Is Throwing Cans of Soup the Solution to Climate Change?
by Kaelin Ferland '23 on November 3, 2022
The United Nations released a report just last week about how we are in dire need of climate action, explaining that “the world is still falling short of the Paris climate goals, with no credible pathway to 1.5 degrees C in place.” With these goals out of reach and no concrete plans to prevent our planet from warming an additional 1.5 degrees C, the UN warns that it seems as though immediate changes will be necessary to prevent climate catastrophe.
World leaders are not doing enough. The report adds that the COP26 Summit held last year did practically nothing to help mitigate climate change at the level that we need to. The UN explains that we will need to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent in the next eight years. This number is unheard of, proving how desperately we need climate action and have waited too long. With a World Meteorological Organization report published the day before the UN’s statement that 2021 was a record-breaking year for greenhouse gas emissions, it seems as though climate change poses its greatest threat yet.
Even as individuals protest and scientists make constant warnings, politicians don’t listen. Recently, activists representing the Just Stop Oil organization have escalated their protests, for example, by throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and mashed potatoes at Les Meules by Monet. One activist even glued his head to Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. None of the paintings were ruined in the process.
For many, these acts don’t make sense, and they are unsure of how these paintings connect to climate change and environmental issues. Others are worried about how these protests could cause environmentalists to be viewed in a negative light. However, some did support the Just Stop Oil protestors, pointing out how it’s frustrating that people are more angered about these actions than the lack of political action in the environmental sector.
It is confusing why the activists are targeting these paintings, specifically, given they have no relation to climate change; however, this isn’t the point of these demonstrations. The activists are trying to make a statement about how these paintings will be worthless if we continue to do nothing. In our society, it can feel like our traditional forms of protesting are not enough. Every September, Fridays for Future organizes a global climate strike involving hundreds of locations around the world and hundreds of thousands of protestors. In Germany alone, there were protests in 270 cities and approximately 280,000 people took to the streets. However, every year it seems as though these protests are overlooked and ignored by world leaders who continue to not take political action.
These protests haven’t caused nearly as much conversation about climate change as these activists have. While the Just Stop Oil demonstrations are over the top and seem to go too far, they have been effective in starting a massive conversation about climate change. However, as with most protests, this attention will be short-lived, and society will move on and forget. These efforts will ultimately be overlooked and climate action will be delayed, despite the scientists’ warnings and our demands for change.
The Amazing Spider-Artist
by John Downey '23 on February 18, 2022
The Amazing Spider-Artist
Tomás Saraceno Combines Passions for Art, Spiders, and More in New Exhibit
Claudia Fennell ’24
Tomás Saranceno is trailblazing through the art world with his unique, futuristic art. Inspired by his passion for a need for environmental reform, his work reflects the dilapidated environment that his Berlin studio is located in. Saranceno is now gaining popularity for his public art installations, such as his transparent bubbles and enormous spider-web-like sculpture creations.
Born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina in 1973, the 48-year-old artist studied architecture at Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires in the late ’90s. After finishing his undergraduate education, he went to Europe to complete his postgraduate studies at the German art school Städelschule. Once Saranceno finished his schooling, he began to undertake his goal of creating culturally relevant art.
In 2012, he bought a studio in Berlin. It was a crumbling brick building sitting on land that had been used for industrial purposes for over a hundred years, causing the property itself and the land surrounding it to become toxic. As the New York Times reports, Saranceno remembers being warned when buying his studio, “Please don’t plant apple trees near the street…people will eat an apple and be poisoned.” Surrounded by this toxic wasteland, Saranceno became inspired to create artwork that reflected his environment.
Notably, aside from creating such art, Saranceno has produced scholarly research about his two main areas of interest: spiders and solar-powered balloons. His research, combined with his interest in art, has allowed him to combine art, architecture, physics and other aspects of the natural world, and engineering to create his masterpieces.
Saranceno’s largest U.S. exhibition to date will be on display at The Shed, a New York City museum located at The Bloomberg Building on 30th Street. According to their website, “The Shed is a new cultural institution of and for the 21st century…[it] was designed to break with the traditions that separate art forms and audiences.” The museum describes Saranceno’s work as a large-scale exhibition that offers viewers a sensory experience.
Saranceno’s art installation is centered around the concept of spiderwebs and allows the viewers to partake in the experience of being one with a spiderweb. It is titled “Free the Air” and is composed of two spider-web-like creations made out of metal. The piece is suspended in a balloon,a nod to Saranceno’s other major passion aside from spiders and art.
The installation is also massive in size: its balloon has a diameter of 95 feet and fills the entirety of The Shed’s 17,000-square-foot courtyard. One of the webs lies 40 feet from the ground, and the other web lies 12 feet off the ground. The total diameter of these pieces is 48 feet.
45 people at a time are allowed to be admitted to experience the piece, and each person is allotted an eight-minute time slot to remain within it and observe it. The installation allows viewers to lie on its nets as its lights dim, which, as Saranceno explains, is intended to show viewers what the world would look like from the perspective of a spider, a creature with lackluster vision.
Needless to say, this installation offers viewers a unique experience, unlike anything they could find at other museums. Saranceno’s work will be on display at The Shed from Feb. 11 to April 17.
Van Gogh Watercolor to be Sold at Auction
by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021
Van Gogh Watercolor to be Sold at Auction
A Look at Wheatstacks‘ Complicated History
Claudia Fennell ’24
In 1888, famous artist Vincent van Gogh traveled to the French countryside while he was in poor health. While there, he became infatuated with the farming lands around him, which inspired him to create several watercolor paintings depicting “Meules de Blé,” or “Wheatstacks.” Some of these paintings simply show the harvested wheat itself, while others, including one particular watercolor titled Wheatstacks, include women working in the fields as well.
During this time in his art career, Van Gogh was influenced heavily by Japanese art and Wheatstacks, with graphic-like brushstrokes, is an example of how Japanese artwork inspired him. Japanese art influenced so many Western European artists that the French eventually coined the term “Japonisme” to refer to the influence Japanese art had over European artists in the late 19th century.
Wheatstacks has changed hands several times since Van Gogh created it in 1888. The painter first gave the piece to his brother, Theo, who sold it to a Jewish man named Max Meirowsky in 1913. Meirowsky held onto the piece for some time, before the chaos of World War Ⅱ forced him to flee and he gave the piece to an art dealership. Soon thereafter, it was bought by Frenchman Miriam Caroline Alexandrine de Rothschild, who also fled his home when the war broke out. When the Nazis invaded France, they looted de Rothschild’s property. The Nazis stole her art collection, including Van Gogh’s watercolor, and in 1941 they placed it in a museum titled Jeu de Paume, where they stored many of their stolen goods.
After the war, de Rothschild tried to reclaim Wheatstacks but struggled to do so. The piece eventually ended up at a gallery in New York City where it was purchased by Texas oil businessman, Edward Lochride Cox. Following Cox’s death, disputes broke out between Meirowsky, de Rothschild, and Cox’s family over who had rightful ownership over the piece. Eventually, the parties came to a settlement agreement: the profits from the piece would be divided among the three of them.
Wheatstacks has not been seen by the public since 1905 when it was on display with some of Van Gogh’s other works at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Now, the piece is being sold by the auction house Christie’s, who estimate that it could be auctioned for anywhere between $20 and 30 million. Wheatstacks is expected to break a record for the highest selling price for a paper Van Gogh work. The previous record was from his piece “La Moisson en Provence,” which sold for $14.7 million in 1997.
Nazi-looted artwork has been at the center of news headlines for the past few years, as other famous, stolen pieces from artists such as Camille Pissarro and Gari Melchers have been sold at auction for millions. It is important that these valuable works continue to be tracked down and returned to their rightful owners as well as that these rightful owners receive any proceeds from them.
by The Cowl Editor on October 21, 2021
by Kate Ward ’23
The painting had been sitting across from the Greek statue for the past 50 or so years, and she had never grown tired of looking at him. His body was strong but not in the ways women liked now; he was strong like a field hand or someone with a particular knack for swimming. His hair was wavy and, despite being frozen in time, she could’ve sworn it moved from time to time. It was as if he had been chained or was frozen in place and plaster was poured over him and occasionally his movements would break the plaster form. People were drawn to him like moths to a flame, maybe because he’s one of the only statues in a room full of paintings, or maybe because the whole museum was full of paintings and only a handful of statues.
She liked watching how the people “ooh”-ed and “ahh”-ed, and mothers smacking away children’s hands if they got too close to touching his smooth flesh. She was sure he wouldn’t mind if they touched him; he had a kind face, so she was sure he would be okay with a child. The family came to her painting next, the little kid pointing out the lamb that lay beside her, his head in her lap. The kid looked up at his mother and asked if she thought the lamb had a name, the mother shook her head and continued reading the panel of information next to the frame. The lamb did have a name, Kritios, in reference to the Greek sculpture “Kritios Boy.” She named him that when she discovered that the statue was Greek.
She had never heard of Greece or where it was, and she couldn’t pick up much information from the people passing by the frame and the thick coats of paint that smothered her made it difficult to hear. A lot of the time she would only understand if someone was pointing and looking to another for guidance like the child and his mother. She wondered what she could learn if the museum ever took her off the wall and transported her to that far away place. Or maybe she was there and didn’t even know.
The seasons came and went and visitors began to dwindle. She noticed the lights stayed off more than they were on, and the paintings across from her were taken down and packed into wooden crates. She looked down at Boy then back at the statue. She could’ve sworn his expression was more glum than it was normally. She hoped that wherever he was going she could come along and get to gaze at him a little while longer. The day arrived when her frame was lifted from its mounting and her vision was obscured with cloth and layer upon layer of clouded plastic…bubble wrap, she thought she heard someone say. With one last gaze, she saw that her statue was still rooted in place. Clearly there was no intention to move him. She was set inside a nest of shavings and other squiggly objects. Something slid over her, large and heavy, and then she was moving, and she knew she would never see her statue again.
Nothing Good Starts on a Getaway Scooter
by The Cowl Editor on October 7, 2021
Nothing Good Starts on a Getaway Scooter
59 Year-Old Man Convicted in Theft of Van Gogh and Hals Paintings
Claudia Fennell ’24
On Friday, Sept. 24, a three-judge panel met in the Netherlands and came to a verdict that sentenced an unnamed 59-year-old man—identified as Nils M.—to eight years in prison and ordered him to pay a hefty fine. Indeed, the court condemned his wrongdoing as a serious crime, determined to make him pay the price for his actions by sentencing him to the maximum possible imprisonment for his actions.
What was this man convicted of?
The Dutch car repairman is charged with stealing expensive and historic paintings. He left behind two pieces of DNA evidence, one at each of the two crime scenes. These traces have led prosecutors to apprehend him for the thefts of a Vincent van Gogh painting and a Frans Hals painting.
In March 2020, the van Gogh painting titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” painted in 1884, was stolen from the Singer museum in the Netherlands. This painting is valued at $2.9 million. The thief used a sledgehammer to break the two doors, giving him access to the museum. He also used explosives to open another door. However, he failed to think of everything—part of a broken frame left behind at the museum contained his DNA.
In August 2020, the painting titled “Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer,” painted in 1626 by Frans Hans, was stolen from the Netherlands’ Museum Het Hofje van Aerden. This painting is valued at $17.6 million. In this robbery, the thief broke the museum’s back doors and left DNA evidence on a tension strap that he used to lower either the painting or himself. As a car repairman, he had access to these straps, and they were found present in the garage that he worked in. He claims, however, that he did not know how they ended up at the crime scene.
In addition to the matching DNA at both scenes, the robberies that occurred in May and August were similar in that the museums were broken into at about the same time, with force used to enter, and the criminal drove away with a partner on a scooter to escape after stealing both pieces of artwork.
The DNA and behavioral evidence at the crime scenes led detectives to the Dutch car repairman, whose DNA was already in their database because of a previous arrest for the theft of 17th-century antiques for which he spent five years in prison.
The Netherlands courts, as well as the public, expressed that these paintings have cultural and historical significance for them. When speaking to the Independent, the court said, “That is why, and given the criminal record of the suspect who is, according to the court, an incorrigible and calculating criminal, the court considers the maximum sentence to be appropriate.” The Netherlands courts want to set an example by giving this man the maximum sentence possible for his thievery to discourage others from attempting the same crimes.
While the police have not been able to recover the stolen paintings, they did find over 10,000 ecstasy pills at the criminal’s house, which could validate their theory that his art thefts were tied to the drug world. When speaking to the New York Times, Arthur Brand, a private art detective, said that he “believes there is demand in the Dutch underworld for artworks. People accused of drug crimes could think that a stolen artwork could potentially be surrendered to the authorities in exchange for a lesser sentence.” Apparently, the demand for stolen art has risen, and the Dutch car repairman decided to supply it. Although he still claims his innocence in the crimes, he will now spend eight years in prison for that decision.