The story behind theft of the Mona Lisa
Picasso and poet Appollinaire were prime suspects when Leonardo da Vinci’s best known painting was stolen from the Louvre
On a mundane morning in late summer in Paris, the impossible happened. The Mona Lisa vanished. On Sunday evening, August 20, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s best-known painting was hanging in her usual place on the wall of the Salon Carré, between Correggio’s Mystical Marriage and Titian’s Allegory of Alfonso d’Avalos. On Tuesday morning, when the Louvre reopened to the public, she was gone.
In the seven years from 1905 to 1911, the genesis story of modern art was being written. Pablo Picasso was its genius; Guillaume Apollinaire was its impresario. A flamboyant poet and cultural provocateur, Apollinaire enunciated the modernist creed, adopting the Marquis de Sade’s maxim, “In art, one has to kill one’s father”. Urging the destruction of all museums “because they paralyse the imagination”, he championed Picasso “as a young god who wants to remake the world”.
Apollinaire and the artist were leaders of a group loosely known as la bande de Picasso. Familiar from Montmartre to Manhattan as the “Wild Men of Paris”, Picasso’s gang of painters and poets were the outlaws of traditional art. Young, brilliant and ruthlessly ambitious, they strutted through the cobblestone streets of Montmartre and filled the cheap cafes, defining themselves as well as a new creative idiom, breaking the rules to free art from art history.
After two frustrating weeks [following the Mona Lisa’s theft, police prefect Louis] Lépine believed he had cracked the case. In la bande de Picasso, he had found the international ring of art thieves he had been hunting.
All Those Sounds From the Stage: Processed, and Not Always Pretty
Chad Batka for The New York Times
Lou Reed performed with his group, Metal Machine Trio, at the Blender Theater at Gramercy.
It was good to have this Lou Reed back: not an American Master nor a Legend of Rock, but a barking, brooding, beneficial irritant. On Thursday night at the Blender Theater at Gramercy, onstage between Sarth Calhoun and Ulrich Krieger, two much younger musicians, he was making noise — improvised, loud, heavily processed, and some of it ugly enough to make people leave.
Not many, though. There were extra-musical reasons to stay put. An emotional reason: he’s Lou Reed, poet of New York City, et cetera. And a big intellectual reason: Mr. Reed calls this group Metal Machine Trio, which refers to a notorious double-LP he made in 1975. “Metal Machine Music” is a kind of personality test. Many average listeners, even average Lou Reed fans, heard it as long-winded, discordant feedback.
You couldn’t really rely on Mr. Reed to tell you how to feel about it, either. He’d had a hit record the year before — “Sally Can’t Dance” — which he didn’t seem to love. He seemed to propose “Metal Machine Music” as corrective honesty, almost clinical, as if he’d hooked up a mixing board directly to his neurons. “No one I know has listened to it all the way through including myself,” he wrote in the record’s liner notes. “I’m sorry, but not especially, if it turns you off.”
Czech art: shoot your lawmaker in the face
PRAGUE (AFP) – Two artists have offered Czechs angered by politics the chance to take revenge on their lawmakers by shooting them literally in the face, by turning their photos into air gun targets.
Tomas Cap and Michal Kraus have displayed the portraits of 200 lower-house deputies in plastic boxes on the wall of a Prague alternative gallery, in front of an air gun and a boxful of ammunition.
“We have seen lawmakers breach the promises they gave to voters so many times. The visitors of the gallery have a unique opportunity to show these politicians what they think,” the artists said in a statement.
Two weeks after opening, the exhibition was a sad sight as most of the faces had been heavily damaged by airgun slugs, with some destroyed beyond recognition.
He said he only hoped the crumbling photos would last till the end of the exhibition on Sunday as “the artists want to send them to the lawmakers afterwards.”
It’s called “Fighting,” and its unpolished, messy fracases are among the film’s highlights. But there’s much more to it than that: more than the easily sold idea of Channing Tatum as Shawn, a down-on-his-luck drifter, drawn by two-bit hustler Harvey (Terrence Howard) into New York’s underground fighting scene; more than Shawn’s romance with struggling single mother Zulay (Zulay Henao).
The word that best expresses the film is “vivid.”
It feels like a guided tour of the city’s in-your-face underbelly, loaded with detail that only a native with an artist’s eye could reveal. Director and co-writer Dito Montiel’s previous effort, Sundance sensation “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” (also starring Tatum), similarly depicted an unglamorous New York so real you could smell it — for better or worse. The casting of extras, location scouting and production design all display care not common to the genre.
As to the fighting in “Fighting” — it continues the exciting trend of realistic combat that helped make “Taken” a surprise hit, but it goes much further. Some throwdowns look and feel like street brawls, choreographed to look unchoreographed: ugly, rough and thrillingly unpredictable.
Sanctuary rescues Mexico’s vanishing icons
Small sanctuary rescuing fast-vanishing icons
OTUMBA, Mexico – You can hear the Burroland donkey shelter long before you see it, as the braying of jacks and jennies mixes with the mournful whistles of freight trains in this small town outside City.
This shelter for unwanted donkeys would have once seemed a laughable idea in Mexico, where the hard-working burro is practically a national symbol. These beasts of burden carried settlers over the Sierra Madre, hauled gold from mines and pulled plows through Mexican fields for centuries.
The donkeys that were once sold here pulled carts of silver and gold from Mexico’s mines, bringing fabulous wealth to the Spanish empire.
They carried silks and spices from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean as part of the trade route to Asia. And donkeys accompanied pioneers pushing west and north through the Americas.
“These are animals that basically built the continent,” Patton said.
EARTH DAY by Roy Thomas (Bearclaw Gallery)
‘Who Is Mark Twain?’
When he died 99 years ago this week, Mark Twain was this country’s most beloved writer, yet his status as both an author and protean example of the now-familiar pop cultural celebrity seems to grow with each passing decade.
Twain’s death of heart disease at the age of 74 came as such a blow to the country that it evoked an expression of official White House regret from President William Howard Taft: “Mark Twain gave pleasure — real intellectual enjoyment — to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come. . . . His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.”
Ernest Hemingway famously argued that “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ” though even he conceded that the great novel’s disastrous final section is “just cheating.” (To this critic’s mind, a canonical case also can be made for Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and “The Confidence-Man.” Still, what other 19th century American novel so controversial in its own time — though for different reasons — remains so today?)
William Faulkner, to whom praise of other novelists did not come easily, called Twain the “first truly American writer” and said he “wrote the first American sentences.”
The Brando Brand
Perhaps one day movie stars and celebrities will leave their names and likenesses to the public domain. That would clear up what might be called the Brando problem — the case of a major public figure who dies and leaves behind a potent if contradictory image and no clear commercial legacy. The effort to create a Brando brand out of the Marlon Brando trust is in the hands of his rather oddly assorted trustees: a producer, an accountant and his former personal assistant. So far, their major activity has been suing companies for infringing upon Brando’s name, which is trademarked.
Creating a meaningful brand out of Brando — as opposed to merely warning off those who use his name without permission — will be no easy task. The search for the truly marketable Brando is likely to take some interesting twists.
Will it be the young man who starred in the drama “The Wild One”? The sullen but brilliant stage actor? Will it evoke thoughts of Don Corleone or Jor-El or Maria Schneider? Or will it be the figure who retreated to a private atoll in the South Pacific, where the trustees are planning to build a Brando-themed, ecologically minded resort?
And The Pulitzer For Forgotten Fiction Goes To…
Here’s a list of Pulitzer novels we’ve forgotten. Add your own forgotten fiction in the comment field below — or tell us what we’ve missed.
Our Unscientific List Of Least-Known Fiction Winners
- His Family by Ernest Poole, 1918
- Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield, 1927
- Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin, 1929
- Laughing Boy by Oliver Lafarge, 1930
- Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes, 1931
- The Store by T.S. Stribling, 1933
- Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller, 1934
- Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson, 1935
- Honey in the Horn by Harold L. Davis, 1936
- In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow, 1942
- Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin, 1944
- Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens, 1949
- The Way West by A.B. Guthrie, 1950
- The Town by Conrad Richter, 1951
- The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor, 1959
- The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O’Connor, 1962
- Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson, 1978
Gehry on L.A., art (and Gehry)
In “Conversations With Frank Gehry,” Los Angeles writer Barbara Isenberg talks with the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, who’s behind such iconic buildings as Walt Disney Concert Hall and Guggenheim Bilbao. They cover his life, pivotal career moments, including the competition for Bilbao, and influences. Following are exclusive excerpts from the book, published by Alfred A. Knopf, which goes on sale Tuesday.
Is there a Los Angeles style of architecture?
Los Angeles has an incredible light and a forgiving climate. You don’t have to use double glazing, and you don’t have to think about snow loads and snow conditions. The further south you go, the more open you can get. But the generation after me is working all over the world, like I am, so we’ve had to adapt to other climates. I had to adapt to a northern climate in Bilbao.
Do you take a Los Angeles sensibility with you?
It’s not so contrived. You just go for the bigger picture, I think. At least I do.
Cynthia’s Artsy Fix
Thursday, April 16, 2009
(NEW YORK) Cynthia Rowley may be known more for her quirky sense of style than for her passion for art collecting, but all that may be about to change. Rowley and her husband Bill Powers have been featured on the cover of Phillips de Pury & Company’s latest“Saturday@Phillips” auction catalogue, as part of its “Tastemaker” series. Powers’ artistic penchant is hardly surprising; in addition to being the man behind Ms. Rowley, he’s also co-owner of Half Gallery on the Lower East Side (along with Andy Spade and James Frey), editor at large for Purple magazine and artistic director at Tarmagazine and Tar Siz publishing.
The catalog has just gone on sale (aligning with Phillips’ April 25 auction of contemporary and urban art, photographs, design and toy art) and features Dean Kaufman’s photos of Rowley and Powers–with a sneaky appearance on the cover of their 9-year-old daughter Kit’s hand. As for their collection? The couple shows off drawings, photographs, paintings, and sculpture by the likes of Richard Prince, Marc Newson, Andy Warhol and more. Rowley says the variety is what makes it special.
The Spades started out just outside Detroit. It was the 1960s and Sam Spade was an ad man for the Big Three automakers while his beautiful wife, Judy, cared for their three boys. Sam liked to disappear. One day he didn’t come home for six months, so Judy put the house on the market. The day the house sold, Sam reappeared and begged for another chance. He’d found a job in Phoenix, he said.
“I said, ‘O.K., one more shot,’” Judy told me. “When we finally got out to Phoenix, that turned out to be a lie—he didn’t actually have a job there.”
It didn’t take long for Sam to disappear for good. It was 1968 and Judy and the boys—8-year-old Bryan, 6-year-old Andy and 4-year-old David—were pretty much stranded in the desert. Judy told them, “No use sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves!” She moved the brood to Scottsdale and over the next decade often worked three jobs.
“The boys took care of themselves,” said Judy, now 71 and retired, speaking from the mountain town of Show Low, Ariz., where she lives with her third husband. “But they were very good at keeping themselves entertained.”
It’s likely that when Kari Ferrell walked into the Vice magazine offices in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last month to interview for an administrative assistant job, they thought they’d hit the jackpot. Ms. Ferrell—petite, 22 years old, of Korean heritage—had a huge tattoo of a dragon across her chest and a cute pixie haircut.
She was talkative, funny, charming, adorable. She had a tattoo on her back that read “I Love Beards.” She told them she’d been working for the New York office of the concert promotion company GoldenVoice, which puts on huge rock festivals like Coachella near Palm Springs, Calif., and that she’d moved to New York from Utah just a few months earlier. They hired her on the spot.
A few days later, one of Ms. Ferrell’s new colleagues came by her desk. “I said, ‘Excuse me, miss, is [her boss] downstairs?’” the 29-year-old told The Observer. “She thought that was very polite that I said, ‘Excuse me, miss,’ and after that she started talking to me, instant-messaging me. She asked if I was from the South. I told her no. It escalated from there.”
Within the space of a half-hour, Ms. Ferrell was peppering him with questions about his sexual history—how many women he’d slept with and so on. “She was coming on to me, and I was super into it for the first part of it,” he said. “I realized I could have fun after work—but then I was like, ‘Let me check this girl out.’” He Googled her. Up popped a photo of his flirtatious new co-worker on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Most Wanted list.
[Jeff Koons. All photos by JP PULLOS for ]
The literary crowd, including the infamousand Glenn O’Brien, flocked to the last night to celebrate pop artist Jeff Koons’ newest projects – books. and the aptly titled document Koons’ popular overseas exhibitions, which include his October 2008 exhibition at Berlin’s . Koon’s past and present pieces of artwork cover a wide range of topics such as celebrity, race and gender, commerce, media, sex, and fame.
More photos below…
James Frey, Jeff Koons, Glenn O’Brien
What’s a nice girl like you doing with an arsenal like this? Police seize 20-year-old guarding vast weapons cache… including anti-aircraft gun
Last updated at 8:01 PM on 14th April 2009
Smirking for the camera, this is the 20-year-old woman Mexican police caught guarding an extraordinary arsenal of weapons.
Anahi Beltran Cabrera was seized during a routine patrol in Sonora state, near the U.S. border.
Officers recovered a vast cache of weapons including an anti-aircraft gun capable of firing 800 shots per minute, a number of rifles and an array of ammunition.
Anahi Beltran Cabrera is paraded for the cameras with her stash of weapons
Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych found dead
BOSTON — Former All-Star pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych has been found dead in an apparent accident at his farm in Northborough, Massachusetts. He was 54.
Worcester County district attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. says a family friend found Fidrych about 2:30 p.m. Monday beneath a pickup truck. He appeared to be working on the truck, Early said.
The colorful right-hander was the American League rookie of the year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 earned run average. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA.
His career was cut short by injuries.
— Associated Press
At Portrait Gallery, Duchamp’s Teasing Puzzles of Identity
Who is Marcel Duchamp? He’s the man who, in 1912, made the masterpiece of modern painting titled “Nude Descending the Staircase, No. 2.” Except when he’s the virulently anti-painting guy who, just five years later, took a standard urinal and declared it to be a work of art.
Duchamp is the entirely cerebral genius who just about abandoned art in favor of chess. Except when he’s the aging letch who worked in secret on “Etant Donnés,” a laboriously crafted peep show that’s far too crude for us to present in this paper.
Just when you think you know Marcel Duchamp, he slips away again. And that may be the most important thing about him. At least, that’s the strong impression left by “Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture,” an ambitious show at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition adds yet another, little-acknowledged dimension to Duchamp: It argues that the art of portraiture — in Duchamp’s self-portraits and also in images he let others make of him — was central to his whole career. And it shows that, for Duchamp, portraiture was all about demolishing our stale ideas about an artist — or a person — as a single, stable thing. In the 100 portraits in this show, Duchamp can be male one minute, female the next. He can be a European man of letters or an outlaw from the Wild West. He can be a fleshy prizefighter or a champagne glass full of inanimate scraps.
Adult Star Marilyn Chambers Found Dead
Updated 12:43 PM PDT, Mon, Apr 13, 2009
Famed adult film star Marilyn Chambers was found dead in her home in the Canyon Country area, authorities said Monday, and an autopsy was pending to determine how she died.
The 56-year old broke into the porn industry by appearing in the 1972 film “Behind the Green Door,” the first widely released pornographic film in the United States.
Her appearance in the film cost the then-aspiring model and actress her job as Procter & Gamble’s Ivory Snow detergent girl, appearing on the soapbox with a baby and the caption “99 & 44/100% pure.”
The Providence, R.I., native had a bit part in the 1970 Barbra Streisand film “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but after establishing herself as a pornographic film star, she was never able to break into mainstream films.
Copyright City News Service
Fete Accompli | ‘Younger Than Jesus’
What: Last night’s invitation-only opening party for the New Museum’s first triennial survey, “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus.”
Where: A free-for-all within the SANAA-designed Bowery home of the New Museum, including the top floor Sky Room.
Dress Code: An artsy fashion stew of Lycra jumpsuits, décolleté tops, thick-rimmed glasses (that we suspect are nonprescriptive), monochrome ensembles, sequined pants and jackets, and leggings in abrasive colors like aquamarine and magenta.
Drinks: Grolsch lager in the bottle and Nobilo wines out of little plastic cups, alongside guava-colored Campari cocktails topped with an orange slice.
Décor: Four floors of self-referential young-person art dealing with young-person topics. Think new-media references like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Internet jargon (e.g., “OMG”); video; a live woman sleeping in bed under a downy white duvet; sculptures of severed hands on a table; and a museum employee (we think) in a blood-stained tracksuit.
Music: Ross from Tally Hall, aka DJ “MR. F”, broke out ‘90s tunes, including a throwback to West Coast rappers, and then sprinkling in Ben Harper, Daft Punk and others.
Food: N/A, naturally.
Gift: A free copy of this week’s New York magazine — ironically with the “Facebook Revolt” story on the cover.
Perks: A view of the Lower East Side and Nolita from the Sky Room.
Overheard: “It’s cool to see what young artists are doing. Ryan Trecartin made those crazy, crazy videos. He’s got two up on the third floor. They’re insane in a great way.” — James Frey