TIME Art

The Museum of Modern Art, Then and Now

The Museum of Modern Art Then & Now
Left: The Heckscher building circa 1925; Right: The current day Museum of Modern Art and its outdoor sculpture garden. Edwin Levick—Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Timothy Hursley—The Museum of Modern Art/AP

MoMA opened 85 years ago — but not in the building art aficionados know today

When the first-ever exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City opened 85 years ago, on Nov. 7, 1929, the “museum” wasn’t exactly the institution today’s visitors might expect. At the time, the city’s museum crown was indisputably in the hands of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met did not share the spotlight and the Met did not do modern. In return, artists of the time had turned up their noses at its hallowed halls; viewing it, as TIME phrased it back then, “only as a trysting place for shopgirls and their beaux, a shelter for nurse-girls and babies on rainy days, a ‘point of interest’ for out-of-towners.”

When seven collectors and patrons — including Mrs. John Davison Rockefeller Jr. and Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield — announced that September that they would open a Museum of Modern Art to bridge the gap, the museum was actually a few rooms in the Heckscher Building, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Not having a proper museum, it turned out, didn’t really make a difference: the following March, TIME reported that 1,500 people a day visited the museum — and that the trustees of the institution would have to start charging admission, 50 cents a head, in order to better manage the flow of visitors.

In 1932, the museum moved to a site on 53rd Street that, over the years, would evolve into the building MoMA inhabits today, with six floors of galleries instead of six rooms.

TIME Third Reich

Art for the Reich’s Sake: When Nazis Celebrated ‘Aryan’ Culture

Color photos from "A Day of German Art," a kind of Aryan-inflected kickoff for the Third Reich's annual Great German Art Exhibition

For several years in the late 1930s and early 1940s, during the summer months, Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich held what came to be known as “A Day of German Art,” conceived as a kind of Aryan-inflected kickoff for the annual Great German Art Exhibition in Munich. Paintings, sculpture and spectacle combined to celebrate a strenuously Nazified vision of Teutonic culture—one in which German legends and myths were bent to the service (and the aesthetic) of the Reich.

“Approved” German art, after all, was yet another form of Reich propaganda, utterly in line with radio broadcasts, photographs, films and other vehicles designed to spread the Nazi gospel. Hitler and others extolled realist paintings and sculptures, while dismissing as “degenerate” the art of Surrealists, Fauvists, Expressionists and other Moderns. The idyllic and the mythological, as well as scenes depicting and romanticizing family values, hard work, robust physicality, the military and, of course, the Fatherland’s leaders were, in the Reich’s eyes, the only true, legitimate subjects for art.

Here, in Hitler’s own words, from a speech he gave during the first “Day of German Art” in 1937, was the vision that the Führer and his followers—Goebbels, Bernard Rust, Alfred Rosenberg and others—formulated and shoved down the (often acquiescent) public’s throat during the run-up to World War II:

It was not Bolshevik art collectors or their literary henchmen who laid the foundation for a new art or even secured the continued existence of art in Germany. No, we were the ones who created this state and have since then provided vast sums for the encouragement of art. . . .

We are more interested in ability than in so-called intent. An artist who is counting on having his works displayed, in [the Haus der Kunst, or House of Art] or anywhere else in Germany, must possess ability. . . . [But] from the pictures submitted for exhibition, I must assume that the eye of some men shows them things different from the way they really are. There really are men who can see in the shapes of our people only decayed cretins; who feel that meadows are blue, the heavens green, clouds sulfur-yellow. They like to say that they experience these things in this way.

I do not want to argue about whether or not they really experience this. But in the name of the German people I only want to prevent these pitiable unfortunates, who clearly suffer from defective vision, from attempting with their chatter to force on their contemporaries the results of their faulty observations, and indeed from presenting them as “art”. . . .

I know, therefore, that when the Volk passes through these galleries it will recognize in me its own spokesman and counselor [ . . . ] it will draw a sigh of relief and joyously express its agreement with this purification of art. And this is decisive, for an art that cannot count on the ready inner agreement of the broad, healthy mass of the people, but which must instead rely on the support of small, partially indifferent cliques, is intolerable.

By the time the last “Day of German Art” took place in 1944, the “invincible” German army that had swept across Europe a few years before, seemingly conquering at will, was routinely being routed by Allied forces from the east and the west. By the late spring of 1945, Hitler, Goebbels, Rust and most of the rest of the Reich’s leadership was dead, or on the run.

The Haus der Kunst in Munich, meanwhile, still stands. No longer serving as a full-fledged museum, the enormous building now houses temporary and traveling exhibitions, often featuring the sort of “degenerate” art that the Nazis railed against, so loudly and so futilely, not so very long ago.

TIME

How to Draw a Perfect Circle Freehand

The technique is so simple

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

No one thought it was possible. Until now. In the tutorial video below, YouTuber Dave Hax shows us how to draw a perfect circle freehand. The technique is so simple, it’ll make you wonder why no one thought of it before: you use your wrist, knuckles, or fingers as your pivot. From there, you spin the paper around, drawing a perfect circle as you go. It takes a bit of practice, but when you get the hang of it, it feels like unlocking a new skill!

(Via APlus)

TIME Art

Artist Turns Dollar Bills into Pop Culture Currency

James Charles uses money as his canvas

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

In the series ‘American Iconomics,’ artist James Charles uses dollar bills as his canvas and transforms the portraits of presidents into the images of pop culture characters. Using materials and ink that perfectly match what the US Mint uses, he intricately changes the features of each face, such that it totally becomes something else.

Some of the famous characters he’s put on a dollar bill are Yoda, Spock, Ronald McDonald, Pinhead and Mr. T.

We know, we know, it’s illegal to deface dollar bills, but with art as beautiful as this, I think he should be given an exception! You can check out more from this series here.

(Via Life Buzz)

TIME Art

Banksy Parodies Girl With a Pearl Earring in New Painting

The new Banksy depicting the painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is see on a wall in Bristol Harbourside, England on Oct. 20, 2014.
The new Banksy depicting the painting 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer is see on a wall in Bristol Harbourside, England on Oct. 20, 2014. Paul Green—Demotix/Corbis

Recent reports of the artist's arrest are a hoax

The famous and elusive street artist Banksy has parodied Johannes Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring in a new painting in the English city of Bristol. The artist posted a picture of the work, reportedly titled Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, to his website.

The painting, photographed from different angles on the site, features an outdoor alarm box as the woman’s earring, the BBC reports. Banksy previously graced Bristol with the painting Mobile Lovers earlier this year.


Though a report that circulated on Monday claimed the mysterious artist had been arrested, Bansky’s publicist Jo Brooks told British newspaper The Independent that the arrest was a hoax. The false reports of his arrest and a raid on his studio recycled details from a previous hoax.

Read next: You Can Now Afford To Buy a Work of Art by Banksy (Sort Of)

TIME Art

The Parisian Sex Toy Christmas Tree Is the Latest Great Art Scandal

'Tree' By Paul McCarthy - Monumental Artwork At Place Vendome In Paris
Paul McCarthy's artwork called "Tree" is seen at Place Vendome on October 16 in Paris, France. Chesnot—Getty Images

The American artist Paul McCarthy gets some Frenchmen aroused

The first time I saw a picture of the inflatable sculpture Tree, standing 79-ft. high (24 m.) in the Place Vendome in Paris, I thought it was an abstract version of your basic conifer – a Christmas tree reduced to its simplest signifier, a triangle-shape, like one of those pine-scented cardboard air fresheners that hangs by a string. Then I noticed the artist’s name, and I thought: “Oh, it’s by Paul McCarthy, so it’s actually a giant butt plug. In the Place Vendome.”

For those of you just entering the conversation, “butt plug” would be the term for a variety of sex toy the purpose of which is easy to figure. The term has now entered the lexicon of millions of people who didn’t know it just a week ago, largely because McCarthy’s sculpture made international news over the weekend when vandals disconnected its air supply and then cut the cables supporting it. Soon the tree toppled and had to be removed from the august plaza. By that time the sculpture, which was installed as part of Fiac, an annual Paris art fair, had become a cause célèbre on right-wing French media, where it was described as a deliberate affront to French culture. A week earlier, when the work was officially inaugurated, someone at the scene slapped the artist in the face and ran off.

Places, everybody — it’s time once again for an episode of that venerable social tradition, the art scandal. McCarthy is used to being at the center of them. A well-known Los Angeles-based artist, now 69, he’s made a career of violating taboos, opening the lid on dark boxes and wallowing, sometimes literally, in bodily fluids and excretions, or at least things that look like them. One thing we’ve known about him since his earliest videos in the ‘70s is that the man has absolutely no fear of ketchup. Or mayonnaise. Or excrement. A few years ago he produced another inflatable sculpture, sometimes called Complex Pile, that’s an unmistakable mound of the stuff. When it was displayed last year as part of an outdoor sculpture show in Hong Kong, it deflated in a sudden downpour. That’s what heavy rains will do to a pile of poop.

Artists have been fooling around with our bodily wastes and nether regions as the final frontier of the forbidden for a long time. Andy Warhol and his studio assistants made his series of Oxidation paintings by urinating on copper plates. In 1961 the Italian artist Piero Manzoni issued 90 sealed cans that carried the words Merda d’Artista – meaning Artists’s Shit. He claimed that each of them contained just that, though no one really knows, since they soon made their way into the international art market at high prices and no one is willing to open one to see what’s inside. That would turn their expensive artwork into… well, you know.

Why would an artist go there? For Warhol, pissing was probably a way to satirize the macho mystique of the Abstract Expressionist art that Pop Art had overtaken. For Manzoni, canning his own bowel movements — if that’s what he did — was probably his way of satirizing the art market. (Mission accomplished!) McCarthy’s motives have always been more complicated. The forbidden isn’t a sideline for him. It’s his consuming obsession. His life’s mission is to facilitate the return of the repressed. Like Karen Finley, the performance artist who mobilized cultural conservatives in the early ‘90s by smearing herself with chocolate and having intimate relations with a yam – and who surely knew McCarthy’s work — his videos are full of himself and his collaborators performing acts intended to gross out the viewer and violate taboos. Last year he mounted a giant multi-character performance art and video production in Manhattan in which a woman playing Snow White was sexually abused by demented versions of the Seven Dwarfs. (McCarthy has a thing about desanctifying Disney characters.) There was also an unspeakable act involving a roast chicken.

So Tree is one more example of McCarthy’s standard operating procedure. It’s also a way of lampooning the pretensions of monumental public sculpture generally, as Claes Oldenburg did almost 40 years ago when he created that giant steel clothespin for Centre Square in Philadelphia. Except of course, that was a clothespin, with its associations of clean laundry. McCarthy’s sex toy is all about the unclean passages of the body, which he then manages to associate with Christmas, simultaneously our most sentimentalized, commercialized and even politicized holiday. (The war on Christmas!) Tree isn’t even the first time McCarthy has conflated the Yuletide with a sex toy. In 2001 he made a sculpture of Santa flourishing one for the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The grateful citizens of Rotterdam balked at putting it in front of their concert hall, its intended site, but eventually found a less exalted place for it.

Ordinarily McCarthy’s work is installed in a museum or gallery, a kind of aesthetic decontamination chamber, where it’s viewed by an audience prepared for what they’re about to experience and willing to tolerate its gross content as part of the trade off necessary to seeing whether he has something to tell us about ourselves. But when his art escapes into the public square, the reactions aren’t always so measured. An artist devoted to provocation can’t be surprised if his work provokes. This is not meant to condone an act of vandalism against art – much less slapping around the artist. But McCarthy has a sense of humor. How could you not when you come up with the idea to put a giant sex toy in the Place Vendome? He must have loved it when no less a grande bourgeoise than Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, came to its defense. “Art has its place in our streets,” she said, “and nobody will be able to chase it away”.

Actually, McCarthy has decided not to reinflate Tree, at least not in Paris. Too much grief. But doesn’t that let the vandals win, to, as the mayor put it, chase it away? I say up the ante — bring in Complex Pile next. Why should Hong Kong have all the fun?

TIME viral

If Disney Characters Instagrammed, They’d Be Guilty of These Selfie Crimes

Artist Simona Bonafini created a series that will rock your childhood

The Little Mermaid always wanted to be a part of our world. And we live in a world of selfies — lots and lots of selfies.

Artist Simona Bonafini created a series titled “Selfie Fables” that imagines what your Instagram feed would look like if it were habituated by your favorite cartoon characters. And while it isn’t as disturbing as other Disney re-interpretations, Hercules and company are guilty of some selfie faux pas:

Shirtless gym selfies. We know this is going straight to Tinder:

Simona Bonafini

Bikini shots. There’s no need for #perfectbody thinspo…

Simona Bonafini

Instilling feelings of FOMO. Maybe your invite to the tea party went into your spam folder?

Simona Bonafini

Nothing is wrong with this selfie. Maleficent owns it:

Simona Bonafini
TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Accountability in education is essential and non-negotiable, and testing works. Just not in reading.

By Robert Pondiscio in Flypaper from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute

2. Carbon capture technology is costly, but could be an interim solution for climate change. And a carbon tax could pay for it.

By David Biello in Yale Environment 360

3. Immersive public art is improving lives and safety in one Detroit neighborhood — and serving as a model for other communities.

By Anna Clark in High Ground News

4. Presidential pool reporters are circulating their own news reports to bypass pressure from the White House Press Office.

By Paul Farhi in the Washington Post

5. Unregulated campaign cash and elected judges together undermine the independence of our judiciary.

By Norm Ornstein in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Fine Art

See This Incredible Colorful Art Created From Found Objects

Jane Perkins uses odds and ends to recreate famous portraits

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This article originally appeared on Lost at E Minor.

Classic artworks and photographs have been given a very contemporary twist in Jane Perkins’ Plastic Classics collection. Instead of using paint or pencils, Perkins uses anything she can find to recreate these masterpieces, including toys, shells, buttons, beads, jewelry, curtain hooks and springs.

No extra color is added into the artworks either—everything you see in her work is used exactly as found, which is quite an amazing feat. Perkins says impressionist paintings are the perfect inspiration for her work since they need to be viewed in two ways: up close and from a distance.

Since Jane Perkins started making these works of art back in 2008, she’s found representation, showcased her work in galleries, and sold her work to buyers in London, New York and Singapore. Not a bad living for using odds and ends from around the house!

(via Blue Bower Bird)

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