New York- By Linda Sandler and Christine Harper (excerpts ) Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- A dozen funds being set up by bankers and former auctioneers aim to buy more than $1 billion of artworks said fund experts, signaling rising interest in fine art as an investment. ``Art has become an alternative investment in a lot of people's minds,'' said Connie Middleton, a director of London-based art adviser Seymour Management and the wife of former Barclays Plc Chairman Peter Middleton, in an interview.
Read more: Art Funds Aim to Buy More Than $1 Billion of Picassos, Kapoors

WAUSAU, WI.- The Woodson Art Museum presents William Morris: Myth, Object, and the Animal. When viewing William Morris’s glass-blown sculptures, you may ask, “Is it bone? wood? stone? bronze? leather?? Using remarkable technical skills, Morris pushes the physical and chemical possibilities of glass to create life-size black ravens, handsome deer heads, and other objects that suggest themes of mythology, archaeology, and the animal kingdom. Myth, Object, and the Animal reflects Morris’s fascination with ancient life and the relics and artifacts that tell ancient stories as well as his dexterity in manipulating glass far beyond the dazzle and sparkle associated with this fragile, seductive medium. The quiet beauty of his sculptures and large-scale, multi-piece installations results from Morris’s use of translucent, sensual surfaces and luminous colors that seem to glow like a life force from within.

ST. IVES, UK.- Tate St. Ives presents Denis Mitchell Ascending Forms. From the late 1940s, Sculptor Denis Mitchell (1912 – 1993) was central to the group of St Ives Modernists artists. Renowned for his dynamic polished bronzes, Mitchell evolved a visual language that was inspired by his intimate knowledge of working in and on the landscape. In 1930 Mitchell moved from Swansea to the Cornish artistic colony to start market gardening and to paint. But his experiences of tin mining during the war and his tenure as chief assistant to Barbara Hepworth between1949-59 soon inspired him to carve. Working initially with wood, slate and stone, Mitchell eventually found his own forms in sand-cast bronze. His implicit understanding of the balance of line and form created by the interplay of light and surface imbues Mitchell’s tall abstract sculptures with a unique vitality. The exhibition at Tate St Ives placed in complement with the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham draws together ten of Mitchell's celebrated bronzes from the 1960s and 70s and several carvings in wood, slate and stone from the 1970s and 80s.

Posters from the Soviet Union, Cuba and China The former Soviet Union, Cuba, and China: three countries where posters played an important political role and received a large amount of artistic attention. This is a selection of 145 political posters, famous masterpieces as well as equally beautiful but unknown examples drawn from the collection of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam. 'The Chairman Smiles' gives an image of stormy political developments. The Soviet posters chronicle the Revolution of 1917, the following civil war and the attempts to build a new society, the Five Year Plans of the 1930s and Joseph Stalin's dictatorship. Attempts to follow an independent course dominate the Cuban posters from the 1960s, with special attention to mobilizing and informing the people and to spreading culture. The Chinese posters include not only a number from the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), with the glorification of Mao Zedong, idyllic scenes in agricultural communes and sharp attacks on political opponents, but also extremely rare posters from circa 1949 to the early 1960s, with the establishment of the People's Republic and the campaign for the Great Leap Forward . There are also posters from the 1980s and early 1990s, the period of Deng Xiaoping and the economic modernization. Of course, the image these posters give is not impartial. They are the official propaganda of communist regimes, and the reality was often quite different than what is portrayed in the poster. But above all these posters are a feast to the eye. They were designed by gifted artists, for whom the poster was a unique opportunity to use their talents and reach a large audience at the same time. It is difficult to choose favorites: the early Russian prints by artists as Radakov and Moor, Cheremnykh's wonderful 'Rosta', the spectacular Constructivist photomontages of the 30s, the exuberantly coloured Cuban silk screens, the informal portraits of Fidel Castro and icons of Che Guevara, the idyllic scenes of Chinese agricultural communes or the smiling Mao floating above crowds waving Little Red Books. These posters travelled the world as cultural showpieces and were very influential. Today they are valuable collectors' items.

NEW YORK.- Photographer and graphic designer Henry Wolf, 80, died. Henry Wolf was born on May 23, 1925 in Vienna. He went to Paris to study art as a teenager. He left for New York in 1941 and studied at the School of Industrial Arts. He later studied photography and design with art director Alexey Brodovitch, and with Stuart Davis he studied painting. He was art director of Show, Esquire and Harper's Bazaar during the 1950's and 60's. Milton Glaser wrote of Henry Wolf: "When I first met Henry Wolf in the fifties, he seemed to be the most sophisticated person I had ever known. He owned a Jaguar, was always in the company of beautiful women and was already clearly the best editorial designer in the world. Not to mention his charming Viennese accent. "

Has contemporary painting been "overlooked" during the last 15 years? Or did it just fade from view when the tabloids' frenzied thirst for "shock art" dominated the headlines? To answer these questions, Charles Saatchi is filling his eponymous London museum with painting for the next year, showing off his latest purchases and letting us all know what we've been missing. Bombastically titled "The Triumph of Painting," the exhibition is so monumental in scale that it is being held in three landmark chapters over all of 2005. Saatchi's intention is for us to see the "remarkable paintings produced and overlooked in an age dominated by video, installation and photographic art." Paradoxically, many of the paintings in Saatchi's exhibition reveal a distinct debt to photography and video. To accommodate this ambitious show, the "Sensation" generation has been cast out of the Saatchi temple. Hirst's shark is on its way to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, allegedly sold to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen for $12 million. Tracey Emin's unmade bed is now installed in her own room at Tate Modern. The rest of Saachi's YBA collection is mothballed until 2006. In their place, Saatchi's monumental accumulation of contemporary European paintings, with an emphasis on young German painters from Berlin, adorns the labyrinth of Queen Anne wood-paneled rooms at County Hall. Part one of "The Triumph of Painting" features works by Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Jörg Immendorff, Martin Kippenberger, Hermann Nitsch and Luc Tuymans -- all debatably described by Saatchi as "key European artists." You have to admire Saatchi's determination to present these spectacles of contemporary art. Few collectors dare to brag about their purchases quite so loudly and put themselves on the line with so much publicity. Such generosity has deservedly propelled Saatchi into the international pantheon of "supercollecters."

Erich Heckel, The Elba river through Dresden, 1905, Oil on cardboard, 51 x 70 cm. Museum Folkang, Essen. MADRID, SPAIN.- The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza presents Brücke: The Birth of German Expressionism. 2005 marks the centenary of the constitution of the group of artists called Brücke, founded in June 1905 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who at the time were architecture students in Dresden. Emil Nolde, and Max Pechstein. In their collective exhibitions, the painters of Brücke presented themselves as a group that shared themes, experiences and formal endeavours and, therefore, one which did not prioritise the manifestation of individual temperament. The question regarding the wish to find a collective style in Brücke is difficult to elude. The exhibition Brücke. The Birth of German Expressionism, which presents a retrospective overview of the history of the group from its beginnings to its dissolution, emphasises precisely this aspect of their work. A thematic itinerary, but at the same time articulated in such a way that it respects a chronological organisation of those iconographic priorities, enables the visitor to understand how common aims were pursued and how artistic dispositions influenced each other. Obviously, their stylistic approaches manifest themselves in a wide, changing, and practically irreducible spectrum, which confirms the commitment of those painters to explore their creative potential and to rediscover their own pictorial imagery. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Berlin street scene, 1913. Oil on canvas, 121 x 95 cm. Brucke Museum, Berlin.

DAYTON, OHIO.- The Dayton Art Institute presents Memories: Pictorial Quilts by Paul Buford. African-American artist Paul Buford (1918-2000) served in the United States Army as an anti-aircraft gunner in WWII. After the war, he returned to school and graduated in 1951 from Wilberforce University with a major in history, art and secondary education. He worked at Wright Patterson Air Force Base as a top secret control officer until he retired. As a self-trained artist, Buford created watercolors, sculpted replicas of wooden historic buildings, and made pictorial quilts. These quilts are among the very few done by men. Buford started quilting in 1989 and created 12 designs during his lifetime. He skillfully manipulated the printed fabric to recreate images of personal events in his life. These narrative quilts have captured a moment in his family history, such as meeting his wife, Marietta, at Shorter Hall on Wilberforce University's campus in 1936. One quilt is in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen 332nd Red Tail Aircraft Fighter Group as they moved up and down the mountain pass in Italy. Buford’s unit, 450th AAA Brigade, was in the valley protecting the fighter group.

DUBLIN, IRELAND.- The first major exhibition in Ireland by the iconic American artist Jasper Johns opened to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Past Things and Present: Jasper Johns since 1983 comprises some 90 paintings, prints and drawings created over a period of significant development in the artist’s work. During this time Johns moved away from the flags, targets and other symbols, which had brought him instant acclaim in the late 1950s, to a range of arresting new imagery, much of it intensely personal, melancholic and even surreal. Organised by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, which has an extensive collection of Johns’ work, the exhibition is presented in association with THE IRISH TIMES. Jasper Johns first came to public attention over 50 years ago, with his now-famous images of flags, numerals and impersonal household objects, or – as he described them – “things we already know?. Radically different from the prevailing Abstract Expressionism, they offered a new way of thinking about the nature and function of art. However, by the early 1980s he had adopted a much more personal iconography, including things present in his home and studio, allusions to his childhood and family and quotations from artworks – his own and others’. He acknowledged this change in 1984: “In my early work I tried to hide my personality, my psychological state, my emotion…. I sort of stuck to my guns for a while, but eventually it seemed like a losing battle. Finally, one must simply drop the reserve.? John’s use of traced outlines of works by Hans Holbein, Matthias Grûnewald and others is explored in a number of objects, including the encaustic and sand painting Green Angel (1990). The exhibition also presents some wonderful images from the so-called Catenary series from the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as several very recent works that incorporate the outlines of a painting by Edward Manet. In addition to the works from the Walker collection, paintings and drawings have also been loaned from many other important public and private collections, including Johns’ own collection.

Disgusting? Depressing? Or are art fairs the triumph of the corporate avant-garde? Organizers claim art fairs are "important" and that they're "forums." In reality, they're adrenaline-addled spectacles for a kind of buying and selling where intimacy, conviction, patience, and focused looking, not to mention looking again, are essentially nonexistent. They are places where commerce has replaced epistemology, and the unspoken contract that existed between artists, dealers, and collectors has been scraped. As one private dealer gleefully told The New York Times recently, "It's one-stop shopping. The mall experience . . . fashion, parties, and fun all wrapped up in one." Welcome to the branded and marketed art world of 2005. Maybe it's always been this way, but it's certainly more so now. These days art fairs are perfect storms of money, marketability, and instant gratification—tent-city casinos where art is shipped in and parked for five days, while spectators gawk as comped V.I.P.s and shoppers roll the dice for all to see. And in this game, everybody plays: artists, dealers, and buyers. Herein lies a crucial catch: Art fairs may be all about commerce, but as Scott Rothkopf points out on the Artforum website, "the real action is elsewhere"—meaning the spin-off activities, smaller fairs, shows, parties, and whatnot. Art fairs are the new biennials. They are gigantic conventions where everyone sees one another, hangs out, and does deals. Fairs generate a genuine sense of community in an art world so sprawling that this experience is otherwise rare. They are more egalitarian than curator-driven exhibitions in which one person tells everyone else what to look at. Curator Massimiliano Gioni ruefully calls them "the ultimate form of the avant-garde: the corporate avant-garde." As Rothkopf wrote, "Who would pass up an excuse to commingle with immensely talented artists and curators in immensely beautiful surroundings, often with immensely beautiful people?" I gladly took a pass on the most recent Miami and Frieze fairs because these events make me feel existentially adrift. (Few are further from the epicenter of action than an art critic at an art fair.) Yet after hearing many say how much fun it all was, I now regret not going.

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Zola on Work

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work."