Surveying the biennial circuit, the obvious conclusion is yes, the international art world is too elitist. For all the rhetorical emphasis on engaging local communities, histories, and cultures, it is populated by globetrotting curators, artists, critics, and patrons who temporarily parachute into various settings – the more obscure the better – and pat themselves on the back for their (our) worldliness and commitment to diverse publics while mostly talking to people they (we) already know. Occasionally this can tip over into outright black comedy: think, for instance, of the reports in the art press about Documenta 14 curators and staff carrying stacks of euros from Germany to Athens in their hand luggage to circumvent the cash-strapped Greek banks’ €120 cap on withdrawals (all under the auspices of ‘learning from Athens’).
Fifty years on, the interview remains a compelling watch. Duchamp’s significance was not what it is today but his reputation had risen again, after years in which it was thought he had given up art for chess. Artists like Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage had befriended him and seen him as a mentor. They prompted a revival of interest in the 1950s that was bolstered in the 1960s by Pop artists in Britain and the US and the first stirrings of conceptualism. It was only then that Duchamp had his first retrospective, at the Pasadena Art Museum in California in 1963. That was followed by one at the Tate Gallery in London in 1966.
For all Harry Potter fans from Google.
What has been the hardest thing to visualize in the project so far?
It’s always Harry, every single time. He’s based on a young boy from the Lake District, who is fantastic looking and has a really unusual face. But when you draw that truthfully, it doesn’t always look right on the page.
The fact everyone wears robes is also really difficult to draw. They’re so loose fitting, everything is a nightmare. You’re begging for someone to wear something a bit clingy. Then of course, when you draw people on brooms, it can look very rude. It’s very hard sitting someone convincingly on a broom – you just dread broomstick moments.
This is an interview of Walter Issacson, who has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci and others. He has useful suggestions for people aspiring to be more creative and innovative.
Grant: In closing, for an audience of students aspiring to be more creative, more innovative, are there any other tips that you would offer or myths to bust?
Isaacson: I’ll just tell you something small. The tongue of the woodpecker is three times longer than the beak. And when the woodpecker hits the bark at 10 times the force that would kill a human, the tongue wraps around the brain and cushions it, so the woodpecker can do woodpecking.
There’s absolutely no reason you need to know that. It is totally useless information, just as it was totally useless to Leonardo. But just like Leonardo, every now and then, it’s good to just know something for pure curiosity’s sake.
Not my favorite color.
The creation of Prussian blue was the result of a simple error by two German alchemists, Jacob Diesbach and Johann Konrad Dippel. While mixing a batch of cochineal red, Diesbach was alarmed to discover that his concoction had turned a deep blue. After much investigation, he determined that this was the result of a chemical reaction caused by animal blood found in contaminated potash provided by Dippel. The world’s first synthetic pigment was born.
But stories — like snapshots — are shaped by people, and for particular purposes. There’s always an angle. A new biography, “Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife,” by Pamela Bannos, strives to rescue Maier all over again, this time from the men who promulgated the Maier myth and profited off her work; chiefly Maloof, who controlled her copyright for a time. After a legal battle — “the Vivian Mire,” one critic called it — her estate passed into a trust last year, where it will be held for possible heirs and eventually released into the public domain.
Does your workplace inspire you?
I confess I’m no fan of the current conventions in creative office design – conventions now shared, with bigger budgets, by our Clients: the reclaimed wooden tables, the high chairs and industrial lighting; the brightly coloured walls and quirky shaped sofas; the suggestive neon words and slogans; the themed breakout areas and table football; the juice bar, coffee station and artisanal cookies; the beach-hut workstations, the meeting rooms named after Bowie songs; the climbing walls, playground slides and bouncy castles…