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Censored

Art is powerful, cathartic, transcendental, revolutionary, divisive, galvanizing, unusual, and novel. Art has a million attributes and adjectives that make it awesome (I am aware of the excessive use of A’s in that sentence). Because the visceral reactions effused and emanated from artwork can be so striking, some people also believe that art can be dangerous. It happened recently when Catholic University in Washington banned the emotionally charged play “Angels in America” , The School Board of the Fremont Unified School District voted to not include “Angels in America” on its AP English Reading List because of its use of primarily gay characters, and the original playhouse that showed the then burgeoning show (Charlotte Repertory Theatre) has since been shutdown. This occurred due to blatant anti-homosexuality reactions and protests over public funding and whose company and government dollars are funding WHAT art.

The master bedroom of artist Julian Schnabel’s duplex, with Picasso’s Femme au Chapeau. During World War II, Picasso who resided in Paris then was banned from exhibiting his art as his art forms did not confirm to the Nazi views on art. Photographs by Robert Polodori. Image found in Vanity Fair, HERE.

“Plates from a book of Picasso works and a drawing by Eric Fischl hang above a pair of custom­made sofas in the living room; the vintage parchment-covered chairs are upholstered in a Rubelli fabric, the bamboo side tables are family heirlooms, and the rug is by de Gunzburg.” Photographer: William Waldron. Image found via Elle Decor, HERE.

This sort of reaction happened with shock artist Andre Serrano’s controversial work “Piss Christ” (which was still being vandalized as of 2011), The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili (and the ENTIRE “Sensation” show at The Brooklyn Museum in 2000), as well as Robert Mapplethrope’s 1989 National Endowment of the Arts’ funded retrospective The Perfect Moment. Who defines what is obscene, what is normal, and what is acceptable – the artist? the government? the patron?

Renee Cox , Missy at Home, 2008,76 x 101 cm. Jamaican-American artist Renée Cox’s depiction of Da Vinci’s famous, ‘The Last Supper’, entitled “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” (not shown above) included all the apostles as black men (sans one) and Renée herself serving as the centrepiece, posing naked in emulation of Christ. The image was considered banned in New York City by Rudy Guiliani until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg repealed a committee on morality. Image via Galerie Zidoun, HERE.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965. President Lyndon Johnson said upon signing the enabling legislation for the NEA, “We fully recognize that no government can call artistic excellence into existence…Nor should any government seek to restrict the freedom of the artist to pursue his own goals in his own way.” And yet…..20 grants have been controversial since the NEA’s inception (albeit out of TENS OF THOUSANDS)- and enough public funding has been openly questioned to shut down exhibitions, block a bevy of curse words, and challenge what it means to create something original.

Image from Elle Decor June 2006 of Jane Holzer’s home in Southampton, with vintage Hermès blankets, and photographs by artists Andres Serrano and Richard Prince, Photographer: Douglas Friedman. Found, HERE.

This dining room features tables by Maxime Old and mid-century orchestra chairs, as well as paintings by Chris Ofili (once banned and censored). The chandelier in the hallway was made from a basketball net by artist David Hammons.

The living room, by Joseph Matzo, Paul Vincent Wiseman and James Hunter, of The Wiseman Group, collaborated with architects Legoretta + Legoretta on a Maui house,October 2005. . The diptych is by Frank Stella. In a crazy series of events, Stella’s often quoted 1960’s phrase “What you see is what you see”, banned personal subjectivity and symbolism, this belief was the start of the abstraction known as minimalism – an intense reaction to post–World War II Western Art. Many of the shapes stella uses in his Polish Village series were from once banned Holocaust-era books; however Stella begs the user not to misconstrue his meaning or infer symbolism from a title. To my knowledge, Stella himself was never banned – although controversy has ensured over public funding of his ‘ugly’ works in South Korea HERE.

At one point or another Shel Silverstein, Walt Whitman, Richard Serra, Allen Ginsberg, Sandra Cisneros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ani Difranco, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Lewis Carrol, George Orwell, John Milton, Voltaire, Dr. Seuss, and D.H. Lawrence have all been banned (to name a small few). Even before the days of the fantasy distopic novel Fahrenheit 451, wherein police officers burned books, Nazis were burning “so-called degenerate” artwork in huge pyres. According to Mallory Hellman in Let’s Go Paris, “A large amount of ‘degenerate art’ by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in the gardens of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.” Art work is a human’s self expression of individuality and autonomy. Any denial of ideas, creativity, and freedoms should be questioned. For a list of the more current visual art bans, try HERE or HERE or HERE.

Jane and Marc Nathanson hired designer Richard Hallberg to add a gallery for their art collection at their 1920s Art Déco Los Angeles residence, April 2007. The above living room’s fireplace is a 1960 Franz Kline oil. Andy Warhol (whose movies were banned in Boston and Chicago in 1960’s) and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1984-85 GE Tobacco Section is at left. Image found Here.

So as a big F*** You (censored myself, hahaha) to the past nonbelievers and haters of originality or genius – I present you with that idea of decorating with once banned artists. Free people, and create freely. Knowledge is power and ideas CAN be dangerous, but they CAN also be transformative. What is your stance?

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El Toreador

Bullfighting, also known as tauromachia  is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France, India, and some Latin American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru) in which one or more bulls are baited, and then slaughtered in a bullring for sport and entertainment. Whereas the popularity of this sport has fallen in the past few hundred years, it is still regarded as a “fine art” by some (and a bloodsport by others). Per usual, traditional, culture, and sport are mired in controversy.

(Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 )

Whatever one’s stance on the activity may be, it still cannot be argued that the professional toreros (also called “matadors”) and the bullring has captured the imagination of many artists throughout the years. The colors, the speed, and the marvel of a show create a vignette in which humanity and mortality are often on display.  I have never been to a bullfight, nor do I really condone the practice – but in the end it is not my religions, culture, or history. So much of this world is based on attempting to understand the importance  and significance of another people’s past. Rather than a competitive sport, the bullfight is more of a ritual which is judged by aficionados (bullfighting fans) based on artistic flourishes and a man’s command of animal. Ernest Hemingway said of it in his 1932 non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

Edouard Manet , Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of a Matador, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1862 – (An early instance of cross dressing and “passing” in art, Manet purposely includes a pink sash and a reprint of Goya’s bull’s behind Victorine.)

SOTHEBY’S NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 14, 2007, CONTEMPORARY ART, FRANCIS BACON, 1909-1992, STUDY FOR BULLFIGHT NO. 1, 2ND VERSION , signed, titled, and dated 1969 on the reverse , oil on canvas , 78¾ x 58? in. 200 x 147.7 cm.

VILLEGAS CORDERO, José (Sevilla, 1844 – Madrid, 1921), La muerte del maestro, Óleo sobre Lienzo, 330 x 505 cm., h. 1884, Image via Museo Bellas Artes de Sevilla

“Bullfight #5” by Salvador Dali
P.P. Konchalovsky, Bullfight. 1910

 Pablo Picasso, Bullfight, the death of the torero (Course de taureaux – la mort du torero)

Rene Daniels, Painting on the Bullfight, 1985, Photo by Peter Cox, Image found HERE (The colors and quickness of the bullfight reduced to abstraction!)

Jacqueline Kennedy, her hostess the Duchess of Alba, and the Countess of Romanones attend a bullfight in Seville, 1966, Image found HERE.

Magazine: Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, Issue: March 2012, Editorial: Before Night Falls, Model: Wang Xiao |Wilhelmina|, Stylist: Kenneth Goh |United Management|, Photographer: Simon Upton, Image found HERE.

Kiss of the Matador, Vogue Japan, Image found HERE.

Oscar de la Renta is inspired by Cubism and Matadors in this collection, found HERE. 

Emilio Pucci 2012 matador skirt, HERE.

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Studio 54

Located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan, New York, Studio 54 was the epicenter of the debaucheries party-world. Inside its gilded walls, all tomorrow’s parties and celebrities romped. The disco balls twirled, the socialites teased, and the artists observed. The music never stopped and the alcohol flowed as in Victoria Falls. Andy Warhol, talking about the nightclub in 1979 wrote, “It’s the place where my prediction from the sixties finally came true: ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.'” Oh to be a bright young thing in 1979!

Image created by me from photos found at The Ian Schrager Development Company – The Nightclub Years Slideshow. 

In 1977, Studio 54 was transformed into a new age, spectacular nightclub by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, with Jack Dushey as a financial backer. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. It took four months to transform the theater into a nightclub and cost $400,000. Adjusting for inflation, what cost $400,000 in 1977 would cost approximately $$1,502,726.07 in the present (2012).

Studio 54 was widely known for its mixture of “regular joes”, “star”, and “notable personalities”. Rubell, Schrager’s creative partner was known for “casting a play” when selecting the people who could enter the club. The floor of the space held around 1,550 patrons who paid a $15-$20 cover charge to  “be invited to the party”, nightly.

New Year’s Day 1978, at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, Truman Capote and Paloma Picasso. Image found via Jerry Hall, HERE.

Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, dancing together at Studio 54’s 1978 Valentine’s Day ball. Photograph via WWD from Conde Nast Digital Archive, found HERE.

Bianca Jagger and Liza Minelli at Studio 54 in 1978, Photo: Bulls, image found HERE.

Diana Ross & Richard Gere at Studio 54. From a genius article called “Instant Art: 1970’s Celebrity Photographs”,  found via Small Shop, HERE. 

“By far the most iconic image to come out of the most infamous nightclub in living history is one of Bianca Jagger, wearing a sheer, red, off-the-shoulder gown riding a white horse (being led onto the dance floor by a painted naked man!). Staged as a publicity stunt a week after the infamous New York discotheque opened in 1977, legend has it that co-owner Ian Schrager was persuaded by fashion designer Halston, who had created the red dress, to give It-girl of the moment Bianca a special birthday present (she had just turned 30, or 27 depending on who you believe).” –  Image and store found, HERE.

Andre Leon Talley (who started as Warhol’s assistant and is who became KING of the fashion world) and Diana Ross in Studio 54, New Years Eve party 1978-1979. During one famous night four tons of glitter was dumped in a four inch layer on the dance floor. It is rumored that the glitter was found in crevices, outfits, and the hair of guests months later. Photo By WWD Archive, found HERE. 

On February 4, 1980, the nightclub closed with one final party called “The End of Modern-day Gomorrah”.  Image found HERE.

Studio 54 has become synonymous with excessive excess and decadence that defined the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although drug fueled and liberal, in many ways the era of Studio 54 was a more naive time.  Some employees and regulars of Studio 54 were early victims of AIDS, a decade before doctors and the public were aware of the disease. Even Steve Rubell, co-founder of Studio 54, died at the age of 45,of AIDS-related complications.

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