This week, the best thing you’ll read today, the dying GIF, art auction records, the insularity of the New Aesthetic, the meaning of Edgar Degas’ history paintings, and more.
This is undoubtedly of the best things you’ll read this week, if not this month … The Oatmeal’s “Some Thoughts and Musings About Making Things for the Web” is a spot-on take on the world of online content creation. Pure.Genius.
This week, while others are cheering the auction records in New York, writer Blake Gopnik sees little reason to applaud:
By definition, we’re applauding overpaying. Maybe that’s precisely the point: We clap at giant prices mostly because we love the sight and sound and smell of money, even when none of it is coming our way. Warhol seems to have figured this out before almost anyone else, when he declared business to be one of America’s highest art forms.
And he touches on the strange size fixation that auction buyers have:
Another weird fact about this auction, like all others, is that the art in it is really sold by size. That $40 million Kline clearly set its record partly because, at 8,769 square inches, it was a monster of a picture; another Kline that I think was actually a tighter, better, more dynamic work fetched only $11 million — but then there were only 2,000 square inches of it. (Actually, the more expensive canvas was also a better deal, at almost $1,000 less per square inch — sort of the equivalent of buying in bulk. I wonder if its buyer had figured that out.)
Two writers look at the case of Emory University’s disappearing Visual Arts Department. The text is long and dry but it reflects the realities at many colleges grappling with visual art departments:
Late in the day on Friday, September 14, Robin Forman, Dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, released a letter to the Emory College community stating that Emory University would be closing their Visual Arts Program, as well as the Department of Educational Studies, the Department of Physical Education, and the Department of Journalism. In addition, the administration decided to suspend admissions to graduate programs in Spanish, Economics, and the Institute of Liberal Arts (I.L.A.) — Emory’s flagship interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. The tactics used by Emory’s administration in arriving at these decisions and announcing the news — delivering the decision to the heads of the departments rather than engaging them throughout the process; blanketing the rationality, reasoning and facts of the decision making process in vague and ambiguous language; and sidestepping the impact this would have on the Emory community — strike a corporate tone rather than one of a democratic university.
Bookforum reviews “On Democracy” by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, which was edited by artist and academic Paul Chan, who has long intermingled art and politics in his work. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised to discover that Hussein thought of himself as an artist:
Early in On Democracy, Hussein compares the ruler and the educator to an artist shaping society and its subjects. In “Saddam Hussein and the State As Sculpture,” one of two essays closing the book, Negar Azimi describes how the cultural projects initiated by Hussein increasingly served his self-aggrandizement.
A discussion of Edgar Degas’ history paintings as a reflection by the 19th C. Impressionist artist on the “irreconcilability of married life and artistic vocation, a major theme of discussion among artists and writers in nineteenth-century France.” The writer, Roberta Crisci-Robertson, explains that:
This article contributes to the view that Degas was neither a misogynist nor a narrow-minded bourgeois. Far from having preconceived patriarchal ideas on marriage and women, Degas choose to remain an artiste célibataire in accordance with the more extreme aspects of the nineteenth-century French cult of the artist as genius.
OMG. Did you know that the GIF image format is actually dying?
Whitney Kimball explores the insularity of The New Aesthetic and its apostles. She writes:
… the New Aesthetic’s intrigue hinges on imagining that you’re seeing these images through the sentient eyes and mind of a robot, as though the webcam is looking back. When recalibrated as the human images which these are, we just end up with far more shitty photos and less privacy.
Today in bizarre but interesting … Greg Allen compares a 2006 Republican proposal by Congressman Steven King for a US-Mexico border fence to an Anne Truitt sculpture. Like anything Allen writes, it’s often difficult to parse out the sarcasm from the facts, but this is a funny passage:
Obviously, at some point after his arrival in Washington in 2003, King studied the iconic Truitts in local collections: the highly fence-like “First” (1961) [at the Baltimore Museum] and slab-on-plinth structures like “Insurrection” (1962) [at the Corcoran]. But even I was surprised to see King make such an explicit homage to Truitt’s Seven (1962) …
An 18th C. handbook by John Maskall for firework design is a “beautiful hand-written and illustrated treatise on firework design and manufacture, including ‘blue-prints’ for the devices and explosive recipes.”
Did you know that the “Museum of Death [in Hollywood] houses the world’s largest collection of Serial Murderer Artwork“? It also has Liberace’s taxidermied cat “Candy” and one of Jayne Maynsfield’s taxidermied chihuahuas. The price of admission? $15.
Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.
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