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Vincent Van Gogh's "Wheatfields Under Thunderclouds," (1890)
In a reproduction art scam potentially worth more than $36 million, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has apparently approved the reproduction of five of the Dutch master's popular paintings in "limited editions" that, if all sold, would unleash more than 1,000 full-scale copies into the market.
What's unusual about the museum's collaboration is that the reproductions violate typical museum standards for assuring that no one could confuse the fakes for the real things.
When art museums authorize reproductions of work in their collections, their standard practice is to make clear that the reproductions are just that, copies with no pretense of originality. So images of paintings are done up as posters, or cards, or even on t-shirts or mugs. If they are, for whatever reason, reproduced on canvas similar to that of the original, the copy is usually smaller so that the difference is obvious. And prices of the reproductions and souveniers are low.
In violation of that standard behavior, the Van Gogh Museum has apparently authorized the fabrication of more-or-less exact copies of five of Van Gogh's most popular pictures:
"Almond Blossoms" (1890); "Boulevard de Clichy "(1887); "The Harvest," (1888); "Sunflowers" (1889); and "Wheatfield under Thunderclouds" (1890).
Since all five paintings are well known and remain in the collection of the museum, only naives would be fooled into imagining that any of the copies was the real thing if they were to encounter one in a swank hotel lobby, boardroom, or private apartment. But the world is filled with impressionable innocents readily bamboozled by glitzy fakery. Perhaps that is the audience to whom the Van Gogh Museum and its "partners" are marketing the "Van Gogh Museum Edition" of these pictures.
Fujifilm Belgium invented the "reliefography" technology and 3-D scanning used to make the copies. The processes enable the reproduction of the artist's famous thick-paint surfaces with their frosting-like swirls and daubs of pigment. In addition the reproductions copy the backs of the pictures right down to the stickers and stamps that show where and when the paintings have been loaned to other museums and galleries around the world. Buyers get a "museum quality" frame for their fakes, too.
The reproductions come in "limited editions" of 260. The museum plans to keep 50 pieces from each edition for "educational purposes" including possibly letting the blind or visually impaired stroke them. That puts 210 of each of the five reproductions on the market, or a total of 1,050 reproductions for sale. If all 1,050 were to sell at their $35,000 asking price, the project would generate $36,750,000.
All this is enthusiastically endorsed by Willem van Gogh, the great, great grandson of Theo van Gogh, the artist's brother and most stalwart supporter throughout his tumultuous and tragically brief career. Willem van Gogh is an "advisor" to the museum's board of directors. The intent, clearly, is for these repros to increase in value just as the originals have. As a press release announcing the project coyly noted, "For a limited time, the starting price for each piece in the limted edition is $35,000.00."
Who gets the money was not explained.
Family heritage would make Katya Chavchavadze a princess in the Republic of Georgia, but she gave up any claims to a royal title with her marriage to John Redpath of St. Paul. Still, the links to royalty are enough to earn her a date at The Museum of Russian Art where she will recount family tales in conjunction with the museum's sparkling and tragic exhibition The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost.
Chavchavadze Redpath will give two talks at TMORA. The first, 7 p.m. Jan 29, is sold out. Tickets are still available for the second, 7 p.m. Jan. 30, $9. (The Museum of Russian Art, 5500 Stevens Av. S., Mpls. Diamond Lake Rd. at Hwy 35 W. Call 612-821-9045 or www.tmora.org)
A descendant of the Romanov's Chavchavadze Redpath has a family history that combines fairytale glamor with surreal encounters and "suspense, espionage and kidnapping," according to her sister-in-law Kate Redpath.
Among her tales is one of an 1854 kidnapping of a relative who was snatched by a Muslim warlord and held for ransom in Dagestan. The woman and her children were imprisoned for months with the warlord's harem.
Katya's great grandparent's fled from Russia during the Bolshevik revolution, escaping with enough jewels to enable her grandmother to sell some in order to purchase property on Cape Cod. Her father worked for the American CIA during the Cold War.
And somewhere along the line, Katya met and married St. Paul native John Redpath, a graduate of Cretin High School and the University of Minnesota. Katya and John have two daughters and divide their time between New York City and Vermont where they are launching an organic farm.
The must-see exhibition "The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost," is a touching, dramatic and tragic show featuring memorabilia --letters, paintings, china, photos and clothing -- belonging to the Romanov family whose dynasty began 400 years ago this year, and ended with the Bolshevik revolution of 1917-18. The show runs through March 23.
Ace photojournalist Pete Hohn spent much of his long career at the Star Tribune photographing hockey, baseball and basketball games, but like all staff cameramen, he did every job that came his way which is how he happened to be at the Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington on a night in November 1971 when Elvis Presley took the stage and a blizzard of flashbulbs lit up the scene.
Hohn's work will be celebrated in a show at Carbon Chroma Gallery in the Northrup King Building, 1500 Jackson St., N.E. Gala party 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., January 18, free. The show will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Jan. 17, 18, 24 and 25.
Hohn took so many photos of 5-time American League batting champ Rod Carew that he could have been the guy's agent. Here he caught Carew at bat in a May 1976 Minnesota Twin's game:
Tim Peterson, who brought a lot of high quality new art to the Twin Cities during his years as director of Franklin Art Works, has been named chief curator for the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art. The 35-year-old college located in history-rich downtown Savannah, GA opened its new museum two years ago. Peterson will have 20,000 sq ft of exhibition space to curate and will also oversee satellite galleries in Atlanta, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, he said in an email note.
Franklin Art Works closed earlier this spring after a 14 year run and was hoping to relocate to a more high-trafficed area than its former site on Franklin Av. Since Peterson was Franklin's only employee, the organization's future is now in question.
Internationally known Minneapolis photographer Alec Soth has produced a limited edition of 100 prints (above) whose sale will go to support the Soap Factory, a non-profit Minneapolis arts organization that showcases experimental projects in a former factory warehouse. This summer Soth staged a "slide show" review there at which participants in his Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Photographers explained and exhibited their own work.
Soth's own work has garnered international attention for the past decade at the 2004 Whitney and Sao Paulo biennials, in 2008 shows at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Photomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland, and a 2010 retrospective at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. While his gallery and museum career perks along, Soth uses the book format to tell stories in pictures. At regular intervals he turns out small editions of books and magazines that quickly become collector's items including "Sleeping by the Mississippi," (2004); "NIAGARA," (2006), "Fashion Magazine," (2007); "Dog Days, Bogota," (2007); "The Last Days of W," (2008); "Broken Manual," (2010). For the past five years he's been devoting a lot of attention to quirky publications issued through his publishing firm, Little Brown Mushroom.
The Soap Factory print is roughly 12 inches wide by 9 inches tall and will be issued in an edition of 100. Cost $400. Orders can be placed through the Soap Factory here.
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