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Everyone’s a critic–or a curator

The duchess, Pompeiians, activists, Oscars, Aaron Swartz, Shepard Fairey and more in links from around the Web

Most artists get bad reviews but seldom has a painter been subjected to such worldwide opprobrium as Paul Emsley, whose milquetoast portrait of Kate Middleton inspired a resounding global thumbs-down, mainly because she’s so much cuter in person.


After having her official engagement portrait shot by royal favorite Mario Testino (it’s now on view at Boston’s MFA), for her first solo turn, the new duchess had chosen an old-school portraitist to render her more “natural” self, an apparently rookie mistake that might well reflect the precedent of her late-mother-in-law, as well as of the Queen. But maybe it was part of her strategy. With tradition dispensed with, Middleton is freer to experiment with future commissions. Maybe she’s been waiting to ask Chris Ofili, an artist Jerry Saltz thinks could do a good job. Maybe her fantasy is to be in a Will Cotton painting, like Katy Perry was. Or a Chuck Close. Or a Cindy Sherman. Paradoxically, that might be the artist who can make her look most like her self.

Ancient Pompeiians, They’re Just Like Us!


The Roman cities buried by Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 are back in the news, as the British Museum prepares for the March opening of “Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum,” a blockbuster that uses new discoveries, celebrated finds, and intimate family furniture to paint a portrait of a literate, cultured, and even relatively gender-neutral society. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Museum will present “The Last Days of Pompeii,” the Getty’s show on the legacy of the disaster in the arts.

As the sites keep falling apart, archeologists keep digging, and some of them presented their findings at the Archaeological Institute of America’s recent conference. According to one story, scholars analyzing writings on the wall in the art-minded city have identified two main types of graffiti — some from avid scribblers, and other and professional painters doing p.r. for people like politicians. Just like us, homeowners would have given permission for election campaign literature to be placed on their walls — an endorsement that makes them, according to the team from the University of Helsinki, like the social networks of today.

Did They Really Get Pinned?

A Cooper-Hewitt Object of the Day: Stefan Sagmeister, Levi’s The Strongest Thread, 2009.GIFT OF STEFAN SAGMEISTER. 2011-34-1.

Speaking of which, The New York Times Style Section revisits the evolving meaning of curate as it covers the online Object of the Day series from the Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum, whose Fifth Avenue headquarters is closed for renovation until next year. Objects on the site, selected by a mix of staff, scholars, and more, include a colonial Andean mantle, Marimekko, Braille wallpaper, William Wegman’s doggie alphabet, Lebbeus Woods’s architecture, and Pinterest (entry: “The demographics skew younger and more female than other social networks — perhaps exactly where a museum like Cooper-Hewitt needs to be.”) Pin that.

Everyone’s a Curator Now

Shepard Fairey, The January 28, 2013, edition of The Nation, cover illustration and design.©THE NATION

“We’re all agents of history, curators of our evolving humanity.” That’s the sentiment, writes Antonino D’Ambrosio, that inspired his film Let Fury Have the Hour, and it also inspired the new special issue of The Nation, which he guest-edited. Using Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot as examples, Paul Klee as a guiding spirit, and Shepard Fairey as the cover artist, Ambrosio calls for creative response to generate inventive actions in every area of society.

Search All

Screenshot of “art” search on

In the wake of the suicide of Internet visionary Aaron Swartz, many turned to the project he made with Taryn Simon for the Rhizome 7 on 7 conference at the New Museum last year. The image-searching tool allows users to see results of searches for objects or concepts across multiple countries’ search engines all at once. Try “freedom,” or “liar,” or “crazy” — or, as we did here, “art.”

Man with Movie Camera Meets Man with Digital Processing Software

Lev Manovich, 72 shots from the 52 minute experimental documentary film The Eleventh Yearby Dziga Vertov (1928) showing close-ups of faces. The shots are arranged left to right, top to bottom in order of their appearance in film. AUTHOR: LEV MANOVICH / SOFTWARE STUDIES INITIATIVE (SOFTWARESTUDIES.COM)

More data visualization. Lev Manovich explains how computational analysis illuminates the inner workings of classic avant-garde films by Dziga Vertov, a master of montage.

Beyond the Academy

Inocente Izucar paints Masters of Disguise, 2012, film still.

Inocente, Sean and Andrea Nix Fine’s MTV film about a 15-year-old homeless painter from San Diego who learns to find herself with the help of the nonprofit ARTS, has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Short category. The story of Inocente Izucar, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, shows the transformative power that art can have in the lives of vulnerable populations. Watch her mother and little brothers go to her first opening.

Brace for Impact

Haroshi, Skull, 2012, skateboards, wheels, dental braces, and 18-karat gold teeth.COURTESY OF JONATHAN LEVINE GALLERY.

Wired reports on Haroshi’s sculptures made from skateboards, which will be shown at Jonathan Levine this month. They include a blinged-out skull from a long line that leads from the Mixtecs through Damien Hirst, but with better teeth.

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