Art News Headlines: May 16, 2011


Two pages from Marc Chagall’s sketchbook

Previously unseen sketches by Russian artist Marc Chagall, featuring intimate and moving images of his wife and principal muse, the writer Bella Rosenfeld, have emerged from a private collection for auction. After his wife’s tragic death in 1944, the grieving Chagall kept her notebook, illustrating in it for the next 20 years, sketching on the blank pages and surrounding Bella’s writings with colorful and moving posthumous portraits of the two of them together. The 85-page notebook, which Chagall illustrated between 1944 and 1965 while he spent time living in New York and the south of France, also includes several self-portraits. Described as “unique” by experts, the intact collection is extremely rare as Chagall dismantled most of his sketchbooks and sold drawings individually. It has been in private hands since the artist gave it to a collector in 1965 and is expected to fetch up to £600,000 when auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York next month.

In other art news, scholars, artists and students all across the globe can now enjoy free access to online images of millions of pieces of art housed in Yale‘s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University recently enabled. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through its newly developed collective catalog. The goal of this generous new policy? Simply put, to literally make Yale’s extensive collection of high quality works available for public enjoyment. In a departure from established convention, no license will be required for the transmission of the images and no limitations will be imposed on their use. The result is that people all over the world can access these stock photos for study, publication, teaching and inspiration.

Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli

The same part of your brain that gets excited when you have romantic thoughts is stimulated when you stare at great works of beauty, researchers have discovered. Viewing art triggers a surge of the feel-good chemical, dopamine, into the orbito-frontal cortex of the brain, resulting in feelings of intense pleasure. Dopamine and the orbito-frontal cortex are both known to be involved in desire and affection—it is a powerful affect often associated with romantic love and drug usage. In a series of pioneering brain-mapping experiments, Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, scanned the brains of volunteers as they looked at 28 pictures. They included The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, Bathing at La Grenouillere by Claude Monet and Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral. Zeki found that upon viewing these great works of art, blood flow increased in areas of the brain usually associated with romantic love. Previous research has shown that art can reduce suffering in a hospital and lead to speedier recoveries from ill health. In other words? Art is good for you—although we didn’t need an official study to know this.

German-born photographer Gunter Sachs, most well known for his playboy lifestyle and brief marriage to French actress Brigitte Bardot, has committed suicide. He was 78. In a statement released at his request, Sachs said he chose to end his life after concluding that he was suffering from an incurable degenerative disease affecting his memory and ability to communicate. Born in 1932, Sachs used his inheritance and business expertise to fund a glamorous lifestyle that fascinated many in post-war Germany of the 1960s and 70s—many tabloids reported on his friendship with such artists as Andy Warhol. He eventually went on to make a name for himself as a photographer, documentary filmmaker and art collector. Sachs is survived by Bardot, to whom he was married from 1966-1969, his third wife Mirja Larsson, and a total of three children.

Recognized as the fourth artist to ever be invited by the Grand Palais in Paris to create a piece for the annual Monumenta exhibition, Britain-based artist Anish Kapoor is featuring monumental sculptural display called Leviathan in the vast, glass-roofed central nave. This achievement marks the first time the artist has enjoyed a show in France in over 30 years. The gigantic sculpture, which is meant to be walked through, first blinds it’s visitors by a momentary blackout—then pushes them into a warm womb-like cavity bathed in red light. According to Art News Daily, the experience can only be equated to being “swallowed by a whale.” Previously recognized for such exhibitions as his famed Sky Mirror in New York, Kapoor commented, “It’s fabulous. It’s a challenging space and that’s the main motivation for me.”

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.