I must be in an art sort of mood. I went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before Christmas, and then went to the Met and Museum of Modern Art in New York after New Years. Today I even skimmed a book on drawing, but gave up after discovering the first exercise in the book wasn't enough to transform me into Picasso. Cutting out my five minute foray into fine art, here are a couple art things that might be interesting to you:
Hack the Met Tour
My friend Nick Gray has a goal of becoming the best Met tour guide in the world. I think he's already there-- I've been on two of his tours so far and can't wait to go again. He's not an official tour guide. In fact, he's as unofficial as it gets. He's been kicked out before and has to now avoid certain areas of the Met. What's cool about his tours is that although they reflect his love for the Met and the art contained within it, they're irreverent and down to earth. You're as likely to hear about how a piece was conceived as you are to hear about how he might steal it. The highlight was his trick to get to wander around the Met after it's closed, as seen in the top photo here.
His tour is free and runs twice a week on most weekends, but has limited space. If you want to go, contact him through his site or just wander around the Met and try to crash the tour. He's usually pretty open to those things.
The Art Industry
We went on a tour of the Moma with a girl who manages a very large private art collection. I found this really interesting, so I bombarded her with all sorts of questions, which grew more cynical as we progressed from older art to really new art.
You know how you go to an art museum and some of the pieces are just crap? Sometimes it turns out the painting is by Rothko, and you just know nothing about art (happened to me a lot), but other times it actually IS crap. We saw a piece that was a small wooden staircase with a carpet running up the middle. I couldn't imagine how such a thing could make it into the Museum of Modern Art. How did it happen?
Well, what happens is that there are individuals with huge private collections of art. Some of it is really premium stuff, and other stuff isn't so premium. If it's known that they have great pieces, anything they offer on loan will be accepted. Anything. If the museum refuses the loan, they risk alienating the collector and not getting any better pieces loaned. It's like a ladder: take this crappy piece, then an okay piece, and eventually you get a Degas, and maybe even a bequest in the will.
If you own crappy art, it's massively to your benefit to get it shown in the museum. What's the market value for a small staircase with a rug on it? Probably not much. How about if you can prove that it was displayed for a couple months in the MoMA? A whole lot more. So the museum gets to work up the collector's ladder, the collector can increase the value of his holdings, and the visitors get confused.
I was also surprised to hear that fake works are fairly common in museums. Newer works are easier to authenticate, but old pieces are much much harder. Museums do the best they can, but in a large collection there are bound to be some fakes. There are also grey areas, like works done by Rembrandt's studio being sold as genuine Rembrandts because he put his signature on them. It could be argued that they're authentic even though he didn't paint them, but there's a difference between that and a painting he did himself, and after so many years, it's hard to know for sure which pieces are which.
Did you know that many very famous works have many copies made of them? I was at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco some months ago and saw a painting by Monet of the Venice Canals. Then a couple weeks ago I saw an identical painting at the MFA in Boston. It turned out that it wasn't exactly the same, but was the exact same setting painted by Money in the exact same style. You know Munch's famous painting, The Scream? There are four of those, plus some amount of stone lithographs.
I also learned that the Warhol market crashed. It used to be that the Warhol Foundation released around twenty works per year to the open market. No one knew how many they had in reserve. Within the past year they decided to stop doing that and put everything on the market. How many do they have left? Twenty thousand. So if you want to buy a Warhol--- now might be the time.
Even if, like me, you don't consider yourself to be someone who really understands or appreciates art, consider going to a museum near you. It's interesting to see which pieces you like and don't like, and to put your face six inches away from a painting worth tens of millions and think about the mastery that went into it.
I had an awesome time in Boston / NJ / NY, but it feels great to be back in my RV doing my routine everyday.
The first batch of SETT invites will go out this month!
Hi Tynan! Thanks for the kind words about my tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is my first time posting on your site and I really like the comment interface. -- Nick G.
Ah. My favorite subject: Art.
I love it so much, I hardly talk about it, rarely write about it, and I scarcely ever read anything on the subject. Art for me has reached a non-textual purity. There are people who do, and there are people who talk. One day, many years ago, I got so sick of hearing people yack on endlessly about art, I walked away from that chatter forever.
But I love hearing about the scams and shenanigans that go on in the art world, so thanks, Tynan. That bit about collectors pawning off their crap to drive the market was a real jewel. Cheers, Brother.
Interesting about private collector/gallery symbiosis.
On drawing.. don't think you should give up so soon. Van Gogh starting out was an awful drawer.. it took him many years to get to his masterpieces (10000 hours??). You should pick up "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain".. it's a classic in that it consistently gets people to a respectable skill level in about 40 hours of work. As the title states.. it can help release your creativity and perception too. You really start to appreciate pieces in museums when you truly understand how difficult some of the techniques they use are. I used to just walk by graphite/chalk sketches without batting an eye.. now they're my favorite.. and can spend half an hour looking at one sketch. I can't even begin to appreciate the color wheel yet.
I tried Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and gave up. A professional artist friend of mine said, of it, "For a book about drawing, it sure has a lot of words." I don't really get what people see in it. The basic idea is just: learn to draw by just drawing literally what you see, rather than filtering it through your conceptualizing brain. When you look at a nose, don't "draw a nose", draw that nose, the specific colors that you see with your eyes.
Those two sentences summarized all the value I managed to get from that book.
The same friend recommended Vilppu's stuff: http://www.vilppustore.com/manuals.htm?utm_expid=1729128-3&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F - I got his basic Drawing Manual, the first one, and it's great. I also got the books Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators and Figure Drawing: Design and Invention. All three are useful, though it's a bit like Goldilocks: 'Force' is very touchy-feely, talking about having "rich experiences with the model" and visualizing yourself as a tiny bug riding a rollercoaster over the surface of the model's body. 'Design and Invention' is the opposite, with lots of proportion rules-of-thumb ("to draw a head, draw a circle, add the jaw, halfway down the face is the brow, halfway down from there is the bottom of nose, etc etc.") Vilppu's stuff is in the middle somewhere. They're all great.
In any case I know Ty knows he could draw well with practice; he's the one who originally sent me this link, which is phenomenal. http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=870
Yeah. That book sucks. It has every thing in it but how to draw.The same people who like it also like Nicolaides _The Natural Way to Draw_. (Gag.) But then, I'm an old classicist, so don't take my word for it.
Er, that was _Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain._ Lame. Like, "Oh, if you actually LOOK at what you are doing rather than THINK about it, you might see that the table legs are not the same length." As one of my teachers once sighed, sadly, "The ones who have it? You can't stop them. The ones who don't? You can't help them."
Any teacher who uses expressions like that is not worth their salt and has either given up on their work, or never understood that teaching is not art, it's personable transmission of effective algorithms.
so that the student doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. it's so damn frustrating. being an amazing (anything/artist/whatever) is completely possible, it's all a matter of time, effort, and finding the optimal algorithms as quickly as possible...
the only thing a teacher can contribute? the algorithms, and a little of the time.
so I'm like, what's the point of that art "teacher"?
Fantastic post Tynan! It had an interesting story about your antics, (staying in the museum after closing); and real world information about art museums I didn't know before.
There is an artistic gift but also a need for the craft-study- by observation or lessons of said craft.and then development of style; use of light, perspective, materials, methods etc. just as in any other discipline-it all takes time and committment
If you ever visit Rembrandt's studio-museum they explain that Rembrandt had a large group of artists working with him and R would sketch out the large canvases and the students/artists would all work on them and in the end they would all be called authentic. It was also explained that he actually did some himself.
I think that we all know what works and what doesn't work, but in order to avoid doing the work, we come up with fake stories about what works. How do you make progress? You stick with it.
There are other things that matter, of course, but the big one is whether or not you stick with it. I read a blog post once where a trainer was talking about the two types of people that go to the gym. There are the types that go inconsistently, constantly trying to figure out a better way to train, and then there are the guys who just show up and keep trying to increase the weight they move.
Technique and strategy matter, of course, but not as much as sticking to it. After all, sticking to it will refine your technique. You learn what works and what doesn't, and you course correct. Starting with the best possible technique won't get you to persist, but persisting will get you to good technique. That's why it's the most important thing.
One of my favorite gems online is this forum thread. Jonathan Hardesty posted in 2002, saying that he would draw one sketch a day and post it online. He stuck with it for eight years. At first his drawings were terrible and inconsistent. Some would look halfway decent, but others were disasters. He drew whatever he felt like, almost at random. No person would look at his early work and say, "This guy has artistic talent".
Last week, A is for Art held their 10th annual Gala and Exhibition. And I was a proud visiting artist for this wonderful program for the second year. Last year I worked with the Chicks a group of 12-18 month olds and help them create a work of art to be auctioned off for the continuing existence of the great programs and work that the staff at the SDSU Children's center does.
This year, I worked with the Seals and the Koalas (same group I worked with last year just about two years old now). The kids created the entire of work themselves. And from the sales of the two paintings alone we raised almost $700, the night was a great success and made about $8,000 for the Children's Center.
This program started with a dream of a teacher, Mrs. Peggy. Who dreamed of the children creating their own works of art, and having their own art show. Now the amazing thing is that these kids, created amazing works of art then showed it at the Minge museum in balboa park, and sold their work for $$$. All this is so much more then I have ever done. Well done. And we made the cover!
Ocean Swirls: Made by drawing ocean animals, then painting with bubbles mixed with paint.