Art News Headlines: October 17, 2010

Stephen Pace, Pace House

Stephen Pace, whose exuberant style applied Abstract Expressionist scale and directness to figurative painting, died on September 23rd in an assisted-living center in New Harmony, Indiana. He was 91. Katharina Rich Perlow, his New York dealer since 1985, confirmed that the cause of death was pneumonia. Having studied at the Art Students League in 1947, Pace was met with considerable success as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist in the early 1950s. He was known especially for his dark, enthusiastically worked abstractions realized through a unique blend of drawing, brushwork, and staining. Throughout his lifetime, Mr. Pace served as an instructor at several institutions including Pratt Institute, Bard College and American University. By the mid 1960s, the artist began to adopt a more representational style, drawing on themes from his farmyard childhood. The result was more Post-Impressionism than Abstract Expressionism, and was inspired by the likes of Avery and Matisse.

Suspected art forger Wolfgang Beltracchi is currently in police custody on charges of forging masterpieces and passing them off as legitimate—a scandal that is ricocheting the art world, as the fakes are so convincing that many have been auctioned off for millions at such esteemed houses as Christie’s. Over 30 paintings sold in recent years have been discovered to be forgeries, an extremely startling statistic, especially considering the stringent and scrutinized expert analysis that accompanied each piece before it was put up for auction. This news is being met with gripping fear among buyers all over the globe. Many collectors are even seeking refunds on unquestionably authentic works. Among the forgeries that duped experts and collectors are paintings passed off as works by Max Ernst, Raoul Dufy, and Heinrich Campendon, among others.

Pablo Picasso, Nu couché à l’oiseau, 1968, oil on canvas, 130 x 195 cm, Ludwig Donation, 2001

The Musee Picasso in Paris is undergoing a $28 million renovation, and Americans get to benefit from it as a traveling exhibition of Picasso paintings from the artist’s personal collection opened last week at the Seattle Art Museum. “Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris” includes important paintings, drawings, sculptures and etchings by the artist and serves as a retrospective covering each notable artistic period of his remarkable eight-decade career. The traveling exhibit will also make stops at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco. Curator of modern art at the University of Virginia Art Museum Matthew Affron remarked, “The exhibit will allow people to see that he [Picasso] contributed to changing the rules of the game in every phase of his career.” The U.S. showings of the Picasso collection follow well-received stops in Finland, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, Russia.

The world has been holding its breath to witness the impact the scheduled cuts for British funding to the arts will have on museums and galleries—and we are about to find out what the exact repercussions will be. Specific cuts will be announced on Wednesday. Expected cuts of 25% to 30% are bound to have a drastic impact on museums and non-profit galleries—with expectations that there will be redundancies, fewer exhibitions and programs, reduced opening hours and smaller acquisition budgets. Mentioning that in the past, the British government has not been good enough at thanking private donors, culture minister Ed Vaizey says that he wants to see shift towards encouraging people to make private donations. Most of the art community feels that there should be better incentives, including tax breaks, in order to make this pipe dream of private giving a realistic option. The future remains to be seen, but for now, the art world anxiously waits.

Recent visitors to the Tate Modern, expecting to happily trump through 100 million hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds in a new interactive sculptural installation by artist Ai Weiwei, were sorely disappointed as they were told to look and not touch. Museum officials, after a consultation with the artist, have decided to keep the public behind a barrier after health concerns were expressed over the copious amount of ceramic dust being inhaled—the result of hundreds of feet having crunched the seeds in the opening days of the exhibition. Visitors to the museum were less than thrilled about the new arrangement, arguing with attendants and not appeased with the offer to touch a few of the seeds. The phrase “health and safety gone mad” was quickly coined among the muttering spectators. One elderly lady shamed other bystanders by even going under the tape to take a sunflower seed from under the nose of an attendant. The exhibit will be open until May of next year—it remains to be seen if Tate will give in to public demand to reopen the exhibit as it was meant to be experienced.

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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