Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Street Art New York: A Documentary - Fall 2016 Edition

(Drivebycuriosity) - The temperatures are falling in New York City. But street artists don`t slow down. Since my latest street art report (Summer 2016 driveby ) I spotted a lot new murals, stickers & graffiti @ Lower East Side, East Village, Soho and other Manhattan neighborhoods. Some of these art works even have museum quality. As usual I document the newest street art in this area.

The somewhat militaristic kid on top of this post is at home on 11th Street/1rst Avenue. Above this paragraph follow two recent murals which you can see on the wall of rag & bone at the corner of Elizabeth & Houston. This fashion shop impresses with frequently changing art work of high quality.

There are more places where you can spot interesting murals, like this art work on Crosby Street, which can be seen from East Houston Street.

Orchard Street between Delancey & Broome Street is another place for spotting murals, commisioned by another fashion shop.

The infamous dive Epstein`s on Allen & Stanton Street is gone. But there appear still new murals.

Above more murals found somewhere on the Lower East Side & Chinatown.


                                                              Obey The Kitten

Chairman Meow resides on Orchard Street, the gallery mile of the Lower East Side. And there were funny stickers & stencils as you can see below.

To be continued!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Books: Measuring The World By Daniel Kehlmann

(Drivebycuriosity) - At the turn of the 18th century lived two remarkable German scientists: The mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss & the explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The novel "Measuring The World" by Daniel Kehlmann features the life of both men (amazon).

The book is fiction inspired by the historical reality. Every biography & and every history book is speculative, nobody knows exactly what the described persons really have thought & felt and how exactly the reported events have happened. And the authors are bound to use sources which might be highly subjective and are often biased. But Kehlmann`s assumptions are plausible and convincing, the protagonists may indeed have thought as the author describes.

The protagonists didn´ t have much in common. Humboldt liked to travel and took many risks, including dangerous rides on tropical rivers, walks through dense jungles and climbs on mountains to altitudes nobody went before. He "examined everything that lacked the feet and the fear to run away from him" (except women, whom he ignored). The geeky Gauss liked the opposite sex, but disliked traveling and avoided risks.

I was entertained & amused how Kehlmann portrayed Humboldt´s adventurous journeys to South America & across Russia and the more mundane episodes in the life of Gauss, even though the novel has some bizarre & fantastic anecdotes which couldn´t have happened  - maybe a trick to remind the reader of the fictional character of the book. And I learned a lot about how both men contributed to the ascent of science and the evolution of thinking.

Kehlmann shares the analytical thinking and scientific curiosity with his protagonists and he shows a lot humor. "Measuring .." is a  successful mixture of entertainment and historical lecture and owns the elegance & literary ambitions that distinguish strong biographies.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Netflix: Binge Watching The Crown

(Drivebycuriosity) - I have been binge watching "The Crown" (imdb). Season 1 of the Netflix original series shows the first years of the British Queen, when her majesty was still peachy. I enjoyed the 10 one-hour episodes very much.

The series turned out more interesting than thought thanks to the superb actors. The British actress Claire Foy incarnates a witty young lady, a fitting fresh regent for the former Empire. I also enjoyed the characterizing of the young Prince Phillip:  Matt Smith plays a likeable somewhat snobbish man who has to deal with his new role as a drone. But they get over-trumped by John Lithgow as Winston Churchill who has to deal with age (approaching his 80s) and the ungratefulness of his people (a fate which Margaret Thatcher shared much later).  It´ s a lot fun to witness the late prime minister`s pungent humor and his sharp comments.

Screen writer Peter Morgan and the episode directors dramatized the historical plot nicely by showing some intrigues & a bit of adventures (wikipedia). The cinematographers Adriano Goldman & Ole Bratt Birkeland and the sound track intensify the pleasure of watching the show.

Well done Netflix!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Contemporary Art: Insights From New York`s Fall Auctions 2016

(Drivebycuriosity) - Last week´ s auctions in New York showed the status quo of the art market (artnews ). The auctions for post war & contemporary art @ Sotheby`s, Christie`s & Phillips (my reports phillips christie`s sotheby`s ames ) brought together $816,8 million, about 20% less than in Fall 2015 ($933.6 million  artnews ).

The numbers are not really comparable. They depend partly on the demand from collectors & speculators, who are betting on higher prices, but they are also influenced by the quantity & quality of the art works the auction houses got in their hands. Observers talked about a healthy market and referred to the fact that a high percentage of the offered works found buyers (nytimes).

                                                    King Of Contemporary Art

The auctions showed that the German artist Gerhard Richter is still the king of contemporary art. There were 18 "Richters" on sale (artnews)! "A 7-foot-tall Gerhard Richter canvas, “A B, Still” from 1986, intricately layered with crimson, yellow and blue, fetched $34 million against a presale estimate of $20 million to $30 million" @ Sotheby` s, reports Bloomberg  (bloomberg). Above this paragraph you  can see my favorite "Richter", his "Düsenjäger", which sold for $25.6 million @ Phillips.

The auctions had some positive surprises like Andy Warhol`s Lenin which "fetched $8.1 million, above the $6 million high estimate" (bloomberg).  But this result got outgunned by Amy Sillman` s "P". The abstract was estimated for just $70,000 — $100,000, but sold for $504,500. Wow.

There were some rising stars including Adrian Ghenie (born 1977  nytimes). I really love the artist`s humor, his surprising ideas & powerful compositions:  Flight into Egypt", Estimate $800,000 - $ 1,200,000  realized $1,387,500 followed by  "The Bridge" Estimate $ 1,500,000 - $ 2,500,000 realized $3,943,500  & "Pie Fight Study" Estimate $ 500,000 - $ 700,000. Congrats!

                                                               Nice 'n Easy

The auctions also brought a new record for John Currin (artnet). The New York based artist is famous for his satirical and funny portraits. Above "Nice 'n Easy" which realized $ 12 million.

Below I show some of my favorites from the auctions, as usual a very subjective selection:
"Nurse Elsa" by Richard Prince followed by Peter Doig`s, "Olin MK IV Part 2"; Francis Bacon`s "Portrait of a Man Walking"; "White Shadow" by Makoto Saito; Clyfford Still`s "Untitled" & Kazuo Shiraga´s "T40".

The auction houses looked like huge museums and together they over-trumped any major museum exhibition of contemporary art I know including New York´s MoMa, Los Angeles`"Broad" and Chicago`s Art Institute. And admission was free, taking pictures allowed - price less.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movies: Arrival

(Drivebycuriosity) - How would humanity respond if aliens suddenly appear on earth? The science fiction movie "Arrival" has a plausible answer (imdb).  The film is based on a short story by Ted Chiang. I am a fan of the Chinese-American writer because he translates science into interesting stories. He`s a master of hard Science Fiction in the tradition of Heinlein, Clark & Asimov. In his story "The Story of Your Life" a scientist, a female linguist, is communicating with aliens in order to find out what they want from us.  The story, which has just 62 pages (paperback version amazon), doesn´t have much action. Instead to author focuses on the science of language & communication. I was curious how Hollywood would translate a relatively abstract & intellectual story into a big movie.

It worked out well. Director Denis Villeneuve  - and screen writer Eric Heisserer -  had to stretch the plot and to add narrative elements of course, but they stayed close to the original (this is a spoiler free blog, you can find a synopsis here  wikipedia). Both, story & movie have an important fictional & speculative implication (which I don´t tell). But neither Chiang nor the movie makers went too far into fairy tale land.

The aliens were plausible visualized. I believe that an encounter like this that could really happen sometimes in the future. The communication - which is the pivotal part of the plot - was done by writing, because the very different anatomies made acoustical understanding impossible. The movie makers invested a lot of money, energy & talent into the visualization of this communication (businessinsider). They consulted university scientists and employed artists & software developers to construct beautiful & elegant symbols which carried the alien`s messages  (no images here to avoid spoilers). So they created some highly intense & fascinating scenes comparable to the highlights of Kubrick`s "2001: A Space Odyssey".

I enjoyed watching Amy Adams as linguist because the actress combines beauty with an intellectual aura. I also liked the economical use of special effects & action scenes.  The decent sound fit perfectly throughout.

"Arrival" is one of the best movies of the year and the proof that Hollywood can turn ambitious hard science fiction into films for the mass market.

Economy: Infrastructure - What America Could Learn From Europe

(Drivebycuriosity) - There is a lot talk about Trump`s plan to invest massive into America` s infrastructure. I think these investments are long overdue, because the American infrastructure could belong to a Third World country: Bridges, streets, sewers electrical grids and many other system are often very old and rotten.The question is how to finance these massive investments. Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen complains that the US government would have to spend tons of money which could expand the US public deficit.

I think Yellen` s concerns could be avoided if the US government follows the European role model. The "old continent" has been privatizing a lot of state owned enterprises:

Airports: The airports of Frankfurt (Fraport) & Vienna (Wien) are traded on stock markets,  London` Heathrow belongs to a private consortium.

Harbors:  You also get can get stocks of the harbor of Hamburg (Hamburger Hafen AG) which is traded on Frankfurt Stock Exchange and other German stock exchanges.

Streets: According to wikipedia "of the 11,000 kilometers of France's highways, 8,000 km are under private concession. 3,120 kilometers of Italy's highways (comprising 56% of the country's toll roads) are controlled by Autostrade Concessioni e Costruzioni Autostrade " (wikipedia)

Railways: Great Britain privatized her railways (independent) and her water system (supply & disposal).

The bankrupt Greece even is going further and is revitalizing herself by privatizing hotels, spas, camping areas, ministry buildings, national roads, forty airports, military installations, natural gas , the defense industry, the water supply  and thousands of hectares of land, wetlands, railways.

The proceeds could be used to invest into the infrastructure (streets, railways) which is in a lamentable condition and to expand & to modernize it. Private airports, harbors, railways and other institutions are less bureaucratic and more efficient, flexible, customer friendly & cost effective then public controlled. So privatization and a better infrastructure could lift the American productivity and foster growth. This also would create more jobs & revenues in the infrastructure industry like Caterpillar (construction machines) or Fluor (engineering ) and could so soothe complaints about "a shrinking industrial base".

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Stock Market: This Rally Was Long Overdue

(Drivebycuriosity) - Finally, the US stock markets climbed on new all-time highs. The media suggest that the rally was triggered by Trump`s victory. Maybe so. But I believe that the rally was caused by the economic fundamentals and was long overdue.

Stock prices have been subdued since late 2014. They have been held back by falling oil prices, speculation on an alleged China crash, Europe`s worries and doubts about the US economy. But the pessimistic sentiment, which had suppressed stock prices, wasn` t justified. The recent news from the economic front show that the global economy is doing better than the pessimists are claiming: China is doing well (retail sales are growing 10% & industrial production advances 6% themoneyillusion) and the US economy is getting stronger again.

The American consumers, the engine of the economy, are doing fine. In the US the weekly US jobless claims, which signal the health of the job market, dropped to a 42 years low (bloomberg ), retail sales gained speed and wage growth is accelerating (calculatedrisk). Stocks also are getting some tailwinds from the earning season because the majority of the US companies beat the analyst´s earnings expectations easily.

The rally should continue for a while fueled by climbing consumer spending and hopes on tax cuts, reduced regulations & massive investments into infrastructure. The global economy is still getting a lot of tailwinds from cheaper commodities and relatively low interest rates (even if the Fed will hike her interest rates soon). The sharply reduced prices for oil, industrial metals and some agricultural goods work like a gigantic tax cut. Companies have lower costs, meaning more money to invest (including into a rising labor force), and consumers have more money in their wallets. More jobs, faster rising wages and cheaper gasoline & heating should speed up consumer spending in the US  which will foster the global economy. I also believe that the technological progress is stimulating the economy and promoting globalization. Emerging countries like China and India have easier access to new technologies which is encourafring their transformation into modern economies. These processes are working together, creating global economic growth in the decades to come.

The positive macro trends (low inflation, interest rates, better consumer spending) and the continuously rising efficiency (thanks to technological progress like Internet, other software, robotics, 3D-printing and more) will translate into higher company profits - the engine of further stock market gains.

 I am aware that Trump could spoil the rally if he acts irrational and will start a trade war with China. But there is the chance that his advisers will moderate him. Anyway the negative effects of trade barriers need time to work through the economy and won´t be felt in the coming months.