Art News Headlines: July 1, 2010

Sotheby’s Polaroid Auction

In a day when iPhone Polaroid-style photo apps are rampant, over 1,000 photographs from the Polaroid collection archives are to go up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York City, as part of the company’s bankruptcy order. The photographs, many actual Polaroids but not all, are currently on display at the Sotheby’s building. The auction will include images by famous artists and photographers dating back to the 1940s, including many works by the esteemed Ansel Adams, who worked closely with Polaroid founder Edwin Land during his lifetime. A number of artists are infuriated at the looming auction, stating that their works were only given to Polaroid on loan and therefore should not be auctioned off to hundreds of art collectors; others say that the collection simply shouldn’t be split up. The judge responded with a “too late” verdict, retorting that the artists should have collected the photographs when Polaroid first went bankrupt eight years ago.

A Caravaggio painting known as The Taking of Christ was recently relocated in Berlin as German authorities arrested four men who were attempting to sell the masterpiece to an unnamed art buyer. The canvas was heisted from Ukraine’s Museum of Western European and Oriental Art in Odessa in July 2008. Completed in 1602, the large chiaroscuro painting depicts Jesus being taken away by Roman soldiers after having been kissed and thus betrayed by his disciple Judas. It is estimated by some to be worth as much as $100 million. Authorities believe the thieves to be a part of an international art theft ring, and as many as 20 other arrests were made in Ukraine in conjunction with the attempted illicit sale. A Baroque master from Italy, Michelangelo Caravaggio was renowned for his dramatic use of light and the depiction of ordinary people in religious and mythological scenes.

In other art news, internationally acclaimed Chinese modernist painter Wu Guanzhong died late last week in Beijing at the age of 90. The artist is remembered for blending western and Chinese elements in his black and white oil paintings, and is considered a leading figure in establishing the Chinese modern art scene. Although Wu’s paintings have become very valuable in recent years—some selling for millions—during his lifetime the artist focused more on donating art to local museums and institutions rather than selling. Wu Guanzhong gained global recognition in 1992 by becoming the first living Chinese artist to show work at the British Museum.

The National Gallery in London is opening a new exhibition on Monday called Close Examination—Fakes, Mistakes, and Discoveries which demonstrates the result of investigations by scientists and art historians in their efforts to solidify who painted what. Running through September 12, the exhibition marks the triumphs of the gallery’s scientific department, first created in 1934. Utilizing new technologies including X-rays and electronic microscopes, gallery experts are able to examine the under-drawings and brushstrokes of paintings to ascertain their authenticity.

Also dealing with art forgery in recent news, cultural anthropologist Henk Tromp has just released a book called A Real Van Gogh—How the Art World Struggles With Truth. He describes the international art world’s struggles to distinguish legitimate Van Goghs from impostors, as many paintings are debated even to this day. In his book, Tromp chronicles the journey of art expert J.B. de la Faille who tried to set the record straight after realizing that he had authorized a great number of phony Van Goghs.

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.

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