You Can Sleep in an Edward Hopper Painting at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts: Is This the Next New Museum Trend?

Let's pretend our Fairy Art Mother is granting one wish—to spend the night inside the painting of your choice.

What painting will we each choose, and why?

Will you sleep out in the open, undisturbed by lions, a la Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy?

Or experience the voluptuous dreams of Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June?

Paul Gaugin’s portrait of his son, Clovis presents a tantalizing prospect for those of us who haven’t slept like a baby in decades…

The Nightmare by Herny Fuseli should chime with Gothic sensibilities…

And it’s a fairly safe bet that some of us will select Edward Hopper's Western Motel, at the top of this post, if only because we heard the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was accepting double occupancy bookings for an extremely faithful facsimile, as part of its Edward Hopper and the American Hotel exhibition.




Alas, if unsurprisingly, the Hopper Hotel Experience, with mini golf and a curated tour, sold out quickly, with prices ranging from $150 to $500 for an off-hours stay.

Ticket-holding visitors can still peer in at the room any time the exhibit is open to the public, but it’s after hours when the Instagramming kicks into high gear.

What guest could resist the temptation to strike a pose amid the vintage luggage and (bluetooth-enabled) wood paneled radio, filling in for the 1957 painting’s lone figure, an iconic Hopper woman in a burgundy dress?

The Art Institute of Chicago notes that she is singular among Hopper’s subjects, in that she appears to be gazing directly at the viewer.

But as per the Yale University Art Gallery, from which Western Motel is on loan:

The woman staring across the room does not seem to see us; the pensiveness of her stare and her tense posture accentuate the sense of some impending event. She appears to be waiting: the luggage is packed, the room is devoid of personal objects, the bed is made, and a car is parked outside the window.

Hopefully, those lucky enough to have secured a booking will have perfected the pose in the mirror at home prior to arrival. This “motel” is a bit of a stage set, in that guests must leave the painting to access the public bathroom that constitutes the facilities.

(No word on whether the theme extends to a paper “sanitized for your protection” band across the toilet, but there’s no shower and a security officer is stationed outside the room for the duration of each stay.)

The popularity of this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit tie-in may spark other museums to follow suit.

The Art Institute of Chicago started the trend in 2016 with a painstaking recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s room at Arles, which it listed on Air BnB for $10/night.

Think of all the fun we could have if the bedrooms of art history opened to us...

Dog lovers could get cozy in Andrew Wyeth’s Master Bedroom.

Delacroix’s The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) would require something more than double occupancy for proper Instagramming.

Piero della Francesca’s The Dream of Constantine might elicit impressive messages from the sub-conscience...

Tuberculosis nothwithstanding, Aubrey Beardsley’s Self Portrait in Bed is rife with possibilities.

Or skip the cultural foreplay and head straight for the NSFW pleasures of The French Bed, a la Rembrandt’s etching.

Edward Hopper and the American Hotel will be traveling to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in June 2020.

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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, December 9 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Dennison’s Christmas Book (1921). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Download Stunning 3D Scans of the Bust of Nefertiti, Now Released by Berlin’s Neues Museum

Two years ago, a scandalous “art heist” at the Neues Museum in Berlin—involving illegally made 3D scans of the bust of Nefertiti—turned out to be a different kind of crime. The two Egyptian artists who released the scans claimed they had made the images with a hidden “hacked Kinect Sensor,” reports Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. But digital artist and designer Cosmo Wenman discovered these were scans made by the Neues Museum itself, which had been stolen by the artists or perhaps a museum employee.

The initial controversy stemmed from the fact that the museum strictly controls images of the artwork, and had refused to release any of their Nefertiti scans to the public. The practice, Wenman pointed out, is consistent across dozens of institutions around the world. “There are many influential museums, universities, and private collections that have extremely high-quality 3D data of important works, but they are not sharing that data with the public.” He lists many prominent examples in a recent Reason article; the long list includes the Venus de Milo, Rodin’s Thinker, and works by Donatello, Bernini, and Michelangelo.




Whatever their reasons, the aggressively proprietary attitude adopted by the Neues seems strange considering the controversial provenance of the Nefertiti bust. Germany has long claimed that it acquired the bust legally in 1912. But at the time, the British controlled Egypt, and Egyptians themselves had little say over the fate of their national treasures. Furthermore, the chain of custody seems to include at least a few documented instances of fraud. Egypt has been demanding that the artifact be repatriated “ever since it first went on display.”

This critical historical context notwithstanding, the bust is already "one of the most copied works of ancient Egyptian art," and one of the most famous. “Museums should not be repositories of secret knowledge,” Wenman argued in his blog post. Prestigious cultural institutions “are in the best position to produce and publish 3D data of their works and provide authoritative context and commentary.”

Wenman waged a “3-year-long freedom of information effort” to liberate the scans. His request was initially met with “the gift shop defense”—the museum claimed releasing the images would threaten sales of Nefertiti merchandise. When the appeal to commerce failed to dissuade Wenman, the museum let him examine the scans "in a controlled setting"; they were essentially treating the images, he writes, "like a state secret." Finally, they relented, allowing Wenman to publish the scans, without any institutional support.

He has done so, and urged others to share his Reason article on social media to get word out about the files, now available to download and use under a CC BY-NC-SA license. He has also taken his own liberties with the scans, colorizing and adding the blue 3D mapping lines himself to the image at the top, for example, drawn from his own interactive 3D model, which you can view and download here. These are examples of his vision for high-quality 3D scans of artworks, which can and should "be adapted, multiplied, and remixed."

"The best place to celebrate great art," says Wenman, "is in a vibrant, lively, and anarchic popular culture. The world's back catalog of art should be set free to run wild in our visual and tactile landscape." Organizations like Scan the World have been releasing unofficial 3D scans to the public for the past couple years, but these cannot guarantee the accuracy of models rendered by the institutions themselves.

Whether the actual bust of Nefertiti should be returned to Egypt is a somewhat more complicated question, since the 3,000-year old artifact may be too fragile to move and too culturally important to risk damaging in transit. But whether or not its virtual representations should be given to everyone who wants them seems more straightforward.

The images already belong to the public, in a sense, Wenman suggests. Withholding them for the sake of protecting sales seems like a violation of the spirit in which most cultural institutions were founded. Download the Nefertiti scans at Thingiverse, see Wenman's own 3D models at Sketchfab, and read all of his correspondence with the museum throughout the freedom of information process here. Next, he writes, he's lobbying for the release of official 3D Rodin scans. Watch this space. 

via Reason

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

Art Class Instead Of Jail: New Program Lets Young Offenders Take Free Art Classes Rather Than Spend Time in the Criminal System

Art saves lives, and art can also save an individual from the stigma of an arrest record, provided that the arrest is for one of 15 non-violent misdemeanors.

Project Reset, a museum-based early diversion program in three of New York City’s five boroughs, aims to reframe the way youthful (and not so youthful) offenders see themselves, by considering an artwork via a collective interpretive process, before using it as the inspiration for a collage or oil pastel-based project of their own.




The stakes are higher and far more personal than they are on the average public school field trip. Upon completion of a class ranging from 2.5 to 4 hours, the participant’s record is wiped clean and their assigned court date is rendered moot.

Rather than being herded through a number of galleries, participants zero in on a single work.

At the Brooklyn Museum, participants in the under-25 age range get a crash course in Shifting the GazeTitus Kaphar’s intentional palimpsest, in which all the figures in a replica of Frans Hals’ Family Group in a Landscape are whited out so viewers may focus in on the only character of color, a young boy who appears to be a family servant.

Older participants undertake a similarly deep dive on The Judgement by Bob Thompson, an African American artist who was inspired by the constant interplay between good and evil.

While this may strike some as a cushy punishment, it’s a legitimate attempt to acquaint participants with the very real impact their actions could have on future plans—including college admissions and job applications.

Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., one of Project Reset’s architects, shared a non-partisan fiscal take with City Lab’s Rebecca Bellan that may persuade naysayers who feel the program rewards budding criminals by giving them an easy out:

If you jump subway turnstiles in Manhattan, you never go to jail. You can do it 100 times and no court is ever going to send you to jail. So we spend about $2,200 to process a theft of services arrest for a $2.75 fare. Our justice system falls most heavily on communities of color, and we really need to rethink how we approach these cases, both to get better outcomes, but also to reduce the impact which is very often viewed as targeted and unfair on particular communities.

Above is a list of the non-violent misdemeanors that can channel first timers toward the aptly named Project Reset.

via Hyperallergic

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

Explore 1400 Paintings & Drawings by Vincent van Gogh–and Much More–at the Van Gogh Museum’s Online Collection

Readers will receive no prizes for guessing what they'll find, broadly speaking, at the Van Gogh Museum. But they may well be surprised by the full scope of the Van Gogh and Van Gogh-related work and information on offer for their free perusal at the Van Gogh Museum's online collection. Naturally, you can view and learn about all of the paintings and drawings by Vincent van Gogh in the collection, including some of his best-known pieces like The Potato Eaters, a scene of "the harsh reality of country life" the artist deliberately chose for its difficulty; The Bedroom (or Bedroom in Arles), with its bright colors "meant to express absolute ‘repose’ or ‘sleep’"; and, painted between 1886 and 1889, no fewer than 21 self-portraits, including Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, the face we think of when we think of van Gogh himself.

For van Gogh's most famous series of floral still-life paintings the Van Gogh Museum's online collection goes much deeper, offering an entire section of its site dedicated to "everything about Sunflowers."




Among its subsections you'll find the story of how van Gogh "painted sunflowers as no one before him had ever done," a look into the conservation of one of the most fragile of the artist's masterpieces, and even a for-the-young-and-young-at-heart Sunflowers coloring-book page. If you get through all that and still feel your appetite for post-impressionist renderings of Helianthus not fully satiated, the collection's curators also offer a link to van Gogh's other depictions of sunflowers, from Shed with Sunflowers to Sunflowers Gone to Seed.

Online or off, collections dedicated to the work of a single artist sometimes suffer tunnel vision, providing a wealth of detail about the life and the masterpieces, but little in the way of context. The Van Gogh Museum doesn't, having put on view not just van Gogh's work, but also that of the Japanese woodblock makers from whom he drew inspiration (previously featured here on Open Culture) as well as that of more recent artists who have drawn their own inspiration from van Gogh: Britain's Jason Brooks, China's Zeng Fanzhi, and the Netherlands' own Pieter Laurens Mol, to say nothing of the likes of Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon. Elsewhere you can even explore "the Parisian print world of the 19th century," a "period of artistic innovation and decadence" that did more than its part to shape van Gogh's sensibility. As the Van Gogh Museum clearly understands, to know an artist requires immersing yourself not just in their work, but in their world as well. Enter the van Gogh online collection here.

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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.

Treasures in the Trash: A Secret Museum Inside a New York City Department of Sanitation Garage

Like many New Yorkers, retired sanitation worker Nelson Molina has a keen interest in his fellow citizens' discards.

But whereas others risk bedbugs for the occasional curbside score or dumpster dive as an enviro-political act, Molina’s interest is couched in the curatorial.

The bulk of his collection was amassed between 1981 and 2015, while he was on active duty in Carnegie Hill and East Harlem, collecting garbage in an area bordered by 96th Street, Fifth Avenue, 106th Street, and First Avenue.

At the end of every shift, he stashed the day’s finds at the garage. With the support of his coworkers and higher ups, his hobby crept beyond the confines of his personal area, filling the locker room, and eventually expanding across the massive second floor of Manhattan East Sanitation Garage Number 11, at which point it was declared an unofficial museum with the unconventional name of Treasures in the Trash.

Because the museum is situated inside a working garage, visitors can only access the collection during infrequent, specially arranged tours. Hunter College’s East Harlem gallery and the City Reliquary have hosted traveling exhibits.

The Foundation for New York’s Strongest (a nickname originally conferred on the Department of Sanitation's football team) is raising funds for an offsite museum to showcase Molina’s 45,000+ treasures, along with exhibits dedicated to “DSNY’s rich history.”

Molina’s former coworkers marvel at his unerring instinct for knowing when an undistinguished-looking bag of refuse contains an object worth saving, from autographed baseballs and books to keepsakes of a deeply personal nature, like photo albums, engraved watches, and wedding samplers.

There’s also a fair amount of seemingly disposable junk—obsolete consumer technology, fast food toys, and “collectibles” that in retrospect were mere fad. Molina displays them en masse, their sheer numbers becoming a source of wonder. That’s a lot of Pez dispensersTamagotchis, and plastic Furbees that could be cluttering up a landfill (or Ebay).

Some of the items Molina singles out for show and tell in Nicolas Heller’s documentary short, at the top, seem like they could have considerable resell value. One man’s trash, you know...

But city sanitation workers are prohibited from taking their finds home, which may explain why Department of Sanitation employees (and Molina’s wife) have embraced the museum so enthusiastically.

Even though Molina retired after raising his six kids, he continues to preside over the museum, reviewing treasures that other sanitation workers have salvaged for his approval, and deciding which merit inclusion in the collection.

Preservation is in his blood, having been raised to repair rather than discard, a practice he used to put into play at Christmas, when he would present his siblings with toys he’d rescued and resurrected.

This thrifty ethos accounts for a large part of the pleasure he takes in his collection.

As to why or how his more sentimental or historically significant artifacts wound up bagged for curbside pickup, he leaves the speculation to visitors of a more narrative bent.

Sign up for updates or make a donation to the Foundation for New York’s Strongest’s campaign to rehouse the collection in an open-to-the-public space here.

To inquire about the possibility of upcoming tours, email the NYC Department of Sanitation at tours@dsny.nyc.gov.

Photos of Treasures in the Trash by Ayun Halliday, © 2018

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Although she lives and works inside Nelson Molina’s former pick up zone, she has yet to see any of her discards on display. Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A New Kurt Vonnegut Museum Opens in Indianapolis … Right in Time for Banned Books Week

“All my jokes are Indianapolis,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. “All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.” He delivered those words to a high-school audience in his hometown of Indianapolis in 1986, and a decade later he made his feelings even clearer in a commencement speech at Butler University: "If I had to do it all over, I would choose to be born again in a hospital in Indianapolis. I would choose to spend my childhood again at 4365 North Illinois Street, about 10 blocks from here, and to again be a product of that city’s public schools." Now, at 543 Indiana Avenue, we can experience the legacy of the man who wrote Slaughterhouse-FiveCat's Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions at the newly permanent Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

The museum's founder and CEO Julia Whitehead "conceived the idea for a Vonnegut museum in November of 2008, a year and a half after the author’s death, writes Atlas Obscura's Susan Salaz. "The physical museum opened in a donated storefront in 2011, displaying items donated by friends or on loan from the Vonnegut family" — his Pall Malls, his drawings, a replica of his typewriter, his Purple Heart.




But the collection "has been homeless since January 2019." A fundraising campaign this past spring raised $1.5 million in donations, putting the museum in a position to purchase the Indiana Avenue building, one capacious enough for visitors to, according to the museum's about page, "view photos from family, friends, and fans that reveal Vonnegut as he lived; "ponder rejection letters Vonnegut received from editors"; and "rest a spell and listen to what friends and colleagues have to say about Vonnegut and his work."

The newly re-opened Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library will also pay tribute to the jazz-loving, censorship-loathing veteran of the Second World War with an outdoor tunnel playing the music of Wes Montgomery and other Indianapolis jazz greats, a "freedom of expression exhibition" that Salaz describes as featuring "the 100 books most frequently banned in libraries and schools across the nation," and veteran-oriented book clubs, writing workshops, and art exhibitions. In the museum's period of absence, Vonnegut pilgrims in Indianapolis had no place to go (apart from the town landmarks designed by the writer's architect father and grandfather), but the 38-foot-tall mural on Massachusetts Avenue by artist Pamela Bliss. Having known nothing of Vonnegut's work before, she fell in love with it after first visiting the museum herself, she'll soon use its Indiana Avenue building as a canvas on which to triple the city's number of Vonnegut murals.

You can see more of the new Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, which opened its doors for a sneak preview this past Banned Books Week, in the video at the top of the post, as well as in this four-part local news report. Though Vonnegut expressed appreciation for Indianapolis all throughout his life, he also left the place forever when he headed east to Cornell. He also satirically repurposed it as Midland City, the surreally flat and prosaic Midwestern setting of Breakfast of Champions whose citizens only speak seriously of "money or structures or travel or machinery," their imaginations "flywheels on the ramshackle machinery of awful truth." I happen to be planning a great American road trip that will take me through Indianapolis, and what with the presence of an institution like the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library — as well as all the cultural spots revealed by the Indianapolis-based The Art Assignment — it has become one of the cities I'm most excited to visit. Vonnegut, of all Indianapolitans, would surely appreciate the irony.

via Smithsonian.com

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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.

Imagined Medieval Comics Illuminate the Absurdities of Modern Life

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its famous food pyramid, jettisoning the familiar hierarchical graphic in favor of vertical rainbow stripes representing the various nutritional groups. A stick figure bounded up a staircase built into one side, to reinforce the idea of adding regular physical activity to all those whole grains and veggies.

The dietary information it promoted was an improvement on the original, but nutritional scientists were skeptical that the public would be able to parse the confusing graphic, and by and large this proved to be the case.




Artist Tyler Gunther, however, was inspired:

I started thinking about the messaging school children in 1308 were force fed to believe was part of a heart healthy diet, only to have the rug pulled out from under them 15 years later when some monk rearranged the whole thing.

In other words, you’d better dig into that annual goose pie, kids, while you’ve still got 6 glasses of ale to wash it down.

The imagined overlap between the modern and the medieval is a fertile vein for Gunter, whose MFA in Costume Design is often put to good use in his hilarious historical comics:

Modern men’s fashion is so incredibly boring. A guy wears a pattered shirt with a suit and he gets lauded as though he won the super bowl of fashion. But back in the Middle Ages men made bold, brave fashion choices and I admire them greatly for this. It’s so exciting to me to think of these inventive, strange, fantastic creations being a part of the everyday masculine aesthetic.

The shapes and structures of women’s headwear in the dark ages are truly inspiring. Where were these milliners drawing inspiration from? How were they engineered? How comfortable were they to wear? How did they fit through the majority of doorways? What was it like to sit behind a particularly large one in church? I’m still scrolling through many an internet history blog to find the answers. 

Kathryn Warner’s Edward II blog has proved a helpful resource, as has Anne H. van Buren’s book Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands.

The Brooklyn-based, Arkansas-born artist also makes periodic pilgrimages to the Cloisters, where the Metropolitan Museum houses a vast number illuminated manuscripts, panel paintings, altar pieces, and the famed Unicorn Tapestries:

On my first trip to The Cloisters I saw a painting of St. Michael and the devil almost immediately. I don’t think my life or art has been the same since. None of us know what the devil looks like. But you wouldn’t know that based on how confidently this artist portrays his likeness. After gazing at this painting for an extended period of time I wanted so badly to understand the imagination of whoever could imagine an alligator arms/face crotch/dragon ponytail combo. I don’t think I’ve come close to scratching the surface.

Every time I go to that museum I think, “Wow it’s like I’m on Game of Thrones” and then I have to remind myself kindly that this was real life. Almost everything there was an object that people interacted with as part of their average daily life and that fascinates me as someone who lives in a world filled with mass produced, plastic objects. 

Gunther’s drawings and comics are created (and aged) on that most modern of conveniences—the iPad.

The British monarchy and the First Ladies are also sources of fascination, but the middle ages are his primary passion, to the point where he recently costumed himself as a page to tell the story of Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall and Edward II’s darling, aided by a garment rack he’d retooled as a medieval pageant cart-cum-puppet theater.

See the rest of Tyler Gunther’s Medieval Comics on his website and don’t forget to surprise your favorite hygienist or oral surgeon with his Medieval Dentist print this holiday season.

All images used with permission of artist Tyler Gunther

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, October 7 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domaincelebrates the art of Aubrey Beardsley, with a special appearance by Tyler Gunther. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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