Facebook, Fine Art, and The Vatican

Bon Voyage!

I am in a hotel and waiting to board Explorer of the Seas to go on what promises to be an epic voyage to the Canary Islands and Spain. Usually hotels are for my business trips, and having stayed over in hotels on at least thirty occasions this year, you would think that a hotel is the last place I want to stay. Normally it is, and I have stayed in this one before on a business trip. But this time I don't have to rush my breakfast at a ridiculously early time, and I am literally five minutes walk from the ship, although all the luggage means that a taxi is the order of the day.

I pondered on writing this blog so close to going on vacation, but I sent the wife out shopping, and Now have some free 'me' time, and I have free Wi-Fi. A luxury I won't have onboard the ship. You can get Wi-Fi, it's just that it is really expensive, and more to the point, it's also really slow. Ships Wi-Fi makes AOL dial up look like Google Fiber. There is another reason, I need a break from my day job, and if I'm contactable, I will end up answering a few emails. So much as I love to be connected, I am determined to wake up early, grab a coffee, and write for an hour each morning. The rest of the time will be for family and eating.

That's another problem with going on a cruise. The sheer amount of food that is available is phenomenal. The routine on my last cruise was generally breakfast, elevenses, lunch, snacks, dinner, and then a light snack after the evenings entertainment. It's easy to over consume, but experience tells me that this time, I will not fall into the trap. I will eat as normal, and I will eat only the healthy options. Having been ill recently, I was prescribed steroids. Now I am reducing them in order to stop taking them I have lost almost a stone of excess weight and I am nearly back to my usual fighting weight. The only exception will be bacon. If I could have a bacon sandwich for every meal, my plan for healthy eating would go out of the window. It's like the crystal meth of the meat world. Unless you're a vegetarian, or you don't like bacon.

So this will be the mother lode of blogs until I get back and I am able at some point after unpacking the cases to upload my cruising musings. With £11m of art on board the ship, I'm reasonably confident that I will get to see a fair bit of it. It just makes you wonder how much value currently sails around the world and are blissfully unaware of. There are a few airlines that have some art in their aircraft too, one can only imagine the insurance premiums that sit with the practice.

It's certainly been an interesting week in the world of art and technology. Lots of stories emerging in what is usually a dead season for art news. Galleries reopen in September, auction houses commence sales with their fall catalogues, and technology wise, many of the big players start their pre-Christmas release cycles. Yet, this year seems to be a little different. I'm not certain why, but it is a good thing.

Carrying on with the holiday/vacation theme, my offer this week is my 'Llandudno 1976' retro seaside work. Only 25 pieces are available at this price until 26th August 2015, or while stocks last. You can buy it here.

Llandudno 1976
Llandudno 1976 by M.A

 

THE VATICAN

I remember a cruise a few years ago and a brief stop in Rome. Rome itself was a good two hour drive from the port, and a place I have visited twice. On my first visit I spent around €50 on two coffee's and a glass of Coca Cola. On the second visit I realised that staying in the tourist areas was expensive, much better to walk to the back streets and get the same for €10. In fact on my second visit, we enjoyed a genuine Italian Pizza for around $6, and it was big enough for four of us to have a quick snack. I'm not a pizza lover, but even I had a slice or two. It was the best pizza I had ever tasted.

The Vatican
The Vatican

 

On the first trip I went on a guided tour of the Vatican. I'm not a religious person, but this was one of the most impressive places I have ever visited. The only problem encountered was the other one or two million people who were doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Had it have not been for a tour guide, I am reasonably certain that we may have still, three years later, been waiting in the queue.

Inside the Vatican, works of art were to be found in every nook and cranny. The only place that has ever come close to having as many pieces of art in one place was when I visited The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. I'm pretty sure there were even more people crammed into The Hermitage than there were in the Vatican. We did visit on a Saturday, so I guess we should have expected a few people. We also visited the Vatican on a Saturday, so my advice is to try a weekday.

The Vatican has a history with art patronage. Princely families of the Renaissance have always been involved with the art that is on display, and also the art that is not on display. The Vatican is by no means a poor organisation, it has a genius for raising funds for art.

New ways of attracting money in the 21st Century have had to be devised, and the Vatican Museums have now launched Patrum, an app that creates a community of philanthropic supporters for the artistic treasures of the Vatican. Think of this as an elite crowd-funding venture.

The biggest ever, and often cited as the most controversial restoration project was sponsored by the Nippon TV Network Corporation for $4.2m (£2.7m), in the 1980's. The restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are truly amazing. But the restoration wasn't accepted by all as a great feat, having many of the marks of time removed. Some say that this is the point of restoration, but as with any artwork, too much restoration removes what can make it even more special. It is a case that they now appear to be over-painted.

Te question is, will this new venture be sensitive to the art? Italy is full of truly amazing works of art. Florence, Piza, Rome, Venice, and countless places in between, make Italy a hotbed of art. But Italy needs to be careful not to pander to the culture of restoration. Art needs careful protection, and that includes restoring art when it is needed, but it is essential that the Italians and whoever else involved, strike a careful balance. The art of restoration is an art in itself. I just hope that the new venture from the Vatican gets the balance right.

BANKSY

One of my all time favourite street artist's Banksy, could be bringing a pop-up secret street art show in Weston-Super-Mare. A seaside resort in England's West Country, that's been a staple of family holidays for hundreds of years.

Not too far from Banksy's hometown of Bristol, the word is out that the street artist is bringing an exhibition to the towns seafront, in what used to be the lido. An outdoor pool that as a child, I often visited. The exhibition called 'Dismaland' appears to be a sinister twist on Disneyland.

Banksy, who’s been previously named as former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham, has reportedly kept it under wraps by pretending the site was being used as a film location. The area was reportedly closed off because Hollywood film producers Atlas Entertainment were filming a crime thriller called Grey Fox there. But further rumours started flying after Holly Cushing, who is believed to be Banksy’s manager, was reportedly spotted at the site earlier this month.

SOTHEBY'S

Sotheby’s forthcoming Made in Britain auction is the third edition of a sale uniquely dedicated

to celebrating the diversity and creativity of British art from 1900 to the present day, across

Fine Art, Prints, Sculpture, Photography, Studio Ceramics, and Design.

The sale encompasses almost 400 striking artworks illustrating the very significant role that Britain played in the development of modernism internationally. With estimates starting at just £200, and going up to £60,000, Made in Britain is the perfect opportunity for a new buyer’s first foray into

collecting works by some of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century. The auction

will be held on 30 September at Sotheby’s London.

WORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF MICHAEL MICHAEL DES

The late artist Michael Michaeldes is known for his abstract minimalist approach, which he developed in London in the 1960s alongside contemporaries including Bridget Riley, Mary and Kenneth Martin and Gillian Ayres. The impressive collection he amassed perfectly reflects the notion that the bond between artists has always been strong and serves to support and foster creative ideas. These works provide a fascinating insight into the progressive nature of the London art scene at the time – highlighting the period as one of great excitement, innovation and creativity in British art. A highlight from his collection is a rare and fascinating early proof of a print by David Hockney (est. £12,000-18,000). In his final year at the Royal College of Art, Hockney courted controversy by refusing to write the essay required for the final examination. Resisting the necessity for art students to have to explain themselves with prose, he argued instead that he should be assessed solely on his painting.

When threatened with not being allowed to graduate, the artist etched his own diploma, wittily lambasting the academic establishment. In recognition of his talent and already growing reputation, the RCA changed its regulations and Hockney was granted a diploma. The collection will also features an exciting group of works by Robyn Denny, who designed the decoration for London’s Embankment underground station, and who passed away last year.

QUINTISENTIALLY BRITISH

Man Sitting in a Wheelbarrow by L.S. Lowry (est. £40,000-60,000) is a small-scale, intimate painting by one of Britain’s best-known and bestloved artists. The work is accompanied by Lowry’s original purchase receipt to the previous owner, to whom he sold it for £100 in 1966.

Oldham-born Helen Bradley began painting at the age of 65, to show her grandchildren what life was like at the turn of the century, and soon gained a strong international following for her charmingly quaint and naïve style. In the present work, Bradley depicts the bombing of London’s Seven Sisters Road (est. £15,000-25,000).

CONTEMPORARY EDGE

Forward-facing in feel, the sale will present a number of exciting Contemporary works, including an important early Tracey Emin painting, Untitled (Porchester Baths). est. £5,000-7,000) from 1988. It is extremely rare for such an early work by Emin to appear at auction, and the present work is a beautifully raw example of her early, formative style.

Richard Hamilton is widely regarded as a founding figure of the British Pop Art movement, using an irreverent and witty approach to address wider political subjects and contemporary issues. This work, titled The Critic Laughs (est. £35,000-45,000), is a set of false teeth mounted on an electric toothbrush, a highlight of the recent Tate Modern exhibition. The piece is inspired both by Jasper Johns’ The Critic Smiles and Hamilton’s interest in post-war European design of consumer products. A sketch by one of the stars of the first generation of British Pop Art Allen Jones is also to be offered (est. £3,000-5,000).

ICONIC PHOTOGRAPHS

The Angus McBean photograph that launched the career of film and fashion icon Audrey Hepburn, currently the subject of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, is a highlight of the photographs included in the sale (est. £2,000-3,000). This was the first of McBean’s five studio sessions with Hepburn, an advert for sun screen in 1950.

The image was printed as a display card in chemists’ shops up and down the country, whereupon it was spotted by the director and casting agent of the film, The Secret People, who promptly offered Hepburn her first major film role. Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit on the legendary cover of Vanity Fair in 1997 (est. £4,0006,000), shot by Lorenzo Agius, captures the zeitgeist at the height of Cool Britannia and Britpop.

In this photograph, Agius defined why they were Britain's 'It' couple explaining ‘the whole thing for me was beauty and the beast, Liam was the ruffian who would wear a hat and smoke a fag in bed… Patsy was the babe’.

An intimate photograph of Francis Bacon’s studio by Perry Ogden (est. £3,000-5,000) offers a glimpse into the untouched exterior of where the mysterious artist lived and worked from 1961 until his death in 1992. Other highlights include Kate Moss captured behind the lens by Rankin and Chris Levine, who previously photographed The Queen with her eyes closing in 2004, an unflinching David Bowie in Terry O’Neill’s studio and the mesmerically violent Kray brothers photographed by David Bailey.

CAPTIVATING CERAMICS

The sale also includes an impressive collection of British studio ceramics noted for their sculptural qualities, responding to the recent insatiable demand in the market. An important collection of works by Dame Lucie Rie and Hans Coper exemplifies the unique and forward-thinking spirit of Post-War British Design.

Rie is credited for having elevated the position of ceramics to that of the ‘fine arts’. Born in Vienna in 1902, she escaped growing Nazi pressures like fellow artists of the period including Hans Coper, Frank Auerbach and Naum Gabo, to become part of the small group of European émigré artists that redefined British culture.

She established herself as a Metropolitan potter, creating beautiful stoneware and porcelain vessels and achieving an unrivalled mastery of her characteristically bright and vivid glazes. Hans Coper came to Britain from Germany in 1939, and began as a studio assistant to Rie in her pottery at Albion Mews. He soon developed his own unique working style, producing totemic forms that today are collected across the globe.

In a more contemporary twist, an early Grayson Perry self-portrait plate from 1986 (est. £15,000-20,000) is also offered in the sale, providing an exciting opportunity to acquire one of the first examples of Perry’s playful use of a traditional art form to express identity.

STUNNING AND SOUGHT AFTER PRINTS

The exciting group of British prints included in the sale is led by Lucian Freud Painter’s Garden (est. £30,000-50,000); a beautifully made etching, which engulfs the viewer with its intense depiction of nature.

An extremely rare Ben Nicholson linoleum cut, from an unrecorded edition of which there is only one other known impression, will be offered for £6,000-8,000. A similar linocut appears in the Tate Britain’s Barbara Hepworth retrospective. Stunning prints by the celebrated proponent of optical art Bridget Riley, who has recently achieved record-breaking results, will also be represented in the sale, from visually engaging works from the 1960s to colourful and contemporary designs, offered from just £1,000.

THIS WEEKS ODDITY

This just has to be the most bizarre thing I have heard this week. A professor has grown a human ear under his arm for an art project. Stelarc, from Australia, came up with the idea in 1996 and has been working on it ever since.

Once he had found a medical team from around the world willing to make it a reality, a "scaffold" was inserted underneath his skin. Within six months, tissue and blood vessels had developed around the structure. The Professor was quoted as saying, "The ear is pretty much now a part of my arm, it's fixed to my arm and it has its own blood supply."

Seriously, just how far will some people go for their art? Having said that, my wife is certain that my iPad would need to be surgically removed from me.

THE NATIONAL GALLERY

National Gallery
National Gallery - London

 

Striking workers have shut-down much of London's Mational Gallery. A long running dispute over the privatisation of their jobs has resulted in an indefinite walkout. The galleries main doors recently closed, and visitors were directed from the Trafalger Square entrance to the Sainsbury Wing, where a private security company manned the doors.

Operating with very few staff, some of the galleries most prestigious exhibits remained off limits. Visitors leaving the gallery said that they were disappointed to miss the paintings that they had come to see, but many also backed the aims of the strike.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY INTERNET EXPLORER

when you think of the history of the Internet, it's hard not to think that the Internet isn't as old as age itself. But you will also no doubt think of Internet Explorer. Microsoft's iconic browser that is both loved and hated in equal parts, has now been put out to pasture with the arrival of Windows 10.

It is a decent-ish browser these days. Certainly the Internet just wouldn't be the Internet had it not been for IE. The browser has had its fair share of controversy over the years, court cases, bugs, and many other moments, but it has been around for the last 20-years.

Internet Explorer
Happy Birthday IE

 

Windows 10 introduces a new browser, Windows Edge. Along with Windows 10 itself, Edge will evolve over time, and as the adverts for ten say, this is something that the next generation will grow up with. Having used Windows 10 during the MS developer programme, it is not a bad browser. Given that Chrome is becoming more and more bloated of late, it should certainly give Google a run for their money.

FACEBOOK

Once again that social media powerhouse Facebook is introducing more new features. This time there is an upgrade to the platforms Events feature.

During the companies latest earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg the CEO and founder of the platform, outlined a new proposal to 'liven up events'. Facebook has already started to experiment with flagging events, on the left and right side of the newsfeed. Now Facebook wants to introduce more notifications.

The company is also considering how to change the way users interact with events by adding a follow or remind me, as a non-committal way of showing their interest in an event. Whilst this might be useful for companies who publicise many events, I just can't help thinking that we already get way too many notifications about everything, including your friends activity on Candy Crush. Especially your friends activity on Candy Crush.

Public and private events will be also having a remodel. There might be a greater distinction between public and private events, with larger header images, more informations about the location of the event, and maybe even photo's of the venue. In a smaller bit of related news, Facebook has also brought back Notes with a new design featuring sharper typography and larger images. There is also a possibility that they are also working on a Siri, or Cortana platform.

Facebook
Facebook in the news again!

 

ANOTHER VIDEO PLATFORM

In other news, Major U.S. cable and media company Comcast is on the verge of launching a video platform that could just take on the likes of YouTube and Facebook. "Watchable" will be a video platform with heavyweight publishing partners, according to Business Insider. The name could change, and we may know for sure if it's launched in the coming weeks, as reported.

Comcast has recently invested $200m in Vox Media via Comcast-owned NBC Universal and looks set to be teaming up with both Vox and BuzzFeed for content. Other content providers are unconfirmed at this point, but early indications suggest that Awesomness TV, Refinery 29, The Onion, Mic, Vice, and NBC Sports, could also be in the running to provide content.

MORE RESEARCH

Almost every aspect of human knowledge can be found on the Internet. For many, it is an extension of their brain, an external storage medium in the cloud for memories, thoughts, knowledge, and information. But what would you do if the Internet suddenly went away? Well, according to the American Psychological Association, pretty badly is the answer.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that we tend to overrate the extent of our own knowledge when we have access to the internet, and underrate how much it supports that knowledge. In short, we confuse our own knowledge with knowledge we have access to.

A team of psychologists asked people to rate their ability to explain the answers to common questions like "how does a zip work" after either searching the internet to confirm their explanation or being specifically instructed not to use it. In some cases the participants were given a specific site to search through.

The researchers found that people who were allowed to search the web rated their personal knowledge much higher than those who weren't, even when the people without a net connection were given text with the correct answer taken from the same site that people were instructed to search through.

So here's a question to ponder whilst I'm away, what would happen if you didn't have the Internet available? I guess I'm about to find that out as soon as I board that ship! As ever, feel free to get in touch, and I'll see you soon with my holiday snaps, a few bits of art that I plan to create, and hopefully some amazing stories too. Take care, and see you all soon.

 

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