Arts in the News: Wonder Woman, Gallows Exhibit, Professional Ballet Dancer Saves Man on Subway Tracks and more
American Painter Inspired Wonder Woman Film’s Aesthetic
Matt Jensen, director of photography for the new “Wonder Woman” film, says that the blockbuster owes a lot to American painter John Singer Sargent. Sargent, who died almost a hundred years ago, had a signature palette of deep neutrals and vivid accents that inspired the use of color in the movie: “I think a key thing for us was we wanted rich blacks, beautiful portraiture on the faces, and when we did see color–because he tended to not use a lot of color–it was vibrant,” explains Jensen. Sargent painted both elites in pristine settings as well as soldiers in grittier scenes of war–subject matter that easily translated to “Wonder Woman,” set during World War I. Paintings like “A Portrait of Madame X” and “Gassed” make it easy to see how Sargent’s gloomy-yet-gleaming palette inspired the lighting style of the new hit film. Always fun to see old and new art collide!
The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has dismantled and removed a two-story structure entitled “Scaffold” by artist Sam Durant following protests by local Native Americans. The piece, made of wood and steel, was created in 2012 and combines design elements from seven historical U.S. gallows, including the one used for a mass execution of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862–the largest execution in the nation’s history. Though the Walker museum originally intended to install the piece permanently in its renovated outdoor sculpture garden, backlash from Native American groups, who called the piece insensitive, led to its removal and the issuing of an apology not only from the museum but the artist himself. Durant has officially transferred the intellectual property rights of his sculpture to the Dakotas, who will decide what to do with the fragments. “I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others,” announced Walker executive director Olga Visa, who admitted that the removal of the sculpture “is the first step in a long process of healing.” Originally hoping that the piece would lead to more discussion around capital punishment and violence, Viso now regrets not involving Dakota and other Native communities in the decision to acquire the work. Hopefully, this incident will encourage other museums and artists to be more careful when dealing with sensitive subject matters and marginalized communities.
The Sundance for Choreography
The first annual National Choreographic Festival took place in May and is being called the “Sundance for dance.” Organized by Ballet West artistic director Adam Sklute, the festival was hosted in Salt Lake City and invited dance companies from across the country for two weekends of performances. The program is a collaborative one, featuring new work by both renowned and up-and-coming choreographers. Sklute explains: “I approached a variety of companies. We wanted to present a broad swatch of what American dance looks like.” Sklute’s own company performed three new works for the festival. His ultimate dream for the festival is that it features only world premieres; for this first year, guest companies mainly performed pieces that were created or staged recently but not yet officially toured. For example, the Pennsylvania Ballet presented Trey McIntyre’s “The Accidental,” and Oregon Ballet Theatre presented Helen Prickett’s “Terra.” Next year’s festival is set to highlight female choreographers and companies run by female directors. Sklute is also considering the possibility of fringe festival events that would involve regional school programs and a choreographic competition: “We want this festival for choreography to do what the Sundance Film Festival does for a film–create a hub for creativity in dance.” What a fantastic new event in the dance world that will no doubt foster sharing and celebration of fresh, new ideas!
A Prescription for Music and Dance
Halton Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG), a National Health Service (NHS) organization in Britain, has released a cultural manifesto pledging to prescribe dance and music to alleviate loneliness and poverty. HCCG, which plans NHS services in Chesire, wants to “put a choir in every care home” as one piece of a larger “paradigm shift” in health care. The manifesto explains: “Too many of life’s problems are seen as only amenable to medical treatment. We all too readily turn people into patients. Consequently, we have all become less adept at making sense of life and death, pain and sickness for ourselves. There are no pills for loneliness and poverty but a rich cultural context can help ensure residents are better connected to each other and feel more able to cope.” The manifesto speaks specifically to the example of people with dementia but adds that music groups like community choirs can also help those with asthma or other issues with breath control and lung capacity. What a wonderful move to incorporate the healing and social benefits of the arts into medical practice!
How Many People Does it Take to Write a Hit Song?
We usually think of hit songs as credited to one person or one band; a new study by Music Week magazine, however, shows that the writing of a hit song is more often than not a team effort. The study’s results indicate that it now takes an average of 4.53 writers to create a hit single. By analyzing the 100 biggest singles in 2016, Music Week found that only four were created by a single artist (Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” Calvin Harris’s “My Way,” and two hits by Twenty One Pilots). The average number of writers per hit single has increased over the past decade: ten years ago the average was 3.52 per hit single, and 14 of the year’s top 100 songs were credited to a single artist. As 4.53 only marks an average for 2016, many of the top hits have required significantly larger writing teams: Drake’s “Once Dance” credits eight, and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” credits 13. Even famously solo singer-songwriters like Adele and Ed Sheeran rely on co-writers. Managing director of music publishers Warner/Chappell UK Mike Smith credits the change in writer numbers to the evolution of the music business, explaining that decades ago an artist would take several albums to hone their craft, but now “there is a need to fast-forward that process [and] bring in professional songwriters, put them in with artists and try to bring them through a lot faster.” Some stars now go to “writing camps” to help speed this process along. The changing nature of the writing process for hit singles has many wondering: what does all this mean for the authenticity, authorship, and a sense of ownership of music?
New Dance Style Taking on Social Justice Issues
Tip 1: Do Not Check a Bag on the Way to Your Destination
As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to check a bag when you are traveling abroad. The unspoken nickname for Air France is “Air Chance” for a reason – you are taking a chance with your luggage arriving on time. Also, a bag bigger than what you can carry on to a plane is going to weigh you down, literally. If you utilize any of the trains or public transportation you are going to desperately wish you brought something smaller and easier to cart around. Pack as lightly as possible with versatile clothing. A good pair of walking shoes is a must.
Pro Tip: More room in your suitcase means you can check a bag on the way back (because who cares if your bag is 12 hours delayed when you get home) with all your European goodies – like wine, cheese, and chocolate.
Tip 2: Conduct Your Tech Research Ahead of Time
Will you need international coverage for your phone or tablet? This is something you want to take care of prior to takeoff because you can often add an international plan for a month at very affordable prices. International coverage starts at $30. Nerd Wallet has excellent comparison charts for your carrier and prepaid plans – click here for their article. If you wait and don’t add the plans beforehand, you can expect (in some cases) to pay upwards of $1,000 dollars in roaming charges. You will also want to make sure you have the appropriate adapter for all your devices. These universal adapters come highly recommended.
Tip 3: Make Sure You Have Appropriate Coverage for a Rental Car
European rental agencies will generally permit a driver over the age of 21 to rent a car (some charge an additional fee per day for drivers under 24). Fellow car nuts will rejoice at the opportunity to drive European cars and models not available in the US. Make sure to check your car has air conditioning (a necessity in the summer), liability insurance, and the type of transmission you can drive. Manual transmission is the default in Europe, so if you only feel comfortable driving an automatic you’ll likely pay a little more. You’ll also want to invest the extra few dollars a day for liability insurance as most American car insurance companies don’t cover your driving in Europe.
Pro Tip: Even if you won’t need the car for a full seven days it is sometimes cheaper to rent a car for a week instead of 5 days. You can then return the car “early.”
Pro Tip 2: Check to see if your credit card provides international car rental insurance coverage. Some cards limit the coverage to 14 or 30 day rentals.
Tip 4: Exchange Currency in Your Hometown or Destination City
Never withdraw currency at the ATM at the airport because it will be 10-20% more expensive with inflated exchanges rates and terminal fees. Instead you can either find a partner bank in your destination city (for example Bank of America partners with Deutsche Bank) and withdraw there. You can also go to a bank in your hometown and exchange cash prior to traveling.
Tip 5: No Tipping
Do not feel the pressure to tip like the United States – tips are not an essential part of a server’s compensation in Europe. Round up a Euro or two, but you shouldn’t be obligated to give the typical 20%, unless of course your serve does something out of this world for you. Europeans don’t expect it.
Virtual Reality Dance
Filmmaker and choreographer Lily Baldwin has co-directed virtual-reality film, “Through You,” with Saschka Unseld. Set to be released to the public this summer, “Through You” is an unconvential virtual-reality film, as the story is told entirely through dance, without words. Baldwain describes it as “an existential love poem,” with Juilliard-trained actor Amari Cheatom and contemporary dancer and choreographer Joanne Kotze playing the main couple. As a virtual reality creation, “Through You” features movement not only in front of the viewer, but all around them. The New York Times’ Gia Kourlas explains: “Watching it creates a sense of weightlessness–as if you’re floating as you move with the dancers or even seem to become them. You drift from feeling like the protagonist to a voyeur. You lose track of time. You twist, you turn, you move.” While many assume excessive camera motion, especially in virtual-reality, will result in motion sickness for viewers, Baldwin’s work successfully pulls off twists and turns, allowing viewers to take the point-of-view of dancers. What a fascinating way of putting viewers in dancers’ shoes, combining choreography and virtual reality!
The Legal Issues Facing U.S. Museums
Every year, museum lawyers and professionals meet up at a Smithsonian-sponsored law conference to discuss the legal challenges of the ever-changing art world. With performance art on the rise, particularly at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa), museum counsel have to determine appropriate warnings for patrons–like posting signs warning that Alexandra Bechzetsis’s piece “Massacre” included nudity. Museum lawyers also have to navicate changes to charitable tax law and copyright law, the latter particularly in conjunction with the usage of digital services like scanning, 3D printing, and virtual reality. They are also involved in the prudent investment of endowments, and in collaborating with private collectors to house and display works. Museums must also prepare for emergency situations, putting in place action plans for events like that of an “active shooter”–plans that can involve the protocol of using priceless exhibit pieces to blockade doorways. These lawyers working behind the scenes help to make visits from patrons like us seamless, enjoyable, and safe!
Louvre Abu Dhabi to Open This Year
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first satellite location of the famous French museum, is officially set to open in November of this year. The building is in the final phases of testing before the art collection and loans will be installed. The project, contracted at 1 billion euros, has taken about a decade to complete. Some 1000 works are expected to be housed in the museum, 300 coming from museums across France and 700 from the Emirati museum’s own collection. The building itself was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and features a mesh-like cupola 18 meters in diameter and basins filled with seawater. Officials expect the exact opening date to fall somewhere between Armistice Day on November 11th and a national holiday on December 2nd marking the union of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is certainly exciting to see the Louvre expand beyond France’s borders; perhaps in the future we will see even more satellite locations across the globe!
An Art Program Keeping Teens Out of Jail
Rachel Barnard, an artist with architectural training, founded “Young New Yorkers” (YNY), an art/criminal justice program for youth, five years ago. The program works as a court-mandated alternative to incarceration or community service, allowing teenagers who have been arrested to minor offenses like jumping subway turnstyles or posessing a small amount of marijuana. Barnard calls the programs “Alternative Diversion,” working with the young offenders to redirect their lives, providing guidance and fostering self-reflection. Street artists comprise the main pool of those donating their time and talent to the program, with high profiled names like Shepard Fairey, Daze, Dan Witz, and the Guerilla Girls all having donated at a recent fundraising auction. Since 2012, Barnard’s program has given more than 400 city youth a second chance. YNY continues to build partnerships with artists, teachers, lawyers, volunteers, and social and criminal justice agencies. It regularly puts on art shows by graduates of the program, drawing members of the justice system and helping to strengthen community bonds; the most recent show was held on May 10. For more information on this inspiring program, visit their website at www.youngnewyorkers.org.
- Arts in the News: Wonder Woman, Gallows Exhibit, Professional Ballet Dancer Saves Man on Subway Tracks and more
- Arts in the News: Sundance for Choreography, A Prescription for Music and Dance and more
- #FabFive Tips for International Travel to Europe
- Arts in the News: Virtual Reality Dance, U.S. Museums, Louvre Abu Dhabi, An Art Program for Teens