Has Corporate Taken Facebook from the People?

Facebook to Warhol to Sotheby's
Facebook, Warhol, Sotheby's, & Vandalism

It's finally the weekend again! Three new limited time offers again this week. The pieces have been carefully chosen to reflect that thing we occasionally see in Britain, Summer. I also added in Blue Buildings because the British Summer often comes complete with overtones of Winter. We had a couple of days of sunshine apparently, but I'm ahead of nature. As it will no doubt rain, sleet, and probably even snow at some point today, I mowed the lawn last night. How rock n roll is my life?

The promotions are only available until the 2nd July 2015, and only 10 of each museum quality stretched canvas prints at a reduced price are available. So before we continue with today's observations of this week in the art and technology world, here are the three pieces in question!

Sundial 24x20 Museum Quality Stretched Canvas Print


Offer Ends July 2nd 2015


Blue Buildings 20x16 Museum Quality Stretched Canvas Print


Offer Ends July 2nd 2015


Bloom 20x16 Museum Quality Stretched Canvas Print


Offer Ends July 2nd 2015


It’s that time of the week when I round up some of the latest and often rarely reported news from the world of art and technology. I can’t say that the week has been dull, I just haven’t had a minute to get creative, and I haven’t had a minute to actually breathe without the phone ringing, emails flooding in, and having to stay overnight again in London.

As much as I like the city, I am beginning to feel like a local. So much so, that I thought I would try a different hotel this week, but alas the staff work between two hotels on a rotating basis and had a room key ready for me as soon as I walked through the front door. I even see the same people staying over week after week. It seems that some of them even decided to change to the same hotel that I was staying in this week, I’m really not sure if I should be paranoid, or if it is that I am being stalked.

Detroit Free Press

One of the world’s most celebrated street artists, and I’m not talking Banksy, whose famous Hope poster became one of the defining images of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, has a warrant for his arrest, on two counts of malicious destruction of property. In the UK, we call this graffiti, but aside from Banksy, it’s rarely artistic.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Shepard Fairey visited the city in May to create a work he had been commissioned to do, an 18-storey mural, which is his largest work to date. The issue arose from him also adding in some bonus work when he posted four-foot-square posters of his signature images, including his "Andre the Giant Face" on a number of buildings around the downtown district.

The artist said before heading to Detroit that he still creates works without permission, and that he would be doing the same in Detroit. The Police indicated that Fairey had tagged around 14 buildings, although they had only managed to contact the owners of nine properties, who said that they would consider pressing charges. Honestly, I have to say that if Banksy or Fairey want to come and dabble on one of my outside walls, I am pretty sure the property price would go up at a rate of knots. I’m not saying to either that I would approve, I think we would need to discuss the content beforehand.

"Just because he is a well-known artist does not take away the fact that he is also a vandal," police sergeant Rebecca McKay, in charge of the city’s graffiti task force, told the Detroit Free Press. The charges carry a maximum of five years in jail, while Fairey could also be fined over $10,000. I have a feeling that if he is sent into the pen, then art classes might be interesting. Considering he has been arrested more than 15 times for damaging property, he was also sentenced to two years’ probation for tampering with evidence in a legal dispute over his hope poster. In May, Fairey said that Obama hadn’t lived up to the expectations of his poster. Could that statement have had anything to do with the recent episode? I’m not a person that believes in many conspiracy theories, (yes there is alien life, yes, it has visited Earth), but it does make you wonder if this hard hand isn’t because of his lack of compassion for a guy who has a job even with slightly more stress than even my day job has.

Real Estate

Andy Warhol, one of my all-time favourite artists is once again in the news. A 30-Acre piece of Hamptons real estate once owned by Warhol can be yours for the princely sum of around $85 million.

Warhol and Paul Morrissey, who directed several of the artist’s films, purchased Eothen the compound in Montauk, New York, originally for a price of $225,000. The seller if you are interested in bidding for what looks like a very beautiful home is J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, who purchased the property in 2007 for $27 million. Even corrected for inflation, the $85 million asking price reflects a 70-fold increase on the value it was originally acquired for by Warhol and Morrissey.

Talking of Warhol, I can confirm that I will be creating a range of works that take an influence from Warhol’s work, although I am still trying to find some time to put in the finishing touches, and decide on the range of colours I want to use. As ever, and as with all of my works, these pieces will be completely produced on the iPad, before being processed on the PC to ensure that the resolution is as high as possible for print runs. I say PC, my wife is regretting marrying a geek I think. I have a few servers and workstations in my office at home to assist in my creations. She’s also becoming interested in the money I seem to be spending on new technology!

This Week At Auction

Just a few days ago, Thursday the 26th June 2015, Sotheby’s surged ahead of rival Christie’s with an impressionist modern art sale. Sales of £178,590 or $282,047 including premium, were achieved comfortably within the pre-sale estimate of £140 million / $203 million. Prices included the buyer’s premium, whereas estimations never include this. Just a tiny way behind the record £186.5 million for Sotheby’s equivalent sale in February.

The main draw of the auction was a 1902 portrait of Gertrud Loew by Gustav Klimt, recently restituted from the Klimt Foundation in Austria. The sale saw a battle of wits between a New York staffer on the phone, and an unidentified woman holding a red cell phone. That my friends, really narrows it down. The latter eventually won the duel, and bid a not insignificant £24.8 million or $39 million, was well above the £12/$18 million estimate.

There was some speculation that Ronald Lauder was in the competition here, having already paid top prices for restituted Klimt’s before, but to date there has been no confirmation.

Apart from a Degas sculpture, three other records were set. A watercolour by Lyonel Feininger sold for a double estimate £665,000; a 1948 watercolour of two seated women and a child by Henry Moore soared five times over estimate as determined bidding from UK advisor, Susannah Pollen, pushed the eventual phone buyer to £2.2 million; and a futuristic 1926 painting of a speeding train by Viennese artist, Erika Giovanna Klein, her first in a London sale, sold for £545,000.

Unsold was a heavy-handed Monet coastal view of Vetheuil in 1880, which could not get the $6.2 million back that it cost in 2010, and a sketchy 1905 painting of sailboats by AndrĂ© Derain which was just not a great fauve painting that collectors want from that date having been estimated at £2/3 million.

However, half the lots in the sale sold at hammer prices above their estimates, so it felt, and was much buzzier than Christie's the night before. Perhaps a better indication of where this market is currently at.

Has Corporate Taken Facebook From the People?

Despite what you are hearing, and the clamor for Facebook likes, they really don’t go as far as they used to in the Facebook News Feed update. Facebook rolled out some News Feed updates on Tuesday that deprioritize the content that you and your friends like and comment on.

I’m beginning to think that the Facebook sheeple, who have to rely on Facebook as a platform to promote small businesses and enterprises are being forced down a narrow path that will increasingly require payment to promote and boost posts. It’s not that I or others expect a free lunch, I am well aware of the costs of running huge complex IT structures that handle and protect data to the extent needed on such a platform, but there seems to be little differentiation between an artist like me, and a huge organisation such as Walmart.

If I could afford a large marketing budget, I would use it, but the reality is that for the average person trying to use aspects of social media to sell a product, they will increasingly need to spend more on promotion. There is no way someone who hasn’t got the same corporate backing as the huge organisations can realistically compete. Without the millions of everyday casual users, Facebook simply wouldn’t have a business model. I have noticed that over the last six months, slowly but surely new updates are released (and they’re not always easy to spot) every couple of weeks introducing yet another new feature that is supposedly to facilitate better quality content, but it slowly has a bearing on those of us that need to use social media to gain some interest in the art we sell, and the products we buy.

If there was a way to pay a small business fee, or for Facebook to assist in the promotion of new or small businesses, then I would gladly hop on board, just so long as it isn’t a token gesture and results are evident.

If people really don’t want to see what their creepy ex still likes after the breakup, I get it, I really do. But the answer is to probably unlike that person and you’ll never be bothered again. Keeping sight of an ex in Facebook to me is a bit weird. It’s like you are never letting it go, or that you just want to stalk them, or worse, realise that his or her new love is a replica of Brad or Angelina. There’s probably even an associated medical condition. I have no idea, but please just move on.

It also depends on how Facebook executes two other news feed tweaks. Allowing posts from the same people back to back in sparse news feeds, and prioritizing updates from Facebook friends you engage with the most. In theory it could have the potential to yield a better news feed experience, but only if Facebook Pages won’t pop up in your feed as Facebook suggest.

This could lead to a further decline in post reach (organic vs. paid), and referral traffic could decline. Facebook Pages influence may be diminished slightly alongside the ubiquitous like.

The defining question to all this is will social media eventually become a playground of large corporations that have healthy advertising budgets? By which time will we all be indoctrinated into checking to see status updates on Walmart’s latest offers? I can hand on heart say that there is a totally new direction emerging for social media. But, the reality is that it is not just social media that is suddenly taking a view of quality over the content that normal (and by normal, I mean you and me), people post, but search engines are becoming platforms that are in one way thankfully burying the old GeoCities amateur websites, but never the less, they are also burying newer sites where there are fewer posts. It’s been said over and over more recently that to get a decent page ranking in Google, your site needs to be both big, 400+ pages, and / or needs some really great content. But who judge’s greatness if no one see’s your content in the first place? Apparently it’s an algorithm.


If this is a scary thought, the rate of development within the field of artificial intelligence is increasing at a pace that not even a race horse who’s taking illegal steroids could keep up with. Not even if that race horse had eight legs. Then I guess it would be a spider, and those things move when you are about to knock them out.

Artificial Intelligence or AI, is like a beautiful suitor who repeatedly brings his admirer to the edge of consummation only to disappear into the night, leaving the unrequited lover to wonder what might have been.

Elon Musk thinks that AI could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons, and to an extent I do believe the guy is probably spot on with this one. Stephen Hawking has warned that AI could spell the end of the human race, and Bill Gates, who obsesses over eradicating malaria advises that careful management of digital forms of "super intelligence" should prevail.

The question to ask is will these warnings and predictions be akin to the dreams of us owning flying cars and living in sky cities that everyone had in the 50’s, or more recently but still 30 years ago, will these be as ill-advised as we were lead to believe in the Back to the Future trilogy? Yes, I know, NIKE are making a pair of self-lacing trainers.

In recent years, some claims for AI seem to have been realized. Computers now can literally pick faces out of a crowd and unerringly provide customer service over the phone by simulating a real conversation. Driverless cars and package-delivering drones promise to revolutionize the movement of things and people. Bombs that select their own targets and robots that kill are within reach, if not according to some sources, already a reality. Daily life already seems impossible without digital devices that record, alert, and advise their owners on actions and plans.

Because betrayal is central to romance, humans, jealous of AI, worry about the loss of their own supremacy in the world. Digital minds may emulate, then resent, and finally attack humans.

What are your thoughts? Will an evil AI genius control the world and keep a few humans as pets? Or, is it that we are probably reading too much into the development of AI? As ever, leave a comment or get in touch!

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