Before the holiday break, I took in the Picasso Sculpture show at MoMA. Sculpture typically isn't my cup of tea art-wise (or Picasso-wise) and much of the exhibition was lost on me, but Bull's Head stopped me in my tracks.
Picasso once said of the piece:
Guess how I made the bull's head? One day, in a pile of objects all jumbled up together, I found an old bicycle seat right next to a rusty set of handlebars. In a flash, they joined together in my head. The idea of the Bull's Head came to me before I had a chance to think. All I did was weld them together... [but] if you were only to see the bull's head and not the bicycle seat and handlebars that form it, the sculpture would lose some of its impact.
The piece is, at once, just barely over the line of what can be considered art and also so wonderfully artistic. Love it.
Gene Kogan used some neural network software written by Justin Johnson to transfer the style of paintings by 17 artists to a scene from Disney's 1951 animated version of Alice in Wonderland. The artists include Sol Lewitt, Picasso, Munch, Georgia O'Keeffe, and van Gogh.
The effect works amazingly well, like if you took Alice in Wonderland and a MoMA catalog and put them in a blender. (via prosthetic knowledge)
The internet went crazy yesterday three separate times: when the FCC officially endorsed Net Neutrality, when two llamas escaped, and over the color of this dress.1 A solid three meme day. That scuffling sound you hear is the media scrambling to deliver all sorts of different takes on What It All Means™. The only one I really read, and the only one I'm going to link to, is Paul Ford on why Buzzfeed got 27 million pageviews for #TheDress2 and some other site didn't.
What I saw, as I looked through the voluminous BuzzFeed coverage of the dress, is an organization at the peak of a craft they've been honing since 2006. They are masters of the form they pioneered. If you think that's bullshit, that's fine -- I think most things are bullshit too. But they didn't just serendipitously figure out that blue dress. They created an organization that could identify that blue dress, document it, and capture the traffic. And the way they got that 25 million impressions, as far as I can tell from years of listening to their people, reading them, writing about them, and not working or writing for them, was something like: Build a happy-enough workplace where people could screw around and experiment with what works and doesn't, and pay everyone some money.
This is not said as an endorsement of BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed is utterly deserving of insanely paranoid criticism just like anyone who makes money from your attention, including me. But it's worth pointing out that their recipe for traffic seems to be: Hire tons of people; let them experiment, figure out how social media works, and repeat endlessly; with lots of snacks. Robots didn't make this happen. It was a hint of magic, and some science.
I'm reminded of a story about Picasso, possibly apocryphal:
Legend has it that Pablo Picasso was sketching in the park when a bold woman approached him.
"It's you -- Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait! I insist."
So Picasso agreed to sketch her. After studying her for a moment, he used a single pencil stroke to create her portrait. He handed the women his work of art.
"It's perfect!" she gushed. "You managed to capture my essence with one stroke, in one moment. Thank you! How much do I owe you?"
"Five thousand dollars," the artist replied.
"B-b-but, what?" the woman sputtered. "How could you want so much money for this picture? It only took you a second to draw it!"
To which Picasso responded, "Madame, it took me my entire life."
Similarly, designer Paula Scher took only a few seconds to come up with the new logo for Citibank for which Pentagram likely charged big money for:
How can it be that you talk to someone and it's done in a second? But it is done in a second. it's done in a second and in 34 years, and every experience and every movie and every thing of my life that's in my head.
Ford is exactly right about BuzzFeed; they put in the work for years so that a post that took probably 3 minutes to write captured more traffic in one day than some media outlets get in an entire month. (thx, @DigDoug & @jayfallon)
Update: A post from BuzzFeed's publisher, Dao Nguyen, explains how the company's tech team reacted to the unexpected traffic.
We have a bunch of things going for us at this point. We have heavily invested in infrastructure provisioning and scaling. We know exactly how to scale fast from running drills.
On Saturday night, an 11-by-6-inch Rembrandt pen-and-ink drawing called "The Judgement", worth $250K, was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey. Interestingly, Rembrandt pieces are the second most stolen pieces of art.
Art experts reached Sunday said works by Rembrandt are among the most popular targets for art thieves, second only to those by Picasso, because of the artist's name recognition and their value. Anthony Amore, chief investigator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and co-author of the book "Stealing Rembrandts," said there have been 81 documented thefts of the artist's work in the last 100 years.
It's like I always say: When I edit Kottke, art gets stolen.
That was fast. The drawing has been recovered. Thanks, Patrick.
Jealous of all the attention garnered by Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes decided to compile his own swimsuit publication. Here's a sample from a Mr. P. Picasso:
A masked bandit broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art last night and stole 5 paintings. Included in the grab were a Picasso and a Matisse.
Here is the list of paintings and what they look like:
''Le pigeon aux petits-pois'' (The Pigeon with the Peas) by Pablo Picasso
''La Pastorale'' (Pastoral) by Henri Matisse
'L'olivier pres de l'Estaque'' (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque
'La femme a l'eventail'' (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani
''Nature-mort aux chandeliers'' (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger
An appreciation of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 100 years after it was painted. "It's not just 100 years in the life of a painting, but 100 years of modernism. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is the rift, the break that divides past and future. Culturally, the 20th century began in 1907."