Required Reading

This week, the feud between Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, Hank Willis Thomas’s Guernica, what Google did with your selfie, fake social media followers, Arthur Miller’s defense of the NEA, and more.

Hank Willis Thomas posted on Instagram an image of his largest piece ever. Titled “Guernica” (2017), it was originally created as a commission for “Flight Club” (it was too big for the purpose, the artist said). The artist explained to Hyperallergic that the image, which is composed of sports jerseys, is about global trade, sports as a proxy for war, commodity, the rise of racism, the ‘past is present,’ and a new lens on old art that brings new perspective. The work is also a testament to how Picasso’s famous mural about the fascist bombing of the Basque town of Guernica continues to resonate today. (Images courtesy the artist)

Bacon confided: “Certainly the ones [Saatchi] bought of Lucian’s are the worst ones I have ever seen. I saw one ghastly thing of a man standing on a bed and two little heads peeping out from under the bed. It looked ridiculous.”

… Joule believes Freud’s friendship with Bacon was tainted by Freud’s jealousy: “He cut Francis off completely, much to Francis’s surprise, and never, ever relented.”

The golden toilet is a paradoxical object. It is cast from gold but takes the form of an entirely standard piece of plumbing. People who care about luxury toilets — meaning, comfort and function — generally invest in Japanese toilets, which come with a complex array of heating elements, spraying functions, air plumes, drying functionality, lighting and musical options. Cattelan’s golden throne is not that kind of toilet. It is a golden version of the kind of toilet you might find in a public school or airport. The use of gold satirizes not just American values but references a long discourse about the vanity of wealth, the belief of rich people that everything they do is transmogrified by money.

… The Guggenheim has said no to the president of the United States, which is a powerful gesture in itself. But it has also presumed to offer him something “more” valuable according to the value system it imputes to him: a tawdry love of gleaming gold fixtures, common to vulgar despots all the way back to Midas himself. The subtext here is: We assume you only want the van Gogh painting as a status symbol, which we refuse to endorse; but we will give you what you really crave, which is crass gold. If he accepts the golden toilet, he confirms their view of him. If Trump declines the golden toilet, by implication he would seem to believe that there are things (such as van Gogh paintings) that transcend money and commerce. And thus, he may undermine his own worldview, in which all things have their price and anything can be exchanged for something else if the money is right.

Trump supporters are freaking out, of course:

S. a. T.: To date our works can be arranged under roughly 7 cycles, which treat subjects as varied as alphabet politics, mirrors for princes (fürstenspiegel), German orientalism, or the relationship between Iran and Poland from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

We founded Slavs and Tatars in 2006, two years after the ten new member states of Eastern Europe joined the EU, as a reading group. For the first 3-4 years, our activity was almost exclusively print-based and two-dimensional and, most importantly, required reading. However, as our work has grown to include other media – exhibitions, installations, audio-work, lecture-performances – the book’s position has become more fragile within this ecosystem, ostensibly eclipsed by other more sensorial, seductive platforms. When given a chance not to read, audiences will almost always go for this option. Similarly, despite growing interest and commissions on their behalf, institutions tend to prioritize other media, rarely the publication or the collective act of reading required of its mise-en-scene.

But just because Google is taking good care of your photo doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ulterior motive to its self-harvesting: “While the primary goal of the facial-recognition feature is to drive users toward Google’s Arts and Culture app,” Jarae says, “Google is most likely using the selfies to further train their AI facial-recognition models, and gather valuable user metrics,” — and, as he points out, Google wouldn’t need to hold on to our selfies, or biometric data, to continue training its models.

So if you’re wary about your selfie being kept by Google forever, you can probably rest easy. And if you don’t want your face being used to help train Google AI, maybe don’t snap a selfie.

First, there are new tax brackets, and most people will find themselves in a lower rate. For example, a married couple filing jointly with an income between $19,050 and $77,400 is now in a 12% tax bracket, whereas until 2018, that couple was in the 15% tax bracket. Like the vast majority of benefits to individuals and small businesses, these provisions expire in 2026. As I mentioned above, the corporate cuts (specifically the C-Corporations, outside the scope of this article) do not expire.

To understand how the new bill works, its important to review the basic tax setup. All taxpayers get an initial chunk of their income tax-free. You can choose to either take the standard deduction amount (a fixed amount) or the itemized deduction amount (variable based on your itemized deductions such as mortgage interest, state and local taxes and charitable contributions). If your itemized deductions are greater than the standard deduction amount ($6,350 for an individual or $12,700 for a couple in 2017) – in other words, if you pay more in mortgage interest, state and local taxes, and charitable contributions than the standard deduction amount, then you can itemize your deductions and get a larger tax-free amount.

“Whenever I’m asked about being the first black woman to be nationally syndicated, I say: ‘Hold it. I’m only the first in the mainstream press,” she continues. “Jackie predates me by decades, and [she] recorded our history in her remarkable style on the pages of the black press for many years. I’m so glad, at last, she’s getting her due.”

Ormes, who died in 1985, and former Marvel Comics direct sales manager Carol Kalish were announced this week as judges’ selections for automatic induction. This year’s Eisner jury includes Candice Mack of the Los Angeles Public Library, comics reviewer/journalist Graeme McMillan, Florida comics retailer Tate Ottati, New York comics scholar Nhora Serrano, creator-educator Alexander Simmons and manga/anime expert William Wilson.

In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Yet their creation and sale fall into a legal gray zone.

… Despite rising criticism of social media companies and growing scrutiny by elected officials, the trade in fake followers has remained largely opaque. While Twitter and other platforms prohibit buying followers, Devumi and dozens of other sites openly sell them. And social media companies, whose market value is closely tied to the number of people using their services, make their own rules about detecting and eliminating fake accounts.

Franco has also attracted attention for controversial behavior on social media. In 2014, he used Instagram to ask a 17-year-old British girl he’d met outside a New York theater if she had a boyfriend and whether she was 18. Even after learning her age, he asked for the name of her hotel and if he should rent a room.

After that episode became public, Franco apologized on ABC’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael.” “I’m embarrassed, and I guess I’m just a model of how social media is tricky,” he said. “I used bad judgment and I learned my lesson.”

  • Arthur Miller wrote a defense of the National Endowment of the Arts in 1995. It was addressed to Newt Gingrich (The letter is courtesy the Harry Ransom Archive at the University of Texas at Austin, and first published at The Nation, then Paris Review):

It is for men only. A black tie evening, Thursday’s event was attended by 360 figures from British business, politics and finance and the entertainment included 130 specially hired hostesses.

All of the women were told to wear skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels. At an after-party many hostesses — some of them students earning extra cash — were groped, sexually harassed and propositioned,

The Financial Times last week sent two people undercover to work as hostesses on the night. Reporters also gained access to the dining hall and surrounding bars.

Over the course of six hours, many of the hostesses were subjected to groping, lewd comments and repeated requests to join diners in bedrooms elsewhere in the Dorchester.

Hostesses reported men repeatedly putting hands up their skirts; one said an attendee had exposed his penis to her during the evening.

The Hyman Archive was confirmed as the largest collection of magazines in 2012 by Guinness World Records; then, it had just 50,953 magazines, 2,312 of them unique titles. Now, a year and a half after Mr. Hyman was interviewed by BBC Radio 4, donations are pouring in, and amid them Mr. Hyman and his staff have carved out space for an armchair and a snack-laden desk.

… During a recent visit, Mr. Hyman showed a reporter some of the titles and design elements he considers particularly important, including fake ads from Mad magazine trolling the cigarette industry; Kate Moss’s first cover (The Face, July 1990); The Notorious B.I.G.’s first appearance in The Source (March 1992); Rihanna on the cover of the first free issue of New Musical Express (September 2015) and a hacking magazine from 1984 called 2600, which, Mr. Hyman said, “is the frequency you used to use to get free calls if you blow your Cap’n Crunch whistle down the phone line,” and lists all of the direct phone extensions in the Reagan White House.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and 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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