Required Reading

Earlier this year, the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress published this photo of Hungarian-American artist Zelma Baylos’ New York studio (circa 1910–15) on their Flickrstream and it’s pretty wondrous. There is also a wonderful image of a life drawing class at the National Academy of Design from the same era. (via

This week, artists on Facebook, where children sleep, Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural legacy, tax reform and arts giving, Canada’s crowd-sourced art prize, how a Brit learned to speak American, some parallels between malls and wars, and more.

  Four ways artists are making Facebook a less boring place via The Creators Project.

  DC’s tax changes may also impact charity giving, though no one is quite sure how. The New York Times explores the topic:

“We haven’t empirically studied the effect of a Romney-style cap on deductions on charitable giving,” [Patrick Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University] said, “but this will certainly have a deleterious impact. Tax benefits aren’t the main reason people give, but charitable giving is sensitive to changes in marginal rates. And some charities will be more affected than others. Religious organizations tend to be less affected, because the donation may be a spiritual obligation. But colleges and universities, the arts, and in some cases hospitals, are right to be very concerned.”

  This photo series reminds of the potential power of photography for social justice: “Where Children Sleep [Around the World].” Some of the photos are disturbing for many different reasons.

  Recently, architect Oscar Niemeyer died and one critic wants you to know that he doesn’t deserve the accolades some have been trying to bestow on him for “humanizing” modernist architecture. The New Republic‘s Sarah Williams Goldhagen writes:

If we cannot ascribe to Niemeyer the creation of a more humane and sensuous modernism, what can we celebrate in his work as we mark his passing? Quite simply, some really great architecture. (A lot of not great architecture too, as well as some appalling urban ideas, realized in built form in his design for the new capital city of Brasília.) Buildings like Niemeyer’s Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Pampulha and his Alvorada Palace in Brasília are among modernism’s most ethereal monuments.

  Remember that petition against Ken Johnson by a number of people (Colleen Asper, Anoka Faruqee, Steve Locke, Dushko Petrovich, and William Villalongo), well, the New York Times responded and they pretty much PWND the organizers:

Thanks for your letter about Ken Johnson’s reviews. I’m glad to acknowledge that some of Ken’s phrases could have been more precise. He has acknowledged this himself on his Facebook page, where there is lots of lively discussion of the issues you have raised. As Ken wrote, “I can see how my statement that ‘Black artists did not invent assemblage’ taken out of context seems needlessly provocative.”

At the same time, I assume that anyone who believes in the value of healthy debate would condemn any effort to stifle good-faith ideas and those who express them. I am heartened by your assurance that you are not calling for Ken’s resignation or censure, but your letter has been circulating for a couple of weeks as a petition and petitions are meant to produce action. It would be troubling, and, it seems to me, inimical to what I would like to believe is your goal, if the action contemplated by the petition involved some sanction by The Times against Ken, whom you in effect accuse of racism and sexism. To be clear: Ken is guilty of neither of those things.

The bottom line, for me, is that Ken’s work, like any critic’s, is legitimately subject to tough criticism. Yours is welcome and it has properly stimulated all sorts of reaction. Less welcome is any suggestion that The Times should publicly “address” unfair and unsound accusations against him.

The writers of the petition wrote back to Mr. Landman (with a lot less bravado than the petition) and, if I may paraphrase, say “thanks.”

  In Michigan, they have Art Prize, in LA, they have the Mohn Award, in Brooklyn, we have GO Brooklyn, and now in Toronto, they have the Grange Prize — all these are art prizes decided by public votes. The Walrus explores the Canadian version of the prize and asks if this is the future of art in the digital age:

 Since its inception in 2007, it has taken the question of what makes art good out of expert hands. “We are harshly criticized for giving up the gallery’s obligation and commitment to make critical judgments,” says AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum.

“I am very pro-democratic,” says Governor General Award winner Lynne Cohen, who was nominated for the Grange Prize in 2009, “but people have to have passion about art and not just a knee-jerk reaction. Art is complicated, and to understand what artists are doing requires considerable study, time, and attention — in a way that anything worth doing requires considerable attention. Maybe that’s naive, but that’s what I would like to think.”

  Some advice to artists of all kinds about gathering their own data about their audience:

… every artist needs a central place to interact with their fans that they own and control — be that a blog, a website, a Twitter feed, or a Facebook page. If they have this central place they can deal directly with their fans and gather their own Big Data, while also letting their fans know how to find them on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix or Pandora.

  The story of how one British author learned to “speak American.”

  Some very provocative thoughts on the mall by Alexander Blake Schwarzenbach:

War is a mall.  If countries are now corporations then war is a mall.

… War is a mall waged on a captive population.

…  The mall humiliates people through the ostentatious smallness of the dreams it offers.

  The world’s most beautiful subway stations, and two are in the US (though one of them isn’t a functional subway station anymore).

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.

comments (0)