Tag Archives: painting

Diego Rivera painting sells privately for $15.7 million

A Diego Rivera painting has sold privately for $15.7 million, setting a world record price for any Latin American work of art, Phillips auction house said this month.

The price for “Dance in Tehuantepec” nearly doubles the figure paid at auction last month for a painting by Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s wife. Her “Two Nudes in the Forest (The Land Itself)” set a new auction record for Latin American art

The private sale was facilitated by Phillips.

The buyer, Argentinian collector Eduardo Costantini, told The Associated Press that he has waited 20 years to acquire “Dance in Tehuantepec,” which he unsuccessfully tried to purchase in 1995 when it came up at auction at Sotheby’s.

It has been out of public view since then.

“I always wondered who had bought the painting and where it was,”Costantini, founder and president of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, said in a phone interview from Buenos Aires.

“Dance in Tehuantepec,” created in 1928, depicts a group of dancers performing the folk dance “zandunga” under a banana tree. It is one of the largest canvases the acclaimed Mexican muralist painted during his lifetime. It measures 79 inches by 64 1/2 inches.

Costantini said he plans to exhibit the painting at his museum next March. Prior to that it will be shown at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the fall and at the ARCO Madrid next February.

The painting is the most important Rivera work in private hands outside of Mexico, said August Uribe, deputy chairman of the Americas at Phillips.

It first appeared in 1930 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and was included in a major Diego Rivera retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York a year later.

Uribe said the painting shows Rivera’s efforts “to establish a national identity by breaking from European modernism and embracing Mexicanism.”

UW-Madison professor pens a new opera about a neglected female painter

images - wigout - 051916 - Schwendinger“Official” artistic canons have historically recorded a greater number of men than women among their ranks. But that discrepancy is shifting in both the present and the past, as female artists in the modern era stake their claims and female artists from the past are honored by research and scholarship.

One recent project with Wisconsin ties will bring two such women forward, one from the 21st century and one from the 17th. UW-Madison music professor Laura Elise Schwendigner has been awarded more than $75,000 in grants in order to finish her first full-length opera Artemisia, a chamber opera based on the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter.

“The story of Artemisia hit me when I was an artist-in-residence in Rome (in 2009),” says Schwendinger, who herself paints. “I visited a lot of galleries and was struck by her works like “Judith Slaying Holofernes.” There weren’t very many women painters at the time.”

Schwendinger says she hopes Artemisia, which she is developing with librettist Ginger Strand, will change the historical perception of Gentileschi (1593–1656). While the artist holds the high honor of being the first female member of Florence’s prestigious Accademia di Arte del Disegno and was a respected artist in her time, history books remembered her for centuries merely as a teenage victim of rape by her tutor, fellow artist Agostino Tassi.

Following the assault and the older Tassi’s ultimate failure to marry the 16-year-old girl as promised, Artemisia’s father, the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi, pressed charges against Tassi for taking his daughter’s virginity. The lawsuit, highly unusual for the time, resulted in long, protracted proceedings, during which Artemisia was subject to gynecological exams and torture to verify her testimony. The proceedings also revealed a plot by Tassi to murder his wife, adding to the sensationalism of the lawsuit. Tassi eventually was sentenced to one year in prison, but never served any time.

Gentileschi would go on to have a long and successful career, rare for a female painter in her time. But later generations would obscure her contributions to the Baroque period, some of her work even attributed to other artists.

In recent years, that perception has begun to shift back, with Gentileschi again credited as one of the period’s greatest painters. Schwendinger hopes her opera can spread Gentileschi’s story, further righting the wrong done to her by historians.

Schwendinger’s opera, a co-commission of Trinity Wall Street Novus in New York City and San Francisco’s Left Coast Chamber Ensemble that will premiere on the East Coast in early 2017, will take an unusual approach to Artemisia’s story, emphasizing the artist’s work as it goes. The painter’s most important canvases, including her self-portrait, will be seen as onstage projections to introduce various sections of the opera. The performers will emerge from the projected tableaux to tell the opera within the visual context.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like that in opera before,” Schwendinger says. “The visual elements will be the thing that audiences will talk about after the performances, but I hope they talk about the music, too.”

While this is Schwendinger’s first full-length opera, it is by no means her first composition. Born in Mexico City to a pair of U.S. foreign exchange students and raised in Berkeley, California, Schwedinger began making up melodies at age 4 and playing the flute at age 8. Her debut with the Berkeley Youth Orchestra at age 13 included a performance of “Between Two Continents,” her first orchestral composition.

When Schwendinger applied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to study flute, her application included several compositions as well, which caught the eye of composer John Adams, best known for his operas Doctor Atomic and Nixon in China. He invited her to study composition with him, and she afterward went on to receive both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in music from the University of California-Berkeley.

Her career has since taken her to multiple locations, though she has been a professor at UW-Madison for more than a decade. That university recently awarded her a $60,000 Kellett Mid-Career Award, a grant sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and awarded to nine other faculty members for the 2016–17 academic year.

Schwendinger also received $16,500 as part of OPERA America’s $200,000 Opera Grant for Female Composers, awarded to seven women and seven opera companies, which she will use in addition to the Kellett Award to finish and mount the upcoming productions of Artemisia.

30 years after heist, museum hopes to get piece back

An empty wooden frame once occupied by Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” sits at the center of a gallery at the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art in Tucson. 

Next to it are the composite drawings of two people police say stole the painting the day after Thanksgiving in 1985. The museum wants to remind visitors of the heist in hopes that a new lead in the 30-year unsolved mystery will appear. 

“We have not given up hope about getting the painting back,” Gina Compitello-Moore, the museum’s marketing director, said. “By not having it, it’s almost as if a member of our family is missing.”

The painting by the abstract expressionist was stolen on Nov. 29, 1985 from the small museum that also has works by Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe. 

The museum had just opened when a man and a woman walked in. They were the sole visitors. The woman, described as being in her mid-50s with shoulder-length reddish and blond hair, distracted the a security guard by making small-talk while the man, who appeared to be in his 20s and wore a mustache and glasses, cut the painting from the large frame, leaving the edges of the canvass attached. 

Within minutes, they were gone, taking with them one of the museum’s most important pieces. The painting was valued at about $600,000 when it was stolen. 

“We have no idea why this particular painting was stolen. It could have been the size of the work. It could have been that this is probably his most recognized work,” Compitello-Moore said.

Brian Seastone, the university’s police chief, was an officer back then who helped investigate the heist. He says the department, along with the FBI and other agencies working the theft, received a number of tips that led them nowhere. 

“The gentleman pretty much knew what he wanted, it appeared, and went upstairs. And after a few minutes they both left very quickly and it drew the attention of the security officer who was there,” Seastone said. “Since then, it’s kind of become not a legend but one of those things that’s out there that people will talk about once in a while.” 

Seastone says the man’s mustache and glasses may have been fake, an effort to disguise himself, and that the woman also may have been in costume.

Compitello-Moore said now is a good time to bring attention to the stolen painting because it could have changed hands by now, and its owner could not know they have a stolen piece. 

“We’re happy to have to have the frame in there but we of course wish it were the painting,” she said.

Give the gift that lasts forever: A great experience

Buying presents for people is hard. So stop doing it — and get them something they’ll like even better.

Both scientific studies and good old common sense are increasingly arguing that material goods aren’t as fulfilling as shared experiences. According to one study by psychologist Thomas Gilovich, while people believe buying or receiving things will bring them happiness and satisfaction, it’s actually experiences — vacations, group adventures, time spent with friends and family — that provide long-term happiness.

That’s great to know in theory. Now put it into practice. In addition to all the boxes you’re thinking of putting under the proverbial tree this holiday season, consider some of these experiential options for your gift list.

DRINK WITH PAINTER’S INK

Throughout childhood, kids are tasked with making art — finger-paintings, doodles, Play-Doh sculptures. As adults, we rarely have the luxury of artistic creation.

Perhaps that’s why the idea of painting and drinking has taken off across the country — it’s the perfect blend of juvenile and grown-up relaxation.

The concept is simple: show up, have a drink, paint something. Most of the time, you’re led by an instructor, but many groups also offer free painting days, when you can explore independently.

For a good example of what you can expect, consider Splash Studio, 184 N. Broadway, Milwaukee (splashmilwaukee.com). Co-owner Marla Poytinger and husband David opened the painting bar in 2012 as a way to blend her background in arts management and his former work in logistics for the beer industry.

Splash offers eight or nine three-hour sessions a week, each featuring a local artist, for $29 ($34 on select days). When participants arrive, Splash provides them with a canvas, easel, paint, brushes and an apron, as well as a full-service bar. The artist then walks the group through the session’s featured painting — although Marla says participants are free to paint something of their own choosing.

At the end of the session, the painters get to take the original art home, which means giving someone a Splash Studio experience is, in a way, giving a material gift too.

Splash specifically caters to an adult crowd (participants have to be 15 or older), and only has a Milwaukee location, so it may not be the perfect gift for recipients who would want to bring their kids or who live outside southeast Wisconsin. Other painting bar options to consider: Vino and Van Gogh (Madison, vinoandvangoghmadison.com), PaintBar (Delafield and Madison, paint-bar.com), A Stroke of Genius (Waukesha, paintwinestudio.com) and national franchise PaintNite, which holds its events in bars and other venues throughout southeast Wisconsin (paintnite.com).

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY

Have a friend who’d rather get out of the house than get a gift? Two smart, scrappy startups offer a solution: A modern-day twist on the coupon book that’ll feel adventurous, not cheap.

The more established of the startups is City Tins (citytins.com), started by Christin Cilento Ladky and Tara Laatsch as a fundraiser idea. The company sells tins of coasters that double as coupons for area businesses, offering gift recipients a more affordable night out and an excuse to try new things. All tins are $30.

The company offers restaurant and bar & lounge coaster sets for Milwaukee and Madison. Each tin contains more than 20 coasters offering $10 off a $25 tab. New this year in Milwaukee is a performing arts tin, with each coaster providing a buy one, get one ticket offer. And Ladky says the company hopes to launch a pet goods-focused tin in the spring to target a new niche and to give something to offer after the other tins sell out during the holiday season — as they always do.

If your gift recipient is really just a beer person, you could try this year’s PubPass (getpubpass.com). PubPass offers a passport-like booklet for $25 that entitles the holder to free beer at 25 local establishments throughout Milwaukee. Co-founder Jake Nyberg says the company pursues bars that are “places we would take our friends who were in from out of town.” Most, but not all, of the 25 bars specialize in craft beer.

GET OUT — OF A LOCKED ROOM

For many people, being trapped in a room with no easy way out would be a nightmare. For the rest, consider offering them an opportunity to jump on a new 2015 trend: escape rooms.

Already a hit abroad, escape rooms have been springing up across the United States over the past few years, as entrepreneurs hop on the bandwagon. Essentially, escape rooms are real-life versions of puzzle mysteries that are ubiquitous across other forms of media — like the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure — in which a hero or group has to decode a series of increasingly complex clues to get out of a room before time runs out. In the real-world version, the consequences of time running out are much lower, but the challenge provides a thrill that increases the excitement of solving each consecutive puzzle.

Themes of individual rooms vary, as do difficulties. Escape Chambers (escapechambers.com), a franchise with locations in Milwaukee and Madison, has rooms like “The Assignment” (group members play FBI agents trying to prove a history professor is a criminal mastermind), “The Heist” (groups are thieves hoping to rob an art gallery and get away with it) or “The Raid” (a drug raid turns bad when the group finds a time bomb instead). Because a room isn’t fun for participants after they solve it — or if they solve it — escape room companies will change rooms throughout the year.

Tickets for rooms average around $30, but vary from company to company. For other options, consider checking out: Escape Room Wisconsin (Appleton and Green Bay, escaperoomwisconsin.com), EscapeMKE (Milwaukee, escapemke.com) and Seven Keys to Escape (Racine, sevenkeystoescape.com).

Milwaukee Art New-seum | MAM reinvents with a lakefront entrance and a dynamic new plan for galleries

Most museum renovations wouldn’t be undertaken the way the Milwaukee Art Museum’s has been — closing everything but the special collections gallery in the Quadracci Pavilion to the public for a year.

More common, says chief curator Brady Roberts, is for a museum to close sections of a permanent collection a bit at a time and revealing each revision as it’s completed. “It’s hard to tell what’s changed,” he says. “and it’s not very dramatic.”

MAM’s big reveal, on the other hand, brings new meaning to the word “dramatic.” The museum that reopens its doors on Nov. 24 will be completely different from the one that closed last November, thanks to an expansion and reinstallation that will add a new lakefront entrance and 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, filled with 2,500 works of art — a thousand more than the museum has ever been able to display. 

In many ways, Roberts says, the renovation, spearheaded by museum director Dan Keegan, was as much a matter of practical need as artistic innovation. The Milwaukee Art Museum is a multi-building complex, with this lakeside addition (informally dubbed the “East End” by curators) joining the War Memorial Center, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1957; a 1975 expansion, designed by David Kahler; and the iconic Quadracci Pavilion, designed by Santiago Calatrava. The older buildings were in dire need of repair, with severe structural issues, including a leaky roof and a failing HVAC system. “It was really putting the collections at risk,” Roberts says. “Water and moldy air and art don’t mix.”

But those practical concerns gave Roberts and his curators an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the entire museum. Judging the museum’s original floorplan a “maze” even veteran curators had been known to get lost in, Roberts says his team wiped the slate clean, redrawing the museum’s boundaries to find the best place for every gallery. “Say there are no walls, that you just have a blank canvas. How would you build the walls to best show the art?” Roberts asks.

For the first time, that question has different answers for each gallery. Previously, MAM’s galleries were largely uniform, with simple brown-gray walls. Now, each curator has been allowed to design galleries that best fit the art within. In addition, the Saarenin building has been restored to better resemble its original design, and elements of Kahler’s expansion now accent certain galleries.

The expansion also has given the museum the ability to create two new galleries. The 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries, arranged by MAM’s newest curator Monica Obniski, give the museum’s expansive collection of industrial design objects their own space for the first time, and Roberts says Obniski is using her new space to acquire works that push the collection closer and closer to our present day. “We’re surrounded by design objects,” he says. “You can be surrounded by beautiful design every day of your life, if you think about it.”

Also exciting is the new Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, located on the lower level of the museum. When the collections closed last year, Roberts says the museum’s photography gallery had been diminished to a wall that held about five photographs — an alarming lapse even before you know that MAM was one of the earliest museums to collect photography, with MOMA as its only real predecessor.

The Herzfeld Center, curated by Lisa Sutcliffe, is finally a space worthy of MAM’s collection. The word “photography” literally means “writing with light,” and Roberts says Sutcliffe and the museum have taken that as inspiration, including light and video installations along with print photography, making the gallery a national destination in the process. “In 200 years,” Roberts says, “when people look back at the 21st century, this will be the century of photo-based media.” 

Roberts says the renovation also fixes a persistent problem for the museum: the lack of an additional special exhibition space. While the Baker-Rowland Gallery in the Quadracci Pavilion (currently home to the museum’s Larry Sultan retrospective) is the main driver for museum attendance, it has to close for a month every time MAM swaps exhibitions, adding up to a full quarter of the year. With the new Bradley Family Gallery, on the second floor of the East End, that lost time vanishes. Starting with the new gallery’s first show — the unveiling of recently acquired works by abstract expressionist printmaker Sam Francis — there will never be a period in which both special exhibition spaces are closed.

And the rest of the museum will be more dynamic — with this version of the “permanent” collection being the least-permanent it’s ever been. Roberts says curators plan to rotate works in and out of galleries on a regular basis, so there’s always something new to see in addition to the old favorites — as if people needed a better excuse to return over and over again.

The Milwaukee Art Museum will unveil its renovated galleries at a grand opening on Nov. 24, with members-only previews the weekend before. For more information, visit mam.org.

To get a better sense of what’s in store in the redesigned galleries, WiG spoke to the museum’s curatorial team, responsible for reshaping the floor plan for its six major gallery collections. Read on for more details.

Brady Roberts | Modern & Contemporary Art Galleries

Goals for the galleries’ expansion: “For the Modern and Contemporary collections we created soaring, white cube spaces that serve as neutral platforms to emphasize the works of art. The floorplan is clear and logical, allowing for intuitive navigation through the galleries.”

Design of the new gallery space: The Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries include a series of halls filled with works by major artists of the 20th and 21st century, as well as a sculpture gallery overlooking Lake Michigan. Roberts says the spaces feature ceilings more than 17 feet high, better suited for the monumental works within. Also, the sculpture gallery exposes the original concrete columns designed in the 1970s Brutalist style by David Kahler, architect of the museum’s 1975 expansion. The Bradley Galleries also include new special exhibition space.

High-profile works to look for: MAM owns three sculptures by Donald Judd, considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century, but has never been able to put them together. “To be able to present these three sculptures in one gallery where they all have their breathing room is something that any modern art museum would be envious of,” Roberts says. Other significant works include Eva Hesse’s fiberglass sculpture “Right After,” a rare example of her work that has not deteriorated due to its fragile materials.

Brandon Ruud | Constance & Dudley Godfrey American Art Wing

Goals for the gallery’s expansion: “I was particularly excited about creating a space that not only showcased the beauty and power of the Museum’s important American art collections in all its forms — decorative arts, paintings and sculpture — but one that allowed us to reveal the full, rich history of the nation’s arts and crafts.”

Design of the new gallery space: The new American wing at MAM will feature paintings and decorative art objects — including the collection curated by the Chipstone Foundation. Ruud says he considers the museum’s collection of 17th- to 19th-century decorative art to be one of its greatest strengths and the new gallery space was designed to include decorative art in vignettes that suggest how they were used during their time periods. “These spaces range from airy, grand galleries where visitors will hopefully have a ‘Wow!’ moment, to more intimate spaces that allow for intense examination and viewing,” he says.

High-profile works to look for: Ruud says the expansion has motivated new acquisitions and donations, including a rare canvas by 18th-century painter Jeremiah Paul and a Long Island scene by Thomas Moran. In addition to John Singleton Copley’s better-known portrait “Alice Hooper,” Ruud recommends patrons check out a pair of Copley portraits that haven’t been presented in the United States since they were painted more than 250 years ago.

Monica Obniski | 20th- and 21st-Century Design Galleries

Goals for the new galleries: “This is the first time the design collection will have dedicated space within the museum, so my goal is to display a diversity of works within thought-provoking vignettes. … I am really excited about building a contemporary design collection that makes sense for MAM.”

Design of the new gallery space: One of the two new spaces in MAM’s addition, the design galleries bring the museum’s decorative artworks to a prominent position near the new lakeside entrance. Obniski says the space is designed so a viewer traveling around the periphery can get a loosely chronological survey of design from about 1900 to the 1960s, but also can dig deeper, exploring the interplay of dichotomies — beauty and functionality or art and technology.

High-profile works to look for: Since the design galleries are new, Obniski is excited to display works that were tucked away in the archives, like experimental furnituremaker Mathias Bengtsson’s “Slice Chair.” She’s also pursuing new works to add to the collection, including MAM’s first 3-D printed chair (arrival TBD). And you won’t be able to miss the “chair wall” — a display of chairs from the 20th century hung along an exposed concrete wall.

Margaret Andera | Folk and Self-Taught Art Gallery, Haitian Art Gallery

Goals for the galleries’ expansion: “Both the Haitian art and the folk and self-taught art were in parts of the building that didn’t make as much chronological sense for the collections. The collections now are adjacent to contemporary and modern art, exactly where they fit into the chronology.” 

Design of the new gallery space: Before the renovation, the mezzanine level of MAM wasn’t used for gallery space, so Andera says it may surprise regular attendees when they see it for the first time. To convert a former study center into the folk and Haitian galleries, the museum knocked down walls and doors, dramatically opening up the space. “It’s now this one, contiguous gallery space and I think it’s one of the most transformed spaces in the whole re-installation,” Andera says. That also allowed the museum to open up a balcony overlooking the first floor, allowing patrons to see into the sculpture gallery from the mezzanine.

High-profile works to look for: Andera says the museum’s “Newsboy” sculpture has long been used as visual shorthand for the folk and self-taught galleries, and its new placement will allow patrons to see it from multiple angles for the first time. She’s also excited that the museum will be able to exhibit a banner by Milwaukee self-taught artist Josephus Farmer — previously too damaged to present to the general public but restored by the museum’s conservators for the reopening.

Tanya Paul | Antiquities and European Galleries

Goals for the galleries’ expansion: “My goal was twofold. On one hand, I wanted to respond to and better highlight the strengths of our collection — in particular its uniquely broad, pan-European perspective with distinctive strengths in German art. On the other hand, I also wanted to fully integrate our collections of fine and decorative European art.”

Design of the new gallery space: The two-floor galleries, twice the size of the original space, will interconnect MAM’s collection of European paintings and prints and its European antiquities collection. Paul says the spaces will “blend into one another, resulting in a complex portrait of European art and its interrelatedness.” The museum’s salon-style room for the Layton Art Collection will return, presenting works from the collection as they would have been in a late-19th/early 20th-century gallery.

High-profile works to look for: Viewers should look forward to once again seeing the museum’s arresting “Saint Francis of Assisi in His Tomb,” by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán, along with other recognizable works like Jules Bastien-Lepage’s “Woodgatherer” and the museum’s Monet painting. Paul also recommends keeping an eye out for a monumental decorative vase by Barbedienne and new acquisitions from French portrait painter Alexandre Cabanel.

Lisa Sutcliffe | Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts

Goals for the new gallery: “The photography collection has never had dedicated galleries at this scale before and it is exciting to show the work in the broader context of light-based media including video, film and digital media. The first show celebrates our collection highlights and gives the community a chance to get to know our photography collection, which hasn’t been shown together for 25 years.

Design of the new gallery space: The other new space in MAM’s addition takes over the lower level of the museum, providing Sutcliffe with a light-controlled space to work in. Sutcliffe says exhibitions will rotate on a shorter cycle (3 to 4 months) to offer an evolving selection and help preserve the light-sensitive photographs. 

High-profile works to look for: Sutcliffe is well aware that there’s an excitement among patrons-in-the-know about the return of Stanley Landsman’s Walk-In Infinity Chamber, which uses two-way mirrors and light bulbs to create a unique, near-magical space. But she’s also excited for them to get to know Anthony McCall’s “You and I Horizontal, II,” a participatory light installation that digitally recreates a solid light film from the 1970s. MAM will also be installing its earliest photographic acquisition, Edward Weston’s “Bad Water, Death Valley.” 

UNL art students recreate Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom’

University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Richards Hall houses a ceramics workshop, a fabrication space and the one-room Medici Gallery reserved for student work. The closest thing to a study lounge, however, is a couch in the hallway.

Haley Heesacker, 26, saw an opportunity to provide fellow fine arts students with a temporary study space, one that lends itself to learning about the classics.

Last week, she and fellow arts student Michael Johnson unveiled an exhibit that combines fine art and functionality into a potentially great study space—or Instagram post, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The two members of the Sits and Giggles collective created a 3-D rendition of “Bedroom in Arles,” the broad-lined, distinctly colored painting by Vincent Van Gogh of his own sleeping quarters.

Beginning in 1888, Van Gogh painted three similar versions of his sparsely furnished bedroom in oil on canvas.

Before their exhibit debuted, Johnson and Heesacker spent three nearly sleepless days in toil on campus. The two converted a checklist of EcoStore and Goodwill finds into a re-creation of the famed bedroom that, Van Gogh wrote, “ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.”

Heesacker said she wanted to create a series of sculptural environments that weren’t hands-off to visitors.

Getting too close to the “Bedroom in Arles” at the Art Institute of Chicago might get you Tasered. But sitting in the chairs painted the “yellow of fresh butter” — Van Gogh’s words again — gets you the adoration of Johnson and Heesacker.

“We wanted people to be able to go and interact with it,” said Johnson, 20.

The first day that “A Visit with Vincent” was up in the Medici, Heesacker said she saw a guy sitting on the tiny bed with his laptop open and papers scattered on the floor.

“I was ecstatic,” she said.

She considered asking him to put on the straw hat that hangs alongside Van Gogh’s denims in the painting’s background and on the Medici Gallery’s north wall, but settled for snapping a picture.

So have many others who have visited the 3-D bedroom. Since it was unveiled, the room has been the backdrop for many cellphone photos. There’s a hashtag for it on Instagram — (hash)SNGGogh. Many pictures have been taken by art students, but Heesacker’s favorites so far have been taken by total strangers. 

“I don’t even know who these people are, which is super cool,” Heesacker said. “They were like pretending to have a pillow fight.”

The Sits and Giggles crew ((at)sitsandgiggles on Instagram) have plans to build more 3-D rooms throughout the school year. They began with a Van Gogh because it was the most recognizable image they wanted to recreate, Heesacker said.

“We’ve got some kind of crazy ones we want to try out later in the year,” Johnson said.

For now, they’ll continue to see how others spend time in Van Gogh’s bedroom.

Protesters prompt cancelation of ‘Kimono Wednesdays’

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is cancelling “Kimono Wednesdays” after protesters decried the event as racist.

In a statement issued this week, the museum apologized for offending some visitors with the event, where museum goers were encouraged to don the traditional Japanese garments and pose in front of Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise.”

The museum said it had hoped to create an “interactive experience,” helping museum goers appreciate the rich details, embroidery and fine materials of the garments. It said similar events took place when the painting, depicting a woman in a kimono, travelled throughout Japan for an exhibition.

But protesters have held signs at the Boston museum’s events, calling them “racist” and “imperialist.”

The museum says kimonos will now be on display for visitors to touch, not try on.

Major works by Rothko, Litchtenstein fetch over $88 million at NYC auction of contemporary art

Major works by Mark Rothko and Roy Lichtenstein brought in over $88 million at a Sotheby’s auction of contemporary art.

Rothko’s “Untitled (Yellow and Blue)” sold for $46.4 million. The 8-foot-tall abstract painting of large yellow and blue planes hung at the National Gallery in Washington for 10 years while it was owned by the late Rachel “Bunny” Mellon. She acquired it directly from Rothko’s estate shortly after his death in 1970.

His “Orange, Red Yellow” holds the auction record, selling for almost $87 million in 2012.

Lichtenstein’s “The Ring (Engagement),” executed in his signature comic book style, shows a ring being placed on a finger. The 1962 work fetched $41.7 million. It was sold by philanthropist Stefan Edlis, who is donating a group of 42 pop and contemporary artworks valued at about $400 million to the Art Institute of Chicago.

The record for Lichtenstein is his “Woman With Flowered Hat,” which sold for $56 million in 2013.

Both paintings went to telephone bidders who wished to remain anonymous, Sotheby’s said.

Another highlight of Sotheby’s auction was Gerhard Richter’s “Abstract Painting,” which fetched $28.2 million. The auction record for the German artist is $46 million, set this year.

Sigmar Polke’s “Jungle” sold for $27.1 million, a record for the German artist. The same painting sold in 2011 for $9.2 million.

Andy Warhol’s “Superman” silkscreen garnered $14.3 million. The 1981 work is one of 10 iconic images in his Myths series that included Mickey Mouse and Howdy Doody.

Record: Picasso painting sells for $179 million at auction

A vibrant, multi-hued painting from Pablo Picasso set a world record for artwork at auction, selling for $179.4 million on May 11, and a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti set a record for most expensive sculpture, at $141.3 million.

Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” and Giacometti’s life-size “Pointing Man” were among dozens of masterpieces from the 20th century Christie’s offered in a curated sale titled “Looking Forward to the Past.”

“Women of Algiers,” once owned by American collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, was inspired by Picasso’s fascination with 19th-century French artist Eugene Delacroix. It’s part of a 15-work series Picasso created in 1954-55 designated with the letters A through O. It has appeared in several major museum retrospectives of the Spanish artist.

Christie’s global president, Jussi Pylkkanen, who was the auctioneer, said the two pieces are outstanding works of art.

“I’ve never worked with two such beautiful objects,” he said.

The Picasso price, $179,365,000, and the Giacometti price, $141,285,000, included the auction house’s premium. The buyers elected to remain anonymous.

Overall, 34 of 35 lots sold for an auction total of $706 million.

Experts say the high sale prices were driven by artworks’ investment value and by wealthy collectors seeking out the very best works.

“I don’t really see an end to it, unless interest rates drop sharply, which I don’t see happening in the near future,” dealer Richard Feigen said.

Impressionist and modern artworks continue to corner the market because “they are beautiful, accessible and a proven value,” added Sarah Lichtman, a professor of design history and curatorial studies at The New School.

“I think we will continue to see the financiers seeking these works out as they would a blue chip company that pays reliable dividends for years to come,” she said.

The most expensive artwork sold at auction had been Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” which Christie’s sold for $142.4 million in 2013.

“Pointing Man,” depicting a skinny 5-foot-high bronze figure with extended arms, had been in the same private collection for 45 years. Giacometti made six casts of the work; four are in museums, and the others are in private hands and a foundation collection.

His “Walking Man I” had held the auction record for a sculpture: $104.3 million in 2010.

Other highlights at Christie’s included Peter Doig’s “Swamped,” a 1990 painting of a canoe in a moonlit lagoon, which sold for almost $26 million, a record for the British artist. Claude Monet’s “The Houses of Parliament, At Sunset,” a lush painting of rich blues and magenta created in 1900-01, sold for $40.5 million.

Christie’s also had a Mark Rothko for sale. “No. 36 (Black Stripe),” which had never appeared at auction, also sold for $40.5 million. The 1958 work was sold by German collector Frieder Burda, who exhibited it in his museum in Baden-Baden for several years.

Gallery Night and Day guide

It’s time to brave the winter chill and check out exciting new exhibitions around town. Here are a few highlights to see on this Gallery Night and Day, Jan. 16 and Jan. 17. 

‘Lois Bielefeld: Androgyny’ 

Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Fifth Floor 

In photography, video and audio, the character of male and female identity is blurred and blended, combining aesthetic interest with social reflection. Also on view will be the annual installation of the Winter Chapel, with two versions this year: one by Bruce Knackert and the other by kathryn e. martin.

‘Engendered’

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, 273 E. Erie St. 

This wide-ranging group exhibition explores gender, identity and sexuality. As described by curator Niki Johnson, “The bedroom, the body and the queer take center stage, creating a space in which
the subordinate experience becomes empowered.” 

‘JoAnna Poehlmann:
Now and Then’

RedLine Milwaukee, 1422 N. Fourth St. 

This impressive retrospective includes nearly 400 drawings, assemblages and sculptural works that pay homage to nature and famous names in art history. 

‘Bass Structures:
The Mark of Sound’

88Nine Radio Milwaukee, 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave. 

Audio and visual combine in paintings made by loud pulses of sound shot through paint. The results are curated by Jeff Redmon, and the Gallery Night festivities will culminate in “a multidimensional DJ battle” from 9 p.m. to midnight. 

‘Santiago Cucullu: New Work’

‘Screens and Mirrors: New Paintings by Claire Stigliani’

Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St. 

Two provocative contemporary artists take over both floors of the gallery with paintings, sculpture, video, and other media inspired by pop culture, personal stories, and more.