Artists turn long-secret Bosnian nuclear bunker into an art gallery

 (Amel Emric/ Associated Press ) - Visitor looks at the contemporary art item at the war bunker, near town of Konjic, 80 kms south of Sarajevo, Bosnia, on Friday, April 26, 2013, as the once secret bunker, built to shelter Yugoslavia’s Marshal Josip Broz Tito and the communist leadership from a nuclear war, turns for three months into one of the world’s quirkiest contemporary art galleries. The exhibition that opens Friday occupies most of the U-shaped complex some 280 meter (920 foot) deep underground that reportedly cost some US dlrs 4.6 billion to build but never served any purpose, and now turns into something that may put the sleepy Bosnian town of Konjic on the cultural map of Europe. Artists from 19 countries have worked for months on their performances and interventions in almost 100 rooms of the underground labyrinth, said Edo Hozic, the director of the project.
KONJIC, Bosnia-Herzegovina — A once-secret bunker built to shelter Yugoslavia’s communist leadership from nuclear war has temporarily reopened as an art gallery, with some exhibits pondering what would have happened if more mushroom clouds had hit the world’s skies.
The 280-meter- (920 foot) deep, U-shaped complex is dug into a mountain and took 26 years and billions of dollars to build; for years, only the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and his closest confidantes knew the subterranean fortress existed.
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The secret was revealed when Bosnia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1992. The new army took over and still owns the labyrinth just outside Konjic, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Sarajevo. The space had never really been put to use until in recent years artists turned to authorities with an idea to put this sleepy town on the cultural map.
In 2011, the bunker was opened up for three months as an art gallery. This year’s run, which began Friday, also is for three months, and artists from 19 countries have worked hard on performances and projects on display in almost 100 rooms of the facility, project director Edo Hozic said.
For now, the bunker’s artistic transformation is being done on a biennial basis. But the goal is to gradually turn it into an art gallery permanently.
It is a “crazily incredible project,” said Basak Senova, a Turkish artist who acts as one of the curators.
The entrance to the bunker, which is supposed to hold 300 people, lies behind a nondescript garage door of a remote house at the end of a lonely road east of Konjic.
The first installation is startling: A loud noise simulates the detonation of a 25-kiloton nuclear bomb in the vicinity of the bunker — making visitors feel as if they are the last to escape an apocalypse just before the giant bunker door closes.
Right afterward, visitors walk along a tunnel with floors lined with mirrors that crack under people’s steps.
Doors along the long tunnel lead to more than 100 small bedrooms, offices and conference rooms that are usually decorated with simple wooden furniture and the obligatory portrait of Tito with his usual “visionary” gaze.
The rooms have been turned into small individual galleries displaying the works of the various artists.
Some of the exhibits try to reconstruct the isolated life of the people who would have used the bunker had it been necessary. Others focus on tragedies that did occur.
Japanese artist Saeri Kiritani plays a video of a phantom touching rice and chanting for the departed souls of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. Hungarian artist Janos Sugar uses pictures of people in today’s conflict zones waving their simple weapons to show how the gun became “the typewriter of the illiterate.”
Tickets to the exhibit cost 5 euro ($6.50), which includes transportation and a guide. Would-be visitors have to get a permit from the army to enter the 6,500 sq. meter (70,000 sq. foot) facility — something that the local tourist bureau can arrange.
Ibrahim Spahic, a visitor on Friday who organizes cultural projects in Sarajevo, spoke glowingly of the bunker project.
“When the art of war is turned into a war for art, this is what happens,” he said.

Japanese ‘Outsider Art’ Draws Insider Attention in London

The art world constantly craves something new, and an unusual exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection–a free venue that combines galleries, event spaces and meeting places–delivers.
“Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan,” showcases the work of self-taught Japanese artists diagnosed with mental, cognitive or behavioral disorders who live in social welfare facilities.
The word “souzou” is often translated as “creation” or “imagination,” and these are on display in abundance, as the artists transform everyday materials into reflections of their worlds and themselves.
Shota Katsube turns everyday twist-ties into a colorful collection of miniature superheroes. Komei Bekki interprets traditional clay masterwork through meticulous, totem-like statues. Norimitsu Kokubo draws fantastical cityscapes based on information he gleans from the Internet.
“It’s very well-curated. I think the works chosen are of the highest quality for this field,” said outsider-art scholar and writer Edward Gómez.
The term “outsider art” is related to “art brut,” coined by French artist Jean Dubuffet in the 1940s to mean “raw art,” or that created by those unaffected by mainstream society.
In Japan, the artists are discovered almost exclusively through programs organized by social welfare organizations. The artists’ interests are overseen by a group called Haretari Kumottari, formed around 2005.
About half of the 46 artists on display are from Shiga Prefecture in western Japan–a prefecture that was “at the forefront of social welfare after World War II and remains at the forefront,” said exhibition curator Shamita Sharmacharja.
After the war, various institutions were set up for traumatized orphans and children with disabilities. Some of these facilities became residential homes with a focus on rehabilitating people to be able to work, an important social value in Japan.
To organize the show, Ms. Sharmacharja traveled to Shiga and Tokyo and met about half of the artists. She said some were excited about having their work displayed in London, but others not so much.
Akane Kimura, for example, creates intricate ink drawings incredibly fast and is entirely focused on the process rather than on the final product. “She wouldn’t mind if they disappeared every day,” Ms. Sharmacharja said.
The emphasis is on the art, and the story of the artist isn’t presented unless it’s relevant–a point Mizue Kobayashi, art director of the Tokyo-based social welfare organization and one of the exhibition’s collaborators, Aisekai, was keen to make.
“The art wasn’t created because the artist is ‘disabled’ in some way. That is not the point, but rather we want the world to see that their condition is a part of their individuality,” she wrote in emailed comments. Ms. Kobayashi doesn’t see her program as “art therapy,” but as a creative outlet for people with disabilities.
Mr. Gómez said the art appeals for its raw, creative energy, its originality and personal feeling. “It’s very sophisticated and refined, and technically of the highest quality.”
He noted that Japanese outsider art often shows a strong sense of compulsion and obsession. “Neither we nor they know why they make what they make.”
He said the art was especially interesting for its individuality, given that Japan is a group-oriented society and artists have historically worked in groups.
Wellcome Collection Chief Curator James Peto said one of the main challenges for the exhibition was choosing a name. “The word outsider suggests many things about the artist,” he said.
While the term doesn’t have a strict definition, it is derived from art created by those completely without contact with mainstream culture. Yet Mr. Gómez points out that it is nearly impossible to find someone so out of touch in today’s world.
“In the last 10 years in particular we’re blurring lines between contemporary art and outsider art.”
Indeed, most of the “Souzou” artists aren’t socially isolated at all. “Self-taught” may come closer to describing those without formal training who create for themselves.
“Artistic creativity can reside in anyone,” Mr. Gómez said. “Why shouldn’t that kind of ambition reside in someone who is self-taught?”
Japanese outsider art has only begun to gain international recognition in the past five years or so, starting with an exhibition at the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2008, and a bigger show in Paris in 2010-2011. The Wellcome Collection exhibition expands on one at the Het Dolhuys museum of psychiatry in Haarlem, the Netherlands, in 2012.
In Europe and in the U.S., there has been interest in outsider art for decades, and a commercial gallery structure to support it. But in Japan, there is no system to bring the works to market, and only a few galleries specializing in self-taught art, Mr. Gómez said. Moreover, in Tokyo the art market is relatively small and “not as moneyed as New York and London.”
“It will be interesting to see if artists emerge as their own ‘brands’ and not as that of the art therapy programs,” he said. “Any artist’s work is going to be judged on its own merit.”
But Ms. Kobayashi said interest in the field in Japan looks set to grow.
“There are signs showing this progress already visible. I think the possibility of a national museum dedicated to the field is within the realm of possibility.”
She adds optimistically: “No matter what your circumstance may be, we all have the potential to be creators.”
“Souzou: Outsider Art from Japan” is on until June 30 at the Wellcome Collection.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

(Most of the following material is from Wikipedia)

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (also known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form the seven-member "brotherhood".

 The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what it considered the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. Its members believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art, hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". 

In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, whom they called "Sir Sloshua". To the Pre-Raphaelites, according to William Michael Rossetti, "sloshy" meant "anything lax or scamped in the process of painting ... and hence ... any thing or person of a commonplace or conventional kind".  In contrast, the brotherhood wanted a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art.

 Through the PRB initials, the brotherhood announced in coded form the arrival of a new movement in British art. The group continued to accept the concepts of history painting and mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform-movement, created a distinct name for their form of art, and published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. The group's debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in John Millais's parents' house on Gower Street, London in 1848. At the first meeting, the painters John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt were present. Hunt and Millais were students at the Royal Academy of Arts and had met in another loose association, the Cyclographic Club, a sketching society. At his own request Rossetti became a pupil of Ford Madox Brown in 1848.
 At that date, Rossetti and Hunt shared lodgings in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia, Central London. Hunt had started painting The Eve of St. Agnes based on Keats's poem of the same name, but it was not completed until 1867.

      St. Agnes' Eve  

     Ah, bitter chill it was!
    The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
    The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
    And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
    Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while he told
    His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
    Like pious incense from a censer old,
    Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
  Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his prayer he saith.

    His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man;
    Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
    And back returneth, meagre, barefoot, wan,
    Along the chapel aisle by slow degrees:
    The sculptur'd dead, on each side, seem to freeze,
    Emprison'd in black, purgatorial rails:
    Knights, ladies, praying in dumb orat'ries,
    He passeth by; and his weak spirit fails
  To think how they may ache in icy hoods and mails.

    Northward he turneth through a little door,
    And scarce three steps, ere Music's golden tongue
    Flatter'd to tears this aged man and poor;
    But no — already had his deathbell rung;
    The joys of all his life were said and sung:
    His was harsh penance on St. Agnes' Eve:
    Another way he went, and soon among
    Rough ashes sat he for his soul's reprieve,
  And all night kept awake, for sinners' sake to grieve.
    That ancient Beadsman heard the prelude soft;
    And so it chanc'd, for many a door was wide,
    From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft,
    The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to chide:
    The level chambers, ready with their pride,
    Were glowing to receive a thousand guests:
    The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
    Star'd, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
  With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.

    At length burst in the argent revelry,
    With plume, tiara, and all rich array,
    Numerous as shadows haunting fairily
    The brain, new stuff'd, in youth, with triumphs gay
    Of old romance. These let us wish away,
    And turn, sole-thoughted, to one Lady there,
    Whose heart had brooded, all that wintry day,
    On love, and wing'd St. Agnes' saintly care,
  As she had heard old dames full many times declare.

   They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
    Young virgins might have visions of delight,
    And soft adorings from their loves receive
    Upon the honey'd middle of the night,
    If ceremonies due they did aright;
    As, supperless to bed they must retire,
    And couch supine their beauties, lily white;
    Nor look behind, nor sideways, but require
  Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.

    Full of this whim was thoughtful Madeline:
    The music, yearning like a God in pain,
    She scarcely heard: her maiden eyes divine,
    Fix'd on the floor, saw many a sweeping train
    Pass by — she heeded not at all: in vain
    Came many a tiptoe, amorous cavalier,
    And back retir'd; not cool'd by high disdain,
    But she saw not: her heart was otherwhere:
  She sigh'd for Agnes' dreams, the sweetest of the year.

   She danc'd along with vague, regardless eyes,
    Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short:
    The hallow'd hour was near at hand: she sighs
    Amid the timbrels, and the throng'd resort
    Of whisperers in anger, or in sport;
    'Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn,
    Hoodwink'd with faery fancy; all amort,
    Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn,
  And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.

     So, purposing each moment to retire,
    She linger'd still. Meantime, across the moors,
    Had come young Porphyro, with heart on fire
    For Madeline. Beside the portal doors,
    Buttress'd from moonlight, stands he, and implores
    All saints to give him sight of Madeline,
    But for one moment in the tedious hours,
    That he might gaze and worship all unseen;
  Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss — in sooth such things
      have been.

     He ventures in: let no buzz'd whisper tell:
    All eyes be muffled, or a hundred swords
    Will storm his heart, Love's fev'rous citadel:
    For him, those chambers held barbarian hordes,
    Hyena foemen, and hot-blooded lords,
    Whose very dogs would execrations howl
    Against his lineage: not one breast affords
    Him any mercy, in that mansion foul,
  Save one old beldame, weak in body and in soul.

     Ah, happy chance! the aged creature came,
    Shuffling along with ivory-headed wand,
    To where he stood, hid from the torch's flame,
    Behind a broad hall-pillar, far beyond
    The sound of merriment and chorus bland:
    He startled her; but soon she knew his face,
    And grasp'd his fingers in her palsied hand,
    Saying, "Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place;
  They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty race!"

     "Get hence! get hence! there's dwarfish Hildebrand;
    He had a fever late, and in the fit
    He cursed thee and thine, both house and land:
    Then there's that old Lord Maurice, not a whit
    More tame for his gray hairs — Alas me! flit!
    Flit like a ghost away." — "Ah, Gossip dear,
    We're safe enough; here in this arm-chair sit,
    And tell me how" — "Good Saints! not here, not here;
  Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier."

    He follow'd through a lowly arched way,
    Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume,
    And as she mutter'd "Well-a — well-a-day!"
    He found him in a little moonlight room,
    Pale, lattic'd, chill, and silent as a tomb.
    "Now tell me where is Madeline," said he,
    "O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom
    Which none but secret sisterhood may see,
  When they St. Agnes' wool are weaving piously."

    "St. Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes' Eve —
    Yet men will murder upon holy days:
    Thou must hold water in a witch's sieve,
    And be liege-lord of all the Elves and Fays,
    To venture so: it fills me with amaze
    To see thee, Porphyro! — St. Agnes' Eve!
    God's help! my lady fair the conjuror plays
    This very night: good angels her deceive!
  But let me laugh awhile, I've mickle time to grieve."

    Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon,
    While Porphyro upon her face doth look,
    Like puzzled urchin on an aged crone
    Who keepeth clos'd a wond'rous riddle-book,
    As spectacled she sits in chimney nook.
    But soon his eyes grew brilliant, when she told
    His lady's purpose; and he scarce could brook
    Tears, at the thought of those enchantments cold
  And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old.

      Sudden a thought came like a full-blown rose,
    Flushing his brow, and in his pained heart
    Made purple riot: then doth he propose
    A stratagem, that makes the beldame start:
    "A cruel man and impious thou art:
    Sweet lady, let her pray, and sleep, and dream
    Alone with her good angels, far apart
    From wicked men like thee. Go, go! — I deem
  Thou canst not surely be the same that thou didst seem."

As an aspiring poet, Rossetti wished to develop the links between Romantic poetry and art. By autumn, four more members, painters James Collinson and Frederic George Stephens, Rossetti's brother, poet and critic William Michael Rossetti, and sculptor Thomas Woolner, had joined to form a seven-member-strong brotherhood.
 Ford Madox Brown was invited to join, but the more senior artist remained independent but supported the group throughout the PRB period of Pre-Raphaelitism and contributed to The Germ. Other young painters and sculptors became close associates, including Charles Allston Collins, Thomas Tupper, and Alexander Munro. The PRB intended to keep the existence of the brotherhood secret from members of the Royal Academy.

The brotherhood's early doctrines were expressed in four declarations: have genuine ideas to express study nature attentively, so as to know how to express them sympathise with what is direct and serious and heartfelt in previous art, to the exclusion of what is conventional and self-parodying and learned by rote

 4.most indispensable of all, to produce thoroughly good pictures and statues

 The principles were deliberately non-dogmatic, since the brotherhood wished to emphasise the personal responsibility of individual artists to determine their own ideas and methods of depiction. Influenced by Romanticism, the members thought freedom and responsibility were inseparable. Nevertheless, they were particularly fascinated by medieval culture, believing it to possess a spiritual and creative integrity that had been lost in later eras. The emphasis on medieval culture clashed with principles of realism which stress the independent observation of nature.

 In its early stages, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed its two interests were consistent with one another, but in later years the movement divided and moved in two directions. The realists were led by Hunt and Millais, while the medievalists were led by Rossetti and his followers, Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. The split was never absolute, since both factions believed that art was essentially spiritual in character, opposing their idealism to the materialist realism associated with Courbet and Impressionism.
 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was greatly influenced by nature and its members used great detail to show the natural world using bright and sharp focus techniques on a white canvas. In attempts to revive the brilliance of colour found in Quattrocento art, Hunt and Millais developed a technique of painting in thin glazes of pigment over a wet white ground in the hope that the colours would retain jewel-like transparency and clarity. Their emphasis on brilliance of colour was a reaction to the excessive use of bitumen by earlier British artists, such as Reynolds, David Wilkie and Benjamin Robert Haydon. Bitumen produces unstable areas of muddy darkness, an effect the Pre-Raphaelites despised.

 The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
 James Collinson (painter)
 William Holman Hunt (painter)
 John Everett Millais (painter)
 Dante Gabriel Rossetti (painter, poet)
 William Michael Rossetti (critic)
 Frederic George Stephens (critic)
 Thomas Woolner (sculptor, poet)

Associated artists and figures
 John Brett (painter)
 Ford Madox Brown (painter, designer)
 Richard Burchett (painter, educator)
 Edward Burne-Jones (painter, designer)
 Charles Allston Collins (painter)
 Frank Cadogan Cowper (painter)
 Fanny Cornforth (artist's model)
 Henry Holiday (painter, stained-glass artist, illustrator)
 Walter Howell Deverell (painter)
 Arthur Hughes (painter, book illustrator)
 Robert Braithwaite Martineau (painter)
 Annie Miller (artist's model)
 Jane Morris (artist's model)
 Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford (painter and artist's model)
 May Morris (embroiderer and designer)
 William Morris (designer, writer)
 Christina Rossetti (poet and artist's model)
 John Ruskin (critic)
 Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys (painter)
 Thomas Seddon (painter)
 Frederic Shields (painter)
 Elizabeth Siddal (painter, poet and artist's model)
 Simeon Solomon (painter)
 Marie Spartali Stillman (painter)
 Algernon Charles Swinburne (poet)
 Henry Wallis (painter)
 William Lindsay Windus (painter)

Loosely associated artists
 Sophie Gengembre Anderson (painter)
 Wyke Bayliss (painter)
 George Price Boyce (painter)
 Joanna Mary Boyce (painter)
 Sir Frederick William Burton (painter)
 Julia Margaret Cameron (photographer)
 James Campbell (painter)
 John Collier (painter)
 William Davis (painter)
 Evelyn De Morgan (painter)
 Frank Bernard Dicksee (painter)
 John William Godward (painter)
 Thomas Cooper Gotch (painter)
 Charles Edward Hallé (painter)
 Edward Robert Hughes (painter)
 John Lee (painter)
 Edmund Leighton (painter)
 Frederic, Lord Leighton (painter)
 James Lionel Michael (minor poet, mentor to Henry Kendall)
 Charles William Mitchell (painter)
 Joseph Noel Paton (painter)
 John William Waterhouse (painter)
 Daniel Alexander Williamson (painter)
 James Tissot (painter)
 Elihu Vedder (painter)
 James Abbott McNeill Whistler (painter)

Sweet Emma Morland, 1892, John Everett Millais (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood)

Art for the Pop of It: Campaign, 1965, James Rosenquist

Art for the Pop of It: Campaign, 1965, James Rosenquist

The Rijksmuseum: Seeing Dutch art with fresh eyes

After a painful 10-year closure, one of the world's great museums, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, reopens today after a triumphant revamp, says Andrew Graham-Dixon.
 A few days ago, Holland’s most famous painting, Rembrandt’s Night Watch, was processed through the streets of Amsterdam in a vast, reinforced steel box: a sealed carnival float for a carnival occasion, namely the grand reopening of the Rijksmuseum after a painful 10-year closure.
Local burghers clapped and cheered, bathed in the first rays of sunshine of a cold, cold year. Schoolchildren laughed. Dogs barked. Naked cyclists, male and female, paraded their immunity to the cold, and other attributes. The city behaved as if possessed.
Rembrandt’s painting was subsequently winched through the roof of Cuypers’s 19th-century architectural masterpiece: Amsterdam’s answer to the National Gallery, British Museum and V&A rolled into one. It was then hung in pride of place in the newly-restored Gallery of Honour.
The selfsame group of art handlers who had removed the painting more than a decade ago, when the Rijksmuseum was closed for renovation, had been rehired for the occasion – all of them working for different companies, some now in different jobs.
Their chests swelled with pride as the painting was lifted into place; they took photographs of each other on their mobile devices. Only in Holland. Can anyone imagine frostbitten Londoners clapping Stubbs’s Whistlejacket from Newmarket to Trafalgar Square? Or the greyly complacent Parisian bourgeoisie saluting the Mona Lisa along the Rue de Rivoli? Unlikely.
Yet there they were, the Dutch, clapping their most famous painting as it re-entered their pantheon of art from an unlikely airborne angle – applauding as enthusiastically as if Rembrandt were Nigel de Jong, scissor-kicking a Spanish footballer in the 78th minute of a game.
The world’s media gathered. Doughty habitués of such events pierced the cold air with their choice observations – none more so than Simon Schama, who declared Dutch history to be encapsulated, no less, by the story of Dutch art (he said it more eloquently than paraphrase can convey). Many of the world’s museum directors wept. Never has a national museum reopened to such scenes of fervency.
The tortuous story of the revamping of the Rijksmuseum is too long and tedious to revisit here, involving unbelievably mad negotiations with the Dutch cycling lobby (who have preserved their right to freewheel across the main atrium of the building, at least until – as the local black joke goes – the first Japanese tourist is mown down); several million euros spent diverting tracts of the sea, not to mention moving a couple of canals to enable below-sea-level expansion; and protracted arguments with the architects from Spain. So protracted, indeed, that at certain times in the past decade some have feared a second outbreak of Dutch-Hispanic animosity: another Eighty Years’ War.
Anyone wishing to know the full story, or something like it, may care to tune into BBC Four this coming Thursday, when I reveal all in a documentary which distils the story into a single thrilling hour, the climax to a landmark series about Dutch and Belgian art, The High Art of the Low Countries.
Suffice it to say here that the restored, extended and rejigged Rijksmuseum is a triumph of curatorial intelligence and sensitivity. Once again – at last – the world can experience the richness of the greatest art tradition ever produced by a tiny, sea-hemmed nation: from Vermeer to Van Gogh, Rembrandt to Mondrian. Book your tickets to Amsterdam now.

Art student who slaughtered chicken on campus could face animal cruelty charges: police

Calgary police say the beheading of a chicken in the cafeteria of an art school was part of a project and was sanctioned by an instructor.
Duty Inspector Cliff O’Brien says police were called to Alberta College of Art and Design around 12:15 p.m. Thursday when a student called to report someone was killing a chicken with a knife.
O’Brien says many students were shocked, but others were classmates and knew what the student was going to do.
He says police are talking to the Crown to see if charges are warranted.
The man, who was interviewed by police but not arrested, could be facing charges of animal cruelty , or causing a disturbance, police say.
He just decided to slowly slit its throat while it was wiggling
“He just decided to slowly slit its throat while it was wiggling, wriggling and screaming and then drained it out, popped its head off, strung it up, washed it, plucked it,” Breydon Stangland, a student who saw the performance, told the CBC.
The student then dropped the chicken into a pot, as if he were going to cook and eat it.
“I did not feel like this was art at all,” student Charlotte Emmot told the CBC. “I
didn’t understand his statement. Like, just killing a chicken, you can take aaway life — I didn’t understand that at all.”
The college released a statement on its Facebook page that it is working with faculty, students and staff to “better understand” what happened.
The college says any students are experiencing shock or grief can contact the school’s counsellor.
With files from Postmedia News

Agents Descend on a New York Gallery, Charging Its Owner

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Agents removed computers from the Helly Nahmad Gallery in the Carlyle Hotel on Tuesday; officials said the gallery played a leading role in an international gambling and racketeering case. 


Outside the rarefied world of art dealers and collectors, where discretion is often prized nearly as much as the art itself, the Nahmad family does not attract the same recognition as some of their fellow billionaires. 

 But for those who trade in multimillion-dollar paintings, they have long been a major presence at the premier auctions held every spring and fall at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, where they often descend, wives and children included, and have been known to argue loudly with one another, even while others around them engaged in more genteel bidding. 

Despite sneers from some of their more staid peers who have accused them of unfairly negotiating special terms with auction houses, they are among the most powerful, wealthy and colorful members of the elite global club of fine art dealers. 

“They have sold more works of art than anybody alive,” Christopher Burge, the former chairman of Christie’s New York, once said. 

But on Tuesday, the family’s New York flagship gallery, the Helly Nahmad Gallery, at the opulent Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan, was filled with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducting a raid. An indictment unsealed on Tuesday charged its owner, Hillel Nahmad, 34, with playing a leading role in a far-flung gambling and money-laundering operation that stretched from Kiev and Moscow to Los Angeles and New York. 

The case features a wide cast of characters, including a man described as a Russian gangster accused of trying to rig Winter Olympic skating competitions in Salt Lake City and a woman who once organized high-stakes poker games for some of Hollywood’s most famous faces. In all, 34 people were charged on Tuesday with playing a part in what federal prosecutors described as two separate but interconnected criminal groups — one operating overseas and the other in the United States. Together, they are accused of laundering more than $100 million in gambling money. 

In addition to charges that Mr. Nahmad helped finance a multimillion-dollar gambling ring in the United States, the art dealer is accused of defrauding an unnamed person by selling him a painting for $300,000 when it was worth only $50,000, according to the indictment. 

Mr. Nahmad, the indictment said, also wired money — once for $500,000 and another time for $850,000 — from his father’s bank account in Switzerland to a bank account in America to help finance the gambling operation. 

The Nahmad family’s rise to prominence dates from its roots in Aleppo, Syria, where the family’s patriarch, also named Hillel, was a successful banker in the middle of the last century. 

He had three sons, David, Ezra and Giuseppe; Giuseppe died last year in London. 

David Nahmad, whose son Hillel ran the New York gallery, has been described as a risk-taker in both business and life. In Monte Carlo, he won the World Championship of Backgammon in 1996. 

Over the years the family has amassed an estimated 300 Picassos worth $900 million, and about 4,500 other works by artists including Monet and Miró, many secreted in a duty-free warehouse near the Geneva airport. It is a treasure that Forbes estimated to be worth over $3 billion. Before this week, Hillel Nahmad’s gallery was a cynosure of refinement and wealth, with masters like Wassily Kandinsky and Francis Bacon on the walls. 

With an entrance at Madison Avenue and 76th Street, the gallery’s connection with the Carlyle, itself synonymous with privilege, added to its prestige. The gallery has been at the Carlyle since at least the late 1990s. 

However, even before the F.B.I. raid at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the gallery’s windows were covered with brown paper, which is unusual since the spring art season is just kicking into high gear. 

A sign on the door said, “We are closed for renovation, please ring the bell or call.” 

A man who answered the phone at that number declined to speak to a reporter. 

According to the indictment, Hillel Nahmad was one of the leaders of a “high-stakes illegal gambling business run out of New York City and Los Angeles that catered primarily to multimillionaire and billionaire clients.” 

He was expected to surrender to the authorities in Los Angeles on Tuesday. His lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment. 

The indictment also named Molly Bloom, who made headlines in 2011 for her role in arranging clandestine games for high-rollers, including Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. 

Federal law enforcement officials would not say whether the poker games Ms. Bloom ran in Los Angeles in 2011 came under scrutiny during the course of the investigation. But the charges in the indictment relate to her conduct between 2010 and the present. The indictment did not name any of the high-profile players who investigators said were involved in the poker games held in New York and Los Angeles. 

According to the indictment, the organization would enforce payment of gambling debts through coercion. One client surrendered a 50 percent interest in his business, Titan P&H plumbing company in the Bronx, to repay a $2 million gambling debt. Some of the money generated by the scheme was also used to buy expensive property, including an apartment at Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. 

One of the defendants, Vadim Trincher, helped run the scheme from the $5 million apartment, according to prosecutors, who said that $75,000 in cash and $2 million in chips from the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas were seized from the apartment. 

At the center of the overseas operation detailed in the indictment was Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, 64, whom prosecutors describe as the leader of a Russian organized-crime gang. 

Mr. Tokhtakhounov, according to the indictment, was a “Vory V Zakone,” sometimes known as a Vor or a “thief in law,” the highest level of Russian gangsters. 

Between December 2011 and January 2012, Mr. Tokhtakhounov was paid $10 million for his leadership role in the organization, according to the indictment. 

Mr. Tokhtakhounov, the indictment said, oversaw the laundering of money generated by a huge sports-betting operation in the former Soviet Union that served Russian oligarchs. 

Mr. Tokhtakhounov, who remains at large, was indicted in 2002 on charges that he was part of a scheme to rig the results of the Winter Olympic finals in Salt Lake City in pairs figure skating and ice dancing. 

In July 2002, Italian tax authorities detained Mr. Tokhtakhounov at his villa in Tuscany at the request of federal prosecutors in New York. 

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan in that case, he was accused of working with an unidentified member of a Russian crime gang and an unidentified Russian skating official to rig the competition. He helped secure a gold medal for Russia in the pairs event in exchange for a victory for the French ice dancing team, according to the complaint. 

However, Italy’s highest court overturned an extradition order, and he was never brought to the United States to stand trial. 

In 2008, Mr. Tokhtakhounov, who has been linked with powerful Russian politicians, including some close to President Vladimir V. Putin, was interviewed by ESPN and denied all the charges against him regarding the Olympics scandal. 

“All that’s being written about me is completely untrue,” he said. Still, he seemed to revel in his lavish lifestyle. 

“I am not a poor man,” he said. “I am a wealthy man. I work a lot. I work hard.” 

Linda, Chuck Close, 1975-1976

The death of Chatham by John Singleton Copley

A Billion-Dollar Gift Gives the Met a New Perspective (Cubist)

In one of the most significant gifts in the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the philanthropist and cosmetics tycoon Leonard A. Lauder has promised the institution his collection of 78 Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures.
The trove of signature works, which includes 33 Picassos, 17 Braques, 14 Légers and 14 works by Gris, is valued at more than $1 billion. It puts Mr. Lauder, who for years has been one of the city’s most influential art patrons, in a class with cornerstone contributors to the museum like Michael C. Rockefeller, Walter Annenberg, Henry Osborne Havemeyer and Robert Lehman.
The gift was approved by the Met’s board at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Scholars say the collection is among the world’s greatest, as good as, if not better than, the renowned Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures in institutions like the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Together they tell the story of a movement that revolutionized Modern art and fill a glaring gap in the Met’s collection, which has been notably weak in early-20th-century art.
“In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art,” Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director, said. “It is an unreproducible collection, something museum directors only dream about.”
And many did. Discussions between Mr. Lauder and the Met went on for years, first with Philippe de Montebello, its longtime director who retired in 2008, and more recently with Mr. Campbell. While Mr. Lauder declined to say who else courted his collection, officials in the museum world have said the National Gallery of Art in Washington was among them. But as a New Yorker aware that his art could radically transform one of the city’s most historic institutions, he saw the Met as a perfect fit.
“Whenever I’ve given something to a museum, I’ve wanted it to be transformative,” Mr. Lauder explained. “This wasn’t a bidding war. I went knocking, and the door opened easily.”
In the New York art scene, which is heavily populated with big-time collectors, Mr. Lauder is a singular figure. While many of his peers have made splashy acquisitions, seduced by the latest trends, he has quietly and steadily built a museum-worthy collection with a single focus, on Cubism.
His gift comes without restrictions so it can be displayed as curators see fit. The Met is already beginning to receive the art, according to officials there, for an exhibition scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
Mr. Lauder, 80, has also spearheaded the creation of a research center for Modern art at the Met, supported by a $22 million endowment that he has helped finance along with museum trustees and supporters.
The collection, which Mr. Lauder began building more than 40 years ago, is a product of taste and timing.
“I liked the aesthetic,” he said on a recent afternoon in his Manhattan apartment. He was in the living room, staring at a still life by Picasso richly punctuated with bits of newspaper and sand. “Back then,” he said, “a lot was still available, because nobody really wanted it.”
It was also relatively inexpensive because the fashion was for Impressionism and post-Impressionism.
Mr. Lauder and his younger brother, Ronald S. Lauder, a founder of the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side, are among the most influential collectors and supporters of art in New York. But while others buy widely, often in multiple periods and styles, Leonard Lauder stands out for his single-minded focus.
“You can’t put together a good collection unless you are focused, disciplined, tenacious and willing to pay more than you can possibly afford,” Mr. Lauder said. “Early on I decided this should be formed as a museum collection,” and “whenever I considered buying anything, I would step back and ask myself, does this make the cut?”
As a result, much of his art comes from some of the world’s most celebrated collections, including those of Gertrude Stein, the Swiss banker Raoul La Roche and the British art historian Douglas Cooper.
The term Cubism first appeared in a review of a 1908 exhibition at Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s Paris gallery, which featured early Cubist works. What began as a collaboration between Picasso and Braque, Cubism became a pioneering movement that redefined concepts of space and time, high and low. Those artists, along with Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, took shapes that were familiar and turned them upside down, dismantling the traditional perspective.
Challenging the romantic view of painting, Cubist artists also began incorporating things like cardboard, sand, sawdust, rope, wood, wallpaper, stencils and bits of newspaper into their paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures. Their work paved the way for abstraction, which dominated Western art for the next 50 years.
Often, Mr. Lauder said, it took him years to find something he wanted to buy. “I’ve made more trips to Switzerland than I’d like to count,” he said with a chuckle. With the help of Emily Braun, an art historian who has worked as Mr. Lauder’s curator for 26 years, he was able to pick and choose the finest works that came on the market.
As a result, most of the works in Mr. Lauder’s collection have a particular historical significance. Two landscapes are from the groundbreaking 1908 Kahnweiler exhibition: Braque’s “Terrace at the Hotel Mistral,” from 1907, and his “Trees at L’Estaque,” from 1908.
“ ‘The Trees at L’Estaque’ is considered one of the very first Cubist pictures,” Ms. Braun said. “It created a new form of pictorial space that Braque arrived at from his close study of Cézanne’s landscapes.”
Rebecca Rabinow, a curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s department of Modern and contemporary art, noted other milestones included in the gift. “There are so many firsts in this collection,” she said.
Picasso’s “Oil Mill,” from 1909, was the first Cubist painting seen in Italy, which influenced the Italian Futurists. Another of his works, “The Fan (L’Independent),” from 1911, is one of the first works in which Picasso experimented with typography, in this case the gothic type masthead from a local French newspaper. Braque’s “Fruit Dish and Glass,” from 1912, is the first Cubist paper collage ever created.
Some of the paintings and sculptures in Mr. Lauder’s collection were particularly radical for their time, like Picasso’s “Woman in an Armchair (Eva),” the artist’s 1913-14 image of his mistress Eva Gouel, in which he translated the female body into his own Cubist language. Picasso’s sculpture “Head of a Woman,” from 1909, is thought to be the first Cubist sculpture.
That many of the works look both forward and back is of particular value to the Met’s curators. Picasso’s embrace of African tribal art, for instance, was crucial to his depiction of nontraditional forms.
“Cubism inspired not just Western artists, but it had a huge global impact,” Ms. Rabinow said. “We can tell so many different stories that we could never tell before.”
Up to now Cubism has been only sparsely represented at the Met. In fact it only received its first Cubist paintings in 1996. In a 2010 review of an exhibition of the Met’s Picasso collection, Holland Cotter noted in The New York Times, “When the Museum of Modern Art was wolfing down audacious helpings of Cubism, the Met was content with a tasting menu of Blue Period, Rose Period and neo-Classical fare.”
This isn’t the first transformative gift Mr. Lauder has made to a museum. As the longtime chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art (he is now its chairman emeritus), he donated millions in art and money, most recently in 2008 when he gave the museum $131 million to shore up its endowment.
While it is the largest gift in the Whitney’s history, it came with strings. Concerned about the future of its landmark Marcel Breuer building, which Mr. Lauder considers the Whitney’s spiritual home, he placed a stipulation on his gift that the building could not be sold for the foreseeable future. At the same time, he quietly masterminded plans for the Met to take over the Breuer building for at least eight years, after the Whitney decamps to its new home in the meatpacking district of Manhattan in 2015.
When the Met gets Mr. Lauder’s collection, Mr. Campbell said, it will take “pride of place” in the museum’s soon to be renovated Modern and contemporary galleries, in its main building. Before then the collection will be exhibited as a whole for the first time at the Met in 2014 in a show organized by Ms. Rabinow and Ms. Braun.
Realizing how his collection could help tell so many different stories when seen in the context of the Met’s encyclopedic holdings, Mr. Lauder did not put restrictions on his gift.
And he stressed that his donation doesn’t mean the end of his collecting. As recently as last month he bought a collage by Gris, which is part of the gift.
“I’ll continue to buy and add to the Met’s collection,” he said, then paused, smiled and added, “But only if the right things come along.”