Banksy Launches a New Online Store: Make Purchases Through October 28

Has Banksy sold out? Fans and critics alike of the street-art provocateur-turned-globally recognizable brand can argue that question endlessly. But we do know, at least, that Banksy sells: earlier this month he broke his own record when his 2009 painting Devolved Parliament went for £9.88 million (about $12.20 million USD) at Sotheby's. Not all the followers attracted by Banksy's anti-capitalistic, anti-corporate, anti-wealth image can afford to pay quite so much for a Banksy of their own, but if they can come up with anything from £10 to £850.00, they stand as much of a chance as anyone else of making a purchase from the artist's newly opened online store, Gross Domestic Product, the second phase of a project that began, as many of Banksy's ventures have, on a London street.

In this case it wasn't a mural but a shop, or rather, an installation designed to look like a shop, "opened" right in time for Frieze Week, when the art world passes through the city. "Taking up large windows facing the street, the shop, 'where art irritates life,' is a classic display of the artist's ingenuity and razor-sharp sense of reason and humor," writes Juxtapoz's Sasha Bogojev.

Its stock included a "baby crib surveillance mobile toy, along with 'early learning counting set' consisting of wooden figures of refugees, welcome mats made from life vests salvaged from the shores of the Mediterranean, disco ball made from old police helmets, plates/clocks with running rats, works on canvas, cushions, and even badly done 'Banksky' T-shirts, mugs and plates." Much to the dismay of many a Frieze-goer, nothing in Banksy's brick-and-mortar store was available for sale.

But everything in Banksy's online store is: "GrossDomesticProduct.com offers a wide range of household products, artworks and basically a whole range of Banksy™ knick-knacks," writes Bogojev. "From mugs for which 'the artist got the kids to do it, then signed the result,' sculptural edition made in collaboration with Escif, learning sets, t-shirts" — one modeled after Girl with Balloon, shredded bottom half and all — "soft toys, clocks, all the way to two new print editions." Such is Banksy's popularity that you might well assume everything has already run out, but no: each hopeful buyer can register to purchase one item — but just one — until October 28th, at which point a lottery process will determine which of them will actually have the privilege of making their desired purchases. In the highly likely event of "demand outstripping supply," Gross Domestic Product will use as a determining factor applicants' responses, consisting of fifty words or fewer, to the question, "Why does art matter?"

One hopes that when this latest Banksy stunt has finished, the winning responses to that question will be made public; the art-world commentariat would certainly make much of an answer from Banksy himself. But Banksy-watchers know that the artist, whatever his real identity, is always on the move: no sooner have we learned of his latest piece of work, whatever form it takes, than he's primed the next one to drop. Banksy has described Gross Domestic Product as legally motivated, prompted by a greeting card company's attempts "to seize legal custody of the name Banksy from the artist, who has been advised the best way to prevent this is to sell his own range of branded merchandise." If anyone makes Banksy greeting cards, it's going to be Banksy. And if he were to announce his own Hallmark Store, lines would surely start forming right away.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Joni Mitchell Publishes a Book of Her Rarely Seen Paintings & Poetry

Self Portrait.”Art work by Joni Mitchell, from "Morning Glory on the Vine" / Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Joni Mitchell is a woman of many talents—too many for the label “singer-songwriter” to encompass. It does not capture the literary depth of her lyricism, the unique strength of her distinctive voice, or the deftness and versatility of her guitar playing. Nor the fact that she’s one of the most interesting personalities in rock (or folk-rock/folk/folk-jazz, whatever). Mitchell’s biography is riveting; her chatty and cantankerous interviews a treat.

And, if you somehow didn’t know from her many album covers, Mitchell is also an accomplished visual artist. “I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance,” she said in 2000. “I sing my sorrow and I paint my joy.” It’s a great quote, though she also sings her joy and paints sorrow—as in the portrait of her hero, Miles Davis, made just after his death. (Davis was a painter too, and they bonded over art.)

Mitchell began selling her work “when I was in high school to dentists, doctors—small time,” she told Rolling Stone in 1990. She has written poetry since her teenage years. Her imagistic songwriting came from a love of literary language. “I wrote poetry,” she says, “and I always wanted to make music. But I never put the two things together,” until she heard Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” and realized “you could make your songs literature.”

Painter, poet, singer, songwriter, guitarist—all of the artistic sides of Mitchell have mingled throughout her career in the visual splendor of her covers, compositions, and lyrics. They also came together in a rare 1971 book. After the release of Blue, Mitchell “gathered more than thirty drawings and watercolors in a ring binder and paired them with handwritten lyrics and bits of poetry,” writes Amanda Petrusich at The New Yorker.

She had the book handbound in an edition of 100 copies and gave it to friends for the holidays, calling it “The Christmas Book.” Now it has a different title, Morning Glory on the Vine, for a new edition to be released October 22nd. Part of the extensive celebrations for Mitchell’s 75th birthday, this edition fulfills a decade-long desire for the artist. “I always wanted to redo it and simplify the presentation,” she tells Petrusich. “Work is meant to be seen.”

The collection “feels consonant with Mitchell’s songwriting” in that it captures “tantalizing details about home,” in this case the home in Laurel Canyon that she shared with Graham Nash, the inspiration for the Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Our House.” Still life compositions and self-portraits, both “vivid" and "intimate,” complement her vulnerable, playful, “funny and weird,” lyrics and verses. You can see more of the paintings from Morning Glory on the Vine at The New Yorker and preorder a copy of the book here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Paint Like Willem De Kooning: Watch Visual Primers from the Museum of Modern Art

Before you learn how to paint like Dutch American Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning, you might ask, why should you paint like Willem De Kooning? Shouldn’t every artist have his or her own inimitable personal style? We might ask, why learn to play piano like Nina Simone or write prose like William Faulkner? If you stop at mere imitation, there may be no good reason to mimic the masters.

But if you take their techniques and make them yours—steal, if you will, their best parts for your work—then, with enough talent and persistence, you might be on your way toward an inimitable personal style of your own. Or, you could simply watch these videos on how to paint like De Kooning to get a vivid, live-action demonstration of how the artist himself did it.

You need never have held a paintbrush to appreciate the Museum of Modern Art’s “How to Paint Like” series, featuring videos of MoMA educator and conservator Cory D’Augustine, who shows us how to imitate the methods of not only of De Kooning, but also Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Agnes Martin. All of these tutorials come from D’Augustine’s Coursera class “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting.”

And as his other videos, here D’Augustine offers a comprehensive overview of the artist’s tools and techniques: low-viscosity oil paint held in large quantities in bowls, rather than small blobs of paint on a palette; the big powerful full-body gestures to achieve “action painting.” If you are trying this at home, be advised, D’Augustine moves fast, assuming a lot of prior experience and a serious artist’s collection of supplies.  Think more Bob Vila than Bob Ross—you will need a good set of tools. But if you're aspiring to paint like De Kooning, odds are you've got it covered.

D’Augustine has also been responsive to critics in the comments, releasing the follow up Part 2 video, above, to address the absurdity of actually “doing a De Kooning-esque painting in a day.” Additionally, as he notes above, De Kooning “reinvented himself again and again and again,” meaning “there certainly isn’t one way, there certainly aren’t a hundred ways, to make a De Kooning since he was relentlessly inventive.”

That is to say, we're seeing a curated selection of De Kooning’s materials and application techniques, which still may be quite enough to influence a budding painter on the way to a unique technique of her own—or to inform De Kooning fans who do not paint, but who have stood before his fearfully, brutally energetic canvases and wondered how they came to be.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Politics & Philosophy of the Bauhaus Design Movement: A Short Introduction

This year marks the centennial of the Bauhaus, the German art-and-design school and movement whose influence now makes itself felt all over the world. The clean lines and clarity of function exhibited by Bauhaus buildings, imagery, and objects — the very definition of what we still describe as "modern" — appeal in a way that transcends not just time and space but culture and tradition, and that's just as the school's founder Walter Gropius intended. A forward-looking utopian internationalist, Gropius seized the moment in the Germany left ruined by the First World War to make his ideals clear in the Bauhaus Manifesto: "Together let us call for, devise, and create the construction of the future, comprising everything in one form," he writes: "architecture, sculpture and painting."

In about a dozen years, however, a group with very little time for the Bauhaus project would suddenly rise to prominence in Germany: the Nazi party. "Their right-wing ideology called for a return to traditional German values," says reporter Michael Tapp in the Quartz video above, "and their messaging carried a typeface: Fraktur." Put forth by the nazis as the "true" German font, Fraktur was "based on Gothic script that had been synonymous with the German national identity for 800 years." On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the Bauhaus created "a radical new kind of typography," which Museum of Modern Art curator Barry Bergdoll describes as "politically charged": "The Germans are probably the only users of the Roman alphabet who had given typescript a nationalist sense. To refuse it and redesign the alphabet completely in the opposite direction is to free it of these national associations."

The culture of the Bauhaus also provoked public discomfort: "Locals railed against the strange, androgynous students, their foreign masters, their surreal parties, and the house band that played jazz and Slavic folk music," writes Darran Anderson at Citylab. "Newspapers and right-wing political parties cynically tapped into the opposition and fueled it, intensifying its anti-Semitism and emphasizing that the school was a cosmopolitan threat to supposed national purity." Gropius, for his part, "worked tirelessly to keep the school alive," preventing students from attending protests and gathering up leaflets printed by fellow Bauhaus instructor Oskar Schlemmer calling the school a "rallying point for all those who, with faith in the future and willingness to storm the heavens, wish to build the cathedral of socialism." In their zeal to purge "degenerate art," the Nazis closed the Bauhaus' Dessau school in 1932 and its Berlin branch the following year.

Though some of his followers may have been firebrands, Gropius himself "was typically a moderating influence," writes Anderson, "preferring to achieve his socially conscious progressivism through design rather than politics; creating housing for workers and safe, clean workplaces filled with light and air (like the Fagus Factory) rather than agitating for them." He also openly declared the apolitical nature of the Bauhaus early on, but historians of the movement can still debate how apolitical it remained, during its lifetime as well as in its lasting effects. A 2009 MoMA exhibition even drew attention to the Bauhaus figures who worked with the Nazis, most notably the painter and architect Franz Ehrlich. But as Anderson puts it, "there are many Bauhaus tales," and together "they show not a simple Bauhaus-versus-the-Nazis dichotomy but rather how, to varying degrees of bravery and caprice, individuals try to survive in the face of tyranny."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

William Burroughs Meets Francis Bacon: See Never-Broadcast Footage (1982)

The writing of William S. Burroughs and the paintings of Francis Bacon take us into often troubling but nevertheless compelling realities we couldn't possibly glimpse any other way. Some of that effect has to do with the inimitable (if often unsuccessfully imitated) styles they developed for themselves, and some with what was going on in their unusual lives as well as the even wilder realms of their minds. And though no scholars have yet turned up a Burroughs monograph on Bacon's art, or Bacon-painted illustrations for a Burroughs novel — just imagine Naked Lunch given that treatment — those minds did meet now and again in life, starting in Morocco six decades ago.

"The two men first met in Tangiers in the 1950s when Burroughs was technically on the run for murdering his wife after a 'shooting accident' during a drunken game of William Tell," writes Dangerous Minds' Paul Gallagher. "Bacon was then in a brutal and near fatal relationship with a violent sadist called Peter Lacey who used to beat him with a leather studded belt." None other than Allen Ginsberg made the introduction between the two men, "as he thought Bacon painted the way Burroughs wrote." But Burroughs saw more differences than similarities: "Bacon and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum," he once said. "He likes middle-aged truck drivers and I like young boys. He sneers at immortality and I think it’s the one thing of importance. Of course we’re associated because of our morbid subject matter."

Bacon and Burroughs reminisce about their first meeting — what they can remember of it, anyway — in an encounter filmed by the BBC for a 1982 documentary on the writer. "Arena followed him to the home and studio of old friend Francis Bacon, where he drops in for a cup of tea and a catch up," says the BBC's site. "This meeting has never been broadcast." But you can see their conversation presented in a ten-minute edit in the video above. Gallagher notes that the camera-shy Burroughs gets into the spirit of things only when the talk turns to his favorite subjects at the time: "Jajouka" — a Moroccan village with a distinct musical tradition — "Mayans, and immortality." Bacon, "waspish, bitchy, gleeful like a naughty schoolboy," throws out barbs left and right about his fellow artists and Burroughs' fellow writers.

Bacon also recalls his and Burroughs' "mutual friendship with Jane and Paul Bowles," the famously bohemian married couple known for their writing as well as their expat life in Morocco, "going on to discuss Jane Bowles’ mental decline and the tragedy of her last years being tended to by nuns, a situation which Bacon thought ghastly. Ironically, Bacon died just over a decade later being tended to by nuns after becoming ill in Spain (an asthma attack)." Even the most knowledgable fans of Burroughs, Bacon, and all the illustrious figures in their worldwide circles surely don't know the half of what happened when they got together. And though this ten-minute chat adds little concrete information to the record, it still gets us imagining what all these artistic associations might have been like — firing up our imaginations being the strong suit of creators like Bacon and Burroughs, even decades after they've left us to our own reality.

via Dangerous Minds

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Download 435 High Resolution Images from John J. Audubon’s The Birds of America

In our experience, bird lovers fall into two general categories:

Keenly observant cataloguers like John James Audubon …

And those of us who cannot resist assigning anthropomorphic personalities and behaviors to the 435 stars of Audubon's The Birds of America, a stunning collection of prints from life-size watercolors he produced between 1827 and 1838.

Our suspicions have little to do with biology, but rather, a certain zestiness of expression, an overemphatic beak, a droll gleam in the eye.

The Audubon Society’s newly redesigned website abounds with treasure for those in either camp:

Free high res downloads of all 435 plates.

Mp3s of each specimen’s call.

And vintage commentary that effectively splits the difference between science and the unintentionally humorous locutions of another age.

Take for instance, the Burrowing Owl, as described by self-taught naturalist Thomas Say (1787-1834):

It is delightful, during fine weather, to see these lively little creatures sporting about the entrance of their burrows, which are always kept in the neatest repair, and are often inhabited by several individuals. When alarmed, they immediately take refuge in their subterranean chambers; or, if the dreaded danger be not immediately impending, they stand near the brink of the entrance, bravely barking and flourishing their tails, or else sit erect to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy.

The notes of ornithologist John Kirk Townsend (1809 – 1851) suggest that not everyone was as taken with the species as Say (who was, in all fairness, the father of American entomology):

Nothing can be more unpleasant than the bagging of this species, on account of the fleas with which their plumage swarms, and which in all probability have been left in the burrow by the Badger or Marmot, at the time it was abandoned by these animals. I know of no other bird infested by that kind of vermin. 

The Common Gallinule, above, suggests that there's often more to these birds than meets the eye. His somewhat sheepish looking countenance belies the red hot love life Audubon recounts:

… the manifestations of their amatory propensity were quite remarkable. The male birds courted the females, both on the land and on the water; they frequently spread out their tail like a fan, and moved round each other, emitting a murmuring sound for some seconds. The female would afterwards walk to the water's edge, stand in the water up to her breast, and receive the caresses of the male, who immediately after would strut on the water before her, jerking with rapidity his spread tail for awhile, after which they would both resume their ordinary occupations.

Being that we are firmly planted in the second type of bird lover's camp, this ornithological cornucopia mainly serves to whet our appetite for more Falseknees, self-described bird nerd Joshua Barkman’s beautifully rendered webcomic.

Yes, Audubon’s Indigo Birdaka Petit Papebleu, “an active and lively little fellow” who "possesses much elegance in his shape, and also a certain degree of firmness in his make” was separated by a century or so from "Mood Indigo"—we presume that’s the tune stuck in Barkman’s bird’s head—but he does look rather preoccupied, no?

Possibly just thinking of mealworms…

Explore Audubon’s Birds of America by chronological or alphabetical order, or by state, and download them all for free here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 7 for her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Full Issues of MAVO, the Japanese Avant-Garde Magazine That Announced a New Modernist Movement (1923-1925)

The early 20th century artistic and literary revolution called Modernism appears in history as an almost entirely European-American phenomenon. Textbooks and syllabi tend to leave out important modernist movements on other continents, which means we miss out on important cross-continental conversations. Though, to be fair, very few English-speaking textbook writers and teachers have known much about the work of, Mavo, an avant-garde group of Japanese artists from the 1920s.

Scant literature has been available in translation. Critics “were often dismissive of the group,” notes Margaret Carrigan at Hyperallergic, “and art historians have all but ignored them in favor of larger contemporaneous movements, like German Expressionism.” Whatever the reasons for the slighting of early Japanese modernism, we can now try to rectify the imbalance thanks to online sources covering the fascinating history of Mavo—both its interesting parallels with European Modernism and its important differences.

Or we can begin to get an intriguing sense of these things, more or less, depending on our level of familiarity with Japanese language and culture. MAVO magazine, edited by Tatsuo Okada and Tomoyoshi Murayama, “appeared in 7 issues between July 1924 and August 1925,” writes Monoskop, who host six of those issues in high resolution scans. (Click on the PDF link under the image of each cover.) “By the third issue, the magazine was thick with advertisements and the usage of actual newspaper as its pages.” The original linocuts and “photographic reproductions of assemblage, painting, and graphic works” are small and sometimes inscrutable in grayscale.

There are many affinities with European modernisms—dichotomies of playfulness and precision, the love of collage and industrial machinery. The history of Mavo, like that of modernists worldwide, is a history of anarchic, confrontational art, charged with contempt for tradition. In 1923, the Shin-aichi newspaper, notes The Japan Times, covered the story of a Mavo exhibit in which artist Takamizawa Michinao tossed rocks through the windows of a state-sponsored, traditional art exhibit while Mavo artists displayed their own abstract canvases outside the gallery.

Mavo came about as the rebranding of an earlier group, “Japan’s Association of Futurist Artists, which became the local offshoot of the European Futurist phenomenon that began in Italy in 1909.” They were eclectic, publishing criticism, designing posters, buildings, and dance and theater pieces, incorporating Cubism and Dadaist tendencies. Unlike the Italian Futurists, who became increasingly fascist in their orientation, Mavo opposed the conservative state. “The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1924 brought about a proletarian and socialist bent to Mavo activities.”

See more of MAVO magazine at Monoskop, and learn more about the movement at The Japan Times, Hyperallergic, and Monoskop’s bibliography of a few scholarly sources in English (and Japanese, if you read the language). Also see Gennifer Weisenfeld's book, MAVO: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1905-1931. If the phrase Japanese avant-garde calls up names like Yoko Ono and Yayoi Kusama, now it may also bring to mind the earlier Mavo and the many artists under its umbrella who adapted European influences for Japanese modes of artistic revolution.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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