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Reading the writing on the wall (text): Beckmann in New York — When Brilliant Art meets Dull Presentation, or why Trump Tower isn’t the only sign of dumbed down cultural discourse on Fifth Avenue

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Max Beckmann. German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York, “Falling Man,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 55 1/2 × 35 inches (141 × 88.9 cm). Frame: 62 1/4 × 41 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (158.1 × 104.8 × 7 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Max Beckmann. SL.9.2016.13.1. Wall text for the Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Max Beckmann in New York” has reduced the interpretive possibilities for this complex tableau, rich in mythological and historical references, to a sort of back to the future echo of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

I was all set to write about how refreshing it was to discover an exhibition, Max Beckmann in New York, whose curator, going against the trend in many leading Paris museums, does not feel the need to re-encadre a painter who should be able to stand on his own merit in an artificial curatorial construct that contrasts him with other artists or situates him, after the fact, in a historical, literary, or sociological context that has more to do with museum marketing than the artist’s actual intent and universe.

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Art not Bombs: In Artcurial Impressionism & Modern Auction, Hope

modimpacpapazoff-smallGeorges Papazoff (1894-1972), “Tete,” circa 1928. Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm (36 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches). Signed at lower left. Pre-dates by 17 years Duchamp’s intergallactic View cover.  Artcurial pre-sale estimate 20,000 – 30,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

modacpuigaudeau-smallFerdinand du Puigaudeau (1864-1930), “Jeune fille à la bougie,” 1891. Oil on thin cardboard laid down on canvas, 50 x 72 cm (19 3/4 x 28 3/8 inches). Signed and dated lower right. Du Puigaudeau landscapes available in this auction are also breathtaking. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 20,000 – 30,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

“The opposite of war isn’t peace – it’s creation.”
–Jonathan Larsen, “RENT”

As my longtime readers know, even if Artcurial may be best known as France’s leading auction house, I venerate it as setting a curatorial example more museums would do well to follow. Not just because of its storied past as an art gallery which unabashedly announced its arrival in the mid-sixties, under the glamorous patronage of L’Oreal, in the previously hushed gallery ghetto of Paris’s 8eme arrondissement, but because of the artists I’ve been able to discover by thumbing through its auction catalogs, many of whom have been neglected by museums which have stashed their holdings away in the basement….
To access the full version of the article and more images, subscribers please e-mail  paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Not a subscriber? 1-year subscriptions are just $49, or $25 for students and unemployed artists. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address for information on how to pay by check or in Euros or British pounds.

Musées pour tout le monde: Chicago, pas si on the make que ca

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Roy Lichtenstein, “Artist’s Studio ‘Foot Medication,'” 1974. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein. Part of the ongoing exhibition The New Contemporary at the Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

CHICAGO — What value is art to a society if it isn’t accessible to all sectors of a society?

Several years ago, with New York’s Museum of Modern Art taking the lead, museums in the United States jacked up their basic admission past the $20 threshold. (At MoMA, an adult ticket is now $23; seniors pay $16, unrealistic given their fixed incomes; students $12; and children 16 and under get in for free.) A notable exception is Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which, by decree of its newspaperman founder, who wanted future generations of children to have access he did not, is always free. At the Metropolitan Museum, officials cleverly hide that the visitor can pay what s/he wants (part of the museum’s mandate) by putting the information in small letters, with a suggested admission price ($25) much larger. And for advanced purchase on the ‘Net, the pay-as-you-like option does not exist. The alternative to these high single admission fees — that lets museums present an affordable option, at least for locals —  is the annual all-access membership card. But here, not all offers are equal.

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Edward Hopper. “Gas, 1940.” The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1943. © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY. From the exhibition America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, running at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 18.  Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

Not only is MoMA’s individual annual rate almost the same as the Art Institute’s essentially dual rate — $85 versus $95 — but the former’s dual rate of $140 has an additional restriction the latter’s does not: The two users need to always be the same. At the Art Institute, the basic year membership of $95 includes admission for two adults, *only one of whom needs to be a card-holder*, and free admission for all children under 18. In other words, you can bring as many of your visiting single cousins from Texas and their broods of 10 children (not to mention your cousins from the South Side) with you as you want as long as it’s on different visits. And you can also bring them along to the members-only classes, workshops, and other events.

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Charles Green Shaw, ” Wrigley’s, 1937,” from the exhibition America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, running at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 18.  Restricted gift of the Alsdorf Foundation. The Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

But what about the offer? See below (and above) for samples from some current and upcoming shows in the city which — from the generous member admission deal at its Art Institute, anyway — no longer seems to live down to native son Nelson Algren’s depiction of  a “City on the Make,” mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s sweeping privatization of public services notwithstanding.

What the Art Institute is, however, is a museum in a museum-like setting, situated two blocks from the oceanic Lake Michigan in one direction and three from the old-school Chicago river, with its old-fashioned wood and wrought-iron bridges, in the other. Even the bathrooms, with their large rectangular art deco sinks, are fit for a museum.

— Paul Ben-Itzak

PS: As far as bargain-rate museum going, anyway, the City of Paris outdoes both New York and Chicago, with a Paris musées card that for 40 Euros (60 if you want to bring a guest of your choice, and 20 for those under 26 years old) provides access to 14 municipal museums, including the Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris, the Petit Palais, and the Musée de la Vie Romantique.

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Edward Hopper. “New York Movie,” 1939. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously, 1941. From the exhibition America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, running at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 18. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Running from October 2 through January 3, 2017 at the Art Institute of Chicago,
Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is the first retrospective in 50 years dedicated to the pioneering multi-media artist who, after teaching at Bauhaus in Germany from 1923 through 1928, in 1937 founded Chicago’s New Bauhaus school, today the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Above: László Moholy-Nagy, “A 19,”  1927. Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Ann Arbor, Michigan. © 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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László Moholy-Nagy, “Behind the Back of the Gods,” 1928. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987, 1987.1100.23. © 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Featuring 100 photographs, and running through August 14 at the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition Aaron Siskind: Abstractions  examines some of Siskind’s most influential abstract photographs and series, capturing what the artist referred to as “the drama of objects.” Above: Aaron Siskind, “Chicago 224 1953,” 1953. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Noah Goldowsky. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Andy Warhol, “Little Race Riot,” 1964. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Part of the ongoing exhibition The New Contemporary  at the Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Andy Warhol, “Big Electric Chair,” 1967-68. The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Edlis/Neeson Collection. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Part of the ongoing exhibition The New Contemporary at the Art Institute of Chicago. Courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Max Beckmann, “Birdplay,”1949. The Art Institute of Chicago, Margaret Fisher Endowment Fund. Part of the exhibition Master Drawings Unveiled: 25 Years of Major Acquisitions, on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from August 27 through January 29, 2017. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Unidentified artist, “Genealogical Tree of the Mercedarian Order,” mid-18th century. Carl and Marilynn Thoma Collection. Part of the exhibition From Doctrine and Devotion: Art of the Religious Orders in the Spanish Andes, running through June 25, 2017 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Image courtesy the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Weimar winners: Rare Expressionism on auction at Ketterer-Kunst

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Dorte Clara Wolff, known as Dodo, “Nächtliche Konversation,” circa 1920s. Watercolor over pencil on firm woven paper, 11.8 x 10.4 inches. Signed lower right. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 4,500 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst. 

PARIS — It’s not for nothing that it was dubbed “Expressionism.” The German Expressionist art featured in Ketterer-Kunst’s June 9 – 11 Munich auctions, primarily a collection of 47 works being sold by a German corporation whose offices some of the works have decorated for more than 40 years, offers not only brilliant colors by the likes of Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Herman Max Pechstein, and Otto Dix, as well as work by Paul Klee, Matisse, Chagall, and Georges Braque but art that also reflects the literary brilliance that marked the Weimar period, here chiefly distinguished by woodcuts and work in other mediums such as chalk and watercolor which retain the woodcut aesthetic.

germankandinskysmWassily Kandinsky, “Holzschnitt für den Almanach ‘Der Blaue Reiter,'” 1912/1914. Galvano print after a blue and black woodcut. On firm woven paper, 10.9 x 8.3 inches. (Sheet: 11.4 x 8.5 inches.) Wrapper trimmed. One of a total 2,200 copies. Issued as galvano print on the board wrapper of the general edition of the first and second edition of the influential almanac “Der Blaue Reiter,” published by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in Munich in 1912 and 1914. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 2,500 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

Ketterer-Kunst’s selection also shows the expertise of a “local” house, meaning that the artists available are not just the usual suspects (Dix, Ernst, Beckman, Nolde), but painters and water-colorists less renowned in the international realm. For instance, you may already know about Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Horseman), a group that exhibited together, with Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Auguste Macke at its nucleus, but also produced an almanac, in which the color blue featured prominently. And you may be familiar with the dance-inspired work of Kirchner, here represented by, among other lots, a color chalk study of the pioneering modern dance choreographer Mary Wigman and her dancers. Kirchner might be seen as Wigman’s Degas. Like the choreographer and like the painter, in his studies he was often working out questions around the female body. As Roman Norbert Ketterer points out, Kirchner’s dance images from the period 1926 – 32 represented “efforts to free himself from the actual model and arrive at a more geometric,  abstracted” perception of the body.” Even if the dancers he painted were clothed, Kirchner would sometimes envision them nude. (Das Werk Ernst Ludwig Kirchners. Lugano: Galerie Ketterer, 1980. Cited by Toepfer, Karl. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1997.)

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, “Wigman – Tanz,” 1926. Colored chalk on brown woven paper, 14 x 18.5 inches. Estate stamp of the Kunstmuseum Basel (Lugt 1570b) on reverse side, as well as the hand-written registration number “Fs Da/BE 32.” Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 10,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

The revelation in this Ketterer-Kunz auction is Dodo, or as she was born, Dorte Clara Wolffe (1907 – 1998). If being a woman wasn’t already enough of an impediment to recognition in an early-twentieth century art world which still primed men, Wolffe was also Jewish, which limited her possibilities in Germany in the late 1930s. But it’s for neither of these reasons that we recommend her. In its vibrancy as well as the drama of the scene depicted, the watercolor “Nächtliche Konversation,” created in the 1920s, simply stands out. And, like much great art, it is only the beginning of the story, the viewer left to continue the tale.  — Paul Ben-Itzak

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Emil Nolde, “Family,” 1917. Woodcut on copper plate printing board, 8.6 x 12.2 inches (sheet 12.4 x 16.9 inches). Signed, one of presumedly 16 copies. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 7,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.

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Richard Ziegler, “Mond über Pietà,” 1923. Oil on canvas, 23.8 x 17.9 inches. Monogrammed (in ligature) and dated lower left. Ketterer-Kunst pre-sale estimate: 9,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Ketterer-Kunst.