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The artists







Reputed Connecticut mobster may have information on biggest art heist in history

By The Associated Press

HARTFORD — A reputed Connecticut mobster suspected of having information related to the largest art theft in history from a Boston museum is facing an arraignment on weapons charges.

Robert Gentile of Manchester is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in federal court in Hartford.

Gentile has been detained since his arrest in February on a charge of selling illegally obtained prescription painkillers.

A prosecutor revealed in court last month that the FBI believes the 75-year-old Gentile “had some involvement in connection with stolen property” related to the unsolved 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in which masterworks worth a half-billion dollars were stolen.

Gentile’s attorney said he had nothing to do with the art theft and the government was trying to pressure him.


Kinkade $9M in Debt When He Died

Kinkade $9M in Debt When He Died
(NEWSER) – Thomas Kinkade was known as the "Painter of Light," but the last few years of his life seem to have been fairly dark: The Daily reports that Kinkade owed about $9 million to at least 165 creditors when he died. Claims range from the huge ($2.4 million from a decade-old dispute with two former gallery owners, $40,000 in back taxes) to the tiny ($125 owed to a computer and toner supply company) and also include the fairly bizarre ($2,251 to … Arrowhead Mountain spring water?). His bankrupt distribution arm, once worth $145 million, was down to $1.4 million in cash and $6.5 million in assets last April.
A bankruptcy reorganization agreement required Kinkade to continue releasing images, whose proceeds would go to creditors. Now, proceeds from rapidly increasing sales after Kinkade's death will do that instead, and court documents also hint that unreleased work may also exist. The Huffington Post and The Stir recall Kinkade's troubled past few years, including accusations of inappropriate behavior with women and urinating on a Winnie the Pooh statue at Disneyland, allegations of defrauding investors and other business and legal troubles, a separation from his wife, and a DUI. Kinkade had owned up to some poor behavior in 2006, blaming stress for his problems with alcohol and overeating.

Calif. artist Thomas Kinkade dies at age 54

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California artist Thomas Kinkade, whose brushwork paintings of idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches were big sellers for dealers across the country, died Friday, a family spokesman said.

Kinkade, 54, died at his home in Los Gatos in the San Francisco Bay Area of what appeared to be natural causes, David Satterfield said.

Kinkade's sentimental paintings, with their scenes of cottages, country gardens and churches in dewy morning light, were beloved by middlebrow America but reviled by the art establishment.

The paintings generally depict tranquil scenes with lush landscaping and streams running nearby. Many contain images from Bible passages.

Kinkade, a self-described devout Christian, claimed to be the nation's most collected living artist. His paintings and spin-off products were said to fetch some $100 million a year in sales, and to be in 10 million homes in the United States.

"I'm a warrior for light," he told the San Jose Mercury News in 2002, in reference to his technical skills but also the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine. "With whatever talent and resources I have, I'm trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel."

Before Kinkade's Media Arts Group went private in the middle of the past decade, the company took in $32 million per quarter from 4,500 dealers across the country 10 years ago, according to the Mercury News. The cost of his paintings range from hundreds of dollars to more than $10,000.

You Can Almost Hear Him Sigh

 ‘Rembrandt at Work’ at Metropolitan Museum
Published: April 5, 2012

This year the joys of spring in New York include the visit of a large, magnificently plainspoken self-portrait by Rembrandt to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Never before exhibited in this country, it comes from the collection of Kenwood House in North London, which is closed for repairs; it will subsequently join other Kenwood paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for an exhibition that will open in June and then travel to three other American museums.

But for the next several weeks the painting is on view at the Met — the centerpiece of “Rembrandt at Work: The Great Self-Portrait From Kenwood House” — and wonderful almost beyond words. Painted around 1665, four years before Rembrandt’s death at 63, it is his second-largest self-portrait, incredibly commanding yet ineffably gentle. It hangs in one of the Met’s permanent collection galleries — Gallery 614 on the second floor, to be exact — beside the museum’s smaller, more modest, earlier Rembrandt self-portrait, from 1660, along with a selection of nine later Rembrandt portraits, perceptively chosen and placed by Walter Liedtke, a curator in the Met’s department of European paintings.
The assembled Rembrandt works at the Met vary greatly. Side by side, for example, are the imposing “Aristotle With a Bust of Homer” and the touching portrait of Rembrandt’s mistress Hendrickje Stoffels, leaning delicately forward, with an almost snapshotlike spontaneity; the Kenwood self-portrait splits the difference between them by being at once heroic, even tragic, and disarmingly intimate. And once you’ve exhausted the possibilities of this gallery, you can also make the Kenwood picture and its neighbor the starting points of a D.I.Y. tour of other Rembrandt self-portraits that includes two more European loans elsewhere at the Met and a masterpiece that has been in the Frick Collection since its founding nearly 80 years ago. (More on this in a bit.)
If you are someone, like me, who tends to prefer Rembrandt’s prints and drawings and finds his paintings at times a trifle sentimental and overly brown, the emotional directness and array of beautiful whites in the Kenwood picture should unsettle that thinking. It shows the aged artist, looking toward but not at us, holding a palette, brushes and maulstick and wearing a simple linen painter’s cap whose brilliant white is echoed more quietly by his pallid skin, gray hair and the bit of white shirt visible above his dark-red tunic. He is in his studio, hard at work, intently studying his reflection, before turning to the canvas whose edge we can just barely discern at the right side of the painting, as if trying to grasp some elusive quality of his homely mien and state of mind.
The work’s emotional gravity and psychic complexity underscore why Rembrandt is often likened to Shakespeare; no artist before him had painted human interiority in all its uneasy, ambivalent, conflicted glory. Again and again his portraits and self-portraits give us pictures of consciousness valiantly making its way through life. In some ways the consciousness that he captured most fully was his own, as it registered in the face he knew better than any other and also painted more often. (A total of 40 painted self-portraits survive.)
The Kenwood painting is a superb example of Rembrandt’s late style, from a time when he had long forsaken the smooth-surfaced, so-called neat style of his earlier years and the Baroque compositional complexities of his middle period. The simple frontal pose and unadorned garb are about as Classical as Rembrandt gets; much of the surface exudes the painterly bravura of loose — or what the Dutch called rough — painting. The face is keenly real if still visibly textured; no one captures the play of light on aging flesh like Rembrandt, but he abbreviated or omitted other details as needed, keeping the reality of paint and process and the reality of his subject equally before the viewer in a way that still feels innovative and even proto-modern. Note that he doesn’t disrupt the dark monolithic form of his body, clothed in black, brown and the dark red, by accentuating the hand that holds the palette with lighter flesh tones.
The lighter tones are reserved expressly for the artist’s head and the space behind it, which is defined by a buff-colored, possibly once-white wall that is a striking exception to the dark or dimly glowing backgrounds against which Rembrandt so often set himself and his other subjects. And this lightened wall is all the more unusual because prominent on it are the curving lines of two large and nearly perfect circles, partly visible, that arc in from either side.
There has been much speculation about the meaning of these circles, and in an essay to be published in the catalog for the touring Kenwood show, Mr. Liedtke proposes that with them (and I greatly simplify) Rembrandt alludes to his departure from his early neat style and from a kind of geometric clarity that dated back to Giotto, who was famous for his ability to draw a perfect circle. So doing, Rembrandt also celebrates his mastery of more intuitive, physical, less descriptive ways of using paint. From the vantage point of the present, the circles of course resonate startlingly with all kinds of 20th-century art, from that of the Russian Constructivist Aleksandr Rodchenko to Jasper Johns and beyond. To take further liberties, they also echo, abstractly and much enlarged, the painter’s eyes, outlining his field of vision and underscoring the act of looking in which we find him so patiently and profoundly engaged.
I’m afraid that the Kenwood portrait makes fairly short shrift of the Met’s 1660 self-portrait, which shows the artist in street clothes, looking more guarded and put together, and is rendered in a thinner, more cautious manner in terms of paint-handling. But it is worth your time to visit the Met’s Robert Lehman Wing to see the two small, shining early self-portraits that are coincidentally on loan for “Rembrandt and Degas: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
Nearly identical, brimming with promise, ambition and vitality, both portraits show Rembrandt’s head in close-up, wreathed in a haze of light and curls, with his face heavily shadowed. (We have to peer hard to find his eyes, mirroring the concentration necessary to make the pictures.)
At the same time these two paintings are utterly different. In the smaller one, from 1629, Rembrandt seems startled and amused, as if by us or his own reflection. Exuding an impish quality, he is caught in the process of turning suddenly toward us. In the other, which dates from 1628-29, he is still and grave, his vitality on idle, as in the Kenwood picture. In the narrow gap between these two early works you can sense his great potential for parsing subtle distinctions, both emotional and physiological.
There’s another exciting comparison to be made by travelling a little farther afield, down Fifth Avenue to the Frick Collection, to visit the monumental 1658 self-portrait — Rembrandt’s largest — that is in many ways the antithesis of the Kenwood. It shows him lavishly attired, wearing a gold-colored tunic embroidered with gold thread, a kind of Oriental sash and a large, soft black beret. He sits like a pasha on a throne, against a dark ground, all but filling the frame. His sizable hands, resting on the arms of his chair, are prominently defined; the left one holds not a palette and maulstick, but a kind of scepter. And this time he looks not inward, but directly at us, with a slightly guarded, appraising stare.
All these differences are summed up by movement of light. At the Frick, Rembrandt is the sole recipient of the painting’s available light, which flows from beneath the black hat, down from his face, over his glowing bulk and out toward us. This is almost a reverse of the Kenwood picture, where the light is concentrated on his face and expands toward the wall behind him. In the Frick picture he is radiating more than absorbing, breathing out more than in, watching us rather than himself.
The Frick self-portrait never travels, and who knows when the Kenwood will pass this way again. The chance to see these two paintings in the same city, just a few blocks apart, is a revelation not to be missed.

Photo albums showing art work, furniture stolen by Nazis during WWII unveiled in Dallas

( LM Otero / Associated Press ) - David S. Ferriero, archivist of the United States, right, and Robert M. Edsel, founder and president of Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art show two newly discovered albums containing photographs of art works and furniture stolen by the Nazis during World War II after they were unveiled at a news conference in the Meadows Museum at SMU in Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2012. The Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art had been contacted by relatives of two World War II soldiers who took the albums from Hitler’s home. They’ll be donated to the U.S. National Archives.

DALLAS — Among the items U.S. soldiers seized from Adolf Hitler’s Bavarian Alps hideaway in the closing days of World War II were albums meticulously documenting an often forgotten Nazi crime — the massive pillaging of artwork and other cultural items as German troops marched through Europe.

Two of those albums — one filled with photographs of works of art, the other with snapshots of furniture — were donated Tuesday to the U.S. National Archives, which now has custody of 43 albums in a set of what historians believe could be as high as 100.

Robert M. Edsel, founder and president of the Dallas-based Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, which announced the discovery of the two new albums at a news conference, called them “key pieces of evidence taken from a crime scene that were prized possessions of Adolf Hitler.”

Relatives of the two soldiers who took the albums contacted the foundation, which has previously donated two other albums in the series to the National Archives. They had read stories in the media about foundation’s mission, which includes continuing the work of the Monuments Men, who helped Allied forces protect cultural treasures during World War II and helped return stolen items after the war.

“We can only hope for more discoveries in the years to come,” U.S. Archivist David S. Ferriero said at the news conference.

The Nazi agency Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, created the series of albums to document the items taken from across Europe. Of the 43 albums identified so far, 39 were discovered in May 1945 at Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. They were then used as evidence at the Nuremberg trials to document the Nazi looting before eventually going to the National Archives.

In 2007, the Monuments Men donated two additional albums after they were found in the attic of the family of a U.S. soldier, though the foundation has retained possession of one of those for the last few years as a teaching tool.

“I think there’s a lot more of them out there,” said Edsel, who noted that the albums were used as “shopping catalogs” for Hitler to select works of art for various museums.

Of the newly discovered albums, one contains photographs of 69 paintings that were taken as early as 1940. Most of those paintings appear to have been properly restituted, but an ERR database indicates four were not. The other newly found album contains photographs of 41 pieces of furniture, mostly taken from the Rothschild family.

Edsel said that by 1951, the Monuments Men had processed and returned more than 5 million stolen objects.

“It was the greatest treasure hunt in history — one that continues to this day,” Edsel said.

Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives, said the recently discovered albums are a reminder of the massive amounts of property Hitler took and a reminder that “to this day, hundreds of thousands” of items are not with their rightful owners.

The albums are also “a reminder that a lot of soldiers in World War II brought souvenirs home — some of them were helmets, bayonets, medals, which are really bounty of war — but others picked up books, albums, other cultural property,” Bradsher said.

One of the newly discovered albums, known as album 15, was taken by Pfc. Yerke Zane Larson, who served in the 501st Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles.” Cpl. Albert Lorenzetti, who served in the 989th Field Artillery Battalion, took the other album — known as album 7 — the same week, also from Hitler’s home, called the Berghof. Both are now deceased.

“When you consider what these solders went through, slogging their way through the loss of buddies, through horrible weather conditions, fighting, combat, etc., and then this momentous occasion when they had a chance to take a deep breath, go up there to the Berghof for no reason than to be able to tell their families and future generations, ‘I stood where Hitler’s home was,’” Edsel said. “That’s what motivated the taking of these things.”

Larson’s daughter, Sandra Runde of Rapid City, S.D., said that she can remember her father taking the album out once or twice when she was growing up. Runde said her father, who returned from the war to take a job sweeping the floors at a restaurant supply company before eventually buying it and working there till he was 80, didn’t talk about the war and didn’t elaborate on the album beyond saying that it was from Hitler’s home.

“It was just tucked away somewhere,” Runde said.

Runde said her father, who died on his 87th birthday in 2009, gave the album to her about five years before he died. She said she’s happy that it’s now somewhere safe where people can appreciate it.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Art cinemas flourishing in Miami

Smack in the middle of an unremarkable city block in Wynwood, O Cinema — with its neon-blue exterior and mural of cute monsters and precocious aliens — looks out of place, like a pop art gallery that got lost on its way to Art Basel, or a quirky day-care center for parents of extra-terrestrials.
The moment you step inside the place, though, you latch onto the vibe. A year after its grand opening, the nonprofit cinema has grown into one of Miami’s coolest hangouts for fans of eclectic films; home to several art galleries featuring rotating exhibits; a mini-shop of so-obscure-it’s-cool memorabilia; and a former warehouse — once used for wood working and electrical engineering — that has been converted into a cozy, 55-seat theater with a large screen, a full-service snack and wine bar and some of the most comfortable couches you will ever sit in.
Despite the odds — an out-of-the-way location, challenging programming and little to no advertising budget — the O Cinema hasn’t just survived its first year: The theater is actually thriving, with plans to expand.
The O has also become a vital element of a surging art house cinema scene that extends throughout the area. To wit:
• At the O, a weeklong retrospective of the films by the Miami-based rakontur studio sold out nearly every night; documentaries such as Page One: Inside the New York Times drew larger audiences than at the Regal South Beach; anime fans trekked south from as far as West Palm Beach — by bus! — decked out in full character regalia for the premiere of Fullmetal Alchemist; and the original Battle Royale — a Japanese movie rarely screened in the United States that makes The Hunger Games seem like Disney fodder — is scheduled to screen at the theater beginning April 5.
• The Coral Gables Art Cinema, which also opened in 2011, already has film distributors begging to get into the theater. Pina, the recent 3D dance documentary by director Wim Wenders, grossed a whopping $16,000 in its first week at the theater — the fifth highest gross in the entire country. In November, Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In earned $18,000 its opening week, even though the film was also playing at area multiplexes.
• The Tower Theatre in Little Havana, which is operated by Miami Dade College, sold an astonishing $15,000 worth of tickets during the first week of the Iranian drama A Separation (by comparison, the movie grossed an average of $8,600 per screen at other theaters that week). The Tower’s aggressive slate of programming for April includes the new film by Zhang Yimou, Flowers of War, starring Christian Bale, and the Italian drama We Have a Pope, directed by Nanni Moretti.
• At the swank Miami Beach Cinematheque, movies that might have once never reached South Florida — such as Bela Tarr’s magnificent The Turin Horse and Céline Sciamma’s acclaimed French drama Tomboy — are regularly screened.
• And at the University of Miami’s Cosford Cinema, the programming has become eclectic enough to include the Miami premiere of avant-garde artist Matthew Barney’s controversial Cremaster Cycle (all five parts of it), glorious 35 mm retrospective screenings (including Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend), new releases such as The Kid with a Bike (which opens April 6) and, for fun, occasional late-night showings of fan favorites such as Back to the Future.

What exactly is going on here? Kareem Tabsch and Vivian Marthell, who co-founded the O Cinema with the help of a $400,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Arts Foundation, believe the resurgence of the Miami art house scene is the result of a classic snowball effect.
“Our job is not to make sure people love every single movie they see here,” Tabsch says. “Our job is to make sure every time people come here, they feel like they’re at home, and they’re at a place like no other in town. Some of the smaller movies we’ve shown — Trollhunter or Human Centipede 2 or Hobo with a Shotgun — haven’t always sold out. But the people who came to see them all said this was the funkiest theater they had ever been to, and so they come back the following week to see whatever we’re showing.”
“We’ve learned our job involves a lot more than showing movies,” Marthell says. “We have to create an ambience. We draw the youngest audience in town, so we have to make the space cool for them. We want everyone to remember that the strange weird movie they saw and loved, they saw it at the O Cinema.”
Filmmakers agree that the vibe and presentation of a movie can be critical in cultivating a loyal audience who turns out week after week, slowly growing into a community while expanding its cinematic tastes.
“I think places like the O Cinema may well be the future of nonmainstream movie-going in America,” says acclaimed director John Sayles, who participated in a Q&A discussion at the O Cinema in November after a screening of his latest film Amigo. “The theater has a very nice mood, a real personality, and it makes you want to go back there to check out movies you may not be aware of, just to enjoy the place. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon they’ll be screening movies there that have already been released on the Web, but people would like to see a second time on a bigger screen with their friends.”
Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba, who attended the opening weekend of his animated musical Chico & Rita at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, says the care that the theater put into the promotion and marketing of the film makes a huge difference in ensuring the audience who would most appreciate his work would find it.
“[Programmer] Robert Rosenberg has been amazing with his attention to all the little details: Promoting the movie with e-mail blasts, selling CD soundtracks and graphic novels in the theater lobby, and then the sound and image in the theater is tremendous. This is exactly the kind of thing that can bring back Miami’s luster as an international home for art films.”
Distributors, too, are taking notice. Cary Jones, vice president of national sales for IFC Films and Sundance Selects, says the variety of art house venues in Miami is a big boon, since their distinct vibes and audiences afford distributors the opportunity to match the right movie with their target audience.
“The Miami Beach Cinematheque and O Cinema play very different kinds of movies,” Jones says. “And the Coral Gables Art Cinema is a different kind of venue altogether. It is located in a neighborhood [Coral Gables] that embraces our kinds of films. But you cannot underestimate the importance of the O Cinema and the Cinematheque and the Cosford and the Tower also providing Miami with the opportunities to see movies that would otherwise never play Miami. They are taking chances on some very esoteric movies. Together, all these theaters raise Miami’s national profile as a destination for art films.”
An added advantage of the boom in Miami’s art film business: Distributors that used to wait months before opening their movies in South Florida after they premiered in larger cities are now putting us higher on their list. Last week, the Susan Seidelman romance Musical Chairs opened in South Florida on the same day as in New York and Los Angeles. On April 13, the Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar will open at the Coral Gables Art Cinema — again, the same day it hits New York and L.A.
“Miami as a market for specialty cinema is clearly on an upswing,” says Music Box Films managing director Ed Arentz, who was recently in town for the Miami International Film Festival. “There’s a coalescing of venues, inspired operators and a growing audience that realizes they have a home.
“It’s a huge gain from where you were a few years ago. With the Coral Gables Art Cinema and the Tower [which is a twin theater], Miami has three world-class screens now. The O Cinema and the Miami Beach Cinematheque represent the funkier end of the spectrum, so they can house a wider range of stuff. But I was very impressed with the theaters there. The Tower is gorgeous. And the columns in front of the Gables theater are beautiful.”
And unlike other industries, in which competition tends to kill off the smallest players, Tabsch says the plethora of art house cinemas in the city benefits all of them.
“Each of these theaters has a completely different feel, and they’re all great spaces,” he says. “As a movie buff growing up in Miami, I couldn’t wait to move to New York. But now it’s a great time to be a film lover in Miami. So much is happening so fast: What used to be a cultural wasteland has been turned into fertile ground.”

In Qatar, Arab modern art gets its first museum

In Qatar, Arab modern art gets its first museum
DOHA — Paintings acquired by shadowy anonymous buyers paying record prices now hang in the light of day in Qatar in the world's first museum devoted to modern Arab art.
The masterpieces are displayed among other treasures making a collection of almost 6,500 pieces in Mathaf (museum in Arabic), which has gathered works of Arab modern art masters previously scattered among private collections and national museums.
"There was no museum devoted to Arab modern art in this part of the world," said Nada Shaboutt, a guest curator and consultant at Mathaf.
Qatar, which had already established the largest museum of Islamic art in the region, opened the doors of Mathaf on December 30, 2010 as part of the state's ambitious cultural policy.
The new museum holds the largest collection of Arab paintings and sculptures in the world, including works by artists from most Arab countries.
"We want Arab modern art to be recognised internationally," the museum's director Wassan al-Khudairi told AFP.
Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani, a member of the Gulf state's ruling family, donated his collection, which totals some 6,200 pieces, to the Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Museums Authority, which jointly established Mathaf.
Among the hundreds of works acquired at full price by anonymous buyers at Christie's or Bonhams auctions in Dubai is a painting by Egyptian master Mahmoud Said (1897-1964) which sold at an April 2010 auction for 2.43 million dollars.
Entitled "Les Shadoufs", the work depicts Egyptian peasants drawing water from the Nile using the weighted pivot-and-bucket system of the picture's name. The price paid was the second highest ever paid for a painting by an Arab artist.
"It is impossible to show all the works that we have here at one time," Khudairi said, adding that Mathaf would organise regular thematic exhibitions.
The museum's first exhibition spotlights some of the greatest Arab artists of the 20th century including Said, Syrian Fateh al-Moudarres, Lebanese Paul Guiragossian and Shafiq Abboud, and Iraqis Dia Azzawi and Jawad Salim.
Mathaf is currently located in the outskirts of Doha in Education City. The building was previously a school but was redesigned for the museum by French architect Jean-Francois Bodin.
The off-white building combines modern exterior touches with an all-glass facade above the entrance, with traditional shapes and designs.
The interior is predominantly white, except for the art, giving it a modern and antiseptic arty feel.
The museum is taking the first step "of discovering and archiving" Arab modern and contemporary art, before expanding its activities, Shaboutt said.
The establishment of the museum is a part of "the process of cultural change underway in Qatar," she added.
The wealthy Gulf state of 1.5 million inhabitants, the majority of them foreigners, is trying to establish itself as a cultural hub in the Gulf region.
It has competition from oil-rich Abu Dhabi, which is constructing a "cultural district" on Saadiyat Island that is to include eight museums, among them branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre.
In 2008, Qatar opened the Museum of Islamic Art, home to a rich collection of 800 artistic and historical treasures from three continents, illustrating Islamic culture from the seventh to the 19th centuries.
The five-storey building, designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei, whose other projects have included the Pyramide du Louvre in Paris, was built on an artificial island 60 metres (yards) from the Doha Corniche.
Qatar also has an ambitious programme for higher education.
Education City, which houses local branches of six American universities including Georgetown, Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon, is a project of the Qatar Foundation which is headed by Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, wife of the emir.

How High Can the Art Market Go?

The art industry, one of the glitzier pieces of the global economy, seems to have shrugged off the 2009 recession with nonchalance. In 2010, Christie’s had the best year in its 245-year history.

The auction house’s numbers, released in late January, show its sales of art last year hit $5 billion, up 53% from 2009. Sotheby’s, too, posted astronomical results in 2010, based on reports from individual auctions; the firm’s aggregate numbers are due out in April.

Growth came across the board — and from across the world. Pablo Picasso’s “Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust” set a record for the most expensive art ever sold at an auction, going to a telephone bidder for US$106.5 million. Art sales in the Americas remained the most lucrative — almost $2 billion in 2010 (up 111% from 2009), but sales in Hong Kong doubled from a year earlier. Globally, Asian art — including jadeite, Chinese ceramics, cloisonné and contemporary works — pulled in $882.9 million in sales for the year for Christie’s.

Jewelry sales at Christie’s also broke records, surpassing $426.4 million for the year, a 56% increase from 2009. Christie’s Asia led the company’s jewelry sales for all regions, pulling in $163 million in total. The auction house flagged mainland China’s enthusiasm for both jadeite and “Western” jewelry as key reasons. A “perfect pink” diamond sold for $23.2 million after an intense bidding war at a Hong Kong auction, becoming the most expensive jewel ever sold in Asia.

Christie’s attributes its success to a buoyant art market peppered with more auctions, new customers, private sales and growth in online auctioneering. Although the firm’s 2010 online art and antiques sales represented only 3% of its total sales world-wide —  most works that sell online go for less than $20,000 — the online market is a reach for new buyers, a critical element of Christie’s future growth. The auction house’s Asia President François Curiel predicts that by 2015, the market for Chinese works of art will be as big as the market for art from Europe and North America.

But there is more to the picture. Emilie Faure of the Farjam Collection in Dubai says that in the past decade, as individuals’ investment portfolios have grown more complicated and diverse, art has emerged as an appealing option. According to the Mei/Moses All Art Index, a measure of fine art’s long-term price performance, in 2010 works of art posted a return of 16.6%, outpacing the 15.1% total return for the S&P 500-stock index. The London-based Fine Art Fund, launched by Christie’s former finance director, Phillip Hoffman, is raising $100 million to invest in the likes of Old Master paintings. It’s aimed at investors with a high net worth: The minimum buy-in is $250,000.

Such bullishness inevitably brings skepticism.

The art market is opaque and largely unregulated. While auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s report prices paid, they’re a secondary market. In the primary market for art — galleries — information is tightly held. No one knows what pieces they sell, what prices they get or who the buyers are, making it hard to attach a value to any work. And then there’s the nagging worry that last year’s sales boom may be seen in retrospect as a bubble, fueled by low interest rates and a lack of palatable investment alternatives.

“I think there is a small group of buyers at that level, who pay $3 to $5 million for a work, who don’t necessarily have the best education,” says Chin-Chin Yap, an independent specialist in Chinese art who formerly worked at the auction house Phillips de Pury. Summing up the situation, Ms. Yap puts it bluntly: “I think they are overpaying for A-minus work.”

Psychology of Color is Helpful in Choosing Interior Paint Schemes

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Skillful interior decorating is largely an artistic endeavor, but there’s some science involved also, and none more important than the psychology of color.

“In fact, paint color is so powerful that it can influence our state of mind, and even our physiology”

“Color psychology can help you choose paint colors that create the right mood in a room, affecting not just your own feelings, but those of everyone who enters it,” according to Debbie Zimmer, color expert at the Paint Quality Institute. “In fact, paint color is so powerful that it can influence our state of mind, and even our physiology,” she says.

“The ancient Egyptians, Native Americans, and many other peoples used color to heal. In doing so, they often favored the blues and greens found in nature, colors that have an emotional association with peace, harmony, and tranquility. In these trying economic times, paint colors in these same hues can help calm our nerves at home,” says Zimmer.

Blue, which often ranks at the top of surveys exploring “favorite” colors, has been shown to slow pulse rate and lower body temperature. The implications for interior painting: blue is a terrific color choice for bedrooms, but less so for dining rooms, according to Zimmer.

Green, also one of the most popular colors, is a little more versatile. While it, too, has a soothing effect, it also represents renewal, youth, and vigor. Says Zimmer: “Because it is calming, green paint is a good color choice for bedrooms, and since it’s the color of many appetizing fruits and vegetables, it can work in dining rooms, too.”

There’s no equivocation with red. It bespeaks energy and excitement, actually raising the blood pressure and making the heart beat faster. Because it is associated with desire and passion, it’s a perfect paint color for dining rooms and adult bedrooms, says Zimmer, but wrong for children’s rooms. Yet, ironically, pink – a very light tint of red – is one of the most calming colors, and is a fine choice for a baby’s room, she says.

Yellow is a great interior paint color. Like sunshine, it imparts happiness, hope, and optimism. Studies have shown that the brain actually releases more seratonin when the eye takes in yellow – creating positive psychological vibes. According to Zimmer, yellow can even stir our creative juices. What better color to use in a master bath or dinette to get your day off on the right foot?

Orange is a happy color, too. More attention-getting than yellow, orange has an energy and warmth about it. Muddy shades are useful in many parts of the home, but vivid tones may appear raw and flamboyant. Zimmer’s advice: “Orange is clearly not the color of calm, so it’s best to bypass it when painting a bedroom or any other area where you want to relax.”

Purple is a tricky paint color wherever it’s used, but it’s the overwhelming favorite of adolescent girls, according to Zimmer. She suggests that you reserve use of this color for your daughter’s room to create a win-win situation: “Odds are, she’ll love it, and you can take comfort in purple’s proven ability to stimulate brain activity,” she says.

No discussion of paint color would be complete without mentioning the “non-colors”, black (the absence of light, and thus, color) and white (the confluence of all the colors in the spectrum).

According to Zimmer, black is a great accent color indoors or out, imparting elegance, formality, and sophistication to a paint color scheme. But don’t get carried away with it, she cautions. Too much black can be depressing.

White, on the other hand, conveys peace, simplicity, and spaciousness. It can provide a crisp finish to almost any paint job by adding sharp contrast to the wall color. Used throughout a room, it can give the illusion that the space is bigger than its physical dimensions.

“Color psychology should play a role when selecting an interior paint scheme, but it’s only one factor to consider,” says Zimmer. “Personal color preference should be given at least as much weight.

“No one will spend more time in your home than you will,” says Zimmer, “so choose colors that you love, and you won’t go wrong.”