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The Phillips Collection wants to share its vast collection of scholarship, photographs and interviews with preeminent African-American artist Jacob Lawrence by creating a special website devoted to his life and work. But it needs the public to chip in to pay for it.

Phillips’ officials have raised $80,000 of the $125,000 required for what they are calling a “robust microsite” featuring images of all 60 panels of Lawrence’s masterwork, “The Migration Series,” as well as unpublished interviews conducted by Phillips curators in 1992 and 2000, just before his death.

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In his first television interview, the elderly artist whose look-alike paintings in the styles of Abstract Expressionists including Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock fooled experts and sent shock waves through the art world claims he was ”shocked” to learn that his works were sold as newly discovered masterpieces to wealthy collectors for tens of millions of dollars.

“When I made these paintings, I had no idea they would represent them as the real thing to sell,” said Pei Shen Qian in an interview to be broadcast Tuesday on “World News With Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline” as part of an ABC News investigation of the fake art industry and the Long Island fraud ring that flooded the market with over $80 million in forged work.

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Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced that it will host the exhibition Last Seen by the French artist Sophie Calle beginning on October 24, 2013. The show will feature works created by Calle in 1991 in response to the Gardner’s tragic heist, which took place the year before. New works created in 2012 will also be on view.

The exhibition presents 14 photographic and text based works divided into two categories. The first series includes pieces created shortly after the heist, which saw the theft of 13 works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and others. The second series was created at the Gardner Museum while Calle was revisiting her earlier project.

Soon after the heist, Calle interviewed curators, guards and other staff from the Gardner in front of the museum’s stark walls. Years later she repeated the process but this time, in front of the empty frames that the Gardner later hung. She asked her interviewees what they remembered of the missing works and what they saw when they looked at the blank frames. She used text from the interviews and her own photos to create visual interpretations of loss and memory. Pieranna Cavalchini, the Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art at the Gardner, said, “This exhibition is a poignant reminder of just how much power art and a great artist like Sophie Calle can yield in bringing life, energy and beauty to what is in essence a never-ending story of loss.”

Last Seen will be on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum through October 24, 2014.

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Friday, 30 September 2011 03:27

Frank Stella interview: the bigger picture

If you are looking for clues to the character of Frank Stella, the Formula One racing car parked inside his vast studio in upstate New York is a giveaway. 'Ferrari gave that to me,' the American abstract artist tells me nonchalantly, hooking a Cuban cigar from an ashtray beside him. 'It did race, but it doesn't have a motor now, so it's just for show.'

Stella has been probing the limits of painting for more than five decades. His love of fast cars, though, dates from the mid-1970s, when BMW gave him one in exchange for decorating a racing model that competed at Le Mans. Six years later, in 1982, he was arrested for hurtling at 105mph along a highway in New York State. But the supercar inside his studio in Rock Tavern is testament not only to the artist's love of speed. Once driven by Michael Schumacher, it also represents the competitive streak that has blazed through Stella's life.

Take tennis. When he was younger – before, he says, his hip and knees 'gave way' – he used to play for hours, several times a week. After a while, though, his friends stopped playing with him. The gallery director Lawrence Rubin, who gave Stella his second solo show, in Paris in 1961, once said, 'He doesn't play for the fun of playing. He plays to win. And that's the way he plays art.'

Stella is 75 now, but age does not appear to have forced him to alter his game plan. His studio, a former warehouse so large that birds flit overhead as we talk, is full of recent work. There are raucous reliefs, dominated by loops of luminescent colour. There are fantastical sculptures, formed by tangles of stainless steel and carbon fibre. Some of it will feature in a new exhibition – the most extensive show in Britain of Stella's work to date – opening at the Haunch of Venison gallery in London later this month.

British interviewers marvel at Stella's high-pitched New Yorker's voice, reminiscent of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas, but today he sounds a little reedy, giving the impression of a mobster who's been recently cashiered. He settles into his rocking chair, a bottle of Baileys liqueur by his feet.

Stella was born in 1936, to first-generation Sicilians, and grew up in a blue-collar suburb of Boston. His father, a gynaecologist, sent him to Phillips Academy, an elite secondary school in nearby Andover, where he earned a reputation for feistiness (he once lost three front teeth in a dormitory scrap). In 1954 he entered Princeton University, where he excelled as a lacrosse player, and joined a night class in painting and drawing. Before long he was painting for several hours a day, producing work in the style of the Abstract Expressionists. 'I wouldn't have bothered becoming an artist if I didn't like the artists of that generation so much,' he tells me.

After graduating in 1958 he headed straight for New York, where he rented a room on the Lower East Side and spent the summer painting. 'I came here because it was the place where you could see art that I was interested in – it's as simple as that.'

Was it daunting to follow in the footsteps of Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning? 'No,' Stella says. 'They were fabulously uninhibiting – because the work was accessible, and beautiful. It was wildly exciting to be on the scene, which was smaller but way more intense and interesting than today.'

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