France - Louis Vuitton Foundation
The building boasts an auditorium, a stepped waterfall a restaurant and art galleries. Photograph: Justin Lorget/ Justin Lorget/Corbis

When architect Frank Gehry unveiled his plans for a museum shaped like a massive glass cloud in the heart of Paris it looked little more than a few squiggles on a piece of paper.

Even Gehry, whose celebrated works are often cited as among the most important in contemporary architecture, had difficulty finding words to describe what he hoped to create.

“It’s a cloud of glass – magical, ephemeral, all transparent … it’s not stodgy,” he told the Guardian back in 2006.

On Friday, Gehry’s glass cloud – which has also been nicknamed The Iceberg, but is officially the Louis Vuitton Foundation – was unveiled.

As promised, the massive glass, metal and wood structure – commissioned by Bernard Arnault, president of the French luxury goods group LVMH and France’s wealthiest man – appeared to float ethereally over one of France’s oldest parks, the Jardin d’Acclimatation.

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Kim Willsher
The Guardian

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Jack Napthine’s Untitled 2013. Photograph: Jack Napthine/Art Unlimited, Geelong

The art of Jack Napthine is a powerful mix of boldly outlined locks, light bulbs and snatches of text; Julian Martin’s thick pastels give a dense velvety texture to his drawings; and Terry Williams’ soft sculptures of fridges, helicopters and video cameras are flamboyant and witty.

They’re all talented artists whose art is shown and collected in Australia and beyond and whose creations are currently part of Everyday Imagining: New Perspectives on Outsider Art at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne. But a few decades ago, their careers would have been unthinkable. In all likelihood, they would have spent their lives in institutions for the intellectually impaired.

Outsider art was a term coined in 1972 by British art historian Roger Cardinal. It was a roughly equivalent but more inclusive coinage for art brut (raw art), a 1940s label by Jean Dubuffet for work by inmates of insane asylums, which the French artist described as “unscathed by artistic culture … and the conventions of classical or fashionable art”.

Today, as well as including artists with disabilities or mental illness, the term is increasingly applied to others on the margins of art and society: the homeless, ethnic minorities, migrants, folk artists, the self-taught. Outsider art is hot – art fairs dedicated to the work of the marginalised draw large crowds and big bucks. The flagship exhibition of Massimiliano Gioni’s 2013 Venice Biennale was entitled The Encyclopedic Palace after the work of self-taught Italian outsider artist Marino Auriti.

But while examples of creativity unscathed by artistic fashion can be exhilarating and inspiring for artists and collectors, it’s a salient feature of most outsider art that the people applying the label are invariably on the inside – gallerists, academics, psychologists and artists who are art-school or university trained.

There has long been a fear of including the self-taught in the world of high art, says James Brett, founder of the Museum of Everything, a peripatetic collection of unclassifiable and undiscovered art that has taken up residence at London’s Tate Modern as well as Selfridges department store.

Brett is one of the speakers at Contemporary Outsider Art: the Global Context, a conference taking place in Melbourne from 23 to 26 October. “Being called an outsider artist is a badge of pride if you’ve been labelled as marginal elsewhere,” he says. There are many more art-makers than those who society labels artists, he adds. “Insider” art, with all its rules and gatekeepers, is only a small subset of a much larger world of creativity.

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Fiona Gruber
The Guardian

MET
A nighttime view of the recently completed David H. Koch plaza at The Met.
(© The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Though the Metropolitan Museum of Art has often been accused of elitism, the landmark institution’s granite front steps numbered among New York City’s most democratic public spaces. On any given day tourists, panhandlers, patrician Upper East Side locals, and New Yorkers of all variety would meet, sit, linger, people-watch, or perhaps read a book on the Met’s front steps or in the tree-lined plaza they overlook. That is, until 2012, when the museum boarded up its front courtyard and plaza for a renovation — a first since the steps and courtyard landscaping were added to the Met’s frontal façade in 1968, as part of an expansion designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkledoo.

The much-beloved public space reopened last week after a thorough, if subtle, overhaul by Philadelphia-based landscape architects OLIN. The redesign leaves much about the plaza and stairs unchanged — the designers’ most successful interventions preserve and accentuate those features that gave the space its reputation in the first place.

One hundred and six trees have been planted and parasols have been added to the alley of trees now lining the 1,021-foot-long street-level plaza, providing 17,600-square-feet of shade. New square fountains, articulated in black granite, flank the grand entry staircase, replacing the original, deteriorating fountains that had been in use since the 1970s. Both permanent and temporary seating has been expanded along the plaza. The effect makes the Met plaza an even more pleasant place to linger, and museum visitors and passersby will surely respond to these changes with great enthusiasm.

One detail of the renovation, however, has already been met with outright hostility. Along the side of the two new fountains, gilded letters spell out “David H. Koch Plaza.” The renovation’s billionaire funder, who gave $65 million for the project, has also donated money to right-wing causes that include the Tea Party and climate-change denial.

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Anna Kats
Blouin ArtInfo

Turps art school in London
Outsider art … Turps art school in London

I thought painting was supposed to be dead. It seems impossible to nail into its casket. Wherever I look this autumn, paint is being splashed about. From Turner and Constable to Rembrandt, Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter, great painters are strutting their stuff.

Even Marcel Duchamp, inventor of the readymade and, some would say, the artist who knocked painting off its pedestal, is examined in a less familiar light – as a painter – by the Centre Georges Pompidou this autumn. Duchamp proves it’s an empty cliche to think painting is irreconcilable with the multiform art of today. Painting has such a diverse history – encompassing such varied phenomena as Chinese landscapes on silk, medieval frescoes and Jackson Pollock – that it obviously has the capacity to evolve in infinite ways as the world changes.

And yet, it’s undeniable that many people today equate modernity in art with modern media. Video and photography are glibly identified with the new, and painting is routinely equated with the past. This is arguably true of many art schools, where there is a powerful emphasis on multimedia ways of making art.

Some painters are rebelling against this. They have even founded a new art school to put it right. The Turps art school, co-founded by painter Marcus Harvey and connected with the magazine Turps Banana, has just been given a painting by Keith Coventry to support its activities as it moves to a new home on the Aylesbury estate, in south London. It defines its mission as fighting for better painting tuition and tutorial input, and against the rise in tuition fees on established fine-art courses.

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Jonathan Jones
The Guardian

Louvre

Hrag Vartanian, whom you may know as the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, had a very interesting opinion piece published on Al Jazeera America the other day. The headline was Break up the major museums to save them, with a deck saying “August institutions should build more outposts rather than cloister themselves in big cities.”

Quite a proposal. His thoughts seem to have been triggered by attendance at the Louvre (12 million a year by 2025), and the experiences of many museum-goers — who can barely get near the art because the galleries are so crowded. He recapped some of the complaints contained recently in a New York Times article, Masterworks Vs. the Masses, which noted “soaring attendance has turned many museums into crowded, sauna-like spaces, forcing institutions to debate how to balance accessibility with art preservation.”

Most of the comments agreed that conditions for real art-lovers are now horrible. Vartanian went beyond “us,” though, to look at museum reviews on Trip Advisor, where he found that the “masses” tended to agree. Wrote one of the Vatican Museums: “Seriously, it would only take one person to trip or to cause some kind of mild panic or corridor rage … it doesn’t bear thinking of.” And another of the Louvre: “There was absolutely no way that myself and my family members could enjoy the museum. There are so many people that all you have time to do is make sure you aren’t trampled by the mass coming at you from every direction.”

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Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

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Just three patches of fresco remain in St Catherine’s, following restoration work carried out after the church was handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church by local legislators in 2010

German heritage advocates have accused the Russian Orthodox Church of causing irreversible damage to the 14th-century Brick Gothic church of St Catherine at Arnau near Kaliningrad, especially to its frescoes.
“The… iconography of the painting[s] in St Catherine’s Church in Arnau from the 14th century had not yet been thoroughly researched [and they] are irretrievably lost,” wrote Nicole Riedl, an expert in Medieval wall paintings at Hawk University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, Germany in her report, after she visited the church in July with a group of activists from the German-based Kuratorium Arnau.

Walter Rix, a German academic who led the trip and is one of the founders of Kuratorium Arnau, which was created in 1992 by German historians, theologians and art experts to save the church and its frescoes, described St Catherine’s in a 2010 report to the Nordic World Heritage Foundation as the second oldest “within the total of the historic realm of the Order of Teutonic Knights”.

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Sophia Kishkovsky
The Art Newspaper

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872. Artist: Monet, Claude (1840-1926)
First light … Claude Monet’s Impression: Sunrise, 1872 (oil on canvas). Photograph: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The birth of impressionism now has an exact date and time: it was invented at 7.35am on 13 November 1872, according to an astrophysicist who has calculated exactly when Claude Monet painted Impression: Sunrise, his smoky dawn vision of the port of Le Havre.

This makes a nice headline, but history, sadly for journalists, does not work like that. Things never really happen in a neat, packaged way. That’s why the first historian, Herodotus, dedicated so much of his epic book about the wars between Persian and ancient Greece to a digressive discussion about the entire history of the known world: he was trying to get at the complexity of cause and effect.

Art is just as complex as war. When Monet called his intensely atmospheric morning scene Impression: Sunrise he coined a name for this art movement in which French painters dedicated themselves to capturing the fleeting light of never-to-be-repeated moments. But it was not until they had a group exhibition in 1874 that they were recognised as fighting for a common cause. On the other hand, the ideas impressionism was to make notorious, then famous, then revered, were not new at all.

At the heart of impressionism is a desire to paint the immediate, sensual passing scene, in city or country – ideally and mythically – by placing an easel in the open air. John Singer Sargent beautifully captures this ideal in a portrait of Monet at work in the flux of nature, his easel set up amid the balmy elements.

But this idea did not appear like a flash when Monet painted Impression: Sunrise at 7.35am on 13 November 1872. It had evolved over nearly two centuries – at least. Oil sketching in the open air was already common in the 18th century, when it reflected a Newtonian belief in empirical truth and the Romantic pursuit of oneness with nature. The Welsh 18th-century artist Thomas Jones was a particularly bold Georgian proponent of painting in the open air.

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Jonathan Jones
The Guardian

Was Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling inspired by religion, or just funded by it
Was Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling inspired by religion, or just funded by it? Photograph: Carmine Flamminio/ Carmine Flamminio/Demotix/Corbis

Further to the correspondence inspired by Ian Flintoff on Richard Dawkins, the notion that religious inspiration has contributed to the bulk of great art in the past (Letters, 16 August) needs more careful examination.

For a significant period of European history, including the pre-Christian Roman era, commercial success for an artist, and therefore survival of art works to the present day, entailed tacit or more often explicit conformity with social, political and especially religious norms, in societies where religious institutions formed a key part of the political power structures. It was the power of those institutions to employ artists and pay for their materials which “inspired” or prompted the production of art. It is noteworthy also that in societies where the religious institutions largely discouraged or refused to fund the production of figural art, such art flourished within the more limited secular market, although survival of its products has been significantly hampered by those same religious institutions.

Artists may or may not have been “inspired by religion”, but we will never know, except in those rare cases where they explicitly denied such inspiration and usually suffered the consequences. For the rest, we can only try to read implicit meaning from their work – a notoriously inaccurate form of analysis, rather akin to the belief system espoused by Flintoff himself and so coherently criticised by Dawkins and other rationalists.

Sarah Lambert
The Guardian

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Post-it note discussing two paintings; installation view, Art Is Therapy, 2014. Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Photo: Olivier Middendorp.

Viewers are supposed to marvel at Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642), but do they really? Many of us have unsatisfying responses to the works of the Masters, yet we still troop through the museums by the millions. This disconnect has led Alain de Botton and John Armstrong to guest-curate a selection of 150 works at the Rijksmuseum from their pragmatic point of view.
De Botton and Armstrong assert that art’s purpose is to heal some of the pain and malaise felt in life. It would be easy to dismiss this as didactic and anodyne. But reclaiming this broad, utilitarian view of art and reconnecting with the public in an approachable way is not simplistic. It is an important critical challenge to the reductive and self-referential intellectualism that dominates much contemporary discourse.
Tagging each work with large, yellow Post-it-style notes, the curators chat with the audience about the psychological dynamics of viewing art in a large museum. The notes aim to demystify the thoughts and feelings of viewers. Some notes describe the purpose of museums (“cathedrals of art”), while others name the alienation we feel in a room crowded with strangers. Democratizing the viewing experience in this way touches the soft underbelly of art, where contemporary critique has rejected notions of social purpose, beauty, and meaning and thus alienated much of the public.

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Daily Serving

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“Ian Hamilton Finlay: Arcadian Revolutionary and Avant-Gardener” is abuzz with aphorisms, quotations, and various verbal parries.

Imagine yourself strolling through a verdant park, enjoying the pleasant vistas, the richer oxygen, the weird, wrap-around three-dimensionality of it all (so unlike a screen), and then, out of nowhere . . . Zzzzzp. (Ouch!) And a minute later . . . Zzzzzp! (Yeow!) And so on.

Not insects, but words deliver these rousing stings. And their little pricks of poison are felt not on the skin but in that part of the body encrusted with cant and cliché called the brain.

Hello, and thank you, Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Finlay (1925-2006), a Scotsman, is the subject of a small but deeply engaging show at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum this summer. Although most of the work is indoors and on framed pieces of paper, it’s advisable — it’s almost inevitable — that, while viewing it, you imagine yourself wandering through a carefully tended neoclassical garden, receiving Finlay’s verbal (but also graphic and sculptural) stings with varying degrees of dismay, pleasure, and irritation.

Gardening was one of Finlay’s abiding obsessions. The others were classical poetry and philosophy (above all Virgil and his “Eclogues”), the French Revolution, World War II, boating, and the sea. A strange mix, on the face of it, but they all combined symphonically in Finlay’s 5-acre garden, the pungently named “Little Sparta,” in the Pentland Hills, smack bang in the center of southern Scotland.

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Sebastian Smee
Boston Globe

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