Art Snapshot: The Observer Picks the Art World’s Top Ten Stories of the Week

Even outside the huge Basel Art Fair, there was a lot going on in the art world this week: A flurry of criticism for the Brooklyn Museum, Thomas Kinkade gets a DUI, and Jeff Koons’ art car breaks. With Damien Hirst looking to displace puppies and Sotheby’s selling off Polaroid’s collection, this was a week of artists and art institutions getting into trouble.

1. Sotheby’s Controversial Polaroid Sale Begins

Lehman Brothers isn’t the only company selling its art collection to pay back creditors. On June 21 and 22, Polaroid will auction off its renowned and historically important collection of photographs-estimated to fetch $7.5 to $11.5 million-despite legal battles and protests from artists. NPR takes a look at the works up for sale.

Our take: This didn’t have to happen and shouldn’t have. That said, if we had $6000 to spare, we’d go for the diptych Andy Sneezing.
[Observer, The Art Newspaper, NPR]   

2. Thomas Kinkade Gets a DUI
Thomas Kinkade, the self-proclaimed (and hugely successful) “Painter of Light” known for the bucolic, saccharine landscape paintings that adorn dentist office and retirement home walls across the nation, was arrested for driving while intoxicated and spent the night in Monterey County Jail.

Our take: Any day the man’s away from his paintbrushes is a public service.  And, as far as embarrassing headlines go, this one’s way better than the 2006 report that he once relieved himself on a Winnie the Pooh figure while remarking, “This one’s for you, Walt.”
[The Sacramento Bee, The Los Angeles Times]

3. Brooklyn Museum Under Fire
A New York Times article on low attendance at the Brooklyn Museum and the arguable failure of its “populist” programming sparked intense web debate this week. Artinfo called for the resignation of Director Arnold Lehman after a 13-year tenure, while Museum Nerd defended the museum, arguing visitor demographics are more important than attendance. Lee Rosenbaum took a thoughtful, in-depth look and Lehman himself responded to the hubbub in a video interview on her Culturegrrl site.

Our take: The Museum had made some questionable choices, and offering the winner of the reality show Work of Art a solo show is just the latest of them.
[New York Times, Artinfo, Museum Nerd, CultureGrrl]

4. Michelangelo’s encoded anatomical drawings
Two Johns Hopkins neuroscientists believe Michelangelo hid detailed anatomical sketches in his famous Sistine Chapel frescos as a coded attack on the Catholic Church.

Our take: Someone needs to put a moratorium on The Da Vinci Code at Johns Hopkins Med School.

5. Caravaggio’s Bones Found
A group of Italian researchers concluded Wednesday that bones exhumed from a Tuscan crypt last year are those of Baroque artist Caravaggio, who died mysteriously in 1610. Although anthropologists confirmed the artist did suffer from syphilis, analysis indicates he most likely died from lead or sun poisoning.

Our take: Let’s get this straight. A guy who brawled in bars, killed his tennis opponent, and dodged assassination attempts died from either using too much lead paint or being outside too much?

6. Damien Hirst Eyes London Museum
Damien Hirst and architect Mike Randall put in a bid to convert the Magazine, a 19th-century Hyde Park munitions store currently used as a dog pound, into a museum for the artist’s personal collection. Admission would be free, with one notable exception: Viewers who wish to see Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull For the Love of God will pay a fee. Because he doesn’t have enough money already.

Our take: The artist, well-known for both hubris and inventiveness, gets points for innovation. But is he exhibiting For the Love of God because it never sold, or because no institution he doesn’t own wants to show it?

7. Jeff Koons’ “Art Car” Breaks Down
Jeff Koons’ garishly striped BMW “Art Car” premiered at the 24-hour Le Mans race on Monday, June 14, only to putter out after five hours. The car lost momentum early in the race due to a punctured tire, and then mysteriously ran out of fuel on the circuit.

Our take: This is so embarrassing for BMW that it might finally put an end to the PR trick of hiring artists to design cars, wine bottles or watches to get a brand publicity. We hope.
[Transom, Times Live]

8. The History of (Net) Art

Hyperallergic chronicled the growth of net art and social media from 2004 to the present in an illuminating three part series (and includes a shout-out to the Observer‘s coverage of the Facebook phenomenon).

Our take: Who knew artist Michael Mandiberg sold all his possessions on a “performative e-commerce site” a year before eBay bought Paypal?
[Hyperallergic, Observer]

9. Jesus Statue Destroyed by Act of God?

A striking, 62-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ in Monroe, Ohio—nicknamed “Touchdown Jesus” due to the figure’s resemblance to a referee designating a touchdown—was struck by lightning on Monday, June 14, igniting both a fire that destroyed the locally loved statue and much Internet buzz.

Our take: According to The Washington Post, the pastor told the residents of a home for at-risk women next door “Jesus took a hit for you tonight,” and pledged to rebuild the statue.  If The Lord was just being an art critic, we’ve got some better targets for him in Chelsea.
[Daily Mail, The Washington Post]

 10. Modigliani Sculpture Sets Record in France
A Modigliani limestone head sold at Christie’s in Paris for $53 million, more than ten times the low estimate. The sculpture is the most expensive artwork ever to sell at auction in France.

Our take: Past a certain price, these sums are all pretty inconceivable, but the French still have a ways to go to match the 2006 sale of Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, which went for a whopping $140 mil.

Art Snapshot: The Observer Picks the Art World’s Top Ten Stories of the Week