Lucky Episode 7! Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (aka: Goya) is our focus this episode and boy do we have a lot to say about him. Mara and Baker are big fans! In our sharing is caring segment, we cover the recent “I just wanted to move the Warhol print for a laugh, I wasn’t going to steal it!” guy in Rochester, NY. Plus that dude who found Viking treasure last week, and then Baker explains why Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) is a low key genius who is mainstreaming NFT art sales with Christie’s. We briefly attempt to explain NFTs and what this Beeple auction at Christie’s might mean for the future of art. All of that and lots more Goya talk, including why his Los Caprichos series reminds Baker of an 80’s thrash metal band.
This one is a doozy! Mara and Baker discuss their long affairs with the art of Edvard Munch. We play armchair psychologists on Munch and ourselves. Baker gives us a preview of the Munch musical he’s been writing since college. Warning: Baker sings a lot in this one. Then he has the audacity to try and make “hot goss” a thing, which will not happen, but he’d love to have a jingle for it. Munch was way too involved in his friends’ love triangle (gross) and that brings us to news! Kevin Hart gets robbed by an assistant, a fake German heiress gets out of jail, and finally; Steve Martin doing more great things. Baker sniffs his bowl of tea leaves while Mara investigates the 1994 and 2004 thefts of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, one of the most famous and iconic images in history. In the end, we find it hard to dislike one of the thieves who just seems like a hopeless romantic. Stay to the end to hear our impromptu Norwegian dance song.
Everyone knows Steve Martin is an avid collector and lifelong champion of the arts, but did you know his first purchase of art was a $125 print of Ed Ruscha’s Hollywood sign?
From LACMA’s curator notes: “Ed Ruscha first drew the Hollywood sign in 1967…Ruscha has joked that the sign was ‘a smog indicator: if I could read it, the weather was OK.'”
Ruscha’s series of Hollywood sign prints showcase the hallmarks we’ve come to associate with Ruscha; beautiful typography, sharp angles, and a word that speaks volumes.
“‘Hollywood’ is like a verb to me…It’s something you can do to any subject or any thing.”
Above: This simple pen and pencil sketch on a placemat tells a wonderful origin story. It belongs to the prints and drawings collection at The Art Institute of Chicago.
We can see the origin of Ruscha’s Hollywood series on a placemat from the legendary Schrafft’s restaurants. There’s Ruscha’s signature diminishing perspective made famous by his Standard Station series and it appears he’s working out his preferred line of sight. In the upper-left of the placemat, the sketch includes the sign’s iconic position on a bluff in the Santa Monica Mountains, but he would later shift the perspective and sign’s position to the mountain ridge.
“The first thing I bought happened to be an Ed Ruscha print of Hollywood, the Hollywood sign. I bought it from Irving Blum’s gallery on La Cienega and I paid $125 for it, and I was very excited.”
Surely the first piece of art Steve Martin ever purchased must still remain in his collection, especially from a titan like Ed Ruscha, someone Steve Martin would eventually call friend. Right? Sadly, the answer is no. According to a 2010 New York Times article, Martin explains, “It’s a long story…I sold it when I angrily left L.A.”
I would love to hear that long story, wouldn’t you?
Below: Here’s a wonderful primer on the art and life of Ed Ruscha
We reminisce about our trip to Puerto Rico, the street art of Vieques, and Mara falling into a pothole (with hilarious results, says Baker). We obsess over the evolution of Rembrandt’s nose through 30 years off self-portraits, we spend a little time discussing what was so “golden” about the Dutch Golden Age. We celebrate the [criminally overlooked] genius of some Dutch female painters of the era with a special shout out to Clara Peeters! Our news this week is all about the sometimes complicated topic of restitution, and then Mara jumps into yet another case where poor skylight security leads to a multi-million dollar art heist. Won’t someone please think of the skylights?!
Doors Open tells the story of three friends who plan a heist to “liberate” works of art from NGS storage. In reaction to a tweet recommending the new Netflix art heist series, Lupin, visual artist and NGS copywriter assistant Greag Mac a’ tSaoir was reminded of the Rankin thriller.
“…I read @Beathhigh’s Doors Open, about a gang robbing the NGS stores and it was like a personalised four hundred page anxiety attack,” tweeted Mac a’tSaoir.
Rankin responded to the @ and revealed that his plot was so good, the NGS took note. “They wouldn’t let us film in Edinburgh – boss of NGS said the plot was worryingly plausible…” tweeted Rankin.
That is high praise for the imagination of Rankin. He created a plot so good, NGS staff had a collective anxiety attack! No doubt there was an internal NGS meeting or two regarding the novel.
In consideration of a future printing of Doors Open, I’d like to recommend the following pull quote for the book’s cover…
We pat ourselves on the backs for getting to Episode 4 before jumping into the wild life of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Baker attempts the podcast’s first Art History crash course (with mixed results) and can’t help himself from nerding out on comic book artist references related to the subjects of the episode. Mara explains the importance of iconography and tries to dissuade Baker from creating fake art news. You’ll be shocked to learn that the mafia might be involved with the Caravaggio heist. And we should probably apologize in advance for our attempts at West Side song references.
I’ve been thinking about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the museum scene.
The museum scene (filmed at the Art Institute of Chicago) is such a beautiful tribute to the power of museums. Three impressionable high school kids are happily immersed in the museum experience, they soak it in and become supremely moved by the art. They are downright reverent. George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte almost moves Cameron to tears.
I was 13 when Ferris Bueller’s Day Off arrived in theaters. I was very tall for my age, late-blooming, and way too sensitive. I think you get the picture. That museum scene is less than 2 minutes long, but it transported me, it lit me up. I felt equal parts exhilarated and exposed by that scene.
“Oh my god, I am Cameron,” was my unspoken response. I had father issues, I was not mentally well, and I was an embarrassed 13 year old boy who could be brought to tears by looking at beautiful things, like art.
Cameron stares into George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte and goes deeper, deeper, and deeper into the painting. He sees himself reflected in the face of a child, and he looks haunted by the experience. Meanwhile, an orchestral cover of The Smiths, Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want plays in the background. This scene is an emotional overload.
In the Ferris Bueller DVD audio commentary John Hughes explains, “The closer he [Cameron] looks at the child, the less he sees, of course, with this style of painting. The more he looks at it, there’s nothing there. He fears that the more you look at him there isn’t anything to see. There’s nothing there. That’s him.”
Ouch. I am Cameron.
But here’s the other thing that stuck with me for all of these years. This 1 minute and 54 seconds scene was my introduction to some of history’s greatest works of art. I was just some kid at a movie theater in the suburbs of Massachusetts until I was suddenly transported into the Art Institute of Chicago with Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron. Several shots in this museum montage are about 1:1 scale, director John Hughes drops us into the gallery and introduces us to vivid footage of Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Jackson Pollock, Georges Seurat, and so on.
“This is a very indulgent scene of mine, this was the Chicago Art Institute, which when I was in high school–was a place of refuge for me. I went there quite a bit. I loved it. I knew all the paintings, I knew the building, and this was a chance for me to go back into this building and show the paintings that were my favorite,” said Hughes.
In the process, he initiated a generation of new art lovers. What a wonderful contribution and footnote to the John Hughes legacy.
Below: links to (almost) all of the art shown in the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off museum scene, in order of appearance…
This week’s case, the theft of the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Murals, painted by Maxfield Parrish!
We start with some vocal exercises and Mara explains why Maxfield Parrish was one of the most successful illustrators in history. Even if you *think* you don’t know Maxfield Parrish, you almost definitely know his work. We become big fans of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Mara plans her own palatial artist studio. Baker discusses the news about a recovered Leonardo-school ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting of Christ and tries to avoid conspiracy theories about its “conveniently timed” return. We inevitably discuss why stolen art is so rarely returned, just like the two Maxfield Parrish murals stolen from the Edenhurst Gallery in Los Angeles —which, conveniently, is the subject of our case! And if you make it that far, you’ll want to stay for our first “fun fact” segment, there’s singing involved.
Baker applauds Mara’s recent improvisational marionette dance, we discuss a recent art heist in New Zealand and the conclusion of the “Gurlitt Trove” investigation. We accidentally get into a really interesting discussion about stereoscopes and trains and how they both changed the course of Impressionism. And then Mara dives into one of the coolest art heists in history when someone steals Cezanne’s painting, View of Auvers-sur-Oise. We don’t condone the theft, but we celebrate the speed, athleticism, and use of smoke canisters during the heist!
Baker requests more details about Mara’s 6th grade fiction about Mr. Schneider the jewel thief, then “sharing is caring” about art we’d like steal and a new TV show we like to watch. We try to figure out how the Mona Lisa got so popular in the first place, Baker compares the Mona Lisa to The Beatles, then Mara deep dives into the strange and true history of Mona Lisa’s disappearance, with cameos by Pablo Picasso and Franz Kafka.