Arty Stuff

Starry night - Van Gogh
Starry night by Vincent van Gogh

I am quite fond of modern art . . . as long as it is not too modern or too pretentious. To my favorites painters belong Miro and Kandinsky where it is great to watch their artistic development over time and the simple shapes they apply in their abstract works. When I can find the time, I visit modern art museums on my travels, although admittedly, often with different levels of enjoyment depending on what’s on display. Furthermore, the question that continuously comes back is : “Is it art or is it useful ?”. The following flowchart (in Dutch) aims to help you with this difficult dilemma.

Is it art or is it useful ?
Is it art or is it useful ?

Occasionally art can be very useful, as proven by the incident whereby a subway train overshot the buffer stop at the end of the track in Spijkenisse, and ‘landed’ on the tailfins of a plastic whale that decorated the last station of the line. It resulted in a lucky escape for the train driver who otherwise would have plunged to his death from 10 m high. It took quite a bit of effort to remove the severely damaged subway car the next day

Closeup of the damaged subway car
Closeup of the damaged subway car
 Subway attendant and policeman watching in awe
Subway attendant and policeman watching in awe
Ontspoorde metro
Accident site seen from the air the next day

When you create an XLL Football Table that can handle two complete football teams of 11 players each, you could call it a piece of art, but it has still been made to good use as the following picture shows, with two teams fully engaged.

XXL Football table
XXL Football table in fool swing

But then … if you make the same table part of an installation that‘s hanging from the ceiling at the center of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, it can’t be considered ‘useful’ anymore, hence now it must be art 😉.

Installation at Gugenheim, N.Y.
Installation at Gugenheim, N.Y.

If you think the earlier mentioned 10-metre-high whale fins at the subway station in Spijkenisse are ‘substantial’, you haven’t seen The Kelpies yet. These 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures are located between Falkirk and Grangemouth in Scotland and are depicting ‘kelpies‘ (shape-shifting water spirits) supposedly as strong as ten horses each.

The Kelpies in Falkirk

In particular at night, when these statues are lighted from within, they make for a spectacular sight.

The Kelpies at night

Furthermore, you can experience a Kelpie from the inside, and see for yourself their breathtaking engineering and design. But as they are built using a steel frame with some stainless steel cladding (weighing 300 tonnes each) don’t reckon on staying dry when you visit them when it rains; after all it is art, and not supposed to be useful. . . .

Sometimes you wonder if something might be art when it clearly can’t be useful, as is the case with this airplane and airfield.

Air Travel Made Green
Air Travel Made Green

Actually, this isn’t a modified airplane; it is part of a plea by the French designer Nicolas Abdelkader to slow down energy consumption. He hopes that these pictures, which he describes as a “chimerical vision of a post-productivist society,” will help viewers reflect on the what sort of world we return to, after the Covid-19 pandemic is over.

Another question that comes back frequently is this one: “Is it art when it is in a museum ?” You may be tempted to think “of course, what a silly question” but I give you the following piece-of-art-on-a-pedestal. It is called “Brique signé” which means “signed brick”. Unfortunately the signature was nowhere to be found. Next to the brick, there were eggshells on display, though the chicken had apparently escaped 😉 .

Brique signé
Brique signé
Egg shells
Egg shells on display

All of this could be seen in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, better known as the “Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst te Antwerpen” or “M HKA“. Also on display was a classroom where one could take a Driving Theory test. The examination room could accommodate 16 people. This piece-of-art was apparently created by an artist who had failed his driving theory test many-many times, and this traumatic experience must have led to inspiration to create this installation. At least, I was told so by a very friendly museum guard, who also told me that if you look carefully, you can see that the installation is pretty old. Can you see from the picture below why this is the case ?

Driving test examination room
Driving test examination room

The answer to the previous question has nothing to do with road signs; it is the simple fact that there’s an ashtray on the desk of the examiner. . .

A hot topic at the time in the Boymans van Beuningen Museum was the Peanut butter floor created by Wim T. Schippers. ‘Just’ taking some jars of peanut butter and smearing these out on the museum floor; is this art or plain old madness ? Have a look at the link above and judge for yourself. . .

Peanut butter floor by Wim T. Schippers
Peanut butter floor by Wim T. Schippers

As an artist it is always difficult to make a name for yourself. Life seems so much easier once that’s been accomplished. Some never reach that point in time. Vincent van Gogh just sold a handful of paintings during his life time.

You can help and speed up this process by developing your very special style, such as Picasso’s cubistic women who have their nose on the side of their face, otherwise you need to find other ways of attracting attention.

Banksy @ steep street in Bristol
Banksy in Bristol; “Are those my dentures ?”
Walking the Dog
Walking the Dog

One way of doing this, is being very secretive about who you are and where you live, as is the case with Banksy. When you then become very famous and your work is out on the street to see and touch (and nick !) for all, the value of your property might even skyrocket when such a mural arrives on your wall.

Once you are established you can move on, and do more fun stuff, such as having your artwork shredding itself after selling for $1.3 million at Sotheby’s.

Banksy shredded
Banksy’s Girl With Balloon shredded after auction

When I published this page in January 2021, I could not know (and did not expect) that this shredded piece of art would sell at an auction at Sotheby’s for $25.4 million October the same year.

Alternatively – when you get bored – you could just poke fun of Keith Haring’s dog. . .

Banksy walking Keith Haring's dog
Banksy walking Keith Haring’s dog

Actually I quite like Keith Haring’s dogs. Sometimes I use them in my paintings, together with some Aboriginal art. I haven’t used his ‘crawling babies’ though 😃 .

Keith Haring Dog
Keith Haring’s Dog
Keith Haring Baby
Keith Haring’s Baby

You could ask yourself – is this even allowed – copying ‘stuff‘? But then there is this saying by Steve Jobs and also attributed to Pablo Picasso:

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Please note, I’m just copying 😁.

But as is the case in general, people use ‘things’ made by other people to modify and improve upon. This is very apparent in software development where (often open-source) libraries and user-interfaces are embraced and enhanced by new users leading to a better end-user experience.

If painting in oil or acrylic or brush painting isn’t your thing, why not make some shiny sculptures instead. This life size Balloon Bog by Jeff Koons managed to fetch $58,405,000 at a Christie’s auction in New York on November 2013, setting a new record for the most expensive work ever sold at auction by a living artist. Not bad for a mirror-polished stainless steel figure with a transparent color coating…

Jeff Koons dog on display
Jeff Koons – “Balloon dog (Orange)” on display

$58.4 million at an auction! Clearly, art prices for the happy few are ballooning 🎈. But if you’re interested you can buy a ‘replica’ nowadays for less than 40 euro 🐕‍🦺 .

If you think that so much money for a Balloon Dog is over-the-top, you haven’t seen the works from Damina Hirst yet.

For the Love of God
For the Love of God

Earlier, in 2007, Damien Hirst made headlines with For the Love of God, a platinum cast human skull covered in 8,601 flawless diamonds.

The skull includes a pear-shaped pink diamond located in the forehead that is known as the Skull Star Diamond.[1] The skull’s teeth are original, and were purchased by Hirst in London. The artwork is supposed to be a memento mori, or reminder of the mortality of the viewer.

The skull was supposedly sold for £50million (or $100 million) to an investment group, but questions were raised to the reliability of this statement (was it all Fake News 😉❓).

Luckily there are also people for whom money isn’t the only thing on the planet, people that have a much less materialistic lifestyle, as is shown by the Dalai Lama at his birthday party.

Dalai Lama's Birthday Party
Dalai Lama’s Birthday Party

Being in France during the 2020 Covid-restricted summer holidays, I decided to drive back along the town of Auvers-sure-Oise (close to Paris), where Van Gogh painted his last pictures. This was also triggered by the fact that thanks to the postcard collection of a 94-year old French lady, it was now clear where van Gogh had created his very last artwork.

Rue Daubigny in Auvers-sur-Oise
Rue Daubigny in Auvers-sur-Oise, overlaid with the painting Tree Roots

The next diagram shows Vincent van Gogh’s likely position while painting Tree Roots (1890), as compared to the postcard Rue Daubigny, Auvers-sur-Oise.

Diagram showing Vincent van Gogh’s possible position while painting Tree Roots
Vincent van Gogh’s likely position while painting Tree Roots

So, I went there, to check it out for myself, but unfortunately, to protect it against overenthusiastic tourists and/or art lovers the place had been shielded off by black panels, and it’s no longer a beauty spot.

Rue Daubigny, Auvers-sur-Oise
Rue Daubigny, Auvers-sur-Oise
Rue Daubigny, Auvers-sur-Oise
Location of Tree roots painting

The restrictions caused by Corona in 2020-2021 resulted in a flurry of creativity. Whether it is running a marathon on your balcony, poking fun on WhatsApp, or creating short TikTok movies, it quickly filled my phone with pictures and videos. Some funny, some less so. I still like the ones below. Hope you agree 🤩.

Trouble with his facemask
Van Gogh – Trouble with facemask
Munch – Hoarding toilet paper

I visit the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam several times a year. Usually I quite like the new exhibitions and they have a vast permanent collection to pull from. Occasionally the following pub is on display. Only one person at a time is allowed in here. Although it is a pub – some people – are clearly not welcome here…

Bar where time stands still
Bar where time stands still
Some strange punters here…

Several years ago, I started painting with acrylic, and it has become something I much enjoy as a hobby. I can’t say I really excel at this, but that doesn’t stop me developing my own ‘signature’. I’ve put some pictures on this page.

It took me quite some effort to find and configure an easy plugin to manage photo’s in a way that looks good on a PC as well as a tablet or phone, with easy scroll capabilities. I settled for Modula. This plugin is highly configurable. That’s one of the reasons this page is still work-in-progress 🚧🚧🚧.

Some icons to spread the news