Required Reading

A rare drawing by Raphael, “Head of a Young Apostle Makes” sold for $47m at Sotheby’s London sale this past week — estimate was $16–24m. The chalk drawing is believed to have been an early study for the Renaissance master’s “Transfiguration” at the The Vatican. (via Art Market Monitor)

This week, the economics of art fairs, GIF history, Maurice Sendak, Louvre is decentralizing, a seminal Richard Serra work in danger, Chinese food, and more.

  Art Basel Miami Beach wraps up today — and we still have many reports in the works — but in the meantime, here is The Art Newspaper‘s take on the anatomy of an art fair:

… gallleries showing at Art Basel Miami Beach pay $685 per sq. m, so with an average stand size of 80 sq. m in the main fair, the total income from the 200 exhibitors equates to nearly $11m.

  A history of the GIF in two minutes.

  The Believer magazine has launched their annual art issue and there’s an interview with famed illustrator Maurice Sendak — best known for Where the Wild Things Are —  that is worth a read:

I never started out as a children’s book artist. What is a children’s-book artist? A moron! Some ugly fat pip-squick of a person who can’t be bothered to grow up. That’s the way we’re treated in the adult world of publishing. I remember a publishing party a thousand years ago and we were invited, people from the children’s-book department, and someone said, “Oh, you stay up so late!” Stupid man. But that’s the attitude in this country. I’m an illustrator. I have to accept my role. I will never kill myself like Vincent van Gogh. Nor will I paint beautiful water lilies like Monet. I can’t do that. I’m in the idiot role of being a kiddie-book person. It sounds like I’m complaining, but it has no effect on me. I have a good life. I’m strangely content now. Does that come through? Something changed; maybe it was his death. I can’t complain about anything. I’m a lucky buck.

  How one Scandinavian country, Norway, really embraced modernist design and architecture.

  Remember that horrific subway death photo on the cover of the New York Post this week? Bag Notes explores what it is really about:

What was and is missing from all of these “pictures” is any serious focus on America’s down-and-out, the poor, the indigent, the homeless, as well as the (sometimes distinct, but most often overlapping circumstances of the) emotionally sick and the mentally ill.

  The Louvre is opening more regional museums and moving iconic works out of Paris, like Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” (1830), but not everyone thinks that’s a good idea. Jonathan Jones writes:

I think it’s political correctness gone mad. There’s no reason to undermine the strength of a great museum such as the Louvre in the name of regional equality. There are only a few museums like the Louvre in the world, and they have their own egalitarianism in the universal overview of human culture that they provide.

Speaking of the SANAA-designed Lens outpost of the Musée du Louvre, here are some photos of the new building.

  Still no decisions about the future of Richard Serra’s seminal “Shift” sculpture just north of Toronto. And it raises some good questions, “Part of the problem with ‘Shift’ is its private nature. Does the public have a right to determine the fate of privately owned work of art?”

  A look at modernist architecture in Iran through the lens of Iranian-Armenian church architecture, which has a strong relationship to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in Manhattan and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. The whole post couches the ideas in the socio-political notions of space for religious minorities in an explicitly Islamic Republic.

  There are lots of misconceptions about Chinese cuisine, and this interview seeks to debunk some of them, and also explain some surprising influences that entered Chinese culture through Europe:

There’s a legend about a Han dynasty Chinese envoy called Zhang Qian who is supposed to have brought sesame, coriander, alfalfa and other things from Europe along the silk road. There are clues in the Chinese language about which things came across the land routes because they are prefixed by “hu”,which referred to the barbarians of the northwest. Hence hu jiao. Carrot is hu luobo, literally “barbarian radish”. The Yuan dynasty was Mongol, the invaders from the north, so they ate mutton and dairy foods. In northern China you can still see the use of mutton, which the southern Chinese don’t like at all, and the appearance of a few dairy products in the everyday diet.

And what do many Chinese traditionally think of Western food?

Traditionally, they don’t eat dairy products, and certainly not cheese. Cheese is considered smelly and disgusting. Also they don’t traditionally eat much raw food, so salads were barbarian food, although the new generation are coming round to them. And in China people are not used to eating huge hunks of meat. So a whole steak on a plate with chips is not really a meal. At the Chinese dinner table you never have knives, only chopsticks, so to have a huge slab of meat you need to cut for yourself seems utterly barbaric. And whilst you would always have a refreshing soup with a Chinese meal, that’s not so essential in Western food. Finally, rare meat has shocked and scandalised a number of Chinese people I’ve met.

  And in case you missed it, I think it’s very worthwhile to watch Slavoj Žižek’s keynote presentation at this year’s Creative Time Summit, which includes this great passage:

There is a crisis, there are revolts, and so on, and so on. I’m sorry, but, now let me be brutal [because] we deserve the truth: is it your impression that there is some global Left which knows what it wants? I don’t see this.

Speaking of the Left, Art Threat published a rebuttal by Ian Paul Alan of Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert’s much panned “An Open Letter to Critics Writing About Political Art.” And Alan points out the false assumptions in the original text:

Central to Duncombe and Lambert’s writing is the assumption that political artists and their critics participate in a shared struggle and in their words are “part of the team”. When Duncombe and Lambert assert that their imagined community of political artists and critics are all interested in a “better world”, they mistakenly contend that there is already a consensus on what constitutes their speculatively better world in the first place.

What they fail to consider is that no such consensus exists; there are as many articulations of what composes a better world as there are people in it, many of which are irreconcilably different from one another. Politics is the process that arises precisely because of these differences and is the basis of both antagonism and solidarity.

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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