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The papers presented at Florence Heritech, a scientific conference on restoration and diagnostics of cultural heritage, have been published in the IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering journal.
A great opportunity for those who missed the event, to still browse through them.
Art-Test contributed with a work that paves the way for the scientific testing not only of artworks, but also of the diagnostic images that are used in the attribution process (See publication, and video).
Of the many contributions presented, we highlight the work of Pier Giorgio RIGHETTI – honorary professor of the Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”, of the Politecnico di Milano: “What Sherlock Sorely missed: The EVA Technology for Cultural Heritage Exploration“, which presents the results of a new investigative method. It is a functionalized film that can be used to capture all materials present on a surface without damaging it in any way.
With this new non invasive diagnostic method, iconic items were analised: Bulgakov’s manuscript of Master and Margarita, where traces of morphine have been found, and the shirt worn by Anton Chekhov at the time of his death, where tuberculosis bacteria were found.
But more spectacularly than that, the surviving documents of the plague of 1630, preserved in the historical archive of Milan, were also analyzed. And even centuries later, Yersinia pestis bacteria were still detected.
Another example presented is George Orwell‘s letter discovered in the Russian state archive, on which, although it was typewritten, the bacteria of the tuberculosis he contracted weeks before in Barcelona, were still present.
A fascinating studio that will surely lead to more exciting surprises!
Is art only a matter for good family ladies or unscrupulous forgers? The portrait of the art world in many of the media is polarized around these two scenarios, which are also punctually to be found in Christopher Nolan‘s film.
The movies still amazes with special effects, but bores with unnecessary shootings and even more useless stereotypes about the art world. And the film doesn’t pass the BECHDEL test. To pass the test there must be at least two women talking to each other and their conversation must concern something other than a man. Easy? It must be said that not many films pass the test.Try to think of more than three.
Inheritances never leave us unmoved: they inevitably accompany a passage, they bring with them existential/geographical reflections (who we are, where we come from, where we go… etc. etc.), they disappoint the venal when they do not meet their expectations, especially when horrible cousins come in the way.
We don’t know exactly what emotions are behind the story we are about to tell you, but rediscovering in a house in the department French of Ain a work by Alfred Sisley will certainly have been a nice surprise!
The work, signed and dated 1892, represents a view of Rue des Fossées in Moret- sur- Loing where the artist lived. The painting remained for about 130 years in the home of a descendant family of Alfred Ernst, art and music critic, in turn a relative of the artist Charles Cottet who had exhibited with Sisley in 1890. The painting was auctioned for 250,100 euros. It will also be included in the reasoned catalogue of Sisley’s work by Francois Daulte, soon to be published.
Certainly the signature and the place of discovery are key elements in the study and attribution of a work, but just as certainly it is the diagnostic analysis that helps us to complete the puzzle!
Let’s face it, if we’re part of the big group of mere mortals, our online shopping will probably cover yet another pair of “uncomfortable but I must have them” high heels, yet another beige cardigan that we’re sure won’t be damaged by the wrong washing, as it happened with the previous twenty ones (we’re sure we’ve learned the lesson), some futuristic device to certainly improve the quality of life of the most tech-addict of us, or a lock as heavy as a remorse that will cost us more than the bike itself.
But there is a whole other kind of online shopping that has flourished and spread in these times of pandemic and that seems destined to surprise us again and for a long time: that of online auctions.
Let’s mention perhaps the most striking cases: Sotheby’s, which last June presented, among others, Francis Bacon’s triptych inspired by the Aeschylus Orestea (1981) to which Christie’s responded the following month with the event auction “One: a Global Sale of the 20th Century” including Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude with Joyous Painting (1994) and just last October 6, during the evening auction “20th Century” there was “Nature Mort avec pot au lait, melon et sucrier”, presented as Cézanne‘s largest watercolor on auction in recent decades, sold for 28.6 million dollars.
The virus has not affected the passion of collectors, indeed the market seems to enjoy excellent and excited health! Now more than ever is evident the decisive role of the diagnostic dossier that must accompany each work in order to feel safe buying on-line. Art is something we like to invest in!
And, suddenly, the beige sweater has lost all its charm. Let’s get him off the wishlist, come on.
P.S. Was it foreseen by the recent Nobel Laureates who won the prize for economy?
At the long-awaited Florence Heritech conference, Art-Test in collaboration with two departments of the University of Florence, with S.T.Art-Test, and with the National Optical Institute of the CNR, will present “Forensic Imaging for Art Diagnostics. What evidence should we trust?“.
The work presents the first results on the scientific analysis of the integrity of diagnostic images, and in particular X-rays images.This is a relevant topic since more and more often these imagines are, rightly so, used to support or dismiss an attribution. This is a totally new subject that is being addressed for the first time in the scientific literature. For this year the conference will be held online from 14 to 16 October, and the proceeding, subject to rigorous review by experts, will be published by IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, an indexed journal, and as always, in open access mode, therefore accessible to all.
We will miss direct interaction with other participants but we hope that this format will allow a good number of people to follow remotely. Don’t miss it! The event calendar will be announced on October 14th here
The longstanding question regarding the authentication of artworks, both old master and modern ones, is always relevant. Even today, no shared scientific protocols have been established, so to start a correct discussion on this topic. Not later than last week, this problem became clear again at auction.
Two paintings declared “FOLLOWER OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS, about 1700”, had already been sold six months ago by the same gallery but with a different attribution: “CICLE OF SIR PETER PAUL RUBENS” were auctioned.
What has happened in the last six months that got the paintings from being a “workshop” to being a “copy” of the following century? Moreover, the same two artworks eleven years ago were offered by another large auction house for a double estimate. How can this happen? What information was added between one auction and another?
The Condition Reports which are generally published –same here- report only the conservation conditions, observed rather superficially.
The provenance only rarely adds decisive information on the autograph. As indeed this is the case this time as well. We wonder why it is not explicitly stated in the catalogue if any type of analysis has been performed that has implied consequences for the attribution. One could think of analyses performed showing an anachronism in the materials used, or a C14 on the wooden support.
A Condition Report enriched with Radiography, Reflectography and colour analysis would have clarified many doubts.
Especially at a time like this, where auction houses only offer online sales, it would be appropriate to offer works with more detailed curricula, also enriched with elements that the human eye cannot perceive. This could offer complete transparency, a de-risking for the investment and therefore an incentive to buy. Who would buy with closed eyes?
The day after is about to arrive. What will change in the art world?
Il Giornale dell’Arte dedicates an insert to the reopening.
136 contributions from museum directors, superintendents, foundations directors but also gallery owners, auction house managers and publishers. All aware that the return to normality will not mean restoring the same status quo of March 8.
Let us comment on it together. What has changed in the meantime? During the Coronavirus explosion, “digital” has had space.
In these almost 70 days, many museums have offered virtual visits and digital contributions. Also as regards the art market, which saw the cancellation of fairs and events, the digital response was immediate. Galleries and auction houses have changed physical appointments into digital appointments: online auctions, and other tools for the most demanding customers, with dedicated virtual environments.
Will digital continue to be massively used even after the end of the quarantine?
Minister Dario Franceschini spoke of a possible portal, such as Netflix, where it will be possible to publish original content, not freely shared on other sites or social pages. Cultural products on payment.
So far, everything was all for free. We are back to the question how culture should be accessible to everyone. Nevertheless, it is useless to hide that the idea of a culture accessible to everyone is probably not sustainable. For a time still not defined, and definable, the cultural sector, firmly linked to the tourism sector, will have limited resources. Especially small businesses.
However, we would like to reiterate that making culture is not at no cost, not even for the digital part. Behind any contribution published in recent months, there are hours of work of many professionals, who have invested in accelerating spreading the understanding of the digital language with their work. They can’t work for free forever. If these digital contents are truly the solution to attract and communicate with possible visitors, and return back to surplus, they must be recognized for the value they have, avoiding to think of them as pastimes. Or accessory tools at best.
Now is really time to create a new future for culture, and to recognize the creation of content for digital use, the space and resources they deserve. An evolution and growth opportunity for the cultural system.
Let’s see if we can take it!
Illicit trafficking in works of art to finance terrorism, money laundering, hidden financing.
“Organized crime has many faces,” added Catherine de Bolle, Europol’s executive director. “The trafficking of cultural goods is one of them: It is not a glamorous business run by flamboyant gentlemen forgers, but by international criminal networks. You cannot look at it separately from combating trafficking in drugs and weapons: We know that the same groups are engaged, because it generates big money.”
Moreover, even in the consultation of the European Commission for new actions against money laundering, launched to collect input from all citizens, but above all from the most interested parties, there are art dealers in the list of involved stakeholders.
It is evident that for art dealing it is considered necessary to introduce greater control, to make the art market more transparent. However, the value of artworks is inevitably conditioned by their authenticity, which affects the profits that can be made from them. Or by their alleged authenticity. And the absence of shared protocols for certification of works of art leaves much room for maneuver.
Something needs to change
Selfie” in 2013 was elected as “word of the year”, and still maintains its place in the vocabulary. Selfies are not just an ephemeral fashion and it doesn’t matter if the first assonance is with selfish. Being is sharing and if you don’t share, you are nobody.
Art often ends up being just a background. And more than enjoying the moment, it appears a spasmodic anxiety of showing that moment in which we are ourselves in front of that important monument. Works of art and more or less famous architectures are often perceived only as an impressive scenography, and the time of the visit is consumed in a few quick gestures: framing, shooting, posting.
It is, clearly, a transitory, ephemeral moment: the sharing of our selfie becomes the essential part, the place where it is done becomes secondary, however fascinating or famous is the location, it all boils down to a paradoxical and grotesque snapshot in which the viewer becomes an integral part of the work of art, as protagonist, of course.
What is needed is to attract attention, and the only requirement concerning the artwork is that it has to be photogenic, amazing, in short, “instagrammable”.
But this has also a positive side. In fact, this ever more pervasive need to show the place where we are, feeds curiosity and more and more “influencers” are attracted by the desire to immortalise themselves right in front of a work of art or monument. This could be a powerful tool for cultural dissemination.
More and more museums, which previously prohibited taking photographs, now are the first to invite and photograph the artworks, invent hashtags to publicise and share news about the exhibitions or the planned events.
This is a different way of bringing more people closer to art. Certainly very direct and effective.
Whether it is artistic or not, therefore, today the “selfie” represents a creative medium to convey culture, together with thoughts, stated of mind, social conditions.