A. Read the definition of “installation art.” Then listen to Ghislaine Kenyon, who has worked in education at the National Gallery in London, talking about the four works of art. Match four of the photos to descriptions A-D.
installation art an artistic genre that is designed to transform people’s perception of a space, often incorporating everyday or natural materials and media such as video or sound
B. Listen again and complete the descriptions. What is the idea behind each piece?
Title: Kobe ________
by ________ artist Florentijn Hofman
It’s ten meters high and was made for the roof of a ________ in Kobe in ________.
Title: Blaenau Ffestiniog ________
(Blaenau Ffestiniog is a place in ________.)
by British artist ________ ________
It was part of an exhibition of art created from different landscapes, called “________ and ________.”
by ________ artist Mona Hatoum
It’s a sculpture by a ________ artist born in ________, who was stranded in ________ after civil war broke out in Lebanon.
by British artist Damien Hirst
It’s like a real room with some unusual things, such as four ________ with ________ of ________ on them and a machine for ________ ________ suspended from the ceiling.
A Photo 4 B Photo 6 C Photo 1 D Photo 3
A Photo 4
Title: Kobe Frog
by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman
It’s ten meters high and was made for the roof of a museum in Kobe in Japan.
B Photo 6
Title: Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle
(Blaenau Ffestiniog is a place in Wales.)
by British artist Richard Long
It was part of an exhibition of art created from different landscapes, called “Heaven and Earth.”
C Photo 1
by Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum
It’s a sculpture by a Palestinian artist born in Beirut, who was stranded in London after civil war broke out in Lebanon.
D Photo 3
by British artist Damien Hirst
It’s like a real room with some unusual things, such as four stools with bowls of honey on them and a machine for killing flies suspended from the ceiling.
Kobe Frog The idea is to make people think about enjoying life and having a flexible attitude in times of disaster.
Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle The idea is to make people stop and look and realize how beautiful the countryside is.
Incommunicado The cot represents the government / the country that should look after you, but in certain situations, instead of being safe, you feel threatened because of political oppression.
Pharmacy This is about life and death. Also about how art, like drugs, can cure you.
I = Interviewer, G = Ghislaine Kenyon
I So, could you tell us a bit about the four pieces of art, and explain the ideas that they are somehow communicating?
G OK, let– let’s start with the frog. It’s called Kobe Frog and it’s by the Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, and it’s an enormous inflatable 10-meter-high object, and it was made in 2011 for a particular place – the roof of the Museum of Art in Kobe, in Japan. And Kobe was the site of a very severe earthquake in 1995. And the frog is wearing a party hat and it sits very close to the edge of the roof. The artist says that it’s about enjoying life and having a flexible attitude in times of disaster. I’m not sure whether the people of Kobe would agree with that.
Next we come to the stones. This is a work called Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle – Blaenau Ffestiniog is the name of a town in Wales and this work is by the artist Richard Long, and it was in an exhibition of his called “Heaven and Earth.” And what Richard Long does is that he spends months of the year walking through different landscapes and he creates art out of the things he finds there. His main theme is the relationship between art and landscape, and here he has created a beautiful harmonious arrangement of different local stones that he’s chosen, and what he wants to do is to make people stop and look and realize how beautiful the countryside and in this case the stones also can be. Then we come to the cot, and this is a modern sculpture by Mona Hatoum, and it’s called Incommunicado, and at first sight you might think it was a baby’s cot. It doesn’t look like a modern cot, but it looks as if it might be a hospital cot from, say, 50 years ago. But when you look at it a bit more closely you notice that there’s something strange about the bottom of the cot, where the support for the mattress should be, and in fact it’s a series of very sharp wires. Mona Hatoum is a Palestinian artist who was born in Beirut, but she was stranded in London after civil war broke out in Lebanon, and I think if we ask ourselves what her idea might be, well, it’s a cot and a cot is normally a protective bed for a baby, where a baby will be safe, but this cot is the opposite of that, so if you got into this cot instead of being safe, you’d be seriously damaged, or seriously injured. I think this cot is a kind of metaphor for the idea of the state, the country that should look after you, your mother country or your fatherland, but in an extreme political situation, instead of being safe, or being at home, you feel threatened because of political oppression, and I think probably that’s the metaphor that she’s making here.
Finally, there’s Pharmacy. This is an installation by Damien Hirst, and it occupies a whole room. If you were in an art gallery and you suddenly walked into this room, you might almost think you’d walked into a real pharmacy by accident, but if you start looking, you’ll start seeing things which look strange, for example, there are four little stools that– the kind of stools you use to reach up to higher shelves and on top of each one is a bowl with honey in it, and if you look up, suspended from the ceiling there is a kind of machine for killing insects. And there are four old-fashioned apothecary bottles, which originally were in pharmacies because they were meant to represent the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, but which you wouldn’t often see in a pharmacy today. So what could the idea be about here? Well, most of Hirst’s works, like the work of many artists of the past, are about life and death. The honey attracts flies to come in, or other insects, but they end up zapped in the insectocutor, the, the killing machine. Drugs, medicines, to us represent healing, so people might come into a pharmacy to get better, but even if you spend thousands of pounds on drugs, in the end you, like the flies, will die. But we also have the four bottles, which are the four primary colors, the, the tools, the materials of the artist, and I think he‘s also saying that art, like drugs, can cure, can heal, if not the body, then the spirit.
C. Now listen to Ghislaine talking about understanding modern sculpture and installations. Does she think that, compared to normal painting or sculpture, these types of art are a) easier, b) more difficult, or c) about as easy to understand?
D. Listen again and answer the questions.
1 Where in a gallery might you find information about installations or modern sculptures?
2 What does Ghislaine recommend that you do to get the most out of a modern art exhibition?
3 What does she say that your job as a viewer is?
4 How does she think people might find Mona Hatoum’s cost beautiful?
c about as easy
1 On the walls.
2 To go with someone else, or with a group of people, and to talk and ask each other questions.
3 To find out what the artist is saying.
4 They might find that the idea the cot represents is beautiful.
I Well, this is all very fascinating, but my problem is that I don’t think I could ever have got there by myself. I needed you, an expert, to explain these works of art to me, whereas if I went to a gallery to see normal paintings or sculptures I could probably enjoy them without needing to have them explained to me. What, what do you think…?
G Well, I disagree there. I don’t think you do need an expert to explain them to you, actually. In any case with modern sculpture and installations, there’s normally some interpretation on the walls so you can read about it if you want to. But I think if you’re going to go to a gallery to see modern sculpture and installations, and perhaps a lot of modern, modern art in general, the best way is to go with someone else, or with a group of people, and to talk about the work, to ask each other questions about the things you see, and very often you find that by asking questions, and coming up with the answers you can get much more out of it. You know, even though it may not look like the kind of art that you’re used to, you have to believe that the person who made it is an artist, or was an artist, and that they have things to say, and it’s your job to find out what they might be.
I Don’t you think then that they’re making you work much harder to enjoy their works than artists did in the past?
G Actually, no I don’t, because plenty of other works are just as elusive, you know, abstract art or sculpture, many Old Master paintings where you don’t actually understand the symbolism, there’s always more to understand.
I OK, so then, in that case do you think artists today want to make you think, they don’t just want to create something of beauty?
G I think they always have done. They have ideas, and feelings, and they want to give form to them. And actually I think many people would find Richard Long’s stones beautiful. And other people might think that Mona Hatoum’s cot is beautiful, maybe not exactly a beautiful object, but a beautiful and rich idea. Beauty can be a beautiful landscape, or a portrait of a beautiful person, but I think it can also be a beautiful idea.
I Thank you so much, Ghislaine, for coming in and talking to us today, I’m sure our audience will be…
A. What do you think the “little problem” was? Listen once to find out. Where are the Beltracchis now?
B. Listen again. What did you find out about…?
1 Wolfgang’s teenage years
2 what he did during the 1980s
3 what happened in 1992 and the last name Beltracchi
4 how Wolfgang created his pictures
5 the photo of Helene’s grandmother
6 the labels on the back of the paintings
7 the Campendonk painting Red Picture with Horses
8 what they feel now and Wolfgang’s plans
The “little problem” was that the painting was a forgery. It had been painted by Wolfgang Beltracchi.
Helene and Wolfgang both spent time in prison but have been released.
1 Wolfgang found out when he was a teenager that he was very good at copying paintings – he copied a Picasso in two hours. Later he went to art school where he sold some of his paintings.
2 He forged a lot of paintings and sold them to art dealers in Berlin.
3 Wolfgang met Helene Beltracchi in 1992 and fell in love. They got married and he took her last name.
4 He did not copy paintings but created original works. He would study other works by the painter to find out how they were created, and he sometimes even went to the painter’s hometown to study the light there.
5 The photo was a forgery. It was really of Helene herself and not her grandmother. Wolfgang had used an old camera and old paper.
6 The labels were fakes. He had made them look old by putting tea and coffee on them.
7 Wolfgang forged Red Picture with Horses and sent it to an auction. The company that bought it tested the paint on the painting and found some Titanium White, which was used much later than when the painting had, in theory, originally been painted.
8 They have no regrets. Wolfgang has no plans but is sometimes tempted to return to forgery.
There was just one little problem. Every single painting that left the Beltracchi’s house, including La Forêt, was a forgery. In what is believed to be the most lucrative art forgery scam in history, all these paintings were the work of Wolfgang, Helene Beltracchi’s husband.
Wolfgang was quite young when he realized he had a unique gift. His father was a church muralist and sometimes produced copies of seventeenth-century Old Masters to sell for small amounts of money. To his father’s amazement, the teenage Wolfgang painted a “Picasso” in a couple of hours. He later went to art school; three of his paintings sold for reasonable amounts in a show in Munich in 1978. But Wolfgang was more interested in his free and easy lifestyle than in the struggle of building a career as an artist. He forged a number of paintings in the 1980s, mainly selling them through dealers in Berlin, but his criminal career really took off after he met Helene Beltracchi in 1992. They fell in love immediately. Within days he told her that he was an art forger. He says he knew she wouldn’t go to the police. “The first minute, I saw my future life with her,” he says. Helene became his perfect accomplice. They married about a year later, and he took her last name.
Although Wolfgang was a forger, he did not copy paintings. He created totally new works of art, but in the style of the original painters. His greatest gift was the ability to look at a painting and, in just a few minutes, figure out exactly how the painter did it: where he started, when he added the blue, the white, the clouds, the water. He could even tell the time it took to complete the painting. Before tackling a forgery Wolfgang would sometimes go to where the painter lived to get a feeling for the light there. He wanted to make sure of the colors, but also to pick up something more mystical, a sense of the painter’s soul.
It was Wolfgang who came up with the idea of creating “old” photographs of Helene’s grandmother sitting in front of some of the family’s art collection. Wolfgang used a pre-war box camera and paper. The photos actually show Helene Beltracchi herself. The “paintings” on the wall are black and white photocopies. Wolfgang also devised the Sammlung Flechtheim labels, which he fixed to the backs of paintings. To age them he stained them with tea and coffee. The painting that brought about their downfall was a fake Campendonk, called Red Picture with Horses. In 2006, they sent it to an auction house in Cologne, with the usual fake label on the back.
But in 2008, the company that bought it commissioned a scientific analysis from a British expert, which showed that the painting contained traces of the pigment Titanium White, which was not in general use until the forties. Another expert then realized that the Sammlung Flechtheim label on the back of the painting was fake. That led to the discovery of numerous other paintings bearing the false labels, including the Max Ernst La Forêt.
Wolfgang and Helene Beltracchi were arrested in Germany on August 27, 2010. Helene was released from prison in February 2013 while Wolfgang was in prison until January 2015. He agreed to paint only in his own name and to move from Germany to France. The Beltracchis say they have no regrets. Wolfgang insists he has no plans to return to forgery, although he admits it’s hard. As he says, “If you imagine that after breakfast you can paint a little painting that can earn you €1 million or €2 million, then it’s not so easy not to do it.”
A. Listen to a radio program about Vladimir Tretchikoff’s painting The Chinese Girl. Who did better as a result of the painting, the artist or the model?
B. Listen again and answer the questions.
1 How old was Monika Pon-su-san when she modeled for the painting?
2 Where exactly was Monika when she met Tretchikoff?
3 Had she heard of him before? Why?
4 What is the difference between the gown Monika was wearing and the one in the painting?
5 What did Monika think about while Tretchikoff was painting her?
6 How much did Tretchikoff pay Monika for modeling for him?
7 What didn’t she like about the painting?
8 What happened to Monika after her encounter with Tretchikoff?
9 How did Monika feel when she heard the price the painting fetched at auction?
1 She was 17.
2 She was working in her uncle’s laundry.
3 Yes, she had read about him in the newspaper.
4 The real gown was blue, but the one in the painting is yellow.
5 She thought about the traumas he had experienced in his life.
6 He paid her just over six South African pounds.
7 She didn’t like her green face or the title.
8 She got married, moved to Johannesburg, and had five children.
9 She was very excited.
Host Hello and welcome to today’s program where we’re looking at the works of Russian-born artist Vladimir Tretchikoff. Now, Tretchikoff’s most famous painting The Chinese Girl was recently sold for almost $1.3 million at auction in London. Our art expert is in the studio with us to tell us about the woman who modeled for the picture, Monika Pon-su-san. Louise, was Monika a professional model?
Louise No, not at all. She was a young Chinese girl, working in her uncle’s laundry in Cape Town, South Africa. She was only 17 at the time, and when she met Tretchikoff, she had never modeled before.
Host How did the two meet?
Louise Tretchikoff had heard of Monika’s beauty from a friend, so he went to the laundry to see her himself. According to Monika, she was serving a customer when he came in, and while he was waiting, he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Once they were alone, he introduced himself and asked if he could paint her.
Host That must have come as a surprise to Monika. Did she actually know who he was?
Louise Yes, she did, in fact. By chance, she had read about him in a newspaper the Saturday before, so she knew who he was.
Host Louise, let’s talk about the painting itself. Is Monika wearing her own clothes?
Louise No. Apparently, Tretchikoff gave her one of his wife’s silk gowns to put on. But the real gown wasn’t yellow like the one in the painting; it was blue.
Host What about Monika’s expression in the picture? Why is she looking so serious?
Louise Monika says that as Tretchikoff was painting her, she was thinking about the traumas he had experienced in his life. He was imprisoned several times during the war, and at one point he lost contact with his wife and his daughter.
Host But the story has a happy ending, because his family was reunited in Cape Town, right?
Louise That’s right. It was fortunate that they all ended up in the same place.
Host Louise, did Tretchikoff pay Monika for modeling for him?
Louise Yes, he did. He gave her just over six South African pounds. That’s the equivalent of around $165 today.
Host That doesn’t seem much. Did she at least like the painting?
Louise No, she was shocked by the green face. She says she thought that she looked like a monster. And she didn’t think much of the title, either: The Chinese Girl. She was expecting something a little more exotic.
Host And what happened to her afterwards? Did she ever model again?
Louise No, she never posed for another painting. She got married and went to Johannesburg, where she had five children before splitting up with her husband. After that, she had to go back to work to try and make ends meet, but the family never had much money.
Host In contrast to Tretchikoff, who went on to make a fortune. Louise, did Monika manage to attend the auction of the painting?
Louise No, she didn’t; she missed it. She was incredibly disappointed about that, but apparently she jumped up and down in excitement when she heard that the painting had fetched nearly $1.3 million.
Host Yes, that price is hardly surprising when you consider that the painting is one of the most popular prints ever made. Louise, thank you for joining us today.
Louise You’re welcome.
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