Rembrandt’s Masterpiece, The Night Watch, Will Get Restored and You Can Watch It Happen Live, Online

Many of the world's most admired paintings don't look the same now as when the artists completed them. Time, especially when it adds up to centuries and centuries, takes its toll on paints and the canvases to which they're applied, or at least it changes them in ways humanity hasn't predicted or fully understood. Take Rembrandt's 1642 Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, much better known as The Night Watch — but only because a layer of varnish on top of the paint darkened over time, giving the scene an unintended nocturnal quality. The varnish came off in the 1940s, but much more work remains to return Rembrandt's masterpiece to the state in which Rembrandt himself beheld it.

Starting next summer, the Rijksmuseum will launch a multi-year, multimillion-dollar project to give The Night Watch its long-awaited thoroughgoing restoration. (The three restorations the painting received in the 20th century repaired damages inflicted by the occasional visitor bent, for reasons known only to themselves, on destroying it.)




The institution "plans to first study the painting for about eight months, using new scanning technologies that were not available during previous restorations, such as macro X-ray fluorescence scanning, which can explore different layers of the paint surface to determine what needs to be done." Throughout the whole process, "a transparent showcase will be built around the painting, the scientists and the restorers, so that visitors can view the progress."

Art conservators have traditionally done their meticulous work away from public eyes, but in the 21st century public restoration has become, as we now say, a thing. Earlier this month, Artnet's Janelle Zara wrote about various other museum projects that have put "a public face on this normally closed-door profession," even involving social media platforms like Instagram in the process. The Rijksmuseum, as its director Taco Dibbits announces in the video above, will take it a step further by streaming all the restoration work online, providing viewers around the world a closer look at the painting than they've ever had before, no matter how many times they've visited the Rijksmuseum's Night Watch Hall in person. The first stages of the process will determine how, exactly, The Night Watch has changed over the past 376 years. During it we'll no doubt find that Rembrandt, whose finest work seems to grow richer with each examination, still has a few surprises in store for us.

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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.

Behold Kurt Vonnegut’s Drawings: Writing is Hard. Art is Pure Pleasure.

I see hints of blueprints, tile work, leaded-glass windows, William Blake, Paul Klee, Saul Steinberg, Al Hirschfeld, Edward Gorey, my mother’s wasp waist, cats and dogs. I see my father, at age four, forty, and eighty-four, doodling his heart out.

—Nanette Vonnegut

Cartoonist, educator, and neurology buff Lynda Barry believes that doodling is good for the creative brain.

In support of that theory, we submit author Kurt Vonnegut, a very convincing case.

His daughter, Nanette, notes that he was drawn by the human face—his own and those of others.

Portraits include one of his best-known fictional characters, the unsuccessful science fiction author Kilgore Trout. It’s a revelation, especially to those of us who imagined Trout as something  closer to veteran character actor Seymour Cassel.

In addition to his humorous doodles, Vonnegut was known to chisel out a sculpture or two on the kitchen counter.




As a Cape Cod year-rounder, he painted seascapes.

He had a one-man show of his felt tip drawings in Greenwich Village in 1980 ("not because my pictures were any good but because people had heard of me").

But the doodles are what captured the public's imagination, from the illustrations of Breakfast of Champions to his numerous self portraits.

The son and grandson of architects, Vonnegut preferred to think of himself less as an artist than as a "picture designer." Working on a novel was a “nightmare,” but drawing was pure pleasure.

Perfection was not the goal. Vonnegut realized a sympathetic community would spring up around an artist struggling within his limitations, and acted accordingly.

To that end, he recommended that people practice art “no matter how badly because it’s known to make a soul grow.”

 

See a book of 145 Vonnegut drawings curated by his daughter, Nanette Vonnegut 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, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

130,000 Photographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Available Online, Courtesy of Stanford University

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

It’s taken for granted that every brand or rising star must establish and maintain a constant presence on various social networks. Indeed, the social media star—an entity famous solely for collecting followers and posting glamorous photos with themed commentary—may seem like a phenomenon that could only exist in the internet age, though writers like J.G. Ballard saw such things coming decades ago.

But before obsessive photography saturated the digital environment, Andy Warhol grasped the medium’s central importance in the documentation of everyday life. It just so happened that his everyday life was filled with celebrity actors, models, artists, and musicians.




Warhol, writes James D. Ellis at Light Stalking, “was the proto-hipster,” a restless moth always on the hunt for a flame. “Much like our contemporary culture, Warhol found it difficult to sit and do nothing. He had to leave his house or Factory and experience his immediate surroundings.”

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

And he had to photograph every one of those experiences. Warhol used his Polaroids and 35mm the way we use iPhones. A court case in the early nineties once took up the question of whether Warhol’s photographs could be considered fine art, but the artist himself, writes Patina Lee at Widewalls, “was obviously undecided about their value and meaning,” saying “A picture means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary.”

Warhol, Lee writes, “took his camera with him wherever he went, documenting practically everything, the highest high class and the lowest trash (literally, he took photos of trash cans and of what they contained)…. This inclusiveness is what made his photographic undertakings border between art and mere obsessive collecting, or as people like to cynically notice, consuming the life around him.” His consumption, and photographs of trash, comes to us as treasure, an extensive record of Warhol’s New York in the seventies and eighties.

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center and Stanford Libraries have collaborated to make their Warhol photo archives available to the public—photos snapped “at discos, dinner parties, flea markets, and wrestling matches. Friends, boyfriends, business associates, socialites, celebrities, and passersby.” This “trove of 3,600 contact sheets featuring 130,000 photographic exposures” documents Warhol’s daily life from 1976 until his death in 1987 and includes candid photos of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Truman Capote, Bianca Jagger, Jimmy Carter, Martha Graham, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Jackie Kennedy, Liz Minelli, Dolly Parton, Elizabeth Taylor, and more.

The archive, writes Sandra Feder for Stanford News, “is the most complete collection of the artist’s black-and-white photography ever made available to the public.” It was acquired by the Cantor in 2014 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Given that these are all contact sheets, navigating the collecting can be a little bewildering. The Cantor has provided a number of tools to help. Click on Contact Sheets here to explore all 3,600+ contact sheets. Click Negatives to see individual frames, like those of Keith Haring, Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the top, Lou Reed further up, and Annie Leibovitz above. Or start browsing through pictures organized by theme here.

(Image credit: © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.)

Dig deep, and you’ll find the oddest things, like Andy Warhol running in Central Park for charity with Grace Jones and photographer Gordon Parks. Whatever Andy did, whoever he happened to do it with—and a stranger cast of characters you will not find—it’s all in this huge photo archive somewhere.

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

Learn Anatomy Through a Pictorial History of James Bond 007

Remember the scene in Tomorrow Never Dies when sexy double agent Wai Lin handcuffs James Bond to the shower and leaves him there?

Alternately, remember “Table 9” from anatomist Bernard Siegfried Albinus’ 1749 Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani?

Kriota Willberg, an educator, massage therapist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and author of Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists and Other Visual Artists, is sufficiently steeped in both Bond and Albinus to identify striking visual similarities.

That shower scene is just one iconic moment that Willberg included in her mini-comic, Pictorial Anatomy of 007.

Agent Bond’s sartorial sense is a crucial aspect of his appeal, but Willberg, a Bond fan who’s seen every film in the canon at least five times, digs below that celebrated surface, peeling back skin to expose the structures that lie beneath.

Sean Connery’s Bond exhibits a veteran artist’s model's stillness waiting for the right time to make his move against Dr. No’s “eight-legged assassin.” Even before Willberg got involved, it was an excellent showcase for his pecs, delta, and sternocleitomastoid muscles.

Leaving her flayed Bonds in their cinematic settings are a way of paying tribute to the antique anatomical illustrations Willberg admires for their dynamism:

…sitting in a chair, taking a stroll, holding its skin or organs out of the way so that the reader can get a better look at deeper structures. Some of the cadavers are very flirty. The pictures remind us that we are the organs we see on the page. They do stuff! 

The New York Academy of Medicine selected Willberg as its first Artist in Residence, because of the way she explores the intersections between body sciences and artistic practices. (Other projects include an intricate needlepoint X-Ray of her own root canal and Stitchin’ Time!, a fictional encounter in which Aulus Cornelius Celsus (c. 25 BCE – c. 50 CE), author of  De Medicina, and surgeon Aelius Galenus (129  – c. 200 CE) team up to repair a disemboweled gladiator.

Is there a squeamish bone in this artist's body?

All signs point to no.

Asked to pick a favorite Bond movie, she names Goldfinger for the mythology concerning the infamous scene wherein a beautiful woman is painted gold, but also 2006’s Casino Royale for keeping the torture scene from the book:

I didn’t think they’d have the balls! Sorry! Poor taste but I couldn’t resist. Although Timothy Dalton physically resembled Bond as described in the books, most of the movies make Bond out to be smarter than Fleming wrote him. I think Judy Dench called Daniel Craig, Casino Royale’s Bond, a “blunt instrument” which is pretty much how he’s written. He’s tough and lucky and that’s why he’s survived. Plus the machete fight is great. 

Sometimes people get too prissy about the body. I am meat and liver and sausage and so are you. Your body is inescapable while you live. You should get to know it. Think about it in different contexts. It’s fun!

When From Russia With Love’s Rosa Klebb punches master assassin, Red Grant, in the stomach, she is squishing a living liver through living abdominal muscles.

Hard copies of Kriota Willberg’s anatomy-based comics, including Pictorial Anatomy of 007, are available from Birdcage Bottom Books.

Listen to an hour-long interview with Comics Alternative in which Willberg discusses her New York Academy of Medicine residency, anatomical research, and the ways in which humor informs her approach here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her latest script, Fawnbook, is available in a digital edition from Indie Theater Now.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Buckminster Fuller Creates Striking Posters of His Own Inventions


In addition to his formidable body of work in architecture, design, and theory of the kind the world had never known before, Buckminster Fuller also knew how to promote himself. Sometimes this meant appearing on late-night new-age talk shows, but at its core it meant coming up with ideas that would immediately "read" as revolutionary to anyone who saw them in action. But how to put them before the eyes of someone who hasn't had the chance to see a geodesic dome, a Dymaxion House and Car, or even a Geodome 4 tent in real life?

The ascent of graphic design in the 20th century, a century Fuller saw begin and lived through most of, provided one promising answer: posters. The ones you see here show off "Fuller’s most famous inventions, with line drawings from his patents superimposed over a photograph of the thing itself," writes Fast Company's Katharine Schwab.




"While they look like something Fuller aficionados might have created after the man’s death to celebrate his work, Fuller actually created them in partnership with the gallerist Carl Solway near the end of his career."

These posters, "striking with their two-layer design, are Fuller’s visual homage to his own genius — and an attempt to bring what he believed were world-changing utopian concepts to the masses." They're also now on display at the Edward Cella Art + Architecture in Los Angeles, whose exhibition "R. Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models" runs until November 2nd. "Fuller’s objects and prints function not only as models of the mathematical and geometric properties underlying their construction but also as elegant works of art," says the gallery's site. "As such, the works represent the hybridity of Fuller’s practice, and his legacy across the fields of art, design, science, and engineering."

You can see more of Fuller's posters, which depict and visually explain the structures of such inventions as the geodesic dome and Dymaxion Car, of course, but also lesser-known creations like a "Fly's Eye" dome covered in bubble windows (individually swappable for solar panels), a submersible for offshore drilling, and a rowboat with a body reduced to two thin "needles," at Designboom. Edward Cella Art + Architecture has also made the posters available for purchase at $7,000 apiece. That price might seem in contradiction with Fuller's utopian ideals about universal accessibility through sheer low cost, but then, who could look at these and call them anything but works of art?

via Curbed

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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.

The 10 Commandments of Chindōgu, the Japanese Art of Creating Unusually Useless Inventions

Back in the 1990s I'd often run across volumes of the Unuseless Japanese Inventions series at bookstores. Each one features about a hundred ostensibly real Japanese devices, photographed and described with a disarming straightforwardness, that mash up other consumer products in outwardly bizarre ways: chopsticks whose attached miniature electric fan cools ramen noodles en route to the mouth; a plastic zebra crossing to unroll and lay across a street at the walker's convenience; an inverted umbrella attached to a portable tank for rainwater collection on the go. Such things, at once plausible and implausible, turn out to have their own word in the Japanese language: chindōgu (珍道具), or "curious tool."

"There's an essence to chindōgu that can't be ignored," writes Michael Richey at Tofugu, where you can view an extensive gallery of examples. "They need to be useful, but only just so. Something people could use, but probably won't because of shame," a famously powerful force in Japanese society.




They also adhere to a set of principles laid down by Kenji Kawakami, former editor of the country housewife-targeted magazine Mail Order Life, who first revealed chindōgu to Japan by showing off his prototypes in the back pages. These ten commandments of chindōgu are as follows:

  1. A Chindōgu Cannot be for Real Use — They must be, from a practical point of view, useless.
  2. A Chindōgu Must Exist — A Chindōgu must be something that you can actually hold, even if you aren’t going to use it.
  3. There must be the Spirit of Anarchy in Every Chindōgu — Chindōgu inventions represent the freedom to be (almost) useless and challenge the historical need for usefulness.
  4. Chindōgu Tools are for Everyday Life — Chindōgu must be useful (or useless) to everyone around the world for everyday life.
  5. Chindōgu are Not for Sale — Chindōgu cannot be sold, as this would go against the spirit of the art form.
  6. Humor is Not the Sole Reason for Creating a Chindōgu — Even if Chindōgu are inherently quirky and hilarious, the main reason they are created is for problem solving.
  7. Chindōgu are Not Propaganda — Chindōgu are, however, innocent and made with good intentions. They should only be created to be used (or not used).
  8. Chindōgu are Never Taboo — Chindōgu must adhere to society’s basic standards.
  9.  Chindōgu Cannot be Patented — Chindōgu cannot be copyrighted or patented, and are made to be shared with the rest of the world.
  10. Chindōgu Are Without Prejudice — Everyone should have an equal chance to enjoy every Chindōgu.

These principles resulted in the kind of inventions that drew great fascination and amusement in their home country — you can watch a short Japanese television broadcast showing Kawakami demonstrate a few chindōgu above — but not only there. The Unuseless Japanese Inventions books came out in the West at just the right time, a historical moment that saw Japan's image shift from that of a fearsome innovator and economic powerhouse to that of an inward-looking but often charming nation of obsessives and eccentrics. Of course such people, so Western thinking went, would come up with fashionable earrings that double as earplugs, a cup holder that slots into a jacket pocket, and shoes with toe-mounted brooms and dustpans.

Kawakami has continued to invent and exhibit chindōgu in recent years, and even now his work remains as analog as ever. "There’s always some process in analog products, and these processes themselves can be their purpose,” he told the Japan Times in a 2001 interview. "If you look at digital products, they all isolate people and leave them in their own small world, depriving them of the joy of communicating with others... I can’t deny that they make life more exciting and convenient, but they also make human relationships more shallow and superficial." Those wise words look wiser all the time — but then, you'd expect that degree of insight into 21st-century life from the man who may well have invented the selfie stick.

via Messy Nessy

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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.

Banksy Shreds His $1.4 Million Painting at Auction, Taking a Tradition of Artists Destroying Art to New Heights

The first time vandals defaced his sculpture, Dirty Corner, at Versailles, artist Anish Kapoor wrote an essay in which he considered his options:

Should the paint that has been thrown all over the sculpture be removed? Or should it remain and be part of the work? Does the political violence of the vandalism make Dirty Corner “dirtier”? Does this dirty political act reflect the dirty politics of exclusion, marginalisation, elitism, racism, Islamophobia?

The question I ask of myself is: can I, the artist, transform this crass act of political vandalism and violence into a creative act? Would this not be the best revenge?

Sometimes artists are the ones behind the vandalism.

Ai Weiwei starred in a 1995 black-and-white photo triptych that documents his intentional destruction of a Han Dynasty urn from his private collection.




Brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman purchased a mint condition set of Goya’s The Disasters of War, painstakingly re-rendered the victims' heads as grotesquely cute, colorful cartoons, and exhibited the altered etchings under the title Insult to Injury.

Robert Rauschenberg sought and received permission to erase a drawing that his fellow Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning had given him, at his request.

Certainly, artists of all stripes have been known to eradicate their own work in fits of pique, passion, and self-reproach.

But until last week, no artist had ever vandalized their own work with such a dispassionate, pre-meditated sense of fun as Banksy, the anonymous clown prince of street art and massive scale pranks.

As you’ve likely heard by now, within seconds of his iconic Girl With Balloon (2006) selling at Sotheby’s for £1,042,000—$1.4 million—the painting began to self-destruct, thanks to a custom-built shredder the artist had pre-loaded into its frame.

No one seemed particularly distressed about it.

Auction attendees quickly scrambled to capture the moment with their cell phones.

Auctioneer Oliver Barker looks on in admirably mild confusion.

No self-appointed hero rushed forward to jam the works with an umbrella or broom handle.

The as-yet-unidentified buyer was not in the room, no doubt to their ever-lasting regret. Imagine losing out on those bragging rights!

While Sotheby’s and the buyer hammer out their unprecedented next steps, some art experts have stated that it would be possible, given the clean geometry of the cuts, to restore the canvas.

Though who would want to, given the speculation that this stunt immediately increased the value of the work, anywhere from 50% to near double the purchase price?

Perhaps the buyer will choose to finish the job and sell it off strip-by-strip.

Office supply stores will see an uptick in shredder sales to vendors selling Banksy knock-offs stencilled on subway maps.

Sotheby’s senior director, Alex Branczik, insisted that no one there was in on the joke, but The New York Times smells a rat:

The frame would presumably have been rather heavy and thick for its size, something an auction house specialist or art handler might have noticed. Detailed condition reports are routinely requested by the would-be buyers of high-value artworks. Unusually, this relatively small Banksy had been hung on a wall, rather than placed by porters on a podium for the moment of sale. 

The fact that Girl with Balloon was the final item on the block is either a great piece of luck, or a bit of canny stage management on the auction house’s part. Recapturing the attendees’ attention after that stunt would be an uphill battle.

It’s doubtful that buyers will shy away from Sotheby’s as a place where highly valued artwork starts to devour itself the moment the gavel comes down. That kind of lightning strikes but once.

What may circle back to bite the venerable firm in its well padded rear is the ease with which someone in the crowd was able to activate the mayhem, using a device concealed in his bag. What’s worse, lax security or maybe lying about foreknowledge of the prank? It's hard not to raise those as possibilities.

The man with the bag was escorted out. Not even the conspiracy theorists are pegging him as Banksy.

As for the steady-handed fellow another attendee caught calmly zooming in on his phone from the perfect angle… well, let’s just say the tabloids have picked up on his resemblance to Robin Gunningham, oft thought to be Clark Kent to Banksy’s Superman.

Banksy’s post-mortem, unlike Kapoor's, does not suggest a man tortured by unresolved questions.

“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting, in case it was ever put up for auction,” he wrote on his Instagram. “Going, going, gone.”

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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, October 15 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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