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Forgery, we have been told, is a measure of our shifting values. Fakers in previous days forged religious relics. Now we have counterfeiting of brand-name products, like Rolex watches and Chanel bags. Does this tell us something about ourselves? This practice would seem to indicate that the larger economic market for such products, which, I suppose, is the vast majority of consumers finds spending its resources either on a pretence of self-worth, or on, as I have seen done, playing the money-social game with one’s peers who may not be able to tell that what you have is a fake.
Michael Kimmelman says that if the Gachet show tells us anything, it is that even mediocre paintings have a purpose, which is to give us a firmer grasp of genuine greatness. (Michael Kimmelman, May 1999.Art Review). I fear that Michael Kimmelman may be giving more credit to the perceptions of the common man than they deserve. After all, to assume the existence of greatness from something only approaching greatness is a very special talent and then there is the need to communicate this “greatness” to another which requires that both speaker and listener know the language exceedingly well, not merely the orthodox vocabulary but the shifts in meaning by innuendo.
Guy Hain used the original moulds to create copies of Auguste Rodin's sculptures. What made them forgeries was that he signed them with the name of Rodin's original. This reminds me of the trouble Herta Wittgenstein got into with the art establishment of Santa Fe, New Mexico when she, taking the quite inconsequential sculptures done by Georgia O‟Keeffe which O‟Keeffe, it had been said, had given her she made copies and, I believe, sold them as copies…not as originals. This irritated a few people such a Gerald Peters, Juan Hamilton and, most amusingly one fellow who operated a gallery of copies, prints actually, and publicly congratulated Peters and Hamilton and crew on their defense of the principles inherent in the concept of “original”. The legal system had required that I appear to be reviewed as a potential juror and I was sorely tempted not to state the reasons why I didn‟t have the tim e. The judge responsible for evaluating petitions for exemption, Petra Maes, later to be New Mexico‟s State‟s Attorney General, would, on principle, have denied me in defense of her anti-anglo racism, anything I wanted in any case, but, in this case, it was fairly certain neither the defense nor the prosecution wanted me around. And Herta, herself, assured my not being chosen, although that wasn‟t her intention, when she , against the orders of Judge Kaufmann, approached me openly in conversation within the court precincts and the judge ordered her arrested, but she escaped. through a side door.
In my opinion Herta Wittgenstein’s behavior in this regard is similar to that of Gilbert and Sullivan and, perhaps William Shakespeare, for it was clear to me that she was creating a real-life parody of the operations of many of Santa Fe’s gallery owners, Gerald Peters and Forrest Fenn included. It is the response of Herta Wittgenstein and that of one Santiago Sierra and his exposition of human feces which is similar, I think, in intent, although very different in level of sophistication. Sierra, unfortunately still maintains the attitude of a colonial power…identify the underdog and use whatever he has and profit by it. The differences are that Wittgenstein is focused only on the gallery system and hasn’t made a profit but, instead, has suffered prison terms and Sierra, in so far as I know, at least has achieved international notoriety. In any event, none of all of the above would have taken place had the masses known anything about art and, in this regard, I consider Peters, Hamilton and Fenn members of that mass group. They know nothing about art except how to turn a buck on whatever the product.
Piero Manzoni Artist's shit
Tatsumi.Orimoto: Small Mamaa, Big Shoes
Artist Santiago Sierra is using human feces to bring audiences face to face with the lives of scavengers, or "untouchables," one of India's lowest castes, which has traditionally cleaned private toilets and outhouses in the country, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. (Artinfo, December 14, 2007)
“London's Evening Standard was unimpressed by Sierra's fecal molds, saying his work was beginning to lose its ability to shock. „Remove the human element and not only does his work not pack a punch, it's also losing its ability to surprise: increasingly, viewers are confronted by a case of diminishing returns‟, the paper said”. I suppose it may even be an academic and intellectually disciplined way to comment about a matter whose main agenda was to shock civilized sensibilities. Now, the phrase “civilized sensibilities” may need clarification. I mean it in its most elemental level, that is, “civil” referring to “community” and “sensibilities” referring to “environmental awareness” Now, human existence having been reduced to its elements of a fart, a belch and a spasm of organic juice we can now look upon Jeff Koons, Madonna, Olifi as historical progenitors of a significant art movement. and God knows how many ,more additional aspirants for infantile notice there may be whose material comfort certain economic sources are intent upon securing and are then found congratulating themselves on their perspicacity. It makes one wonder whether the subsequent misfortune of Chrysler- Daimler had anything to do with their outstanding sponsorship of the work of Andy Warhol. Here they are: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as described by one political observer:
“Iowans have grown used to displays of testiness on the part of the leading Democratic contenders in recent weeks, but few were prepared for Sen. Clinton's accusation that her surging opponent had been a bed-wetter. Moments after her campaign released this latest bombshell, Sen. Clinton went to great lengths to show that the bedwetting incident, while occurring when the Illinois senator was only three years old, was "relevant" to the current presidential campaign. At a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids, Sen. Clinton said that the alleged bed-wetting incident "should not disqualify" Sen. Obama from the White House, but should make Democrats "think long and hard" about voting for him in next month's caucuses….and now, some four years later Clinton allegedly represents the policies of Obama as Secretary of State for The United States of America. "Personally, I don't have anything against having a bed-wetter in the Oval Office," Sen. Clinton said. "But you can be sure that the Republican right-wing attack machine will have a field day with this kind of thing." Well, why should she the oval office is accustomed to penile displays of one sort or another. But there may be an even more important matter to consider and that is if Hillary can be so infantile over Obama’s bedwetting what on earth was Madeleine Zeien Bordallo , Guam’s Representative to the U.S. Congress, saying that put a truly shocked expression on Hillary’s face. Guam is the only place I know of where the longer one stays in school the dumber one gets according to SAT scores from 2006, and the only place, I have found, where published education email addresses do not work because someone, it seems, had unlinked them. This certainly one way, among many, of assuring that the teachers of out young never learn anything new…or, perhaps, anything at all. . Madeleine must have said something that stunned the sophisticated Hillary for the look on Hillary’s face was one of naked disbelief. “At a campaign appearance in Davenport, Sen. Obama brushed off his alleged bed -wetting as an ‘isolated incident,’ and added an apparent jab at Sen. Clinton: "I'm not the one who's so scared about this race that I'm peeing myself now." This rather silly story about Barack Obama having an incident of bedwetting ( I can’t imagine a toddler who hadn’t”) tells all of us more about her than it tells us of him. She’s challenging a male to prove he’s male means she’s missing Vince Foster, perhaps. Obama’s retort is not any more elevated than Clinton’s and merely seems to indicate that we have at least two presidential candidates mentally and emotionally arrested at the pre-adolescent level. Perhaps Putin is more adult. I have not been fully able to analyze why that Hillary/Obama incident reminds me of the Bolton fakery matter except, perhaps, because the Bolton one, and all those like it, might not have happened had we developed some respect for the process of art creation and historical scholarship. The professional expertise of even our experts seems rather abysmal.
In the face of contemporary political behavior there seems to be little difference between Sierra‟s public exhibition of huma n s***t and the exchange of comments by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that ideal task of historical scholarship is quite nearly improbable.
Now, having been so virulently and adversely critical in the above paragraphs I should at least make the attempt to offer a meaningful alternative. This is a great deal harder than the above tear-down has been. In the face of contemporary political behavior there seems to be little difference between Sierra‟s public exhibition of huma n s***t and the exchange of comments by Hillary Clinton and Baraca Obama that ideal task is quite nearly improbable.
I find Orson Well‟s comments helpful…not because they give any final answers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n52q_BywGuY “F” Fake.O.Wells. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksmjh8LL2zA O.Wells.Chartres.truth.fake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBJ2De04ht4 O.Wells on art http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yF2SLJqJ-tI Elmyr Dying With public exchanges like those of Obama and Clinton from among our intellectual, political and creative leadership why should we be surprised that our, i.e. USA American, world leadership has slipped a mite. Maybe 200 or so years is about as long as any Anglo-Saxon can manage a big administration job such as this. But then, maybe that is the point, the leading lights in both Britain at its height and the States have not been Anglo-Saxon. One wonders who the American Disraeli might be …Kissinger, perhaps? Madelein Albright, maybe?, certainly Greenspan, that genius economist who resigns after he gets the dollar into its present low stage and then urges people to take on the Euro. . Well, there we have it! Britain has its Greenhalgh and the Americans have their Greenspan. That rather sheds an amber light on the green revolution, however suggesting that it is already in the autumn of its decline even before the first bud has blossomed. For sure both Greenspan and the Greenhalghs have been in the business of redefining reality. The circus sideshows have always been entertaining, but if the magician steps off the stage and into the audience and breaches the protective proscenium every aspect of reality undergoes a morphing process which, if we are creatively clever, we might use to our advantage. In point of fact many dominant cultures have learned from experience just how some subcultures cleverly subvert aspects of traditional response systems catalizing the prevailing order and then stepping into the breach and taking over the management.
I have not been fully able to analyze why that Hillary/Obama incident reminds me of the Bolton one except, perhaps, because the Bolton one, and all those like it, might not have happened had we developed some respect for the process of art creation and historical scholarship. The professional expertise of even our experts seems rather abysmal.
The Gauguin in Chicago isn’t a Gauguin, at least that is what we are now told.
Personally, I find it inconceivable that a creative mentality such as Gauguin could have, attracted to the concept of a faun. Consequently, I must ask myself if this was not an overly confident expression of the Greenhalghs’ sense of humor and cynicism which carried with it some doubt as to the aesthetic intelligence of people at Chicago?. Is there any reason why anyone should doubt the knowledge of experts?
Director of public affairs at the institute, Erin Hogan, told the Chicago Tribune he could not think of any other instance of anything like this happening So we don't have experience in this area" Well, Erin is trying hard but he is full of the blarney, or he isn‟t as well educated as he‟d like us to believe. At nt it might seem necessary for aspirants to authority at Museums might have to include experience as dectective trainese at Scotland Yard.
uThe museum said the sculpture is among scores of forgeries produced by the Greenhalgh family, which has been under investigation by authori t Britain for nearly two years. I must ask who are these “authorities” and what are they authoritarian about?
There might be some excuse for early art historians to attribute a work of art to the one personality who dominated the period for, in the absence of ertinent data, this may have been all they could know. Since wanting to be remembered for one‟s accomplishments is not a shameful human eristic we can only express our sympathy for their efforts should they be forgotten for eternity.
The Faun sculpture,once attributed to Gauguin at the Art Institute of Chicago is a fake, according to the museum. The art institute, which has had the ceramic figure in its collection for a decade, said the work is one of a spate of forgeries by the Greenhalgh family, recently sentenced for creating and selling everything from faux Assyrian stone reliefs to copies of Henry Moran paintings, the Associated Press reports. Olive and George Greenhalgh and their son, Shaun Greenhalgh, pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding art institutions and other buyers over the course of 17 years. (Artinfo, December 13, 2007)
The Greenhalghs of Britain are an old breed which continue to thrive on the self-perceptions of those who inhabit the art scene BECAUSE there is more profit in pretence than there is in performance. And one might add, without much of the tongue in the cheek, that aristocracy has its point when it considers the differences in class.
Shaun Greenhalgh, 47, has been jailed for four years while his 83-year-old mother, Olive, has been given a 12month suspended sentence for her part in the con. (I think this leniency out of place. Anyone who manipulates historical
facts is redefining individual destinies and deserves full punishment .) His father, George, 84, is to be sentenced at a later
In my own life these sorts of events have a history. I believe it was in 1948 when TIME or NEWSWEEK published on its cover the image of a painting ostensibly by Van Gogh of a very middle class woman with a string of what appeared to be 15mm pearls. This painting which warranted the cover of a major magazine was thought to be a newly discovered fake in the collection of Walter P. Chrysler of Provincetown, Massachusetts. I was 18 or 19 years old at the time and having taken only a very quick look at the image had decided “How could anyone think that a van Gogh?”. That was as far as I took the matter at the time having, I believed, more important interests to satisfy.
"Every great Van Gogh scholar of the 20th century has accepted the authenticity of the picture and has published it as an authentic Van Gogh.” Gerhard.Vaughan, Director National Gallery Victoria (Australia) (I would suppose that every scholar, great or not, might be shaking in his boots right now after a claim like this one.) What pretentious bureaucrat not under great pressure is going to admit he‟s a fraud?
It is frankly beyond my comprehension how anyone could have seriously thought the top most image to be one made by Van Gogh.. I would wager that given these three images in a sequence and presented the group to a population of junior high school students, that is aged between 12 and 14 that the would achieve a score of a perfect 100% in identifying the one that didn‟t belong in the group.
Well now, that really puts it on the line for all those scholars who published that opinion. but who am I to argue with the person holding the impressive position as “Director of the National Gallery”. One wonders, if the fellow lost his position would that change the significance of his statement? What would be the meaning of praise from such a fellow…(and directors of Museums and galleries do praise artists quite often…I wonder why) one of the main pursuits of the ambitious non-artist is to seek the recognition of politically signific ant personages….like Eric Sloane* the American realist kowtowing to Bresjnev, However, on one score Bresznev was right…when he advised an other realist, Jaime Wyeth, “ not to underestimate the power of an image”. It would be an interesting pursuit, if one had the time, to discover the correlation between an artist‟s politics and his creative production. Such is the reasoning, I would
suppose, that the naïve reader, who knows no better, feels intimidated to argue with an expert .
These remarks regarding Eric Sloane‟s motivations in sending a painting depicting a sycle ( a symbol of the peasant class) to Breznev may have been more involved than what first appears. Sloane also changed his name from Hinricks after having studied with John Sloan and it could well be that Hinricks-Sloane‟s attachment to realism and practicality and independence may have been more romantic than politically realistic and he may simply have wished to make that connection with Breznev, hoping, futilely, I would suspect, in recalling to the Russian leader‟s attention those more true -fast virtues to be found in bound-to-the-earth types. After all, it is not wise to try to fool mother nature!
While the informal Egyptian style of three thousand years ago may have included the body covered slightly by some clinging and transparent-like material there are some artistic conceptual conventions that were not included and on of them is that of contraposto a term with which any undergraduate student in a general humanities course should be familiar. That term is illustrated very well in the assumed Amarna princess work sold by the Greenhalghs of Britain to the township of Bolton for a mere
400,000 pounds sterling. The contraposto is in the fake but NOT in genuine Egyptian pieces which for nearly two centuries have been noted for their frontality, that is, the rather strict representation of a figure ”straight-on” without the twists, bends and turns of this slightly animated “princess”. I am reminded of and old, I believe, German tale about Pygmalion who, as a sculptor, having animated his stone she demanded to be wedded to him but upon being rejected (because she was stone)killed him when he showed a livelier interest in a warm body. I wonder what the sister-wife of Tutankamen may be thinking now. At this point we must ask what right one has to expect the political leaders of English villages to make knowledgeable aesthetic judgments, for it is an aesthetic judgment that is called for in this case and not even the distressed Dr. Vaughn, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria (in connection with another Greenhlagh fake, this time a Van Gogh) to be held responsible for the imposition of ignorance, or agenda following motivations, on the part of his advisors. He is, basically, an administrator and, I do think, the only practical evidence of intelligence one requires of an administrator is the appropriate handling of personality types among those who work for him. It is simply too much to expect him to be both a prestigious boss-man and a possessor of esoteric knowledge. Whether we have the right, or not, we certainly have the expectation that gallery directors should know something about what it is they are selling. Forrest Fenn, at least, and the surprising honesty to state that to him it made no difference whether it was art he sold or plumbing. He was, however, highly suspicious of anyone who indicated they might know something about art. I suspect he truly believed that where “art” was concerned there was nothing to know. It was all “by guess and by gosh” and everyone who claimed to know was as much a fake as he knew some of his products were. He knew the price of everything though just as one might expect of an army air force major. Doubting that there was any body of knowledge required of an art expert he asked me one time to come into his private living area to look at a particular piece. At this time he and John Connally,(The Dallas. Texas, Kennedy assassination Connally) had brought together the works of the art forger Elmyr de Hory to show to the Santa Fe public and Forrest, thinking perhaps I was as much a fake as was he wanted to test my perception so therefore, the invite into the living room. He instructed me not to go closer to the painting over the mantel (it wasn’t necessary at any event) which was a rather juvenile pastiche of a Tahitian Gauguin and while he kept me securely positioned in the middle of the room he showed me a post card with a photograph of the real painting, the same subject as above the mantel and asked me to tell “which one is the real one” Now, the situation is that I am asked to judge which one of non-real objects is the real object and Forrest truly expected me to take the question seriously. This was not the time to teach anyone who was not ready to learn so with great inner torment and swallowing very hard I pointed to the 3x5”postcard and said with quavering timber “This one”.
Forrest was disappointed and very much unconvinced and asked me further .’How can you be sure?” So, pointing to the one over the mantel I said: “Gauguin would never have joined the neck to the head and torso in this fashion”. This, he had to think about for awhile.
Despite whatever his education may have been what right do we have to hold the museum director responsible for an error as gross as the one involving the alleged Van Gogh. He is appropriately wise NOT to respond directly to the suggestion that the attribution be changed but rather to put the matter to a larger test. HOWEVER, the most appropriate test is that of style recognition NOT of chemical analysis of canvass, pigment and the like which recently has been done with the newly discovered Jackson Pollocks. It is not inappropriate to make chemical tests of any material involved, but the most conclusive evidence of genuinness is style and it takes a highly experienced eye to accomplish that and from my observation there are not many Bruce Chatwins in this world. There are, however, scores of would-be authorities prancing around as though they were Bruce Chatwins and they, regrettably, are the ones who most often get the Bolton villages of this world and National galleries of other countries into trouble, and that is to say nothing of the fields of art scholarship, history, psychology and education and it is appropriate education that is involved, but prominent educators are like museum and gallery directors what they have most perfected is the mask of superiority and the application of intimidation. I would like, at this time, to make a proposal to any teacher of 10-13 year-olds who have not likely seen a picture of a Van Gogh to print out as many copies of the following task form and give their students the following instructions: ”Here we have five pictures of five different people. Four of these were done by one person and one was done by a different person. Painting is something like handwriting, each person does it differently. Now, can you, using your abilities as a detective chose which one of the five paintings was done by the one (1) person. For example, using dots chose which dot is the one that is different from all the rest. 1 2 3 4 5
the answer is “2”
A note to the teacher: since it is possible that each child may have used different sets of clues we need to determine as well we can how the child performed his analysis. Therefore with each child, ask him the following suggested questions?
1)How did you decide that this picture was the one that was different? (take notes) 2)Are there other different clue your could have used? (take notes) 3)Could you use this same way on some other detective problem?(take notes)
The author of this article would like it very much if you would send him your analysis and summary. The email address is:
By the application of such educational devices as pertinent questioning and the active involvement of the pupil in the exercise of testing one’s own responses can we expect to encourage the development of individuals with the insight of a Bruce Chatwin.
December 2007 GOZO www.tcp.com.mt
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