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The $120,000 Banana Highlights The Elitism Of The Art World

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There’s a reason so many people find the art world to be impenetrable and elitist  – it’s designed to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting my local art gallery; it’s a great place to take the kids, and often, I discover beautiful and thought-provoking pieces. But sometimes, I feel downright frustrated by the works that have been chosen for inclusion.

A few years ago, I encountered a memorable piece of modern art – a scrunched up piece of A4 paper, lying on the floor, surrounded by a do-not-cross rectangle, presumably to ensure the janitors didn’t sweep the thing up after the gallery closed.

I watched, as gallery patrons came and went, most spending several minutes staring, contemplatively, at the scrunched-up paper. Nobody laughed; there was only deferential silence. Seeking guidance, I read the accompanying plaque, which said something about how the scrunched up paper was representative of the creative struggle.

Maybe it was. But it was still a scrunched up piece of paper. And to me, that piece was a perfect representation of the insular nature of the art world, the fact that an elite group of insiders can magically imbue a piece of paper with a massive amount of monetary and cultural value, merely by proclaiming it so.

Earlier this week, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s creation, “Comedian,” a banana duct-taped to a wall, was sold for $120,000. A few days later, the banana was eaten by a local performance artist, David Datuna.

“Comedian,” however, lost none of its value – the eaten banana was soon replaced by another, equally ordinary banana, which inherited the monetary value of the previous banana, and was even deemed important enough to warrant police protection, in the event of another hungry performance artist.

“[Datuna] did not destroy the artwork. The banana is the idea,” Lucien Terras, a director at the gallery, told the Miami Herald. Perhaps the entire thing was staged, a publicity stunt, like Banksy shredding his own artwork, an act which only increased the value of said work.

“Comedian” seems to be a meta-commentary on the nature of value, perhaps mocking those with the authority to transform a piece of fruit into a small fortune. But even viewing the piece in that context seems to be giving the banana too much credit – questioning the valuation of art isn’t exactly an original idea. More than a hundred years ago, Marcel Duchamp turned an ordinary porcelain urinal into a famous piece of art, titled “Fountain.” I’ve seen a replica of the piece in my local gallery, and I even stared at it, contemplatively.

Of course, no one can tell you what is art, and what is not; there’s no official definition, no clear boundaries. If it moves you, you can call it art. If it doesn’t, and you want to call it art regardless, that’s fine. If art is anything, it’s subjective.

To the outsider, modern art often appears incomprehensible, and the belief that art somehow “peaked” decades, or even centuries ago, isn’t uncommon. Admittedly, it is easier to see the effort and skill behind a classical painting or sculpture than many modern, abstract installations. The context behind modern art isn’t always obvious. But then again, the fact that a banana can be sold for $120,000 is outright obscene.

Great art still exists, often outside of the major art institutions, in the small spaces, sold in stands and tiny galleries, untainted by the tsunami of money flowing through the mainstream.

But much of the art world, to me, resembles a niche internet subculture, a community of insiders, sharing memes that rarely leave the circle, memes which become progressively self-referential and abstract, until they evolve to the point that an outsider could never interpret them. To the outside world, the meme might be indecipherable nonsense, but to the community, it is imbued with meaning.

That’s the art world, but with one crucial difference – profit. Art is bought and sold for obscene amounts of money, the subjective value distorted by buyers and sellers, transformed into cold, hard cash. Personally, I find it hard to believe that art can even exist in such a space.

In fact, memes might be more representative of the human experience than many of the pricey pieces of modern art that fill galleries and auction houses. I’m deadly serious – memes might be silly, crude, forgettable, but they are never created for the purpose of profit (well, advertising companies generate memes too, but let’s exclude them, for the sake of my point).

Generally speaking, memes are created for creation’s sake, in the hope that others will like, share, or be inspired to customize the image, some created for no reason at all. Like a single frame of celluloid film, one meme can only hold so much meaning, but if viewed as a collective, in the context of the countless memes in which it shares its image or theme, the meme offers a more insightful look at the subconscious of modern humanity than a banana, duct-taped to a wall.

Or a scrunched up piece of paper, for that matter.

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I’m fascinated by storytelling, in all its myriad forms; mythology, fairy tales, films, television, and urban legends

Source: The $120,000 Banana Highlights The Elitism Of The Art World

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Why Berlin Artists Are Transforming Trash into Sculpture

When I first moved to Berlin from the U.S. two-and-a-half years ago, I couldn’t believe how much of the art was garbage. I’m not being catty, I swear: I mean art made from refuse pulled directly from the city’s orange bins.
Wherever I went to see art—luxurious private collections; former spy towers–turned–artist squats; an art school vernissage—I saw trash, too. Memorable works include a defunct television dressed in orange spray paint and glitter gazing at visitors’ groups from the bushes at Teufelsberg, and a dirty doll’s head staring ominously from a multicolored pile of rubbish at a masters program’s student showcase last spring.
Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Early into living here, I asked a friend studying at the art school Weißensee what the deal was. Why were so many artists using what I delicately called “recycled ready-mades” in their work? She explained that the answer was twofold: The school didn’t provide students with art supplies, and—whether out of financial necessity, cheeky anti-establishment rebellion, or both—her peers turned to making art out of trash.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The beauty of Berlin—much like its trash art, perhaps—lies in its ugliness. Unlike nearby capitals like Paris, Vienna, or Prague, Berlin’s historic architecture was decimated in the bombings of World War II.
Today, the cityscape feels something like modern ruins: The few remaining sections of the Berlin Wall are overlaid in layers of constantly refreshed murals and graffiti; the gigantic former Tempelhof airport was repurposed into a massive public park, complete with tarmacs and hangars.
Berlin is a city of opposites. In recent years, it’s seen an economic upswing, followed by an ongoing stream of new citizens—a mix of privileged migrant “expats” (hello) and asylum-sanctioned refugees. Simultaneously, a wave of tech-based startups began to build their offices here, encouraging successful and large tech corporations like Tesla, Google, and Amazon to at least consider doing the same. Meanwhile, many in the booming millennial generation in Berlin make negligible wages.
Hang Linton and Laura Lulika at BALTIC
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Hang Linton and Laura Lulika at BALTIC
In the years since that conversation with my friend from Weißensee, I’ve seen neighborhoods of the city significantly change—clubs close and open; trendy apps come and go. Yet all along, this particular character of art made from trash has remained. It seemed to signal a longstanding Berlin ethos of anti-capitalist, down-‘n’-dirty artist squat punk that drove people like me here in the first place. It’s an ethos that—as Elon Musk builds his factories in neighboring Brandenburg—many consider under threat.
Recently, the artist Maxine Puorro, also a student at Weißensee, told me that the decision to find inspiration in artifacts “gleaned” from Berlin’s streets is not so much rebellious as it is practical. Puorro’s works incorporate whimsical, oversized plants in large papier-mâché pots, adorned with found objects.
It’s a matter of “not wanting to spend too much money,” Puorro said, but it’s also about using environmentally conscious materials. And, since Weißensee—like other German institutions—is free, she emphasized that an anti-institution sentiment wasn’t (in her eyes, at least) a motivating factor. She noted that in addition to free tuition, the school provides a decent amount of materials, like plaster, and offers workshops.
Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,”  2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Installation view of Aram Bartholl, “Strike Now!!,” 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

When I spoke to Berlin-based artist duo Hang Linton and Laura Lulika (who perform either under the names Baby Punk + Dr. Babuyoka or Jumpchoke + gungeMUTHA), they agreed with the financial end of Puorro’s argument. “As artists from marginalized, working-class backgrounds,” they explained, “studio space and materials are expensive, and we still need to find ways to create. Recycling and repurposing came as an ideal way to build on a budget.” There’s a sense of pride, they continued, “that comes with resilience and being able to survive on very little.”
In performances and installations, Linton and Lulika present otherworldly characters in a landscape of mutated detritus, floating somewhere between ritual, fantasy, and nightmare. The notion of survival through challenge and precarity is especially poignant in their works, which center around themes of illness, healthcare, and otherness. Interestingly, Linton and Lulika connect their reuse aesthetic, reminiscent of post–Berlin Wall punks, to contemporary technologies: “We live in gloomy times and yet we recycle these moments into memes,” they said.
Through the cooptation of recognizable, used objects, Linton and Lulika reclaim symbols of capitalism and turn them, as they say, into a “meme.” Through reclamation and subversion, artists are finding their voices in the collective detritus of society.
Boros Collection
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Boros Collection
Unlike Linton and Lulika, who glean evocative materials first and envision new creative purpose after, local multimedia and conceptual artist

creates recycled ready-mades that are hyper-particular. Focusing on the meeting point between trash and technology, Bartholl—whose work has been shown at prominent spaces including New York’s MoMA and Pace Gallery—often selects symbols that highlight the gap between the digital and the physical. His work considers the way technology tends to emerge, become indispensable, then disappear into obsolescence.

“We’re so dependent on these devices,” Bartholl told me. “It has all our precious, private data on it, and then the moment it breaks, or it’s old and discarded…it becomes this toxic trash.” In a recent show, “Strike Now!!” at Berlin’s panke.gallery, Bartholl employed the near-ubiquitous urban eyesore, the e-scooter. These “colorful icons,” as he described them, are “like sculptures scattered all over town and a lot of people hate [them].” Something about the contrasts embodied through Bartholl’s practice feels especially of Berlin to me: opposing ideas brought together through breathing new life into disintegrating materials.
Almost nothing embodies this Berlin aesthetic as much as the Boros Collection, a private collection of contemporary art held in a 1943 bunker–turned–nightclub–turned–refined art space. Juliet Kothe, director of the Boros Collection, also recognizes the contrasts between art in Berlin and the popular contemporary aesthetics in other, more commercial markets like London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles.
Unlike those cities, she explained, Berlin doesn’t aim itself towards a commercial art market as much as what she called an “artist art field”—where work is “much more about symbolic value, rather than economic value.” This explains, then, why I would see “trash art” in established museums and galleries.
“Berlin is a city of historical disruption,” Kothe said. “This is why I love the bunker so much, because I think it symbolically stands for the shift of political systems.” Over 75 years old, the bunker that now houses the Boros Collection has seen three different regimes in the city. “The constant reusing, and redefining, and transformation is part of Berlin,” Kothe added. “It’s inherent.”

By: Eliza Levinson

Source: Why Berlin Artists Are Transforming Trash into Sculpture

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Regie und Kamera: Daniel Laufer Konzept: Daniel Laufer und Eva Lezzi Eine Co-Produktion von: DAGESH. KunstLAB ELES und Asylum Arts. A global network for Jewish culture Der Film Asylum in Paradise gibt Einblick in die Arbeit von acht jüdischen Künstler_innen, die ihren (momentanen) Lebensmittelpunkt in Berlin haben. Die Filmaufnahmen dokumentieren sowohl die Arbeitweise der jungen Künstler_innen als auch ihre Produktionsorte wie Ateliers und Ausstellungsräume. Dabei verdeutlichen die Künstler_innen ästhetische Konzeptionen ihrer Kunst ebenso wie jüdische Aspekte ihres Schaffens. Sie erzählen über Berlin als Inspirationsquelle und zugleich über die unverzichtbare internationale Verortung progessiver zeitgenössischer Kunst. Folgende Künstler_innen wurden porträtiert: Ariel Reichman (Bildende Kunst) Benyamin Reich (Fotografie) Anna Schapiro (Bildende Kunst) Liane Aviram (Bildende Kunst) Renen Itzhaki (Tanz, Performance) Evgenia Gostrer (Film) Alona Rodeh (Bildende Kunst) Gergely Lászlo (Bildende Kunst) Alle acht Künstler_innen haben unterschiedliche Migrationserfahrungen. Sie stammen aus Israel, der ehemaligen Sowjetunion, aus England oder Ungarn. Der Titel „Asylum in Paradise“ wurde – in Anlehnung an einen Songtitel der Berliner Band Silly – gewählt, um auf die Flüchtigkeit des jeweiligen künstlerischen Standorts, aber auch auf das Asyl, das Kunst bieten kann, zu erinnern.

The Feminist Artist Who Created The Selfie Nearly 100 Years Ago

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Maria Lassnig was a selfie artist decades before it was a trend. The painter, who was born in 1919 in Carinthia, south of Austria, studied at The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and was prolific in her creation of figurative painting ― particularly figures of herself ― from then on. But despite working pretty much non-stop after her studies in Vienna, Maria went largely under the radar for most of her life. She was left out of important conversations about figurative painting and her essential contribution to the mid century movement ― she was overlooked.

In 2016, a major retrospective of her work changed all of that. But it was a overdue accolade that Maria was never aware of. She died two years before in 2014 and one year before she was awarded the Venice Biennale Golden Lion. Since the Tate retrospective, exhibitions of Maria’s work pop up now and again. Body Check at the Lenbachhaus Museum (until 15 September) in Munich is one of those exhibitions. It shows Maria’s work depicting bodies, particularly her own, and contrasts her work alongside figurative paintings by the German painter and sculptor Martin Kippenberger.

Maria Lassnig, The Quality of Life, 2001, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Maria Lassnig, The Quality of Life, 2001, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Viewing the show, it’s hard not to notice that Lassnig was working in the realm of the female gaze almost a hundred years before it became a talking point. In the 1940s, she created a method that in German she coined as “Körperbewusstseinsmalerei”, and in English “body awareness painting”. Now, we’re used to seeing work featuring menstrual blood and body hair by artists like Rupi Kaur and Arvida Bystrom, but Maria was one of the first women artists not to be coy in featuring blood, fat and the aspects of being female that artists comfortably share on social media now.

This approach continued to the end of her life. She painted You or Me in 2005, a painting that shows her naked posing with two machine guns. The painting The Quality of Life, made in 2001, has a similar mood and shows Maria naked in the sea holding a glass of wine. It’s in paintings like these that Maria’s feminism is radical ― but her most cutting statements were in her Kitchen War paintings. In this series she criticises gendered roles in the home, with paintings like In The Kitchen Bride depicting the artist as a human cheese grater in the kitchen.

Maria Lassnig Sprechzwang, 1980, Privatsammlung, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Maria Lassnig
Sprechzwang, 1980, Privatsammlung, courtesy Maria Lassnig Foundation

Body Check at the Lenbachhaus Museum is a show you wouldn’t expect to find in Munich, with cities like Berlin being thought of as the art centre of Germany. But the show is one of many signs that Munich’s art scene is both established and growing. On the established side there are institutions such as the Pinakothek der Moderne, a post-modernist building designed by the German architect Stephan Braunfels. “There are 100 works by Cy Twombly alone here in Munich. I mean that’s incredible!” Dr Corinna Thierolf told me. Corinna is the head curator of the museum, which was built in 2002 to house the contemporary art of the state of Bavaria. It now holds one of the biggest collections of contemporary art in the world including key works by Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, a founding member of the Die Brucke movement.

Cy Twombly's at Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany

Cy Twombly’s at Museum Brandhorst in Munich, Germany

Museum Brandhorst

Munich also has the power to pull in massive loans. Most recently they borrowed a painting by Caravaggio from the Vatican in Rome, The Entombment of Christ, for the exhibition Utrecht, Caravaggio and Europe at the Alte Pinakothek Museum ― a show featuring work by Caravaggio and contemporaries of the artist inspired by his work known as Caravaggisti. The exhibition features works by artists including Bartolomeo Manfredi, Jusepe de Ribera, and Valentin de Boulogne, who were heavily influenced by Caravaggio. It’s the first time the Vatican had ever lent to a Munich museum.

The exhibition of Maria Lassnig’s work is part of a bigger effort by museums and galleries in the city to exhibit modern and contemporary art that appeals to a younger demographic. Alongside these institutions, hotels like the Bayerischer Hof, with a wing designed by Belgian interior architect Axel Vervoordt, are removing the connotations the city had as a home of stuffy classical art and design, leaving space for a new wave of contemporary culture in Munich.

Bayerischer Hof Hotel wing by Axel Vervoordt

Bayerischer Hof Hotel wing by Axel Vervoordt

Bayerischer Hof Hotel

Grace Banks is the Editor-in-Chief of SLEEK Magazine and writes about international current affairs and culture.

Source: The Feminist Artist Who Created The Selfie Nearly 100 Years Ago

The Rise of the Skeleton King, the ’80s Bone Dealer Who Changed Halloween – Sam Woolley

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When Marshall Cordell started buying human bones in the late 1970s, he says a full skeleton from India cost “probably $199.” Back then, almost all real human skeletons came from India, and companies there sent him catalogs listing everything from skulls to finger bones for sale. “They were literally like an auto parts shop, only with real skeletons,” Cordell, who turned 71 this year, says today. “You could buy ear bones. You could buy human teeth.”As the new owner of a medical chart company, the young college graduate……….

Read more: https://gizmodo.com/the-rise-of-the-skeleton-king-the-80s-bone-dealer-who-1830112481

 

 

 

 

 

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