Saturday, November 01, 2014

Keith Haring – More than Pretty Pictures

The year before his death in 1990, Keith Haring said "If you‘re not interested in being a part of the system, then you shouldn’t care that you’re being ignored by the museums and the curators! Well, I really do believe that it will all happen later― the acceptance. It’s going to happen when I’m not here to appreciate it.” Twenty four years later it has come to pass.

Today any survey of the Pop Art genre is incomplete without at least a nod in his direction. And so it is with the Art Gallery of NSW’s latest hoped for block buster Pop to Popism. In amongst the Warhol’s and the Lichtenstein’s is a 1982 untitled painting on loan from the University of Sydney.


During his short career Haring had fractious relationship with the formal art world. As he said in a Rolling Stone interview with David Sheff “As an art student and being sort of in the underground and having very precise and cynical ideas about the art world, the traditional art-dealer gallery represented a lot that I hated about the art world.

His decision to open a retail shop for his work in New York’s Soho district in 1986 drew criticism from many in the art world. Haring defended the low cost outlet saying “My work was starting to become more expensive and more popular within the art marker. Those prices meant that only people who could afford big art prices could have access to the work. The Pop Shop makes it accessible.

In 2007 the first Private Museum dedicated to Haring's work, Nakamura Keith Haring Collection Museum, opened in  Japan’s Yatsugatake Mountains. The museum’s current exhibition Chaos to Hope: Keith Haring in the Nakamura Collection juxtaposes Haring's work with Japanese street artists.


It is, perhaps, on the other side of the Pacific that a deeper perspective of Haring's work can be found. On the 8th of November San Francisco's de Young Museum will open The Political Line, an exhibition that explores Haring's political activism which underscored and motivated much of his work.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Silverlens Jetsets its Artists around the World

This weekend Manila’s Silverlens Gallery will be exhibiting eight of their artists work in Taiwan at Art Taipei 2014. A fortnight later they will be in Paris at Paris Photo 2014 with a further three artist’s work on display.

Since 2008 they have participated in 32 art fairs around the world. Form New York to Hong Kong, from Miami to Paris the Silverlens founders, Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo, have recognized and reacted to this growing art world phenomena.

New York gallerist sans gallery, Ed Winkleman estimates that from 2005 to today arts fairs have grown from 65 to around 220. A panelist at the recently held “Art Fairs: An Irresistible Force in the Art World?" discussion in New York, he also indicated a shift in collectors buying habits stating This (art fairs) is where I purchase art. Why am I spending time in the various galleries, when the newest and the very best is at the art fair?"

Winkleman also admits on his blog that “the perception of a gallery's rank in the system (is) by noting which art fairs it participates in.

But participating galleries need deep pockets to play in this game. According to New York gallerist and fellow panelist, Elizabeth Dee, her annual art fair participation costs have risen from 35 to 45 thousand dollars a decade ago to a quarter of a million today.

And then there is the attendance at the fair by us, the non high rollers excluded from the VIP events. As Miranda Sawyer says in her review of London’s Frieze Art fair “Still, you do have to gird your loins and sharpen your elbows to do Frieze.”


Still it is hearting to see that at least one Manila gallery is taking on the challenges and providing a duty of care for their artists.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Anti Corruption crusade, political witch hunt or business as usual?

Although there are political parties in the Philippines they are subservient to the “Political Dynasties” created by a few notable families who exercise control of the political power in the country. The current president Benigno Aquino III is a case in point.

President Aquino is the 4th generation of his family’s political adventure. His mother Corazon Aquino was the 11th President of the Philippines, his father Benigno Aquino, Jr. was a Senator during the Marcos years. His assassination on his return from self imposed exile has made him somewhat of a national hero. President Aquino’s grandfather was Speaker of the House of Representatives during World War II and his great grandfather was a delegate to the Malolos Congress pre independence.

Drafted into running for president after the death of his mother he ran on an anti-corruption platform entitled daang matuwid (The straight path). It has not been empty rhetoric although some claim it to be selective; it has increased the country’s international standing. 

In May of this year Standard & Poor’s increased the Philippines’ credit rating to “BBB”, the highest in the country’s history. The corruption watch dog Transparency International has improved the Philippines corruption ranking from 134 in 2010 to 94 in 2013.

This improvement in the country’s international fortunes has come about through government action that shows it means business. The former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in custody at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center awaiting trial for electoral sabotage and the misuse of state lottery funds.

In 2011 the then head of The Office of the Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, resigned rather than face impeachment for protecting former President Arroyo and her allies from prosecution. Later the same year saw the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona for failing to include all his assets in this Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth which all public officials must submit annually.

This year has seen the removal of Associate Justice Gregory Ong for gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety through his links to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Pork barrel is the popular name of The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), an allocation of discretionary funds to members of Congress for priority development projects, mostly at the local level. It is alleged that Napoles in collaboration with numerous members of the Congress had for 10 years been diverting PDAF funds to herself, members of the Congress and select government officials. She and three members of the senate chamber of the Congress, Ramon (Bong) Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada are all in jail awaiting trial on the charge of Plunder and malversation of public funds.

Although not connected to the PDAF scandal, Vice President Jejomar Binay has been under intense public scrutiny for the past couple of months. The former Mayor of Makati, who reigned supreme in the Philippine’s premiere city for 28 years, has made no secret of his intention to run for the presidency of the country in 2016.

Throughout his Vice Presidency Binay has enjoyed a high approval rating according to public opinion polls and is the undisputed front runner amongst the 2016 presidential hopefuls. So much so that changes to the constitution to allow President Aquino to run for second term were canvassed. It was short lived with wide spread public opposition and reminders about the Marcos years flooding newspaper opinion pages.

However a Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee is looking into allegations that Vice President Binay was corrupt whilst Mayor of Makati and has unexplained wealth. His chief accuser is his Vice Mayor at the time, Ernesto Mercado. Mercado claimed before the committee that he was receiving kick backs from the construction of the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2 so the Mayor must also have been on the gravy train.  “If the vice mayor benefited, how much more the mayor?” He opined before the committee.

The Vice President claims the corruption allegations against him are recycled by his foes every time elections draw near. “An example is the hectares of land they say I own. During elections in Makati, they would say I own 5 hectares. It became 10 until it reached 350 hectares,” he said. Binay has also refused to attend the committee hearings referring to it as a “kangaroo court”. A claim substantiated by former presidential press secretary and Aquino critic Hector R. Villanueva, who wrote in the Manila Bulletinthe Senate hearings are an unadulterated inquisitorial exercise by ambitious, vicious, envious, and biased senators”.

Meanwhile Vice President Binay continues to promote his cause reiterating his rags to riches (orphan to Vice President) story-line to anyone who will listen along with his references to the “Makati Miracle” to describe his time as the Makati Mayor.

And as a good Filipino politician he continues to grow his family’s dynasty: his son Jejomar Binay Jr. is the current Mayor of Makati; his daughter Abigail is a Congresswoman; and another daughter, Nancy, has recently become a Senator.
 
Whatever the outcome of Vice President Binay’s tilt for the presidency, with his dynasty entering its second generation, he has definitely laid the ground work for its continuation. Given time it may even rival President Aquino’s pedigree.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The World Atlas of Street Photography - Not for the Purist

Street Photography is more a state of mind rather than a location. As the founder of the  international street photography group “in-public”, Nick Turpin writes “I go to the busiest, public places to discover something very personal and private. It is and inescapable truth that the resulting photographs are as much about my inner state as they are about the external world they were made in.”

The Thames & Hudson and Yale University Press recently published book 'TheWorld Atlas of Street Photography' is more than likely going to leave purists of the genre unimpressed.

In their publicity for the book Thames & Hudson state it includes “classic documentary street photography as well as images of urban landscapes, portraits and staged performances.” How it differs from the purist’s agenda can be seen in these two images.


However it may make taking photographs on the streets a little bit safer in this world of constant surveillance and increased public paranoia. No longer will street photographers have to wear the billboard T-shirt “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist,” a move that could well return the anonymity craved by genre’s purists.   

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rock Art or Vandalism?

A collection of new pictographs have been discovered spread out across 10 National Parks in the Western United States of America. The problem is that they are not 1000’s of years old; they were painted this year. And the National Parks Service has decreed that they are vandalism and are investigating accordingly.

It seems that 21 year old New York artist; Casey Nocket visited the parks earlier this year and decided to record her visits by creating pictographs which she publicized on her Instagram and Tumblr accounts under the name Creepyting.

The National Parks Service said in a media release “There are forums for artistic expression in national parks because national parks inspire artistic creativity. These images are outside that forum and outside the law.” If Nocket is charged with and found guilty of vandalism she faces the prospect of 6 months in jail and a $3500 fine.


One can’t help but wonder if in 100 years the National Parks Service will be providing the same protection to these art works as they do for other rock art sites under their control. Although it is a pretty safe bet that from the materials used (acrylic and felt pen) and the work’s exposed locations they had better start sooner than later.

To me Nocket's work seems more considered than the petroglyphs from Coso Rock Art District (Shown below). They look like preparatory sketches for a larger work. 



Friday, October 24, 2014

Performance Art Gets Intimate


From March 10 to May 31 the "grandmother of performance art,” Marina Abramović, performed her epic work “The Artist is Present” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. For 736 and a half hours she sat mute and immobile at a table in the Museum’s atrium. She involved her audience by inviting them to take turns sitting opposite her.

Following in her footsteps, amongst others, the Proximity Festival came into being, although with a more intimate persona. The Festival presents intimate one-on-one performances that are an interaction between two strangers. It’s much like the personal interaction inspired by a conventional art work except that the art work is living and breathing and can respond in turn.

For those lucky enough to have tickets to this year’s Proximity Festival, it sold out in four days, there are 12 performances to experience.

·         A curious conversation about human flesh for the anatomically playful.
·         For those who don’t mind getting a little physical. No dance experience necessary.
·         For those who want to challenge national identity within their personal limits.
·         A joint effort tailor-made for all levels of driving experience. Zero blood alcohol required to teach.
·         A gentle task that may come with heavy rewards.
·         A sensory experience in an immersive installation. Contains flowers and pollen.
·         A roving experience that could take you to high places. Tailor-made for all fear levels.
·         A collaborative exercise looking at the pitfalls of gym culture and fitness fads.
·         For those willing to experience the momentary loss of their evolutionary advantages.
·         An insightful conversation about the natural world. You may want to take a deep breath.
·         A sensory experience for those with an appetite for making memories.
·         For those who don’t mind dancing with the untamed.

Further information about the Proximity Festival can be found at their website, here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Ram Kumar

Today Indian artist Ram Kumar celebrates his 90th birthday. Half a life time ago, whilst working as an economist for a bank, he chanced upon an art exhibition in the city of Delhi.  "I saw paintings like that for the first time and it made me so intrigued that I returned several times," Kumar says. "There was a notice for evening art classes at the gallery, and I joined the Sarada Ukil School of Art.

Back then the Sarada Ukil School of Art taught Indian painting in the mornings and Western style painting in the evenings. A year later Ran Kumar was in Paris. For 3 years Kumar spent his time in the company of artists and poets like Jacaques Roubaut and Octavio Paz, Fernand Leger and Andre Lhote.

“I painted middle-class people because I felt I could speak best of their preoccupations and dreams, since I am a middle-class man," he said in a Times of India interview. But all that changed in 1961 when he visited  Varanasi "the religious capital of India". I was so impressed by the city with its thousands of people that there was no other way to capture the power of that city except through an abstract painting," he said. Over the intervening years Varanasi has been an ongoing inspiration for Kumar’s work.


In celebration of this milestone in Ran Kumar’s life an exhibition of drawings made in Varanasi in the 60’s will be shown at Delhi’s Aakriti Art Gallery from the 8th to 29th of November. More information about the exhibition can be found here

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

There is more to Schiele than pornography you can hang on your walls

Although some of his models keep their clothes on and he also painted landscapes, artist Egon Schiele is best known for his nudes many of which are explicit. This aspect of his work underpins TheRadical Nude a new exhibition of his work at London’s Courtauld Gallery.  In their publicity for the show they state “Schiele’s technical virtuosity, highly original vision and unflinching depictions of the naked figure distinguish these works as being among his most significant contributions to the development of modern art.” 

The Guardian’s art critic Jonathon Jones goes further stating that the Austro-Hungarian artist is “a feminist artist ahead of his time”. A claim he justifies by saying “his delight in the vagina sets him apart as an artist who not only lusts after but genuinely adores women.” Jones expounds on this theory citing the misogyny explicit in Schiele’s contemporaries, from Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon on. You can read the full review here. 

On the other side of the Atlantic in New York the Neue Galerie is hosting the exhibition Egon Schiele: Portraits. Four times the size of the Courtauld exhibition, Portraits gives a much wider look at his oeuvre from his student days to his death 12 years later. Consisting of paintings, drawings, and sculpture the exhibition documents an evolution of the artist's style, both pre- and post-imprisonment.

In April of 1912 Schiele spent 24 days in jail on a charge of public immorality for exposing minors to his erotic art in his studio. The previous year he had been forced to leave the Czech town of Krumau for working with a nude model outdoors. These incidents had a profound effect upon Schiele, especially the imprisonment. Which saw him adopted a more conventional attitude to morality steering away explicit sexuality subject matter to the more traditional.

In his critique of the Neue Galerie exhibition New York critic Ken Johnson said “Of the approximately 125 items on view, only 11 are oil paintings, which is a good thing. Except for a lovely, large 1915 picture of his wife, Edith, in a vibrant striped dress, Schiele’s paintings are overworked, dark and turgid. His drawings are nimble and nuanced. Working on paper with pencil, charcoal, ink, gouache, watercolor and crayons, often using different mediums to achieve diverse effects within the same picture, Schiele was as responsive to his own impulses as he was to the human reality of his subjects.” You can the full review here.

Any examination of Schiele’s work confirms Johnson’s view except Johnson misses Schiele’s compositional dexterity. His ability to dissect the picture plane with his lines and his restricted use of color are the elements that make Schiele’s works sing.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A New Look For A New Resolve

The Expat has been pretty quiet; OK almost mute for a long time, but the project that was stealing my time has come to an end. And, yes, you’re right, I was given a DCM (Don’t come Monday). It hurt, I didn’t see it coming, but life goes on. The upside is I once again have the time to spend on the Expat.

Hence the clean up, all the links are working once again, some of my dumber posts have been deleted and a cleaner and hopefully easier to read layout installed.

I will be posting regularly (3 to 5 posts a week is the plan) and I trust they will be of sufficient interest to encourage you dear reader to return often.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

On Loan Sharks, Predatory Banks and a Senate Re-election Hopeful



The Cheapest place to get an unsecured loan in the Philippines is through informal lenders described by Senate re-election hopeful Peter Cayetano as Loan Sharks. Working in and around the traditional wet markets their going interest rate is around 20%. How Cayetano would describe the banks is an unanswered question. An unsecured personal loan from a bank will cost you 23 to 25% and if you prefer the plastic route of a credit card expect to pay up to 42%.

 With one of the world’s highest credit card interest rates it should come as no surprise that over 11% of credit card accounts are delinquent. But to make matters worse the banks themselves operate predatory procedures that push their customers, especially the venerable, into this delinquency.

Take the case of Ami, (name changed to protect her privacy) a single mother of two. Ami has an income of 15,000 pesos ($375) a month. A little under the official income eligibility limit but ok’d to help the Bank’s Credit Card mall stall meet their monthly target.  Ami was given a Citi Bank card with a 30,000 peso limit. 

For the first few months everything was fine. Ami was able to meet her minimum payments of 500 pesos a month.  The bank was so pleased that they doubled her credit limit. They didn’t ask Ami if she wanted the increase, they just did it. The increased limit saw her debt to the bank increase slightly but still she was able to meet the minimum payments. A few months later the bank was still so happy with Ami’s conduct they again increased her credit limit, this time to 100,000 pesos. Ami now had over half her annual income to spend in a heartbeat should she so desire. And again the bank didn’t ask her permission.  

Then the inventible happened. In Ami’s case it was college fees for her eldest, but it could just as easily have been a stint in a hospital, a job loss or the effects of typhoon. Her 15,000 a month could stretch only so far and so the credit card started to take a hammering just to make ends meet. Ami was thankful for her plastic respite, but the other shoe was about to fall. Her monthly minimum credit card payment leapt to half her after tax monthly income. Ami was between a rock and a hard place, something had to give and she became a credit card delinquent. 

Ami now faces the prospect of the bank’s attach dogs, a collection agency who will do all in their power to shame her into payment.  Like the bank they know Ami’s circumstances and at their masters call the preferred outcome is a long term commitment from Ami to make the minimal payments; half her income for the next two and a half years with a residual payment from her savings at the end of the term.  A spendthrift Ami may be but she isn’t dumb, she will throw herself upon the mercy of the court to get a repayment schedule she can afford. 

It can be argued that Ami didn’t have to use her credit facility, but likewise it can be argued that a bank’s duty of care to its customers is not to exceed, where known, the customer’s ability to pay. In Ami’s case the bank knew her ability to pay and pushed it to the point of no return.

So Peter Cayetano, should you be re-elected for another term in the Senate perhaps you could introduce legislation that will protect people not only from loan sharks but also predatory banks. If you are unable to convince the banks to reduce their interest rates to match those of the loan sharks which are similar to first world credit card interest rates. Perhaps you may be able protect customers from the banks predatory practice of untenable credit limits.  It’s simple really “A credit limit cannot be increased without the written consent of all parties, if it is increased, which only the lender can authorize, it becomes the lenders liability”.