Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cultural Security News (Sep. 23 - Sep. 29)

Art of Economic Development and Financial Security
Over the past week, events in the art world suggested continued opportunity for economic development and financial security through the market.
In economic development, Sotheby's, for the first time, held an auction in China, China Guardian Auction House expanded into Hong Kong, and reportedly, White Cube will open a new gallery in Sao Paulo, Brazil in December. In India, new money in Gurgaon reportedly has developed the art market over the past few years. In the United States, Art Platform Los Angeles, for its second year, switched from a local focus to welcoming interest from around the world, and Expo Chicago reportedly, had a successful first year.
In financial security, auction houses in China were honored for good practices in the midst of regulation of the art market, and international sales reports indicated confidence in art as an investment. The Christian Science Monitor published a short article on continued worldwide interest of the wealthy in bidding up the value of masterpieces, and ran a piece that listed top bids for masterpieces in a series of sales at Koller Auctions, Zurich in September.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vision of Contemporary Art

Contemporary art can express social commentary and political opinion. While the subject matter of the artworks may derive from local culture, the expressed ideas are not necessarily tied to local myth or religious allegory. Artworks that employ “culturally neutral” imagery have greater potential to evoke emotional response universally. For example, a Western collector, who is not familiar with Iranian politics or society, let alone Islam, may intuitively appreciate the views expressed in Iranian contemporary artworks by virtue of the evoked emotions.
In the field of neuroaesthetics, neuroscientists and psychophysicists have endeavored to identify brain function that underlies perceptual and emotional effects of artworks. Why does a Renaissance painting appear to have depth, or why does a color field painting by Mark Rothko evoke emotion? Neuroscientists have discovered fundamental neural pathways that detect form, color, and motion, and psychophysicists have identified visual cues by which the brain reconstructs depth from two-dimensional information that the eye captures. By virtue of the findings, neuroaesthetics has verified the keen insight of artists in deciphering and exploiting visual perception.
Since the insights identify fundamental aspects of perception, artists can devise universal cues that convey social and political views across cultural sensibilities. Collectors who respond to the aesthetic appeal of the cues indirectly affirm the expressed views by acquiring artworks. As the art market continues to globalize with on-line auctions, galleries, and private sales, acquisitions of contemporary art could indicate worldwide support of the underlying views.
Knowledge of the social and political meaning, and the emotional effect, of the views would aid in assessing global shifts in power of social and political movements. Studies in neuroaesthetics on contemporary art may yield such knowledge.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cultural Security News (Sep. 16 - Sep. 22)

Beliefs and Markets
In beliefs, protests over a film that mocks the Prophet Mohammad continued across Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Indonesia. The negative effect on relations between the United States and the Muslim world overshadowed a report of potentially comparable significance within Christianity. At an international congress on Coptic studies in Rome, a Harvard professor presented evidence that suggests that Jesus had a wife.
An Indonesian Muslim protester throws a Molotov cocktail towards the police during a protest in front of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta September 17, 2012. Indonesia police used teargas and water cannon on Monday to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who massed outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta to protest against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad. REUTERS-BeawihartaIn markets, several articles on classes of collectors and venues of sale reflect the dynamic nature, and perhaps expansion, of the art market. An article in The Huffington Post suggested that increasing disparity in wealth causes the record-breaking prices of late, while an article in Business Daily Live pointed out the distinction of art as an investment class due to the purely perceived value of art.
Moves by auction houses reflected speculation in the market. Sotheby's secured an arrangement with a Chinese firm in order to set up operations in Beijing, Christie's plans an exhibition in Baku, Azerbaijan, and an established auction house in Australia has moved into the gallery and e-commerce markets over the past year.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cultural Diplomacy through the Contemporary Art Market

The market for contemporary art is private-sector cultural diplomacy. Major collectors have developed cities as centers of contemporary art, while museum exhibitions, international art fairs, and on-line galleries have enabled new artists to market works globally. Through global distribution, contemporary art communicates social and political views across cultures and bridges socioeconomic divides.
Reporting on politics of contemporary art in Los Angeles recently publicized the development of the Broad Museum for Contemporary Art, which will house a 2,000-piece collection. As an example of the intent to make Los Angeles the capital of contemporary art, the $130-million-dollar museum follows a history of collecting by Eli and Edythe Broad. The Broad Art Foundation also facilitates the spread of culture by loaning artworks to museums across four continents. The collection comprises more than 1,500 works by more than 100 artists, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. While contemporary artworks have come to command multimillion-dollar prices, artists continue to create “affordable” works for the market.
China and Brazil provide examples of emerging markets for contemporary art that enable new artists to gain international exposure. A demand for “affordable artworks” in China has given rise to a series of art fairs that select for newer artists and restrict the maximum price (e.g. from $5,000 to $10,000) for individual works, and in the past decade, art “supermarkets” in China have made works available to everyone on an ongoing-basis. An expanding on-line market in China, allows ordinary wage-earners to invest in and collect art. Similarly, the middle-class in Brazil has taken to investing new-found wealth in art from galleries and ArtRio, an international art fair that started last year in Rio de Janeiro. While many of the galleries from abroad at the fair hail from established art centers such as New York, London, Berlin, and Zurich, an expanding interest in collecting suggests that emerging art centers will soon have a presence.
For example, the Korean International Art Fair (KIAF), which took place this month in Seoul, featured contemporary artists from Latin America. Due to a slump in the art market in Korea, galleries at the fair displayed works across a broad price range. While prominent artists such as Fang Lijun commanded high prices, younger local artists offered affordable works.  Reportedly, Latin American contemporary art is undervalued, so an event such as KIAF has the potential to foster a market for Latin American art in Asia. Aspiring collectors in Seoul who purchase works of emerging artists from Bogota, Columbia prove the value of the contemporary art market as an instrument for cultural diplomacy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cultural Security News (Sep. 09 - Sep. 15)

Art market in China develops - smuggling thrives in the Near East
While the art market in China seems to have cooled off a bit, Sotheby's has partnered with Beijing GeHua Art Company in order to do business on the mainland. A series of fairs in China are enabling younger artists to display their works as new collectors seek "affordable artworks," and the market for reprints shows an increasing trend. Meanwhile, smugglers in Pakistan admitted to the extent of looting, which reportedly includes bribes to police and yields substantial profits on the international market. In response to looting in Syria, the International Council on Museums is creating a "red list" of looted artifacts to assist customs officials worldwide in identifying smuggled antiquities. Reportedly, the illicit trade in antiquities from Syria is connected to, if not directly funding, the purchase of weapons used in the conflict. The extradition of Subhash Kapoor to India has been followed by reports with more detail on the scale of smuggling operations in India. On a more upbeat note, the remains of Roald Amundsen's schooner, The Maud, are to return from Nunavut to Norway.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soft Power of Contemporary Art

As artworks continue to command record prices over $100 million, the market for contemporary art has been expanding at the other end. A demand for “affordable art” has created new opportunities for aspiring artists to market their work to local interest and inspired curiosity abroad. Contemporary artworks garner soft power by conveying and attracting support for cultural ideals instead of coercing cooperation through military or economic pressure. As works circulate internationally, their aesthetics and societal messages intertwine to develop the political power of the group, community, or nation of the artist.
An exhibition of works by Iranian artists provides an example. In summer 2009, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York presented an exhibition titled, "Iran Inside Out." The exhibition happened to follow Iran’s presidential elections, which led to protests over controversial results.  The protests revealed an ambition of political reform, and the exhibition complemented the sentiments by presenting progressive societal views. The exhibition gave a view from within Iran, in that a majority of the artists reside in the country if not in Tehran. As a reflection of the views of Iranian citizens, the artworks demonstrated  freedom of expression more in line with Western sensibilities than fundamentalist Muslim societies.
A more recent exhibition of works by Syrian artists offers another example. This summer, Prince Claus Fund Gallery in Amsterdam presented, “Culture in Defiance,” which exhibited works by Syrian artists. Through satire, Syrian artists peacefully demonstrate against the regime. Employing a range of media from paintings to songs to puppets, artists bring balance to the violent news images of fighting across Syria by demonstrating that the defiance extends beyond armed conflict. Syrian artists also found support in the Middle East. Mashrabia Art Gallery in Cairo presented the exhibition “92s Syria” in March. By showing in Egypt, the art sent a message across Arab cultures that Syrians seek freedom of expression. Presentation of artworks from Amsterdam to Cairo not only shows cross-cultural support for the insurgents but also shows the world that a living culture seeks an opportunity for peaceful existence.
Presentation of artworks abroad also has potential positive derivative effects in post-conflict economic development. Continued expansion of the market would make contemporary art a viable export. The trend may enable artists to combine passion and profession by earning a living while pursuing individual expression. As a global phenomenon, the contemporary art market provides a venue for artists to communicate political views abroad, gauge affirmation of their views, and potentially realize financial gain. The resulting interplay of passion and profession further enhances the soft power of contemporary art.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cultural Security News (Sep. 02 - Sep. 08)

Art for everyone, but buyer beware
stali-lenin-fake.JPGIn Brazil, the middle class progressively invest in art, and in China, ordinary wage-earners see themselves as affording artworks. On the shadier side, the art-for-everyone online market has created opportunities for forgers to the extent that contemporary artists consider counterfeiting their own work, and Chinese business men, reportedly, launder money through art purchases. Despite an increased interest in art, auction sales in the United States and China declined from a year ago. Major Latin American auction houses, however, realized more than a 50% increase since last year, private sales at Sotheby's and Christie's increased, and the Hong Kong art market continues to expand. In politics, Iraq made claims that half of a Jewish archive removed during the U.S. military intervention in 2003 has been smuggled to Israel along with other Iraqi antiquities. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology reached an agreement with Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism on an indefinite loan of material to Turkey and excavations in Gordion, central Turkey. In security, authorities in Egypt and Abu Dhabi foiled attempts to smuggle coins, and some but not all Gandhara artifacts seized in Karachi in July have been determined to be fakes.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Conventions and Unconventional Conflict

The ongoing destruction of historic sites in Syria and the targeting of religious monuments of northern Mali in July serve as poignant reminders of the vulnerability of cultural heritage in armed conflict. Since World War II, UNESCO has striven to establish conventions to protect cultural property. Have the conventions kept pace with the changing landscape of threats to cultural heritage?
Two landmark conventions offer points for consideration.
The 1954 Hague Convention and protocols specify the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. The United Nations established the convention in response to destruction in conflict between nations, but in the present, destruction of historic sites and looting of antiquities involve not only nations but also non-state actors such as insurgents and fundamentalist groups. Resisting insurgents, such as in Syria, and attacks by fundamentalist groups, such as in Timbuktu, Mali qualify, perhaps, as new circumstances in which to consider the protection of cultural property during political or armed conflict.
The 1970 UNESCO Convention specifies the prevention of trafficking in cultural property. While established in the climate of the Cold War to mitigate looting of cultural artifacts in emerging nations, the convention has created the means for nations to call for repatriation of cultural patrimony. In 2006, Greece and Italy succeed in recalling antiquities from prominent U.S. museums, in 2010, Peru secured the return of Inca artifacts from the Peabody Museum at Yale University, Nigeria continues a campaign to reclaim the Benin Bronzes, and Turkey has upped assertive efforts to repatriate cultural patrimony. In all cases, the returns involved, and seem primed to involve, controversy. If the trend in repatriation continues, will the role of repatriation in foreign policy risk tension in foreign relations?
Both conventions galvanized the significance of cultural property in foreign relations. How might the conventions adapt to current, and perhaps anticipate emerging, threats to world heritage, and what measures might in turn be necessary to forestall political conflict over possession and ownership of cultural property?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Cultural Security News (Aug. 26 - Sep. 01)

Cultural Security in Egypt
istabl antar siteCultural property of Egypt provided examples of three different types of cultural security. In conservation, the Tourism and Antiquities Police intervened to halt occupation of the Islamic site of Istabl Antar in Al-Fustat. In foreign relations, Israel and Egypt negotiated the return of two sarcophagi lids, which had been smuggled early in 2011. In markets, the Minister of Antiquities worked with UNESCO towards criminalizing copying of Egyptian antiquities. In the worldwide political economy of art, announcements and reports depicted cross-cultural promotion of cultural heritage. The Seoul art fair in September will feature Latin art, the Toronto art fair in October will feature Asian art, and London is the center of a growing global market for Islamic art.
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