The world's first "tramp stamp" was discovered on a mummy from present-day Sudan. "The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael. The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile." (via The Awl, originally Telegraph)

The world’s first “tramp stamp” was discovered on a mummy from present-day Sudan. “The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael. The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.” (via The Awl, originally Telegraph)

This week, the Bechdel test’s impact on movie revenue, the 17-year-old who slept with Ginsburg and Burroughs, Sotheby’s redesign, internet as propaganda tool, LACMA and Tinder, and more.

 This is an interesting finding looking at Hollywood films and the Bechdel test, which asks whether a work of fiction/film/etc. features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man:

Films that pass the Bechdel test tend to do better dollar for dollar than those that don’t.


Using Bechdel test data, we analyzed 1,615 films released from 1990 to 2013 to examine the relationship between the prominence of women in a film and that film’s budget and gross profits. We found that the median budget of movies that passed the test — those that featured a conversation between two women about something other than a man — was substantially lower than the median budget of all films in the sample. What’s more, we found that the data doesn’t appear to support the persistent Hollywood belief that films featuring women do worse at the box office. Instead, we found evidence that films that feature meaningful interactions between women may in fact have a better return on investment, overall, than films that don’t.

 What is a photograph? Jörg Colberg explains:

I’ve argued before that photography really is more a practice than anything, the consequence being that photographs not only have become ephemeral, they often don’t matter any longer. Because of the practice aspect, however (“I photograph, therefore I am”), photographs are intimately tied to authorship: photographs are essentially re-confirming their maker’s (author’s) presence, one picture at a time. Or more accurately, the existence of a photograph provides proof that someone felt the need to re-confirm her or his presence.

 Marcus Ewert lost his virginity to poet Allen Ginsberg and maintained an eight-year relationship with writer William Burroughs, so, of course, he has a lot to say:

… this underage boy direct from the Bible Belt was about to lose his virginity to a much older Allen Ginsberg. “I was happy to find that I saw him handsome in a certain light,” he says. “I was never super physically attracted to him, but he’s got this Grecian, bearded Poseidon profile, you know? That’s kind of handsome, I think I can go with that.

“Basically he blew me; that was a big part of it. And he was really good at it. He did this thing where he had his hand and his mouth working at the same time, and he’d take time out to explain to me what he was doing. He was like, ‘See, you do this with your hand so that way your partner’s penis is always being touched, and when your mouth is off it, your hand is there and it keeps it warm and it keeps the sensation constant, and that shows real consideration to your partner.’ It’s very Allen that he’s always peppering anything he’s saying with little tutorials. But I was totally down for that — it was what I’d signed up for. I wanted the tutorial, I wanted to understand how the fucking world worked. I wanted somebody to help me and mentor me.”

There’s a new Ai Weiwei documentary:

 Pentagram partner Abbott Miller redesigned the brand identity of the 300-year-old auction house, Sotheby’s:

The results of Miller’s redesign, unveiled this week after two years of work, are not so much a drastic rebrand, but feel “more like how Sotheby’s should’ve looked all along,” Miller tells Co.Design. “We wanted a kind of click moment, when suddenly Sotheby’s just felt more like itself.”

… in an attempt to present a new face to the world, [12 years ago] Sotheby’s changed its logo’s typeface from a historic serif to a clean, modern Gill Sans-based sans serif. “The idea was that they were turning over a new leaf, establishing a new transparency as a publicly traded company,” Miller says, “but what happened was they kind of severed their connection to this really historic lineage.”

… Miller replaced the 12-year-old logo with a new one that uses the elegant Mercury typeface, designed by Jonathan Hoeffler. “This font in particular was really effective for us — it has this great new/old sensibility to it stylistically. It’s chiseled, classic, and refined.”

The new site is clearer and uses full-bleed images.

The new site is clearer and uses full-bleed images.

 AP looks at how Saudi artists are challenging the boundaries in a country that is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies:

All three Saudi modern artists interviewed said they have strong backing from members of the Saudi ruling family, but that officials cannot be seen openly supporting works that could draw the ire of the country’s religious establishment.

There have been some exceptions, such as Princess Jawaher bint Majed Al-Saud who funds an annual art week in Jiddah. Another well-known supporter is wealthy Saudi businessman Abdul-Latif Jameel who created Art Jameel that supports the London-based art collective Edge of Arabia run by Stephen Stapleton.

 How New York City’s Lower East Side, Red Hook, and Rockaways neighborhoods might look with hurricane fortifications:


 Glenn Greenwald explores how much the US and other Western governments will go to use the internet as a tool in their propaganda war:

The documents in the archive show that the British are particularly aggressive and eager in this regard, and formally shared their methods with their U.S. counterparts. One previously undisclosed top-secret document–prepared by GCHQ for the 2010 annual “SIGDEV” gathering of the “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance comprising the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.–explicitly discusses ways to exploit Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media as secret platforms for propaganda.

… If American intelligence agencies are adopting the GCHQ’s tactics of “crafting messaging campaigns to go ‘viral’,” the legal issue is clear: A “viral” online propaganda campaign, by definition, is almost certain to influence its own citizens as well as those of other countries.

 The realities of confronting gentrification and the art community in NYC:

“Once speculators see an artist, they think there goes the neighborhood. You’re seen as the enemy in our neighborhoods, and that has to change.”

… Ms. Woolard cited a statistic that there are 93,000 artists living in New York. To put that in context, there are 73,000 4-year-olds looking for seats in pre-k every year. Even if we organize ourselves, we will still need allies to fight for low-income and affordable housing, preserving commercial workspace, and creating new ceilings for a speculative, profit-driven market. It’s crucial that we don’t remain invisible.

 A powerful critique of George W. Bush’s paintings (whole article):

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 Syrian refugee children’s toys made from refuse (in Arabic, but the images speak for themselves):

 And who knew the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was so popular with women taking their photos for the Tinder dating app?


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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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.