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A Review of the

by Miles Mathis

by Aron Wiesenfeld


click here to go to ARC Salon images

One of the most prestigious realist competitions in the US is now run by the Art Renewal Center. ARC was founded by Fred Ross about five years ago in order to promote academic art of the 19th century. Fred has a very fine collection that includes several Bouguereaus, Alma Tademas, and Waterhouses (my favorite piece in his collection is Waterhouse’s Miss Waterlo*—one of the finest portraits of the 19th century, or any century). ARC has since included contemporary realism in its promotion, and Fred has added many living artists to his extensive private collection (including mine, I feel I must divulge).

As part of this promotion of realism, ARC has set up the finest online museum in the world, heavy with 19th century work. It has also compiled a list of realist schools, where young artists can learn traditional technique. It has generated a small online library of books and articles, old and new. And, finally, it has developed this online competition, now in its second year.

All this effort is quite admirable, both on the part of Fred Ross and on the part of the many other artists, writers and patrons who work to produce ARC—most of them pro bono. Although I have recently been dismissed by ARC for editorial reasons (something else I feel I must divulge), I am not on this page to slander ARC or their mission.** I am an ally in this mission, on their page or on mine. However, now that I am once again a completely independent writer, I feel free to comment on the ARC Salon. I did not enter the competition, so I cannot be accused of self-interest or specific ill will. Other factors make it clear that I am hardly disinterested, but then again, who wants to read an article by someone who is disinterested. Surely what you require as a reader is interest.

I have argued in many places that artists should be their own critics. Like Whistler, I demand that art criticism is the proper field of artists. All others should tread there carefully. Many find my claim extravagant or exclusionary, but consider this simple analogy: who is always hired to do commentary in the field of sport? A great athlete in the given event, of course. Who wouldn’t rather hear Michael Jordan talk about basketball than any sportswriter? Why? Because Michael has been there. There is no least doubt that he knows what he is talking about. His knowledge is concrete, not abstract. It is strange that sport criticism should be more demanding as regards credentials than art criticism, but there it is. Readers are more credulous concerning art than they are about anything else, even celebrity gossip. Even National Enquirer is occasionally disbelieved, or asked for documentation.

I have also claimed again and again that art was healthier in the 19th century, and that one of the main reasons for this health was that artists argued and wrote about art. The situation was not perfect: much of the writing was done by non-visual artists. But these writers were nonetheless artists—Baudelaire, Zola, and so on. They were talented creators. This makes a rather large difference, in my opinion.

I therefore see my writing about the ARC Salon as a partial response to these arguments and claims. I am re-animating a long-dead dialogue. I am a critic in the line of Baudelaire and Zola, but do them one better, since I am a painter. Like Whistler, I face the issue head on, taking the responsibility to back up my own mouth and brush, to police my own turf—like a vigilante or a red beret. Some will think that I must be too close to my subject to be objective, but what art critic has ever been objective? What we want, I think, is not objectivity but plausibility and pertinence and coherence.

Although the ARC Salon is run with the best intentions, it suffers from several shortcomings, the most fundamental of which is that it is judged from slides. I have been battling for more than a decade to make various organizations throughout the country understand that this is simply not a satisfactory method of running an art competition. Everyone, from gallery owners to book publishers to grant committees to contest judges, thinks that they can judge art from slides. They have no least doubt that their eyes are so honed, their tastes so razor sharp, that they can tell almost at a glance the quality of any work. Many—I might say most—of these keen judges of art never even bother to put the slides into a projector. They hold the slide sheet up to a window or a lightboard and give about two seconds to each 2-inch square image. This is the standard practice of galleries and most other judges and committees, especially in the preliminary stages. I know because I have been there: I have seen it done myself, over and over. Competitions like the ARC Salon usually at least go to the trouble of using a projector, but very few bother to project the image the correct size. It is not an efficient use of time to have to move the screen or the projector forward and backward with each new slide, one of thousands, since the judges also have to read the size from the slide and measure the image on the screen. Of course it is quite easy to tape a ruler to the edge of the screen, but you would be surprised how few competitions do this.

This is only part of the problem. Competitions deal exclusively with small format slides. Getting a good image of a large painting on a small format slide is a daunting task. You either have to hire a professional photographer or be a professional photographer to achieve it. 35mm slide films are so variable (and most of such low quality) that a normal person cannot produce a good image. Even the best slide film under perfect conditions adds a lot of contrast and changes your colors. Most of them are made to enrich a certain range. This can end up helping some works, but it is not the same as accuracy. All this means that a slide competition becomes, in part, a photography competition.

The bottom line is that no one, not even the most eagle-eyed artist, can judge art from slides. It is a physical impossibility. You can judge composition and parts of an overall effect, but you can tell nothing about many subtleties, including local color, small area brushwork, paint quality, reflectivity, saturation, facture, and impact due to size. Since high art is defined by many of these subtle factors, it would be ridiculous to claim that it can be judged without them. If the effects of paintings could be matched by photography, there would be no need to go to the trouble of using paint.

Judging from slides or photography nullifies, from the start, the whole point of painting or drawing or sculpting.

Some competitions have seen the light, and they do their final judging from actual works. This requires a lot of shipping and reshipping, but it is the only way to have an art contest. Since ARC’s Salon is wholly virtual, it would seem grossly inefficient to ship all the works just for judging. The artworks will never see the hook on any real wall, so how does it make sense to ship them? It doesn’t. The Salon should have been organized around a physical exhibition, even if it was just in someone’s garage. Art is about physical artifacts, and a virtual exhibition is like virtual sex—sordid and not worth bothering with. Best wait for the real thing.

A few artists made a little money and got some recognition, and that is always nice for them, but it was all at the cost of logic, fairness, and long term sustainability. Contests are about creating meaningful hierarchies, hierarchies that act as a foundation to progress. If the wrong hierarchies are set up, due to improper judging procedures, only chaos can benefit. The progression of realism in the last 20 years has been chaotic and often counterproductive, and this is due in part to contests that do not work like they should.

ARC is limited in its financial resources. Fred Ross already spends an inordinate amount of time and money on realism and this makes him very hard to criticize. As a patron of the arts he is mostly doing a bang-up job. But what one would like to see once contemporary realism gets on its legs is a physical show in a major city, underwritten by a large group of patrons who can promote it properly. New York City already has some smallish shows put on by the different clubs—the Allied Artists, the Pastel Society, the watercolor societies, the AAPL, the Portrait Society, and so on. But they are for insiders and are poorly attended by the public. The main reason is that they are not advertised to the public. These societies don’t have the funds to advertise to the public. And, taken separately, they don’t have the firepower to draw the public.

The Hubbard Award in the 1990’s was a step in this direction. It drew the top names in realism and they put on a pretty good show. The $250,000 first prize didn’t hurt. But the event was hidden away in Ruidoso and was not advertised to the public. It drew some rich people from certain areas, but didn’t spark the interest of the mainstream press or the national public. Only a show in New York City could do that.

Realism must begin to tap small parts of the private underwriting that now goes to MoMA and the Guggenheim and such places. It would also benefit from any amount of public underwriting. There is no reason that the city of New York should spend millions promoting the avant garde and not one penny promoting realism. The realist galleries are becoming a major player in the city, and as such they are worthy of Chamber of Commerce notice. A contemporary realist museum is years away, but a good first start would be a realist show in Manhattan—a broadened ARC Salon taken off the internet and put on the walls. If ARC cannot underwrite this, then the first order of business in realism should be the development of a coalition that can do so. The importance of this exhibition far outstrips anything else that is happening. Until it is achieved, realism will remain a virtual step-child, shoeless and sooty.

If 858 million dollars can be found from the private sector to renovate MoMA, surely we can find a few hundred thousand to put on a national show. We would need to pay rent for a month in some swanky place and most of the rest would go to advertising. The prize money would not have to be steep: the big names would be attracted to the event alone. A 20 or 30 thousand dollar first prize would get everybody there, especially if it was not a purchase prize (the Hubbard was a purchase prize). My guess is that the event would be so successful that it would generate enough immediate new donations to extend the show another month.

These are the guidelines that would make the show a proper pattern for the future: 1) No entry fee. The artists should not be expected to underwrite the show in any way. 2) Final round judging from the actual works. Slides used only to cull out the obviously substandard submissions. 3) Final judging by a single artist. No judging committees. No non-artist judges. A large committee should be selected, but its only job should be to see that all the major artists and styles are represented, and that no one is left out for political reasons. This committee should make no judgments of artistic value. The committee is a guarantee not of all-inclusion or equal-time or multiculturalness, but of artistic breadth. The use of a single judge will provide a rational, if not democratic, slate of winners, rather than the hodgepodge provided by averaging a number of divergent opinions. That is, a viewer will at least understand how winners were chosen. Responsibility will be easily assignable, and the show will have a sense of order. Those passed over for awards will not be mystified, since the taste of the judge will be partially predictable beforehand. The show will be of such stature that almost no one will avoid it simply from a distaste for the judge. A properly advertised and organized show will be its own reward for the artist, especially when he is not milked for entry fees. 4) The artists should take 100% of all sales. The show must be organized for the benefit of the artists, not the benefit of the sponsors. This is what underwriting means. The donors to MoMA do not expect a percentage of the door receipts. Those who donate to the World Wildlife Fund do not expect a knockdown on a tiger’s pelt, or a free trip to the Serengeti. The organizers of the show should not expect to offset initial costs by any financial involvement of the artists. Enough funds should be raised to avoid this necessity.

This is not to say that large donors cannot be made a fuss of in the usual ways. Publishing their names in brochures, throwing them special parties, introducing them to the artists, thanking them in many meaningful and some silly ways. I would never argue against this. What I am arguing against is the assumption that artists are somehow wealthy to begin with and therefore are capable of underwriting themselves. There is a fundamental assumption, almost always false, that artists are in a position to donate to charities. The world at large seems to be under the impression that because we are spoiled enough not to have “real jobs” we must have large piles of cash in the bank, cash that we are not already spending on promotion only because we are humble or lazy. We are therefore the first ones asked to donate to all charities, by giving up a painting. We are assured that this is a good technique of self-promotion, since everyone will see our works at the fake auction. What is missed in all this is that realist artists, for the most part, are a charity themselves, or should be. We are in need of missionaries and blankets and canned food. We need serious help. To a certain extent this is understood regarding the youngsters of the avant garde. They are better at looking and acting disadvantaged—their pride is not hurt by looking like they just crawled out of the sewer. With us realists it is different. The first time we can afford a real shirt, the world assumes we have hit the big time and we are asked to donate half our output to the more obviously victimized.

That a few of the top names in realism are making good money is no counter-argument to this. These artists may be hit up individually, but realism as a whole is in no position, historically, to promote or underwrite its own victory. If we were, there would be no need for a national show or for this article. If realism were healthy and self-propelled, then ARC and every other encouragement would be irrelevant. The fact that groundbreaking national shows are even being talked about is proof that encouragement is necessary: what other viable art or action does not have a national presence, in the form of a major competition, a major publication or a major underwriter? ARC is a start in this direction, but it is clear that it pales in comparison to the money behind every other social or cultural or artistic activity you could name. The patronage supporting realist art is infinitesimal compared to the patronage for the avant garde. There is probably not one human activity that gets less public and private (non-market) money than we do. Charities to cure sleep apnea and to support gerbil ownership probably take in more money than realism. The total national, state and local government support for realism could be computed by porpoises.

It is absurd to think that realism can re-assert itself without serious institutional help. Laissez-faire economists can suggest that government money is money from hell, but as long as all our competitors are subsidized, we can hardly compete on even ground. Some will argue that the avant garde gets relatively little money from the NEA, but its sources of subsidy go far beyond the NEA. State university art and art history departments are funded by tax dollars, for instance, and there are a thousand other ways that the status quo is propped up by governments. This is true in every other field; why should it not be true in art? When the avant garde is strictly a creation of market forces, then I will be satisfied to stop demanding public encouragement for realism.

Of course most of our support in the US will have to come the private sector. In fact, a fund-raising body may be the first order of business. Some nice person is going to have to get the ball rolling with a Charitable Trust in our favor, just to hire a fund-raising staff and set up an office. This will build a bank account, which will fund a national show, which will pad the bank account, which will knock over the next domino. This is the answer to the problem. Some have wanted to attack the problem by selling ads or trying to entice investors in something. Others have wanted to develop an artist’s union, where artists pooled money for their own promotion. I am not saying that neither of these ideas is feasible, but I am saying that this is not what other art organizations are doing or have done. Art has never been totally self-reliant and it has never been determined strictly by the market. The avant garde has blossomed without a union and with a very limited market. Our first order of business, it seems to me, is to take back a piece of the patronage that now underwrites Modernism. If MoMA can raise a billion in a short period of time, then we can raise a fraction of that sum—without selling stock options, giving away cuts, selling ads, or paying for our own promotion. This is the way that art is funded in America, and those economists and philosophers who are warning us not to take government money should be full of ideas about how we can mobilize the interest of the private sector.

Everybody, and that includes the wealthy, are bored beyond belief. Why else would they line up to see orange flags in Central Park, or pay to be part of MoMA? If we give them a real show of real art, Manhattan will be clogged for weeks. They will have to shut down the city and mobilize the police just to deal with our lines. Most think that I jest, but if we had the promotion that The Gates had, we would do serious damage to the art world. Mark my word. The only thing that is stopping us is that we haven’t yet done it. It is that simple. Allez.

Now to the second part of this article, where I discuss the specifics of the ARC Salon. This year ARC benefited from the entrance of several big names in the field, including Daniel Greene, Albert Handell, and Frank Mason. Other well-known realists include Dan Gerhartz (winner of last year’s Best of Show), Morgan Weistling, and Scott Burdick. Paul Oxborough is also a familiar name, especially in New York where he is known from his paintings at Eleanor Ettinger. What will be most astonishing to those who follow realism is that the big three listed above did not dominate. Daniel Greene scored second place in the figure category, but I doubt he will be satisfied by that. The others finished out of the awards.

Oxborough won best of show, which I think may be a small surprise to most. Not that Oxborough is not talented. I have seen several paintings of his that I like, though he is undoubtedly better on a small scale. His brushwork is limpid and his paint quality is similar to Gerhartz’s, which may explain his popularity at ARC. But the winning painting is simply not a great one. It is mostly white sheets, painted in light blue and light yellow. Of the three figures, only the first required any real painting or drawing, and even she is mostly covered. The loose brushwork threatens to become flabby and parts of the picture plane come near to disintegration. At 44", the painting is unlikely to retain its strengths in a live viewing. A sketchiness that is appealing at 15" becomes lazy at 40". But all that is secondary and admittedly speculative (since I have admitted that such things are impossible to judge from a photo). What is clear is that the painting is odd for another reason, one I would have thought ARC would be on high alert for. The little girl has her finger to her mouth, sleepily and unconsciously mimicking Britney or J-Lo. She is also pajama-less. The two facts together conjoin to make a very ambiguous pose, and not in a good way. I have nothing against naked children, but even I found this pose a little too suggestive. I have a pretty high tolerance for nudity, sexuality, and eccentricity, as anyone can see from my work (and my writing). But I could find no way to see this pose as appealing. I am quite surprised that neither Oxborough nor any of the four judges noticed this.

The painting has another technical problem, that being that we are apparently supposed to accept that these three sleepers slept with an upright bottle in bed the whole night. There needs to be (and probably was) a table supporting the bottle and book, which means that we are looking at two twin beds, not a vast king-size bed. Oxborough has chosen to elide over this distinction for some compositional reason. There would either be a dark slash down the middle of the painting, from the bed’s sideboard, or the sheet on the far bed would have to hang down. This would necessitate vertical brushstrokes, which would not mesh well with the horizontal strokes in the near bed. So he has just given us one big bed. The problem is that no bed I have ever seen is that wide, and that no bottle will remain upright near a sleeper’s head. This causes the eye to ask questions it should not have to ask when reading a composition. We should be able to concentrate on the content, and we can’t fully do that.

[Added later: I fear I may seem to be a bit hard here on Paul, a painter whose work I repeat I generally like. I found myself wishing that he had entered Silver and Green, another midsize painting from the same period, and same Ettinger page. Perhaps he did, I don't know. If it had been chosen as best of show, I could have found no fault with that.]

If the judges wanted great brushwork and a fully realized treatment, they should have gone with Dan Gerhartz or Scott Burdick. I suspect that Gerhartz was passed over only because he won last year. He won first prize for still life this year, but his entries in the figure category are much stronger. I find them even stronger than his entries last year. La Boheme is the best flat-out brushwork in the competition. Judged on its own terms, it has no faults. It is clear that the judges wanted new winners in the figure category. The overlooking of Burdick I cannot explain. His brushwork is a bit squarer in this instance than Gerhartz, but I don’t see that as a fault here. If he had some flowers or parrots in the background I am pretty sure he would have won some money.

The Bouguereau Award, a kind of uber-first prize for figure, went to Iman Maleki, an Iranian artist. His work, Omens of Hafez, is a very competent painting, but it is inferior even to Maleki’s other entry, A Girl by the Window. This smaller painting has better color and a stronger mood. Fred Ross would seem to agree with me on this, since he bought the smaller one, not the larger one. Omens of Hafez appears to have won due to its theme, and its connection to recent world events. Hafez is an ancient poet and the girls are in Iran, not Iraq. But Americans will doubtless read into it their own guilt, as perhaps they should.

Speaking of purchase awards, another shock was administered to my spine—way beyond the Oxborough voltage—when I realized that Fred had paid $26,000 to purchase Max Ginsberg’s Two Worlds. Ardith Starostka’s Wrapped in Roses was purchased for $15,000, which seems a bit steep for a 28’’ painting. It is unexceptional in technique and cloying in subject matter, but its appeal is at least understandable—a pretty girl nicely painted. Conversely, Two Worlds is a boring photocopy of a boring photograph, and I can only imagine that its purchase must have been a nod to political correctness or to proving Fred’s broadmindedness. It will look damned strange in his collection. I am stunned, mystified, and yes, dazed.

[Fred has made more purchases since I initially published this review, and I feel I must add a short paragraph to contain them. We now know that Iman Maleki’s A Girl by the Window was purchased for $35,000. John Morra's still life Mertz No. 8 cost $27,500. And Timothy Tyler's Deconstructionist cost $31,000. These prices are really extraordinary. Fred has obviously decided to single-handedly create a market for realism, and of course I would like to see that happen. I hope that others follow his lead. However, I find his choices mystifying. None of these new ones are as strange as the Ginsberg purchase, but they still strike me as somewhat arbitrary. Morra's painting is unremarkable even for a contemporary still life: I see absolutely nothing to recommend it. Maleki's talents are undeniable, but they simply do not put him in the $30,000 range for a 31" canvas. And the same can be said about Tyler. His technique is beginning to blossom and he is showing ambition (of a sort) but this work is not a serious work of art. It is a silly set-up piece, gratuitous in content and composition. Its title is an attempted stab at the avant garde and its formalism and pretension, but the painting does not transcend formalism or pretension itself. It has no emotional content. Tyler has replaced one political statement with another, and you can see why I am personally distraught at his being rewarded for it. My repeated warnings in this regard have all fallen on deaf ears. The New Realists were clearly never concerned about art as politics, they were only concerned about art as politics they disagreed with. Art as politics they agree with is fine. Tyler's ability to appeal to Fred's political sense would appear to be his main talent exhibited with this painting. His predictive sense has proven to be faultless.

Last year Fred spent an enormous sum on Gerhartz's winning painting {very high five figures}, but I honestly think Dan can justify his price structure. He is one of the most talented and accomplished living artists, his market appeal is proven, and Hind's Feet was a really giant canvas. Gerhartz certainly gives better value than many of the older realists who are in the six-figure range. If Fred had purchased either of the Gerhartz figurative entries this year, I would not have blinked an eye. But it appears that Fred wants to establish some artists who are not already established. This makes sense, except that there are dozens of artists who merit establishment or price inflation before these four that he chose. Scott Burdick is one. If Phillippe Faraut is not already overpriced, he is another. Nancy Flether's drawings can probably bought for a song. Fred certainly has the right to his own taste, and to spend his hard-earned money as he sees fit, but I also have the right to be dismayed when work like Two Worlds is singled out for praise by a major new player in the market. The hierarchies in visual art were already chaotic, and they look to remain so.]

Daniel Greene won second prize in the figure category with Dutch Vase, one of his auction paintings. I have to say that this is not the entry of Greene’s I would have chosen for an award. I find it cluttered, overcolored, unharmonious, and otherwise annoying. I am not generally a fan of Greene for this reason. His colors often hurt my eyes. However, two of his entries in this competition are quite nice. I would have given the first prize in still life to his Folk Art, which is very appealing in both composition and color. Since still life as a category cannot really transcend a study in design, this is all one can ask for. Greene’s pastel Jessie*** is also quite appealing, subdued in color and interesting in mood. It is really strong, and unlike all the other entries in several key ways. I would have given it the Bouguereau Award as best figure “painting”. It may have been passed over due to its date, 1997. If so, it should have been disqualified, not relegated to finalist status. I personally don’t give about a damn about dates or rules, so let my decision stand.

First prize in figure I would have given to Scott Burdick for Maria with Braids. After Burdick let the two Gerhartzs finish out the figure category. I put Scott ahead of Dan since, although the two both have gorgeous brushwork, Scott is more restrained in emotion. The candles and sunsets border on the overwrought. I actually prefer Scott's empty-ish background, which allows the viewer to concentrate on the face and the emotion there.

The only painting more cluttered than Greene’s Dutch Vase is Hiroshi Furuyoshi’s Ryan, a strangely disturbing work. It has its strengths, without question. It is a lot of bragging in a little space. But as a work of art it is a mess. It is a mystery without any clue, a symbol of nothing.

I need a single Honorable Mention in the figurative category to give to Aron Wiesenfeld for Girl with Bike, a terribly bleak painting with a strong mood. This is the one painting in the contest that really goes against the grain, and it is a breath of fresh air for that alone. I think it is almost completely successful and I look forward to seeing more work from this artist. I have done a web search and he appears to be breaking into the field from comics. I welcome him to the madhouse.

I have a strange feeling (though I could be wrong) that Anthony Waichulis’ entry Caps and Robbers is not even a real painting. ARC may have awarded third place in the still life category to an actual photograph. Regardless, I don’t see it as a sign of great distinction when a person can’t tell the difference between a photograph of a painting and a photograph of reality. If I can’t tell the difference, Anthony might as well have just entered the photograph itself, even if the painting exists. At the resolution we have here, it is impossible to tell. It would be quite easy for someone to enter a photograph as a joke or a test. This is supposed to be an 8 x 10 inch painting, and the smallest lettering looks to me to have been printed, not painted. If I am wrong, Anthony should not clap his hands together and feel vindicated as a master forger; he should attempt to get his tiny mind around the fact that art and replication are not the same thing (as should the judges, who picked this painting over Daniel Greene’s Folk Art, which hits much higher levels of design and color harmony and every other possible artistic category).

Second prize in still life I would give to Daniel Greene for Board Games. This is another very fine work, making a genre I mostly ignore temporarily interesting. Here he has again limited his color selection in order to create harmony, and he has chosen a highly disciplined set of objects for his effect. I am not generally a fan of checkerboard patterns in paintings, but it works very well here. I cannot finish out the still life category or even begin the landscape category. Both are otherwise empty of interest for me. The drawing category is also very weak, but there is one stand out. First prize I would unreservedly give to Nancy Fletcher for Standing Female Nude. I would also give her my only purchase prize. I find this drawing truly lovely—subtle, emotional, great choice of model and pose and light. It is a very close second for Best of Show. The rest of the category I would leave empty. Several of the other drawings are competent, but none has any especial beauty.

This brings us to the strongest category of the Salon, the sculpture category. Here is where photographs most limit my ability to judge, but Phillippe Faraut’s Senegal looks to be an incredible work of art. Black marble sculpted with precision, beauty and emotion. The inlaid eyes are an unexpected touch, and though I generally dislike any sort of polychroming effect, this one seems to work. I give it Best of Show, edging out Nancy Fletcher’s drawing. It is the best photograph of an artwork in the competition.

Faraut’s Zimbabwe is also strong. If it were in black marble I might like it almost as much. As it is, I have to go with his La Nuit de Temps for first place in sculpture. I will give second to Christina Mikulasek for Grief, and let Zimbabwe finish out the category.

No doubt the judges at ARC will be highly offended that I would second-guess their choices, especially in print. But they must remember that the oft-lauded and copied Paris Salon was popular with the public and the artists mainly as an event where one could loudly second-guess the judges. The critics in print were also not shy about disagreeing with judging. This was the whole point of talking about the show. If you could not second-guess the judges, the thing would lose its luster. People should not be encouraged to agree, they should be encouraged to disagree. Disagreement sells copy, aids promotion, and is a whole lot of fun.

In closing, I can’t say that I agree that this Salon was a high point in the history of art. It is an improvement on the OPA shows and the Portrait Society gatherings, but it is not yet a fatal blow to the avant garde. Realism really needs the involvement of all its top guns, and any national or international exhibition will have to include more of the big names, the Wyeths and Bravos and Valls and Shanks and Assaels and Leffels and maybe even the Nerdrums (I say maybe because I seriously doubt that Nerdrum would join a realist show). We need Jeremy Lipking from California and Paul Rahilly from New York. We need Bo Bartlett. We need Yuqi Wang. We need Michael Austin and Harry Holland from England. We need Alex Stoddart from Scotland. We need them all in one big beautiful room, with loads of promotion. The artworld has promoted complete nullities into the 40 million dollar range; just think what could be done with equal promotion of real artifacts by real artists.

*Fred Ross sold the best work in his collection soon after I wrote this, maybe because I liked it. I hope this is the reason, since I would like to take some credit for separating a great work of art from such a man.

**Addendum, May 13, 2005: I no longer believe in any possible alliance with Fred Ross or ARC. Since Fred decided to continue publishing my articles without my byline, he and ARC have shown clearly that they are not on the side of artists' or creators' rights. Put simply, Fred Ross is not a principled man. He is dangerous to work with and I recommend that all artists and non-artists avoid him. For further information, see my article "ARC Breaks Copyright Law."

***Added November 2005: two new developments since this article was written. 1) The print version of the Salon Catalog lists the price of Daniel Greene's Jessie as $60,000, not $75,000. Curious. If I had spent that kind of money, I think I would remember the price. Which was it? $75,000? $60,000? Some other number? 2) The catalog lists Jessie with a subtitle, "homage to Alma Tadema." But this is Fred Ross' addition, not Daniel Greene's. Greene never offered this work to the world as an homage, he offered it as an original work. If you compare this work to Alma Tadema's, you see that it is very doubtful that Greene's is an original work. I would not even call it an homage. I would call it an altered copy. It is my opinion as a professional portrait painter that this work could have been done without a model, using only Tadema's work as a reference. There are too few variations from the original to conclude that we have a different girl here. The hands are exactly the same, which is a genetic impossibility. Likewise for the profile and the line of the torso as it meets the arm. An homage is putting your model in a similar position or in similar clothing, or something along those lines. You do not have to call an homage an homage: it is strictly up to the artist, since we all borrow from eachother to some extent. But if you don't even have your own model, then it is my opinion that you don't have an homage; you have a altered copy. There is nothing illegal or immoral about an altered copy. They are made and sold all the time. Direct and indirect copies are sold by the thousands. However, most competitions do not allow copies, altered or not, since these competitions expressly require original work. I don't have the ARC rulebook at hand, so I can't tell you what their stated rules were. It is up to them to make rules and police them, not me. I can tell you that my estimation of Greene took a hit when I saw Alma Tadema's work and did the comparison. If Greene wants to copy from Alma Tadema, that is just fine. We all continue to learn, no matter what age we are. We are always students of our art. I still occasionally do partial copies from old master drawings or paintings myself. But I would never consider entering them in competitions or selling them as originals. It seems to me that at best Greene can be accused of being contemptuous of the ARC Salon and its judges. Asking such a price for an altered copy is ballsy, to say the least.

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