Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Art Fraud or Fraud Art?

Earlier this week, on Monday, August 19, 2013, numerous new sources reported the case of a Long Island art dealer gone bad. "A "disposition" of fraud charges against wealthy Sands Point art dealer Glafira Rosales, which could include a guilty plea, is likely soon." (Go to http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/fraud-charges-expected-against-sands-point-art-dealer-1.5920912.)

Although the case is interesting enough just for the sake of the intrigue, greed and gullibility of various art dealers, brokers and galleries, and for the various duped buyers who have nothing better to do with their money than to conspicuously spend their money, I thought there was a deeper and even more interesting story involved.

Exactly how does one sell art work that is fraudulent and ultimately, so it is claimed by some, worthless, for $80,000,000?  How does art go from being worth millions to worth nothing when its appearance remains unchanged?  Is the "Mona Lisa" priceless only because DaVinci painted it or because it is a infinitely impressive work of art?  If the paintings of DaVinci, Picasso, Rembrandt, VanGogh, and others were not stunning in the first place, would their paintings be so valuable?  The answer is: they wouldn't be.

Fraudulent paintings are detectable by their lack of the evidence of genius that true paintings by these great artists do reveal.  The brush strokes, the shadings, the vibrancy, the realism or even surrealism, cannot be faked well.  VanGogh's technique was remarkable and unique; DaVinci's attention to detail, unbelievable. Have you seen a Rembrandt painting in person?  You cannot forget it.

Mimicry, however, often reveals itself in noticeable ways and although fraud does occur on occasion, it is difficult to get away with.  I  have read about paintings identified as created by a master when it was, in fact, a student of the master who created it.  The thing is, the painting probably had great merit on its own. $80,000,000 for this supposedly fraudulent artwork, however, seems to be an unbelievable lapse in value judgment by so many people.  How was this possible?

In this case the artwork being sold was not by a great past master; the artwork was of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and other modernist or Postmodernist painters.  And this is the "problem."  Take a look below.

Which of these are the authentic Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock and which are not?

Well, what does it really matter?  This style of painting is beyond criticism, I guess, when experts, art galleries and "serious" collectors lavish $80,000,000 on paintings that turn out to be "worthless."  If some of these paintings are indeed fraudulent, and therefore "valueless," it must mean that their appearance has nothing to do with their value.  But then, what did their appearance have to do with their value previously, when, one would think, their appearance is the basis upon which you should value them?

Here is the answer to the question about which are which of the above paintings: The third painting is the authentic Jackson Pollock, the fourth is the Robert Motherwell and the fifth is the authentic Mark Rothko. Number 2 is a probable fraudulent Rothko and the first one - was painted by an elephant.  Which would you want on your home's wall?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chad Curtis: Once Again, Proof That Faith Means Nothing

Chad Curtis was probably a slightly better than average outfielder who was  member of several major league teams including the 1998 & 1999 World Champion New York Yankees.  He was best known for a walk-off game winning homer in the 1999 World Series and for being very, very outspoken regarding his Christian religious beliefs and the moralities that flowed from his beliefs.  As you will see, here is the crux of what it seems to an outside observer such as me that Chad Curtis had to say: "You need to believe as I do so that you can be as good as someone like me."  Of course, Mr. Curtis believed that Jesus was his Lord and Savior and that obedience to Mr. Curtis' interpretation of Christian moral code was the key to being good.

In a column by Yahoo writer Harold Friend, Curtis was defended regarding a dispute he had with Derek Jeter, the Yankee Captain and leader.  Friend wrote, "What should not be forgotten is that after he hit his game winning home run, he refused to be interviewed by sportscaster Jim Gray. Curtis felt, as did most players, that Gray's interview of future Hall of Famer Pete Rose following the All-Century Team ceremony prior to the second game of the Series was too aggressive and in poor taste.   Curtis is a deeply religious individual who led the Yankees prayer group and religious study. When he approached Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain politely declined.  Curtis approached Jeter a second time, and according to Buster Olney, Jeter commented that Chad can do what he wants and I'll do what I want to do."   Curtis and Jeter went on to have other disputes.  Curtis was traded a couple of months after the season ended.  Some believed that Curtis was traded because of his outspokenness and his religious beliefs.  (http://voices.yahoo.com/new-york-yankees-chad-curtis-was-right-derek-jeter-8682817.html?cat=14)

Curtis was once interviewed by Dick Schaap on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" for a report on religion in sports. From the report:

"Schaap on Camera: On the world champion New York Yankees the last two seasons, as many as twenty-two of twenty-five players attended weekly chapels services or daily prayer sessions. The chapel leader, Chad Curtis, now a Texas Ranger, was the Yankee most vocal about his beliefs.

Chad Curtis (Texas Rangers Outfielder): If I have something that I believe is the truth and it's necessary for other people to come to some type of a recognition or grip of that truth then I want to share it.

Schaap: As more players, like Curtis, have publicly embraced religion, they sometimes urge their teammates to find religion, creating the potential for clubhouse conflict.

Chad Curtis: Some people are heading down wrong roads and I'm trying to say hey man what are you doing I care about yah. Let's try and go a different direction and ah somebody takes ah get out of my life don't mess with me, but what I'm trying to do is help.

O'Neill: Chad, he's a vocal person and I think his intent was always right. I think sometimes his avenues-and he'll admit it-weren't the right way to take things.

Schaap: Did he divide the team in any way?

O'Neill: No, absolutely not.

Schaap: But Curtis says his religious zeal may be one of the reasons the Yankees traded him.
Curtis: It definitely came into my mind that maybe they weren't too crazy about some of the things that I was doing-you know talking to my teammates about religion...

Schaap: This month, however, Curtis and his Rangers teammate Royce Clayton had what both described as a heated discussion concerning the music Clayton was playing in the clubhouse.

Curtis: It was some music being played and there was a lot of foul language and I'm a guy that just you know I don't really care to hear that and I know there's other guys that are the same way and we have some kids in our clubhouse, too, and I said, you know what, this isn't right, it's not good.

Royce Clayton (Texas Rangers Shortstop): I don't try to force my beliefs on anybody, nor should I feel that anybody should force their beliefs upon me, and once you start to do that, then you're stepping into foul territory...

Schaap: But Curtis says nothing-not even team harmony-is as important as the message.

Curtis: To me it's not so much religion and baseball as baseball and religion. Religion first, baseball somewhere down the road..."  (http://espn.go.com/page2/tvlistings/show4transcript.html)

As you might guess, Chad Curtis did not seem to be particularly gay friendly.  Buster Olney reported:

"Scott Sanders was apparently the first of Billy Bean's former teammates to read Bean's public acknowledgment of his homosexuality this summer. Sanders, who was a teammate of Bean's in San Diego and now pitches for the Chicago Cubs, called Trevor Hoffman, who then phoned Brad Ausmus, who told Randy Smith.  None of them were upset or bothered or shocked; Ausmus, a close friend of Bean's who roomed with him for two seasons in the mid-1990's, said he wondered all along if Bean might be gay.  They knew Bean as a great teammate, well liked by all the Padres, and as word passed from one to the next this summer, Smith said, it was as if they were talking about just another of life's transitions. Rather than speak of somebody's marriage or the birth of a child, they shared the news that Bean is gay. ''It wouldn't have made a difference to me then,'' said Ausmus, an All-Star catcher for the Detroit Tigers, ''and it doesn't bother me now.''

But some of his former teammates, as well as players with the Yankees, said an openly gay player would have difficulty within the culture of the clubhouse, even at a time when homosexuality has gained greater acceptance in society.  Some of what the players said echoed many of the arguments in the debate over whether gays should be allowed in the military. ''If you polled every player in this room,'' said Chad Curtis, the Yankees outfielder who was asked to comment on an article about Bean in The New York Times yesterday, ''they would tell you they wouldn't want to even have the thought another guy on the team might be checking them out. You have a lot of guys in this room who are fairly uncomfortable with the idea of women in the media coming in here -- even just the notion they're being looked at.''"

Here is the currently final entry on Chad Curtis' Wikipedia entry: Curtis was hired as the Head Varsity Football coach at Lakewood Public Schools in the winter of 2012.  In May 2012 Curtis resigned from the coaching position after several female students accused him of "inappropriate touching".  In June 2012 Curtis was ordered to stand trial on five counts of criminal sexual conduct that ranged from misdemeanors to 15-year felonies . Curtis was charged with an additional sixth count of criminal sexual conduct in August 2012.  The criminal trial of Chad Curtis began on August 12, 2013.  Three alleged victims testified on the opening days of the trial and two more are expected to testify on August 14, 2013.  Curtis was found guilty on August 16, 2013, of all six counts of criminal sexual conduct, and could go to prison for up to 15 years.

The M (Michigan) Live web site reports, "Moments after Chad Curtis allegedly molested her, a 16-year-old girl was leaving the windowless high school weight room where she said the assault occurred, but stopped when the former major leaguer asked her to pray with him.  “I didn’t want to say ‘No, I don’t want to pray,’” the now 18-year-old said Monday, Aug. 12 during testimony in Barry County Circuit Court. “Prayer is always good.”  The girl testified that she was alone with 44-year-old Curtis in the secluded Lakewood High School weight room on Labor Day of 2011 when a training session to work on hip flexor exercises turned into him suddenly kissing her breast and molesting her.  It was the second time he had allegedly molested her. Earlier in the summer of 2011, she said he grabbed her breasts in the guise of a massage.  She said each time she believed the man she looked up to as a former professional athlete and Christian role model, when he said he would never do it again...

But the alleged victim testifying Monday said there is no justification for the way Curtis used his hands on her, even though she initially tried to convince herself there was.

She said after praying with Curtis, she once again started to leave and he then asked her if she was virgin and “Did you enjoy any of that?” When she said she did not, he told her it was good because then she will know what to do if she ever got in a similar situation with a boy."

Most people probably can only wonder what goes through the mind of someone like Chad Curtis who is so publicly pious and so eager to point out the moral deficiencies in others (who are harming no one) while being personally totally creepy and disgusting.  But there is one other thing that should disturb the zealously religious in particular about this whole episode.

What Chad Curtis needs to do is to STOP believing that his faith confers even the slightest patina of morality upon him.  Chad Curtis needs to STOP believing that he is somehow saved because he believes in Jesus.  If he does not stop believing, exactly what penalty does he expect to pay for, ultimately?  If he believes that we're ALL sinners anyway and that only faith will gain him grace, other than a few years in jail, what has he lost? What are a few years compared to an eternity in heaven?  And that is a problem for us in the real world who have to live with the Chad Curtis's of the world.  They have no real reason to behave.  If they sin, they merely need to repent later on (if they're not part of the chosen in the first place.)  This seems to happen all the time.

Let's all observe the Chad Curtis experiment; will he simply say he did not believe enough in the Lord Jesus or will he confess that belief means nothing and that he is responsible for his actions?  Will he take action to change or will he go back to the religiosity that failed him so utterly in the past?  I will not be holding my breath on this one.

FOLLOW UP 9/8/15:  NY Daily News, 7/18/15: Former Yankees outfielder Chad Curtis, deemed a “predator” by the Michigan judge who sent him to prison on criminal sexual conduct charges in 2013, wants to publicly identify three women who say he assaulted them when they were high school students.  Curtis, acting as his own attorney, filed a brief in Grand Rapids federal court earlier this month that says the women should be named in court papers because courts frown upon plaintiffs filing civil lawsuits anonymously and because the plaintiffs are no longer minors.