By Kyle Chayka

The Little Artists, now known as Cake & Neave, turn iconic works of art into tiny lego sculptures, creating relics that fetishize the social cache of famous pieces and figures. In one series, the duo create artist portraits like this one of Jeff Koons, featured with his iconic Neo-Geo (basket)balls. This isn’t the Made in Heaven series, people!

The series also features Salvador Dali and Damien Hirst:

Cake & Neave also recreate gallery space in their work. Like a miniature version of the peacocking that goes on at any gallery opening, John Cake and Darren Neave depict their milling crowds grasping tiny wine glasses and circled into conversation, faced away from the art. Not one of the lego figurines seems particularly absorbed into their faux Warhol money painting or Donald Judd.

Lately, the artists have been photographing monochromatic lego sculptures in a way to further exaggerate their tiny monumentality. Check out this hilarious Anselm Kiefer winged book turned plaything:


Dan Flavin, untitled, 1987

BRUSSELS— Arguments about what does or doesn’t constitute art come and go all the time, but it’s rare that an aesthetic judgment actually acquires the force of law. But that’s exactly what happened when the European Commission ruled that installations by Dan Flavin and Bill Viola cannot be classified as “art” by the galleries importing them. Instead of being subject to the five percent VAT (value-added tax) on artworks, such pieces will be taxed at the standard VAT, which will rise to 20 percent in 2011.

The issue first arose when Haunch of Venison imported six disassembled video installations by Viola into the United Kingdom in 2006 and also sought to import a light sculpture by Flavin, the Art Newspaper reports. The British customs office refused to apply the five percent tax rate for artworks, instead taxing the gallery £36,000 ($66,000). Haunch of Venison appealed this decision before the British VAT and Duties Tribunal and prevailed in 2008. But the European Commission decision has now reversed this British ruling, and applies to all European Union members.

In its decision, the European Commission describes the Flavin work as having “the characteristics of lighting fittings… and is therefore to be classified… as wall lighting fittings.” In a discussion of Viola’s work that really split hairs, the commission stated that Viola’s video-sound installation cannot be considered sculpture “as it is not the installation that constitutes a ‘work of art’ but the result of the operations (the light effect) carried out by it.”

The commission’s insistence on seeing the Flavin and Viola installations purely as technical parts removed from any artistic context has raised eyebrows in artistic and judicial circles alike. Art lawyer Pierre Valentin, who represented Haunch of Venison in 2008 but is not involved in the current case, called the reasoning “absurd,” according to the Art Newspaper. “To suggest, for example, that a work by Dan Flavin is a work of art only when switched on, is comical,” he said. Valentin also referred to previous decisions by the U.K. and the Netherlands and said that this ruling conflicts with previous rulings of the European Court of Justice.

The ruling is not the first time a nation has embarrassed itself through an unsubtle appreciation of art at the customs office. Escorting a shipment of art to the United States in 1926, Marcel Duchamp was alerted by U.S. customs officials that Constantin Brancusi‘s “Bird in Space” — the seminal abstract tapered bronze sculpture — was not an artwork but rather fell under the classification of “Kitchen Utensils and Hospital Supplies” and was subject to that category’s higher tariff. The photographer and art dealer Edward Steichen, who owned the work, brought the case to court.

The famous legal drama — in which Steichen’s attorney fees were paid by Peggy Guggenheim — ended in November 1928 when a judge ruled that ” while some difficulty might be encountered in associating it [the sculpture] with a bird, it is nevertheless pleasing to look at and highly ornamental, and as we hold under the evidence that it is the original production of a professional sculptor and is in fact a piece of sculpture and a work of art according to the authorities above referred to, we sustain the protest and find that it is entitled to free entry.”

by Christopher Knight
Los Angeles Times

The Museum of Contemporary Art just got a very expensive lesson, both in money and prestige, on the difference between being an art museum and a commercial gallery. Simply put: At a museum, planning counts.

Last week MOCA raised eyebrows, immediately lighting up the blogosphere, when the the Italian street artist Blu painted an immense mural on the north wall of the Geffen Contemporary warehouse in Little Tokyo and, within hours, the museum had the mural — which it had also commissioned — whitewashed. As the facts emerged, so did the fatal error: MOCA had no clear idea what the artist would paint before he painted it.

Once MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, who was in Miami for an annual art fair, returned home and saw Blu’s handiwork, he said no. Deitch later explained that he made the decision to remove the mural very quickly, unprompted by complaints — presumably from outside or inside in the museum.


Opening Celebration
December 9th, 2010 6pm
As part of the San Francsico Art Commission’s Lights On Market Street

The Luggage Store will kick off its new Projection Series with a live performance and video by Hunter Longe and a sampler of some of the artists who will be featured in the series over the next 6 months.

Hunter Longe’s Quotidian Paroxysm is a video made by degenerating a series of pre-existing moving and still images into nearly abstract patterns of interference. Beautiful and unsettling, warping and disrupting the gridded framework of the pixel-based technology it employs, the piece is a reflection on the visual bombardment of our image-saturated society. A live video mix version will be created during the opening. The sampler showcases video/media works from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York; and internationally from Argentina, Ghana, Spain, and the Philippines including pieces by: Adriana Varella, Akosua Adoma Owusu, barbara belloc, Carolyn Castaño, crystal am nelson, Eliza Barrios, Gina Osterloh, Jorge Bachmann, Paz De la Calzada, TWCDC, and Megan Wilson.

The evening will begin at 6:00pm in front of the Luggage Store with a 40-minute live performance by Hunter Longe, followed by the sampler. The projections will be repeated throughout the evening. The Projection Series is a new program of the Luggage Store, co-curated by Darryl Smith and Eliza Barrios. The series includes: 1) Media works projected from the mezzanine level of the Luggage Store onto the window to be viewed from Market Street; new works will rotate bi-weekly; and 2) Mobile projections that will occur randomly at site-specific locations.

Hunter Longe, Quotidian Paroxysm, video, 2010

Images from Megan Wilson’s Home Journal, 2010

This should be really fun! The Parol Festival is also part of the Lights On Market Street and will be Saturday, December 11, 5-8pm – this is my favorite holiday event!!

Images from the Parol Festival in San Francisco 2008.