This 20 February 2019 video shows a dancing red squirrel in the Netherlands.
This 20 February 2019 video shows a dancing red squirrel in the Netherlands.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Symposium: The Progressive Artists’ Group — Creating Modern India
NEW YORK, October 25, 2018 — This panel presentation and discussion explores the idea of representing the “progressive” Indian nation through visual, literary, and performing arts by concentrating on the artists included in The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India.
The presenters included University of Washington Associate Professor of Art History Sonal Khullar, Michigan State University Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design Karin Zitzewitz, and The Progressive Revolution guest curator and Courtauld Institute of Art Associate Lecturer Zehra Jumabhoy. The ensuing discussion was moderated by Boon Hui Tan, the vice president of global arts and cultural programs and director of Asia Society Museum. (1 hr., 39 min.)
The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India
Modern Indian art at the Asia Society Museum in New York
The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India; an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum, New York City through January 20, 2019, curated by Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy and Boon Hui Tan.
The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum in New York City on the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), was a valuable opportunity to view works from one of the most significant groups in Indian modern art. The PAG was founded in 1947 in Bombay (now Mumbai) by several left-leaning artists. After many of its members left India, it disbanded in 1956.
The Progressive Revolution is the first time the original PAG members’ art has been exhibited together outside of India.
The PAG was formed in 1947 and worked in the immediate aftermath of Indian independence and the communal partition between a predominantly Hindu India and an explicitly Muslim Pakistan, during which up to 2 million people were killed in communal violence and 18 million moved across the new borders in the largest human migration in history. The art the PAG produced during this tumultuous period stands as a powerful indictment of communalism, discrimination and the legacy of imperialist domination of the Indian subcontinent.
At the same time, it expresses the hopes of millions that independence would open up a new era of secular and democratic development for India, while articulating limited misgivings about the newly independent India, which saw power transferred to the native bourgeoisie and its Indian National Congress (INC).
This contradictory outlook was a product of the nature of Indian independence. In the last decade of the British Raj, the working class on the subcontinent, inspired by the Russian Revolution, emerged as the major force opposing British imperialism. This process was epitomized in the Quit India movement. This very development caused the Indian bourgeoisie (both Hindu and Muslim) to recoil in terror, relying on communal politics to divide the working class and securing independence via the imperialist-brokered Partition accepted by the bourgeoisie.
The PAG initially included K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza and F. N. Souza. The Asia Society exhibition also features works by artists who joined the PAG after 1947 or were around it without being members, including V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee and Mohan Samant.
The group included artists from different social and religious backgrounds. Souza, who was briefly associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and did much of the writing for the group, was from a poor Roman Catholic family in Portuguese Goa. Souza was also involved in the Quit India movement. Ara was the son of a driver from the oppressed Dalit (“Untouchable”) caste, and he was a domestic servant when he began painting. Raza was the son of a forest ranger. Husain was a secular Muslim.
What brought these artists together amid the tumultuous end of British colonial rule was a rejection of staid academic art and the backward-looking, sentimental nationalist art of other Indian artists of the time, including the influential Bengal School of painting. Instead, they synthesized European modernist, Post-Impressionist and Expressionist techniques and the visual tradition of ancient Hindu, Punjabi, Jainist, Muslim and Buddhist art (and other Indian and Asian influences) into a bold break with the conventions of the Indian and British art worlds of their time.
While the PAG set out to create a new, secular art for the new Indian nation, many of the pieces featured in the Asia Society’s show, and many of the movement’s strongest works, show the failures of the Indian national project and proudly display the international cross-pollination that is fundamental to the birth of modern art.
Throughout the exhibit, paintings that borrow from and update traditional Hindu imagery are exhibited next to historical examples from the Asia Society’s collection. While some of these pairings suggest that the PAG reached back to discover an essential “Indianness”, others suggest that the artists’ influences went far beyond national folk traditions, and combined influences from across Asia and the world. The exhibit’s section “National/International”, for instance, suggests that the PAG’s works, as well as the work of European and American modernists, were valuable products of cultural exchange among sensitive artists expressing the upheaval and the contradictions of the post-war era.
Among the paintings that express the social divisions in post-independence India, some of the most successful are F. N. Souza’s Tycoon and the Tramp (1956) and Ram Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates (1956).
Tycoon and the Tramp is a large oil portrait of the two title figures: the tycoon is a pallid, corpse-like man in a blue suit and shirt and tie, with a small, bemused smirk perched atop folds of fat; the tramp is a slight man wearing dark red and black clothing, with a thin, wispy beard, his face a deep red, with a blank, removed expression.
Both figures are outlined in heavy, rough, glossy black lines that foreshadow Souza’s later works—his violently crosshatched women and grotesque figures of Christ. They stand against an abstract, light green and sickly yellow textured background, and their eyes, framed by heavy lines and shadows, stare across the center of the image. Souza’s painting is a stark expression of the class divisions between the parasitic bourgeoisie and the working class that remained entrenched in the new India.
Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates, completed after his return to India from Paris, is an oil painting of four ghostly young men in suits that hang off their gaunt, elongated bodies. The students’ faces are long and rendered, like the majority of the painting, in dull browns and grays. Of particular interest are the students’ eyes, which are abstracted into white and black ovals sunken into their faces. Unemployed Graduates is a haunting evocation of the economic struggles of ordinary people in post-independence India.
Krishen Khanna’s News of Gandhiji’s Death (1948) is a sorrowful depiction of Indians from various backgrounds gathered under a lamppost reading newspapers carrying word of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a right-wing Hindu nationalist. Reflecting the sectarian tensions Khanna feared, no one is reading together or discussing, but each, with his or her own paper, is reflecting.
The figures have muted facial features, with attention instead drawn to their stooped postures and garb depicting them as Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, all united in their grief over the assassination. The colors are dull, and the scene is surrounded by darkness. The figures holding newspapers are distributed about the canvas to form the rough shape of the Indian subcontinent. While not as emotionally evocative, in these reviewers’ opinions, as The Anatomy Lesson, which would come later, News of Gandhiji’s Death reflects the PAG’s contradictory misgivings about, and illusions in, the Indian national project.
Husain’s Peasant Couple (1950) is a painting of a man and a woman striding forward. The woman seems to be carrying something on her back, while the man seems to hold a tool or farming implement. The color palette is mostly earthen colors, with some vibrant splashes on the woman’s clothes. The unusual, more abstract depiction of the woman’s figure contrasts with the more realist depiction of the man’s, but both figures are distorted as if seen from many viewpoints, the shapes and colors of their clothing and bodies combining with the background into a collage from which the couple are emerging.
Peasant Couple seems to emphasize the Nehruvian ideal of “unity in diversity”, enhanced by the use of people from a rural area and the depiction of a woman, both associated with depictions of India qua India. Though an effort to turn toward the peasantry as a subject matter showcasing an “authentic” Indian national identity, the painting is also a successful and evocative combination of Cubism and Expressionism—a bold leap away from the sentimental nationalist paintings of the Bengal Art School.
V. S. Gaitonde’s work was more abstract, with many of his paintings seeming at once austere and vast. An untitled work from 1962 is haunting, seeming to depict either a bird or a ship in an expanse that threatens to engulf the viewer as well. The subdued grays and blues add to the isolating effect. Gaitonde, like many European artists of an earlier generation, was influenced by Japanese art and ancient calligraphy. Gaitonde combined his influences into non-objective meditations not unlike Mark Rothko’s work, but with an emphasis on single colors and experiments with texture.
Khanna’s 1972 work The Anatomy Lesson is one of the most successful comments on the bloody wars and partitions of the Indian subcontinent coming from artists associated with the PAG. The Anatomy Lesson was painted in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War, which resulted in the bifurcation of Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh, the military predominance of India, an intensification of religious and ethnic tensions, and mass deaths and atrocities on each side.
The painting is a menacing update to Rembrandt’s 1632 masterpiece The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.
This 2015 video says about itself:
Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas, 169.5 x 216.5 cm, (Mauritshuis, Den Haag). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
The article on the New York City exhibition continues:
Instead of a social event for well-to-do onlookers, Khanna’s work depicts a menacing group of pale, sharp-faced military figures preparing to dissect a shrouded human figure. The work’s cold pallet and monochromatic rendering of military officials condemns the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and its immense human toll.
The PAG expressed in artistic form the genuine democratic and anti-imperialist strivings of the masses on the Indian subcontinent. However, its fate demonstrates the inability of the Indian bourgeoisie—or the bourgeoisie in other countries historically oppressed by imperialism—to achieve the great democratic tasks tackled by the bourgeois revolutions of an earlier era, such as the French Revolution.
When it took power as a result of the communal Partition, the Indian National Congress legitimized its rule in the large, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country by appealing to secularism and the slogan of “unity in diversity”, in contrast to Pakistan, which was founded as a Muslim republic. However, even before the horrors of the communal partition, the INC had incorporated elements of the Hindu Mahasabha, or communalists from the upper classes. …
The result is that the struggles of the workers and peasants on the subcontinent were channeled into a reactionary nation-state structure that hamstrung any efforts at overcoming the legacy of the Raj. This is somewhat brought out in the Asia Society Museum exhibit, which notes the repressive atmosphere faced by the PAG and the role it played in dissolving the group.
Bombay authorities raided Souza’s home and removed two of his works from an exhibition in 1949 on the grounds of “obscenity” for a nude self-portrait, although there were likely political motivations as well. He left for the United Kingdom shortly afterward. Raza, another founding member of the PAG, left for France in 1950. While Souza’s and Raza’s decisions to move exemplify the rich interconnection between different artistic traditions, they also express the difficulties of the period in India.
Also noted in the exhibit is that, after a years-long campaign by the Hindu right, Husain (a secular Muslim who chose to remain in India after the partition) was forced out of the country in 2006. He had faced death threats and legal challenges on the basis of his portrayal of Hindu deities. Husain died in 2011 a citizen of Qatar and had returned his Indian passport.
While the PAG was short-lived, the individuals in and around it are major, lasting figures in modern art in India and internationally. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India brought these works together for an audience that normally cannot access them.
Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
From Afropop star to dancers: these artists are not welcome in the Netherlands
An empty podium at the Latin festival Pal Mundo. The canceled world première of a theater play by a well-known Congolese director.
And an incomplete circus in the Amsterdam Milky Way. Due to strict European Union visa regulations, non-western artists are refused entry every year. Also to the Netherlands. Art and culture networks try to do something about this at European Union level.
On Thursday 10 January hip-hop dancers Hamza (20 years old), Omar and Ahmed (21 years old) had passport control at Eindhoven Airport with their Schengen visa. They were invited to take part in an international dance battle in the Parktheater in the city, but will not make it to that competition.
Instead, the three are taken to a prison for ‘illegal’ immigrants in Rotterdam. Two of them have to stay there for five days and one or a week. Then they are put on a plane back to Marrakesh.
“They pretended we were serious criminals or terrorists and they searched us up to our shoes,” Hamza tells the NOS. The incident since it came out last week caused commotion in North Africa. Various Moroccan and Pan-African media write about “the three hip-hop dancers who have been treated as criminals in the Netherlands”.
Hamza does have an idea of what might have happened. On the flyer that the hip-hop dancers had with them to show what they came to do was that the festival would start on January 5th. “But because we only got a visa very late, we could not fly until January 10. We wanted to join the last two days.”
There was also doubt about their whereabouts and the boys did not have enough money with them, says Hamza. Those who visit the Netherlands with a Schengen visa must have 34 euros per day per person in their pocket or have a bank account. The three boys had exactly enough money for one person. Hamza: “But nobody told us that when we got our visa.”
For Michiel van der Padt, who works for the mobility information point at the DutchCulture organization, it is the first time that he hears a story about artists who are brought to a prison in the Netherlands. “Usually, artists who are refused will not receive a visa.”
In recent years, the rules have only become stricter, he says. According to the organization, a problem is that artists must comply with the same rules as, for example, business people. “Like a letter by the employer and proof of a stable salary, most artists do not have both.”
Together with other European art and culture networks, DutchCulture advocates other rules, such as a special artists’ visa or a white list for artists who have already performed in Europe.
The fact that embassies have outsourced visa applications for short stays since 2013 to private agencies does not help, says DutchCulture. Earlier on you could apply for a visa at the Dutch embassy, but that is no longer possible. In countries such as Morocco, which has a Dutch embassy, applications must also be made to such an agency.
Arnold de Boer also ran into that. He is the guitarist of punk band The Ex. At the gig last week in the Milky Way, the Ethiopian circus with whom the band would perform was not complete. The visa application had to be made via a private company in Ghana.
De Boer: “That makes all communication impossible.” In any case, it is strange that you have to send your passports from Ethiopia to Ghana. Before, you could consult with people from the embassy and get an explanation, or they could tell you what was missing for an application. Now it’s guessing why you do not get a visa because the application goes through a private company.”
Large festivals are also affected, as turned out at the recent edition of Pal Mundo, the largest Latin and Caribbean festival in Europe. Although the organization employs someone who is busy fulltime with visa applications, the Nigerian singer Tekno could not enter the Netherlands.
“It was all very difficult, through the French embassy,” says Manuel Acosta of the festival. “But it is always difficult with artists from Africa.” And for smaller festivals it is even more difficult. …
He [Michiel van der Padt] points to their rights. According to a UNESCO agreement, which the Netherlands has signed, it is a right of artists from developing countries to show their artistic expressions here. Van der Padt: “How can we speak of international exchange, when a considerable part of the worldwide artists and artists can not even leave their own country for a working visit?”
Hamza also does not intend to leave Morocco permanently. “I am studying here and I have also performed in Rotterdam before, and then I also went back.”
This 18 April 2019 parody music video is called The Angela Smiths – I Know It’s Over. It is a parody of the song by The Smiths – I Know It’s Over.
It says about itself:
Oh Corbyn, can you feel the soil falling over your head
Giving you a funny tint? (ALLOTMENT?)
And as I form a new centrist party I think,
“Maybe now I can privatise the water industry”
I know it’s over, so I’m off
With Chuka and Mike and the Coff
Oh Oh Corbyn, can you feel the soil falling over your head
Giving you a curious colour? (ALLOTMENT?)
SDP wants to take me
But no by-election, please
We’re not sure we could win these
I know it’s over, Labour lose!
That’s what you get for hating Jews
Referring to the ‘seven dwarfs’ spurious accusation of the Labour party being anti-Semitic.
At least one of these seven ex-Labour MPs, Mr Joe Gapes, gets money from the murderous Saudi Crown Prince His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman. Contrary to the Labour party, the Saudi regime is really anti-Semitic. The British Conservatives don’t mind; neither does Mr Joe Gapes.
The parody song continues:
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over…
I know it’s over, and it never really begun
‘Cause in my heart you’re a dirty terrorist sympathiser trot
And I promised my constituents you wouldn’t win
And if I could speak to the Left
I’d say If you’re so funny-tinged
Then why are you on your own tonight?
And if you’re so intellectual
Then why are you on your own tonight?
If you’re so very anti-racist
Then why are you such seething antisemites?
If you support truth and justice
Then why are you called Left not Right?
Got you there!
It’s over, punks – eat my water
The insignificant seven shirk calls for by-elections. Launch of new neoliberal party [they themselves don’t call it a party] descends into farce as Angela Smith describes black people and ethnic minorities as having a ‘funny tinge’ on BBC 2’s Politics Live: here.
Angela Smith MP says she made ‘racist’ comment because she was ‘very very tired’: here.
Outlining what Berger described were their “principles and values,” the MPs each made a short presentation, emphasising their supposed commitment to Labour traditions. These amounted to a hymn of praise to Blairism and the ability of a section of the working class to join the upper middle class by dint of individual effort and hard work. Beyond Umunna and possibly Berger, no one beyond their immediate constituencies would know who these nonentities were. Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East, condemned Corbyn’s “outdated ideology” that was “hostile to business … to them the world divides between oppressor and oppressed enemies”: here.
This video is called Georgia O’Keeffe: By Myself. BBC documentary 2016.
By Jeremy Rehm, 9:00am, February 16, 2019:
Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’
A new imaging technique could help art curators track destructive bumps over time
WASHINGTON — Like pubescent children, the oil paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe have been breaking out with “acne” as they age, and now scientists know why.
Tiny blisters, which can cause paint to crack and flake off like dry skin, were first spotted forming on the artist’s paintings years ago. O’Keeffe, a key figure in the development of American modern art, herself had noticed these knobs, which at first were dismissed as sand grains kicked up from the artist’s New Mexico desert home and lodged in the oil paint.
Now researchers have identified the true culprit: metal soaps that result from chemical reactions in the paint. The team has also developed a 3-D image capturing computer program, described February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to help art conservators detect and track these growing “ailments” using only a cell phone or tablet.
O’Keeffe’s works aren’t the first to develop such blisters. Metal soaps, which look a bit like white, microscopic insect eggs, form beneath the surfaces of around 70 percent of all oil paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh. “It’s not an unusual phenomenon,” says Marc Walton, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
Scientists in the late 1990s determined that these soaps form when oil paint’s negatively charged fats, which hold the paint’s colored pigments together, react with positively charged metal ions, such as zinc and lead, in the paint. This reaction creates liquid crystals that slowly aggregate beneath a painting’s surface, causing paint layers on the surface to gradually bulge, tear and eventually flake off.
How these crystals combine is unclear. “I wish we had an answer about why that’s occurring,” Walton says, “but it’s still an open research question.”
For Walton and his colleagues, though, the questions of greater interest are about what factors may lead to crystal formation in the first place, such as relative humidity, light levels or temperature. “To be able to answer those questions, we have to look at it from a macroscopic point of view, and we’ve chosen imaging as a way to get there,” Walton says.
Walton’s colleague at Northwestern, computer scientist Oliver Cossairt, designed a computer program that shines particular patterns of light from a cell phone or tablet’s screen onto a small section of a painting, and then collects the reflected light in the device’s camera.
The program then removes color information, which can camouflage small distortions in the painting’s surface. Using machine learning, the software then distinguishes the knobby structures from other textures such as brushstrokes, and creates a sort of medical report by determining the location, size and density of the blisters.
It’s a bit like Star Trek’s “tricorder”, which could diagnose a human illness simply from a scan, Cossairt says.
The team is currently using this imaging technology to observe test paintings exposed to one of several environmental factors, watching how light, humidity and temperature may affect blisters’ sizes and rates of development.
“You see paintings with this kind of knobby, bubbly surface, and you don’t know if that has happened in five years, 50 years or more,” says art conservation scientist Kenneth Sutherland of the Art Institute of Chicago, who was not part of the research. The new imaging technique “starts to give you a way of monitoring how quickly [the bubbles] are forming and, more specifically, answer questions about what factors are influencing it and how we can control or minimize it.”
Although the technique doesn’t solve the dilemma of soap formation, it provides information that can help in protecting iconic works of art. If new bubbles are forming, for example, an art conservator could perhaps change the environmental conditions where paintings are stored. “Maybe this [process] is just an intrinsic vice, and the real solution is to find the right environment to store them”, Walton says.
This 14 February 2019 video from the USA saays about itself:
Oscar-Nominated Film Shows Nazi Rally at Madison Square Garden
It’s an unlikely Oscar contender. Marshall Curry‘s “A Night at the Garden” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film, entirely comprised of archival footage, shows a 1939 rally of American Nazis at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The rally drew 20,000 people on the eve of World War II. “The lesson of the film,” Curry told InsideEdition.com, is that “we are vulnerable to leaders who will stir us up against each other.”
By Ari Feldman in Jewish daily Forward in the USA, 14 February 2019:
The 30-second ad, called “It Can Happen Here”, is for “A Night At The Garden”, a documentary short about a 1939 meeting of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. That infamous meeting, which gathered 20,000 people in New York’s Madison Square Garden, was a dramatic show of American support for Hitler — and of American anti-Semitism. Banners hung up in the Garden read “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans”, and “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism”. The crowd yelled “Seig Heil!”
But Fox News rejected the ad for the short, which is meant to warn that Nazism and fascism can happen in American. The ad, which Fox News’ leadership deemed “not appropriate,” was meant to be aired for [extreme right Murdoch-Fox employee] Sean Hannity’s show, historically the most-watched cable news broadcast.
“It’s amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history,” said Marshall Curry, the director of the short.
This 10 January 2019 video from the USA says about itself:
Velvet Buzzsaw | Official Trailer
Velvet Buzzsaw is a thriller set in the contemporary art world scene of Los Angeles where big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich star in the new mind-bending film written and directed by Dan Gilroy.
By David Walsh in the USA:
Velvet Buzzsaw: The horror of the art world
12 February 2019
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy
Dan Gilroy is one of the more interesting American filmmakers currently working.
He has now followed upon his Nightcrawler (2014), about the unscrupulous news gathering business, and Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017), centered on an idealistic lawyer and his challenges, with Velvet Buzzsaw, about the contemporary art world.
Gilroy fictionally savages the corruption, careerism and vacuousness that pervades this field, including its most prestigious exhibitions, galleries, museums and journals and the thoughts and opinions of its leading figures. The critical treatment is fully deserved and long overdue.
Velvet Buzzsaw, produced and distributed by Netflix, drops us immediately into the center of the art exhibition and criticism “business” at the for-profit and privately owned Art Basel fair in Miami Beach, one of the largest such events in the world. Much of the art work on display appears sterile and lifeless, and entirely indifferent to social realities.
The self-important Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), an influential critic, arrives. The first work he comes upon is Hoboman, a homeless man as an animatronic art piece, who intones, “Have you ever felt invisible?”, along with a line from the Depression-era song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (“Once I built a railroad …”).
Morf dismisses the piece as “an iteration… No originality. No courage.” The artist’s representative counters grandly that the work “encompasses on a global scale. There’s just such a sense of now and in your face, which speaks to pop and cinema and economics. I mean, you can feel the winds of the apocalypse… We have a four-million-dollar hold, a major buyer in Shanghai.”
Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), a powerful, hardboiled gallery operator, is busy trying to promote her current artists and attract future ones. Asked about the cost of a “groundbreaking” piece, Rhodora replies, with relief, “So much easier to talk about money than art.”
A rival gallerist, Jon Dondon (the wonderful Tom Sturridge), a South African, is meanwhile attempting to “poach” veteran, cantankerous artist Piers (John Malkovich) from Rhodora, after 17 years of her showing him, with market-babble: “If you come with me, our gallery has cutting-edge analytics to maximize deal flow and global demand … In an attention economy, celebrity is art form.”
Rhodora attempts to impress a young African-American artist, Damrish (Daveed Diggs), who was “living on the street, showing on the sidewalk” only six months earlier, with her cool frankness: “All this … it’s just a safari to hunt the next new thing and eat it.”
Rhodora too had her rebellious phase, in a punk band, Velvet Buzzsaw, but, she explains, “I’ve gone from anarchist to purveyor of good taste.”
With everyone now back in Los Angeles, Morf takes up with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), an employee at Rhodora’s gallery, who has just found out her new boyfriend is cheating on her. (“I’m through dating artists. They’re already in a relationship.”) Morf is having his “own major second thoughts about Ed”, his live-in partner.
Gilroy’s film treats with withering scorn Gretchen (Toni Collette), a one-time art museum official who has just accepted a position as “an adviser for a private buyer”, someone fabulously wealthy. “I will be making enough to afford a terribly lovely car and garden”, she coyly says. Justifying her sell-out, Gretchen observes, “I came to the museum because I wanted to change the world through art. But the wealthy vacuum up everything, except crumbs. The best work is only enjoyed by a tiny few. And they buy what they’re told. So, why not join the party?”
She offers Morf “a generous, untraceable reward” for any art work he might be able to steer her to “in the realm of undervalued, pre-review, perhaps”, i.e., she wants tips on favorable reviews before they appear, a type of “insider trading.”
At Josephina’s request, Morf savagely pans a show by her ex-lover (whom the critic actually admires). The artist in question thereupon gets drunk and crashes his car, nearly killing himself.
Events take a dramatic turn when Josephina stumbles upon the art work of a recently deceased upstairs neighbor. As opposed to the empty efforts the galleries are displaying, the dead man’s paintings are figurative works, full of haunting human faces and bodies. The artist, Vetril Dease, lived entirely “off the grid” for decades and never attempted to exhibit or sell a single work. In fact, it turns out, he left strict instructions that his drawings and paintings were to be destroyed at his death.
Josephina takes ownership, publicly claiming she found Dease’s work in a dumpster. Rhodora, who inevitably sniffs out the find, insists on a partnership with Josephina: “You can engage me in an endless lawsuit, or … you can become rich and famous and successful. Which is what we both know you’ve always wanted.”
As for Morf, he offers Josephina his opinion that Dease’s paintings are “visionary. Mesmeric. An absolute incredible … mix of mediums. I’m ensorcelled.” Josephine: “Do you think there’s a market for it?” Morf: “Massive. Beyond.” Piers and Damrish, genuine artists, for all their difficulties, are awestruck in the face of the apparent authenticity of the art.
Once Rhodora begins to implement her “extensive marketing plans,” she confers with Morf, who opines pretentiously (in one of the film’s sharpest satirical moments!), “Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining. I’ve always wanted to do something long-form, beyond opinion. Dip my toe into an exploration of origin and essence. A metamorphosis of spirit into reality. I’ve … I’ve never had the vehicle until now. An artist toiling in the recesses, discovered in death.” Later, Morf goes on, “Well, I’m willing to write the exhibit brochure … And in return, I want exclusive rights to a book and several pieces.”
To this point, Velvet Buzzsaw has struck almost entirely the right note. The official art world is false, greedy and stupid. The artists are paralyzed and largely at its mercy. (Piers has one large painting of two drip-like shapes to show for a year’s output. “Ideas come,” he tells Dondon, his new artistic agent, “but they kill themselves as soon as they appear. This is a slaughterhouse. Welcome aboard.”) The appearance of work that sets out to genuinely use painting’s expressive possibilities comes as a revelation, a thunderbolt, even an indictment. (It’s clearly not accidental that a self-portrait by Lucian Freud, the figurative British painter, makes an appearance later in the work.)
Unfortunately, in my view, Gilroy then goes off on a wrong direction. The dead painter, Dease, horribly abused as a child, we learn, became something of a psychopath, with violent crimes to his name. Morf explains, in a voiceover, “The artist battled for decades with his personal demons. The result is an epic saga of violence and madness. A howl for answers and a resolution that never comes.”
The Dease show is a great success, his paintings go for premium prices. But the artist’s “spirit” sets about, as Morf realizes too late, revenging itself gruesomely, on “any of us who profited” from the work.
Gilroy’s disgust with the art trade is understandable, as is even the desire for some sort of dramatic “settling of accounts” with all the scoundrels involved. The quasi-supernatural element, however, becomes something of a distraction, and a detraction, something of an easy way out. …
This video is called VELVET BUZZSAW (2019) Ending Explained.
It’s not an “art world horror story,” but the true “story of the art world’s horror” that, above all, needs to be told.
In any event, even taking into account Velvet Buzzsaw’s missteps, it is a cut above nearly everything else currently available. Again, as far as it goes, its picture of opportunism (Morf=morph=to undergo transformation), greed and disorientation is entirely on the mark. Various critics, using the film’s problems as an excuse, have responded with obvious anger and dismay at the unflattering portrait of America’s “creative class.”
In 2017, the art market, according to the Art Market 2018 report, published—ironically—by Art Basel and UBS, “rebounded after two years of decline, with the total sales reaching USD 63.7 billion … The United States remains the largest market worldwide, followed by China, which has superseded the United Kingdom and is now in second position … The top three markets—the US, China, and the UK—accounted for 83 percent of total sales by value. At 42 percent the US is the undisputed global market leader. China is now just ahead of the UK at 21 percent versus 20 percent. This is explained by the presence of the major auction houses in New York, London, and Beijing.”
In an interview with Art Basel, economist Dr. Clare McAndrew noted that the “gap between the high-end and the rest of the market has become more pronounced in recent years.” McAndrew continued: “Works with prices above USD 10 million have outperformed other markets. There is a narrow focus on a small number of artists and the people who are selling their work, and this has had a big effect on sales. There are various reasons for it. Buying a work of art is a very large, infrequent, high-risk purchase for many people, and a way to reduce this risk is to look at what everybody else is doing, and consume what others are consuming. This creates a focus around a few artists at the high-end. As it becomes more concentrated, new buyers start to think that that’s all the art market is.”
Whether the buyers are making expensive investments or merely wish to possess works of art for their own selfish enjoyment, this is an obscene form of human-artistic trafficking.
Gilroy, the son of playwright Frank Gilroy (The Subject Was Roses, 1965) and the brother of screenwriter and director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, 2007), told an interviewer that “contemporary art was a movement that really began to challenge and to provoke, and it’s been co-opted by big business and money. And I saw it as a world off its axis … The quality of a work shouldn’t be judged by the first weekend of box office or the number of people who’ve seen it online or the amount paid at Sotheby’s. Success doesn’t diminish your work, but it doesn’t define it either.”
One only hopes that Gilroy will continue and deepen his “definite and important feeling for the world.”