Focus on Art

Handling the crisis in 2020: tokenizing Mona Lisa

Handling the crisis in 2020: tokenizing Mona Lisa

By Sonia Stubblebine

Covid-19 has plunged all sectors in major crisis including cultural one – the wild idea of the way how France can offset its losses from the shutdown came to French businessmen and CEO of Fabernovel Stéphane Distinguin. France should “sell the family jewellery” told Distinguin to Usbek & Rica Magazine

He proposed a radical and unprecedented idea of selling the most famous painting in the world – Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Gioconda embodies classicism more than any other painting that one can think of. This step of selling such an iconic painting reveals French’ willingness for exchanging old for new and heritage for possible creation. Located in Louvre since 1793 this painting gained popularity and visibility that have never been achieved by any other piece of art. This artwork of 79.4 centimeters high and 53.4 centimeters wide can be recognized by anyone and have attracted millions on visitors every year to Louvre.
Apart from the wild idea of selling Mona Lisa itself, the price that Stéphane Distinguin gave to Mona Lisa leaves one even in a deeper state of shock – Gioconda was estimated by him for at least €50 billion. Various critics and journalists have stated that the price is definitely overestimated, even far-fetched although no significant arguments have been provided in the media yet. The spectacular and in a certain way unbelievable price came from various factors. First of all, other paintings by Leonardo da Vinci have been sold in recent years with extremely high prices as well. The “Salvator Mundi” was sold for $450 Million and ended up on the yacht of a Saudi prince. Another example could be found by Italian idea of loaning “Vitruvian Man” against a deposit of one billion euros in 2019. Another pivotal factor that could determine painting’s value could be the income that Mona Lisa provided to the Louvre and overall to France annually. Direct together with indirect revenues could be calculated – thus, ending up in a colossal sum. According to Stéphane Distinguin’s calculations, Mona Lisa attracted about 30,000 visitors daily in 2019, forming 7 million visitors per year. Apart from understanding how significant Mona Lisa is for French tourism, these facts reveal that one painting generates 1,500 euros of expenditure on average per tourist (direct and indirect expenditures), thus, forming at least €3 billion per year.
In the process of selling “Mona Lisa” technology can play an essential role, bringing new possibilities and various advantages. Consideration of “tokenizing” Mona Lisa was proposed by Stéphane Distinguin –the term of “tokenizing” an asset refers to the process of using a blockhain token that digitally represents a real tradable asset. The tokens, a virtual representation of such information or assets, can be stored on the blockchain and potentially bought or sold. By “tokenizing” one is creating financial products having that underlying asset. Tokenization will bring various legal and technical advantages: it would allow France and the Louvre to retain control and the capacity to exploit the painting. In case of traditional way of selling Mona Lisa would have left the Louvre which would definitely influence her reputation and significantly lower her status. Gioconda and Louvre “work” together and part of the value of this masterpiece is in its “context”. “Tokenizing” this artwork might provide a perfect solution, leaving France with one and only Mona Lisa together with monetizing the masterpiece.

By Sonia Stubblebine

Luigi Ghirri: frameless landscapes

Luigi Ghirri: frameless landscapes

By Chiara Rizzolo

The Triennale museum takes us on a photographic journey across Italian landscapes and architecture made familiar by Ghirri’s liturgical rite for the genius loci.
The landscape of architecture but also, the architecture of landscape

Omnia quae sunt, lumina sunt
“All things that are, are lights” ¹

Luighi Ghirri started taking saturated kodachrome snapshots in the early 1970s, pioneering the color photography as a new art form. The idea of a “snapshot aesthetic” had somehow already started spreading in the mid-1960s, but the majority of photographers were still using black-and-white film. It took another decade before William Eggleston – to whom Ghirri has always been likened – and Stephen Shore, to name a few, began adding the sparkle of saturated hues to their works.
Luigi Ghirri, Riviera Romagnola, 1988 - 1989 by Luigi Ghirri

Luigi Ghirri, Riviera Romagnola, 1988 – 1989 by Luigi Ghirri

Ghirri’s admiration for Eggleston, in particular, was immediate and strong. The American’s photographs looked completely different from those taken by his contemporaries. As Ghirri said in an interview in 1984, “As soon as I saw Eggleston’s works at the Stadtpark Forum in Gratz, I couldn’t help but feeling a strong emotional ‘uneasiness’. My first reaction was pure wonder. What couldn’t cease to amaze me was Eggleston’s new way to look at things. I was feeling an enchantment I had never experienced before. Those signs and those landscapes I was looking at were not the familiar signs, landscapes, and symbolic objects he used to capture. Rather, they looked kind of blurry, vague, with unusual perspectives.

Far from the urge of sharpness and precision – a common trend in Shore, Meyerowitz and Sternfeld’s photography at the time –, Eggleston was using his camera as a tool to fragment the image, to dissolve our traditional conception of a “pre–fab” world and show a different reality. It’s a formal revoluton: no centre is left to the spectator’s vision and, consequently, light ends up being so omnipresent that it somehow disappears. Originated elsewhere, it simply starts co-exhisting within the space as a “radiant sea”.
Following this philosophy, Luigi Ghirri pursued his attraction to italian landscapes, architecture and its relationship with the surrounding environment. He photographed iconic buildings as well as the local houses along his homeland Emilian fields, both with an equally poetic and liturgical eye. He critically viewed photography as a powerful visual language, the only way to handle human’s tremendous yearning to achieve more and grab a slice of infinite – a desire deeply rooted within all of us. Photographic constructions means the construction of an image.

My aim is not to make PHOTOGRAPHS, but rather CHARTS and MAPS that might at the same time constitute photographs,” writes the photographer on his craft, in his 1973 essay, Fotografie del periodo iniziale.

An old house, a roof, a vanishing decoration, a man sitting against a wall, a desert road, a mediterranean tree: these subjects stand like ‘apparitions’ in full light, reversing Ecclesiastes’ motto Nihil sub sole novum (“There is nothing new under the sun”). Instead, photography reveals there’s nothing old under the sun: we can look at a landscape a hundred times as if it was there for the very first time. Isolated from the reality which surrounds them and presented in a photograph as part of a different discourse, these images become laden with new meaning.
Ghirri’s eye on architecture is widely shown in the the exhibition “The Landscape of Architecture” at Triennale museum in Milan. Running through 26 August 2018 and featuring the fruitful relationship between Ghirri and Lotus International Architecture Magazine, the exhibition displays about 200 original photographs from the magazine archives, together with some work materials.

Divided into three sections – Italian Landscape, Domestic Design, and Architectural Images commissioned by the magazine – this neon-lit environment let us wander among images and quotes from the photographer’s writings, encouraging a personal reading of them both. “The daily encounter with reality, the fictions, the surrogates, the ambiguous, poetic or alienating aspects, all seem to preclude any way out of the labyrinth, the walls of which are ever more illusory… to the point at which we might merge with them… The meaning that I am trying to render through my work is a verification of how it is still possible to desire and face a path of knowledge, to be able finally to distinguish the precise identity of man, things, life, from the image of man, things, and life.” Luigi Ghirri
Attention is the only path towards the ineffable, the only possibile way through mistery. It is the ultimate, higher source of imagination. Reality, knowledge and fairytale somehow intertwine creating new worlds, new symbols, new images-within-the-image. Lined up, all these places (“loci”) recreate a strange sequence made of stones, churches, blue seascapes, country roads, objects. These “impossibile landscapes” – as Ghirri called them –, suddenly become familiar like an old enigma no longer inscrutable and indecipherable, finally solved by the heart.
Luigi Ghirri, 'I Bagni Misteriosi' di Giorgio de Chirico e la Triennale, 1986

Luigi Ghirri, ‘I Bagni Misteriosi’ di Giorgio de Chirico e la Triennale, 1986

¹ J. S. Eriugena (c. 815 – c. 877, theologian, neoplatonist philosopher, and poet)
Leunora Salihu: exploring space

Leunora Salihu: exploring space

By Chiara Rizzolo

A spatial journey with Leunora Salihu, the Kosovian artist abstracting and redefining shapes from everyday life

Leunora Salihu foto Mathias Schormann

Leunora Salihu foto Mathias Schormann

Leunora Salihu (1977, Pristina, Kosovo) is a multifaceted artist combining different industrial and organic materials to explore space through – or maybe, beyond – the physicality of her sculptures.
Every piece – be it a ceramic work or a temporary public installation – challenges the possibilities and limits of movement juxtaposing natural and constructive “form-elements” from industrial, architectural and design fields.

I’m looking for something extraordinary in form and material, paired with the temporal aspects of movement. Condensing such contrasts into a clear image is appealing to me.
Her “Spatialism” explores the classic questions of sculpture, such as the relationship between volume and surrounding space, the dynamism of the whole related to its individual parts and the interplay between sculpture and pedestal. Hereby she creates voluminous objects, often recurring to familiar shapes mimicking human proportions or architectural prototypes of human habitations (like in Haus, 2009) – ranging till the anatomy of insects, hives or nests.
Ceramic, wood, and metal are combined with minute care and tenacity, giving each sculpture not only an original shape but also a consistent “geometry of presence” – and therefore, of distance – in Space.
The poet is a pretender” once wrote Fernando Pessoa referring to the artist’s ability to create a perfect illusion in the eye of the beholder but don’t call her an “illusionist”: her sculptures are meant to be a ‘unicum’, a continuous “transition between an object and its base or between inside and outside” she says. Nothing’s hermetic, nothing’s hidden. For a while, you could say they even defy the commonsense requirement of finiteness.
Every sculpture is an encounter: what the viewer witnesses is a kind of physical presence, a face-to-face interaction turning everyone into an integral part of the work. There’s a timeless, ethereal balance between the austerity of the composition and the light permeability of the objects and this astonishing perception is made possible thanks to the accurate combination of antithetical materials such as wood and metal; plaster and ceramics, resin and clay…
Leunora Salihu’s sculptures create an apparent paradox: at first glance, almost every object seems to be asking for a symbolical, multi-layered interpretation.  But this is misleading, for it denies the intense physical realism of the artist’s creations. If it is still “symbolic truth” that we are to find here, then we still have to start a conversation with the form, which is as meaningful on the small size, though evident on the large.  Salihu’s artworks are exceptional for they spur an audacious human endeavor to embrace space, to fill and understand it from every perspective.
Leunora Salihy - Leunora Salihu, Turm, 2010-2011, Galerie Thomas Schulte

Leunora Salihy – Leunora Salihu, Turm, 2010-2011, Galerie Thomas Schulte

This is the reason why her public installations are meant to be temporary interventions rather than permanent. Everything is designed in such a way that the sculptures do not lose their ethereal aura becoming an ‘invading fetish’. Pressed wood or roofing gently combines with parks and places’s aesthetic, allowing the artwork to remain fully visible (and interacting).
Primoz Bizjak: more than meets the eye

Primoz Bizjak: more than meets the eye

By Chiara Rizzolo

The Slovenian photographer Primoz Bizjak leads us to a sublime journey across the Apuan Alps to unveil the inner light and colors of impermanence

After a childhood spent in the fields behind his house looking for pieces from the First World War, a holy curiosity and a strong need to widen horizons drove a grown up Slovenian transport logistics engineer to finally attend the Fine Art School in Venice and become a photographer. “Now my curiosity is the source of my work” says Primoz Bizjak after several solo and group exhibitions in Italy, Spain, Germany, Slovenia and Canada.
Primoz Bizjak by Ph. Carlos Fernández

Primoz Bizjak by Ph. Carlos Fernández

Using two old analogical cameras and nocturnal shots revealing colors usually hidden in the night, Primož’s pays a special attention to landscape, to the framing and to every detail. With an eye on abandoned places or places going through a transition, his work is a record of a certain locus in a particular point in time – often, a revealing one. All compositions are front-on and stick to the essential: there’s no room for unusual perspectives – “the students’ stuff” – as he calls it. Underlying all series is the idea of an unmediated directness with the selected subject, heightened by the fact that the works undergo no degree of digital manipulation. “I’m far more interested in the object itself, what’s in front of me, and I try to show it as it is. Much more important for me is the viewpoint, both in terms of form and concept.” His photographs patiently unveil the history of places, their symbolic landmarks as well as their impermanent function. Light is crucial, in this regard, since “it can sometimes help us see the same object in different ways or even reveal things the eye cannot see” – both in term of form and concept. After all, it hasn’t been that long since early childhood explorations: that young boy is still running in the fields or climbing up a mountain to witness the ephemeral, the hidden voice or nature or maybe, just the passing of time.
Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane - Passo della Focolaccia, 2017

Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane – Passo della Focolaccia, 2017

Gregor Podnar Gallery recently hosted “Alpi Apuane”, a series of seven photographs taken between 2014 and late 2017 and dedicated to the vast mountain range in northern Tuscany. It took Bizjak four patient years to find the perfect moment in time revealing what is left behind – or sometimes beyond – Apuan rock walls. His analogue shots features nocturnal images surprising the viewer with a full spectrum of colors normally hidden in daylight. He gradually captured the abandoned quarries and extraction sites, defying heights and ‘no-entry’ signs to unveil what we would never be able to see.
Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane - Antro del Corchia, 2015

Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane – Antro del Corchia, 2015

As a Romantic explorer, the artist captures these “suspended” landscapes abstracting them from both temporal and spatial dimension and freezing them into an atemporal place in history. The viewer’s experience, on the other side, is deeply immersive, almost a religious one. We’re asked to look deeper, to be silent witness of the mountain’s breathe. Maybe this is the ‘Sublime’ feeling well described in the 18th century writings by Joseph Addison and a few other Englishmen who had experienced a journey across the Alps. Sharing the same appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of nature, what these writers and philosophers also had in common was a strong feeling of “delight that is consistent with reason”: the experience of the journey was at once “a pleasure to the eye as music is to the ear”, but “mingled with Horrours, and sometimes almost with despair”. The very etymology of “Sublime” – from Latin Sublimis (sub, “under” + limen, literally “lintel, threshold, sill”) seems to suggest us a perfect interpretation of Bizjak’s recherche: we’re somehow asked to look carefully at all these nuances, to discover in every detail a glimpse of what lies behind and, at the same time, aspires to reach the peak of an undisclosed height.
Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane - Tre Fiumi, 2015

Primoz Bizjak, Alpi Apuane – Tre Fiumi, 2015

Even a dismissed quarry can be called sublime because it ascends to the heights in a figurative and physical sense, as can every aspect of nature – as long as it has its own grandeur or is able to covey a “spiritual awakening”. Alpi Apuane thus is more than just a Proustian search of lost time. It’s a symbolic recollection of childhood’s curiosity together with adulthood appreciation of the transient impermanent. It’s a journey trhough Memory, an invitation not to forget what belongs to the past, elevating reality to the imaginary, almost mystical level.  
Obliteration is not an option.
Bizjak’s “unmediated intimacy” with the mountain is the way through an Epiphany, a sudden revelation. The micro becomes macro and viceversa: every photograph is a ‘manifestation’, that holy moment when a simple rock or a ray of light against a wall flashes out with its own peculiar meaning and makes us realize we’re maybe smaller than we think but – at the same time – higher.
For more information, visit Gregor Podnar Gallery.
The Propeller Group

The Propeller Group

By Giulia Cennamo

The Propeller Group brings an artistic view of Vietnam to San Jose Museum of Art until March 25, 2018 – San Jose, California

The Propeller Group

The Propeller Group

The Propeller Group anchors its ambitious projects in Vietnam’s history and its paradoxical present. Based in Vietnam and Los Angeles, the art collective extends its reach to address global phenomena, from street culture to international commerce to traditions shared across cultures. Organized by the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Phoenix Art Museum, “The Propeller Group” is the first major survey exhibition dedicated to the collective. The exhibition brings together a number of multi-part projects from the past five years, comprising video, installation, and sculptural works that represent the scope of the group’s artistic practice. In conjunction with the exhibition The Propeller Group and internationally acclaimed muralist El Mac will also create a new public mural in the streets of San José. The Propeller Group “In multifaceted projects, The Propeller Group blurs the lines between modes of cultural production and embraces the formats of branding campaigns, television commercials, Hollywood movies, and music videos to address the complex ideologies that drive global commerce, war, cultural ritual, and historical memory,” said Lauren Dickens, curator at SJMA.
The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014. Single-channel film, 21 minutes

The Propeller Group: The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, 2014. Single-channel film, 21 minutes

Among the highlights of the exhibition is “The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music” (2014), a film that follows funerary traditions of the Mekong Delta. It combines documentary footage, staged reenactments, and fantastical scenes to explore slippages between real and imagined rituals shared across cultures. It will be paired with accompanying sculptures inspired by traditional Vietnamese funerary objects: a carved jackfruit wood snake with gold fangs and an adorned water buffalo skull. Also on view will be “AK-47 vs M16” (2015–16), a multi-part mixed media work that includes a film, a video, works on paper, and accompanying objects. The project references the two weapons popularly associated with opposing sides of the Cold War.
The Propeller Group's AK-47 vs. M16 bullets colliding in ballistic gel

The Propeller Group’s AK-47 vs. M16 bullets colliding in ballistic gel

Working with ballistics experts in a lab, the artists fired the weapons at each other into translucent blocks composed of a dense gel used for ballistics testing. A related film assembles clips from news reels, Hollywood films, YouTube, and other sources to illustrate how these weapons came to be indelibly intertwined with the Cold War in the popular imagination. The San José Museum of Art’s presentation of the exhibition will include additional works not seen at previous venues, such as the 2016 sculpture “Antique Earth Satellite”. Carved from jackfruit wood and found tracwood (a type of Vietnamese red wood) the intricate sculpture combines a traditional Vietnamese carving method with a futuristic subject matter drawn from science fiction. SJMA’s exhibition will include several related objects, in which the imagination of the future is projected onto objects of the past.

Public mural

The mural is a collaborative undertaking by the San José Museum of Art, The Propeller Group, El Mac, award-winning children’s author and artist Christopher Myers, San José’s Empire 7 Studios, and the Children’s Discovery Museum. Monumental in scale, the new permanent public mural will feature a single portrait of a young refugee.
Mural work in progress mock up San Jose, The Propeller Group

Mural work in progress mock up San Jose, The Propeller Group

The Propeller Group has created public murals around the world as part of its ongoing project Vietnam: The World Tour (VNTWT). Previous iterations have been presented in Kabul, Singapore, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Paris, Lyon, and Amsterdam. The mural will bring a larger-than-life face of a refugee youth to a highly-visible wall of the Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San José. The wall faces a city park and is visible from the freeway. It is the product of extensive and ongoing work by the collaborating artists.
Advent Calendar (Artistic)

Advent Calendar (Artistic)

By Carlo Vanoni

It was 1984: the movie “Terms of Endearment” won the Oscar, Apple presented its first computer from the Macintosh series, George Orwell set his most famous novel in this year (1984, in fact) and Leopoldo Mastelloni said a blasphemous word during a Sunday program on Rai and was banished from Italian TV.
And in art?
This year, waiting for Christmas, I’d like to propose an (Artistic) advent calendar from 1984: everyday, until December 24th, I will publish an image of an artwork that was created in this year.
Let’s start!

Carlo Vanoni