Mona Lisa Revealed

An exhibit entitled Joconde: From the Mona Lisa to the Nude Gioconda is on display from June 14 through September 30, 2009, at the Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci in Vinci, Italy, Leonardo’s birthplace. It features 5,000 paintings, sculpture and new media created over the past 500 years, inspired by Leonardo’s immortal portrait of Mona Lisa.

One of the paintings was recently discovered behind the paneled wall of a private library, where it was hidden for nearly a century. It is a portrait of a naked Mona Lisa, and was once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s uncle, the French ambassador to the Vatican, Cardinal Joseph Fesch.


Congressman Comments on Ronald Reagan Statue

Congressman Wally Herger, representing the people of California’s District 2, was on hand at the unveiling of the Ronald Reagan statue in the Capitol Rotunda on June 3, 2009. Below are his written comments about the event, and a video he recorded as he stood in front of the statue:

I wanted to let you know about a recent event commemorating one of California’s greatest historical figures. Yesterday, in the Capitol Rotunda, Congress dedicated a statue honoring former President Ronald Reagan. I was fortunate to have the honor of attending the ceremony.  It was a moving ceremony and I can think of no person more worthy of this tribute than President Reagan. President Reagan’s contributions to the United States include helping to end the Cold War by bringing the Soviet Union to its knees, and sparking an unprecedented era of economic growth and job creation through his support for across-the-board tax relief on the American people.

“Former First Lady Nancy Reagan delivered remarks in remembrance of her husband.  At the unveiling, Mrs. Reagan commented that it was a “wonderful likeness” of her late husband.  Leaders of both the House of Representatives and the Senate gave speeches honoring our 40th President along with his former Chief of Staff and Treasury Secretary James Baker.  The 7-foot, bronze statue contains pieces of the Berlin Wall, in recognition of his unyielding commitment to freedom everywhere.”

See Also:
Reagan Statue in National Statuary Hall Collection [Art2u; June 3, 2009]

Reagan Statue in National Statuary Hall Collection

Nancy Reagan will be on hand for the unveiling of the Ronald Reagan statue in the National Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol on Tuesday, June 3, 2009. On Monday, Mrs. Reagan was at the side of President Barack Obama as he signed the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission Act, which calls for national celebrations and educational programming to honor the 100th anniversary of the former president’s birth in 2011.

President Reagan helped as much as any president to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics, that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day,” said President Obama.

The sculpture of President Reagan is the creation of Chas Fagan. It was commissioned and paid for by the Ronald Reagan Foundation.

There are 100 sculptures in the National Statuary Hall Collection, two from each state in the Union.

Damien Hirst, Dead Cows and Cradles of Hope

“I have a really good business manager,” said Damien Hirst. “He told me a long time ago ‘You’d better make sure that you’re using the money to chase your art ideas rather than the art to chase your money ideas.’ Which is a very important thing to never forget.”

That is sound advice coming from Mr. Hirst, 44, the “most prominent member of the group known as Young British Artists” Mr. Hirst, with the help of his business manager, has become a multi-millionaire. The “art” upon which Mr. Hirst has built this fortune includes “pickled sharks, the corpse of a cow suspended from a rope, its entrails lying beneath it alongside banknotes, and the severed head of a cow covered in live, buzzing flies.” The dominant theme of his body of work (pun intended) is death.

So it is particularly sweet that Mr. Hirst has teamed with one of his biggest collectors, Victor Pinchuk, to fund a new neonatal center in Kiev, Ukraine, “Cradles of Hope.” Mr. Hirst donated $320,000 to the Victor Pinchuk Foundation for the purchase of 60 pieces of equipment used to treat babies born with extremely low birth weight. The money came from the sale in February 2009 of a painting called “Dark Days.”

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation was established in 2006 by Ukrainian billionaire industrialist Victor Pinchuk. The goal of the foundation “is to contribute to the modernization of Ukraine and to bringing up a new generation of Ukrainian leaders who are committed to serving the country.” The Foundation has six ambitious fields of focus: Health, Education, Culture, Human Rights, Ukrainian Economy, Local Community.

See Also:
Damien Hirst says crisis will stimulate artists [Reuters; April 24, 2009]
Hirst Teams with Pinchuk to Fund Ukrainian Neonatal Center [ARTINFO; April 24, 2009]
Damien Hirst [Wikipedia]
Viktor Pinchuk [Wikipedia]

Obama, Churchill, the Mau Maus and Artless Diplomacy

Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein

Sir Winston Churchill by Sir Jacob Epstein

A bronze bust of Sir Winston Churchill, created by American-born artist Sir Jacob Epstein in 1946, was loaned to the White House in 2001 by the Tony Blair administration as a symbol of the enduring special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. President George W. Bush kept the sculpture on display in the Oval Office throughout his term.

In a speech before the the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in November, 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

“Winston Churchill described the joint inheritance of Britain and America as not just a shared history but a shared belief in the great principles of freedom, and the rights of Man, of what Barack Obama described in his election night speech as the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.”

But maybe those were “words, just words” to the capacious ears of President Barack Obama. The White House curators removed the Churchill bust, put it in storage and replaced it with a bust of Abraham Lincoln. Although the British government had not asked for the return of the sculpture, they now have it back.

There is speculation that instead of admiring Sir Winston Churchill, the current US President actually holds him in disdain. It was Prime Minister Churchill who sent in troops to crush the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya in 1952. Among those who were detained and allegedly tortured was Barack Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama.

The Mau Maus were an African Nationalist group active in the 1950s, whose purpose was to remove British rule and European settlers from Kenya. The Mau Maus were terrorists, using violence and murder against non-military and non-government civilians. On December 12, 1963, Kenya became an independent nation. Amnesty was granted to the Mau Maus four days later.

See Also:
Sir Jacob Epstein
Timeline: Mau Mau Rebellion
Barack Obama sends bust of Winston Churchill on its way back to Britain [; February 14, 2009]
Churchill bust casts shadow over special relationship with the US [Times Online; January 31, 2009]
Barack Obama’s grandfather ‘tortured by the British’ during Kenya’s Mau Mau rebellion [Mail Online; December 3, 2008]

Traditional Art in an Economic Downturn

There were signs this week that the commodity value of traditional art may be adversely affected by the struggling economy. That’s what the early indicators show, even though a bronze version of Edgar Degas’ sculpture “Little Dancer” (Petite danseuse de quatorze ans) sold at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday night for a record £13.3 million ($19.2 million). The three-foot high bronze sculpture was one in an edition of 28 casts made in 1922, four years after the death of the artist. It is one of 10 left in private ownership.

But the news from Christie’s Impressionist/Modern Art auction in London Wednesday was not as bright. “Dans La Prairie,” an oil painting by Claude Monet, sold for £11,241,250 ($16,018,781). reported that the painting was projected to sell for £50 million ($72.4 million). The auction house had estimated the projected sale price at £15 million.

The auction brought in a total of £63.4 million ($91.6 million), which was higher than the revised forecast of £58.8 million ($83.7 million). Even if many of the sales figures are lower than prices paid in the recent past, in general traditional art is holding its market appeal better than contemporary art.

“In the last six months, we have seen how contemporary artists … have been struggling to find a buyer.” auctioneer Ted Owen told Forbes. “People are now looking for more traditional type of art like the impressionists or earlier forms of art, which will always maintain their value.”

See Also:
Degas Sculpture Makes Record in First Art-Market Test of 2009 (; February 4, 2009)
Monet, Modigliani, Low Estimates Boost Christie’s London Sale (; February 4, 2009)
In The Name Of Art (; February 4, 2009)

Shoe Sculpture Tossed Out

A bronze-colored fiberglass shoe sculpture erected in front of a children’s orphanage in Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, Iraq has been dismantled and thrown out a day after it was erected. The Salaheddin Provincial Joint Coordination Center ordered its removal.

Salaheddin Deputy Governor Abdullah Jabara told CNN, “We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives.”

The sculpture, which was about 12-feet high, was erected to commemorate the insulting action taken by an Iraqi journalist. During a press conference last December, the reporter took off his shoes and threw them at President George W. Bush, shouting, “This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq.”

The orphans helped to build the sculpture. “Those orphans who helped the sculptor in building this monument were the victims of Bush’s war,” said Faten Abdulqader al-Naseri, the orphanage director. “The shoe monument is a gift to the next generation to remember the heroic action by the journalist.”

Like the American Left, Mr. al-Naseri chose to use the term “Bush’s war” to describe the United States Military’s action to liberate 25,000,000 Iraqis from the despotic grip of a murderous thug. Now that the children have accomplished the work of erecting a monument to ingratitude, they can meditate on the gift of freedom that enabled them to express themselves in this way. They can also give thanks to “Bush’s war” and the US military for the provincial elections being held in their country on January 31, 2009.

See Also:
Bush shoe sculpture ‘taken down’ (BBC News; January 30, 2009)
Officials Remove Iraqi Shoe Monument (AOL News; January 30, 2009)