The Secret Life of Art



Reddit I have discovered is a bit like hiring a consultant. Suddenly you are itching for answers that you didn't even know there was a question for. Last night I spent five minutes on the platform, only that five minutes became the best part of three hours. It sucked me in like a black hole. It seems that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, but this morning I am wiser.

The first thing I learned was that there are Bowhead Whales still alive in the Arctic that were born long before Moby Dick was written in 1851. Secondly, that the lighter was invented before the match, and finally something even more breathtaking.

Every two minutes we take more photographs than were taken during the entirety of the 19th Century. So I delved into Instagram for another five minutes, and in that time I noticed that one user had uploaded almost twenty shots.

So it seems that this last fact is more than likely correct. I would go so far as to bet that there are more photographs on Instagram than were taken in the 19th Century.


Birthplace of the Beatles, Liverpool, might be about to become the home of a gallery that features street art, including some of Banksy's most famous images.

City Council planners are being asked to consider approval of a development that will house the "UK's first art gallery to specialise in the display and promotion of street art"

If the plans get the go ahead, developers have said that the flagship space will go to landmark works by the master of street art, Banksy. The Berry House building is set to be the second phase of the larger Gallery+ development on Norfolk Street, in the heart of the city's Baltic Triangle.

The development will also see the construction of 125 apartments, together with commercial and workshop space for start-up creative businesses. Amongst Banksy’s works to be displayed will be what is probably one of his finest works, the Liverpool Rat. To some people street art is vandalism, to others it’s gentrification, and either of those could be considered more legit than the other depending on your perspective, but this sounds like a unique gallery and one I hope that gets the go ahead.

When the artist Diego Rivera arrived in Detroit in April 1932 – at the behest of auto magnate Edsel Ford – to create the Detroit Industry murals, he entered an industrial colossus laid low by the great depression and amplified by a chorus of conservative critics, who called his mixed-race, humanistic portrayal of the working class, “coarse in conception, foolishly vulgar, and a slander to Detroit workmen”.

More than 80 years later, street artist Shepard Fairey turned up in Detroit at the invitation of billionaire fringe banking mogul Dan Gilbert, to paint several murals in the demolished and demoralised city. He also allegedly put up some illegal posters, which city officials described as vandalism. Now he faces 10 years in prison and fines exceeding $10,000.


Girl on a Terrace
Renoir, do you love his work?


Ask any art expert, or in fact anyone who knows even a little to name an impressionist, and the name Pierre-Auguste Renoir will be one of the names that will come up. His works are amongst some of the greatest impressionist works of all time, but that's not something that Max Geller, the person behind a popular Instagram account called "Renoir Sucks at Painting".

For some months now the account has been growing into a light hearted campaign against Renoir. Back in April, Gellar petitioned the Whitehouse to remove all of Renoir's paintings from the National Gallery of Art. With nearly 10,000 followers, the account has broken away from its virtual being and earlier this month a small group led by Gellar held a mock protest outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Signs were carried by the protesters that read "ReNoir" and "God hates Renior", the bizarre thing is that this encouraged more people to join the cause.

Gellar had said in a recent interview that he hates Renoir because he is the most overrated artist east, west, north and south of the river Seine. He also said that eyeballs looked as if they had been coloured in with Sharpies. He went on to say that Renoir just sucked at painting.

Renoir has long been a controversial figure, American Impressionist Mary Cassatt criticized his paintings of "enormously fat women with very small heads." As recently as 2007, New York Times art critic Roberta Smith bemoaned his "acres of late nudes" and the "ponderous staginess" of his work.

Who knows if this is just some stunt, or if it will turn out to become a real movement, but what it does show is that even the old masters can still be controversial, and isn't that what art is about?


Just five years ago, the handshake deals made in art transactions seemed to be a road to nowhere when two forgery scandals sent the art world into a tailspin. People were fooled, Christie's and Sotheby's had sold forged works. Despite experts authenticating the works, and even the Met and other museums had given them exhibit space, and major players in the artworks had distributed the works.

Wolfgang Beltracchi was arrested in Germany in 2010 after admitting to forging 20th Century Masters like Max Ernst and Fernard Léger. In 2011, the prestigious gallery of Knoedler and Company, one of the oldest and most revered in New York, shuttered following allegations that it had sold some $60m of fake Abstract Expressionist paintings. The allegations later proved to be true.

This month Manhattan Federal Court Judge, Paul Gardephe ruled that Knoedler and its former director must face trial in two lawsuits brought about by angry buyers. Ann Freedman must go to trial in two lawsuits brought by angry buyers, New York collector John Howard and Sotheby’s chair Domenico de Sole and his wife, Eleanore. Knoedler and Freedman deny wrongdoing and say they were duped as well. Freedman’s lawyer Luke Nikas told The Art Newspaper that at trial she will “tell her story and prove her good faith.”

But has anything changed in the art buying world? Not really. Sellers have a right to anonymity, and only the savvy art collector traces all of the provenance. Art advisers are becoming more popular for the series collector, tracing provenance is what they do. If work can be traced back from the current owner to the artist, it is a sign that the work is original. The art market is notorious for its lack of transparency, With galleries as middlemen, even the seller’s name often isn’t disclosed to the buyer.

But even if there is documentary evidence of provenance, it too can be forged, and it can be rather convincing. Beltracchi had told buyers that the fakes were called leeches by his wife's grandparents and even presented old photographs with them posing before an array of his forged works.

Authenticators are becoming more and more cautious for fear of being sued. Many artist foundations have closed their authentication boards in recent years because of the $7m in legal fees incurred by the Andy Warhol Foundation whilst vindicating itself.

But how can you guarantee that what you are buying is legitimate? If you buy from a reputable dealer, that goes a long way. Sotheby’s and Christie's have both tightened up their game. If you buy from a recognised gallery and later discover a problem, the gallery will do their best to sort out the problem. Top galleries do their homework.

It was the science of forensic analysis that confirmed the Knoedler and Beltracchi fakes, and this may become the ultimate safeguard for art sold on the secondary market. This is a business that is growing, so we can probably expect to see much more forensic analysis being carried out in the future.


Mumbai offers more than traffic



As leaders of the South Asian Modern and Contemporary art market in India, Christie's have announced that they will be expanding their Indiam art sale by including classical art for the first time in December 2015.

Christie’s have announced that its third consecutive India Sale, to be held in Mumbai on 15 December, will include a section dedicated to Classical Indian Art. This extended sale offering commemorated the 20th anniversary of Christie’s presence in India.

This strategic auction extension was enhanced by the recent stellar results achieved for Indian antiquities included in the March auction of the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection in New York, realising a total of $134 million, to date the most valuable private collection of Asian Art to be offered. By including classical art to Christie’s third India Sale the company will lend its international standards to this burgeoning domestic market.

William Robinson, International Head of World Art declared: “When we made the bold move in 2013 to hold our first sale in India we had hopes of including Indian Classical Art in our auctions in the near future. With the necessary licenses now in place, we are excited to bring our longstanding expertise in this category, which has for so long been one of the cornerstones of our business, to our sales in India. As these objects are not able to be exported, but can still be exchanged in India, they will be safeguarded, and through the cataloguing process they will be properly identified and, for the time they are on exhibition, available for all to see and enjoy.”

One of the most important works of art offered in the sale is a buff sandstone figure of the dancing Ganesha, the lovable and mischievous elephant-headed deity. The theme of the dancing Ganesha captivated the sculptors of Central India, resulting in the production of some of the liveliest examples between the 8th and 11th centuries.

This Ganesha is carved with voluptuous form as well as a sense of joygul elegance and agility. This signature piece of the sale is amongst the finest of its type (estimate: INR 60,00,000-70,00,000). The sculpture section also contains a magnificent life-size early Chola granite dvarapala figure formerly in the collection of the noted dancer Yamini Krishnamuthi (b. 1940 / estimate: INR 1,20,00,000-1,20,00,000).

At the heart of the miniature paintings selection is a group that comes directly from the ancestral collections of the Maharajas of Bikaner. Very well preserved by the dry desert air, these are a reminder of how cosmopolitan Bikaner was in its heyday. Not only does the group include typical elegant depictions of Krishna and palace life, but also two paintings that clearly illustrate the direct influence of Golconda (present day Hyderabad) in the Deccan.

The group also contains two fanciful depictions of Europeans that relate closely to those painted on the ceilings of the Phool Mahal in the Fort of Bikaner (estimates range from INR 2,00,000-12,00,000).

Throughout 2015, Christie’s South Asian Modern + Contemporary Art team has been able to offer some rare and unique works of art, resulting in new world auction records for Maqbool Fida Hussain and Gaganendranath Tagore set in London in June, as well as the second highest price at auction for Amrita Sher-Gill. More recently, Chrsitie’s also established a new world auction record for any modern Indian work of art sold at auction when Francis Newton Souza’s Birth sold for US$4,085,000 in New York this September.

Featuring exceptional works of modern and contemporary South Asian Art, The India Sale will comprise approximately 80 lots from important private and corporate collections. The auction includes modern masterpieces by Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, Nasreen Mohamedi, Manjit Bawa, Nandalal Bose, Abanindranth Tagore and Gaganendranath Tagore.

Gaitonde’s radiant painting from 1995, Untitled maintains a delicate balance of light, texture, colour, and space, which makes the artist's paintings lyrical and luminous. With their virtually imperceptible gradations of pigment and enigmatic forms, which seem to spontaneously emerge from and disappear under the almost liquid surface, Gaitonde's canvases elicit new discoveries with each viewing.

A recent retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York, which opened at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice this month, brought Gaitonde’s work to an international audience, and followed on from Christie’s debut Mumbai auction in December 2013, in which a 1979 painting by the artist sold for INR 23,70,25,000 ($3.7 million) setting a new world auction record for the artist.

Tyeb Mehta’s Untitled (Two Figures) painted in 1981, represents an important turning point in the artist’s work, illustrating a growing complexity in composition and the facility of line. In this modernist masterpiece, the heavily textured impressionistic brushstrokes from his early days are completely transformed into a new painting mode. Illustrating the transition between Mehta’s diagonal works and his later variations on the theme of the Mother Goddess, in this painting large expanses of flat earthy and vibrant colours are paired with a conscious two-dimensionality focused more on line than contour.

Further announcements about the sale will be made in due course.


Reuters reported that the FBI and the Secret Service are investigating reports that John Brennan, The CIA's Director has been the target of email hacking, although it is also reported that no classified information had been accessed.

The New York Post reported that a high school student claimed to have hacked into the directors private AOL account, and the Comcast account of Jeh Johnson who is the Secretary of Homeland Security. Despite reports to the contrary, the hacker had told the NY Post that Brennan's private account contained a 47-page application for top-secret security clearance.

The teenager also said that he had accessed Johnson's account and had also listened to his voicemail. The hacker has described himself as an American high school student who is not Muslim, and was motivated by opposition to U.S foreign policy and support for Palestine. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the coming weeks.


Boubacar Kante, a professor at the University of California-San-Diego and his colleague have demonstrated what could be a major breakthrough in the quest for invisibility. Obviously this has grabbed the military's attention, and also the attention of an interior design company. Not quite sure how or why an interior design company could use the technology, unless it's to allow extreme hoarders an easy way to mask their possessions.

The device is called a dielectric meta surface cloak. Personally I think an invisibility cloak slips better off the tongue but it is what it is. It is a fancy way of describing a super-thin, non-metal material that manipulates electromagnetic waves, including visible light and radio waves.

In defence terms it's almost the Holy Grail. A way of slipping in and out of enemy territory undetected.

Back in 2006 researchers demonstrated it was possible to absorb or direct electromagnetic waves around an object through a coating and make it "invisible"; it only worked on microwaves and in two dimensions. Advances since then helped lead Kante and his team (Li Yi Hsu and Thomas Lepetit) to a new material consisting of a layer of Teflon substrate with tiny ceramic cylinders embedded into it.

Kante cited two main breakthroughs: the ultra-thin material, and the use of the ceramics rather than metallic particles in the Teflon. Previous attempts required materials to be some ten times thicker than the wavelength being dodged. Missile guidance and marine wavelengths measure around 3cms, so would require about 12 inches of coating. This new method would reduce that down to a more practical 3mm.

Kante has said that the technology does not allow for a cloak that can hide an object from both visual and radar detection; a given cloak will only work for a fairly narrow range of wavelengths. It's certainly an interesting discovery, but reading the many conspiracy theory pages on the web, we might have already been producing similar technology. Who knows?


Regular readers of my blog will know that there are a couple of things that annoy me. Research on subjects that do not save lives or bring around new technologies, and the other thing is celebrating a specific day that someone made up. You know, like Howl at the Moon day (26th October 2015, and Black Cat Day on Tursday 27th October). Yes people, these are real days. There is probably a greetings card for them. But there is one day I really wouldn't mind. National Back to the Future Day. Yes, this is one day where I would play the trilogy, and celebrate with my hover board. If only I had one.

This week has seen the date when Marty and Doc travelled in time to October 21st 2015. The film where Marty and Doc crashed in the second of the three time travelling adventure films that remain as good today as they ever were. The sequel was release in November 1989.

Watching it some 26-years on, I remember queuing up at the cinema to see it first time around. But what is more impressive is how it predicted the technology of today. Ok, they also got a few things wrong, but they got a lot right.

The line that sticks out and is still used today, "Where we are going we don't need roads", never quite panned out. Today we still need roads, and we also need the authorities to fill in the pot holes. Flying cars however have been a promise for a long time. Terrafugia promised us a flying car back in 2012, to date they are still trying to get the business, and the car off the ground.

So the flying car didn't take off, no pun intended, but Back to the Future did get one automobile thing right, the hum of the electric car. However they still will not work if you just throw away your rubbish into the cars fusion reactor.

The hover board was another one they nearly pulled off, to date there have been various iterations of a similar device, but they are not as agile as the ones used by Marty, and I know of none that will let you take to the water as well. The Metropolitan Police recently reminded people on Twitter that they would class riding a hover board in a public space as illegal.


Apple has confirmed that 256 apps have been pulled from the App Store that have been using a private API built by mobile advertising company, Youmi. The API allegedly collected personal data from devices that had downloaded the apps.

Youmi was able to collect device serial numbers, apps installed, and Apple ID email addresses. This information can be sold on the black market for a price, especially the email addresses that spammers could use to pretend to be Apple. Many of the apps affected were found on the Chinese App Store.

Apple will now be working with the publishers of the affected apps so that they can bring them back to market. This is one of the few instances were the App team failed to spot the rogue API but the company have advised upgrading to the latest version of iOS to be safe.


The Scottish National Gallery has acquired a rare still life cubist collage by Pablo Picasso. The piece features newspaper cuttings of adverts for Quaker Oats, and Cherry Rocher Cherry Brandy.

Picasso made over 30-collages but only a handful remain in private hands. Picasso’s experiments in collage, most using newspaper cuttings, were influenced by works made in late 1912 by his friend and cubist pioneer George Braque. The collage had been in a private collection in Sweden for more than 40 years. The gallery was able to buy it at auction, through a legacy from Henry Walton, former professor of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, and Sula Wolff, author of acclaimed works on child psychiatry. They bequeathed their art collection to the gallery, including a dozen Picasso prints, but also set up a fund specifically for important acquisitions related to the collection.


Photographs of Earth taken from space can really change a persons perspective on life. Our small blue marble of a planet was photographed by the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Now NASA is planning to release daily photographs of our world taken from its DSCOVR spacecraft which is some one million miles away.


Earth from Space
Catch a glimpse everyday

Photos of Earth against the blackness of space can help change a person's perspective about our small, blue marble of a planet. Such photos have historically been rare, ever since the first one taken by humans, and most famous such image, was transmitted by Apollo 17 in 1972.

Now, NASA is planning to change that, with daily releases of photos of the full, sunlit side of our planet seen by a spacecraft about 1 million miles away.

On Monday, NASA launched a new website that will feature at least 12 new, high resolution photos of the sunlit side of the Earth each day. The images come from the DSCOVR spacecraft (short for Deep Space Climate Observatory).

The space agency is planning to post the new photos (taken 12-to-36 hours earlier) in a data release every day.

DSCOVR's main job is to keep track of potentially dangerous space weather, but NASA also has two instruments on the spacecraft — a joint operation of the space agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force — which allows the agency to keep track of ozone, aerosols, clouds and vegetation on the planet, NASA said.

NASA's appropriately-named EPIC camera on DSCOVR is responsible for taking these "blue marble" photos of Earth each day.

The DSCOVR craft has a somewhat long and sordid history. The spacecraft's life began as Triana, an Earth science mission heralded by then Vice President Gore. The craft never got off the ground due to budget difficulties, and went into storage in 2001. It was revived as a mission in 2008, and DSCOVR launched to space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket earlier this year.

To get a glimpse of the photos to date head over too, Be warned though, the site has been very busy this week and when I tried to visit it took me almost half an hour.

So that's all for today, but I would love to hear about your ideas for special days. If you have an idea, share it here and I will be featuring the best ones in an upcoming blog post all about "special days"!

That's all for today but make sure you keep in your favourites folder. I will be preparing my Winter Collection which will be released exclusively on Fine Art America, and I will be putting the finishing touches to two commissions that have taken an eternity to complete!

Also keep on the lookout for a very special offer. To get the latest updates you can Like Beechhouse Media on Facebook at that's were you will find my daily musings on life too!



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