Spooky Asteroids, and Italian Cleaners

CLEANED OUT

There is always something going on in the art world that raises eyebrows, or creates a stir, and this week is no exception. Cleaners at a museum in Italy threw away an art installation thinking it was a mess left over from a recent party.

Empty champagne bottles, confetti, and pieces of paper, to be fair did look like the aftermath of a jolly good party, but cleaners did an exceptional job of scrubbing the floor, and making the area nice and clean.

The artwork called “Where are we going to dance this evening?” by artists Goldschmied and Chiari, represented the decadence of Italy in the 1980’s, which was characterised by both hedonism and consumerism.

A sign explaining that the work will be restored soon has had to be put up in the space where the original installation sat. The cleaners had the foresight to make sure that all of the alleged rubbish was recycled, so putting it back together shouldn’t be a huge issue, but it goes to show that art is in the eye of the beholder, and clearly not to the cleaners tastes.

The confusion came because a real party had indeed been happening at the same time, and the cleaners thought that this installation was just part of the mess left behind by party-goers.

GO READ A BOOK

Kindle
Kindle

 

Books can lead you into different worlds, taking the reader to places they have never visited, and immerse you into places that could only be imagined. But it seems that not everyone likes to sit down with a good book, a new survey on American reading habits has revealed that 27-percent of Americans haven’t read a single book in the past 12-months.

Pew Research who carried out the survey asked a number of adults if they had read a book in any format, and the number of people responding with a “yes”, has fallen significantly over recent years. In fact a total of 79% in 2011, down to 72% in 2015.

Whilst we have seen a recent resurgence in printed books, the sales of eBooks are actually now on the decrease. Asking the question of those who took part in the survey revealed that 63% of people had read a printed book in the previous twelve months, but the number of eBooks had declined during the same period.

It is unclear how the reading habits affect literacy rates, and the U.S census no longer measures literacy, and it is now more than 10-years since the National Assessment of Adult Literacy reported that Eleven million Americans lacked basic literacy.

However, the survey also found that 80% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 had read a book during the previous year.

SPOOKY

Comet
Comet like spookiness for Halloween!

 

31st October is the new date for the next near impact day where according to sources on the interweb thingy, we might all be doomed, or we won’t.

Either way there is no denying that a newly discovered asteroid by the name of 2015 TB145 will skim past our planet just outside of the Moon’s orbit, in space terms it will be close, just some 300,000 miles away from Earth.

Depending on what you read and where you read it on the internet, there is a train of thought that the comet might hit us, and NASA have only predicted that it won’t hit us, but is that really the case? Looking at official NASA statements they have indicated that it definitely will not hit Earth. The advice at the moment is not to panic. It is not the closest shave we will have had, back in 2011 asteroid 2005 YU55 flew by at a distance of 0.85 lunar distances. But there are a number of things that make this asteroid a little spooky.

Astronomers didn’t spot the asteroid until October 10th this year, leaving no time to prepare both Bruce Willis and a suitable space ship to save the day, and also because its orbit is longer and at a different angle than the majority of asteroids in the solar system.

Essentially this latest rock is on a very elongated orbit that will take it closer to the Sun than to Mercury, and about half of the distance to Jupiter. It also has a highly tilted orbit which is unusual, and it is heading towards us from the South. It will move northwards for a while and then turn back on a southerly heading.

It is this unusual orbit that meant it was much more difficult to spot, for the most part an asteroid will usually stick closer to the orbit of the Earth, and there are fewer planetary observatories in the South making identification difficult when such an asteroid is on a rare trajectory.

In terms of the asteroids size, there is also something else that is unusual. Estimates are placing the rock at around 1,640 feet in diameter, and it is also flying at an unusually high speed of almost 22 miles per second, which is significantly higher than the more usual 6 miles per second displayed by most asteroids.

There is another reason why NASA didn’t find it earlier, generally they are looking for much bigger space rocks in the region of 3,200 feet wide, and that have more of a potential to wipe us out if they hit.

If 2015 TB154 were to hit us, (it won’t) it would more than likely cause some considerable destruction. In 2013, the meteorite that crashed in Russia was only around 66 feet wide, and that caused significant amounts of destruction in the region, but NASA are reasonably confident that we will be safe from falling space rocks having mapped out 90% of that particular size in the solar system.

However, if an asteroid does eventually hit us, there’s not a great deal we can do to prevent it. Personally I have survived 46-years of ‘End of Days’ events, so on the 31st October I will be eating Halloween candy as usual. But this all goes to show that our current thinking on what we thought we knew about space isn’t very much at all.

This week I have read that Professor Stephen Hawking has said that he now thinks it is possible to escape a black-hole, and we recently heard that there was flowing water on Mars. Add this to the unexplained activity near a star that could or could not be an alien super structure, we really don’t know too much at all.

IN OTHER SPOOKY SPACE NEWS

In a few weeks’ time a largely forgotten piece of space-junk will head towards earth and re-enter our atmosphere, most likely somewhere above the Indian Ocean. The object was originally detected some two years ago, but astronomers remain puzzled as to what it actually is.

We have been launching rockets, space stations, and satellites into the atmosphere for over 60-years, meaning that the skies above us have become crowded. Some of the equipment floating above us no longer works, or has completed its mission and is now on a path home.

Space junk is essentially the debris of our making, often found in low-Earth orbit, and it is tracked by a number of space agencies around the world including the European Space Agency, NASA, and the U.S military.

In a remarkable similarity to asteroid 2015 TB145, this particular piece of space debris has only recently been discovered, and more surprisingly, it too has a very odd orbit. Maybe something is going on up there? Who knows?

This particular object with a designation of WT1190F, (were those three letters chosen at random?) was first detected back in 2013 by scientists at Catalina Sky Survey, a project that scans the skies above for objects such as this, as well as asteroids and comets. What makes this piece of junk special is that it has an elliptical orbit that takes it into deep space. At its furthest point from earth, let’s call it WTF for brevity, is about twice as far as the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Scientists believe that by looking at its trajectory the object is just a few meters wide, and probably hollow. That in itself suggests that WTF could be part of an old rocket stage, panels from a previous moon mission, (assuming we actually went), or it could be something else that we have sent in to space previously.

So assuming we’re not wiped out by 2015 TB145 on the 31st October, this latest mystery is likely to crash down into the Indian Ocean near to the Sri Lankan coast on November 13th, 2015. While most of the object will probably burn up on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, it could be bright enough for us to grab some spectacular shots of it heading our way.

FACEBOOK

Facebook
Image courtesy of Facebook

 

Do not fear the dislike button that will be appearing on Facebook. Well, that’s the message advertising agencies are shouting out to brands ahead of the Facebook Reactions launch.

Facebook Reactions will allow users of the social platform to express a broader range of emotions other than just a ‘Like’.

Negative reactions can be good for business, so if a user decides not to click on the like button, there is no real way other than reading sometimes thousands of comments to gauge public perception of say a brands new advertising campaign.

Facebook already provides some metrics to show how users interact with content, clicking on feedback and reporting posts as spam are features that have been available for a while on the platform, and this new system is a way to allow customers other ways for customers to engage.

Following many years of requests for other ways to express their true feelings about a post other than hitting the like button, Facebook will be introducing six new ways to allow users to rate posts. Love, hah, yay, wow, sad, and angry are not necessarily saying that you dislike something, I for one have often had no choice available other than to like a particular post, even if that post is telling me news that I do not particularly like.

It might be the story within the post that I don’t like. For example abductions of children, that’s not to say that the post is not valuable especially when it carries a serious warning, but I always feel uncomfortable hitting like when I am angry that a crime was committed.

Currently the new system is being tested in Ireland and Spain, but will eventually expand into other territories, although no firm dates have been set as yet.

But how will this affect the hundreds of thousands of businesses already struggling with organic reach on the platform? Well, on train of thought is that having a wider data set on people’s reactions can assist Facebook to train their algorithms that determine what shows up on a news feed. Essentially it could help business reach an audience that is interested in seeing a particular set of adverts and content.

It has been said many times that customers shouldn’t always dictate how a company behaves, but it should be how brands listen to consumers is what should be important. It certainly creates a disruptive edge to the whole Facebook social media thing, but often it is disruption that creates something good.

IN OTHER FACEBOOK NEWS

As from October 16th 2015, Facebook has been alerting its users whose accounts have been hacked by government entities. According to the platforms security officer, Facebook will now notify you if they believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.

The message that will appear on a targeted users account screen will take the form of:

Please Secure Your Account Now [User name], we believe your Facebook account and your other online accounts may be the target of attacks from state-sponsored-actors. Turning on Login Approvals will help keep others from logging into your Facebook account. Whenever your account is accessed from a new device or browser, we’ll send a security code to your phone so that only you can log in. We also recommend you also take steps to secure the accounts you use on other services.

That will be quite a message to receive, and I would love to hear if you have received the notification for any unexplained reason. Facebook will not always be happy to explain how they attribute certain attacks to suspected hackers, but this might go some way to appease those who have been concerned with government spying on the platform.

THIS WEEK IN ART

This week we also see some great exhibitions to take us through this very busy time in the arts calendar, and to my mind the exhibition that is top of my ‘most want to see list’ is Egypt – Faith and Pharaohs which looks at the rich and varied religions of Egypt. The exhibition is being staged at the British Museum in London and runs through from October 29th until February 7th 2016.

Meanwhile at the Royal Academy, also in London, Jean-Etienne Liotard’s sweet and sensitive pastel portraits that wonderfully resurrect Europe’s Age of Enlightenment runs from the 24th October 2015 until 31st January 2016.

ART REVIEW – POWER 100

The annual list of the most influential figures in the global art market scene has shown that once again the power sits in the hands of the world’s wealthiest dealers and collectors. But it is interesting to note that those artists who are politically vocal are also still making their mark.

At the top of the list for the first time are the Swiss couple Iwan and Manuela Wirth who have an art empire that spans from New York to Zurich to London. Next year the couple will be expanding to Los Angeles.

They were praised by the jury for changing the model of how art is purchased and sold. Forbes have recently announced that their revenue is a staggering $225m (£145m). They seem to be moving away from the traditional white cube gallery style favored by many, and are embracing new kinds of spaces in which they can sell their art works.

Coming second on the list is Ai Weiwei a Chinese dissident artist who has recently had his passport returned to him by Beijing authorities, opening an exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in September this year.

Politically active artists are on the rise and this is demonstrated by the inclusion of Theaster Gates who took 30th place on the list and Trevor Paglen who made 83rd. Gates is a Chicago born artist who recently transformed a house in Chicago’s derelict South-Side district by creating a piece of art that doubles as a community centre.

Paglen takes a rather different approach by documenting the hidden world of government surveillance, including drone bases and government black sites. Like many things, influence in art really does stem from money. Or, rather having money, something that is considered a taboo subject in the art world.

LEGO – NOT ENOUGH BRICKS

Lego
Lego, not enough bricks

 

At 46-years old I have to admit it, I am a huge fan of LEGO and I never seem to have enough bricks. Not that they are my bricks, they are my daughters, but LEGO has to be the number one toy ever, period.

But as it turns out, it looks like quite a few people will be disappointed this year as LEGO have issued a statement saying that they will not have enough bricks to fulfil everyone’s Christmas wish list in 2015. The Danish toymaker will run short of bricks in some European markets.

Sales grew for the company by 18% in the first half of 2015, following a 15% growth in business in 2014, but as the current demand grows, the company is struggling to keep up. In an attempt to fulfil global orders, LEGO is expanding facilities in Mexico, Hungary, and Denmark, but all of this new capacity won’t be available for a while, the company are predicting that 2020 will be the time when the expansions are ready.

Making some 60 billion LEGO pieces in 2014, sales across Europe grew for this family owned Danish business, sales in the Americas and Asia grew considerably with the release of the LEGO movie.

Currently the LEGO group has around 12,000 employees and is still owned by the Kirk Kristiansen family that founded it in 1932. So if you spot some bargain LEGO in the time before Christmas it might be best to grab it.

CHRISTIE’S LONDON -THE COLLECTION OF VICTORIA PRESS

London – On 18 November 2015, Christie’s London is proud to be offering the former contents of Cheyne Walk, an interior by Victoria Press. Working in the fashion industry in the late 1940s and early 1950s enabled Victoria Press (1927-2015) to hone her love and knowledge of textiles, luxurious materials, intricate workmanship, proportion and scale, passions that are evident in the characterful interior she created at Cheyne Walk.

She also studied art, architectural history and interior design, and was an admired member of The Furniture History Society and The Georgian Group. The sale comprises a remarkable trove of approximately 170 lots which were acquired for the impressive Georgian town house, built in 1717.

They were sourced predominantly in the 1980s, each chosen to complement, or playfully juxtapose, the surrounding architecture and its historic decorative schemes.

The resulting collection is a harmonious and balanced ensemble comprising English and Continental furniture, Italian Old Master paintings and Oriental works of art including lacquer, ceramics and textiles. Victoria Press had a particular interest in the English country house and many pieces in her collection have a distinguished provenance and were acquired from important auctions such as Much Hadham Hall and Godmersham Park, or from eminent collectors such as the Duke of Buccleuch and Sybil Sassoon, 5th Marchioness of Cholmondeley.

The top lot of the sale is a pair of paintings formerly at West Wycombe Park by Cesare Dandini (1596-1657) depicting Saint Dorothy of Cappadocia and Saint Catherine of Alexandria (estimate: £150,000-250,000) followed by Victoria Press’ beloved picture by Salvador Rosa, Phryne and Xenocrates (estimate: £60,000-80,000), which was acquired in 1997, demonstrating that her passion for collecting and improving the interior of Cheyne Walk continued to occupy her to the very end of her life. Estimates range from £500 to £250,000.

This sale is a wonderful opportunity for new and established collectors to choose from an inspiring array of works with notable provenance, collected with passion, knowledge and confidence. Each item was specially chosen for its history and craftsmanship, with a specific position within Cheyne Walk in mind; the resulting collection is a testament to Victoria Press’ discerning eye and very original flair for interior design.

VIEWING

Christie’s, 8 King Street, London SW1Y 6QT

Saturday 14 November 12.00 pm - 5.00 pm

Sunday 15 November 12.00 pm - 5.00 pm

Monday 16 November 9.00 am - 4.30 pm

Tuesday 17 November 9.00 am - 8.00 pm

AUCTION

Wednesday 18 November 2015

10:30am

8 King Street, St. James’s

London SW1Y 6QT

AMAZON TAKE ON ETSY

It was only a matter of time before someone took on Etsy at their own game. Amazon though is a little bit of a surprise, but nothing that we shouldn’t have expected. The retail and movie streaming giant is set to take on Etsy with an online store called ‘Handmade’.

Amazon Handmade now sells products from artists, artisans and crafters from around the world. Complete with categories like home décor, bedding, kitchen and dining, all of the products are what Amazon are terming as ‘Factory Free’.

Faced with this new competition, Etsy stock was down 4% in early trading, after plunging more than 10% in premarket trading. Shares of eBay also took a hit, down 6% when the service launched.

We will need to wait and see just how good the service is, but early signs are that it could be an Etsy beater. With the finance and power behind Amazon, it will certainly become more difficult for Etsy to compete, so maybe the business model may have to change.

I have always seen Etsy as a quality service offering quality goods, I see Amazon as a retailer that sells goods at a discount but early products on the service are certainly not at a discount. It seems Etsy finally have real competition, and I'm now wondering if print on demand could be a potential next target for an Amazon take over.

ALSO IN THE NEWS

Have you heard about the new hi-tech jet that could propel you from London to New York in just 30-minutes? Sounds impossible, but that's just what the Skreemr concept aircraft could do if it were to be produced according to its designers Charles Bombardier and Ray Mattison.

Sonic Boom
Sonic Boom

 

The aircraft which has four wings, two large rockets and hi-tech Scramjet engines could potentially reach ten times the speed of sound when launched from a magnetic rail gun. To give that a little more context, a speed of 7,673mph could be achieved if it were to go into production. The only problem is that it is not.

But it's not the only kid on the block to look at ways that we can bring back supersonic air travel, lost to the masses when Concord was retired. That was such a backwards step.

Earlier this summer, Airbus patented a hi-tech craft that would fill that London to New York void left by Concord, but this time travelling at a height of 100,000 feet. The patent has described a craft that uses three different types of engine. Twin turbo jet engines would initially propel the craft off the ground, and then retracting when the aircraft was near the speed of sound.

A further rocket motor would then take over ensuring a fast ascent to 100,000 Dr, at which point a third engine type, twin wing mounted ram jets would push the aircraft even faster and its final speed of 4.5 times the speed of sound. The jet is described as an air vehicle that includes a fuselage complete with a system of motors.

London to New York in thirty minutes would open up tangible business benefits. However, Concord was the height of luxury and travelling on it had a premium price tag. It was a very special aircraft that made air travel more of an event to be celebrated rather than how we usually consider business trip flying as a mundane but necessary commute. To even consider flying across the pond in 3 hours would be a remarkable feat, to do it in 30-minutes would be witch craft. Where do I sign up?

STOP PRESS - BROADWAY

NEW YORK (AP) — Frank Wood will join Forest Whitaker this winter on Broadway in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Hughie.”

Wood, a Tony Award-winner whose stage credits includes “Side Man”, ”Angels In America” and “Clybourne Park”, joins the production directed by Michael Grandage. Previews begin in February at the Booth Theatre.

Whitaker will play Erie, a small time hustler who tells his tale to a sympathetic night clerk in a rundown hotel lobby. He misses Hughie, the fleabag hotel’s previous desk clerk who has just died. Wood will play the new clerk.

CHRISTMAS 2015 ORDERS AT BEECHHOUSE MEDIA

Yes it's that time of year when our thoughts turn to Christmas shopping. It's also a very busy time of year at BeechHouse Media, finishing off commissions, TV and film artwork props in readiness for winter shoots, and working on three winter 2015 collection pieces. They will be ready for the beginning of December and will be released as a set exclusively on Fine Art America, its subsidiary companies, and in over 150-retail locations across the United States and Canada.

But if you are thinking of buying a piece of my artwork, now is the time to do it. Although there have been no promotions in recent weeks, I am very excited to be able to bring you some stretched canvas prints at heavily discounted rates. These offers will each last for a maximum of five days, and will only be available at special prices in very limited numbers.

All offers will be magnificently printed on a museum quality stretched canvas. Of course you can also still get prints on a range of mediums and products, and you can still cozy up in one of my duvets!

The offers will be posted on this blog, and they will also be posted on my social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and of course Pinterest.

For all direct from BeechHouse orders, the last day of ordering will be the 1st December 2015 for delivery prior to Christmas. Please note that not all pieces are available directly, but if you have a particular piece in mind that you would like to see, please do get in touch.

 

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