+ The current slew of art laundering related news hit a rare level of historical significance this week when the biggest stash of Nazi seized art ever was revealed by German authorities to news sources Sunday, the 3rd. Over 1,400 works of modern art were found in the Munich apartment of octogenarian Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a German art historian and dealer appointed by the Nazi’s to sell art that had been confiscated from museums and the private collections of Jews during their reign of power. These newly unearthed stolen artworks were not desirable pieces for the Nazi’s however, and works by Courbet, Matisse, Chagall and Otto Dix, to name just a few, were of the ilk that would have been shown in the 1937 Degenerate Art Exhibit. Instead, these stolen works were of value to the National Socialists because they would be sold off for foreign currency that in large part was used to in turn acquire artworks created by artists preferred by Hitler himself, such as Cranach the Elder and Johannes Vermeer, masterworks that would eventually fill the eponymous Führermuseum Hitler had planned to build in the town of Linz, Austria where he was raised.
The cache of works discovered in the shabby apartment are believed partly to be the result of a botched mission of the “Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program”, or “Monuments Men” as they were about to be more popularly known by the upcoming, but now deferred George Clooney movie. The Monuments Men were bands of soldiers, art historians and scholars assigned by allied armies to protect works of art plundered or damaged during World War II and to return them to their rightful owners. In 1950 many of the works were returned to Hildebrand Gurlitt, assumed to be the rightful property of his estate and not seized works. These works make up a substantial portion of the works found in Cornelius Gurlitt’s apartment, who came under suspicion after being found carrying 9,000 Euros on a train, presumed to be profits from an art sale. The estimated value of the collection is appraised at approximately 1.35 Billion dollars. As the following months play out, it will be seen if the works of art will be involved in a different type of atrocity, as auction houses will no doubt want to make money off of artworks that were in large part stolen from the hands of Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust.
+The prospects of auction houses making millions off of stolen art work comes the same week that New York auction houses saw soaring sales of unprecedented proportions. This week Sotheby’s saw the highest grossing evening sale to date, with Impressionist and Modern art snatching up $348 Million and Christies “disappointingly” raking in $293 Million.
+In other potentially disturbing art related news, this week there was commotion in the blogosphere after word spread about the upcoming performance of 19 year old Chelsea Saint Martins student Clayton Pettet, who will lose his virginity in front of an audience in an undisclosed Central London Gallery on January 25th as part of his project “Art School Stole My Virginity”, which he claims has been in the works for three years. (A long time to be ambivalent about whether or not to fuck) On his tumblr website Pettet suggests that the “art piece”, which will consist of a male friend engaging in intercourse with the artist, is a commentary on the notion of virginity, and assumedly that of a homosexual interpretation. He states “Virginity has almost become heteronormative in its definition, given that in the most graphic of terms it is the moment when a penis first penetrates the vagina. Therefore when is the moment of loss for a human male?”
He has drawn attention from LGBT groups, who are mainly critical of its use of sex as shock value material. The artist however, asserts that his project was born out of a period of reflection on the nature of sex that started when his peers began having sex when he was sixteen. He believes the performance will earn him regard for challenging preconceived ideas of sexuality. In the original report by the Huffington Post, an open poll shows that 47 percent of those who voted believe Pettet’s performance “cheapens sex”, while 30 percent think “its art” and 23 percent are “undecided”.
For those who have attended art school in the past couple decades, this sort of “performance” might not come as a surprise, and those of us in San Francisco may recall a particular affair involving public sex in a performance art class at SFAI which was impishly justified as being about philosophy.
While Clayton Pettet will certainly not transcend any new territory in contemporary art, either aesthetically or for shock value’s sake, one has to question if the surprisingly levelheaded, if not completely professionalized and banal approach he takes is not more disconcerting than the act itself. Has contemporary art and the legacy of the Avant-Garde been so sanitized that even fucking itself has become trite, flaccid? In an age where the uninhibited display of private life is exhibited more and more and technology has made “sexting” and “revenge porn” ubiquitous, is this performance not much different than everyday displays of public desire? The thing that may be most shocking about this potentially perverse flaunting of sexuality is just how unshocking it is.
Contributed by Peter Dobey