They Said What?

When it comes to art, we often have strong opinions, and sometimes, when those opinions are expressed, they come with a backlash. The following people found that out the hard way.


ABOVE: Remains of a mostly detsroyed Banksy work in New Orleans, Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans

In art and politics, opinions beget opinions:

“[A] lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career. But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might make with an art history degree. Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree – I love art history. So I don’t want a bunch of emails from everybody.” Barak Obama, U.S. President

“Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed.” Barack Obama, U.S. President


“I have fundamental questions about why the Federal Government is involved in supporting artists that taxpayers have refused to support in the marketplace. My concern in this regard is heightened when I hear the arts community and the media saying that any restriction at all on Federal funding would amount to censorship. What they seem to be saying is that we in Congress must choose between: First, absolutely no Federal presence in the arts; or second, granting artists the absolute freedom to use tax dollars as they wish, regardless of how vulgar, blasphemous, or despicable their works may be.”  Jesse Helms, U.S. Senator

“The first time [Helms’s office called] they basically expressed displeasure that we had withdrawn. I have to conclude they really wanted that exhibition in Washington, so it would fuel their fire.” Christina Orr-Cahal, Director of Corcoran Gallery of Art, after cancelling a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the museum


“I’m obsessed with getting graffiti out of the city and keeping it out of the city. As you know, I’ve been fighting since I was first elected to get this city as clean as possible by removing all the graffiti.” Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor

“Every time he does this we get more graffiti. The graffiti artists see it as a taunt and they respond by tagging people – usually it’s anti-Ford stuff.” Adam Vaughan, Toronto city councilor

Mistakenly Bought Treasures

In the past, I’ve written about the rich spending astronomical sums of money on art. Today, I’m going to write about the rest of us. Sometimes, we common folk get lucky.


ABOVE: Martin Johnson Heade, Magnolias on Gold Velvet Cloth, 1888-90, oil on canvas, 14.8 x 24 inches

Every so often, there is a news story about an artwork bought for peanuts, being worth a fortune.

Unfortunately, what seems too good to be true often is, and the authenticities of these works are often in dispute.

Fortunately, I did come across one story with a happy ending:

In the late nineties, a young tool and die maker from Indiana (who remains anonymous) bought some used furniture for thirty bucks. Included in the purchase was an ‘old’ painting of flowers – he used it to cover up a hole in his wall.

A while later, he and some friends decided to play Masterpiece, a board game in which players outbid one another for art at auction. Included in the game was an image similar to the one on his wall – by an artist named Martin Johnson Heade.

Intrigued, he began searching for the painter online, and later contacted the gallery responsible for handling his estate. They verified that the painting was in fact a Heade (see painting and caption above), and put the young man in contact with the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston – they paid $1.25 million for it.

Who doesn’t love a story with a happy ending?

Must See Art Shows in Toronto this Spring, Summer, and Fall

Good news art lovers: there is a lot going on in Toronto over the next few months. In addition to the cities many outdoor fairs, the following shows/events look promising.


ABOVE: Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, 1967, screenprint on paper, 36 x 36 inches

If art is your thing, you may want to mark the following dates in your calendar:

Luminato Festival

Various locations around Toronto, June 19 – 28

The 9th annual festival of arts and creativity takes over Toronto for ten days this summer. The 2015 edition features hundreds of events – with the majority of them being free.

Andy Warhol Revisited: A Mirror for Today

77 Bloor Street West, July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015

Canada’s largest collection of Warhol prints and paintings are coming, not to gallery, but to an empty retail space in one of Toronto’s swankiest neighborhoods.

Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto

Various locations around Toronto, October 3, 2015

At times hit and miss, the concept behind this event is still pretty sound – the city comes alive too.

Art Toronto

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 23-26, 2015

Other cities host bigger (and glitzier) fairs, but this one’s still pretty good. A must see for art lovers and buyers.

J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free

Art Gallery of Ontario, October 31, 2015 – January 31, 2016

The AGO’s fall blockbuster examines the last 15 years of Turner’s career and features more than 50 works on loan from Tate Britain.

The Emperor Has No Clothes

If you follow modern art, you will likely come across the term: “The Emperor has no clothes”. Where does it come from? What does it mean? I recently found out.


ABOVE: Joe Sixpack, Swimming Pool, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 36.9 x 30 inches, sale price: $15,000

The Emperor has no clothes.

The above expression comes from Hans Christian Anderson’s short tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and is used to describe the belief in something that is not true.

In the tale, a vain Emperor – who is obsessed with clothes – is conned by two swindlers into spending a ridiculous amount of money on outfits so extraordinary, they are invisible to those who are incompetent or stupid. In reality of course, there are no such clothes.

Foolishly, the Emperor sees this as an opportunity to purge his court of undesirables, and he sends his top advisers to observe the swindlers at work on his new wardrobe. Fearing that they’ll be deemed unfit, the advisers inform him that the cloth is magnificent.

Once ‘finished’, the Emperor is dressed by the swindlers – who rave about how great he looks – and a procession is arranged where he can show-off his new clothes to the entire city.

Not wanting to be seen as stupid, the townspeople greet the naked Emperor with thunderous applause, but while they are expressing their admiration, a small boy cries out… “But the Emperor has no clothes.”

The moral of the story: pretension not supported by reality will always seem foolish to those who see the world for what it is, rather than what they’ve been told (i.e. children).

In a modern art context, the term could be used to describe anyone who spends a ridiculous amount of money on a blank canvas, pile of bricks, or Instagram screen shot – or anyone too afraid to call them out for it.