ALEXANDRIA, VA – Recent art happenings, both local and global, challenge the notion that creativity is defined exclusively by frame (coloring inside the lines) or artistic intent (thinking outside the box). Exciting new trends in art appreciation prompt reconsideration of the age old question: What is art? Beginning with the new year and new decade, On Exhibit explores the connectivity of artists paving new avenues around Port City and beyond – proving that all art is glocal.
Paraphrasing the immortal worlds of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from 1964 with respect to obscenity and pornography: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced but I know it when I see it.” Ditto for the contemporary art scene. We may not know what makes great art but we know what we like and we know it when we see it.
Art Basel is A-List Hot
Art aficionados, A-list glitterati, and soirée seekers alike flock to the annual art movers and shakers pilgrimage known as Art Basel, the profitable international scene-to-be-seen art fair held annually in Basel, Switzerland, Hong King, and Miami Beach.
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Known for showcasing works from both established giants of the more-eclectic art world as well as emerging “hot” new artists in partnership with the host city’s cultural offerings, it also has a well-earned reputation as an infamous party venue. Rappers, rock stars, celebrity chefs, athletes, dancers, entertainers, even people famous for being famous arrive in droves.
Art Basel was founded in 1970 by Swiss gallery owners Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner, and Balz Hilt. In 2002 the exhibition expanded to Miami Beach and to in Hong Kong in 2013.
The 2019, Miami Art Basel, also known as Miami Art Week, proved to be more notoriously over-the-top than ever. High-end artists and dealers are the main spectacle with socialite sightings, mass-market to elite fashion houses and bedazzled buoyed boats via lifestyle-keeper yacht brokers, to billionaires getting in on the act.
Greed is Not Good
Greed is not good. It’s glorified and glamorized. One of three triangular paintings by the late great Keith Herring sold for $850,000. Yet the value of art isn’t – or shouldn’t be – predicated singularly upon price and publicity. But it is indisputably all about perception. Perception went viral with Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian,” a banana duct-taped to the wall, on exhibit at the Perrotin Gallery booth until pulled from display the last day of the fair due to Mona Lisa smile mass hysteria and vandalism.
On December 8, New York performance artist David Datuna pulled the banana off the wall and consumed it. Datuna rebranded the piece “Hungry Artist” claiming the disruptive act “art performance by me.” The artists explained, “I love Maurizio Catellan artwork and I really love this installation. It’s very delicious.”
Social Media BananZa
Social media memes captured the momentous beginning with a parody by the Popeye’s restaurant chain affixing the riotous chicken sandwich with duct tape to a white ground. The facetious Facebook post evoked negative feedback locally, given the recent homicide provoked by an in-line dispute occurring at a Popeye’s nearby in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Even Zebra publisher Mary Wadland got caught up in the esprit d’art with an Ingeniously clever “Comedian” rendition in homage to the breaking art world newZ.
Art critics all but ignored the ignominious stunt, preferring to focus on acclaimed artists such as Hering, Shephard Fairey (Obama “Hope” poster), dynamic George Condo works on paper and in bronze, YUGE self-portrait tapestries by Cindy Sherman, and David Hammond whose white mixed-media piece went for $2.4 million on opening day. Nevertheless all three variations of “Comedian” sold collectively for just short of $400,000. Consumption of the banana did not diminish the value of the “art”. Buyers invested in the fruit for the concept, not for the fiber. Fortunately it came with a certificate of authenticity and installation instructions. The hardware and grocery expenses, to routinely replace the banana, are the responsibility of the purchasers.
Ricasso in Residence
If you like conceptual art, and even if you don’t, works of art recently auctioned in Port City at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria will tickle you pink. On December 6, Ricasso, the AWLA Artist-in-Residence, held his first solo show at the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter on Eisenhower Avenue. It was a howling success!
Rico, the six-year-old Staffordshire Terrier, aka Ricasso, presents a uniquely progressive approach to the blank canvas- painting with his tail.
Ricasso’s natural brushwork conveys an excitable, organic movement reflecting his exuberance socializing with both people and canine playmates. Quoting one anonymous AWLA “Ricasso Painting Enthusiast”, “His use of color is exquisite, especially when you consider he can’t even see the red and green end of the spectrum.”
The sold-out wine and vegan cheese FUNdraiser fetched $4,000 for the AWLA. Twenty works of art were purchased at auction in under an hour. Rico has been a shelter guest for over a year and a half. Quite the happy wagger, staff were inspired to let Rico’s creative energy find a mode of expression. This past fall Ricasso the artist was reborn. Shelter visitors admired the artwork decorating the halls and kept inquiring about purchasing the paintings. Staff quickly brainstormed a fundraising opportunity, permitting Rico to pay-it-forward helping his shelter colleagues to find their muse if not their forever homes.
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Ricasso’s masterpiece “Pinny in Technicolor” celebrates Rico’s special muse — a blue bowling chew toy named Pinny. The painting sold at auction for almost $600. Rico the pound puppy Picasso remains the official Artist-in-Residence at the AWLA, dividing his time between the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter and foster friends.
When confronting modern art, comments to the effect “ I could do that!” or “A monkey or my dog could paint better!“ are common. Paintings by elephants and more simian primates command large sums at auctions. As one Alexandria art lover noted regaling the expressionistic canine canvases on exhibit and begging to retrieve a painting at auction, “Ricasso’s work is timeless, and these paintings are sure to last through the ages,” (unlike a spoiled banana) proving that charity as well as art is in the eyes – and tail – of the beholder.
The Alexandria art scene can look forward to Rico fetching his paints, not chewing but expanding his palette to wag more, bringing his expansive brushwork to canvas and auction encore. But what Ricasso really wants to do is direct.