curious history of abstract art;You’ll Love This Art Membership


The curious history of abstract art

This week we bring you interesting information about modern and contemporary art. We start with a report dating back to1995, the subject being an exposure on how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “fostered and promoted American abstract expressionist paintings”, as a rather unusual weapon during the Cold War. For over two decades, the works of the American artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko were part of the project that continued for two decades.

The time frame is important, as during the ’50s and the ’60s, modern art did not appeal to most Americans. Since many of the artists were ex-communists, for CIA they became part of the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, as proof of creativity and intellectual freedom. On hindsight we can say that from the point of view of art, it brought into focus the works of talented American abstract artists and encouraged the spread of abstract art across the globe.

We now turn to a report from 2009, when a leading British sculptor followed by a top international art dealer had the audacity (or shall we say courage) to put into words what many might have wanted to say about the unrealistic prices of contemporary art. The art world, during this period was reeling from the collapse of the contemporary art market when British sculptor Sir Anthony Caro stated that “stupid outrageous values” had become more important than the work itself. David Nahmad a Monaco-based dealer, known for his £2 billion collection of 5,000 paintings, including 300 Picassos, had his own views, stating, “There are a lot of embarrassed people who bought art that is now not worth what they paid for it. For the past three or four years… just two or three buyers were pushing up prices by bidding against each other… It’s almost a fraud.”

In 2012, British artist Damien Hirst, shows us that both Caro and Nahmad were right. At the time, the price of Hirst’s works had dropped by 30 per cent from its peak in 2008 with some of his works remaining unsold at auctions. Multi-millionaires who had earlier bought his work, were beginning to think “they might have been better off with a picture they actually liked.”

However, we can now turn to an artist who always makes news. Picasso has one again managed to hog the limelight, with one of his paintings. Head of a Young Woman dating back to 1906, has been labelled by Spanish authorities as “a national treasure” and hence cannot be taken out of the country. The painting belongs to Jaime Botin, a member of a Spanish banking dynasty who purchased it in 1977. Since then it has been hanging on the wall of his yacht “Adix”, registered in UK, and docked along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Valued at ¤26 million (or $ 28.3 million), Botin considers the painting a personal possession and was planning a sale in Switzerland. But while the yatcht was docked at Corsica, the Spanish authorities stepped in and took the painting into custody. Needless to say, other countries across the Mediterranean are keenly watching the outcome of this dispute, as it may affect global export control rules for artworks.

(The writer is an author and a former art gallery owner)


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