Political and social turbulences seem to mark the year that is slowly coming to its end, but also numerous fascinating art stories as well. In 2016 we’ve seen the expansion of conflicts in the Middle East, the long and tiring race for the White House that for many ended with an unexpected result, the continuation of the migrant crisis, as well as brutal terrorist attacks around the world. Grim reality of social struggles seems to be one of the topics that engaged artists in the previous year. Exploring relations between art and politics continued to be a subject of interest at Widewalls in 2016, but we also covered many other interesting themes pertinent to the modern and contemporary art world, including styles and movements, architecture, and photography. The focus was not exclusively on the Western hemisphere and established art centers, but also on a somewhat marginalized regions and social groups.
It is a difficult task to limit the number of the stories we picked as the most interesting ones of the previous year, as many deserve this accolade, but here we are! Below, you can scroll and read about how we marked 100 years of Dada movement; about Barbara Kruger’s take on the presidential race in the US; the story about Kohei Yoshiyuki’s controversial piece The Park, and about the most expensive art pieces sold in the world. We also explored Cynical Realism in China’s art, followed the contemporary debates on street art, examined the history of self – portrait photography, and looked at the meaning of brutalist architecture and Dansaekhwa.
Featured image:Barbara Kruger – Donald Trump, 2016. Image via nymag.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.
Dansaekhwa - The Monochromes from South Korea
Moving away from the Western art, the interest of the market has been focused recently on South Korea, and especially its Dansaekhwa art movement that emerged in the 1970s. Considered one of the crucial movements of the 20th century in the country, its name means monochrome painting. The term was used for the first time by a critic Lee Yil when he described paintings that were made in neutral colors. The movement was often interpreted as the rupture with traditions as cultural past, and a move towards Western aesthetic tropes in art.
If you are interested to know more about Dansaekhwa, read it here.
Featured images: Lee Ufan – From Line No. 78149, 1982, museeum.net; Park Seo-Bo, Ecriture No. 19-78, 1978 (detail); via villaempain.com.
Brutalist or Not, We Love This Architectural Style
Described before as the concrete monstrosity, the brutalist architecture and its concrete aesthetics were often linked with social circumstances of the buildings’ dwellers. While brutalist buildings were hated during the 1970s, 80s and even 90s, today they the attitude towards them changed completely, and they are now fetishized and even replicated through the collectable vinyl toys.
To find out how this change came about and what brutalist architecture means today, follow the link.
Featured image: Ernő Goldfinger – Balfron Tower, London (1967), via genericarchitecture.
Self-Portrait Photography Through History
The first self-portrait photo was by Robert Cornelius. It was made in 1839, and Cornelius had to sit in front of the lens for a whole minute before it was made. Fascination with taking your own photo seems to be lasting one, as today, almost 180 years after the first one was taken, we are engulfed with self-portraits made by virtually every individual. It is so widespread that even the term used to describe it – selfie – was included in the Oxford Dictionaries.
Want to know more about the history of self-portrait photography? Then, follow the link.
Featured images: Ilse Bing – Self-Portrait with Leica, 1931; Weegee (Arthur Fellig) – Self Portrait in Police Van. c. 1940, detail. Images via Widewalls archive.
Renaming Street Art? - Notes from Nuart Plus Conference 2016
Nuart Festival organized for the fifth year in a row Nuart Plus series of academic discussion about street art. Academics and experts in the field debated and confronted opinions on the Dadaistic roots of the street art, and its utopian traditions, but also initiated a discussion about the possible now term that can come to substitute the one already widely in use – street art.
Check out our notes from the conference here.
Featured image: Nuart Plus 2016. Image via Widewalls archive.
China’s Cynical Realist Art
In modern times art was often used as a tool against injustices, especially those provoked by restrictive and oppressive politics. Cynical Realism in China, the topic this feature covered, is the descendant of Chinese Pop art that was bourgeoning from the late 1980s. The development of what would become known as the Cynical Realist movement was triggered by the Tiananmen Square disaster and its aftermath. The style and subjects the movement adopted was seen as a parody of official artistic style of Social Realism.
Read more about the style and artists that marked this intriguing movement here.
Featured images: Fang Lijun – 1996-10, 2007. Image via artspace.com; Zhang Xiaogang artwork. Image via observer.com.
Art as an Investment - The Most Expensive Artworks
Some of the most expensive art pieces were sold during the 2015 and 2016. Although the last year was a bit slower for art market, the interest in buying and selling art is still going strong. Buying art continues to be a good investment. Some of the most expensive works were made by the world-famous artists such as de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, and Modigliani. Most of their works are held in public institutions and are rarely offered at auctions, which probably affected the jaw-dropping prices they were sold for.
To read more about the most expensive artworks and to see the prices they reached, follow the link.
Featured images: Paul Cezanne – The Card Players 1894–1895; Rembrandt – Pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, 1634.
Contemporary Black Artists Reexamine Racial Identity
In the 20th century black artists expressed their racial identity in different ways. While some of them rejected racial identifier, others embraced it and made it a center of their art practice. Styles and subjects they chose differed, from figurative painting, where individual narratives were expressed, to representing different archetypes that stand for general experiences. Some artists decided to appropriate and re-contextualize popular imagery as a way to show oppression. Contemporary black artists follow the same path when representing identity. They engage in the similar dialogs as their predecessors and invest their artistic skills in showing how racial identity, culture and power relations mark their lives today.
The list of some of the contemporary black artists and their works can be seen here.
Featured images: Kehinde Wiley – Kern Alexander Study I, 2011; Frieze Art Fair 2010 in Regent’s Park, London. Photo by Linda Nylind for Frieze. Images via Widewalls archive.
Kohei Yoshiyuki’s The Park and Its Erotic Encounters
After the Second World War, Japanese photography moved into a more unconventional and experimental direction that served as a foundation for Japanese contemporary art. Kohei Yoshiyuki ‘s The Park is among the photographic series that provoked controversy, but was nonetheless considered a paradigmatic work for its innovative camera work. The series depicts nocturnal intimate encounters between different individuals in several of Tokyo’s parks and their spectators who observed them secretly form behind the bushes and trees. The series that was named “a soft-core voyeur’s manual”, The Park was first exhibited in 1979, and only received global acclaim after its 2007 exhibition in Tokyo.
Read more about this fascinating series here.
Featured image: Kohei Yoshiyuki-The Park 1971-73. Image via thequietfront.com.
Celebrating 100 years of Dada Genius
Dada marked the first decades of the 20th century and was almost everything: international, anarchistic, provocative, politically active and apolitical, inclusive and nihilistic, rooted in cubism, but above all, avant-garde. A movement that quickly found its followers in many European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Russia, and Japan, aimed at creating a different paradigm in culture and arts. Their influence in art surpassed temporal and spatial boundaries and is felt today in many aesthetic styles and approaches to art, from Surrealism, Pop Art, Abstraction, Conceptual art and Performance. In 2016 we marked 100 years since Dada was established in Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, and examined its unrelenting significance for modern and contemporary art.
To read more about Dada and its ingeniousness click here.
Featured images: Marcel Duchamp – LHOOQ, 1919. Image via Widewalls archive.
Art is Political Commentary - Barbara Kruger Strikes at Trump
One of the most acclaimed contemporary artists, Barbara Kruger marked the last few months of the year and the political campaign in the US. Her highly critical piece Loser appeared on the cover of the New York Magazine and stirred spirits and debate about its meaning. At the background of the letters is a zoomed-in image of Donald Trump, now the President-elect of the US. Interpretations abounded, and perhaps the most plausible one to pick today is that we are all losers in a way. But it was not only this piece that has brought Kruger back to our attention. Strangely enough, the artist of her significance only got her first thematic exhibition in 2016, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Read more about this on the following link.