The Scandalous World of Art

Edvard Munch, The Scream

 On May 1, CPL is hosting a program on The Art of the Scandal: Thefts, Vandals and Forgeries.

 Well, that’s nice, you say, but art doesn’t interest me.

Are you sure about that? Everyone loves a good mystery, and high art is probably the most mystery-filled subject there is. Anything with that much crime circling around it means there is a bank vault of money involved. 

There are many sides to fine art – the talent side (no one disputes a da Vinci, but you can start a fight over Pollock), the artsy side (the use of light and dark in paintings creates mood and movement that symbolizes man’s desire to control the universe: discuss), the history side (Phoenician art of the 18th century BCE shows a developing amalgamation of influence of the entire Mesopotamian region), and the rarity side (there are more Roman statues than there are da Vincis). We can discuss the purpose of art, of man’s desire to create, of the abstractness of art that leads back to man as the only animal who creates art for art’s sake, despite our knowledge that apes will draw and paint for pleasure, and that elephants, dolphins, and rabbits can be taught to paint as a behavior. It often boils down to one thing: 

Money.

The price of fine art (paintings and drawings, as opposed to jewelry work, sculpture, enamelwork, etc) has a few things going for it. First is rarity – many of the greatest paintings are hundreds of years old. They are one-of-a-kinds, and not a lot of them have survived. There are only 15 authenticated da Vincis known – as opposed to 400 Rembrandts. A second consideration is fragility – light, moisture, and age can cause ancient paintings to crack, flake, and fade (Van Gogh liked using red lake pigments, which fade rather quickly). The Mona Lisa is not painted on canvas, but an old board. A third thing is authenticity, and here is where the art world goes to pieces.

Salvator Mundi, by da Vinci

Because of the money involved in fine art (Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold for $450 million dollars), as in too many movies, everyone is out to steal or fake originals. Forgery rings have been around for hundreds of years – one of the biggest was by Han Van Meegeren in the late 1930’s, a talented artist who sold more than $30 million in fake Vermeers to the Nazis. In 2004,  Xiao Yuan, the Chief Librarian at an academy of fine arts, stole more than 140 paintings in his care by carefully replacing them with his own copies – only to find some of HIS copies stolen and replaced with less-skilled replacements. Forgeries (actually, they’re called counterfeits, since legally only documents can be forged) are so rampant (about 50% of the market), Sotheby’s bought their own forensics lab to weed out fakes

Modern fakes are often easy enough to spot – today’s paints and canvases and even brushes aren’t the same as the 1500’s, and simple chemistry will find them. But what if the work copied is of modern origin – say, a Picasso, or a Warhol? Because of the modernity of materials, it is incredibly difficult to prove authenticity. 

Conan the Barbarian, by Boris Vallejo

Questions still arise, though, as to what constitutes an authentic work of art. That 450 million dollar da Vinci has had so much restoration that there is more paint by restorers than by da Vinci, so is it still genuine? If a student of an artist (Rembrandt, Renoir, Reubens, etc) is so talented that a professional art historian/critic cannot tell the difference, how are you defining fine art and value? Where does the value lie – in the skill, the history, the age, or the subject matter? Why do we so value Edvard Munch’s The Scream (of which four originals exist, two of which were stolen), yet not value Boris Vallejo?

Art, by its very interpretational nature, is a scandal.

Art of the Scandal is an on-line program sure to peak your interest. You can sign up for the attendance link here.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a wonderful graphic novel about her lifelong relationship with cooking. Lucy grew up in a household where food was always central. Her mother ran a catering business, grew her own food, and operated a farmer’s market stall. Due to this constant exposure, Lucy based many of her memories on food. Huevos rancheros reminds her of her adventures in Mexico with her best friend. Croissants remind her of the time she backpacked through Europe with a close college friend. Sushi takes her back to her travels in Japan. Hot chocolate, burgers, and fries remind her of traveling Italy with her father. Baking sweets became her way of working through stressful times in her life. Accompanied by these recorded memories are delicious recipes that are fun to make. After reading this graphic novel, you will gain a new appreciation for the importance different types of food can have on impacting people’s lives.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Modern-day Mexico, Italy, Japan, New York, and Chicago.

Number of pages: 173

Themes: Family, friendship, travel, growing up, and cooking.

Is this good for a book club? This would be good for book clubs that enjoy books about food.

Objectionable content? There are discussions of alcohol, periods, and pornographic magazines.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy the stories.

Who would like this? Anyone who loves food.

Rating: Five stars

Linda Reads: Let Me Be The One by Bella Andre

let meLet Me Be The One  is book six in The Sullivans series.  All of the books in this series can be read alone.   This series of books is beautifully written and a joy to read.

Ryan and Vicki were best friends in high school, but have long since gone their separate ways – Vicki to Europe as a sculptor and Ryan as a star baseball pitcher in San Francisco.   After a failed marriage, Vicki finds herself in San Francisco applying for a prestigious position in the art community and finds herself in an awkward position with one of the judges.   Even though she hasn’t seen him in years, her first thought is to call Ryan for help.

Ryan volunteers to be Vicki’s “pretend boyfriend”  to protect her from the unwanted advances of an influential judge.  But both Vicki and Ryan have trouble with the “pretend” part.  Neither wants to ruin their friendship by becoming lovers, but that’s proving to be quite difficult.  No matter how hard they try, their “love” for each other overtakes their “friendship”.

Touching, sweet, romantic and sexy, with likeable characters, this book is my favorite so far of the series.