Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Art Miscellaney

Louis Comfort Tiffany and Edward Kienholz. What do these two have to do with one another? Well, nothing, actually. Tiffany was an early 20th century stained glass designer and interior decorator. Kienholz was a late 20th century cutting-edge sculptor famous for his surrealistic tableau's involving controversial social comment. Two more totally different artists would be hard to imagine. What brings them side by side is how the modern day art world "handles" their work--or as Paul Harvey might have said, the rest of the Story.

The art world thrives on the buying and selling of work by famous artists, often at exorbitant prices. But what happens when there is simply no work to be sold? In Tiffany's case, anyone who has any is hanging onto it. Consequently, there is a shortage of Tiffany collectibles (lamps, etc.), which means there are tons of fakes being manufactured at an alarming rate. Collectors are gambling on them and losing. The rest of his stuff is all in museums, or churches, or mausoleums, which is where the plot thickens. It seems a former adviser to the FBI and Christie's auction house was arrested several years ago for receiving a 9-foot Tiffany stained glass window stolen from a Brooklyn cemetery mausoleum. He bought it for $60,000 (a real steal) and sold it to a Japanese collector for $219,000. An accomplice, the grave robber, was also arrested. He commented that stealing stained glass from mausoleums was easy because there is little security. The thief also had in mind another stained glass heist in Westchester County, but his buyer turned it down because it wasn't big enough and didn't have enough trees.

Back Seat Dodge '38, 1964, Edward Kienholz
One of the hallmarks of Edward Kienholz (pronounced KEEN-holtz) work is that it often deals with somewhat explicit sexual content (often somewhat more than "somewhat"). The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a Kienhlz piece titled Back Seat Dodge '38. It depicts a drunken couple embracing in the back seat of a car, said to be representative of the artist's first sexual encounter. Though quite controversial when first displayed by the museum in 1966, for thirty-three years, the tableau was part of LACMA's permanent collection.

However, in 1999, a volunteer tour guide was leading a group of fifth grade girls from an elementary school through the museum. What do you say about such a piece to ten preadolescents, more than a little curious about the artist and his work? The docent explained the display and ended by telling the group: " only get one first sexual experience so think before you act. Make it meaningful, make it special, make it beautiful." For her tasteful attempt at mixing morality, sex education, and art, she was fired. In her defense, the volunteer said she was merely following an approved script in describing the work. She fought her dismissal, demanding her job back and an apology. The fine arts community reacted fiercely. She got both. At least no one has tried to steal the thing. I wonder if there is a black market for '38 Dodges?

No comments:

Post a Comment