in the object. The New Old Masters find fresh purpose in the human object and in the traditional symbols of its states of being and existential interests. Reminiscing about The Magnetic Fields, which he wrote with Philippe Soupault in 1920 -- officially the first work of automatic writing and the first Surrealist work -- in 1930 Breton wrote: "Perhaps no one will ever more concretely, more dramatically seize the passage of the subject to the object, which is at the origin of the whole modern artistic preoccupation."(18) If the psychoanalysts are correct in thinking that this is a regressive preoccupation, then it is time to return to the object, that is, to emphasize the passage of the object into the subject.

Jarry (1873-1907) is the exemplary avant-garde adolescent. His work is scatological and violent, a sadistic attack on sublimation and adulthood. Its negativity gives it an air of precocity, but is in fact a sign of anxiety, both annihilative anxiety and castration anxiety, which often converge in adolescence, all but completely blocking development. In Ubu Roi, the notorious drama he wrote when he was 23, we see him relieving himself of this messy anxiety -- expelling it in the form of language -- and dumping it on the bourgeois adults who supposedly caused it. He literally attempts to drown the audience in the shit of his anxiety. Ubu Roi opens with "the customized word ‘merdre’," as Elizabeth Menon calls it in her essay "The Excrement of Power," perhaps the most thorough analysis of Jarry and Ubu Roi ever made.(19) This provocative "mot magique" is repeated 33 times. As Menon writes, "the plot of Ubu Roi was simple," as simple as that offensive word.

Ubu was "a grotesquely obese mounted guard" -- "a monstrous, pompous, puppet-like character," as has been noted -- who cruelly "butchers the royal family in Poland," with the encouragement and prompting of his wife, and becomes the King of Poland. He proceeds to murder everyone he meets for their money. Thus the familiar unconscious equation of money and shit: the proliferation of the word "merdre" magically accompanies Ubu’s accumulation of money. Ubu then attacks Russia in an attempt to overthrow the Czar, but is defeated, and flees to France with his wife.

If the wife is a symbol of Jarry’s money-grubbing mother, as has been suggested -- Jarry, a homosexual, never had a wife, and was known to have worn woman’s shoes to the funeral of Mallarmé -- then Ubu represents Jarry in the role of omnipotent oedipal winner. But Ubu’s failure to extend his murderous reign of terror and satisfy his insatiable money-hunger in Russia suggests that Jarry realized that even omnivorous adolescent omnipotence has its limits. The imperial infant will lose his magic power when he confronts adult social power -- will collapse into ridiculous absurdity when he has to deal with a legitimate Emperor. Ubu Roi is usually regarded as the first work in what became the Theater of the Absurd, but I remind you that its "absurdity, incoherence, and defiance . . . of authority" are typically adolescent. Also, Ubu’s delusion of grandeur catastrophically broke down when it overreached itself. The play’s end suggests Jarry’s rude awakening to reality: His money was in fact running out, leaving him to perish in his own shit.

Ubu Roi began as "a dramatic sketch first conceived by Jarry at 15, with some schoolmates, to caricature a schoolmaster." Caricature is a form of character assassination. It subverts what it represents, often trivializing it by distorting it. A schoolmaster symbolizes the superego, that is, social authority and responsibility, and with them civilized behavior. We all resist the power of the superego even as we seek its approval. But the adolescent Jarry mocked it, an act of defiant rebellion intended to undermine its authority, and finally destroy it. And also to avoid social responsibility and decency.

What began as irreverent satire ends with nihilistic violence in Ubu Roi. Ubu is a failed superego -- an absurd puppet set in motion by his wife. More subtly, Ubu is a synthesis of out-of-control adolescent -- namely the rebellious Jarry -- and all-controlling superego -- that is, an authoritarian ruler. Ubu is rapaciously rebellious adolescent and tyrannically brutal adult in one. Thus his much noted grotesqueness, at once intimidating and repulsive.

His obese body is repulsive. His obesity implies that he is trapped in his body, that is, is more body than mind. Immersed in unhealthy baby fat -- Ubu is a picture of physical as well as emotional pathology -- Ubu’s self is unable to emerge and mature. Busily feeding on money -- an infantile dependence -- he becomes emotionally flabbier, suggesting that he will never grow up enough to gain control of his greed. His fat flesh confirms that he lacks the adult’s ability to contain himself. Ubu is a transparent case of completely arrested adolescent development. He is a juvenile delinquent run amuck.

Jarry was born into a bourgeois family and lived off his family’s money. His hatred found a target in the bourgeois, but it was ultimately self-hatred -- hatred of his dependence on his family. And of the fact that he himself was bourgeois. Is his hatred of his origins responsible for the originality of his art? It is a negative originality, that is, an originality premised on negation, and as such it is more destructive than creative. Ubi Roi is what Clement Greenberg called Novelty Art. It is in fact an artistic failure, and was recognized as such, but its provocative character gave it creative cachet. Innovative through destruction, perhaps, but destruction is not innovative.

Jarry was a rebel whose only cause was his destructive hatred. In the end it destroyed him. He died at the age of 34, after "spiral[ling] into an anarchical existence, ending his life in utter destitution and alcoholism." Thus life followed the lead of art: artistic nihilism dead-ended in personal nihilism. "Liv[ing] on a small inheritance" after coming to Paris, he never earned money of his own. "He cut a bizarre and eccentric figure around town, mounted on his bicycle, carrying and often exhibiting revolvers" -- Breton’s idea that firing a revolver into a crowd is the ultimate surrealist, not to say anti-social act, was supposedly inspired by Jarry -- but "his fortune was soon dissipated," and he along with it.

Ubu Roi perfectly exemplifies Michael Balint’s view that "modern art" is the result of "narcissistic withdrawal" leading to "degrading the dignity of the [human] object into that of a mere stimulus."(20) The "attitude towards" the object is no longer "on the mature level; it assumes more and more immature ‘pre-genital’ forms. . . . The treatment of the object, or the artist’s attitude to it" is "conspicuously on what psychoanalysis would describe as the anal-sadistic level. The objects are dismembered, split, cruelly twisted, deformed, messed about." Think of Picasso’s Cubist and Surrealist figures. Ma Jolie has been regarded as an ironic allusion to the French expression "faire de jolie," which means to mess about or make a mess of things, in effect destroying them, confirming Picasso’s idea of his Cubism as a "sum of destructions." He also remarked that he wanted to completely destroy the person pictured in his Cubist portraits. Instead, he stopped short of doing so by caricaturing the person, a form of character assassination, as noted, and, more tellingly, of what Freud called "soul murder."

Balint adds that "some forms and methods of representation in ‘modern art’ are highly reminiscent of primitive ‘anal’ messing." One wonders what he thought about Pollock’s all-over painting. This brings to mind Manzoni’s fetishization of artist’s shit, and Duchamp’s idea of putting excrement in a navel, one of Duchamp’s last proposals for a work of art, according to Dalí. "Less and less regard is paid to the object’s feelings, interests and sensitivities" in modern art, Balint remarks. "Kind consideration for, and ‘idealization’ of, the object becomes less and less important." All that matters is conveying the artist’s "narcissistic states," however perverse.

Interestingly, Balint gives us a clue as to why avant-garde movements quickly replace one another. If "the tension" in a narcissistic state is "so great" that it "tends to break down, disintegrate spontaneously even without any forceful attack from outside," as Balint writes, then narcissistic avant-gardism cannot help but repeatedly break down, suggesting its creative inadequacy. Clearly this is connected to its failure to respect the human object, even address it, as pure art’s indifference to the human object -- it is not altogether clear that pure art’s transcendence can be distinguished from indifference -- indicates.

Every feature of New Old Masterism is opposed to avant-gardism. They stand to one another as a mature adult stands to an immature adolescent. Perhaps the most salient trait of New Old Masterism is that it arises from a psychic position of reverie, in contrast to adolescent avant-gardism, which arises from a psychic position of anxiety. What I call reverie has been called contemplation, but I think reverie is a more accurate sense of what psychically occurs in contemplation. Reverie is akin to what Wordsworth called "memory recollected in tranquility." The problem with adolescent avant-garde art is that there is no tranquility or reverie in it, confirming its creative and human failing. And also its inability to remember -- to mentalize an experience so that it can endure in the unconscious and be retrieved in consciousness -- for unless one is in a state of reverie one has nothing to remember. It is only in reverie that memory can be constructed, which leaves adolescent avant-garde art stuck in the immediacy of the moment.

Much has been written about the avant-garde’s obsession with the moment, the sense of here and now immediacy that is the source of the so-called sensation and shock of the new, but the exciting moment is always transient and finite, even when it is what Bergson called a duration -- personally experienced time, and thus seemingly flexible time, time that organically grows, that seems innate to one’s individual existence -- rather than a universal instant in a mechanical sequence, a minor detail in an infinite series of anonymous moments. Adolescent avant-garde art has a flash in the pan look to it, and however hypnotically intense the sensations it initially conveys, it has little lasting effect on the self, offers little beyond its glittering surface -- offers little to remember and reflect on, and thus has no transformative effect, suggesting that it is a kind of infatuating fool’s gold. Like Stendhal’s branch of love, adolescent avant-garde art magically glitters when it first appears, seemingly fresh from the artist’s unconscious, but in the light of consciousness it quickly loses its novel glitter, becoming a passing fancy. One easily falls in love with avant-garde art, or becomes infatuated with it, but one just as easily falls out of love. Disillusion quickly follows illusion, for avant-garde art offers little food for thought, however instantly "impressive" it is.

In contrast, New Old Master art is imbued with memory -- founded on memory, and thus adulthood. Intensely immediate sensation is implicated in it, but never overwhelms the narrating of the memorable object, but rather convinces us of its uncanny presence, indeed, gives what would be an ordinary appearance esthetic reality, implying that it is inherently extraordinary, that the object has a subjective life of its own independently of its perceiver. The best New Old Masters have assimilated the important truth that seemed like a revelation when abstraction first appeared: sensation has a certain autonomy, it can exist as pure form, what Kandinsky and Malevich called non-objective sensation, sensation that owns itself rather than is owned by the object, sensation that does not need representational purpose to have meaning.

Pure abstraction shows that sensation exists independently, opening a realm of feeling that has nothing to do with the object, a self-validating realm of subjective feeling with a subtle life of its own. The integration of this pure or essentialist subjectivity, the climactic discovery of sensationalist abstraction -- the terra incognita of sensation that modernism stumbled upon in Impressionism, conquered in pure painting, and has been colonizing and apotheosizing ever since -- with object representation, the mimetic concern of traditional art, deepened by the astonishing feat of the Old Masters, who invented ways of conveying the object’s subjective life and with that its existential uniqueness and wholeness, that is, the simultaneity of its objective and subjective reality, is the ambitious task the New Old Masters have set themselves.

Reverie is the term Wilfred Bion uses to describe the "state of calm reflectiveness" the mother needs "to take in the infant’s own feelings and give them meaning. The idea is that the infant will, through projective identification, insert into the mother’s mind a state of anxiety and terror which he is unable to make sense of and which is felt to be intolerable (especially the fear of death)."(21) Reflective reverie is clearly something we all need to deal with our anxiety, especially the deep anxiety that our lives will come to nothing, end in meaninglessness, often accompanied by the feeling that we are not taken seriously by others, not given enough special attention -- a common enough adolescent feeling of futility that exhibitionistic avant-garde art intends to remedy by attracting a great deal of attention.

"Mother’s reverie is a process of making some sense of it for the infant, a function known as ‘alpha function.’ Through introjection of a receptive, understanding mother the infant can begin to develop his own capacity for reflection on his own states of mind." The alpha function is a "containing function." Without it -- without learning self-containment, which involves gaining and organizing a mind and structuring a self -- meaning seems to be stripped from life, "resulting in a terrifying sense of the ghastly unknown" or "nameless dread," that is, living death. In other words, without the capacity of "reverie for reflective meaning" we are unable to symbolize and name our feelings, only be attacked and destroyed by them.

Bion calls such raw, unprocessed feelings "beta elements." They are experienced as ugly, and expelled as fast as they occur, and thus unremembered. Thus one is unable to reflect on them and understand the workings of one’s psyche, a necessary step in constructing an authentic self and gaining self-knowledge, and experiencing beauty. The transformation of beta elements into alpha elements -- units of memory, which is perhaps the first form of mind (the first act of mind is to store feelings, the second is to see the connection between them, the third is to understand its nature, which is to recognize their commonality without denying their difference) -- is the imaginative core of creativity.

I am suggesting that the adolescent avant-garde lacks imagination in this sense, indicating that it is creatively incomplete. It does not so much offer us symbols of anxiety as the sensation of it -- which quickly fades, because it cannot be remembered, since it lacks symbolic form, or else its symbolic forms do not perform the alpha function, inviting one to reflect on them rather than mindlessly experience them. Adolescent avant-garde art is a beta art, and a beta art is always a revenge on life, while New Old Master art is a new alpha art, involving the restoration of beauty and maturity, and with that sanity, to art. Mauricio Lazansky, an important printmaker, once said that "Throughout history there have always been two kinds of artists: those who work for beauty and those who use art as a means of revenge for life." The Cubist Picasso used art as a revenge for life, that is, in a nihilistic beta way -- his raw planes are in effect beta particles expelled by the infantilized figure and used to bombard the spectator with their meaninglessness -- while the Classical Picasso attempted to give beauty new credibility and meaning, which means to give eternal meaning to the human object, thus overcoming the fear of death. But it lingers in the emptiness of the space Picasso’s Classical figures inhabit, which sometimes invades and informs them, reducing them to ghosts. Their contours give them presence, but otherwise they are pure myth, which is perhaps all that beauty is in modernity.

I am suggesting that New Old Masterism involves containing, storing, linking and finally unifying the variety of anxious sensations of narcissistic modernism in memorable representational modes to effect a sense of self that is neither traditional nor modern, but a stable compound of both. Such traditional modes are symbolically adequate, and thus able to contain anxious sensations without denying their presentational immediacy.

I am arguing, along with theorists who view creativity in terms of evolution, that there is no significant creativity without a foundation in tradition, which symbolizes all that is memorable, mature, and of demonstrable value in a society, implying that tradition can never lose meaning and will always reward reflection; and iconoclasm that questions the finality and values of tradition and challenges traditional modes of understanding, but that remains valueless unless it achieves its own finality by becoming part of and holding its own in tradition, thus gaining lasting meaning and proving its continuing value to society.

I happen to think that avant-garde art has not unequivocally done so, however representative it is of modern society, with its cult of youth, indeed, its fetishization of youth, and can never convincingly do so, because to be avant-garde means to be incorrigibly adolescent in attitude and thus unable to relate to and respect tradition, which does not mean to blindly conform to it. Adolescence can express itself but not reflect on itself, which is why avant-garde art cannot become seriously traditional, that is, a civilizing force.