What is Environmental Art?

Environmental art, also referred to as ecological art, is a genre that encompasses a blend of both craft and nature. The idea of showcasing the Earth through art has been around since the dawn of man, starting with paleolithic cave paintings. They were, in essence, the beginning of landscape art. Back then, their only purpose was to display the beauty of nature itself, not to send any type of political message. In this era of a growing concern for our planet, a lot of people are feeling ecologically motivated to send a social message along with displaying their talent. There is a strong movement towards educating the public about growing concerns all around us. 

Instead of using nature as merely a background that is used to tell human tales, many artists nowadays are working alongside nature to create works of art in order to convey a deeper message about climate change and how it relates to society as a whole. By choosing a specific landscape to showcase their work instead of working within the confines of a studio, environmental artists help draw their audiences’ attention to the canvas of nature itself. This can help bring attention in a positive way to those areas that need human intervention.

Some artists in this field have chosen to express themselves in a very literal sense, using only all-natural materials and working only within natural landscapes. This can be rural, urban, or a combination of both. These particular artists try to achieve two things simultaneously – they seek to display a certain area as it has always been in its natural state, while also transforming it into a new vision to send a message. The purpose of having a twofold goal in mind is to help people see the existing world around them from a new perspective. 

A common thread among environmental artists, regardless of location, is that they must do no harm. Their purpose is to raise awareness while drawing attention to a specific area or plight without harming it further. Some artists take a more figurative approach, but most of them will use organic material in order to represent their subject matter. The types of substances they might use include rocks, sticks, leaves, sand, flowers, or water, to name just a few. This leaves them open to vulnerability, much like in nature itself which falls prey to the changing of the seasons and predictable decay. 

 

The Highest Selling Pieces of Art in 2018

While 2017 was a blockbuster year for art auctions, with the $450.3 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2018 was still an impressive year in its own right. Last year was the Rockefeller auction, which was the most valuable single-owner private sale in the history of America. Here are some of the most expensive pieces of art that were sold in 2018.

 

Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani

Last May, this piece sold for $157,159,000. Reclining nudes by Modigliani don’t come to auction very often, so it’s understandable that this piece sold for such a high price. Soethby’s assigned the piece the highest presale estimate in auction house history. This also made it the most expensive item ever sold at Sotheby’s, and the fourth most expensive artwork sold at an auction overall.

 

Chop Suey by Edward Hopper

Best known for Nighthawks, Edward Hopper made headlines last year with the sale of Chop Suey. Hopper mainly used oil paints to create his artwork and this piece is no exception. Originally estimated to sell for $70 million, the instantly recognizable painting went for $91,875,000 in November 2018 at Christie’s New York. The piece even inspired a bidding war between Loïc Gouzer, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art last month, and Eric Widing, a specialist at Christie’s who worked with Barney Ebsworth to build his art collection.

 

Suprematist Composition by Kasimir Malevich

A 2-foot by 3-foot painting, this piece of art cost $99,320 per square inch, for a total of $85,812,500. Sold at Christie’s in May of last year, the piece was purchased by Brett Gorvy, the current co-owner of Lévy Gorvy and the former post-war chairman of the house. Selling above the $70 million estimate, the piece set a new record for Malevich.

 

Femme au béret et à la robe quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) by Pablo Picasso

In late February of last year, a single advisor purchased 13 Picasso pieces in a span of two days for the price of $155.2 million. A large majority of that total was spent on this portrait of Picasso’s golden muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. The painting came out to $55.9 million, much higher than the $40.6 estimated price. Sotheby’s London held the auction and Lord Mark Poltimore did the bidding for Harry Smith of Gurr Johns.

How Blockchain is Changing the Art Industry

Blockchain technology is more prevalent than much of the public realizes. It is still in its infancy, but many companies are employing their own private blockchains. Public blockchains, like Bitcoin and Ethereum are what most people are familiar with. Their advantages extend much further than the internal efficiencies promised by private blockchains. The art world is turning to blockchain to solve issues plaguing the industry. Some of the problems facing the art industry include:

  • antiquated property transactions
  • illegal activities
  • inefficiency in the auction process

 

Art is an international business. Buying and selling, as well as auction practices, need a blockchain based common ledger. It would serve as a neutral medium for international transactions to take place. But, blockchain technology is more than just a digital ledger. It enables elaborate new methods for data management. Blockchain improves value chains because of its distributed and transparent approach to record keeping. In addition to revolutionizing data management practices, blockchain shows a resounding proficiency to thwart both fraud and tax evasion.

 

Transparency is critical to the value chain of art ownership. Blockchain technology certifies transactions with tokens. Tokens transfer from buyers to seller at purchase. They transfer each time a piece is sold. Blockchain tracks the ownership record. This transparent and distributed ledger enables anyone to view the entire history of a piece. Fraud is minimized because any potential buyer can simply examine the owner’s claim via their crypto wallet.

 

Blockchain expects to impact all areas of the art industry. It directly affects:

  • artists
  • collectors
  • investors
  • auction houses

 

Artists, especially visual ones, believe in blockchain security. Uniquely coded virtual pieces represent a growing trend. These unique strings of code serve to authenticate purchases for collectors and artist compensation. Registrations are viewable alongside corresponding time-stamps. Auction houses are incorporating digital certification to improve operations through increased transparency and secured long-term records. Art investors have taken advantage of blockchain tokenization to promote fractional investments. Since ownership is ensured on a malleable digital platform, investors can purchase and liquidate pieces of art as easily as trading stocks.

 

Art records have historically been the subject of intense scrutiny. Blockchain technology brings a new solution that many professionals are praising.

How to Choose the Right Auction House for Your Art

The high end art market is dominated by three main auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg. These three powerhouses have existed for centuries. When choosing an auction house from these three for your art, it’s important to take a variety of factors into consideration.

Guarantees

Obviously money is an important factor in selling your art. Many auction houses’ success has stemmed from their guarantees, which ensure that the seller receives the amount of money they expect for their art regardless of how much it is is sold for at the auction.

Guarantees, however, can lead to conflict, especially when the top three high end auction houses are trying to work with a limited number of the same collectors. Remember that money is not normally the deciding factor when collectors are choosing an auction house. Clients often place more importance on personal relationships and the auction house’s past record.

Relationships

Personal relationships are one of the most important factors in choosing an art auction house. These days, clients have a lot to be worried about: dips in the economy, terrorist attacks, and talk of price fixing. They’re looking for an art auction house that is reassuring, personal, and professional. In a consignment based industry such as art auctions, networking and word of mouth referrals are extremely important. Each of the auction houses have different connections with sellers, clients, and fields.

Field Speciality

Each of the three high end houses have unique specialties. Sotheby’s is known for their expertise in American furniture and photography, while Christie’s specializes in European furniture, as well as books and manuscripts. While to an extent Phillips is still establishing its business, the auction house seems to be focusing on Impressionist, Modern, and contemporary art. Phillips now also includes one of the top automobile auctioneers, Bonham & Brooks. The best auction house will have a specialty that matches your art.

Track Record

Past performance is another important factor to take into consideration when selecting an art auction house. Christie’s is one of the world’s top art auction houses. In 2000 they had $2.3 billion in sales! Sotheby’s, on the other hand, has won 20 of the top 25 single-owner sales. These included the estate sales of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It’s important to choose an art auction house with a track record that matches your goals.

When selecting one of the top three high-end auction houses, you need to consider their financial guarantees, the relationships you’ll be able to build, their field speciality, and past track record.

 

Inside the AI-Created Piece of Art

The day has come where Artificial Intelligence is now creating works of art. Many of us never thought we would see the day, and for many more of us, the thought that this day might come never even occurred to us. But, “robots” are creating art – and the first piece has sold for $432,500.

The high price tag was unexpected, as officials predicted it to go for anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000. That is the beauty of auctions such as Christie’s, the art house in NYC where this was sold. Christie’s wonders if AI art creation is the next big medium for the world stage.

The AI system that created this artwork, which is titled “Portrait of Edmond Belamy,” was constructed with a learning algorithm; both the AI system and the algorithm were designed by an art collective in Paris called Obvious.

There are similarities to this painting that compare to those famous ones through history. Many believe the subject matter, Edmond Belamy, is a man of the church due to his white collar and dark clothes. The man looks toward the painter in an austere manner with a fixed but abstract background. Conversely, the face is less defined than those in many paintings which it would be compared to. Christie’s offers this difference, along with the empty areas of the background.

The painting was described by Richard Lloyd, sale organizer at Christie’s, as not being much different from those that they have been selling for hundreds of years.
The process, on the other hand, was vastly different than any other painting that has been through Christie’s. Obvious, the art collective, put a total of 15,000 portraits from between the 14th and 20th centuries into the Artificial Intelligence learning system, then activated the “Generator” to create a new image. After the “Generator,” the next step is the “Discriminator,” which works to find the differences between the original portraits and those generated. The goal is, essentially, to fool the discriminator.

Obvious has experienced with AI-created art in many subjects, from portraits and life scenes to nature, but have found their best results with traditional style portraits.

While this may open up questions about who the official artist is to receive credit, Obvious chose to “sign” the painting at the bottom, not with a name, but with a part of the algorithm they created.