Vancouver From False Creek

July 30, 2008

“Vancouver from False Creek” (2008), photographic diptych, each image 16″ x 20″

Vilhelm Hammershoi

July 27, 2008

Thanks to the Royal Academy of Arts, I have discovered a new artist to explore.

Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916) was a Danish artist, inspired by Vermeer and Whistler.

Hammershøi’s most compelling works are his quiet, haunting interiors, their emptiness disturbed only occasionally by the presence of a solitary, graceful figure, often the artist’s wife. Painted within a small tonal range of implied greys, these sparsely-furnished rooms exude an almost hypnotic quietude and sense of melancholic introspection.

In addition to the interiors, the exhibition also includes Hammershøi’s arresting portraits, landscapes and his evocative city views, notably the deserted streets of London on a misty winter morning.

I’m going to enjoy this exploration, I just know it.

Northern Wheat

July 27, 2008

“Northern Wheat” (2008), acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 24″

Mixed Emotions As Both Tour and Basho End

July 27, 2008

The Tour de France ended about fifteen minutes ago.  And the summer basho in Nagoya finished just a fdew hours ago.  The men I had championed, Valverde and Kotooshu respectively, didn’t win.  In fact, both disappointed if truth be told.  But both events themselves lived up to pre-tournament hype.

The Tour, in particular, was more exciting than for many years past.  There were seven changes of the yellow jersey over the three weeks and the winner was in serious doubt right up until Carlos Sastre survived the Individual Time Trial yesterday.  Today was the typical parade into Paris, so Sastre takes the final yellow jersey and the overall win by about a minute.   One of the revelations for me has been Bernhard Kohl, who took the King of the Mountains title by a distance, and almost surprised everyone by his speed in the Time Trial.

Alejandro Valverde finished 9th, about 7 minutes down.   He was well-hyped for a podium finish and I thought he had a real shot at the final yellow.  He won the opeing stage with a terrific acceleration in the final sprint and I thought we were well set.  But he never seemed aggressive enough, never made the running, and when he lost time in the Pyrennees his chance was gone.   He did well in the Alps but, once again, his lack of aggression cost him dear in my opinion.  I wonder if he will be racing the Huelta?

In Nagoya, Hakuho powered his way to a 15-0 record in winning his seventh Emperor’s Cup.  In the final contest last night, he comprehensively defeated my man Kotooshu, bringing the ozeki to a lackluster 9-6 record.  Kotooshu won the basho in May and would have expected promotion to yokozuna, sumo’s highest rank, had he won back-to-back victories.  Now, he has to discipline himself for a much longer wait.

Ama continued his streak. His 10-5 was his sixth winning record in a row and he continues to generate crowd support and decent kensho bundles.  He was awarded the basho‘s Technique Prize for the fourth time in his career.

I didn’t get to see as much of this basho as I would have liked.  However, it is clear that there are a number of excellent young rikishi — eastern Europeans among them — who are beginning to break into the rankings.  I suspect we will see a number of the veterans forced out of the Makuuchi ranks over the next year or so.  These newbies are aggressive and want to grab the top spots as quickly as possible.  It makes for exciting watching!

Art For Sale

July 26, 2008

It used to be that direct sales of paintings by artists conjured up either the tawdry image of TV ads shouting “Canvases from $12!  Genuine oils!” or the quaint amateur airs of the county fair, eager watercolors in a small tent.  It used to be, but Damien Hirst is about to change all that.

In a move designed to shake the very foundations of the artist – agent/gallery connection that has driven the business for so long, Damien Hirst’s factory-like enterprise has assigned an entire suite of new works to Sotheby’s in London for exhibition and sale.

Hirst is said to regard the step of offering new material at auction as a logical development in his career but the broader implications of his decision are profound. It is widely known that auction houses have courted the emerging markets of China and India. Leading names without a firm gallery representation in London or New York have been encouraged to consign works to its catalogues. Furthermore, artists such as Jeff Koons and David Hammons have, in exceptional circumstances, placed new or historic work in auctions in order to maximise value or circumvent a dealer obligation.

But Hirst has crossed the market’s Rubicon with a gambit which opens a new front for an admittedly very special situation: an artist with brand name recognition and a factory enterprise capable of producing a completely new series of seasonal variations to order. At a stroke, the judicious management of an artist’s career by an agent who identifies which favoured collectors will be permitted to acquire material in conditions of secrecy gives way to the triumph of the highest bidder on the public stage. Now that Damien has demolished the moral barrier of using auctions for distribution and profit, other artists will follow suit.

The centerpiece of the show — entitled “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever — in September will be “The Golden Calf” which is estimated at $16m to $25m.

I’ve written before of my serious distaste for Hirst and his works, but he has certainly done remarkably well for himself.  Well enough that he could pay $33m for a Francis Bacon self portrait last November, and follow it up with a $3m Koons doodad this February.  All purchases again through Sothebys, who have become in effect his gallery.

Horseshoe Bay I

July 26, 2008

It was easy to find tranquility at Horseshoe Bay today.  The village wasn’t crowded, but there were enough people around to make it sociable.  Three big ferries came and went while we were there but it easy to ignore them.  The kayakers, canoeists and small boaters were far too interesting.  It was calm, everywhere was calm.  It was delicious.

We had planned to come to Horseshoe Bay with the intention of eating a way-too-big fish supper at Trolls.  However, after stopping off at Sophies Cosmic Cafe for breakfast on the way, we were way-too-full to eat.  We eventually left without eating, drove home, and happily slurped noodle soups many hours later.

Bye Bye Pee-Wee

July 26, 2008

The day that TV died was seventeen years ago today.   It was on July 26 1991 that Paul Reubens was arrested in the South Trail XXX Cinema in Sarasota, Florida.  From that day forward there would be no more Pee-wee’s Playhouse shows on Saturday mornings.  No more Magic Screen or Reba the Mail Lady.  No more Chairry and no more Conky.   Prurient cops with nothing better to do stripped us of our innocent weekend pleasures.   It just hasn’t been the same since.