Kehinde Wiley’s “St. Andrew” (oil and enamel on canvas in an antiquated frame with gilded ornament) of 2006.
A young man in contemporary street-wear straddles the cross on which he will die. The unusual cross is associated with St. Andrew, a disciple of Christ who was executed for refusing to renounce his faith.
Kehinde Wiley poses his contemporary St. Andrew against rich brocade that comes to life as it winds over the figure.
The subject is painted in a powerful and dramatic Baroque style in strong contrast to the flat background.
Born in Los Angeles in 1977, Kehinde Wiley now lives and works in New York. He earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale in 2001. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Represented by New York gallerist Sean Kelly, Wiley
“has firmly situated himself within art history’s portrait painting tradition.
“As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others,
“Wiley engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, majestic, and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men found throughout the world.”
Clear water in Venice. Blue skies over Beijing. Air monitors in the city of Houston recording less ozone than normal. Clearer and crisper Austin skyline. The cleanest air ever recorded in Los Angeles.
“I think contemporary art changes how you look at the world. And that’s huge for everybody who comes into the situation.”
“Art as responsibility, art as a civic engagement, art has to be a force in society, art has to be courageous, unafraid, ecological, ecological. That was Joseph Beuys talking to my art teacher.”
“As a museum, you have a civic responsibility, you have a role in society, you have to be courageous, you have to open up your doors to allow for dialogue.”
“after 10 years of working for and with [MoMA PS1 board chair; president emerita & trustee, MoMA] Agnes Gund, I follow one very important principle in decision-making: ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the difference you can make.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), established in 1979, is the only artist-founded museum in Los Angeles. As of late 2018 its endowment amounted to more than $134 million.
Klaus Biesenbach is MOCA’s sixth director, beginning work with the museum on 23 October 2018. He “’loves fundraising’” and sees his role at MOCA “as strictly administrative, focused on fundraising and growing the museum’s attendance, programming, endowment and board.”
Prior to moving to Los Angeles to take up the directorship of MOCA, Klaus Biesenbach lived for 23 years in Manhattan. In 1995 he moved to New York from Berlin where, in 1991, as an intern for the East German government, he established Berlin’s Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art in a vacant former margarine factory.
Biesenbach worked initially with what was then called the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York. The P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center was established in 1971 by Alanna Heiss as the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., an organization devoted to organizing exhibitions in underutilized and abandoned spaces across New YorkCity.
The P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center became an affiliate of TheMuseum of Modern Art in 2000.
Biesenbach joined MoMA in 2004 with a concurrent role at MoMA PS1. He became director of MoMA PS1 in 2010, serving also as chief curator-at-large at MoMA.
Just weeks into his job at MOCA, Mr. Biesenbach described his view of the mission of museums: “’to be a resident among residents,’” “meant not only to display art but to support artists and greater civic life.”
a museum, you have a civic responsibility, you have a role in
society, you have to be courageous, you have to open up your doors to
allow for dialogue.’”
“’After 10 years of working for and with [MoMA PS1 board chair] Agnes Gund, I follow one very important principle in decision-making: ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the difference you can make.’”’”
continues, a primary goal is now “’alignment. To develop a vision
for the museum and then align the board and the staff and all the
other constituencies. And vision doesn’t necessarily mean huge
buildings or blockbusters. It could also be a much more modest
vision: simply functioning.
“’I think contemporary art changes how you look at the world. And that’s huge for everybody who comes into the situation.’”
Growing up near Cologne, Germany, Mr. Biesenbach’s love for art began when he was in primary school. Joseph Beuys spoke through his art teacher, who had studied with him.
as responsibility, art as a civic engagement, art has to be a force
in society, art has to be courageous, unafraid, ecological,
ecological. That was Joseph Beuys talking to my art teacher. We were
like 8 or 9 years old!”
Full circle to today’s Los Angeles, and to today’s Houston, Beijing, Venice, and so many other cities.
water in Venice. Blue skies over Beijing. Air monitors in the city of
Houston recording less ozone than normal. Clearer and crisper Austin
skyline. The cleanest air ever recorded, in March 2020, in Los
notorious L.A. smog starts as a cloud of traffic emissions that’s
spewed into the air during the morning rush hour. This layer of air
pollution is then held in place by a combination of the Southland’s
topography and its prevailing weather patterns, and baked for hours
in SoCal’s warm ultraviolet rays, an effect that air-quality
experts liken to a pot of soup heating on a stove.
“There’s no question that the drastic improvement in air quality—a combined measure of the particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone we breathe into our lungs—is due to the fact that most Angelenos are driving less and staying inside more.”
primary reason, experts say, is fewer vehicles on the road, which
means fewer emissions from the petroleum-based fuels on which so much
of the Texas economy relies.” …
Houston, where the huge volumes of commuters and sprawl of industrial
facilities often result in a lingering smog, emissions of nitrogen
oxides, which combine with other pollutants in the atmosphere to form
ozone, are already down 15 percent this month compared to last year.”
“The reduction in pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and microscopic particulate matter, not to mention the carbon dioxide that is warming the planet, offers a temporary window on what the world might look like as governments worldwide move to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by mid-century.”
“A question we should be asking is, how do we maintain the better air quality without the economic consequences of shutter in place orders?’” Michael Webber, energy resources professor at theUniversity of Texas, Austin.
The economic consequences of “shutter in place orders” are dire.
In response to the outbreak of the coronavirus, MOCA, for instance, has laid off all 97 part-time employees. Almost all 69 full-time employees are taking a full or partial furlough or a significant salary reduction.
In correspondence with Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Biesenbach writes, “the coronavirus crisis is changing lives in unprecedented ways and that he couldn’t say ‘how long this slow-burning catastrophe will grow and when it will end.”
these uncertainties, we are taking significant measures to make sure
MOCA’s unique legacy and collection, built through the creative hard
work and contributions of so many will continue to be preserved and
accessible for generations to come.”
vulnerable than some other Los Angeles museums, MOCA does not enjoy
the financial privilege of a wealthy benefactor behind it, as does
the Broad (Eli Broad). Nor is the museum partially funded by a
university, as is the Hammer Museum. Nor is it so directly connected
to a government entity as is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
“’MOCA,’” rather, Biesenbach observes, “’is supported independently, mostly by individuals, and we have to navigate this crisis in our own way.’”
how might we maintain the better air quality without the economic
consequences of shutter in place orders?
A hint at forward direction might come from Cody A. Hill, Vice President, Energy Storage at LS Power.”
LS Power is “a development, investment, and operating company focused on power generation, electric transmission and energy infrastructure. We partner with communities across North America to create lower-cost, cleaner energy solutions.”
Mr. Hill has an MS in Electrical and ComputerEngineering from the University of Texas at Austin and is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sharing an “astounding chart from the EPA,” Mr. Hill (Twitter: @cody_a_hill) notes, in a tweet of 2 April 2020, that “Los Angeles had the cleanest air ever recorded there in March 2020.”
Cody Hill continues in the same tweet, “This is mostly from reduced driving with the same vehicle fleet. It could be the new normal and ~13 million people living there would be healthier if we electrify transportation.”
“‘Because we believe its physical products are going to be in increasing demand in the global economy over the coming decades,”
Harvard Management Co., the Harvard University endowment manager, likes the natural-resources asset class.
“In a warming planet, few resources will be more affected than water, as droughts, storms and changes in evaporation alter a flow critical for drinking, farming, and industry.
“Even though there aren’t many ways to make financial investments in water, investors are starting to place bets.
“Buying arable land with access to it is one way.
“In California’s Central Coast, ‘the best property with the best water will sell for record-breaking prices,’ says JoAnn Wall, a real-estate appraiser specializing in vineyards, ‘and properties without adequate water will suffer in value.'”
The Harvard Management Co. has, since 2012, been buying agricultural land, with rights to sources of water, on California’s Central Coast. The idea was pitched to Harvard by agricultural investment advisory firm Grapevine Capital Partners LLC, founded by Matt Turrentine, formerly of his family’s Central Coast grape-brokerage business, and James Ontiveros, a local vineyard manager.
“Harvard’s investing guidelines say respecting local resource rights are of increasing importance ‘in the coming decades as competition for scarce resources, such as arable land and water, intensifies due to increasing global population, climate change, and food consumption.’”
“Investors who see agriculture as a proxy for betting on water include Michael Burry, a hedge-fund investor who wager against the U.S. housing market was chronicled in the book and movie ‘The Big Short.’ In a 2015 New York Magazine interview, Mr. Burry was quoted as saying: ‘What became clear to me is that food is the way to invest in water. That is, grow food in water-rich areas and transport it for sale in water-poor areas.'”
“In California vineyards, the water-proxy math is compelling. When grapes are harvested, about 75% of their weight is water. Owning vineyards effectively turns water into revenue.”
“Kat Taylor, an environmentalist and wife of hedge-fund billionaire and liberal activist Tom Steyer, resigned earlier this year from Harvard’s board of overseers in protest of the endowment’s investments in things such as fossil fuels and water holdings she says threaten the human right to water.
“‘It may, in the short run, be about developing vineyard properties,’ she says of Harvard’s California investments. ‘In the long run, it was a claim on water.'”
Gerhard Richter’s “Schädel” (oil on canvas), the first of a series of eight skull paintings painted in 1983, was held in the same collection for 30 years after a last public exhibition in 1988.
Based on a photograph taken by Richter himself, the painting demonstrates a “dialogue between painterly abstraction and photo-realist representation that had been simmering across separate stands of Richter’s practice for nearly two decades.”
This painting led the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale held at Christie’s London on 4 October 2018.
With an unpublished estimate, the painting was expected to sell for between £12 and £18 million (US$15 – US$23 million).
Bidding reached £11.5 million. The painting was not allowed to change hands.
Note also the instance of Edward Hopper’s 1972 painting, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” that sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 November. It closed narrowly, at what may have been a precisely agreed threshold of $80 million – with what appeared to be Christie’s bidding against itself to reach the sales price.
As the markets for works of art, collections care, and engineered resilience in the built environment (private collections, museums – public and private, galleries, fairs, corporate and university collections, etc.) converge, renewable energy will be a factor.
“Underlying property increases in value by virtue of the fact that positive externalities associated with the performance of the resilience investments represents a superior outcome to the status quo – even when netted out by any costs.” (Keenan et.al.)
Companies have signed long-term contracts to purchase solar and wind energy in 28 markets.
Cost declines and efficiency improvements are making renewables cost-competitive with wholesale power prices of more traditional sources of electricity.
While larger corporations are entering into corporate power purchase agreements (PPA),
smaller companies are increasingly pooling electricity demand together to access economies of scale achieved through solar and wind projects.
This is called “aggregation.”
“Aggregation” might be a workable model for entities in the art market concerned about the long-term resilience of structures and care and value of works and collections.
Across time, space, and generations, the magic and spirit of Hans Hofmann, teacher to many, continues.
A composition of warm and vivid hues, geometric blocks of color, a surface that is rich in both visual and textural details, highlighting the materiality and thickness of the paint and the flatness of the canvas.
“Into Outer Space,” Hans Hofmann (oil on panel, 1957), at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 1971)
Action painter? Abstract expressionist?
“While critic Robert Coates first used the term Abstract Expressionism in his review of Hofmann’s 1946 solo exhibition at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery in New York, histories of postwar American art, have always focused on the youth, vitality, and uniquely American experiences of the generation of artists who matured in the 1940s.”
Hofmann does not fit the narrative of such postwar histories. Born in 1880, Hofmann immigrated to the US from Germany in 1932 when in his fifties, developing a new style and creating a whole new body of work in his seventies and eighties.
During the course of his life Hofmann was a contemporary of and acquainted with Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and the Delaunays (both husband and wife). He had a lifelong interest in nature, science, music, poetry, and science. He crossed more significant barriers, national and aesthetic, than almost any other twentieth-century painter.
He was never a follower, nor an expressionist, fauvist, a cubist, or a surrealist.
“I am often asked how I approach my work,” Hofmann wrote in 1962 on the importance of the act of painting.
“Let me confess: I hold my mind and my work free from any association foreign to the act of painting. I am thoroughly inspired and agitated by the actions themselves which the development of painting continuously requires….This seems simple but it is actually the fruit of long research”
H. Hofmann, “Hans Hofmann on Art,” in Art Journal, Vol. 22, Spring 1963, p. 18; quoted in Lot Essay, Hans Hofmann, “Auxerre,” Lot 36B, Christie’s, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, New York, 13 May 2015
William Chapin Seitz, the first scholar to receive a PhD from Princeton University in the field of modern art (it took him more than a year to convince the Princeton art history graduate committee that the work of living artists was a topic worthy of graduate study) and formerly Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, organized the 1963 MoMA exhibition, “Hans Hofmann”.
Dr. Seitz observes,
“When one looks back at the years after 1945, when the “New American Painting” was taking form, it is apparent that one of its aesthetic determinants was the desire felt by many artists to incorporate in their work tendencies of style and feeling previously thought to be contradictory. Both the temper of Hofmann’s mind and his supranational development led him in this direction.”
“It has been said that Hofmann is an “automatic” painter; he has also been called an “action painter” because of his direct enactment of emotional content. Yet his automatism has never been mere psychic catharsis, his activity is never purely physical, and his fury, like his delicate lyricism, is that of nature as well as himself. And even in the most passionate of his works the adjustment of formal relationships can be as precise as in the compositions of Mondrian or Malevich.”
“Hofmann admired Mondrian for the purity of his abstract structure. He admired Kandinsky — whom he once called an “anti-plastic” painter — for his automatism and fluid color.
“The architectural basis of his own painting derives from a study of Cezanne, and from cubism, yet (at least in his representational paintings).
“By synthesizing such diverse materials, Hofmann developed his own metier: the unhampered autonomy of lines and planes; the elevation of color to a primary means; the maintenance of clear “intervals” between color planes; the preservation of physical gestures in pigment. He cast aside the dross of systematic perspective, tonal modeling, literature, and illusionism.”
Believing in the innate integrity of the pictorial space, Hofmann theorized the “push and pull” within a painting, describing how he used balance and contrast between colors and forms to create pictorial dynamism. Rejecting the traditional practice of creating depth through graduations of tone, Hofmann created space without denying the flatness of the picture’s surface.
Hofmann wrote in a late essay,
“Pictorial space is an aesthetically created space and is as such as real as nature. Its reality is based on the reality of the hidden inherent laws of the picture surface.”
H. Hoffman, quoted in S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1963, p. 44.
“The history of the Chrysler Museum includes stories of 19th century feminist visionaries & a mid-20th century penny drive by schoolchildren to buy a single Renoir that was about the size of a paperback book.
“Clearly, everything moved to a new level when Walter Chrysler, Jr. came to town.”
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., born in 1909 and the son of the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, met, as a young man, leading avant-garde artists in Paris. Retiring from active business in 1956 (he served as President of New York’s Chrysler Building from 1935 to 1953), he devoted himself to the arts.
Mr. Chrysler’s wife, Jean Outland Chrysler, was born and raised in Norfolk. In part influenced by her, Walter Chrysler agreed in 1971 with the City of Norfolk to gift thousands of his works of art to the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences, to be re-named the Chrysler Museum of Art.
Before he relocated his collection, however, Mr. Chrysler, “who once owned a couple hundred Picassos,” traded works – some good trades, some not so good.
The grand and bold “29.01.64” (the date of its completion; oil on canvas) sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2017 for $19.7 million, then an auction record for the artist, “to bidders who clearly wanted this picture.”
Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013) moved to Paris from Beijing, where he was born, in 1948, began working with New York dealer Samuel Koontz (who encouraged him to experiment with larger formats) in 1956, and took a larger studio in the Montparnasse neighborhood of Paris in 1961.
Christie’s Paris’ specialist Clara Rivollet highlights the very complex composition:
“There’s actually a structure of very deep, black brushstrokes an then you can see around a kind of dilute-ink-wash-like oil around it and then on top of it he adds a whole network of intricate lines.
“You have very controlled sinuous lines that remind us of Chinese calligraphy. But also this very kind of loose movement in white paint is very inspired by Jackson Pollock’s painting.
“The painting could be a Western painting because it’s abstract. But actually in its essence it remains very Chinese because for Zao Wou-ki abstraction always represents a kind of inner imaginary landscape like the Chinese literati painting would do.”
“29.09.64”, at 230 x 345 cm. (90 1/2 x 135 7/8 in.), is one of the two largest that Zao painted in the 1960s.
It was purchased directly from the artist in 1969 by a French architect who built hospitals, research centers, and administrative buildings throughout France and Algeria in the years of rapid modernization following World War II.
“29.09.64” remained in the family’s collection for 48 years. The original owner’s son consigned the painting to Christie’s.
Detail of Christopher Wool’s “Untitled” (silk-screen, 2001).
J. Tomilson Hill, the vice chairman of the Blackstone Group who manages its hedge fund business, is the first American private collector to display his works of contemporary art in Asia.
“Christopher Wool: Highlights from the Hill Art Collection” opened during Art Basel Hong Kong in Central District’s H Queens, the new skyscraper designed by William Lim’s Hong Kong-based CL3 architectural practice and custom-built to house art galleries.
The exhibition, on view from March 27 through April 8, was produced by Hong Kong-based advisor Alexandre Errera.
While Mr. Hill ordinarily does not attend art fairs (dealers call him with works of interest instead), he did make it to Art Basel Hong Kong this spring for the opening of his exhibition of the works of Christoper Hill.
Following Hong Kong, Mr. Hill and his daughter left for Beijing to visit the studios of the about 15 artists there whose works he collects. Mr. Hill collects, for instance, works of Liu Wei. (See my post of yesterday regarding Liu Wei’s “Purple Air D1” of 2008).
Asked about the attraction of Chinese art now, Mr. Hill observes:
“Let’s go back to the different collections that we have,
“which is Renaissance bronzes, old master paintings, a dozen post-World War II artists, and now emerging artists.
“They all have one thing in common: At the moment that the art was created, the country of origin was going through a massive series of changes.
“China, in my mind, is going through the same thing now.
“And so I said, ‘I want to be educated.'”
See: 1) “J. Tomilson Hill on the Attraction of Contemporary Art,” Ted Lois, The New York Times, 26 March 2018; 2) “J. Tomilson Hill is Giving Asia Its First Christopher Wool Show in Over a Decade,” Nate Freeman, Artsy, 27 March 2018