Monday, November 16, 2009

Better Bolt Your Doors in the UK

Whenever I think of art robbers, I always think of the classic vision of men dressed in all black with a black face mask climbing into a house through a window and running away with a huge painting. However, art theft is a serious subject and has always been on the rise. I always wondered, where does the art go? You would only steal something worth alot, and you certainly wouldn't put a stolen Picasso up in your living room. Unless, all of your friends are art robbers as well. The whole topic is saddening, especially when art theft occurs in museums. Not only is the museum robbed of its collection, but all of the individuals that enjoy the artworks when they visit are robbed as well.

So where is art theft on the rise? Funny you should ask because there is an industry group called The Art Loss Register that tracks reported stolen items and registers artworks to their owners. According to their reports, the U.K. is home to more thefts than any other country in the world. Since 1976, 53,709 works have been stolen in the UK. Rounding out the top five are the US, France, Italy and Germany.

These rankings are based solely on quality, not quantity. For example, Norway doesn't rank highly on the list, but Edvard Munch's The Scream is considered one of the decade's most expensive works stolen.

An interesting point made was the absence of many Asian countries from the list. ALR suggested this is do to the decision of art collectors and museums not to report thefts. Some museums are reluctant to report thefts as it may infer there are holes in their security systems.

Regardless of who ranks where, art theft has not slowed. So keep your enemies close, and your portraits even closer.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2,000 lbs of Ribs? Count Me In.

Before I articulate to you the ridiculous, over-the-top extent to which Performa 09 opened a couple of weeks ago with a food event, let me remind you about one of the upcoming "foodie" events at the Biggs Museum....

If you haven't bought your tickets yet to Artful Dining this Friday, shame on you. If you don't decide to join us, that only leaves more Nage leftover goodness and PortoVino Groovy Italian Wine to enjoy after all the diners have left. So hop to it, chop chop.

I thought a three-course meal and an abundance of fine Italian wine on a Friday night in the Museum galleries was "Artful Dining", but I think Performa 09 has got us beat. They seem to have completely redefined the concept of Artful Dining. Performa is a biennial three-week visual performance arts festival held in Manhattan dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the 21st century.

Jennifer Rubell, daughter of two art collectors, designed a "food event" party/benefit to open the 2009 fesitval at the X Initiative in Chelsea. Her interactive culinary experience was based on the book of Genesis in the Bible. Over 600 guests, including Mario Batali, roamed the three floors taken over by the party beginning with with the option to choose from 3,600 drinking glasses, representing the "beautiful fragility" of the Garden of Eden. After passing a pyramid of unshelled peanuts, guests moved to the 2nd floor for a hit of protein at a station holding over 2,000 lbs of ribs being soaked with honey falling from the ceiling. No need to worry about those sticky fingers, plenty of wet-naps were provided.

Dessert was obviously not neglected as the final course . Fallen apple trees were scattered throughout the floor and seven pedestals were topped with chocolate bunnies similar to Jeff Koon's stainless steels version. Hammers were provided to everyone to smash the illusion to the expulsion from Eden.

If the photos aren't enough of a visual for you to imagine the wildness of this event, the New York Times did a great video of the event. I forwarded the ribs photo to the Director, possibility for the 2010 Biggs Museum Gala.... maybe we'll have 1500 lbs of buffalo wings at next year's event.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Obama Says,"Let's hear it for Hollywood."

You'd think Obama had just put down last week's issue of People Magazine when he chose the 25 appointees/members for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities yesterday. I kid. I kid.

The new committee members represent some of Hollywood's finest to old-school cultural leaders. Some of the more famous names include actors Sarah Jessica Parker, Edward Norton, Forest Whitaker and Alfre Woodard, "Vogue" editor Anna Wintour, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, theater director George C. Wolfe and architect Thom Mayne.

What are these fine arts representatives charged with? This committee, established in 1982, works with organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to encourage partnerships between the public and private sector on cultural projects. The committee also seeks to initiate and support cultural programs, according to its official website.

Vice President Joe Biden will install the 25 new members today. The newbies will be led by First lady Michelle Obama as the honorary chairwoman and film producer George Stevens Jr. and theater producer Margo Lion had already been named as its co-chairs.

With all this talk of health-care reform these days, little has been said in the media on what Obama plans to do for the arts during his tenure as president. During his campaign he made a few hints.

-Reinvest in arts education. Woo hoo for more public/private partnerships between schools and arts organizations!

- Financially support the NEA

-Send more American artists abroad

-Attract foreign talent
- To provide affordable health care and tax fairness to artists. Did you know when artists make charitable contributions of their work, they are only reimbursed for supplies, not their time? So not fair.

Seems like Anna and SJP have some work on their hands. I'm anxious to see what they can do for culture and arts in the United States. Until then, congrats!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lehman Bro's Art is Going, Going, Sold!

It feels like it was yesterday in September 2008 when the hard crash that put us in a recession occured. Lehman Brother's was just one of the many financial institutes that did not escape the realms of bankruptcy. Still today, they owe their creditors about $250 billion, ouch. So how to raise some cash quickly? Auction off your office artwork. A sale at Freeman's Auction House yesterday raised over $1.35 million from the sales of 283 modern artworks. Every piece up for sale had an owner by the end of the day. $1.35 million was quite impressive as it doubled the original estimate for this part of the collection ($760,800).

All of these artworks used to line the office hallways of Lehman Bros. in New York, Delaware and Boston. Around 2,000 collectors, former Lehman staff and art novices keen to pick up a bit of banking history had signed up to bid at the auction. An estimated 400 people bid in person with the rest taking part over the telephone or online.

Lehman Bro.'s will unload another collection of 650 pieces on December 6 at Freeman's once again. This money raised will also go towards repayment to Lehman creditors. A third auction is scheduled in February 2010.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

I've gone from not partaking in any Halloween festivities last year, to two parties and two different costumes this year. I hope I'll be able to keep my characters straight! Anyway you celebrate, Halloween is a creative and artful day. Acting...transforming into a different person, or at times an inanimate object. and a hot glue gun can work wonders for novice costume makers. Dance and sing...who doesn't 'boo'gey down on Halloween? Culinary Arts...I contribute to 25% of the world's consumption of candy corn.

I hope you all have an artfully fantastic Halloween. To kick off the weekend, I googled Best Costume Ever. And this is what I got. P.S. You HAVE to watch it until the end! Amazing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not Your Average Neckwear...

I have to admit, from what I recall seeing Michael Phelps donned with all of those Olympic Medals at the 2008 Beijing games, I wasn't paying too much attention to the medals if you know what I mean. But our neighbor Vancouver has caught my attention: they just unveiled the designs of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games medals. They're awesome.

The process took over two years, beginning in December 2007 with over 48 proposals from Canadian and internationally-run design firms. Before I go on to explain the awesomeness that is the design, I'd like to mention these are the heaviest medals ever made for the Olympic games, weighing in at a record 500-576 grams. And they're made from recycled electronics, so your old HP could be hanging on the neck of the next Michelle Kwan.

Hunt, a Vancouver-based artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage, chose the orca and the raven as motifs for the Olympic and Paralympic medals respectively, representing important attributes in Canadian Aboriginal history. The Paralympians symbol, the rave, is often associated with transformation and healing abilities and represents determination, creativity and wisdom. The Ocra is often associated with the attributes of strength, dignity and teamwork. The sleek and powerful black and white whales are common to travel in pods through the waters off Canada’s West Coast, but are also found in all the world’s oceans.

Each medal will be struck nine times (this is just one of 30 steps in the fabrication process) to achieve a distinctive look. The medals are undulating and wavy (representing Canada's mountains, sea and snow) rather than flat, a first in the Games history.

The Royal Canadian Mint has been charged with making all 1014 medals for the games. Their web-site offers an interactive tour and video, so you can see how they're made.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Usual Mona Lisa Suspects

There's been some talk recently about whether or not Ms. Lisa is actually smiling in DaVinci's Mona Lisa portrait. And according to the Institute of Neuroscience in Alicante, Spain, it's in our heads to decide. But anyways, onto a more important topic....what if the Mona Lisa wasn't acutally "gasp!" Mona Lisa? The horror!

According to Roberto Zapperi, the painting (which is actually referred to as La Giocondo) does not depict Lisa del Giocondo, the wide of the welathy Florentine merchant for whom the painting was reportedly commissioned. Roberto says the woman in the painting is Pacifica (awesome name, right?) Brandani, on of Julien de Medicis' many lovers.

What gives Roberto the idea that Pacifica is the woman in the portrait? He discovered written minutes from a meeting between da Vinci and Cardinal Louis d'Aragon. daVinci presented the Cardinal with three paintings; including the Mona Lisa, which was allegedly a portrait of Brandani commissioned by de Medicis. This leads me to wonder, if Julien de Medicis commissioned the portrait, then why didn't he own it? Well, Brandani died shortly after she had an illegitimate child with her lover. There's your explanation.

Roberto thinks its unfortunate that experts have known for many years about Brandani's identity, but choose to ignore it and favor Vasari's 1550 version of the events, which posits that the image is of Lisa del Giocondo, who “did not even know Julien de Médicis,” according to Zapperi.

This obviously hasn't stopped the crowds from coming in droves to the Louvre to see the woman every single day. Speaking of daVinci, the Biggs staff is having a video web conference with some of the staff members of the Leonardo daVinci Museum today to begin working on a new project. I think some very exciting times are ahead for us. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Non-Profit (or Doing) of the Week: Uniformed Fashion

Twelve school years of my life was spent in plaid. Plaid jumpers then plaid skirts. Polo shirts in the fall and spring were traded for pressed (thank you mother) white button downs with sweater vests and at times a ridiculous cross-over button Girl Scout-like navy tie. Other than tag days (you could wear whatever you please) once a month, the biggest school clothing shopping decision of the year were the shoes on your feet. How was one to express their individuality? The girls found ways around it of, jewelery, accessories, the latest LL Bean backpack pattern. I always remember being fond of a head band Mom made for me in 3rd grade. She had hot glued pieces of candy corn on a black headband for me. I was the talk of the home room the entire month of October.

These days, I'm embarrassed to say I hate to wear anything twice. But there's a girl, Sheena Matheiken, who has gone the opposite route. As the Founder of the Uniform Project, Sheena is wearing one dress every day of one year all in the name of charity and sustainable fashion. This gal has seven identical black dresses, one for every day of the week, and is seeing just how far she can push the creative envelope with diversification of the outfit.

Each day she posts a picture of herself. And each day, she looks quite different. She works the outfit with different accessories and layers which she claims to purchase from eBay and . You can view all of the photos which includes shopping information on where to buy all of her add-on wardrobe items.

Charity is her first motive for the project. Sheena is asking for donations for the duration of the year that will benefit Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots charity based in Mumbai, whose contributions go to fund uniforms and other school expenses for children in the slums of India. Sustainability is her second motive, which is to stop consuming and reusing. The dress was designed with the help of Eliza Starbuck, and is wearable year-round. This short-sleeve, button-down dress can be worn backwards and also as a long cardigan.

Sheena has raised over $14,000 since she began this project in May 2009. I'm looking forward to watching her remix the dress for the next six month. Who knew the power of a dress?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Would You Like Fries With Your Mona Lisa Value Meal?

This tickles me. To death almost.

The Louvre is opening a McDonalds. The golden arches restaurant will open next month in the underground shopping plaza beneath I.M. Pei's glass pyramid in the museum courtyard, making it the 1,142nd McDonald's location in France. Louvre is opening up a brand new ticket area, and the new McDonald's will be the first site to visitors.

Why open up a McDonalds in the Louvre? The only official commentary was from a Louvre spokesperson who said, "The outlet would be the 'American' representative in a 'rich and varied' food court, said a spokesman for the Louvre."

I'm not surprised to hear that Louvre staffers are completely outraged at the thought of smelling a Big Mac in the galleries. "This is the last straw," an anonymous art historian at the museum told the paper. "This is the pinnacle of exhausting consumerism, deficient gastronomy and very unpleasant odours in the context of a museum." (Daily Telegraph)

Take what you will from this news bit. I'm a museum staffer, and I'm thrilled at the fact Chick-Fil-A is donating food for the next four First Friday programs at the Arts ConnectED first look pARTies! However, the French cannot deny the stats...France is the second leading country (behind US of course) in number of McDonald's location...they don't call fries French for nothing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And the Rob Pruitt Goes To...

I must admit I tend to watch the news coverage of the red carpet before the awards show more so often than the actual event. I simply rely on Perez Hilton to fill me in on the results the following morning. Plus, at this rate, the Oscars is borderline an overnight event.

There are plenty of awards in the art industry. We have our own in Delaware each year when DDOA hands out individual fellowships to emerging and established artists throughout the state. But an actual awards show for the arts? With all the glitz and glamour? You better believe it.

This fall, the Guggenheim and artist Rob Pruitt will present the First Annual Art Awards Show.

The Art Awards show will celebrate and honor individuals, exhibitions and projects that have made a significant impact in the contemporary art world from January 2008 to June 2009. There are over 11 categories with nominees chosen from a council of over 400 artists and professionals. The show (TBD Oct 29) will bring out some familiar faces to present such as Sofia Coppola and Mary-Kat Olsen.

Some of the categories will include Artist of the Year, Curator of the Year (Ryan, you deserve it!), Exhibition outside the US, Gallery show of the year, and Writer of the Year. Guggenheim and Pruitt do good at the Awards Show by donating net proceeds to non-profit arts organizations: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; White Columns; and Studio in a School.

So what is the actual "award"? A silver ice bucket holding a champagne bottle designed by Pruitt himself.

The concept of the awards show is great exposure for the industry in general, but I was dying to see what the "catch" was. I knew these contemporary art people were up to something. Pruitt has actually conceived the awards show as a "performance-based" work of art himself that follows the format of a Hollywood awards ceremony.

Pruitt comments on the work, “For me, the Art Awards are essentially a curated show with the curating having been done by the art community itself. I’m very interested in a type of curating that respects the art but also focuses on the selection process, patterns and trends within the art community."

This is history in the making people. No word yet if we can tune in to watch, but I'm sure we'll hear the results. I wonder if they'll tag Neil Patrick Harris to host, he did such a fab job with the Emmys.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Love (And Bad Taste) Is In the Eye of the Beholder

Do these people look thrilled to tie the knot?

Every week the Dover Post comes to the house, my mother increasingly expresses her disappointment in the dwindling of the wedding and engagement announcement section. "Why doesn't anyone send their daughter's picture in anymore?! How am I supposed to know?!" She says. I don't know why recently engaged or married couples don't send in photos and announcements anymore, but perhaps this could be one of the reasons...maybe the photos are just too bad. Bad, you ask?! I know you're thinking, how could a photograph used to announce lifelong dedication be bad? You better believe it., a web-site for you guessed it, guides to anything, posted an entry this morning with a boat load of bad engagement photos. Some are quirky, some make you feel a bit uncomfortable and some leave you seriously scratching your head. Word of advice, get a second of thirs opinion before sending your photos to the paper....if you plan on doing so.

Click here for many more.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Very Special And Colorful Delivery...

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms."-Tom Hanks as Joe Fox in You've Got Mail

I could watch that movie over and over again. Tom Hanks charm eventually won over Meg Ryan in that famous 1998 chick flick, and now a Social Design, a division of Felismo Design House in New York can make that Tom Hanks moment come true with their latest project 500 Colored Pencils. Social Designer has created a set of 500 colored pencils, each with a name and a story. No offense ROY G BIV, but these pencils have characters, and great names as well. There is a Belisimo lilac, a Pumpkin Spice Orange and a Barbados Blue.

500 colored pencils is a huge commitment for your Jane Doe, so Social Designer has "designed" (no pun intended) up a subscription program to receive 25 pencils every month for 25 months. Who wouldn't want a nice colorful delivery of new pencils delivered to their door each month? Click here to sign up for your subscription now. And once your first set arrives, visit the Museum. Our new Fusion exhibition opened up yesterday. The vivid colors of all the Latin American Art on display are sure to inspire you.

I'd hate to close this entry without further explaining to you the scale of fabulousness of the 500 Colored Penciles Project. 1 set out of every 100 sets sold is donated to the UNESCO DREAM Centers to support arts education for underprivileged children around the world. Social Designer, the group heading up this project, is an online community born from Felissimo Design House, is dedicated to promoting social awareness through design. The group holds design competitions to create products for sale that support meaningful causes. You can submit designs for contests, vote for your favorites and then shop for the goods. A percentage of all the profits for to the charities the goods are supporting.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I seemed to have lost my "Get Out of Taxes Free" Card in Dublin

Since 1969, Irish-based writers, musicians and visual artists have been exempt from paying income tax on their earnings under the Republic's tax laws. Who knew???? And because of this, why aren't all artists living in Ireland? I wonder if Damien Hirst has a holiday home in the countryside somewhere? Perhaps not if U2 had to move their business out of Ireland in 2006 because of a 250,000 euro cap-off added to the law.

The tax exemption was introduced in 1969 by Prime Minister Charles Haughey to help struggling artists. Fast forward to 2009, and Irish government is trying to rid the country of the exemption in its entirety, aiming to make the system fairer to all its citizens. Irish artists need not feel discriminated against as this is one of the many proposed tax amendments to the system.

The Arts Council across the pond doesn't seem to be too happy about the ordeal, stating that over half of the artists who are beneficiaries have average earnings of less than half the minimum wage. Furthermore, 24% earn only between 10 to 25,000 euros a month. Some believe that this will discourage artists early on in their career.

As disappointing this news may be for many of these artists, I support the government's desire to make taxation fair among everyone in the country. My words of advice, don't quit your day job. Or better yet, for many...get a day job.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Who You Callin' Ugly?

There are alot of top ten, twenty, fifty and one hundred lists out there. Some of them for good...such as the Sexiest Man Alive People Issue or the NY Time's Bestsellers List. And some are bad, very bad, such as PETA's worst dressed celebrity list or the annual Razzy awards. Although many can say they've seen alot of bad art out there, but has there ever been a ranking? I haven't found a list ranking Picasso versus Van Gogh yet, but stumbled on to an interesting list in the world of architecture.
The British architecture magazine Building Design annually awards a prize to the worst building erected in Britain over the past 12 months. This contest, also known as the Carbuncle Cup, takes nominations by the mag's readers and also uses a panel of architects and critics to select the year's worst eye sore. How was the ugliest chosen? It actually wasn't just on looks alone...that would be way too shallow. The building's setting, the budget and the extent to which the client was disappointed were all considered.

Who took first? LA-based Hamilton Architects should be hiding under their blueprints for the Liverpool Ferry Terminal. Ellis Woodman of the Telegraph and a juror described the building perfectly by saying, "Looking like a karaoke version of a Zaha Hadid project, it takes the form of a skew-whiff cross-section that has been extruded like a stick of rock. The long elevations could hardly be more boring, the Dr Caligari-style end façades no more grotesque. It would be a nightmare building in any setting. The fact that it sits not only within a UNESCO world heritage site but directly in front of the Three Graces – the Royal Liver, Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings, which for nearly a century have been the very emblems of the city – makes its construction utterly inexplicable."

Hamilton Architects didn't have the project listed on their site....wonder why. Click here to see all of the heinous buildings built from the past year. I think i'll take a stroll down to the Green just to get clear my head of all these pretty ugly projects.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Oatmeal, you never looked better.

Sadly, the Biggs Shot 2009 exhibition came down late June. Back when we opened the show in early spring, Biggs staff got to choose their top pick for the on-line exhibition. It didn't take long to me to fall in love with Stephanie Kirk's Breakfast Serial photos. She had not one, but three chosen for the show! I can't truly explain to you why I was so drawn to Stephanie's photos... I could feel the morning sun coming through the window of her kitchen, hear the tea kettle buzz and the papers ruffle, and I could smell the citrus fromt he grapefruit and taste the sweetness of the jam on her toast. This photograph was so real to me; a real morning, a start to the day that many of us don't get to have... "Welcome to McDonald's can I take your order?"

Sadly, I could not afford to purchase one of her photographs, but I will keep dreaming. But I miss visiting the galleries for a second, third, fourth, fifth and six glance at them. But who knew, someone in cyber/blog space was out there answering my prayers.

Her name is Jennifer Causey and she is a photographer out of Brooklyn, NY. She writes, or rather posts to, a blog called Simply Breakfast. And that's what it is... photographs of her breakfast everyday. But this isn't your disposable camera shot of the Lucky Charms box. Her breakfast shots have a whimsical feel to them, making you want to wrap yourself with a blanket, NYT and a cup of tea all morning long. The blog is very very simple, just photographs, with text rarely, giving you the opportunity to take what you want from it.

I was delighted to see that Jennifer photographs for Anthropologie and Real Simple Magazine, two of my favorite things in life. Her style is definitely reflective of these two brands.

So if you aren't too hungry, or feeling lazy looking forward to this Labor Day weekend, check out her blog and cook yourself a gorgeous omelet tomorrow morning.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

PETA is gonna have a fit...

My princess Chesapeake Bay retriever, Giulianova (goes by Julia), doesn't need a costume for character. The girl watches Martha Stewart, can guard a newspaper all day, chases after her own tail for 10 minutes at a time and can imitate the Stanley Steamer commercial to the dot. Occasionally we'll throw a bandanna around her during the holidays, but as far as grooming goes, she's lucky to get herself a good scrub with the hose out back.

Well I've discovered a dog trend that Giulianova might not feel so comfortable following. It's called creative grooming. Apparently, people are taking their poodles and grooming them to look anything like, well anything that isn't a poodle. The results are schocking. I've never been to a creative grooming competition, and I'm sure many of you haven't either, so thank goodness for Photographer Ren Netherland of Animal Photography Studio in Clearwater, FL (wonder, if the Hulk has taken his pooches for a photo sess). He travels the country in a mobile photography studio and captures the walking and barking "works of art."

Now, there are some serious ethical questions about creative grooming. Is this abuse? I for one have learned from experience that hair dye and highlights can do massive destruction to your mane, so I'm sure that hot pink on a poodle isn't going to be the best thing for it. But in the meantime, scroll down for some of my "favorites" (is it ok to admit that?).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Information Highway? A Scenic Route

Warning: The next two paragraphs are alot of rambling. Looking to get straight to the point? Scroll down please.
I'm an information glutton. I just can't get enough of it. Let me illustrate by explaining to you the overload that is my daily (weekdays, mostly) schedule.

6:00 a.m. YMCA: Women's Health magazine turned to the latest health breakthroughs, while watching several televisions turned to the local morning news stations

7:30 a.m. Shower, Dress at Home: The Today Show for background noise

8:30 a.m. Kitchen: Breakfast amongst more The Today Show and The Delaware State News and The News Journal

9:00 a.m. (or usually 9:10 a.m.) Office: browse through mail, check monthly pubs for any Biggs Press
9:15 a.m. Office: Sit down at computer, check work and personal email, contains The Daily Beast, Daily Candy, and several other daily e-newsletters for art news (blog material!)

11:00 a.m. Office: Morning brain break, check Facebook and favorite cooking blogs (about 15 in rotation)

2:00 p.m. Lunch at Home: Martha Stewart Show is full of information

6:00 p.m. UD, night class: THREE hours of information in first advertising class

9:30 p.m. Cup of Tea at Home, unwind with the Wall Street Journal, breeze through Marketplace section

10:15 p.m.: Bed time, crack open my new book Buyology

10:30 p.m.: Brain dead.

I'm sure I missed some parts here and there, if you can believe it.

Now, where am i going with this? I'll take you on my information highway. One health email newsletter I received yesterday morning, contained a link to a diagram of an XY axis plotting calories versus caffeine for popular coffee shop beverages. After a click here and there I landed on David McCandless' blog, called Information is Beautiful. David is a London-based author, writer and designer. He's done alot of copyrighting, won awards for it in fact and has been published in many places many times.

He loves information, just like i do. But he takes it a step further and has a passion for visualising information, as he did in the Caffeine and Calories Chart. His blog is filled with not only his own charts but other visualizations he finds interesting elsewhere. Some are quite serious, such as how to reduce your chances of dying in a plane crash, but I find most quite useful. I was particularly intrigued by the Timeline of Global Media Scare Stories. Who would have thought that storied about violence in video games would always be prominent in the spring time right around the anniversary of Columbine?
But I LOVED the Movie Monster Comparison Chart. Does size really matter?

And don't think about finding a pie chart on his blog, he hates them. Who doesn't these days?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Yellow Pages Are Jealous

I get so frustrated that time of year when the new phone books are delivered, laying sadly in a yellow plastic bag across the driveway. Not only are they heavy to lug to your house, but you have to throw out, cough, excuse me, recycle (let's be green here) and make room for the new ones. Sadly, our year-old phone books look like they are still hot off the press. And who uses phone books still? In the age of 411 and, isn't anyone who's anyone not listed in those 1 million page directory bibles anyways? Next year when I get my new ones I know right where to take them, right up to Mr. Alex Queral in good ole Motown Philadelphia.

Under the radar for an unbelievable fourteen years, The Telegraph recently brought sculptor Alex Queral to our attention. Alex makes portraits out of the bound pages of telephone books. How did he get started in phone book art? About 14 years ago, he was out searching for wood for a new sculpture and came upon a bunch of old phone books kicked to the curb for trash pickup. Alex obviously feels the same way about throwing away phone books as I do and decided to find another use for them, so he picked them up and began to practice carving on them.

Since he began practicing, Alex has developed his skills and is now known for caricature portraits of celebrities. Alex explains his reasoning for carving faces in his artist statement:

" I carve the faces out of phone books because I like the three-dimensional quality that results and because of the unexpected results that occur working in this medium. The three-dimensional quality enhances the feeling of the pieces as an object as opposed to a picture. In carving and painting a head from a phone directory, I'm celebrating the individual lost in the anonymous list of thousands of names that describe the size of the community. In addition, I like the idea of creating something that is normally discarded every year into an object of longevity."

I'm sure you're wondering, how the heck do you carve a face into a phone book? Is it magic? Alex first sketches the person's face on a peice of paper, then lays it over the phonebook. He uses a razor blade to then carve away the many pages of the phonebook to create a three-dimensional look.
These portraits do take time. Alex is able to do about two carvings per month. His work was recently on display at the Philadelphia Airport.

I'm totally digging Alex's work, are you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What do you want always? The good news or the bad news?

I'm so sick of reading about sports betting....does anyone care for some parlay? joke, joke for Delawarean readers.

No, but seriously, media outlets are chock full of negativity. Back in January, I thought I'd never turn on a tv, pick up a paper or turn on a radio without hearing, recession ever again. Last summer it was gas prices. And just when we thought we might be seeing some positive stories, we get hit with a second wave of swine flu. So what's one to do to get some sunshine on a cloudy day. Go straight to the source.

In search of blogging topics, I've recently stumbled onto a couple of sites that are dedicated to none other than happy, optimistic, smilely face worthy news. So I thought I'd share some of them with you to make your Tuesday more terrific. What you see is what you get on Similar to a except a different picture of Obama isn't rotated on the homepage every twenty minutes. You can browse through the stories by different subjects such as health, sports, arts & entertainment and even environment. I just read about a Chihuahua in Oregon saving its owners from a fire. Now that pup is worthy of a Lassie meet and greet. Who the heck is Daryn Kagan? Daryn Kagan might have shared a news story with you in the past as a CNN anchor for many years. A few years back, CNN decided not to renew her contract. But that didn't get Daryn down. She opened up this on-line community to shared positive and inspiring stories. I was almost inspired to enter the restaurant industry after I read that Johnny Depp recently left a $4000 tip in a Chicago restaurant. I found this site the most whimsical and visually appealing. In addition to news and features, Gimundo features tons of videos for the YouTubers and a great Stuff we like section with places you can visit, things you can purchase and books you can read to make your world a bit happier. They also do a weekly giveaway. I'm definitely eyeing the Beau Bain Bath Bomb Collection they're giving away to three subscribers this week.
If those sites don't work for you, I know what will do the trick....a happy baby face!

How could you ever resist?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Talk About Some "Pop" Art

I can't decide if this story is intriguing, funny or just plain ridiculous, but the Chicago dailies have been burning with this story the past couple of days so I have to share it with you. Apparently Michael Jackson fans have been rushing to the Field Museum in Chicago recently to see a statue of a limestone bust, which dates from the New Kingdom Period between 1550 B.C. and 1050 B.C., (we're talking King Tut time period here) and has been on display at the museum since 1988. Why you ask? Because the bust has a striking resemblance to Michael Jackson himself. The limestone is currently on display in the "Inside Ancient Egypt" exhibit at the Field. The limestone statue has gaunt cheeks and - most strikingly - a tipless nose.

Since Jackson's death, mourners have rushed to the exhibit to pay tribute to him. Fortunately Field has the daily crowd of 4,500 visitors under control by placing the bust in a glass case, avoiding any kissing or touching of the Jackson look-alike.

Some commenters have gone so far as to suggest Jackson used the bust as a model for his own face. However, a museum spokeman said he had no idea whether or not Jackson ever visited the museum.

So what is up with the nose? James Phillips, curator at the Field, states, " We believe the model is missing a nose because early Christians or Muslims removed noses from paintings and models to make them non-human. "This was because it was against their religion to depict human beings."

Who knows, but I promise you I'm closing the book on Michael Jackson entries. What's the phrase, "laid to rest" ?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rome Prefers Not To Paint The Town

I'm going to refrain from turning this entry into an ode to my most favorite place in the entire universe, Italy (in particular, Roma), because I could go on and on and on and on and on. There's something majestic about that country from the olive oil, limoncello, abundance of Pucci scarves and Fendi bags to very beautiful monuments and landmarks that bring us back to a time when the thought of a lightbulb or even an ipod didn't exist. I studied in Rome in college (once again, I'm not going to rant on about my love affair with this country) and was flabbergasted at the idea that you could enjoy a cappuccino (or a gelato if you so please, and who doesn't?) outside a cafe in a piazza directly across the street from the Colosseum, bringing you from the 21st century right back to the 1st Century. Michael J. Fox wouldn't need a Delorian in this city.

To my delight on my most recent trip to Italy this past May, not much had changed. However, I was disappointed in the worsening of the graffiti problems in Naples and Rome, and all over the country for that matter. So many people work day in and day out to preserve and protect this history for our future generations and then someone with an aerosol can comes through in the night and "tags" (slang for partaking in graffiti art) it. But graffiti isn't just covering my Spanish Steps, it's all over the city, which has caused frustration for both Romans and tourists. People often attribute graffiti with bad neighborhoods and crime, which can cause discomfort for many roaming the city day or night.

Italian government officials have long recognized graffiti as a problem, but Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno is getting fed us from just fining caught "can-handed" artists. He wants them to clean their act up and their street art-literally. A national law he's proposing would force those who deface monuments and private property to remove their scribblings and tags instead of paying fines. Earlier this year, an amendment was made to the public safety bill stating that graffiti writers caught for a second offence face a possible jail term of six months to two years and fines ranging from 1,500 to 10,000 euros. However, the Italian legal system is already overflowing with delayed court cases and the prisons are full, leaving most of these graffiti artists off the hook. Gianni believes that forcing a cleanup will kill two birds with one stone.

Street art has long been a topic for debate. I applaud government efforts to provide designated spaces for graffiti artists to work, but I strongly believe a majority of graffiti artists out there have too much free time on their hands. I look at it this way, I wouldn't go into Michael's and start using their Plaster of Paris to make myself a wall hanging. Why? Because it's not my property, and those walls aren't those artists own either. And there ya have it. Enjoy the weekend, stay out of trouble!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Wanna Piece of MJ?

Better empty out your pockets, but I doubt they could hold $800,000; which is the starting bid for Andy Warhol's portrait of Michael Jackson, titled Green Michael Jackson.

Starting Wednesday, the Vered Gallery of East Hamption NY will display the Warhol MJ portrait in Beverly Hills, CA. The piece, will be available for private viewing by appointment only (and if you do call, I wouldn't say, "Oh, we're just browsing.") Bidding ends on August 18th at 8 PM EST.

The piece is legit, with not one but two stamps of approval by the Estate of Andy Warhola nd the Andy Warhol Foundation. With all the "pop" art (nice pun) out there of Michael Jackson, why is this piece so important? It was made in 1984 (my birth year, fancy that?) after the wild success of his Thriller video. It features a green background with Michael in a red shirt. Time Magazine commissioned the portrait for a March 1984 issue cover, that included a yellow background. It's a warming piece of Michael's history, depicting him at the height of his career in a way we all wish to remember him, smiling and entertaining.

It's hard to say at what price the bidding will end, but I know it'll be far from $800,000. The most ever paid for a Warhol piece was $71.7 million for “Green car crash - Green burning car”.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shedding A New Concept

Many people probably have the same picture in mind when they think of an art gallery. White walls, hardwood floors, wide open spaces. Focus on the art not on the place right? Well over in Berlin, Germany, the largest city in the country has just opened the smallest gallery in the country. And what better to call this 1.5 square meter sized gallery but The Smallery.

The Smallery is a small, purpose-built garden shed that manages to fit 24 pieces of art in its space. All of the pieces are small, like the space. The concept of The Smallery comes from PULK Berlin, a creative network team of professionals working on advertising, design, architecture and more. The Smallery's first exhibition opened this past Saturday, featuring pieces by internationally successful illustrators from NY, Toronto, L.A., Barcelona, Hamburg, Munich, Vegby, Sweden, and Berlin (obvi). The Smallery is sitting on one of the last empty pieces of land in the city.

If you don't plan on visiting Berlin this month, you can still get your hands on one of the pieces being shown. All pieces are going to be reproduced in 50 high-quality prints and available for a great deal of 30 Euro (X1.4 =$42 USD).

I firmly believe the Euros get it right everytime. Take out the overhead of a large space and make it pint size and intimate. The idea of the Smallery makes me want to clear the Miracle Grow out of my backyard shed and throw an art party. Granted your max capacity is going to be small, and might cause some long lines if the Smallery turns out to be popular (which I have every belief it will be), the best clubs are always hard to get into, right?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Annie Get Your Checkbook

If you have ever picked up an issue of Vanity Fair magazine, chances are you've seen photographer Anne Leibovitz's work. Between the infamous nude photograph of a pregnant Demi Moore to a young promiscuous looking Miley Cyrus, and who could forget the first photos of Tom and Katie Cruise's daughter Suri (that hair, those eyes!), Anne has taken some serious shots in her day. Her career started in the 70s with the Rolling Stones and she's still hot today with a recent book "At Work" making best-seller lists everywhere. NYT's describes her work at best saying, "Her pictures do not denigrate or disparage. Instead they document the celebrity circus with an acutely literal vision, submitting the famous to playfully acrobatic postures and various acts of clownishness."

However, being good with the camera doesn't translate to being good with the finances. Leibovitz is facing serious money troubles. Art Capital Group has sued the famous photographer over a sales agreement and a 24 million dollar loan. The loan was initially taken out for "tax liens, mortgages and unpaid bills." Leibovitz pledged collateral for this loan and faces the possibility of losing her Civil War-era town houses in Greenwich Village, a home in upstate New York and the rights to decades of her work. Her archives are valued at over 50 mil and Art Capital Group is already shopping the rights around.

Leibovitz isn't know for luxuries in her personal life and the extravagances (elephants anyone) required for many of her shoots are paid for by the employers and publications. So why the need for such a big loan? Noone from Leibovitz's camp has comments on this, so we're stuck without answers.

Finance troubles seem to always loom over the art world, especially professional artists. It takes more than just a camera (and probably a very very very expensive fancy schmancy camera) to take those photographs we see in the checkout aisle at Acme. It takes staff, equipment, space, processing, time, energy, all of which aren't free. It's unfortunate that a successful photographer, Leibovitz, who commands tens of thousands of dollars for a shoot is in this sort of predicament. Maybe she should take my mother's advice, "Don't spend beyond your means." 24 mil is alot of means though...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Wild Things Lurk In Philly

“That’s the best fun in all of this—the layers of meaning, the layers of storytelling.”- Maurice Sendak
I don't think anyone in our generation hasn't been on an adventure with Max in his wolf costume through the wild forest conquering the "wild things" by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, was a staple in our household, my brother's favorite ( I even bought him a t-shirt with the cover illustration on it for his 21st birthday last year) and was read over and over and over again. So many people enjoy this story that Mr. Spike Jonzes made a feature film of the book, which is supposedly hitting theatres this October.

But enough with the movie talk, since we've already got Lorax on our to-do list. Maurice Sendak is one of the most famous illustrators/authors of our time, having over 80 books to his name and winning almost every children's literature award . As much as the story of the Wild Things was entertaining, it was the whimsical and large illustrations that captured your imagination. But where are all of these manuscripts, drawings and illustrations? I found out today, they aren't too far away at Philadelphia's Rosenback Museum of Art. Sendak chose the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, PA to be the repository for his work in the early 1970s thanks to shared literary and collecting interests. His collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, manuscripts, books and ephemera, has been the subject of many exhibitions at the Rosenbach and has been enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

Unfortunately, we all missed a huge exhibition of his works, There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak (which I believe is heading to San Fran) , however, a new show of Maurice's illustrations, A Sendakian Sample: Drawings A to z,. This exhibition features 26 different themes (as in the 26 letters of the alphabet, duh), from Acrobatics for A and Zilch for Z. Something is featured from almost all 80 of his books and offers great insight into the themes that ties his works together. It's only on view through September 13th, so be sure not to miss. On that note, I think I might have some Chicken Soup with Rice for lunch today.