Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on December 15, 2013

Ad Reinhardt's show that is up at David Zwirner until  is filled with classic commentary like this panel published on The New Yorker. “He basically likes to play with language … He uses language against its original intention. Where others may have been pompous, he was incredibly light and sharp. He makes fun of what others make fun of, but he’s so much more elegant and intelligent in his mockery,” show curator Robert Storr says.

Ad Reinhardt’s show that is up at David Zwirner until December 18 and it is filled with classic commentary like this panel recently published on The New Yorker. “He basically likes to play with language … He uses language against its original intention. Where others may have been pompous, he was incredibly light and sharp. He makes fun of what others make fun of, but he’s so much more elegant and intelligent in his mockery,” show curator Robert Storr says.

This week, smartphone impact on photography, rise and fall of Lisa Frank, nail art, high-end auction market, Robert Capa in color, literary feuds and more.

 Are smartphones destroying photography?

“Don’t get me wrong. I love iPhones and Instagram,” says Olmos. “But what I worry about is that Kodak used to employ 40,000 people in good jobs. What have they been replaced by? Twelve people at Instagram.”

 What do you need to write? Grant Snider offers his take:



And he also imagines what it would’ve been like to have René Magritte as a neighbor.

 The amazing and bizarre story of the rise and fall of Lisa Frank, the brand responsible for unicorn and rainbow-covered Trapper Keepers and other school supplies:

To her fans, Lisa Frank is almost as mythical a figure as her beloved unicorn. For women in their twenties, thirties, and forties, Frank’s name alone conjures up a specter of koala bears clinging to rainbow-flavored ice-cream cones, neon tiger cubs frolicking with surfing penguins, and, of course, majestic unicorns prancing before a swirl of hearts and stars. But the company is now a shadow of what it once was, and its fall from grace — a story of scandal, greed, and abuse — is in stark contrast to its shiny, happy aesthetic.

 New Yorker and art publicist Susi Kenna is really into art nails, and Buzzfeed just featured her obsession:

 Newsweek looks at the high-end auction business after the departure of Tobias Meyer from Sotheby’s. If the main question, can Sotheby’s survive, is a non-starter (of course, it can) it still raises lots of good points:

Never before have the stakes been so high. Art is now a $55 billion business and the amount of money flowing through the major auction rooms is staggering: In two nights in November, Christie’s and Sotheby’s sold more than $1 billion worth of art.

… Auctioneers, art dealers, and collectors tell stories of new buyers who scoop up four or five items in a single auction, spending tens of millions of dollars. A Brazilian man who had never bought a major work of art recently plunked down $67 million at his first auction. An Asian collector bought one item for $1 million last spring, then jumped to a $10 million work in the summer sales, and most recently bought something for $30 million. During the sale of a Mark Rothko painting last spring, there were 10 bidders still in the running at the $50 million mark, and they pushed the price of that canvas to $86 million. This month, at the Christie’s Impressionist and Modern sale, Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin bid ferociously for a painting of Picasso’s children, Claude et Paloma — ratcheting up the bidding by $1 million increments. He finally won his prize for $28.2 million — more than double its $9 million to $12 million estimate.

 A new exhibition at the International Center for Photography in New York is looking at the color photography of renowned 20th century photojournalist Robert Capa:

However, the question of whether to use the new medium – Kodak introduced Kodachrome in 1936 and Ektachrome in the 1940s – or stay with black and white haunted the photojournalist elite for decades. It became one of the profession’s most bitterly contested battles, with Capa’s close friend and colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson declaring: “Photography in colour? It is something indigestible, the negation of all photography’s three-dimensional values.”

Cartier-Bresson would later destroy a large proportion of his colour negatives and transparencies – despite providing Life magazine with a famous, if uncredited, colour cover shot in 1959 for an in-depth report on China.

 Anuradha Vikram asks:

how is it that so many artists are still so marginalized by race, ethnicity, and even gender when many celebrity artists are women and people of color? When Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith are given solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum or the Museum of Modern Art, why is it still necessary to have exhibitions such as the recent Les Papesses in Avignon or institutions like the National Museum of Women in the Arts? To give another example, when Subodh Gupta shows with Hauser & Wirth and Anish Kapoor creates a public sculpture for London costing over 30 million US dollars, why does nearly every presentation of an Indian artist in the United States appear in the context of a “contemporary art from India” exhibition? Do these groupings of artists by demographics rather than technique, subject matter, or formal concerns inadvertently limit the artists’ narratives to their biographies rather than their artistic accomplishments?

  Some myths and realities of sex in the Ancient World:

Harper’s book makes plain that the modern spate of works on sexuality and on the construction of gender in Roman and early Christian times, ingenious though they may be, are lightweight confections compared with this gross, ever-present fact of Roman life. We must look up from our literary games and see what is almost too big to be seen — the fact of slavery, towering above us like the trees of an immense forest of unfreedom that covered the Roman world. What mattered, in Roman law and in Roman sexual morality, had little to do with sex. It had everything to do with whose bodies could be enjoyed with impunity and whose could not be touched without elaborate formulas of consent.

The joys of sex were there for all. Harper shows how the puritanism of the Romans in relation to their own spouses has been greatly exaggerated. But the primary school of sexual endeavor remained, to an unusual degree, the bodies of slaves—along with the bodies of the poor and of prostitutes, who were all too easily sucked into the gravitational field of dishonor associated with outright slavery. Then Harper sums up his feelings: “The laws deflected lust away from the freeborn body, and slaves provided a ready outlet.”

 A study that analyzed James Bond’s (aka 007) alcohol consumption found that the fictional character must’ve been an alcoholic and his drinking would’ve likely lead to an early death and prevented him from carrying out the functions of a super-spy … oh, and he would’ve probably been impotent. The BBC reports:

Excluding the 36 days Bond was in prison, hospital or rehab, the spy downed 1,150 units of alcohol in 88 days.

It works out at 92 units a week – about five vodka martinis a day and four times the recommended maximum intake for men in the UK.

 The literary feuds of 2013 according to The New Yorker, including:

The battle over Gore Vidal’s estate. The year before he died, in 2012, Gore Vidal altered his will and bequeathed his entire estate to Harvard University. Last month, Tim Teeman reported in the Times that several of Vidal’s relatives are now challenging that will, saying that Vidal was not mentally sound when he wrote it, and that he had promised parts of his fortune — which is estimated at thirty-seven million dollars — to them. Most surprising about the article was the fact that Vidal’s nephew, the film director and screenwriter Burr Steers, and half sister, Nina Straight, used their interview with the Times to imply that Vidal had engaged in, as Straight put it, “Jerry Sandusky acts” during his lifetime — a detail that quickly spread to other news outlets.

 The realities of writing science fiction in Saudi Arabia is troubling:

On Monday, Saudi authors Yasser Bahjatt and Ibraheem Abbas learned that their science fiction book, which shot to the top of the best-seller list in Saudi Arabia, had been banned from sale in Kuwait and Qatar.

 Should Ticketmaster and other ticket venders redesign tickets? Because “The ticket design is as old as the cassette tape.”

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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