The Arts

There are plans to legally restrict the export of some paintings from Germany, and so far the proposed policy is not working out well.  Collectors are rushing to take their loans off museum walls and get them out of the country, or hold them incognito.

The law would apply to works of historical importance more than fifty years old, worth more than 150,000 euros, and judged by regional boards to be of historic importance.  It is interesting which works may fall under this designation:

In one interview, she [Germany’s culture minister] raised the prospect that foreign works could be classified as national treasures. For example, she said the Warhol silk-screens of Elvis Presley and Marlon Brando that were sold by the state-owned casino were “emblematic” of the collecting history of the Rhineland.

Apparently Gerhardt Richter is a hard-core libertarian, like most other painters, because he asserted: “No one has the right to tell me what I do with my images.”

For the pointer I thank Cyril Morong, a loyal MR reader.

The book is Crazy Rich Asians, and the author is Kevin Kwan, who grew up in Singapore and also Texas.  It is a fun and popular “beach read” in its own right, but also more subtle and sociologically intriguing if you know a bit about Singapore.  I found it difficult to put down and it even made me laugh in a few places, which few novels do.  By the way, the female protagonist is an economics professor at NYU.

Here is one excerpt:

“Every time any Asian guy so much as looks in your direction, you give them the famous Rachel Chu Asian freeze-out and they wither away before you give them a chance…Honestly you are the most self-loathing Asian I have ever met.”

[the protagonist, Rachel] “What do you mean? I’m not self-loathing at all.  How about you?  You’re the one who married the white guy.”

“Mark’s not white, he’s Jewish — that’s basically Asian!  At least I dated a lot of Asian guys in my time.”

Singapore is the only place I know where you can meet someone who has an economics degree from Stanford, and have her tell you that she has a liberal arts background.

Anyway, I recommend this book to about one-quarter of you.

Yesterday I was visiting Kinokuniya, the largest bookstore in Singapore.  I asked the literature specialist which Singaporean novels I should buy.  Without irony he responded “I don’t know, for literature we are a small provincial backwater.”  But I hope that is wrong.  And after all, he didn’t mention Crazy Rich Asians to me.

But I have a question for you, dear readers — which are the Singaporean literary works to buy, read, and perhaps reread?  Amanda Lee Koe?  How about Alfian Sa’at?  Oddly enough, or perhaps appropriately enough, he published a famous poem “Singapore You Are Not My Country,” well-written, far too negative in my view but at least he mentioned easy access to all the MRT stops and also seems to understand the difference between gnp and gdp.

Please leave your Singaporean literature recommendations in the comments.

Catalonian Roark

by on July 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm in The Arts, Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

Gaudi was so self-assured and committed to executing his designs without intervention from clients or bureaucrats that he ignored not only criticism but building codes. The municipal architect Rovira i Trias refused to approve the plans for the Palau Guell; Casa Calvert was higher than regulations allowed; work on Casa Batillo was halted as it had begun without authorization; the dimensions of Casa Mila exceeded permitted limits, and a column at street level blocked pedestrian traffic. Unfazed by these issues, the architect responded in each case by confronting the authorities. It must be said that government officials ultimately celebrated his excesses and made exceptions to accomodate Gaudi’s designs.

From Gaudi of Barcelona.

gaudi1

Does that blog post header meet the standards of Buzzfeed?  Not long ago I was asked this question in connection with a talk, but I didn’t have time to answer it:

Suppose you had a time machine you that you solely wanted to use for financial gain. You can bring one item from the present back to any point in the past to exchange for another item that people of that time would consider of equal value, then bring that new item back to the present. To what time period would you go, and what items would you choose to maximize your time-travel arbitrage?

The obvious answer encounters some difficulties upon reflection.  Let’s say I brought gold back in time and walked into the studio of Velazquez, or some other famous painter, and tried to buy a picture for later resale in the present.  At least some painters would recognize and accept the gold, and gold is highly valuable and easy enough to carry around.  Some painters might want the gold weighed and assayed, but even there the deal would go fine.

The problem is establishing clear title to the painting, once you got back home.  It wouldn’t turn up on any register as stolen, but still you would spend a lot of time talking to the FBI and Interpol.  The IRS would want to know whether this was a long-term or short-term capital gain, and you couldn’t just cite Einstein back to them.  They also would think you must have had a lot of unreported back income.

So here are a few options:

1. Find an artwork which can be marketed through the right private dealer, who will not ask too many questions.  Of course that means it will sell for much less, without reliable provenance, even if it appears to be fully real and indeed is fully real.  Furthermore depositing the check still will raise a lot of questions and invite a lot of scrutiny.

2. Find an artwork you might have some plausible path for owning, yet without paper record.  Would that mean visiting de Kooning and, upon your return to the present, claiming that Papa gave it to you right before he passed on?  That is still inviting lots of scrutiny and perhaps a polygraph as well.  Plus other people, still alive, knew Papa and know he didn’t have contact with de Kooning, and wasn’t holding “Excavation” up in the attic.

3. Search out a class of artworks for which provenance is a more or less meaningless concept.  But even then, you still need some story for how you came upon the work and how you could afford it.

OK, given all of this, what should you do?  I do not, of course, recommend hiring someone to forge the provenance papers.

Roberto Ferdman reports:

Ratner has a new study titled ‘Inhibited from Bowling Alone,’ a nod to Robert Putnam’s book about Americans’ waning participation in group activities, that’s set to publish in the Journal of Consumer Research in August. In it, she and co-writer Rebecca Hamilton, a professor marketing at the McDonough School of Business, describe their findings: that people consistently underestimate how much they will enjoy seeing a show, going to a museum, visiting a theater, or eating at a restaurant alone. That miscalculation, she argues, is only becoming more problematic, because people are working more, marrying later, and, ultimately, finding themselves with smaller chunks of free time.

Might part of the problem be narcissism?:

“The reason is we think we won’t have fun because we’re worried about what other people will think,” said Ratner. “We end up staying at home instead of going out to do stuff because we’re afraid others will think they’re a loser.”

But other people, as it turns out, actually aren’t thinking about us quite as judgmentally or intensely as we tend to anticipate. Not nearly, in fact. There’s a long line of research that shows how consistently and regularly we overestimate others’ interest in our affairs.

There is more here.  For the pointer I thank Claire Morgan.

I’m passing through Baltimore on the train today (a talk at U. Penn and chatting with Ashok Rao), so I have license to do this.  Here goes:

1. Author: There is plenty to choose from here, including Poe, James Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Frank O’Hara, and H.L. Mencken.  I do not love F. Scott Fitzgerald as many do, same with Upton Sinclair, but they deserve mention.  I’ll opt for Poe, with Gold-Bug as my favorite story.  Hammett’s Red Harvest I also enjoy and have taught a few times, delicious incoherence.  Anne Tyler has a few good books, but stop reading after one or two of them.

2. Philosopher: John Rawls, though since we’re talking about Baltimore I feel I should call him Jack.

3. Painter: Morris Louis or Grace Hartigan?  I feel I can do better, help out people.

4. Popular music: Tori Amos grew up in Baltimore, I like her Little Earthquakes and various singles, live cuts, and cover versions, available only in scattered form as far as I know.  Is Dan Deacon popular?  Frank Zappa is a remarkable musical talent, but I don’t actually enjoy listening to him.

5. Jazz: Eubie Blake, there is also Bill Frisell and Billie Holiday.

6. Classical music: Philip Glass was born there, though I associate him with NYC.

7. Baseball: I still remember that old Orioles rotation with Cuellar, McNally, Palmer, and Dobson, all twenty-game winners in the same year.

8. Soviet spy: Alger Hiss.

9. Movie, set in: I don’t love Diner or Avalon, how about The Accidental Tourist, or Twelve Monkeys?  The first half of Silence of the Lambs is excellent.

For good measure toss in Thurgood Marshall, Tim Page, Babe Ruth, The Wire, Walters Art Museum, the underrated BSO, and Brooks Robinson.  Who or what else am I forgetting?

The bottom line: Lots for one city!  Let’s hope it gets better soon.

*Those Who Write for Immortality*

by on April 19, 2015 at 3:03 am in Books, History, The Arts | Permalink

Joshua Rothman writes in The New Yorker about a new book by H.J. Jackson, on the romantic poets:

Truly long-term literary endurance depends, Jackson writes, on “regular reinterpretation,” and, for that to happen, your writing has to be rich and multi-dimensional. That doesn’t mean, though, that other factors can’t help it along. Thanks to Wordsworth’s liberal, politically active youth, biographers were able to keep discovering previously-unknown political episodes in his early life; that allowed them to keep publishing controversial biographies, which kept him in the public eye long after his death. That distinction between youth and age was also useful for professors: it allowed them to keep arguing over who was better, the “early” or “late” Wordsworth. Even without all these factors, Jackson concedes, Wordsworth’s poetry would still be read today, especially in universities—but academic study alone could never have given him the high cultural profile that he enjoys now. “To sum up,” she writes, Wordsworth’s fame “is due to a concatenation of circumstances, most of which Wordsworth himself could not have foreseen, most of which he would have objected to if he could have foreseen them, and most of which had little to do with the communication of eternal truths.”

You can order the book here, the subtitle is Romantic Reputations and the Dream of Lasting Fame.

I will be speaking at the Voice and Exit Festival in Austin, Texas, June 20-21. Voice and Exit is like a TED conference on steroids, an edgier, more radical TED. It looks like a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.

Here is a bit from V&A:

imageWe assemble those who ask: What are the systems and ways of life that are holding us back? What can we create to make those old ways obsolete? What innovations enable us to find wellbeing, life meaning and stronger connection to others? How can we live intentionally today so as to create that better future? Voice & Exit is an environment of exploration where we “criticize by creating” a better world.

I think there are three which stand above all the others:

1. The Ardabil carpet, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.  Here is one on-line image, here is an excerpt.  I find this angle useful, but nothing compares to the real thing.

2. The “Tree Carpet” in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

3. Jagdteppich (“Hunting carpet”), Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna.  Here is one excerpt.  Try this too.  Here is a full length view.

Those are the three best, or so it seems to me.

ardabil

The YouTube version is here, the podcast version is here.

I was very happy with how it turned out, as I deliberately set out not to copy the content of any of Peter’s other dialogues.  You can learn how he thinks we will leave the “great stagnation,” whether the AI hype is justified, how he would boil his thought down to the smallest number of dimensions, whether NYC is over- or underrated, why globalization is likely to decline and what that means for different regions, the parts of the Bible which have influenced him most, “the Straussian Jesus,” to what age he thinks he will live, why Japan is special, how his German background matters, his favorite opening chess move, how and why company names matter, and even his favorite TV show, which he calls “schlocky.”

And much, much more, with commentary and questions from me throughout.  A transcript is being prepared as well.

That is the topic of my new column for The Upshot.  Here is one excerpt:

Higher prices also skew the customer mix toward wealthier and thus older people, who exert less influence over the purchasing decisions of their peers. They are less likely to text about a concert, put it on their Facebook pages or talk up its reputation to dozens of friends at parties. The younger buyers are usually the ones who make places trendy, thus many sellers use lower prices, with lines if need be, to lure in those individuals and cultivate their loyalties.

The next time you are waiting in line, take consolation in the fact that otherwise you might not have heard of the opportunity in the first place. If we see a line at a club, restaurant or movie, we figure something interesting is going on there, and so lines have become a driver of publicity.

Income inequality also may be encouraging sellers to use lines to better segment the market. The rich line-jump by buying Museum of Modern Art memberships, to see special exhibits before they open, while others line up. Restaurateurs give regular customers prime tables, especially if they are good tippers and order expensive wines, while others can’t get a reservation after 5:30 or before 11 p.m. This may seem unfair, but it extracts higher prices from those able to pay the most for New York’s cultural institutions and restaurants. In fact, the inconvenience of the line helps sell the more expensive line-jumping package to those who don’t have the time or the patience to wait.

Do read the whole thing.  There is also this part:

Waiting a bit can also make people more patient, by removing their attention from the immediate here and now and stretching out their time horizons. Some of these positive effects of waiting have been studied by Professors Xianchi Dai of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago in their paper “When Waiting to Choose Increases Patience.”

There’s also evidence that people value some things more if they have to wait for them. Provided it does not dominate your daily life, a bit of waiting can help create a special experience or memory. The people who wait in line for new iPhones rarely need the product immediately. Waiting in line binds them to a community and demonstrates their commitment.

The waiting also heightens the value of anticipation and makes the product seem more exciting. A world where there is nothing to wait in line for is arguably a less interesting place.

Seattle Art Museum and New England’s Clark Art Institute are wagering temporary loans of major paintings based on the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. The masterpieces that have been anted up showcase the beautiful landscapes of the Northwest and the Northeast respectively.
The article is here, more here, and for the pointer I thank Chris F. Masse.

Happy New Year!

by on January 1, 2015 at 12:50 am in Economics, History, The Arts, Uncategorized | Permalink

Cubapainting

The piece is by Ibrahim Miranda.  Here is a painting by Ruperto Jay Matamoros, my favorite Cuban painter.  Here are further paintings by Matamoros.  Here is an on-line gallery of Cuban art.

Here is how a travel boom might affect the Cuban art scene.

Merry Christmas

by on December 25, 2014 at 12:18 am in History, Religion, The Arts | Permalink

birthofjesus

Christmas Eve

by on December 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm in History, The Arts, Uncategorized | Permalink

Christmaseve