Photo Of The Day: Fantastic Voyage

Today’s Photo of the Day is a lovely Renaissance fresco from Rome‘s Villa Farnesina, taken by Flickr user AlexSven. It’s not the most famous artwork from the museum, that of Raphael’s “Triumph of Galatea,” but it depicts another voyage of the gods. It’s what we all hope our travel will be: swift, elegant and a bit magical. The mode of travel, chariot pulled by a pair of oxen, is as old-fashioned as it gets, and a group of hidden angels assure safe passage for the rider. May your next trip be as smooth.

Upload your magical voyages to Gadling’s Flickr pool for another Photo of the Day.

Gallery: More travel sketches from BBC’s Tim Baynes

We wrote yesterday about Tim Baynes’ delightful travel sketches from around the world on BBC and liked them so much we came back for more. You can (and should!) get lost for hours looking at his drawings on Flickr with fun anecdotes and scribbles bringing depth and humor to his slice-of-life artwork.

Check out some of our favorites in the gallery below, from a look inside the BBC Starbucks to the madness of Dubai immigration during the ash cloud to a quiet barbershop in Tripoli.


See more of Tim Baynes’ work on the BBC, his personal Flickr stream, or order a copy of his book Doors to Automatic and Cross Check, direct from the artist.

All photos courtesy of Tim Baynes.

Giant yellow teddy bear bound for New York City

Visitors to New York City this spring should be on the lookout for a new landmark: a giant yellow teddy bear, bronzed and 23 feet high. The 35,000 pound untitled (Lamp/Bear) sculpture was created by New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer, one of three made in 2005/2006. The button-eyed bear sits against a lamp, which turns on above the bear’s head to keep him lit at night.

The behemoth bear will be outside the Seagram Building at Park Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan from next week for five months. Christie’s will auction the bear in May and the private collector who owns the artwork has already turned down a $9 million offer. There is a possibility the sculpture could be bought by a private institution or museum, but don’t rule out New York as a buyer if the bear proves to be a tourism draw.

Hat tip to Brooklyn Nomad on the story.

Photo courtesy of NYC Loves NYC on Flickr.

Pulse Art Fair in New York: Flatline

Armory week is always an exciting time for New York City’s art community. In addition to the main show that occurs on the city’s west side, there are seemingly countless smaller shows that have popped up all over Manhattan and in Brooklyn. If you’re looking for options … you’ve got ’em. Of course, serious collectors are drawn to the Armory, where you’ll find five- and six-figure pieces from established investment-grade artists who are represented by major galleries – household names for this world. If you’re looking for the next big name, however, the sort of artist whose work has yet to really soar, you need to check out the satellite shows.

Traditionally, Pulse has been among the must-see art fairs in Armory week, and for good reason. This time around, unfortunately, it didn’t measure up. Quite simply, Pulse lacked what its name asserts.

I walked into the pavilion on W 26th Street expecting to see edgy, interesting and engaging artwork, the sort of pieces that stop you, make you think and leave you with a broader perspective. I left the show a tad disappointed.

The greatest problem with Pulse was that few artists seemed to be taking any risks. Much of the fare was conventional, and it felt as though the artists (or, rather, the show’s decision-makers) were trying to play it safe. The exhibition appeared to be catering to a different audience, one that wasn’t willing to put its assumptions on the line. To those inviting a challenge, Pulse fell short.

Much of the work was devoid of expression. Artists either tried too hard to find the abstract – such as a video piece of feet and ankles walking through heavy mud – or they relied too much on shocking color. I haven’t seen so much pink and other bright colors since similarly hued ski jackets were in vogue in the early 1990s. And, the display of an empty wine bottle with “MUTE” printed on the label simply defines uninspired.

There were a few bright spots, though, particularly the exquisite layered video created by David Ellis. Nestled in the “Impulse” section of the fair, upstairs, the previous Pulse standout offered a time-lapse video that encompassed the creation of several pieces, all intricately and seamlessly linked together to create an ongoing narrative nearly 20 minutes long. Called “The Animals,” it provided an array of morphing geographic designs that occasionally stopped to show a (what I took to be) a walrus before continuing on to show further creations. The action didn’t stop, and the work reflected the vision necessary to be a true thought leader as an emerging artist.
Aside from Ellis, Pulse was on life support this year, and my fingers are crossed for something more engaging in 2012. If we learned anything from the art market bust of 2008 and 2009, it’s that we need fresh, original and interesting talent to engage collectors and the public.

Otherwise, art investment dollars will be funneled into the known quantities (a la Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol), driving up the price and creating a new bubble. We also learned that betting on the vapid creations of emerging artists who have “made it” – such as Damien Hirst – isn’t enough. The purpose of Pulse is to give the next wave of artistic geniuses a platform.

Now, we just need the next wave of artistic geniuses …

Lladro – a visit to the City of Porcelain

Lladró (pronounced “YAH-drow”) is a design house which has been creating coveted works of high porcelain since 1953. The company was founded by three brothers whose combined passion for porcelain has led to the genesis of a ceramic sculpture empire. You may recognize the name Lladro from a friend’s collection, from their stores in major cities across the world, or from browsing your parents’ or grandma’s mantle. That’s not to say “porcelain is for old people,” it’s just that it’s expensive, and perhaps an acquired taste.

A taste I had not acquired.

I was planning a trip to Valencia, Spain and I learned that it was home to Lladro’s infamous “City of Porcelain,” where all their works are designed and created. I decided to go check it out. Why not? Perhaps I could gain an appreciation for something new. The truth is, I didn’t get porcelain figurines. There. I said it. I thought of them as being unnecessarily feminine and dated.

Then I went to the City of Porcelain.

It’s not so much a city as it is a complex, which has, among other things, an impressive pyramid-like structure where the designers work, a swimming pool, and a serene and humble workshop where the artisans make their magic. If you go for a visit like I did, you can actually tour the workshop — but no photos are allowed, as they must protect their trade secrets. I can’t provide you with pictures, but here’s what I learned about the creation of Lladro porcelain:

A sculpture is first created in clay, then a plaster mold for each piece of it is made. The molds are filled with liquid porcelain, then set aside to harden. Molds are used a maximum of 25 times to ensure that each sculpture is perfect. Using liquid porcelain as adhesive, the pieces from the molds are assembled with artful precision into their designed forms. In the case of complex forms like flowers, they must be assembled petal by petal (or tiny piece by tiny piece).

Next, they are painted. The pigments used to paint the sculptures are transparent, and develop later in the kiln, so the artists tint them (so they can see where they’ve painted). This means you’ll see oddly painted figurines in hot pinks and watery purples; that color is only there to help the painter color inside the lines and isn’t necessarily indicative of the final color at all. After painting the larger portions of the sculptures, facial features are painted, using a mixture of pigment and porcelain, giving extra definition and depth to the eyes, eyebrows and mouth. As I watched the simple act of a woman painting a perfect eyebrow, I began to have a new respect for porcelain.

After the women assemble and paint the figurines (only women have ever done this role at Lladro), they are fired in the kiln at about 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, and they shrink about 15%. The pieces are left to cool for 12 hours. And that’s how porcelain is made.

It’s a fascinating process to watch. So much could go wrong, and every single person who handles the items has to be a truly superior craftsperson or they would wreck someone else’s work. After seeing how the porcelain sculptures are made, it was a treat to walk around the showroom and see all the incredible pieces, some of which are so complex, it takes weeks for a whole team of artists to make them.

Lladro is continuing to step up their game by allowing hot young designers to collaborate with them on pieces for special collections. Check out the gallery above for some of the amazing works of art Lladro has created with the other designers, as well as some stunners from their own collections. You might be surprised at how modern and wonderful they are!

Read more about Valencia here!

[Photos by Annie Scott.]

This trip was sponsored by Cool Capitals and Tourismo Valencia, but the ideas and opinions expressed in this article are 100 percent my own.