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Compositions That Come Naturally

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 13, 2014

Frederick Law Olmsted, with his Victorian whiskers, grandiloquent diction and vaguely utopian transcendentalism, might have been alarmed to learn that many decades after his death in 1903 he would become a hero of postmodern art.

But at least since Robert Smithson, the earthwork pioneer, declared that he found Olmsted more interesting than Duchamp, Olmsted's creations — particularly his most famous, Central Park — have been revered as a kind of early conceptualism, carefully constructed visions of the pastoral woven into the urbanizing heart of America. Olmsted championed natural simplicity and the curative powers of communing with it, railing against parks so prettified that "the face of nature shall everywhere have become as natty as a silk hat."

In the early 1980s the photographer Lee Friedlander, best known for his relentless exploration of the American vernacular — nowhere street scenes, spectral television sets, caustic self-portraits — began to develop his own interest in Olmsted, photographing Central Park as part of a growing body of landscape work. In 1988, commissioned by the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal, Mr. Friedlander started digging even more deeply into Olmsted, photographing his parks around the country for six years and then continuing to shoot them even after the project ended.

Beginning Jan. 22, 40 of the black-and-white photographs that have resulted from that fascination, most never before on display, will go on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition "Lee Friedlander: A Ramble in Olmsted Parks," keyed to the 150th anniversary this year of the design of Central Park.

While the exhibition might read like a straight-ahead study of landscape portraiture, it is also part of a long line of work by photographers who have turned their lenses on other artists' works: Man Ray's picture of Duchamp's "Large Glass," Ezra Stoller's of the buildings of Eero Saarinen and other Modernists, Hans Namuth's of Jackson Pollock's canvases coming to life, Hiroshi Sugimoto's of Richard Serra's sculpture.

In a characteristically understated way, Mr. Friedlander — the subject of a massive retrospective in 2005 at the Museum of Modern Art — describes his contribution simply as "one photographer's pleasurable and wandering glances at places that bear the great vision of Mr. Olmsted."

But Jeff L. Rosenheim, a curator of photographs at the Met, said that he was interested in showing a selection of the works — the first solo exhibition Mr. Friedlander, 73, has had at the museum — because he saw a deep affinity between Olmsted and Mr. Friedlander, in part having to do with their mutual belief in the rewards of paying attention and looking at the world.

"Friedlander is someone who reminds me of the pleasure of seeing itself," Mr. Rosenheim said. "And it's richly evoked in this particular series of photographs."

"The work is interesting because I think he's seeing these places as kinds of living works of art," he added. "And I think he is interested in Olmsted in that Olmsted was the engineer of a transformation of a particular way of looking at the American dream, of American imagery of nature."

In many ways like Olmsted's work, he said, Mr. Friedlander's "really is a sight for sore eyes, for eyes inured to advertising and all the other images that inundate us." (Olmsted wrote that "a great object of all that is done in a park, of all the art of a park, is to influence the mind of men through their imagination.")

In many of the photographs — of Central Park; Prospect Park in Brooklyn; Cherokee Park in Louisville, Ky.; World's End in Hingham, Mass.; Niagara Falls State Park — the frame is filled to bursting with sinuous, verdant branches and vines, often contrasted with the straight-edged confines of the parks and the buildings that seem to push in on them. John Szarkowski, the longtime photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art who died in July, one of Mr. Friedlander's champions, described the Olmsted pictures as ones of "a jungle dreaming of civilization."

But Mr. Rosenheim said that the same kind of visual information, confounding depth and perspective, is jammed even into Mr. Friedlander's well-known pictures of the Sonoran Desert, "a place that you normally think of as anything but dense."

"He likes to get behind and among," he said. "He likes to make that picture plane just completely dense with both meaning and stuff. He doesn't shy away from any of what you might call bold and intense complexities."

Mr. Friedlander, who is notoriously media shy and declined to be interviewed for this article, wrote in a short introduction to a book of photographs being published by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, to coincide with the exhibition, that he was often working on the Sonora and Olmsted photographs at the same time. He wrote that he "would learn some small thing in one place and apply it in a way to the other, like putting my hand into a new but well-fitting glove."

"The subject itself," he wrote of landscape, "is simply perfect, and no matter how well you manage as a photographer, you will only ever give a hint as to how good the real thing is. We photographers don't really make anything: we peck at the world and try to find something curious or wild or beautiful that might fit into what the medium of photography can hold."

"The photographs of these places," he added, "are a hint, just a blink at a piece of the real world. At most, an aphrodisiac."
By Randy Kennedy
For The New York Times

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Minnesota Center for Photography to Close

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

It is with regret that we must inform you that the Minnesota Center for Photography is discontinuing business operations at the close of business on July 31st. Over the past six months we have unsuccessfully attempted to adjust our budget and, with your help, raise additional funds to pay down debt and fund continuing operations.

The Board made this decision with reluctance and after attempting whatever we could do to permit the survival of MCP.

On behalf of the many stakeholders in Minnesota Center For Photography, we thank you for your continuing interest and support of MCP's mission over the years.

We are currently attempting to contact those who are directly affected by this closing, and to tie up many loose ends. We will make every attempt to answer questions regarding MCP, but please keep in mind that we may not have as much time as we would like to discuss the current situation. Please have patience, as we move through this difficult time.

Very truly yours,
MCP Staff and Board

From Minnesota Center for Photography

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Photography Gift for Israel Museum

Posted By Administration, Friday, August 1, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
A trove of photographs spanning 160 years that includes examples of the medium's greatest hits has been donated to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem by the New York collectors Noel and Harriette Levine.
For more than three decades the Levines have amassed a collection of 125 works, from 19th-century images by the British photographers William Henry Fox Talbot, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson to Modern masters like Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston and contemporary figures like Cindy Sherman and William Wegman.

The collection is viewed by experts as important in its scope and rarity, and most institutions can no longer afford to buy such prime examples, given the rise in their market value.

The Levines are well known in the world of photography. A gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is named after them, and they have donated photographs to the Met as well. Mrs. Levine is also a member of the visiting committee to the Met's photography department.

The Levines have supported the Israel Museum since 1994, when they presented a gift of 80 signed works by Andre Kertesz. Three years ago they donated $12 million for the museum's photography department; their current gift includes $1 million to endow the department. (Mrs. Levine's sister, Patricia Gerber, added $1 million to that pot.)

Since its founding in 1965, the Israel Museum has put together an encyclopedic photography collection, which now includes more than 55,000 works.

"This gift, along with the endowment, positions us to be a major force in the field," said James S. Snyder, the museum's director.


Seeking more creative ways to connect to their audiences, some museums' Web sites have started blogs where visitors can question curators or share their opinions of exhibitions. Now the Brooklyn Museum has invited the public to tag, or apply electronic keywords to, objects in its collections that are cataloged at

The goal is to enable other visitors to enter specific search terms that might not be incorporated into the museum's online catalog entries — say, "mystical," "bug," "ugly" — and then find their way to the relevant artworks.

"Our data is very specific to information we need to know," Shelley Bernstein, the museum's manager of information systems, said of the museum's own entries. "But the way curators and museum professionals see an object isn't necessarily the same as the way a student or the general public would think to describe it."

Internet visitors who click on objects are encouraged to apply any keyword that comes to mind, as long as it's not vulgar. The museum will then add these tags to its database.

"It's a high-volume way of sharing our collection," Ms. Bernstein said.

To encourage public participation further, the museum invites visitors to register online, joining what it calls its posse. Those participants can play a game to see how many tags they can come up with, object by object. Top taggers, as the museum calls them, will receive video messages from museum staff members thanking them and urging them to continue.


With the help of the Met, the 360-acre main campus at the University of Texas, Austin, is poised to become a destination for modern sculpture. Rather than let them languish in storage, the museum is lending the university 28 pieces by artists like Beverly Pepper, Tony Smith and Louise Bourgeois.

They will remain there on long-term loan, where the public will have a chance to see them, and they will also be used by students for educational purposes.

"It was a happy coincidence," said Gary Tinterow, the Met's curator of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art. "We had identified a number of sculptures that were not likely to be placed here and at the same time had learned that the University of Texas was pursuing a sculpture initiative."

Mr. Tinterow said many of the works had been acquired in the first few years after the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing for Modern art opened in 1987. A space in that wing was originally used exclusively as a sculpture court, but it was transformed into a gallery for both paintings and sculpture in 1993 after it was renamed the Blanche and A. L. Levine Court, after two donors. The sculptures were also acquired with the Met's roof in mind, but that exhibition space has also changed. Rather than showing works from its collection there, the Met uses it for annual single-artist installations, like this summer's Jeff Koons exhibition.

The University of Texas has opened a three-part public-art initiative. "We realized that the campus could benefit from a public-art program," said Andrée Bober, the founding director of that program.

Apart from the Met's loan, the university has created an acquisitions fund for buying and commissioning works for public spaces throughout the campus. As the university undergoes considerable construction and renovation, it has adopted a percent-for-art policy whereby 1 to 2 percent of the budgets for those building projects go toward acquisitions of art.

The Met's sculptures will be installed in two stages. In the first phase 17 sculptures will be placed outdoors and in campus buildings, starting this month. An additional 11 will be installed in the Bass Concert Hall in January after its renovation is completed.

The university is paying for the installation, shipping and insurance; the Met is not charging a loan fee. The loan agreement is renewable in five years.

In other long-term loans of works from the Met's storage areas, 15 pieces of armor — swords, helmets, gauntlets— are currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and 212 casts, primarily Greek and Roman, are at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta.

By Carol Vogel
For The New York Times

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Berliners Get a Crash Course in Glittery Celebrity Culture

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Aside from Romy Schneider hanging out naked on the Riviera and an aged Marlene Dietrich hiding her face from a nosy photographer on an airplane, the most prominent German in a hugely diverting paparazzi show at the Helmut Newton Foundation here through mid-November is Albert Einstein.

He's now surrounded by the Sean Penns and Brigitte Bardots of the world, looking as out of place as he must have felt when he arrived in New Jersey in 1933. In a picture from three years earlier, in which he's chatting in white tie with a dour bunch of British diplomats, he wears that famous animated wide-eyed expression suggesting he is kind of amused to find himself in this circumstance, too.

Actually, though, he's the ultimate German celebrity. Germany has long been funny about its relationship to local stardom and to the very notion of celebrity, which makes this exhibition a particularly fascinating and revealing exercise.

With some 350 pictures it's a breezy affair, not too logical, but never mind. It mostly recalls the glory days of the Côte d'Azur, the Via Veneto and Studio 54, with Edward Quinn's gorgeous photographs from Cannes in the '50s and enough current celebs thrown in to grease the turnstiles. A few classics by Weegee don't really qualify as paparazzi shots, and neither, strictly speaking, do the dozens of snapshots by Jean Pigozzi, the Italian businessman, art collector and amateur shutterbug who likes to hold out a camera, arm's length, and take fisheyed pictures of himself beside famous pals. They're strangely hypnotic: your neighbor's vacation slides in which Pamela Anderson, Mick Jagger and Mel Brooks keep turning up.

Whatever. The show advertises itself as the first survey of paparazzi in this country, and that makes sense. Chalk up Germany's ambivalence toward homegrown celebrity to what Ulf Poschardt, the founding editor of the German version of Vanity Fair magazine and now an editor at the newspaper Welt am Sonntag, the other day called "aggressive egalitarianism."

"The complete affirmation of yourself is considered kitsch here," he said. "You can't do it."

Patrick von Ribbentrop put it somewhat differently. "There isn't the right setup," he said. A 35-year-old clothing entrepreneur with a famous name to bear (he's the grandson of the Nazi foreign minister), he attributes the state of German celebrity culture, such as it is, to "a marketing problem."

"Take Paris Hilton," he said, with obvious admiration. "Being a wealthy individual, you also have to be willing to be in the public eye. Then you have to have a whole system for promotion. I have suggested to guys in Berlin who make films and who write for television that they produce a series about the Berlin Wall, like '24' or 'Prison Break,' but they all say the financing is lacking, the marketing is lacking. You need all that to create celebrity culture."

On the other hand, he conceded: "I generally agree that in Germany there is a reserve, which comes from the Second World War, about being German, or there was: that has changed a bit since the World Cup was here in 2006. Now Germans are no longer scared of people calling them Nazis if they hang German flags on their cars."

The key word, explained Dagmar von Taube, a society reporter for Welt am Sonntag, is Bescheidenheit, modesty. This week Barack Obama's arrival in Berlin is heralded on the cover of Der Spiegel in "American Idol" script with the headline "Germany Meets the Superstar." Next door to Germany, the French president lives in a palace with his new wife, a fashion model turned pop singer.

But here the chancellor, Angela Merkel, occupies a plain little house in the middle of town. From across the street, busybodies can peer through her windows. After delivering a speech before a Berlin Philharmonic performance not long ago, Ms. Merkel glanced from the platform into the semidarkened auditorium, caught sight of a waving hand, walked down the steps into the audience and up the aisle, waited while patrons in her row stood to let her pass, then like everybody else sat through the concert (Beethoven and Webern, no less) without a security guard in sight.

Sure, Germans read German celebrity magazines like Bunte and Gala, and would-be Carries in their Manolo Blahnik knockoffs jammed the red carpet when "Sex and the City" opened a few weeks ago. But particularly in this capital of cool, locals take pride in ignoring stars like Christina Ricci and Madonna when they're walking down the street or eating in a restaurant.

"In Munich, they love celebrities," Claudius Seidl, an editor for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, pointed out over lunch the other day in one of those restaurants. He cited the old cultural divide that splits the Prussian, Protestant north from the Roman Catholic south. Fifty-odd years ago, he said, before globalization, Germans, both East and West, fawned more over their own celebrities. But today's stars are dwarfed by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's twins.

"That said," Mr. Seidl continued, "it's true there is a general embarrassment among Germans about being famous for being famous. Unless you are a world-class star, you must be intellectual and appear normal; otherwise you're considered trash."

Mr. Poschardt elaborated: "It's the reverse of America. You can openly be an intellectual elitist here, but materially you must act the same as everyone else. We have a lively pop scene now, but Germany doesn't have a real pop culture tradition because we killed or expelled everybody who produced pop culture years ago, then we missed out on the next 50 years.

"We developed this very heavy version of pop culture. Today German intellectuals fixate on American pop culture precisely because you in America have this natural, sparkling mix of fast-food entertainment with more complex multilayered views of society, and this mix makes it possible for a celebrity like George Clooney to become a kind of political figure."

"The question," Mr. Poschardt said, "is whether something is missing here." Asked to name a German celebrity, he paused. "Angela Merkel," he finally said.

"Personally," he said, "I think we need to create our own independent sense of glamour, not self-consciously, but because we should stop this superegalitarianism and be more open to difference. I don't mean we should have pomp, but the state here has the power to make everyone the same. It's a democratic ideal, but it was also a fascist idea. Germans have always disliked any kind of ostentation, and you could even say anti-Semitism came partly from a dislike of a Jewish bourgeois lifestyle, which offended both socialists and National Socialists."

Maybe. There's also something remarkable, though, about seeing a German head of state surrounded by teenagers casually sitting on the floor at a concert in the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin listening to classical music, as President Horst Köhler did not so long ago. German cable television broadcasts shows like "Das Perfekte Promi Dinner," which features minor German soap actors, former athletes and the occasional ex-porn star shopping and cooking meals for one another in their (generally modest) homes, then being gently graded on the results.

Sweet, guilty pleasures to watch, these discreet German versions of hard-core American real-life celebrity programs recall the early days of television, which introduced the widespread illusion of intimacy with stardom. There was Jack Paar chatting with Fidel Castro, and Liberace showing Edward R. Murrow around his new kitchen. To be a celebrity in the new media age meant to demonstrate that you were like anyone else, a fiction that gradually caused nearly the entire population of the United States to delude itself into thinking everyone should be famous, at least briefly. Celebrity became an end in itself, like wealth, divorced from accomplishment.

Here, on the other hand, Germans still face the burden of St. Augustine, who wrote that to be purged of the sin of pride, a person must also purge the pride that comes from being humble.

Back at the Helmut Newton Foundation, the show ends with Newton's staged and stately fashion shots of models pretending to be stars surrounded by paparazzi. A native Berliner, Newton, as it happened, fled to escape Nazi persecution and was inspired to make his career as a photographer by, among other people, Erich Salomon, who took the Einstein picture and later died at Auschwitz. Newton grasped the comic pleasures of celebrity, minus the guilt.

But then, he spent most of his life in places like Los Angeles and Monaco, not Germany.

By Michael Kimmelman
For The New York Times

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Behind Walls of Warehouses, a Trove of Artwork

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014
At the same time that art museums and galleries have developed larger collections, they have fewer options to expand. Perhaps inevitably, an art services industry that has sprung up in the dark warehouses of New York City's boroughs is also growing.
Many museums now farm out the highly specialized business of packaging, shipping and installing art, along with the task of storing it for long periods.

A handful of companies that handle these fine art services have also developed into "arts campuses," where art conservators, gallery registrars, academics and collectors can visit to view, catalog, photograph and repair art.

In the last five years, SurroundArt, a fine arts company with headquarters in Washington, has expanded its New York operations from a single 8,000-square-foot shop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to what will soon be a campus covering 175,000 square feet in three buildings.

It is moving into a new building next month and expects to take possession of the Navy Yard's restored Paymaster building within the next year.

The buildings will be used to construct crates for shipping the art and to store fine art in spaces controlled for temperature and humidity, with security that is almost as tight as a bank's. There will also be viewing rooms where art world insiders can see the art.

SurroundArt will occupy an 89,000-square-foot structure where construction was begun speculatively by the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

"The Navy Yard's been a great place for us, because it's allowed us access to fairly low-cost real estate, at least in the past, and it was easy for us to expand," said Mick Murray, a partner and the chief executive at SurroundArt, which will pay annual rent of about $20 a square foot in the new building. Typically, it is $12 a square foot for industrial space in that part of Brooklyn.

"Because it's a gated industrial park, we have security here 24-7, so we can create access any time of day or night for our clients," Mr. Murray said. The company has a 20-year lease.

The new building, which is costing the Navy Yard about $25 million, is said to be the first multistory "green" industrial building with multiple tenants in the nation, the development corporation said. Among its environmental features, it will have solar panels and wind turbines on its roof, providing power. SurroundArt's clients can sublease either general space or segregated vaults for art storage.

Fine art services is one industry that must be very clean for art conservation purposes, Mr. Murray said, so it can benefit from the cleaner construction materials used in green buildings and from the controlled environment.

Mr. Murray said that fine art services companies like SurroundArt basically house museum-quality collections, even though they are often in nondescript warehouses in industrial areas.

"We've recreated the environment that's inside a museum," said Mr. Murray, who is being assisted by the firm Steven Kratchman Architect on designing the new building's interiors.

Besides keeping a constant temperature of 70 degrees and humidity level of 50 percent, SurroundArt will minimize exposure of the artwork to natural light by covering windows with cheap and durable hurricane shutters.

As an adjunct to the security provided by the Navy Yard, SurroundArt has several layers of its own, including armored walls, motion sensors, security cameras, alarm systems and other devices that alert security workers to intruders, fire or environmental changes.

"You can have one thing in your warehouse, and it was worth $100,000 three years ago, and now somebody's going to tell you it's worth $17 million," Mr. Murray said. "The auction market really has inflated values in this business."

Packaging standards have risen accordingly. Making crates requires a clean room in which a sterile padded armature is fashioned for the artwork, which will be placed in an internal box that has been heat-treated to prevent insect infestations.

Like most art services businesses, SurroundArt has a fleet of secure trucks for shipping art.

Mr. Murray said he decided to form his business while working in the design and production group of the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

"We got a lot of telephone calls from private collectors saying, 'I bought a piece of art — what's the proper way to install it?' or 'Where can I get a pedestal?' " he said. "Recognizing a need, I took two other fellows with me, and we founded SurroundArt.

"We were thinking we'd service the private sector, but within a week of starting the company, my largest account was the Smithsonian Institution."

A competitor of SurroundArt in the Bronx, Transcon International Incorporated, handles the art and collectibles of mostly private collectors, galleries and estates, and is also planning an expansion. Transcon's principals said they thought that private collectors, auction houses and galleries were the main reasons for the rapid growth in the art services industry.

"The explosion that's been seen by all the shippers in terms of volume and in storage has largely been gunned by the commercial end of it," said Michael Blodget, the chief executive of Transcon.

John Mullane, Transcon's president, founded it as a moving company in the 1970s but, after a decade, recognized a growing demand for fine art services.

After four years at its current location, Transcon recently renewed its lease for four of six floors for 29 years in a 140,000-square-foot former manufacturing building, which occupies a city block in an area where industrial rents range from $10 to $15 a square foot. When it is available, Transcon will take the whole building.

It makes its shipping crates in a nearby 20,000-square-foot building.

The company will soon build a $5 million one- or two-story expansion in its parking lot with ceilings of 20 feet or more to handle large artworks.

Though the expansion is in effect a speculative development, Mr. Mullane said he was confident that he could fill the new space with art. "We have interest from a lot of institutions and clients," he said. "We're still busy, though I consider we're in a recession right now. We could fill it up — no problem."

By Alison Gregor
For The New York Times

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Rules for Filming on the Streets of New York

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

New rules about when filmmakers and photographers must obtain permits when they shoot on New York City streets have been made official, The Associated Press reported.

Under the new rules, productions must have permits and at least $1 million in insurance if they plan to leave less than eight feet of open space on a sidewalk or take over a lane of traffic. The announcement was made on Monday by Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, and the rules take effect on Aug. 13. Permits and insurance are required for shoots that involve vehicles or equipment other than hand-held devices or cameras on tripods. The rules are in response to a lawsuit by Rakesh Sharma, an Indian documentary filmmaker who was detained by police in 2005 after using a hand-held video camera in Midtown. They won't apply to casual photographers.

By Julie Bloom
For The New York Times

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The Image Is Familiar; the Pitch Isn't

Posted By Administration, Sunday, July 13, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

In February 2007 the Swiss-American artist Christian Marclay was installing a solo exhibition of his work in Paris when he received an e-mail message from a friend about a commercial for the Apple iPhone that had been broadcast during the Academy Awards show.

The 30-second spot featured a rapid-fire montage of clips from television shows and Hollywood films of actors and cartoon characters — including Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Dustin Hoffman and Betty Rubble — picking up the telephone and saying "Hello." It ended with a shot of the soon-to-be-released iPhone.

Mr. Marclay tracked down the ad on YouTube and watched it.

"I was very surprised," he said recently by phone from London. Like many in the art world he saw an uncanny resemblance between the iPhone commercial and his own 1995 video "Telephones," which opens with a similar montage of film clips showing actors answering the phone. That seven-and-a-half-minute video, one of Mr. Marclay's signature works, has been exhibited widely throughout Europe and the United States.

About a year before, Mr. Marclay said, Apple had approached the Paula Cooper Gallery, which represents his work in New York, about using "Telephones" in an advertisement.

"I told them I didn't want to do it," he said. His main concern, he said, was that "advertisers on that scale have so much power and visibility" and that "everyone would think of my video as the Apple iPhone ad."

Mr. Marclay said he spoke with a lawyer after learning of the commercial but decided not to pursue legal action. "When people with that much power and money copy you, there's not much you can do," he said.

In any case he did not want a controversy to draw attention to his own appropriations of scenes from other sources — mostly Hollywood movies — without permission from the copyright holders.

"I don't consider what I do stealing," Mr. Marclay said. "I'm quoting cultural references that everyone is familiar with. I make art that reflects the culture I live in." And unlike advertisers, he said, "I'm not trying to sell phones."

Contacted by telephone and e-mail, neither Apple nor its advertising agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, would comment on the iPhone ad for this article.

Artists have been appropriating images from Madison Avenue for decades. In the 1960s Andy Warhol made silk-screened copies of Brillo boxes and Campbell's soup cans. In the 1980s Richard Prince rephotographed magazine ads for Marlboro cigarettes, enlarged the pictures and exhibited them as his own. Works like these are comments on consumer culture that also challenge the idea of originality itself.

But what happens when the tables are turned? In recent years a number of advertising campaigns have seemed to draw their inspiration directly from high-profile works of contemporary art. And the artists who believe their images and ideas have been appropriated are not happy about it.

Donn Zaretsky, a lawyer in New York who specializes in art law, is often approached by artists who perceive echoes of their own work in advertisements. "It does seem like advertising people are pushing the envelope on this," he said. "They're being more and more brazen in their borrowing. On the one hand they should be mining the art world for inspiration, and you would expect them to be referencing works that people are familiar with. But more and more they seem to be getting into the territory of blatant rip-offs."

The law governing the unauthorized use of copyrighted images and ideas, he said, is notoriously murky. "Copyright law doesn't protect ideas, it only protects expression. The question is, where do you draw the line? Is the agency being inspired by the idea? Or did they copy the artist's expression?"

When artists go after advertisers in such cases, the disputes are most often settled out of court. But there have been a few notable cases in which artists successfully sued advertisers for copyright infringement.

In 1987 a federal court granted summary judgment to the artist Saul Steinberg, who claimed that a poster for the Columbia Pictures film "Moscow on the Hudson" copied his famous New Yorker cover "View of the World From 9th Avenue." (Like Steinberg's drawing, the poster had a detailed rendering of four Manhattan city blocks in the foreground and a sketchy view of the rest of the world in the background.)

In May 2007 a French judge ordered the fashion designer John Galliano to pay 200,000 euros, or about $270,000, to the photographer William Klein in a dispute over a series of magazine ads that mimicked Mr. Klein's technique of painting bright strokes of color on enlarged contact sheets.

Recently Mr. Zaretsky was approached by the artist Spencer Tunick, who is known for his photographs of large installations of naked people in public places around the world. Mr. Tunick was concerned about a television commercial for Vaseline shown in Europe and the United States in 2007.

The 60-second spot, called "Sea of Skin," features large groups of naked men and women posed in artful configurations in various outdoor settings. They stand and sway in a forest, sit on a concrete rooftop, bounce gently in a glacial lake and wave their arms on a city street.

"There was such a close resemblance to my work that it was uncanny," Mr. Tunick said in an interview. "When I saw the ad, I thought it was definitely inspired by my photographs and videos of installations."

Was it? Not according to Kevin Roddy, the executive creative director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York, who developed the commercial for Vaseline's parent company, Unilever.

"I'm familiar with Spencer's work," Mr. Roddy said, "but I can't say that was an influence at all. Spencer is about masses of people and nudity. We're about representing the functionality of skin. Sure, it's hundreds of thousands of bodies, but they're meant to represent one thing: skin."

Mr. Tunick said he had not decided whether to pursue legal action.

In some cases artists who see variations on their own images may be victims of their own popular success.

In the late 1990s there were several well-publicized disputes in which young British art stars accused advertisers of pilfering their ideas. The conflicts arose around the time the so-called Young British Artists, or Y.B.A.'s, were featured in "Sensation," a 1997 London exhibition of contemporary art from the collection of the British advertising mogul Charles Saatchi that later traveled to Berlin and New York.

In 1998 one of those artists, Gillian Wearing, complained that a Volkswagen commercial featuring people holding handwritten signs had copied the style and idea of her series of photographs titled "Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say" (1992-93).

For her series Ms. Wearing photographed people on the street holding paper signs on which they had written brief statements describing their feelings or states of mind. In the best-known image a smirking young man in a business suit holds a sign that reads, "I'm desperate." Similarly the Volkswagen ad includes a shot of a tough-looking security guard who holds a sign bearing the word "sensitive." Ms. Wearing did not pursue legal action.

The following year Damien Hirst threatened to sue British Airways over a billboard for its low-cost subsidiary Go that featured a grid of colored dots. Mr. Hirst claimed that the design was based on his paintings of grids of colored dots against white backgrounds. At the time a spokesman for Mr. Hirst told the newspaper The Independent that he had discussed licensing his dot paintings to British Airways, but that the deal had fallen through.

Advertisers have traditionally tapped into the cultural cachet of fine art by commissioning works for hire. From 1950 to 1975 a Chicago company, the Container Corporation of America, commissioned dozens of artists — including Fernand Léger, René Magritte and Willem de Kooning — to create paintings that were reproduced in print ads that ran in upscale magazines like Fortune.

In 1985 Absolut vodka began its famous magazine ad campaign featuring variations on the distinctive shape of its bottle, executed by hundreds of contemporary artists, among them Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Lisa Yuskavage.

But plenty of other artists have staunchly resisted agencies' requests to license their work.

Mr. Tunick said he had been asked to work on campaigns for Dove, Lipton, Microsoft and Blue Cross Blue Shield, among others. "I think I get two e-mails a week from ad executives or publicists who want to use my work, and I always tell them I'm not an advertising photographer," he said.

The Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have turned down numerous requests from ad agencies interested in licensing their award-winning 30-minute short film, "Der Lauf der Dinge" ("The Way Things Go"). Produced in 1987, it follows a Rube Goldberg-style chain reaction in which everyday objects like string, balloons, buckets and tires are propelled by means of fire, pouring liquids and gravity.

Yet in April 2003 Honda ran a two-minute television commercial, "Cog," in which various parts of a car — tires, seats, windshield wipers — form a dominolike chain reaction that culminates when an Accord rolls down a ramp as a voice-over (read by Garrison Keillor) intones, "Isn't it great when things just work?"

At the time Mr. Fischli told Creative Review magazine: "We've been getting a lot of mail saying, 'Oh, you've sold the idea to Honda.' We don't want people to think this. We made 'Der Lauf der Dinge' for consumption as art."

In a strange twist the Honda "Cog" ad, which was developed by Wieden & Kennedy, has inspired several parodies of its own, including commercials for BBC Radio and the British directory assistance service 118. The chain reaction of creative influence, imitation and homage was the focus of a panel discussion at the Tate Modern in London during a retrospective of Mr. Fischli and Mr. Weiss's work there in 2006.

In an age when sampling and appropriation have become widespread practices in contemporary art and in the culture at large, some find it paradoxical that artists are now guarding their own creations more vigilantly.

Michael Lobel, a professor of 20th-century art at Purchase College who has written about Roy Lichtenstein and Richard Prince, said the easy availability of digital images on the Web had helped foster this defensiveness.

"There's a broader consciousness among artists about owning their work and keeping tight control over its distribution," he said. "The more available images have become, the more of a countermovement there is to clamp down on them."

Mr. Lobel said that while he sympathizes with artists who believe their work has been copied, they also need to recognize their own reliance on existing images. "Culture is about ongoing borrowing," he said. "It's about taking images, ideas and motifs and opening them up to new uses."

The cycle of influence goes round and round: Ad agencies borrow from artists who borrow from advertising. Isn't it great when things just work?

By Mia Fineman
For The New York Times

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A Painter's Social Network, Traced in Her Photographs

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 11, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Elizabeth Peyton's endearing, jewel-like portraits are frequently, and transparently, based on photographic ephemera: newspaper images, film stills, vintage black-and-white prints. Her own snapshots, taken over the last two decades with 35-millimeter, Polaroid and, most recently, digital cameras, are an important but rarely acknowledged source.

Some 50 photographs by Ms. Peyton are now on view here at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in "Elizabeth Peyton: Portrait of an Artist." Ms. Peyton, born in Danbury, Conn., is the recipient of the 2006 Larry Aldrich Award (honoring an artist who has had "a significant impact on visual culture"). Some might say that her paintings of friends, lovers and famous faces reflect rather than influence that culture; they are steeped in the elixirs of youth, beauty and celebrity infatuation.

With a Peyton survey scheduled to open in Manhattan at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in October, the Aldrich's exhibition tries to deconstruct the mystique surrounding Ms. Peyton's paintings, emphasizing her social-documentary ambitions rather than her technical facility or fan-girl romanticism.

The title is misleading — this is a portrait of a scene, not a self. A photograph at the entrance to the exhibition shows Ms. Peyton taking a snapshot into a mirror, hiding beneath the flashbulb glare and a pair of reflective sunglasses. That is about as much of her as we see.

Ms. Peyton cites as inspiration the studio portraiture of Nadar, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Mapplethorpe, who all photographed their friends and intimates. Her own aesthetic is much more casual, even amateurish. Photographs (particularly those taken with nondigital cameras) are under- or overexposed, badly composed and out of focus.

Ms. Peyton's social compass, however, is as finely calibrated in this group of works as it is in her paintings. Her photographs capture young, scruffy denizens of the art world on the move (between fairs and biennials, or studios in New York, London and Berlin). Several photographs were taken on trains and buses; others at hotels (the Chateau Marmont, for example) and weekend enclaves (Cutchogue, N.Y.). Exhaustion is palpable, but so is an atmosphere of bohemian bonhomie.

Richard Klein, director of exhibitions at the Aldrich, writes in the show's brochure that Ms. Peyton's photographs are "acts of devotion based in a Platonic eros." That description seems better suited to her paintings. Ms. Peyton photographs with the acquisitive determination of someone amassing Facebook friends. The lines of her social network can be traced to her galleries: Gavin Brown's Enterprise in New York and Sadie Coles HQ in London. Here are Gavin Brown and Rirkrit Tiravanija; there's Rirkrit again, with Olafur Eliasson; and that's Urs Fischer; and Franz Ackermann.

This mix of artists and dealers (most of them are not exactly household names) is enhanced by the occasional celebrity: Marc Jacobs, Chloë Sevigny. (Ms. Peyton's shots sometimes bring to mind the studied insouciance of Mr. Jacobs's advertising campaign photographed by Juergen Teller.)

Again and again her camera seeks out pale young men with mussed hair. Her subjects include the elfin-featured Nick Relph (of the British art duo Payne and Relph); Craig Wadlin, a raffish artist who is platinum-blond in some photographs and raven-haired in others; and Spencer Sweeney, an artist, musician and nightlife impresario, looking perpetually hung over. In a picture taken at Liverpool Street Station in London, Mr. Sweeney shrouds himself with his black leather jacket.

Less frequently, Ms. Peyton photographs men of greater maturity and gravitas. The art dealer Colin de Land, who died in 2003, is one compelling example; another is the artist Matthew Barney. In his art Mr. Barney controls and transforms his own image to exacting standards. Here he is simply another guest at Ms. Peyton's metaphorical dinner party.

As revealing as this photograph is, it can't measure up to her paintings of Mr. Barney exhibited this spring at Gavin Brown's Enterprise. The same might be said of other photographs at the Aldrich — pictures of Ms. Peyton's lover Tony Just and her friend Pati Hertling — that have most likely served as source material.

"Portrait of an Artist" extends the promise of a less fussy, more authentic Peyton, but it certainly doesn't strip her paintings of their mysterious aura. Admirers will be left wondering how Ms. Peyton's brushwork converts her awkward photographs into graceful, intuitive portraits.

By Karen Rosenberg
For The New York Times

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Ralph Burgard, Advocate for Arts Programs, Dies at 81

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 10, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

Ralph Burgard, a leader in the movement to create arts programs in communities around the country, died on July 3 at his home in Duxbury, Mass. He was 81.

The cause was cancer, his wife, the former Marjorie Martin, said.

From 1965 to 1970 Mr. Burgard was the first director of the Arts Councils of America, an organization (now known as Americans for the Arts) that brings together private groups, government agencies, educators and donors to build local cultural programs. The organization currently has a membership of more than 5,000 groups and individuals.

While director of Arts Councils of America, Mr. Burgard wrote "Arts in the City" (1968), a book in which he argued that decentralized, local cultural institutions "rooted in local history and traditions" could transform not just towns and cities, but also neighborhoods in large urban areas.

"I've always believed that the arts are the antennae of the human race," Mr. Burgard wrote.

Two years after publishing the book he started Burgard Associates, a planning company that helped develop arts programs in several cities, including Charlotte, N.C., and Santa Cruz, Calif.

Concerned about the lack of arts education for children in poor communities, Mr. Burgard started the A+ Schools Program in 1988. Its comprehensive arts curriculum is now offered to 18,000 students in 42 public schools in North Carolina.

Ralph Waite Burgard was born in Buffalo on June 22, 1927. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1949. Three years later he was named manager of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, in Providence. In 1955 he became director of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem, N.C., the nation's first local arts council. Then, from 1957 to 1965, he was director of the St. Paul Council of Arts and Sciences, in Minnesota.

Mr. Burgard's first two marriages ended in divorce. Besides his wife, Marjorie, he is survived by a brother, Edward, of Kimberling City, Mo.; two sons, Christopher, of Putnam Valley, N.Y., and Timothy, of San Francisco; a daughter, Nadia Fonstein of Brooklyn; four step-children, Russell Burbridge, William Burbridge and Dianne Brown, all of Beaufort, N.C., and Richard Burbridge of Hingham, Mass.; and five grandchildren.

By Dennis Hevesi
For The New York Times

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3,344 People May Not Know Art but Know What They Like

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 4, 2008
Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014

If you ask 100 people to guess the number of jelly beans in a big glass jar, few will come close. The average of their guesses, however, will be almost exactly right.

That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of "The Wisdom of Crowds," the best-selling book by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker magazine's business columnist. When it comes to quantifiable judgments and practical decision-making, the aggregate intelligence of a large, diverse group of people apparently is usually better than that of any given individual, even if the individual is an expert on the question at hand.

So what about art? If you could capture it in a manageable form, would the collective judgment of all visitors to a major art museum be better than that of the people with Ph.D.'s, the curators or, heaven forbid, the professional critics? That is what "Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition" at the Brooklyn Museum invites us to ponder. The results are inconclusive, at best, and the exhibition itself is not very interesting to look at, but the issues it raises are fascinating.

In consultation with Mr. Surowiecki, Shelley Bernstein, the project's organizer and the museum's manager of information systems, devised a selection process intended to be as objective as possible. (Derek Powazek, a founder of, and Jeffrey Kalmikoff, creator of, were also consultants.)

Ms. Bernstein began by inviting people to submit photographs (one per person) electronically relating to the theme "Changing Faces of Brooklyn." The 389 images received were displayed on the museum's Web site without the photographers' names attached. (There are some professionals included, but basically it is an amateur contest.) Members of the public then evaluated the images one by one on a scale from "most effective" to "least effective." Judgments were cast by 3,344 people.

After the evaluation period, the top 20 percent, or 78, of the photographs were selected for the exhibition. They were printed in four sizes — from 20 by 30 inches to 5 by 7 — with the larger sizes for the higher rankings. Then all were put on display, unframed, in a random, salon-style distribution in a small gallery. Laptops are provided to explain it all to visitors.

What you see is an array of competent, traditional, magazine-style photography — mostly cityscapes, riverscapes and portraits. One of the top-ranked works, a shot by Donna Aceto of three girls in headscarves on a Coney Island roller coaster, is like a Life magazine photograph, and so are many others. One by Claudia Sohrens showing a vast, colorful field of trash filling a vacant lot is like an Andreas Gursky. Marcia Bricker Halperin's richly complicated black-and-white picture of people in a cafeteria with reflections from the front window glass layered over them has the aura of mid-20th-century Modernist photography.

Conspicuously absent are photographs that aggressively challenge mainstream taste and ideas about photography. This may have to do with who will respond to the kind of open invitation put out by the Brooklyn Museum, which is to say, people who have yet to achieve significant fame or commercial success and, probably, people who have pretty conventional ideas about photography.

In any event, whether the show proves that the crowd is better than the individual at picking quality photography is hard to say because you don't know what to compare it with. You could look at all 389 submissions yourself — they are still online — and judge whether you would have made a different selection. Or the museum could have an expert — a professional photographer, critic, curator or dealer — make another selection to compare with the crowd's picks.

But then who's to say whether the expert's show is better? You could have another crowd vote, or you could have yet another expert judge the two shows. But those judgments would also be subject to further judgment. And then, after all, maybe picking 78 images at random could make as good a show as any.

The big question is, what are the appropriate criteria for determining whether judgments, by individuals or groups, are good or true? With jelly beans, there is an exact number against which to compare guesses. With art it is less clear. The popularity of exhibitions can be measured by ticket sales; auction sales can tell you what individual artworks are worth. But what if popularity or sales are not your immediate or ultimate measures of success? The artists who make the most money are not necessarily the best artists.

What if you favor exhibitions designed to appeal not to crowds but mainly to discerning, well-informed individuals? What if you go to museums to learn from experts who have devoted long, deep and careful study to certain subjects? What if one of the things you value most in contemporary art is its resistance to mainstream taste, its willingness to forgo popularity in pursuit of ideas and experiences that few have already had?

How people arrive at consensus in the art world is worth studying. So is the tension between experts and nonexperts, which can extend to the highest reaches of the culture industry. So it is possible that Mr. Surowiecki's ideas might yet prove fruitful for the business of art. But it will take a lot more persuasive reasoning to convince anyone with a serious interest in artistic quality that "crowd-curating" is a good idea. The best you can say for "Click!" is that it's a good conversation starter.

By Ken Johnson
For The New York Times

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