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“El Beso de los Invisibles” mural, to which Zas contributed

Here, where graffiti is classified as a violation rather than a crime, street artists do not have to hide. Bright murals, often uncompromisingly political, cover public walls, as well as those of home and business owners who, understanding the value (cultural and financial), allow their own properties to be used as a canvas.

In late 2011, the police shooting of teenage artist Diego Felipe Becerra provoked such an outcry that the city’s authorities issued a decree relaxing laws against graffiti and giving artists permission to work on certain public walls — as well as private ones, with building owners’ permission. Now, street artists are able to work more freely. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though, and working as a woman brings its own set of challenges. The small core group of working women streets artists in Bogotá includes Lik Mi, Zas, Bastardilla, Ledania, Hera, Fear, Zurik, Yurikauno, and Lili Cuca. Opinions on the significance of their status as women in a male-dominated field vary among them. Here are some thoughts from three.


Karen Gardiner


LA The Broad building
Work progresses on The Broad museum in Los Angeles, which will share a block with the Museum of Contemporary Art and Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Photograph: Matt McClain/Washington Post

The 32-metre-long escalator tube isn’t finished yet and the museum’s intricate outer shell is still being assembled, but when Joanne Heyler walks out on to the top floor of The Broad, a contemporary art museum set to open in downtown Los Angeles next year, she can’t resist smiling.

“It never fails to take my breath away,” said Heyler, The Broad’s founding director.

The Broad, sharing the Grand Avenue block with the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art (Moca) and Frank Gehry’s shimmering Walt Disney Concert Hall, is not just a $140m building. It’s at the core of a cultural boom in a place once famous for training artists – and then sending them off to New York to build careers. Long the centre of the movie industry, the region is now becoming a magnet for artists, dancers, musicians and museum leaders.

“We used to always be the wild stepchild out in the desert,” said acclaimed abstract artist Mark Bradford, a Los Angeles native. “Now, we’re being adopted. We’re seeing people coming here to build much larger, bigger galleries and private museums. Things you used to only see in the east.”

About 12km west of The Broad (pronounced “brode”), the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is raising $300m as part of a plan to open a movie museum in 2017 on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (Lacma) campus. Big donors for that project include music mogul David Geffen and director Steven Spielberg.

Earlier this year, the museum lured Kerry Brougher, the chief curator of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, to be its director. Lacma has a grand plan of its own, a $650m redesign of its campus that would stretch over Wilshire Boulevard.

And Hauser & Wirth, the contemporary art powerhouse in London, Zurich and New York, is hanging up a shingle in Los Angeles.

“People used to complain that people went to New York to buy what they could buy in LA,” said Kathy Halbreich, the associate director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “I don’t think that happens anymore. I think there’s a recognition that the city matters, that the people aren’t just there for the weather. You see a level of ambition that’s been ratcheted up.”


Geoff Edgers
The Guardian

Howard Hodgkin
Personal and direct … Howard Hodgkin in his London studio. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Howard Hodgkin sits in a wheelchair in his studio. Light falls through the glass roof on to big boards propped against white-washed brick walls. One by one, his studio assistant starts moving them to reveal a glistening array of new paintings. It seems banal to call them beautiful – but that’s what they are.

“When I was young,” says Hodgkin reassuringly, “I used to mind people describing my pictures as beautiful. I don’t any more.” Why did he mind? “I used to think that it meant the subject was neither here nor there.”

Hodgkin paints what most people would call abstract art. Yet he insists that every slither of luscious colour refers to a particular place and time. His serpentine brushwork is not decorative. Each painting has a “subject”, as he puts it.

No one can fail to see that when confronted – as I am in his studio – with a painting called Pain. It is a small wooden panel 27cm wide. Hodgkin paints on wood because “it doesn’t answer back”. He reuses old wooden frames, their antique materials and ornate woodwork becoming part of the painting. Pain is a series of fierce brushstrokes on a stained brown board, in horizontal bands, red above black above purple above a muddier, bloodier red. There’s a smear of weak white. Such bands of colour are similarly used to create oppressive moods in the paintings of Mark Rothko, but where Rothko’s colours are soaked in, Hodgkin expresses himself in visible, dramatic, unfinished brushstrokes. The result is much more personal and direct.


Jonathan Jones
The Guardian

Susan Flavell. Freud’s Desk, 2013; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Turner Galleries.

Early in 2013, six Australian artists made a pilgrimage of sorts. They left a sweltering southern summer for the gray frigidity of London, where they spent three weeks working on-site at the Freud Museum…

At the museum, we encountered the shrine-like space of Sigmund Freud’s study, preserved as it was in the final year of his life, after his family had fled Nazi Austria. Even then, the study already had a museum-like quality, having been transported from Vienna and remodeled as faithfully as possible on the original. Here, Freud created something of a gesamtkunstwerk: a collection of the world and a self-portrait all in one room. The iconic couch is there, of course, as well as the unsettlingly anthropomorphic chair, but almost every square inch is occupied by Freud’s obsessive collection of antiquities from the ancient Mediterranean and Asia. The treasures of his collection were displayed on his desk, an intimate pantheon that he would contemplate while writing, caress while consulting patients, and greet like dear friends. They bear witness to vanished civilizations and archaic religious rites, but also the birth of psychoanalysis, Freud’s flight from Nazi persecution, and his death in the study after a long battle with cancer. As such, these objects are entangled in a complex web of histories and mythologies both global and personal.

This is irresistible fodder for an artist like Flavell, who is fascinated by the systems through which we attempt to make sense of the world and give form to things beyond our comprehension, mythology and psychoanalysis among them. One of her ongoing interests concerns the ways that humans represent and act upon the animal world, and the autonomy of nonhuman creatures in spite of these attempts to enculturate them. The animal-human hybrids on Freud’s desk have spurred the production of “unquiet objects” that amalgamate and improvise upon the disparate cultural and historical currents at work in his collection.


Thea Constantino
Daily Serving

Day four of a Buddhist sand-mandala ritual at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Florida earlier this year. (Photo: Lee Lawrence)

Until relatively recently, if you were not a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the chances of seeing a sand mandala were slim. Today, however, opportunities abound. In July alone, monks from the Atlanta-based Mystical Arts of Tibet will create shimmering, colorful sand mandalas in New York, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia. As I discovered earlier this year at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center of Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, even more entrancing than the end result is the three-to-five-day process: A slow-paced feast of religious ritual, symbolism, performance and temporal art.

It begins with sound: Preternaturally low, vibrating notes energizing the air like the complex tones of a pipe organ. They emanate from nine Tibetan Buddhist monks dressed in dark red and golden saffron, eyes lowered. Punctuated by the wail of horns and the clash of cymbals, their rhythmic chanting dispels harmful spirits and invites the blessing of the Buddha—for it is here that they will build him a palace.

When the senior monk, or vajra master, steps forward, he visualizes the symbolic rendering of that divine abode. The chanting then drops away, the horns, cymbals and drums are stored, and the monks embark on a transfixing exercise in memory, precision and what Buddhists refer to as mindfulness, a state of being present in the moment.


Lee Lawrence
Wall Street Journal

Chapman Brothers
‘We coloured in Gilbert and George’s penises for eight hours a day’ … Jake and Dinos Chapman. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

‘It was hard labour by any measure,” says Jake Chapman, recalling his and brother Dinos’s apprenticeship as assistants to Gilbert and George. “There was absolutely no creative input at all. They were very polite and it was interesting to hear them talking – as we did our daily penance.”

What did the work involve? “Colouring in their prints. We coloured in Gilbert and George’s penises for eight hours a day.” At least you didn’t have to pay, as Rembrandt’s assistants did, for the privilege of working in the master’s studio. “Oh, we paid,” retorts Chapman. “We paid in dignity.”

The relationship between artist and artist’s assistant is vexed, ripe for oedipal tensions, mutual resentments, or at least spitting in the great master’s lapsang souchong. How tired, one suspects, Lucian Freud’s assistant (and painter in his own right) David Dawson, got of being called “Dave the Slave” by his late master.


Stuart Jeffries
The Guardian


The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is currently banned from leaving China, is creating a major work for this summer’s Emscherkunst triennial art festival (22 June-6 October), to be held in the Ruhr region in western Germany.

Aus der Aufklärung (Out of enlightenment) will consist of 1,000 tents, installed along the Emscher river. The festival, now in its second edition, is closely tied to a €4.5bn eco-project, scheduled for completion in 2020, that is designed to bring the river back to life after 100 years of industrial pollution. The festival is spread out over 47 sq. km between the participating cities of Duisburg, Dinslaken, Oberhausen, Essen, Bottrop and Gelsenkirchen.

Ai is currently overseeing the production of the tents, each of which will be unique and able to house two or three people, in his Beijing studio. Visitors will be able to rent them for the night for “a low, symbolic price”, says the festival’s curator, Florian Matzner. “The idea is to let normal [sic] people participate, and their activities will give the… work its sense.” The installation carries numerical and conceptual echoes of Ai’s Fairytale People project at Documenta 12 in 2007, for which he brought 1,001 of his compatriots to the town of Kassel, encouraging them to interact with the city and record their impressions. The work was accompanied by Fairytale, 2007, an installation of 1,001 historic chairs from China.


Ermanno Rivetti and Julia Michalska
The Art Newspaper

Microscopic samples of the work were carefully extracted in two places

It seems a layer of varnish added later to protect the work is in fact turning the yellow to a greyish-orange colour.

High-intensity X-ray studies described in Analytical Chemistry found compounds called oxalates were responsible.

But atoms from the original paint were also found in the varnish, which may therefore be left in place.

It is not the first time that the bright yellows that Van Gogh preferred have been examined with X-rays.

In 2011, an article in the same journal from a team led by the University of Antwerp’s Koen Janssens reported that a pigment Van Gogh favoured called chrome yellow degraded when other, chromium-containing pigments were present.

The new work was begun during a conservation treatment in 2009, when conservators found that the yellows in Flowers In A Blue Vase – this time from a pigment called cadmium yellow – had turned greyish and cracked.

Normally, cadmium yellow grows paler and less vibrant as it ages.

So the team again took tiny samples of the work to some of Europe’s largest sources of X-rays: the ESRF in France and Desy in Germany. Both use vast particle accelerators to speed up electrons, which spray out X-rays as they pass around the accelerators.

The purpose was to determine not only what was in the samples in terms of atoms and molecules, but also the precise structures in the interface layer between the original paint and the varnish.

That is where the team was shocked to find a compound called cadmium oxalate as the cause of the grey-orange pallor.


Jason Palmer

Theaster Gates

When I arrive at 6901 Dorchester Avenue at nine in the morning in August, the house is already buzzing with activity—I can hear the sound of a buzz saw upstairs. The building is due to open later this month as the Black Cinema House, a space for research into and the screening of films about African-American culture and by artists of colour. It is one of the many urban rebuilding projects by the Chicago artist and current art-world favourite Theaster Gates.

During my visit to his South Side neighbourhood, the house looked as though it was nearing completion: the first-floor screening room was mostly finished, with a projector and drop-down screen already installed next to a gleaming, open kitchen covered in stainless steel (the ritual of communal meals is an important element of Gates’s work). The once-abandoned house had been gutted and renovated to create a warm, inviting space, using materials salvaged from this and other buildings. The beautiful, darkly stained redwood around the doors and windows, for example, was rescued from an old water tower, while the slate green walls in an office turned out to be chalkboards from Crispus Attucks Elementary School, named after an African-American slave who was the first casualty of the Revolutionary War.

The Black Cinema House is just one of the latest rebuilding projects that Gates has undertaken in Dorchester Avenue and the surrounding neighbourhood of Grand Crossing. His earlier renovations include a two-storey house that has been turned into an archive and library, and a former candy store that served as an event and performance space, and is currently being re-gutted to take on a new use—perhaps as a further extension of the archives next door. A few streets away, Gates has bought up a whole complex of neglected Chicago Housing Authority apartments, which he plans to turn into mixed-income artist housing with an on-site arts centre. Last month, the news broke that Gates had rescued a long-abandoned bank on Stony Island Avenue from demolition by the City, and he is hoping to transform it into multi-use space to house a cultural centre, a soul-food restaurant and artist studios. He is due to present his plan for the bank to the city council this month.


Helen Stollas
The Art Newspaper

Terrorist or graffiti tagger? Os Gêmeos’s The Giant of Boston

A mural by the Brazilian street artists Os Gêmeos, installed in Boston as part of their first US solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, has drawn some divisive comments and stirred up debate about cultural understanding.

The twin brothers painted the 70-foot-tall mural The Giant of Boston depicting a boy wearing a red jacket wrapped around his head in the city’s high-traffic area of Dewey Square (the figure of a shrouded graffiti tagger is a common motif in the artists’ work). But when the local Fox news affiliate posted an image of the mural on its Facebook page and asked its readers, “What does it look like to you?” some responded with bigoted comments: “terrorist”, “towel head”, “Mooselim protected by Obama!” and “a Muslim woman in a head scarf holding an AK-47 in her hands”. The figure isn’t holding anything in its hands, but the image used by Fox features a crane in front of the mural that could look like a gun.


Eric Magnuson
The Art Newspaper