Jun 22, 2012

The moment thief was caught on CCTV after snatching Salvador Dali painting off wall of gallery

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  • Man posing as customer walked into Manhattan gallery and put it in a bag
  • The painting - Dali's 1949 Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio - is worth $150,000

A man walked into an upmarket New York art gallery and snatched a $150,000 Salvado Dali painting from the wall.

The audacious thief posed as a customer at the Venus Over Manhattan art gallery, on Madison Avenue, before he removed the small watercolour and ink painting and put it into a bag,

The piece, Dali's Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio which was painted in 1949, formed part of the gallery's inaugural exhibition.

Audacious: The thief, who was posing as a customer, was caught on CCTV leaving the gallery with the painting's frame poking out of his bag
Audacious: The thief, who was posing as a customer, was caught on CCTV leaving the gallery with the painting's frame poking out of his bag

Gallery owner and art dealer Adam Lindemann told police the thief took the piece during 'regular business hours, with a security guard', the New York Post reported.

According to the New York Post, the man told the security guard: 'I want to take a picture of this painting.'

He was given permission, on the condition he did not use a flash, but when the guard was distracted by another gallery visitor the thief slipped the painting off the wall and put it into his bag.

Police are now hunting the man, who was captured on the gallery's CCTV leaving with the artwork.

Stolen: The $150,000 Dali painting - Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio - was completed in 1949 and formed part of the gallery's inaugural exhibition
Stolen: The $150,000 Dali painting - Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio - was completed in 1949 and formed part of the gallery's inaugural exhibition

Surrealist: Spanish artist Salvador Dali, who died in 1989, was famous for his paintings of melted clocks and dream-like landscapes
Surrealist: Spanish artist Salvador Dali, who died in 1989, was famous for his paintings of melted clocks and dream-like landscapes

Surveillance footage shows the man carrying a heavyweight paper shopping bag into the third-floor gallery.

The CCTV footage shows the frame from the painting poking out of the top of his shopping bag. 

Jacquie Tellalian, a 58-year-old visitor to the gallery, told the New York Post: 'We went inside to see the show, and we were wondering where the Salvador Dali painting was.

'It’s a small painting, but how did he just put in his bag and walk out like that? I hope somebody finds it.'

The suspect is a white man, about 5ft 6in, 160lbs and aged between 35 and 42 years.

Detectives say he was wearing a black and white checked shirt as well as dark coloured jeans and shoes.

Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali, who died in 1989, was famous for his paintings of melted clocks and dream-like landscapes.



Rembrandt drawing found in Scottish attic

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Owner contacted auction house Christie's after finding black chalk study of a blind beggar in a wardrobe

Rembrandt drawing
A Rembrandt drawing of a blind beggar with a boy and a dog has been found in a Scottish attic. Photograph: Christie's. Click on the image to see a larger version

A drawing of a blind beggar by Rembrandt has been found in a Scottish attic, to the astonishment of the house-owner, who had no idea it was even there.

The sketch came to light after the owner found it in a wardrobe and contacted Christie's. Even from initial photographs, their experts were sure it was by the 17th-century Dutch master.

"We always dream of finding new drawings by the great artists, but it happens very rarely nowadays," said Benjamin Peronnet, head of old master drawings at Christie's. "That made this discovery all the more exciting."

A Blind Beggar With a Boy and a Dog is a black chalk study measuring 13cm by 8.5cm (about 5in by 3.3in). It does not relate to a known painting but the composition is echoed in a drawing in the Kupferstichkabinett, the vast prints and drawings collection in Berlin's state museum.

Peronnet said: "When we began our research, we were surprised to find an almost identical drawing of a beggar in Berlin – it usually isn't good news when you find … a similar drawing in a museum, because it can mean that the [discovery] … is only a copy."

Referring to the Berlin version, Peronnet added: "It had been published as by Rembrandt, although a few scholars had expressed doubts about it. It was clear very quickly to everybody who saw [the discovery] that this was really by Rembrandt and the drawing in Berlin was a copy."

Beyond the greater fluidity of the discovery, its superiority emerges in details such as the dog's head and hind legs, the relationship between the beggar's hand and the hat he holds, and the delineation of the boy.

Christian Liehm, the Berlin collection's archivist, confirmed that Holm Bevers, its Rembrandt expert, believes that the Berlin work should now be catalogued as "Rembrandt circle".

Christie's Rembrandt was one of six previously unpublished drawings found in the attic. Peronnet said: "[The owner] found a bunch of drawings, prints and other things … He sent us pictures of everything ... We of course got excited."

The other drawings have been attributed to Rembrandt's pupils and offer a rare insight into his studio practices and how his pupils tried to emulate his drawing style before "freeing themselves from the weight of Rembrandt", Peronnet said. Those pupils include significant artists such as Ferdinand Bol, whose depiction of Jacob and Rachel reflects the master's strong influence.

The drawing bears a particularly human touch, defaced by a brown circle like someone's coffee cup stain. In fact, it is the mark of a studio inkwell. The subject is poignant because the artist died a pauper. His house, paintings and other possessions were sold off.

The drawings are now to be sold by Christie's on 3 July. The Rembrandt alone is estimated to fetch around £80,000.



Has 'stolen Rembrandt worth £2million' been found??

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Businessman arrested after police raid as art experts try to verify painting


  • Valuable artwork believed to have been discovered by police during operation to recover proceeds of crime
  • Man in his sixties arrested and bailed following swoop on Croydon High Street
  • Officers seen handing the potentially precious work with extreme care
  • Rembrandt portrait recently sold at auction for more than £29million
  • 205 Rembrandt works currently recorded as stolen, according the Art Loss Register

It's an unlikely venue for the dramatic culmination of a major world-wide hunt to recover a stolen Rembrandt masterpiece.

But police may have discovered a treasured work by the Dutch artist during a dramatic swoop on Croydon High Street.

In an extraordinary twist in an operation to recover the proceeds of crime, officers are thought to have found a missing oil on canvass.

Masterpiece: Experts have been called into examine the work which is thought to be by legendary artist Rembrandt, pictured in this self-portrait
Masterpiece: Experts have been called into examine the work which is thought to be by legendary artist Rembrandt, pictured in this self-portrait

Police were seen treating the potentially precious object with extreme caution as they removed the work from the building in south London following the raid. 

Now experts have been called in to examine the work of art to establish if the work recovered, really is a Rembrandt masterpiece.

Scotland Yard, who are being tight-lipped about which one of the 205 currently missing works by the Dutch master, also arrested a businessman in his sixties.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's specialist crime directorate made the discovery during a long-running investigation aimed at recovering assets from criminals.

Security expert Richard Ellis, who has worked with the Met Police's specialist Art and Antiques squad, said: 'If this is a genuine Rembrandt oil painting, I think £2million would be a massive undervaluation. 

'If you were to put one before an auction today it would fetch between £30million and £50million.

Mr Ellis, who last year was part of the team which recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen from a Swiss exhibition in 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, added: 'To sell a real Rembrandt on the open market would be really, really difficult.

'Any buyer undertaking their due diligence would look at the catalogues of Rembrandts and it wouldn't take them very long to see it was stolen.'

Swoop: Police from a specialist unit were seen treating the work, thought to be a £2million Rembrandt, from premises in Croydon High Street, pictured
Swoop: Police from a specialist unit were seen treating the work, thought to be a £2million Rembrandt, from premises in Croydon High Street, pictured

'Stealing to order is fiction. They may get stolen and used as a form of currency or as collateral. 

'The media would publish the valuation at the time of the theft and the criminal would work on the basis that it would be worth to them anywhere between three and ten per cent, because that's what it can get passed across on the black market. 

'It acts as a sort of international currency.'

The unnamed businessman was taken to a police station in Croydon, near his home in Surrey, and released on bail.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘A man in his 60s was arrested in south London on June 11 in connection with an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation.

‘He has been bailed to return to a south London police station on a date in July pending further inquiries. 

‘A number of items have been seized in connection with the investigation.’

The suspected masterpiece by the 17th century Dutch artist is understood to have been seized in the raid on premises in Croydon High Street.

Priceless: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is still missing after a theft from a museum in 1990
Priceless: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is still missing after a theft from a museum in 1990

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 - 1669) was the greatest Dutch painter of his age and is one of the most important figures in European art and highly prized among thieves.

His work The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee - Rembrandt's only known seascape - was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, USA, in 1990, during a $300million art work raid.

It has not yet been recovered.

During another 'well planned heist' a Rembrandt drawing worth $250,000, was stolen from a Los Angeles hotel, last year.

But it was recovered at a nearby church following an anonymous tip-off.

Experts from the Linearis Institute, which owns the pen-and-ink work, known as 'The Judgment,' later verified its authenticity.

Authorities said the drawing was snatched as a curator was distracted by a guest at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey. 

County Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said: 'When the curator turned back to the Rembrandt, it was gone. It was a well-thought-out, well-executed theft.' 

There are no suspects in custody, and authorities are not commenting on how the drawing wound up at the church on Ventura Boulevard in the city about 25 miles from Los Angeles. 

Whitmore said: 'We got an anonymous tip because there was so much news coverage.

'That really was the turning point. The news coverage led people to call us and say, "Hey, I've seen this, and this is where I've seen it."

We responded, and they were right. There it was.'

They have asked anyone who spotted anything suspicious to contact the sheriff's department, which is working with security officials from the hotel.

One of his most famous works was The Night Watch, a group portrait of one of Amsterdam’s militia companies and The Syndics of the Clothmakers Guild painted in 1662.

In December 2009, his Portrait of a Man sold at auction for £29,200,000 at Christie’s.


New revelations about Vincent van Gogh: an unknown letter and his final painting

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Surprising research results made public in Van Gogh: New Findings

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

  • Oil on Pasteboard, 19 X 14 cm

Researchers at the Van Gogh Museum have found a previously unknown letter by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). 

There are also new clues as to which of his paintings was his last. These discoveries, along with other new insights into the life and work of Vincent van Gogh are described in the book Van Gogh: New Findings, the fourth volume in the Van Gogh Studies series. This book will be presented on Thursday 21 June at the Van Gogh Museum.

Van Gogh: New Findings shows how much we still have to learn about Van Gogh and his art, with ten articles on wide-ranging subjects. One offers a new interpretation of Van Gogh’s painting Tree roots (1890), arguing that this was the artist’s final work, and not the better-known painting Wheatfield with crows

The previously unknown Van Gogh letter dates from 26 October 1872, when he worked for an art dealer, and is the second earliest known letter written by Vincent. It was discovered in an archive in the province of North Brabant. Another article shows that Van Gogh and his brother lived in a different apartment at Rue Lepic 54 in Paris than was previously believed.

Van Gogh Studies is an English-language series of peer-reviewed scholarly works published under the auspices of an international board of editors and the Van Gogh Museum. The series alternates collections of scholarly articles with monographs on Vincent van Gogh, his life and work, and the art of his time. 

Van Gogh: New Findings, vol. 4 in the series Van Gogh Studies, 280 pages, 120 illustrations.



Jun 21, 2012

In Art, Freedom of Expression Doesn’t Extend to ‘Is It Real?’

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John Elderfield, a former curator at the Modern.

John Elderfield, former chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, remembers the days when scholars spoke freely about whether a particular work was genuine. 

They were connoisseurs, this was their field of expertise, and a curator like Kirk Varnedoe, Mr. Elderfield’s predecessor at the Modern, would think nothing of offering his view of a drawing attributed to Rodin, his specialty.
“He was qualified to do it and felt he had a moral obligation to do it,” Mr. Elderfield said. 

But when the owner of a painting attributed to Henri Matisse recently asked Mr. Elderfield for his opinion, he demurred. He worried he could be sued if he said the painting was not a real Matisse. 

Mr. Elderfield is hardly alone in feeling that art’s celebrated freedom of expression no longer extends to expert opinions on authenticity. As spectacular sums flow through the art market and an expert verdict can make or destroy a fortune, several high-profile legal cases have pushed scholars to censor themselves for fear of becoming entangled in lawsuits. 

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the Noguchi Museum have all stopped authenticating works to avoid litigation. In January the Courtauld Institute of Art in London cited “the possibility of legal action” when it canceled a forum discussing a controversial set of some 600 drawings attributed to Francis Bacon. And the leading experts on Degas have avoided publicly saying whether 74 plasters attributed to him are a stupendous new find or an elaborate hoax. 

The anxiety has even touched the supreme arbiter of the genuine and fake: the catalogue raisonné, the definitive, scholarly compendium of an artist’s work. Inclusion has been called the difference between “great wealth and the gutter,” and auction houses sometimes refuse to handle unlisted works. As a result catalogue raisonné authors have been the targets of lawsuits, not to mention bribes and even death threats. 

“Legal cage rattling was always part of the process,” said Nancy Mowll Mathews, president of the Catalogue Raisonné Scholars Association. But the staggering rise in art prices has transformed the cost-benefit analysis of suing at the same time that fraud has become more profitable, she said. 

Some of the 74 plasters attributed to Edgar Degas: fearing lawsuits, scholars are afraid to declare them genuine or not.

While some argue the fear is overblown, others warn the growing reluctance to speak publicly about authenticity could keep forgeries and misattributed works in circulation while permitting newly discovered works to go unrecognized. 

The perceived crisis has prompted a pointed ethical debate: Do you speak out if you spot a suspicious work or keep quiet as lawyers recommend? 

Art experts have been getting sued over their opinions since at least the days of Joseph Duveen, the flamboyant dealer who found himself in court in the 1920s after declaring “La Belle Ferronnière,” a supposed Leonardo painting for sale, to be a fake. Duveen’s judgment caused the Kansas City Art Institute to withdraw its offer of $250,000, and in the end Duveen settled by agreeing to pay the owner $60,000. (The painting is now considered to be by a follower of Leonardo.) 

As prices have risen, so have risks. In 2005, after watching other organizations fend off lawsuits, the Lichtenstein foundation bought $5 million worth of liability insurance and made its authentication process more rigorous and transparent, its executive director, Jack Cowart, said. Then in 2011 the Warhol foundation revealed it had spent $7 million defending itself against a lawsuit involving a silk-screen it had rejected for the catalogue raisonné. Mr. Cowart called his insurance company to find out if the Lichtenstein foundation would be protected if faced with a similar suit. The agent said it was impossible to predict. “That was a very sobering moment,” Mr. Cowart said. 

The board had always felt an obligation to guard Lichtenstein’s legacy in this way, he explained. But now, figuring it was only a matter of time before the law of averages would throw a lawsuit their way, board members decided the benefits of authenticating did not outweigh the risks. 

“Why should we go stand in front of a speeding car?” Mr. Cowart said. “We decided it’s not the role of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation to deal with the art market’s authenticity issues.” 

That view disturbs Jack Flam, president of the Dedalus Foundation, which is publishing Robert Motherwell’s catalogue raisonné and was sued last year for changing its opinion about a painting’s authenticity. “If experts stop speaking up, you’re going to get more fakes surfacing,” he said. 

Mr. Cowart counters that the authentication committee’s pronouncements were not driving fakes out of the market. The majority of works inspected during the panel’s six years, he said, were third-rate fakes that would reappear as soon as the owners sold them to other unsuspecting dupes. 

So what would the Lichtenstein foundation do if it became aware that a major forgery was being auctioned for millions of dollars? 

“We don’t know what we would say if we were asked formally or informally,” Mr. Cowart said. “We don’t deal in hypotheticals.” 

Sharon Flescher, executive director of the International Foundation for Art Research, said she doubts the number of lawsuits challenging expert opinions has gone up. Nonetheless she conceded that the perception is having “a chilling effect.” Even though few plaintiffs win, experts are deterred by the time and legal expense. That’s why the College Art Association recently began offering affordable liability insurance to its members who authenticate art, she noted. 

Peter R. Stern, an art lawyer in New York, tells clients never to volunteer an opinion unless formally asked by the owners, and even then to make sure the owners sign a waiver promising not to sue. If they don’t ask, don’t tell. “Art scholarship is fighting a losing battle against commerce,” he said. 

Fears of being sued may even lead to changes in the nature of catalogues raisonnés, Ms. Flescher added. She pointed to recent decisions by the Calder and Lichtenstein foundations and the Noguchi Museum to move their cataloging efforts online and label them as “works in progress.” 

“What we are presenting is a combination of completed research and research pending,” said Shaina D. Larrivee, project manager of the Isamu Noguchi catalogue raisonné. “We are very clear that ‘research pending’ does not guarantee inclusion in the final catalogue raisonné, and that we have the ability to remove artworks if new information comes to light.” 

Alexander Rower, Alexander Calder’s grandson and the chairman of the Calder Foundation, said he decided to forgo a catalogue raisonné in favor of an online guide to Calder’s development and history. “You determine if your work is fake or not with the data we present,” he said. 

The Web site, scheduled to begin operation this summer, will feature 4,000 to 6,000 works, roughly one-quarter of Calder’s total output. Although the foundation does not authenticate, Mr. Rower said, it will register and examine a supposed Calder at an owner’s request and release any information it has about the piece. The foundation does, however, keep a watchful eye on the market. Mr. Rower traveled to the Basel art fair in Switzerland last week to photograph every Calder for further research, he said. 

And if he were to find a forgery? “You can’t just go out there in the world and say, ‘That’s fake,’ “ Mr. Rower said. “But it is a fair thing for me to say to an art dealer, ‘Have your presented this work to the Calder Foundation?’ And if he says no, I say, ‘You really should.’ “ 

As for scholars who are dragged into court, they do occasionally come out ahead. The art expert Steve Seltzer was sued after declaring that a watercolor of cowboys was not painted by the revered Western artist Charles M. Russell but by his own grandfather the artist O. C. Seltzer. After the suit was thrown out, Mr. Seltzer turned around and countersued the painting’s owner, Steve Morton, and his lawyers. In 2007 the Montana Supreme Court awarded Mr. Seltzer $11 million in damages. As the judges put it, using a lawsuit to coerce an expert to give a particular opinion is “legal thuggery.” 


Pablo Picasso's painting sold for USD 13 million at Christie’s

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Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso's ‘Femme Assise’

A 1949 painting by celebrated Spanish artist Pablo Picasso has fetched USD 13.4 millions at a London auction, exceeding even experts’ estimations.

Topping Christie’s auction of Impressionist and Modern art on Wednesday, Picasso’s latest sold artworks Femme Assise, is a cubist design in tones of purple, black, yellow, green and orange, which depicts a woman.

As one of the most well-known paintings by the Spanish master, the picture was estimated to sell for USD 11.7 millions.

Part of a private collection, Femme Assise, formerly belonged to the American steel magnate and philanthropist, Leigh B. Block.

According to the organizers of the event, Femme au Chien, another masterpiece by Picasso, was also sold for USD 10.9 million at the auction.

It shows Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque, alongside the couple’s dog.

The 1962 painting was not shown in public for nearly four decades.

Presenting some seventy works, including paintings and sculptures by Rene Magritte, Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas the auction brought in USD 145.5 millions.

“Quality, rarity and considered pricing were key to the successful results of this evening’s sale,” said Jay Vincze, Christie’s International Director. 

Artist of the week 195: Alexis M Teplin

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Comedy and unchastity are key in this American artist's vivid patchwork paintings and sculptures, which call for social change even as they flag up failures of cultural revolutions past

Alexis M Teplin's if
Sensual dazzle … Alexis M Teplin's if.

Flurries of luminous colour billow across the canvas in Alexis M Teplin's paintings. Their hectic patchworks of tomato reds, lush blues, peppermints, peaches and pinks recall American abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell's most vivid, sun-drenched creations. The sensual dazzle has an earlier precedent, though: the theatre of rococo painting, with its festoons of clouds, flesh and flowers. Yet Teplin's approach is very 21st-century. Her paintings are sometimes shown as strips of unstretched canvas, with their tatty edges curling, while her sculptures are roughshod assemblages of plaster, paint smears and household finds.

Painting's sensual side fascinates the American, London-based artist. That's not just the instant hit of colour and brushwork, but what lies behind it: what happened with the shift from grand history painting, servicing the interests of the state, to a medium making its appeal to the less official (if no less revealing) desires of its day. The rococo, particularly Fragonard's confections, and Mitchell, are two key touchstones in the dense array of historical references Teplin brings into play.

Those in the mix for Progress, PLEAS., her current exhibition, include two celebrated satirical works. The first is Fragonard's The Progress of Love. This cycle of paintings was commissioned shortly before the French revolution by Louis XV for Madame du Barry, who returned them, none too happy that the things bore a cheeky resemblance to herself and the king. The second hails from another moment when the air was thick with the promise of social change: Luis Buñuel's 1972 Oscar-wining film about the promiscuous middle-classes who can never finish a dinner party, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. It's a telling comparison: Buñuel's self-made financiers and industrialists might have replaced the aristocrats, but the old hierarchies, decadence and social stasis remains.

Two sculptures encircle Teplin's high-colour abstractions here: a yawning conch of drippy white plaster that could be a body or a mouth, bearing a picture of the Spanish film-maker rehearsing; and a dinner table, delicately arranged with silver spoons and chalky peaches, left to gather dust like Fragonard's fruit. Meanwhile, camouflaged in the lovely paintings are strips of canvas spelling out the show's punning title letter by letter – a misspelt please of desire and pleas of forgiveness. Things hover between pleasure and decay, an upbeat revolutionary vibe and failure. Progress please? The retort from the final two paintings in Teplin's cycle is cheerily sassy: AS if.

Why we like her: For her witty, gawky 2010 assemblage, Stick: a metal stand, wearing a flimsy cloak of white felt shreds, with a book about dancer Martha Graham for a head. Splashes of paint coat the dust cover, blocking out letters, so instead of the subject's name, it simply reads "ART AHA".

Making pictures: Teplin is a huge film buff, a passion nurtured by eight years spent studying in LA, soaking up everything from Bresson and Fassbinder to Douglas Sirk.

Where can I see her? Hotel gallery, London E2, to 1 July.



Sports world artist LeRoy Neiman, official painter of 5 Olympiads, dies in NY at age 91

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Painter and sketch artist LeRoy Neiman, best known for evoking the kinetic energy of the world’s biggest sporting and leisure events with bright quick strokes, died at age 91.

Neiman was the official painter of five Olympiads and was a contributing artist at magazine for many years. His longtime publicist, Gail Parenteau, confirmed his death at a Manhattan hospital on Wednesday but didn’t disclose the cause.

Neiman was a media-savvy artist who knew how to enthrall audiences with his instant renditions of what he observed. In 1972, he sketched the world chess tournament between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a live television audience. He also produced live drawings of the Olympics for TV and was the official computer artist of the Super Bowl for CBS.

Neiman’s “reportage of history and the passing scene ... revived an almost lost and time-honored art form,” according to a 1972 exhibit catalog of his Olympics sketches at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

“It’s been fun. I’ve had a lucky life,” Neiman said in a June 2008 interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve zeroed in on what you would call action and excellence. ... Everybody who does anything to try to succeed has to give the best of themselves, and art has made me pull the best out of myself.”

Neiman’s paintings, many executed in household enamel paints that allowed him his fast-moving strokes, are an explosion in reds, blues, pinks, greens and yellows of pure kinetic energy.

He has been described as an American impressionist, but the St. Paul, Minn., native preferred to think of himself simply as an American artist.

“I don’t know if I’m an impressionist or an expressionist,” he told the AP. “You can call me an American first. ... (but) I’ve been labeled doing neimanism, so that’s what it is, I guess.”

He worked in many media, producing thousands of etchings, lithographs and silkscreen prints known as serigraphy.

But Neiman’s critics said his forays into the commercial world minimized him as a serious artist. At Playboy, for example, he created Femlin, the well-endowed nude that has graced the magazine’s Party Jokes page since 1957.

Neiman shrugged off such criticism

“I can easily ignore my detractors and feel the people who respond favorably,” he said.

Neiman was fascinated with large game animals and said he twice traveled to Kenya to paint lions and elephants “in the bush” in his trademark vibrant palette.

But it was the essence of a basketball or football game, swim meet or cycling event that captured his imagination most.

“For an artist, watching a (Joe) Namath throw a football or a Willie Mays hit a baseball is an experience far more overpowering than painting a beautiful woman or leading political figure,” Neiman said in 1972.

With his sketchbook and pencil, trademark handlebar mustache and slicked back hair, Neiman was instantly recognizable.

At a New York Jets game at Shea Stadium in 1975, fans yelled, “Put LeRoy in,” when the play wasn’t going their way.

Neiman was a World War II veteran who participated in the invasion of Normandy and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was a self-described workaholic who seldom took vacations and had no hobbies. He worked daily in his home studio at the Hotel des Artistes near Central Park.

“What else am I good for?” he said in 2008. “I don’t think about anything else.”

One of his projects, a 160-foot-long sports mural, hung in the Sports Museum of America in Manhattan.

 One face he recorded over and over again was that of Muhammad Ali. Those paintings and sketches, representing 15 years of the prizefighter’s professional life, permanently reside at the LeRoy Neiman Gallery at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky.
His works are in the permanent collections of many private and public museums. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., was selected by Neiman to house his archives.

“I just love what I do,” Neiman told the AP. “I love the passion you go through while you’re creating” and the public’s “very thoughtful and careful studied and emotional reaction of what you’re doing.”

He added: “It’s a wonderful feeling.”


Jun 17, 2012

Pines artist depicts personalities in 'more poetic way'

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"Dance of the Stingrays"

"Dance of the Stingrays" by Tom De Vita

"Bleached White," an oil painting by Pembroke Pines artist Tom De Vita, depicts a woman working intently while wearing a respirator. Alongside the masked woman, in the same painting, is another version of her, unsmiling and looking downward. Throughout the painting, small wind-up chattering teeth toys seem to be floating in midair.

It's an image that may compel people to fill in gaps. Ditto for "Birdman Watching," De Vita's painting that's on exhibit in "The Sincerity Project" at Studio 18 in Pembroke Pines. It depicts a bearded man who appears to be watching viewers. Surrounding him are a sparrow, a Yellow-headed Blackbird and an Eastern Bluebird, each perched on a branch that appears to be attached to nothing or maybe protruding from the man's head or shoulder.

These works are typical of the portraits De Vita began painting in 2008. He considers them figurative paintings rooted in art history but "created through contemporary eyes."

"At first glance, they feel like something you might see in a museum ... yet there are these disturbing elements," he explains. "The elements are seemingly ambiguous to the viewer but relate to the person in the painting."

"Bleached White," for example, depicts De Vita's friend, a Haitian artist who is wearing a respirator because she paints with bleach on black fabric. The accompanying version of her unmasked and looking downward is De Vita's portrayal of her pausing to reflect on her work.

After painting her portrait, De Vita — who teaches at The Art Institute — realized he failed to capture her smile. 
"Everyone knew her for this bright white smile so I was thinking about how to rectify that," he says.

The answer came while De Vita was watching the Beatles movie "Help!" with his son. "There was a scene with little chattering teeth and I said, 'That's it!'" he recalls.

People who know the subject of the painting get the chattering teeth reference. Others see a mystery. How people solve it reveals as much about them as it does about the painting.

De Vita cites "Birdman Watching," a portrait of his brother-in-law, as an example. "He left his camera at my house and I did what every righteous person would do," he admits, laughing. "I went through all of his pictures and found this picture he took of himself. It was a great picture and I said, 'I've got to paint that.'"

His brother-in-law is an amateur ornithologist who studies, watches and illustrates birds. "So I had this concept of, he's always watching birds but what if he and the birds were watching you?"

Two artists created interpretations of De Vita's "Birdman Watching" as part of "The Sincerity Project."

"One was quite literal and the other was totally off the mark but not in a bad way," De Vita explains. "He saw it as a man turning into a tree with birds on it."

"People try to figure [the paintings] out with their own experiences in life, which for me is what art is about," says De Vita, who began working at and teaching classes from Studio 18 two months ago. "If you read a painting and know exactly what the artist is intending, it becomes a little boring to me."

But works such as "Prop Breathe," which depict two versions of the same man, each with closed eyes and props on their heads, and "One Bad Apple," which shows a man's transition from chaos to calm behind a progression of apples being carved into shrunken heads, are in no danger of being boring.

"Most of my paintings are not to be taken too seriously," De Vita says. "They're supposed to be playful and fun and give you a truth that lies beyond the visible surface of the person's image ... something that resembles them in a more poetic way."