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- Poet Elizabeth Alexander, who is also the president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, reviewed Lorna Simpson’s collages of black women’s hair:
In these pictures black women’s phantasmagorical hair is like smoke, but nothing is turning to ash. It is a non-consuming smoke, the mesmerizing beauty of smoke as it curls and wafts and draws a viewer inexorably near.
- Four New York gallery owners (Paula Cooper, Elyse Derosia, Bridget Donahue, and Sean Kelly) dish about their business, and while it is mostly self-serving, there are juicy bits:
Paula Cooper: Auctions. Auctions are a killer. But art is now absolutely a consumer product, and that’s the huge difference. It’s a whole different world. Where do people fit in who are interested in art and helping young artists and developing careers and lives? Why are the big galleries getting everything?
Sean Kelly: If you go to the major art fairs, it’s very clear that there is a hierarchy established over a period of time where certain galleries are given certain precedence and certain positions, and there is no level playing field there. I would like the hierarchy to be less rigidly visible, less rigidly enforced. Because the net result is that the collectors are being herded into the maw of corporation galleries worldwide by fairs.
- Art collector and art magazine publisher Peter Brant is a good friend of Donald Trump he sounds quite shady. This New York Times profile outlines his recent pay to stiff people. And one of his assets, Interview magazine, was built on lies:
In a statement, Mr. Baron’s spokesman, Zak Rosenfield, said: “Peter Brant has proven to be an exploitive and dishonorable businessman who considers himself above the law, with his stewardship of Interview magazine the most recent example. It is now abundantly clear that Interview was kept afloat for decades because of half-truths, unkept promises and his exploitation of the passions and pocketbooks of contributors and staffers, some with meager means, who were eager to carry on the Warhol vision.”
… “But to tell you the truth, I’ve never really understood what owning Interview means,” Ms. Lebowitz said. “It didn’t make any money, and everyone lied about the circulation. I know that because when I was really young, I used to drive the magazine to the printers. I got fifty dollars for it. The sales they were telling people was like five times the print run.”
- Then there’s the profile of another media company, Vice, that has come to represent greed, avarice, and sexual exploitation for profit by not-so-nice men. And like, Interview, this was built on a lot of lies:
In 1999, Vice moved into an office paid for by Szalwinski on West 27th Street, where the founders were surprised to find espresso machines, 25 staff members, and a human-resources department that chastised McInnes for calling a gay co-worker a “fag.” Bullshitter Shane got to work: When a Canadian reporter came to do a profile, the company paid a friend to pretend he was an MTV executive interested in a Vice-branded show. “One year from now, everyone will know Vice,” Smith boasted. “Two years from now, there’s the IPO and we’ll be fantastically wealthy.”
- Gelare Khoshgozaran writes about the “Terrorientalist Landscapes” of California and the imagined “Middle East”:
1902 was also the year the date industry was born in California. Much like the origin of the term “Middle East,” it is difficult to pinpoint the exact year dates were cultivated here. Cultivars from the Middle East and North Africa were introduced to California as early as the 1890s after extensive research travels to those regions to study the climate and date cultivation. The similarities between the climate of the California desert and that of the Arabian and Sahara Deserts did not go unnoticed by the visionaries.
- I had to share this for the incredible dek: “On Paul Gauguin, authenticity and the midlife crisis“:
The story of moral harm in pursuit of art, with the overall endeavour somehow justified by the art, is a familiar one both in fact and fiction. The fiction tends to be written by men, and their protagonists tend to be men. Life imitates art and vice versa, and in reality those who justify their selfishness (and worse) in the name of art tend to be men too. Williams, however, does not discuss in any detail the harm caused by Gauguin: nor does he discuss the way in which many of Gauguin’s Polynesian victims were used as subjects (and objects) in his most famous paintings. This is something I will return to in what follows.
- How Christians destroyed the ancient world (it’s a review ofCatherine Nixey’s The Christian Destruction of the Classical World):
In Constantinople, the spiritual headquarters of Eastern Christendom, the seventh-century church was still frantically trying to ban the Bacchanalian festivities that legitimized cross-dressing, mask-wearing and Bacchic adulation. I read this book while tracing the historical footprint of the Bacchic cult. On the tiny Greek island of Skyros, men and children, even today, dress as half human, half animal; they wear goat masks, and dance and drink on Bacchus’ festival days in honor of the spirit of the god. It seems that off the page there was a little more continuity than Christian authorities would like to admit.
But the spittle-flecked diatribes and enraging accounts of gruesome martyrdoms and persecution by pagans were what the church chose to preserve and promote. Christian dominance of academic institutions and archives until the late 19th century ensured a messianic slant for Western education (despite the fact that many pagan intellectuals were disparaging about the boorish, ungrammatical nature of early Christian works like the Gospels). As Nixey puts it, the triumph of Christianity heralded the subjugation of the other.
- Are women’s voices deeper today than they were decades ago? Seems like it, and the reasons may fascinate you:
Cecilia Pemberton at the University of South Australia studied the voices of two groups of Australian women aged 18–25 years. The researchers compared archival recordings of women talking in 1945 with more recent recordings taken in the early 1990s. The team found that the “fundamental frequency” had dropped by 23 Hz over five decades – from an average of 229 Hz (roughly an A# below middle C) to 206 Hz (roughly a G#). That’s a significant, audible difference.
- The death of giant African baobab trees, which are thousands of years old, is of great concern:
The purpose of the study was to learn how the trees become so enormous. The researchers used radiocarbon dating to analyse samples taken from different parts of each tree’s trunk. They found that the trunk of the baobab grows from not one but multiple core stems. According to the Kruger Park, baobabs are “very difficult to kill”.
“They can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing,” it states. “When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres.”
Of the 10 trees listed by the study authors, four died completely, meaning all their multiple stems toppled and died together, while the others suffered the death of one or several parts.
- Laurene Powell Jobs has a philanthropic mission and we’re all trying to figure out what it is:
Then, last year, Powell Jobs unleashed a series of dramatic moves across a three-dimensional chessboard of American culture. In July, Emerson Collective purchased a majority stake in the Atlantic, a 161-year-old pillar of the journalistic establishment. In September, an arm of the collective and Hollywood’s Entertainment Industry Foundation co-opted the four major networks in prime time to simultaneously present an hour of live television, featuring dozens of celebrities inviting the nation to reconceive high school. Over the following weeks, the collective partnered with the French artist JR to create two monumental pieces of guerrilla art on either side of the U.S.-Mexico border that went viral on social media as satirical critiques of the border wall. In October, she bought the second-largest stake — about 20 percent — in the estimated $2.5 billion holding company that owns the NBA’s Wizards, the NHL’s Capitals, Capital One Arena and several other sports ventures.
- And in sad news, the US Treasury Department has stopped plans to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill:
President Donald Trump is a well-known fan of Andrew Jackson, a wealthy populist best known for illegally and forcibly relocating Native American tribes — an act that killed thousands during a journey that became known as the Trail of Tears. During his election campaign, Trump suggested that if he were president he wouldn’t allow the Treasury to remove Jackson from the face of the $20 note. After Trump took office, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin backed off of the prior administration’s pledge to put Tubman’s image on the front of the bill, saying only that he had “more important issues to focus on.”