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James Rosenquist’s “Sand of the Cosmic Desert in Every Direction” (left), and “Quantam Universe,” 2012. Courtesy Richard L. Feigen & Company, New York

In April 2009 a forest fire destroyed [James Rosenquist’s] Aripeka, Florida, home, including a large studio and his personal art collection. “I didn’t cry in my beer after that,” he says. “I just went back to work and tried to forget about it.” Still, the event, in which he lost a reported $14 million in artwork, seems to have had an understandably traumatic effect. He readily brings it up in conversation—“It was a real dent in my career, destroying a lot of stuff”—goaded by the fact that, because the property is deemed to be in a new flood plain, the government won’t allow him to rebuild.

Asked if the loss of so much of his output in the fire caused him to reevaluate his oeuvre or career, he retorts, with some disdain, that no, he doesn’t concern himself with the past, only with “what’s ahead.” Rosenquist does not look back, doesn’t dwell on history. Indeed, he claims the past doesn’t press on him: “Nothing weighs on me. I don’t feel any weight.” But he is very much concerned with time.

He turned 80 this past November and corrects me when I suggest that his upcoming exhibition, opening April 29 at Bjorn Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm, is composed of recent works. No, he says, they’re “late works.” And unlike those Pop pieces for which he is best known, Rosenquist’s later efforts have few recognizable images. Stars, galactic dust, as well as the effects of red or blue shift abound, usually presented in tightly juxtaposed, sharp-edged prismatic planes. Most were made in 2012, and some were first shown at Acquavella, his gallery in New York. The following summer he had a bout of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, an illness that put him in the hospital for a month, where, he recounts, “I had hallucinations that were very vivid. They were cinematic, not like paintings.”


Daniel Kunitz
Blouin Art Info


Bridget Riley at the press preview of her Flashback exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpoo
Strokes of genius … Bridget Riley at the press preview of her Flashback exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Photo: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Is there a glass ceiling for women in the arts? When it comes to visual art, a superficial glance by a visiting alien would see 21st-century Britain as one of the best places and times there has ever been for women working as artists. I went to Rome for my holidays. I gorged on paintings, frescoes and statues, from ancient Roman mosaics to Canova nudes. None of these great works of art of ages gone by are credited to women – which doesn’t mean there were no women artists at all before modern times. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder lists women artists. The Renaissance writer Giorgio Vasari also praises a handful of women. But art was organised as a male-only craft and women could only sidestep the guild system under exceptional circumstances, such as being the daughter of a painter, like the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi.

The exclusion of women from art was a holocaust of talent, a denial of half the human imagination. That’s over. Modern art appeared at the same women campaigned for the vote. In Britain, the contemporary art boom that started in the late 1980s has – apparently – seen as many women as men become famous. Compare the art world of Tracey Emin with the art world of Artemisia Gentileschi and it’s obvious a lot has changed.

Or has it?


Jonathan Jones
The Guardian

“Untitled” by Jackson Pollock was one of the forged works. How imitations of the most heralded Abstract Expressionists by a complete unknown could have fooled connoisseurs and clients remains a mystery.

For 15 years, some of the art world’s most established dealers and experts rhapsodized about dozens of newly discovered masterworks by titans of Modernism. Elite buyers paid up to $17 million to own just one of these canvases, said to have been created by the hands of artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell.

But federal prosecutors say that most, if not all, of the 63 ballyhooed works — which fetched more than $80 million in sales — were painted in a home and garage in Queens by one unusually talented but unknown artist who was paid only a few thousand dollars apiece for his handiworks.

Authorities did not name or charge the painter and provided few identifying details except to say he had trained at a Manhattan art school in a variety of disciplines including painting, drawing and lithography. He was selling his work on the streets of New York in the early 1990s, they said, when he was spotted by a Chelsea art dealer who helped convert his work into one of the most audacious art frauds in recent memory.


Patricia Cohen and William K. Rashbaum
New York Times

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

Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm
Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm, owners of the Dairy gallery in Bloomsbury.

Two leading collectors have transformed a former dairy in the heart of London into a vast gallery that will compete with the Saatchi collection for the attention of contemporary art lovers.

Frank Cohen, a Mancunian DIY magnate whose collection is second only to Charles Saatchi’s, and Nicolai Frahm, a Dane based in London since 1997 with postwar European abstract art among his collecting passions, will stage shows drawing on their respective collections as well as loans from other sources.

Situated near the British Museum, the 12,500 sq ft warehouse was the former milk depot for Express Dairies, and Cohen and Frahm are retaining the building’s raw, industrial design. Entry will be free and there will be a bar lounge because, in Cohen’s words, “we think that art should be for everyone”.

Comparisons with Saatchi, who also opens his gallery to the public, are inevitable. There will be some overlaps, but the Dairy will stage one-man shows rather than the group exhibitions favoured by Saatchi. The opening show in April will be devoted to Swiss artist John Armleder. He is among older artists who, Cohen and Frahm believe, have been eclipsed by the art world’s obsession with youth.

“We’re trying to give London another space which has a completely different feel [from Saatchi’s Chelsea gallery],” said Cohen, 69, who made his fortune with DIY stores, having started as a market trader selling wallpaper from an old ambulance “in the freezing cold seven days a week”. The son of a factory machinist, he left school at 15 and recalls that his family seemed never to have money but never starved. Over decades, he has built a collection of modern British artists including LS Lowry, as well as contemporary American, German, Chinese and Indian art.


Dalya Alberge
The Guardian

VIPs, exhibitors and members of the press get the party started at the Raleigh Hotel, which hosted the Art Basel Miami Beach welcome reception last night.

Exactly one year ago, the collector, dealer and sometime columnist Adam Lindemann was roundly criticised for an article he wrote in the New York Observer, in which he announced: “I’m not going to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. I’m through with it. It’s become a bit embarrassing, because why should I be seen rubbing elbows with all those scenesters, people who don’t even pretend they are remotely interested in art?”

In what he now says was a satire (he did indeed come to the fair), Lindemann exhorted those who care about contemporary art to “Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach” to “correct the ills of global art fairdom once and for all, and to send the dealers, the artists and especially the art-fair companies our message of protest”.

In the months since, however, others have started to express doubts about the state of the contemporary art world. Recently, a number of art-world figures have broken ranks, claiming that the high prices being spent on art invite trophy-hunters and oligarch investors, not serious appreciation.

Although there have always been complaints about the pernicious influence of the market on art, and the ease with which rich patrons sway taste, this was counterbalanced by the critical discourse about the cultural value and meaning of art. Today, the noise around the market has amplified, while independent critical debate is diminishing. “Art and money have slept together since the beginning of time. It’s the same as it ever was, only more so—there are more people with more money, spending more money more publicly,” says the critic Jerry Saltz.


Charlotte Burns
The Art Newspaper

They really know how to put on a show: PST opening celebrations at the Getty Center last year

Pacific Standard Time (PST), the Getty-funded collaboration of southern California’s institutions, is estimated to have added $280.5m to the local economy, according to an economic impact study released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation today, 1 November. Published a little over a year after the art extravaganza opened, the study also found that museums and galleries taking part in PST spent a total of $29m during the six-month initiative, but this resulted in $111.5m in spending by the estimated 1.8 million visitors to all the exhibitions and events. Around 2,490 jobs were supported by the project, creating $101.3m in income and $19.4m in tax revenues to state and local governments.


Helen Stoilas
The Art Newspaper

Floor work … artist Helen Frankenthaler at work in her studio in 1969. Photograph: Ernst Haas/Getty Images

Seattle Art Museum has done a striking thing. It has removed all works by modern male artists from its galleries and filled them with works by 20th- and 21st-century women artists from Georgia O’Keeffe to Pipilotti Rist.

Works of art by Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock have gone into storage. Instead, you can see paintings by Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, and her fellow abstract expressionist Helen Frankenthaler.

Is this the best way to rebalance art history? After all, patriarchy is not the personal fault of, say, Robert Rauschenberg – another of Seattle’s vanished dead white males. Rauschenberg is a highly original, compelling artist whose work inspires artists today – male and female alike. One young artist who seems to me to work in his tradition is, for instance, Lucy Skaer.

In fact, the stunt in Seattle is only for a few months: the big macho names will be back in town soon enough. But still. This is a slightly old-fashioned political art gesture, surely?

Maybe not.

The story of art is an iceberg of gender inequality, a daunting frozen mass of male power. Before the 20th century, the apprenticeships and academic training required to learn representational skills put chilling obstacles in the way of women, who were excluded from such institutions. In the 20th century, the ice started to melt – but arguably this created more insidious and hypocritical forms of inequality.


Jonathan Jones

What are we to make of a show that calls itself Art of Change: New Directions from China? I don’t think it’s worth discussing new directions in the context of Chinese art – there were no old directions, either. Chinese art has never had any clear orientation. Yes, the artists in this exhibition, which opened at the Hayward gallery in London last week, have struggled against the limitations imposed by the Chinese state more stridently than others. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is just another attempt to introduce western audiences to so-called “contemporary Chinese art”. How can you have a show of “contemporary Chinese art” that doesn’t address a single one of the country’s most pressing contemporary issues?

I am very familiar with the work of most of the artists in the show. Their work is certainly Chinese but, overall, the show casts no critical eye. It is like a restaurant in Chinatown that sells all the standard dishes, such as kung pao chicken and sweet and sour pork. People will eat it and say it is Chinese, but it is simply a consumerist offering, providing little in the way of a genuine experience of life in China today.

Widespread state control over art and culture has left no room for freedom of expression in the country. For more than 60 years, anyone with a dissenting opinion has been suppressed. Chinese art is merely a product: it avoids any meaningful engagement. There is no larger context. Its only purpose is to charm viewers with its ambiguity.


Ai WeiWei

A screengrab of the Whitney Biennial hoax webpage. Photograph:

This week, the Whitney Museum in New York City gives over most of its exhibition space for its 2012 Biennial, showcasing the work of more than 50 contemporary artists. As in previous years, the Biennial is sponsored by Deutsche Bank and art auctioneers Sotheby’s. The co-curators of the show, Elizabeth Sussman and Jay Sanders, describe some of their criteria for inclusion:

“Artists are bringing other artists into their work – a form of free collage or reinvention that borrows from the culture at large as a way of rewriting the standard narratives and exposing more relevant hybrids. There is also the radical production of new forms, fabrication on a more modest scale. Artists are constantly redefining what an artist can be at this moment and this Biennial celebrates that fact.”

An unknown number of artists/activists – with notably good web skills – took this brief of reinventing and borrowing for the purpose of rewriting the Biennial’s “standard narrative” a few steps further than the Whitney had anticipated. First, on 24 February, Occupy Wall Street’s Arts and Labor Group issued a letter calling for the end of the Whitney’s Biennial in 2014, citing:

“The biennial perpetuates the myth that art functions like other professional careers and that selection and participation in the exhibition, for which artists themselves are not compensated, will secure a sustainable vocation. This fallacy encourages many young artists to incur debt from which they will never be free and supports a culture industry and financial and cultural institutions that profit from their labors and financial servitude.”


Matt Seaton