Painting

In Pictures: A Henry Taylor Retrospective at MOCA Spotlights the Artist’s Individual Yet Universal Portraiture


In just about every article, interview, or press release written about Henry Taylor, he is described as “an artist’s artist.” No matter what that term actually means, it’s undoubtedly a compliment, but it cuts out the non-artist’s ability to appreciate and respect the man’s great talent.

If anything, Taylor is an artist of the people. He paints, sculpts, and draws them furiously, as evidenced by the extraordinary breadth of work on view in the career retrospective “Henry Taylor: B Side” on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the artist’s hometown of Los Angeles.

As a chronicler of people from every cross-section of humanity, Taylor’s subjects range from family members, to fellow artists, to the patients at the Camarillo State Mental Hospital where he worked decades ago. In all of his works, there is something both universal and achingly individual, with many of his paintings serving as character studies spliced with social commentary.

In the exhibition catalogue, curator Bennett Simpson writes of Taylor: “He is also, or maybe foremost, a champion and caretaker of Black experience, suffusing his work with recognition and social commentary alike. In this role, his paintings communicate a deep sense of responsibility—to memory and community, to excellence and contingency.”

See pictures from the exhibition below.

“Henry Taylor: B Side” is on view at MOCA Grand Avenue, 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, through April 30, 2023. 

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Screaming Head (1999). mage and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Screaming Head (1999). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2022). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2022). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Too Sweet (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, Too Sweet (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2021). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ken Adlard.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (2021). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Ken Adlard.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Andrea Bowers (2010). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Robert Bean.

Henry Taylor, Andrea Bowers (2010). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Robert Bean.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, I Was King, When I Met The Queen – Syllable X’s Rhythm Equals Mumbo Jumbo (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, I Was King, When I Met The Queen – Syllable X’s Rhythm Equals Mumbo Jumbo (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, "Watch your back" (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Henry Taylor, “Watch your back” (2013). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Sam Kahn.

Installation view, "Henry Taylor: B Side" at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy o the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Installation view, “Henry Taylor: B Side” at MOCA Grand Avenue. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (1991). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Untitled (1991). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Jeff McLane.

Henry Taylor, Gettin it Done (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Gettin it Done (2016). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Cora (cornbread) (2008). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Henry Taylor, Cora (cornbread) (2008). Image and work ©Henry Taylor, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

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A Prized Van Gogh Was Sold Under Nazi Threat, Say the Heirs of a Jewish Banker Who Are Suing to Reclaim the Painting From a Museum


The heirs of a German Jewish businessman are suing a Japanese company over its prized Van Gogh painting, which they say was sold under threat of Nazi punishment nearly 90 years ago.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) once belonged to the Berlin-based banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, who hastily sold off his art collection in around 1934 in an effort to protect his other assets from the Nazis.  

After exchanging hands multiple times, the piece was purchased by the Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company, in 1987, at Christie’s London for a then-record price of £25 million (roughly $40 million at the time). In 2002, Yasuda was incorporated into another company, Sompo Holdings, which owns Van Gogh’s canvas today.

But even though Yasuda acquired the painting legally, three of Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s descendants—Julius H. Schoeps, Britt-Marie Enhoerning, and Florence Von Kesselstatt, who are all plaintiffs in the case—now argue that the company ignored the artwork’s historical context in purchasing it.

In their complaint, filed on December 13, 2022 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the heirs allege that Yasuda “recklessly—if not purposefully—ignored the provenance of Sunflowers that Christie’s published, which related that the famous Jewish Berlin banker and prominent Nazi victim Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold the painting in Berlin in 1934—at a time when notorious Nazi policies were targeting and dispossessing elite Jewish bankers and businessmen like Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and wreaking havoc upon Germany’s Jewish population.”

Appended to the complaint is a 2001 email sent from the Yasuda Museum of Art to the Van Gogh Museum as the two institutions were discussing a possible loan of Sunflowers for an upcoming exhibition. 

“We are deeply concerned about our [Van] Gogh and Gauguin provenance,” an administrator from the Japanese company’s museum wrote in the message. “We think our two works have nothing to do with Nazi-looted art, but we are not 100% sure.” 

The entrance to the Sompo Museum of Art in Tokyo. Courtesy of the Sompo Museum of Art.

The heirs are seeking to have the painting transferred to their possession, or if that’s not an option, they want $750 million in damages—an amount they say is equal to the artwork’s present-day market value.

Representatives from Sompo Holdings did not immediately respond to Midnight Publishing Group News’s request for comment, but a spokesperson for the company previously told Courthouse News that “Sompo categorically rejects any allegation of wrongdoing and intends to vigorously defend its ownership rights in Sunflowers.

“It is a matter of public record that Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Company purchased the Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers work at public auction from Christie’s in London in 1987,” the company employee added, noting that, for the past 35 years, the painting has been on display at the Sompo Museum of Fine Art in Tokyo.

According to Van Gogh specialist Martin Bailey, who publishes a weekly blog on the painter for the Art Newspaper, the case will likely come down to whether or not the court determines that Sunflowers was subject to a “forced sale” at a below-market price because of Nazi persecution.

The complaint explains that “purposeful and unrelenting Nazi policies to exclude Jews from the economy of Germany—and especially to eradicate Jewish banks—crippled Mendelssohn-Bartholdy financially and forced him in or around 1934 to consign Sunflowers to Parisian art dealer Paul Rosenberg.” 

The filing refers to the sale as a “paradigmatic forced transfer,” although there is no known record of how much Rosenberg paid in the exchange, which may make it difficult to prove that Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was pressured to offload the painting at a low price. The heirs’ lawyers did not respond to an email from Midnight Publishing Group.

Sompo is expected to contest the complaint in court. Meanwhile, Sunflowers remains on display at the company’s Tokyo museum.

 

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The Best Gifts Art-World Insiders Have Ever Given, From an Old Master Painting to a Zanzibarian Key


Welcome to The 12 Days of Artmas, our new, non-denominational holiday extravaganza—an advent calendar with gift ideas and stories for art lovers of all stripes, dropping daily through December 24.

 

To inspire your search for the perfect present, we asked folks around the art world what inspired gifts they are most proud of having given. Here’s what they told us.

 

Bernard Lumpkin, collector

Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art

The best gift I’ve been grateful to share with the art world and beyond is the book Young, Gifted, and Black: A New Generation of Artists, edited by my friend and collaborator, Antwaun Sargent, and published by DAP. Now in its third printing, the book celebrates artists, curators, and critics who are reshaping the way we think about race and representation. They’ve taught me so much, and I’m paying it forward by sharing their voices and visions with others.

 

Neil Hamamoto, artist

FREE FILM BOOK SET, published by Worthless Studios.

The Free Film book set, published by Worthless Studios.

As creative director of the Brooklyn-based not-for-profit Worthless Studios, I edited two black-and-white photography books this past year: Free Film: June 2020 and Free Film USA. The books were published in 2021, and it has been a fantastic gift to give. Each book shares images from analogue photographers from all over the globe on pressing issues that I believe are beneficial when seen from multiple perspectives.

 

Alia Al-Senussi, collector

Alia Al-Senussi in Marfa.

Alia Al-Senussi in Marfa. Courtesy Alia Al-Senussi.

I love sharing experiences, so I suppose it sounds selfish, but the best gift I have ever given to someone else has also been for myself. I have taken my friends to Marfa, the Roden Crater, the Lightning Field, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Korea—and each time, it’s been a bespoke itinerary filled with all sorts of local touch points and eccentricities. And in fact, those itineraries are then forwarded and passed on far and wide, so perhaps they are the best gift?

Taking my mother back to Egypt after leaving 30 years earlier was insanely special, as was being able to take her to Siwa, where I started my life in the arts, and is just a stone’s throw from Libya (where I also took her for the first time). In fact, visiting Libya with my mother helped me to see past the facade of sadness and really embrace a sense of wonder and hope of a people that had been brutalized for far too long.

 

Claire Sherman, artist

Claire Sherman photo

A photo by Cortis Harvey Galbraith. Courtesy Claire Sherman.

I have spent time recently trying to create a digital archive for my family. My great grandfather, Cortis Harvey Galbraith, was a photographer in Minneapolis. He traveled throughout Minnesota taking photographs for families between 1890 and 1940, and some photos in the archive are from glass plates that I’ve scanned from his collection. My favorites are the pictures he took of his own family and places that he loved in Northern Minnesota, where our family still convenes every summer.

 

Natacha Polaert, gallerist

Claude Rutault, Niele Toroni, and Natacha Polaert at Hôtel Grand Amour in 2017.

The best gift I’ve ever given are kisses to my beloved.

 

Vicky Chen, gallerist

Vicky in Miami

Vicky Chen in Miami. Courtesy Vicky Chen.

A gift to myself: a few years ago, I spontaneously hopped on a plane to New York on my birthday just to catch the last day of one of my favorite artist’s solo shows, and I flew to Miami right after to enjoy the sunshine and Art Basel.

 

Lawrence Van Hagen, advisor

lawrence van hagan hat

The suede cap. Courtesy Lawrence Van Hagen.

Last Christmas, I gifted my top clients a suede cap that the artist Stefan Brüggemann and I designed specifically as a Christmas gift. Stefan is known for his text paintings, which are all written in arial black font. During the pandemic, Stefan began using the slogan “ONLINE DISCONNECTED” in his paintings, and the phrase soon became an iconic emblem as the world navigated from one lockdown to the next, and many of us could only stay connected with our loved ones online. I thought that the parody was genius, and I asked Stefan if we could design something together with the phrase on it. He loved the idea and we came up with the coolest suede cap, which had the slogan written on the front in his signature style. My friends and clients loved it so much. I still often bump into them on the street and find them wearing it.

 

Fabrizio Moretti, dealer

Candido, <i>The Annunciation</i> (ca. 1585).

Pietro Candido, The Annunciation (ca. 1585).

The Annunciation, a painting by Pieter de Witte, better known as Pietro Candido, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of Keith Christiansen.

 

Dan Palmer, curator

dan palmer key

The key Palmer gave Erizku. Courtesy Dan Palmer.

I gave Awol Erizku an early 19th-century forged iron key from Zanzibar on the occasion of our exhibition together, “New Visions for Iris.” I scoured the city with my wife and asked our favorite antique dealer to find exactly the right one. The gift has deeply personal meanings for me and Awol, which I hoped would articulate my gratitude for our dialogue, and serve as a special token of our collaboration and friendship.

 

Alia Williams, dealer

black futures

 

A good art book, like Unrealism or Black Futures, always hits the right note. I also love giving a beautiful bouquet of flowers for any occasion.

 

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On the First Day of Artmas, My True Love Gave to Me… a Step-by-Step Guide for Gifting an NFT

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The 5 Most Arresting Works at Art Basel, From an Epic $750,000 Painting by Meleko Mokgosi to a Low-Fi Video That Went Viral on TikTok


While many people say art fairs are a bad place to see art, the good ones—like Art Basel in Switzerland, which runs through Sunday—do have at least one major thing going for them. They are by far the most efficient way to take in the work of established artists, blue-chip estates, and emerging talents from around the world in one fell swoop, delivering the collective pulse of the moment. Here are five arresting works that stopped me in my tracks as I whizzed around Art Basel this week. Each one captures something profound about our current and rather vexed zeitgeist.

 

Lily van der Stokker’s Childcare (1991–2019)
Air de Paris, Paris
Price: €65,000

Photo: Kate Brown

Photo: Kate Brown

The 65-year-old Dutch artist Lily van der Stokker tricks you into considering tough topics with a veneer of cuteness. She creates critical statements about banal or taboo social issues like illness, aging, housework, and child-rearing, but packages them as joyfully colored paintings and sculptures. It’s not until the second look that you realize they are a bit more sinister. 

At Air de Paris’s booth, a largely empty canvas emblazoned with the word “Childcare” leans against the wall. (It was included in the artist’s  retrospective, titled “help help a little old lady here,” at Zurich’s Migros Museum last year.) The empty space leaves one to wonder: yeah, what about childcare? It’s quite unsettling, especially after a year and a half when children were largely left at home, often to fend for themselves. Van der Stokker meticulously painted the word from a blown-up image on a projector, which was then remade onto canvas, giving the painterly strokes a unique sort of restraint. 

While not too many people are ready to collect her large-scale paintings, the artist has caught the eye of curators and institutions—a solo exhibition is in the works at the Camden Art Centre in 2022.

 

Matt Copson’s Of Coming Age (2021)
High Art, Paris and Arles
Price: €30,000, edition of 5

Courtesy High Art.

Courtesy High Art.

The French gallery High Art’s booth is empty, save for a rope that cordons off a large flickering projection of a swinging baby. The installation by the London-based artist Matt Copson is one piece of what he calls a three-part “laser opera.” A small cherub sings like a jaded, omniscient Greek chorus. He taunts from a swing in melancholic, sorrowful song: “I’ll play with you / through the fire / All day with you / distracting me / strange situation / earthly castration / strange situation / entertainment damnation.”

Another portion of the same work was included in a recent exhibition at High Art in Paris; it is also on view at CLEARING in Brussels (through October 23). But the installation hit the big time when it somehow went viral on TikTok, leading groups of non-art-world TikTokers to line up to see it in person, astounding the gallery.

Its digital fame is somewhat ironic given that it is devoutly analog, made with club lasers that are mirrored and projected on the wall. The rapid amalgamation of still images flicker in a way that creates a sense of continuity, without actually being a fluidly moving image. The effect successfully captures our attention in a time of constant tech-addled distraction.

 

Philipp Timischl’s The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency (2021)
Layr, Vienna
Price: €120,000

Philipp Timischl’s The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency (2021). Courtesy the artist, Layr Vienna

Too often, class dynamics are left out of the conversation in the affluent annals of the art world, because it is, of course, a bit awkward, isn’t it? (It also causes some cognitive dissonance, like wearing a dress that says “tax the rich” to the Met Gala). But Austrian artist Philipp Timischl has drawn up important questions about class-based exclusion, social mobility, and power dynamics in his practice and especially via his 2021 work The Embedded Mentality of Self-Sufficiency, which was brilliantly curated at Art Basel Unlimited, the fair’s sector for oversize art,  set right in front of the entrance as its curtain-raiser.

For a near two minutes, the screen is just a blazing fire and a foreboding countdown. It starts: on the screens, we see flickers of self-made and YouTube-sourced video, from the artist in drag to Kim Kardashian as she posed on the Met Gala runway in Demna Gvasalia’s now-iconic black-out suit (speaking of zeitgeist, this video was recut to include these newest clips just days before the opening of the fair). An anxious loop of captions about artistic intent scrolls underneath, including one rather searing line: “I can’t even afford my own work.”

The embedded mentality of self-sufficiency’s form is as good as its content: Large LED screen panels were inlayed with two canvas paintings—depending on what was on the screen, the canvases own static textures changed and came in and out of focus. 

 

Meleko Mokgosi’s Bread, Butter, and Power (2018)
Gagosian, Worldwide, and Jack Shainman, New York
Price: $750,000

Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery and Jack Shainman Gallery.

There were more than a few paintings at Art Basel Unlimited that were so large they required their own rooms, but none felt as epically proportioned—both in size and content—as Meleko Mokgosi’s Bread, Butter, and Power. Sprawled across 21 panels, it becomes nearly immersive, taking up nearly all four walls of its dedicated booth. Images span more than a century of history and consider gendered labor as a post-colonial issue.

The cathedral-size work is one of an eight-chapter series called “Democratic Intuition.” The works reference important historical figures, from Angela Davis to Harriet Tubman, and show scenes of both work and leisure that speak to gender divides and the labor undertaken by people of color.  

The work by the Botswanian, U.S.-based artist was, unsurprisingly, snapped up for its asking price on the first VIP night of Unlimited by an American collector.  

 

Bani Abidi’s The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men (2021)
Experimenter, Kolkata
Price: $50,000—90,000, edition of 5 plus 2 AP

Bani Abidi <i>The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men</i> (2021). Image Credit: The Artist & Experimenter, Kolkata

Bani Abidi, The Reassuring Hand Gestures of Big Men, Small Men, All Men (2021). Image Credit: The Artist & Experimenter, Kolkata

This incisive work by Berlin-based Pakistani artist Bani Abidi shows that, despite spanning decades and nation-states, the physical posturing of politicians is universal. Fists, waves, and finger-pointing look similar despite very different messengers (most of whom are men), including Mao, Stalin, and Donald Trump. Accompanied by a sarcastic title, Abidi’s close-up images take away the power of their speakers by amputating them symbolically and physically. What remains is a poignant critique of political choreography which, when divorced from the rhetoric that typically accompanies it, becomes almost comical. 

If you want to see more of Abidi’s trenchant work but won’t make it to Basel, it is the subject of a major survey at the MCA Chicago developed in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation (through June 5, 2022).

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The Art Angle Podcast: Keltie Ferris and Peter Halley on the Mysterious Joys of Making a Painting


Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Midnight Publishing Group News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

 

 

Artists Peter Halley and Keltie Ferris first met sometime in the mid-2000s, at the height of the abstract painting revival. Halley, a pioneering Neo-Conceptualist renowned for his disciplined grids, was head of painting and printmaking at the Yale School of Art; Ferris, a graduate student with a knack for wielding fluid materials like spray paint.

Nevertheless, their work had a lot in common: a love of color, especially jangly fluorescents; an embrace of digital influences; and a desire to release painting from both its figurative and abstract forebears. Through the course of the teaching relationship, each found a respect for the other’s practice, and the conversation has continued—even if the two artists don’t actually talk as much as they once did.

To pit their paintings against each other today is like seeing estranged cousins reunite: time has changed them, but you can’t deny the shared DNA.

As New York’s first IRL art fair kicked off last week with the Armory Show, both Halley and Ferris presented new works at Independent Art Fair, known in certain circles as the “thinking person’s fair,” which debuted at the Battery Maritime Building in downtown Manhattan. Ahead of the fair, the teacher and his former student reunited to catch up and exchange ideas in a virtual chat moderated by Midnight Publishing Group News reporter Taylor Dafoe.

What followed was a rare glimpse at two artists talking shop, in a freewheeling conversation about about color, working methods, and what it means to make non-figurative painting in a time when figuration reigns supreme.

Listen to Other Episodes:

The Art Angle Podcast: How Facebook and the Helsinki Biennial Share a Vision for the Art World’s Future

The Art Angle Podcast: Artists in Residence at the World Trade Center Reflect on 9/11

The Art Angle Podcast: Genesis Tramaine on How Faith Inspires Her Art

The Art Angle Podcast: The Bitter Battle Over Bob Ross’s Empire of Joy

The Art Angle Podcast: How Britney Spears’s Image Inspired Millennial Artists

The Art Angle Podcast: How the Medicis Became Art History’s First Influencers

The Art Angle Podcast: How Two Painters Helped Spark the Modern Conservation Movement

The Art Angle Podcast: The Hunter Biden Controversy, Explained

The Art Angle Podcast: 18-Year-Old NFT Star Fewocious on How Art Saved His Life, and Crashed Christie’s Website

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