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Art
A few days ago a fork appeared in the middle of a Pasadena road. It's located, appropriately, at a fork in the road, where Pasadena and St. John avenues divide. From the Pasadena Star News:

It turns out the fork is an elaborate - and expensive - birthday prank in honor of the 75th birthday of Bob Stane, founder of the Ice House comedy club, who now owns the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena...
The wooden fork, is "expertly carved and painted," to look like metal, Stane said. "It's anchored in 2 1/2-feet of concrete and steel. It's not a public danger - unless someone drives into it."

(Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Art, Places, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 06, 2009
Comments (6)
Most counterfeiting takes something that is nearly worthless and turns it into something perceived to have value. Mr. Daws did just the opposite. He took value — approximately $100 worth of gold — and turned it into something perceived as nearly worthless, one cent. “It’s there, but if people don’t realize it, it’s the same as not being there,” he said. Of the 11 copper-plated gold pennies he made as part of his series, only this one was sent into the wider world...

Late this summer, when Ms. Reed was paying for groceries at the C-Town supermarket in Greenpoint, she noticed the penny because the gold color had started to peek through.
Link: NY Times

I'm going to start checking any pennies I get more closely!
Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 05, 2009
Comments (3)
Swiss art historian Henri Stierlin argues that the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti on display in Berlin's Pergamon museum is a fake. He says that it was created around 1912 as a way for an archaeologist to color test ancient pigments found at the digs, but when a German prince mistook it for an ancient work of art, the archaeologist didn't have the courage to correct his important guest. And so the statue came to be regarded as an ancient work of art. [Agence France Presse]
Categories: Art, History
Posted by Alex on Thu May 07, 2009
Comments (4)
The mystery of why someone has been leaving white stones with cryptic black markings on them around Orleans, Massachusetts has been solved. The creator of the stones sent an explanatory letter to the local paper:
The writer said the backward “R” and an “R” separated by three slashes on one line and an “X” book ended by two vertical lines underneath means “Remember 9-11.” He (most believe the writer is a male) said he came up with the design about two years ago “When I became disheartened from our straying from our Afghanistan objective of going after and getting Osama bin Laden in order to bring closure to 9-11,” he wrote.

If someone can figure out how you get "Remember 9-11" out of those symbols, let me know. [Wicked Local Orleans via Professor Hex]
Categories: Art, Hate Crimes/Terror, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 17, 2009
Comments (11)
Some guy named Bill Veall claims to have discovered the world's largest rock sculpture. It's somewhere in the Peruvian Andean mountains, and it's in the shape of a "sacred lamb". He says he found it by using satellite imaging techniques to search for ancient shapes and formations. I guess that rules out any possibility he's just seeing what he wants to see. (sarcasm)



From Sky News: "Mr Veall, who studies the relationships between astronomy and archaeological monuments, has faced a series of doubters who claim he doctored the images to create an elaborate hoax."

Big red flag indicating the skeptics may be right: Veall won't release the coordinates of the site. He says, "If I gave you the co-ordinates of the site, a million people would find it immediately... But we want to secure and preserve the site until we can get a scientific team to have a look at it."
Categories: Art, History, Places
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 09, 2008
Comments (25)
In 1966, before becoming a regular on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and before launching his perennial campaign for the US Presidency, comedian Pat Paulsen got into newspapers by pretending to be a "cranial painter". From the March 6, 1966 Mansfield News Journal:

USING HIS HEAD -- Artist Pat Paulsen, who shuns more traditional means of painting, demonstrates how he produces masterpieces -- with "cranial painting." The 35-year-old San Franciscan, now appearing at the Ice House in Glendale, Calif., smears paint on his beard. top: really gets down to heavy work, center, and winds up, bottom, with as much paint on his kisser as on the canvas.

Another, slightly better quality of Paulsen cranial painting, is below.


Categories: Art
Posted by Alex on Fri Dec 05, 2008
Comments (6)
Occasionally I've run across references to a French artist who supposedly committed suicide because he was driven mad by the mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile. There aren't many details to the story. The Telegraph, in an article from 2003, summarizes the entire tale:

On June 23, 1852, a young French artist, Luc Maspero, threw himself from the fourth floor window of his Paris hotel. In a final letter, he wrote: "For years I have grappled desperately with [Mona Lisa's] smile. I prefer to die."

Many articles about the Mona Lisa casually include this tale without bothering to provide any references. For instance, it's mentioned in a 1999 Smithsonian article. Before that, the earliest reference I can find (searching in Google Books) occurs in an obscure 1966 work, Green Leaves: Harish S. Booch Memorial Volume. I came up empty-handed searching archives of nineteenth-century newspapers.

All versions of the tale, from 1966 onwards, are basically the same. No one ever supplies any information about who Luc Maspero was, or where the story of his unusual death originally came from. Tellingly, a 1961 article in the New York Times Magazine specifically about Mona Lisa's smile doesn't mention the Luc Maspero story. This suggests that the tale hadn't circulated very widely (at least in the English-speaking world) at that time.

Because the story of Luc Maspero sounds like an urban legend, and because I can't find any evidence to suggest that it's true, I'm going to list its status as "unlikely".
Categories: Art, Death
Posted by Alex on Thu Nov 27, 2008
Comments (4)
The Yale Center for British Art is hosting an exhibition about an obscure 18th-century art hoax (one that I had never heard of before). The exhibition is titled "Benjamin West and the Venetian Secret" -- which makes it sound a bit like a new Harry Potter novel. From Art Knowledge News:

In 1796 Benjamin West, the American-born President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, fell victim to a remarkable fraud. A shadowy figure, Thomas Provis, and his artist daughter, Ann Jemima Provis, persuaded West that they possessed a copy of an old manuscript purporting to contain descriptions of materials and techniques used by the Venetian painters of the High Renaissance, including Titian, to achieve the famously luminous effects of color that had long been thought lost, forgotten, or shrouded in secrecy. West experimented with these materials and techniques and used them to execute a history painting entitled Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes (1796–97). In truth the manuscript was fake and the story an absurd invention. West had believed it, and, through him, the Provises managed to dupe a number of other key artist-Academicians.

When the fraud was finally exposed, the embarrassment was far worse for West than it was for the other victims. It was largely through his influential position as President of the Royal Academy that the perpetrators gained access to so many of his variously hapless, dim-witted, or simply greedy colleagues. Years later, having been mercilessly held up to ridicule by satirists (in song; in the press; and in a remarkable satirical engraving titled Titianus Redivivus by James Gillray, 1797,Benjamin West - Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes, 1796–97, Oil on canvas - Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Michael D. Eisner. West painted an almost identical version of Cicero Discovering the Tomb of Archimedes (1804), this time according to his own methods and traditional studio practices. This “atonement” painting is today in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.
Categories: Art, History
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 19, 2008
Comments (1)
Frenchman Don Jean Habrey, whose stage name is Hors Humain (beyond human), has announced his intention to embark on a "sacred collision with Nessie." Specifically, he plans to dive into Loch Ness and "breathe with the monster to send ultimate breathing to the world of childhood.”

Later, he'll make a Christmas Eve visit to the Loch and "conjure the mythical creature from the loch, with chants, drumming, burning flares and bonfires round the shore."

“Nessie will breathe golden pearls for all the children from the earth, this endangered innocence that badly needs air.
“A boat equipped with a sound system will air the great organs of Notre Dame de Paris on the waves of the loch and the oratorios by Mozart, Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach will resound, together with the Hors Humain’s chants and kettledrums.”

I'm sad that I'm going to miss it.
Categories: Art, Cryptozoology
Posted by Alex on Fri Sep 19, 2008
Comments (2)
Pietro Psaier was an artist whose works fetch thousands of dollars. He was said to be a friend of Andy Warhol, which helps his saleability. But the question now perplexing the art world is whether Psaier ever actually existed.

This, from the Telegraph, is the little that's known about his life:

Information provided by an agent for the artist's estate states that Psaier was born in Italy in 1936 and died in the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. He left Italy as a young man and went to America, where he met Warhol while working as a waiter in a café. His life then appears to have evolved into a nomadic, drug-fueled odyssey that took him between California, Mexico, Madrid, India and Sri Lanka, working in a variety of styles from conventional portraiture and illustration to pop art and assemblage.

Here's the problem: There's no birth or death certificates. There's no solid evidence at all (such as a body) that Psaier existed. There's just a few sworn statements.

Smells like a hoax to me. The question is: Who's behind it?
(Thanks, Bob!)
Categories: Art, Identity/Imposters
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 17, 2008
Comments (1)
Small, round, orange stickers are appearing on objects all over downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. The stickers are stamped with the phrase "art object" and a price (ranging from one cent to $10,000). They're appearing on park benches, fire hydrants, store windows, etc. No one seems to know who's responsible for the stickers or what their purpose is. From the Appleton Post-Crescent:

Police Lt. Steve Elliott said putting stickers on public or private objects without the owner's consent falls under the same local ordinances governing graffiti. "Definitely, it is against city ordinances. If we were to see someone doing it, we would cite them under the graffiti laws," Elliott said Friday...

"They are also supposed to clean up the stickers and residue or pay for the cleanup," Totzke said. Elliott said police have not received eyewitness reports of people placing the stickers.
Categories: Art, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 18, 2008
Comments (2)
Visitors to New York's Coney Island amusement park now have the opportunity to try the "Waterboard Thrill Ride." As the sign outside proclaims, "It don't Gitmo better!" According to Reuters:

A man with a black hood pours water on the face of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit strapped to a table... The scene using robotic dolls is an installation built by artist Steve Powers to criticize waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique the United States has admitted using on terrorism suspects, but that rights group say is torture...
The public can peek through window bars and feed a dollar into the slot to bring the robotic dolls into action.

It reminds me of the Abu Ghraib Prison Fantasy Camp, which was the creation of our very own Cranky Media Guy.

More broadly, it fits into the theme of Reality Tourism, other examples of which that I've posted about in the past include the "Khmer Rouge Experience Cafe" in Cambodia that served customers the watery gruel that people ate in the Killing Fields.

There's also "Communism: The Theme Park": An amusement park planned for outside Berlin where people could experience life under communism. As well as a nazi command post in Poland that was turned into a theme resort.

And last but not least: Croatian Club Med, where tourists who wanted to experience life in a hard-labor camp were issued convict uniforms and given the opportunity to pound large stones with a sledgehammer and haul the pieces on their back to quarries around the prison.
Categories: Art, Hate Crimes/Terror, Places
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 08, 2008
Comments (4)
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