Author: monalovesgustav

Part III: Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams is an American singer-rapper-songwriter-record producer, equally known for his Grammy Awards as he is for his stint as a judge on The Voice. Perhaps not surprisingly, Pharrell is also an entrepreneur and fashion designer who owns a multi-media creative collective, called  i am Other, an umbrella company for his fashion and art endeavors.

Pharrell’s Rollicking Idealist tendencies and artistic creativity have lead to a number of collaborations. He’s created jewelry for Louis Vuitton, collaborated on an Art Basel-showcased piece with Takashi Murakami, and designed furniture alongside Domeau & Pérès. Most recently, Pharrell partnered with adidas to create the Pharrell Williams Hu NMD Shoes, where a pair will easily set you back a couple thousand dollars (on the second-hand market, mind you).

He also happens to own a museum-worthy collection of contemporary sculptures, paintings, and statues that would make any Pop Art admirer’s heart skip a beat! Hardly the passive collector, Pharrell has partnered with some of the most sought after contemporary artists of our time, and in July 2019, he even curated an exhibit at the Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts in Paris, entitled Carte blanche to Mr. and Pharrell Williams: A Call To Action.

I don’t buy anything that’s not meaningful. You have to surround yourself with things that have a purpose and a clear function.

Pharrell Williams

Who is he collecting?
Takahi Murakami

Takahi Murakami

``Flower Ball``

Among the biggest names in contemporary art, Murakami’s distinctive style speaks to all Rollicking Idealists, and “Flower Ball” highlights his distinctive style: kaleidoscopic color, repeated motifs and flattened representational picture plane.

Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham

``Future Pharrell``

Daniel Arsham created a life size sculpture of Pharrell for the G I R L exhibition at Galerie Perrotin. One of ten works commissioned for the show, the process required Arsham to create a full body cast of Pharrell before dousing it in 200 pounds of shattered glass.

Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham

``CASIO MT-500``

Part of a larger ongoing series Daniel Arsham transforms Pharrell’s “CASIO MT-500” into a decaying monochromatic, archeological discovery from a future, dystopian world.  The MT-500 keyboards were modeled in the forms out of geological materials: volcanic ash, crystal, and steel.



``White Chum``

Brian Donnelly, the ex-Disney illustrator better known as KAWS, created his first vinyl toy in 1999: an eight-inch “Companion” whose round belly, noodly limbs, and white gloves immediately reminded viewers of the cartoons made famous by his former workplace.

Pharrell & French design duo Domeau & Pérès

Pharrell & French design duo Domeau & Pérès

``Perspective Chair`` (2008)

As part of the Perspective Series, Pharrell and French design duo Domeau & Pérès collaborated on the Perspective Chair. It was produced in four colors: red, black, teal and yellow, and exhibited at Paris’s Galerie Perrotin in 2008.

Art Trivia
  • Williams owns over 700 Art Toys which were displayed in This is not a toy exhibit at Design Exchange Toronto
  • To celebrate the release of his second solo album G I R L, and the opening of Galerie Perrotin’s new space, Pharrell and Perrotin brought together 48 works from leading contemporary artists including: Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono, Takashi Murakami and JR 
  • Artist and sculptor Daniel Arsham created a life -sized sculpture of Pharrell for the G I R L exhibition at Galerie Perrotin. One of ten works commissioned for the show, the process required Arsham to create a full body cast of Pharrell before filling the mold with 200 pounds of shattered glass to form Pharrell’s figure
Posted on February 13, 2020

When Art Makes You Sick: Pt II Tracey Emin

ArtDNA®: Cheeky, Assertive, Challenging MEETS Emotional, Searching, Authentic

Musing about the artist’s ‘job description’ or lack thereof in my introductory blog, (insert link to blog post), I questioned both the role and purpose of the artist. Ultimately I believe it’s twofold: first to push boundaries, and second to remind the rest of us to be who we are and say what we feel.  I also questioned the role of the viewer, which is equally as important, especially when confronted with works that, well, make us feel sick! After all, all art is not created equal, nor are our feelings. And there are some artists who love making sure we never forget it.

Cue Tracey Emin. Considered one of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists, and self described “most mad” of the Young British Artists, Emin has never been one to censor herself. She is known for her poignant works that mine autobiographical details through a variety of media that includes painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, and neon text. Amongst her most controversial works are My Bed, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With, which was created between 1963 and 1995, Every Part of Me Is Bleeding, and Feeling Pregnant III.

Most people don’t do something seminal. I’ve done it twice: with my tent and my bed. Picasso did it with Cubism.


Tracey Emin

My Bed

My Bed… was born from the survival of a mental breakdown in 1998. After four days of being almost unconscious, and highly intoxicated on vodka and cigarettes, Emin left the bed and saw what had been created during that moment in her life. There was no hiding from the debris field she had created: the empty bottles and cartons of cigarettes, blood-stained underwear, used and unused condoms, packets of contraceptive pills, waist belts and an array of other personal items only highlighted her total breakdown.

The ‘average’ person would have perhaps set about cleaning it all up in an effort to forget and move on. Emin opted to memorialize the experience rather than sanitize it. She immediately set about turning the bed and its debris field into a conceptual art installation piece.  

In Her Words

Public Reaction

At the time, the work was universally condemned as obscene and “slutty,” by art critics and the general public alike. Two and half decades later, critics and experts like Paul Hobson (then Director of the Contemporary Art Society, now Director of Modern Art at Oxford) describes Emin’s ability to channel “[…] experiences, loss, betrayal, vengefulness and abuse, and makes them available to the rest of us. She transforms them into something incredibly powerful.” Emin’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Goetz Collection in Munich, among others.

Posted on February 13, 2020

Bring the outdoors in

Location, location, location, it’s the universal rule of real estate and of city-living! City dwellers may sacrifice space and nature for their urban proclivities, but when the vista includes a brick wall or an alleyway, let us decorate it away! 

Botanical and Floral Prints --

Botanical and floral patterns have been growing in popularity, which means there are tons of options! Pro tip: think about what you want the space to feel like and then find the decorum that convey that feeling! 

Natural Materials --

Think of the patterns and color schemes you enjoy, and look to incorporate materials from the outdoors — natural wooden frames or wooden textures.  Pair these pieces with neutral palettes, and maybe some plants! 

Oversized works --

Don’t be afraid to go BIG with oversized art in your home. Large, framed photographic prints make excellent centerpieces! 

Posted on January 16, 2020
Yellow represents optimism, confidence, strong self-esteem, extraversion, emotional strength, friendliness, creativity

Yellow + the Alluring Romantic

As a natural free-spirit, you’re often motivated by the external world, embracing the unfamiliar and finding authenticity in emotional expression and feelings. You’re drawn to colors that mimic or relate to the natural colors of springtime — clean, clear and fresh. When deciding on the right shade of yellow in your color palette, look for bright, lemony hues with creamy undertones.

Your color sweet spot: clear, delicate, and warm, fresh colors. 

Did You Know

Based on a study conducted by psychologist-sociologist, and professor of communication theory, Eva Heller (Psychology of Color: how colors act on feelings and logic), Westerners view yellow as the color of ambivalence and contradiction. While often associated with optimism and amusement, yellow also conjures feelings associated with betrayal, duplicity, and jealousy. 

According to a 2000 survey, only 6 percent of respondents in Europe and America named yellow as their favorite color — compared with 45 percent for blue, 15 percent for green, 12 percent for red, and 10 percent for black. For 7 percent of respondents, yellow was their least favorite color. By contrast, yellow is favored in the far east, specifically in China where it is viewed as a color of virtue and nobility.

Physical Effects

Angela Wright, world-renowned expert and author of ‘The Beginners Guide to Colour Psychology’, contends that yellow’s wavelength is relatively long compared to other visible colors and is therefore emotionally stimulating. Psychologically, yellow is considered the strongest color — the right tones of yellow will uplift one’s self-esteem, confidence and optimism. Conversely, too much of the color can negatively impact one’s sense of well-being and foment intense feelings of fear and anxiety.

Color Trivia
  • In marketing, yellow represents optimism and youth
  • Yellow was one of the first colors used in prehistoric cave art
  • Egyptians used yellow extensively in tomb paintings
  • Some studies show that deep yellow tones cause babies to cry
  • Artist J.M.W. Turner was one of the first to utilize yellow to create moods and emotions in compositions
  • In China, yellow represented royalty (in Europe it was purple)
Posted on January 14, 2020

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

It’s inescapable! No matter where you turn this time of year, you are inundated by Lists: Personal Lists, Best and Worst Lists, and obviously, my personal favorite, Art Lists

For much of its existence, the ARTnews Top 200 List has been comprised of a rather small and rarefied group of collectors whose names were a mixture of well known titans of industry and old money, none of whom have ever encountered an Impressionist or Post-Impressionist work he or she didn’t like.

Now 30 years old, this year’s list marks a clear shift in not only in who is doing the collecting, but what is being collecting.

Collectors across the board are looking for something new that is also of great quality—in concert with what’s happening curatorially in museums and in scholarly gallery shows.” The result is “shifting the conversation away from simply dead white men to artists of color and women.”

Sara Friedlander, Christie’s head of postwar and contemporary art

The art world of 2019 is hard to miss, thanks in large part to an ‘openness’ that didn’t exist 30, 20, even 10  years ago. Amongst the driving forces to accessibility are the increasing importance of social media as a means of discovery, new methods of ownership, growing popularity of art fairs, and greater access to information and art market insights. 

Here are a few highlights from this year’s list:

Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida

African-American abstract art; Art of the African diaspora; Contemporary South African art

Pamela Joyner is on a mission to change the face of modern art as we know it, and she is succeeding! Joyner, who, like many, started buying art out of a need to fill blank walls, has become one of the most important voices in the art world. By focusing underrepresented artists of African descent, Joyner and her husband have built one of the world’s leading collections of fine art from the African Diaspora. 

Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean and Alicia Keys

Contemporary art, with a focus on artists of color

Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean has been experimenting with ways for artists to find buyers for their work without interference from intermediaries, by way of what he calls, No Commission art fairs. He’s behind an app called Sm(art) Collection to allow direct sales.

When Sean “Diddy” Combs snapped up a Kerry James Marshall at Sotheby’s New York for a record-setting $21.1 million in 2018, it was Dean who steered him toward the work. “It took me 10 years for that to happen,” he told ARTnews in a 2019 profile, discussing the time it took to get Diddy interested in Black art. “I was like, ‘This Kerry James Marshall has to stay in the culture.’”

Adrian Cheng

Contemporary Chinese art; International contemporary art

Adrian Cheng believes firmly in two things: first, that art is for the masses, and second, that the masses are likely, at one time or another, to go to the mall. In his K11 Art Malls, which he calls a “new museum model,” Cheng has placed art at their center: retail shopping on the main floors provides both the financial support and the audience for the art displayed in the basement. 

Cheng wants to generally educate the public about art,  but he specifically wants to raise the visibility of Chinese contemporary art. “I think the new contemporary Chinese art is reinventing Chinese cultural identity and building up a new Chinese culture,” Cheng told ARTnews in 2014.

Posted on December 18, 2019

Art + Climate Change

When I saw the collaboration between the Prado Museum and WWF Spain for the COP25 climate change summit, my first thought was not about climate change. Rather, I recalled a lecture that I had taught years ago for Art History 1301:

In the beginning of the semester, it was not uncommon for my students to avoid making eye contact with me during a lecture —  eye contact meant that the inevitable and dreaded moment in which I would request their opinion was approaching. Similar to most people, my students struggled to proffer their opinion regarding a work of art. The fear of seeming ignorant and the thought of being judged by their classmates meant that, for at least the first three weeks of the semester, most of my students never looked at me. 

Breaking the silence

Determined to find a way to break the deafening silence, I stopped asking, “what do you think?” and instead began asking, “what do you see?” What began as a meager discussion  in hushed voices gradually evolved into a boisterous choir of students shouting about the obvious, e.g.,: “the work is broken”; “men are hunting”.

Ti Watching a Hippopotamus Hunt from Tomb of Ti, Saqqara. Fifth Dynasty, c. 2450-2325 BCE.

Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo dates to the late 4th century BC.

Learning to SEE

These seemingly benign observations were actually quite remarkable and meaningful to me, as they provided me two points of insight: first, my students could in fact talk, and second, maybe like me in the beginning of my art education as well, they just needed to learn how to see a work of art in order to engage with it. When they came to this point in their discovery, I would task them with one of my favorite exercises: look at a work of art and break down everything you can see. Take for example, The Parasol (El Quitasol) by Francisco de Goya.

Step 1:

Identify the Visible Traits

I would ask my students to identify every visible trait they can see:

  • Figures
  • Fancy clothes
  • Umbrella
  • Trees
  • Blue sky
  • Dog
  • Stone wall
  • Lots of color

Step 2:

What Can We Deduce

Once all of the stand-out traits are identified and established, I’d follow up with what can be deduced from these traits:

  • The female figure is rich.
  • It might be spring time.
  • They seem happy.

Step 3:

Theories & Questions

As some students would begin to offer their theories, others would counter with questions:

  • Is the figure standing behind her a servant, boyfriend, another female?
  • Are they in the countryside?
  • Why is the sky dark near the wall, is it a storm?

We would then complete the exercise with a simple question: “do you like it?” In the beginning of the semester, the answer was typically a simple yes or no. As the semester progressed, their answers grew in complexity: the students went from “looking at” a work to discovering it, through education and inquiry. 

WWF + Museo del Prado: ``+ 1.5ºC Changes Everything.``

In many ways, I see that this method of guided education unto discovery is what the WWF and Prado are intending with their collaborative project. The juxtaposition of the known image and its landscape with the other, modeled reality viewers are being asked to see, question and discover their own truths surrounding climate change.

WWF y el Museo del Prado

All images courtesy of Museo del Prado / WWF

The Original

Joachim Patinir, Charon Crossing the Styx (c. 1515-24)

Joaquín Sorolla, Boys on the Beach (1909)

Diego Velázquez, Felipe IV a Caballo (1635-36)

Francisco de Goya, The Parasol (1777)

Climate Change Makeover

Retoucher: Julio Falagan

Retoucher: Conspiracy

Retoucher: Marta Zafra

Retoucher: Pedro Veloso

Visit WWF to view the art with an interactive slider, as well as learn more about conservation and climate change.

Posted on December 16, 2019

You LOVE that, but where's it gonna gooo?

Trying to make a place feel like home is no small feat. Let’s face it, unless you yourself have designed every aspect of the space you inhabit (#lifegoals),  you’re most likely working within the confines of someone else’s idea of “living”. So, how do you turn a space that wasn’t created with your needs, wants and taste in mind into a home? Well, you get creative! 

Now, if you are anything like me, you’re probably thinking “awesome, thanks for that, but WTF does that even mean”? It means, we work with what we got!

Nooks & Cranies --

Any corner can make an impact or be turned into a cozy, inviting reading nook. Try hanging a mixture of family photos and art in various sizes for an eclectic, lived-in look.

Bathrooms --

The bathroom may be the most utilitarian room in the house, but! Bathrooms have the potential to become your favorite room!

Um, what Introspective Thinker meets Alluring Romantic wouldn’t want to take a bath here? The two-tone scheme exudes traditional elegance while the assortment of found objects provides the charm. — Photography by Nathan Kirkman & Anna Knott

Sometimes less really is more, and this bathroom proves it! Marrying an elegant design scheme with a curated sampling of your favorite things, makes any space feel engaging and bold! — Photography by Douglas Friedman

Who said size matters? This bathroom packs a punch, visit Pinterest Addict to see exactly how this look was accomplished.

Unlikely pairings, traditional fixtures and keeping to a strict color palette makes this a Rollicking Idealist’s dream!  You know, sometimes MORE is MORE!   — Photography by Alison Gootee; Styling by Suzonne Stirling

Slanted ceilings --

Don’t let a slanted ceiling stand in the way of your wall decor options. 

No head room? Maybe, maybe not! By embracing the angles and taking everything up to the ceiling (note the flush-mounted light fixtures and floor-to-ceiling bookcase), this attic conversion feels bright and airy.

When it comes to art, size matters with fit. The right mixture of color, furnishing and angles transformed a nice work of art into a statement piece!

This proves that you should never allow the room to dictate what you can and can’t do with it! The key to pulling this look off was working within the confines of the space and following the slope!

Bookcases --

Add an offbeat touch to shelving by placing framed photos front and center. On a recent Pinterest deep dive into hanging ideas, I discovered bloggers Beth and Bill (BandB Build a Life) who have a great tutorial on accomplishing this idea with a binder clip hack. Full disclosure: I have not tried this, but it looks doable — even for yours truly!

Posted on December 6, 2019

Artist's ArtDNA® Breakdown:

Alluring Romantic-Introspective Thinker

Emotional, authentic and contemplative, philosophical, realistic and perceptive, van Gogh was an Alluring Romantic with a deep undertone of the Introspective Thinker. An idealist, painting for van Gogh was an expression of his innermost heart and soul. He believed in showing love to the downtrodden and living a life that was in accordance with his values. Known as quiet, thoughtful and imaginative, van Gogh also suffered from depression and felt deeply misunderstood by society. True to his emotional authenticity, he eschewed traditional painting techniques in favor of his unique, imaginative impressions.

Van Gogh had a particular passion and sympathy for the working class. The son of a Dutch Protestant pastor, van Gogh believed he had a religious calling to social justice and did missionary work in the slums of London and in the mining districts of Belgium. Van Gogh’s early works are heavily influenced by the changes in the social and environmental landscape of the Netherlands at that time — as industrialization encroached on both the pastoral settings of the country and on the livelihoods of the working poor, his depictions take interest in those who had little opportunity to change vocations in accordance with the times. He would return to the subject of the “noble peasant” throughout his lifetime.

I put my heart and soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

— Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh's Work:

Known equally for his artistic masterpieces as for his personal battles with mental health, van Gogh’s genius is often over shadowed by the more salacious parts of his personal history. While it is easy and even understandable to see in van Gogh’s aggressive swirling of paint, kinetic brushstrokes and unconventional color palettes evidence of his troubled mind, these attributable characteristics are also the very hallmarks of his revolutionary approach. Unlike his fellow Post-Impressionists, van Gogh exploited colors and distorted forms to express his emotions as he confronted nature. His insistence on the expressive value of color demanded that a corresponding expressiveness in the application paint also be developed. Moving the brush forcefully back and forth or at right angles, van Gogh transformed his canvases with corpuscular shapes and intense colors schemes.


Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I have before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily so as to express myself forcibly.

— Letter to Theodorus “Theo” van Gogh from Vincent van Gogh

The Potato Eaters, 1885
Van Gogh Museum
Woman Sewing, 1885-86 
P. and N. De Boer Foundation
Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, 1885-86
Van Gogh Museum

Drawing skeletons was a standard practice at the academies to develop an understanding of human anatomy. Painting them, however, was not part of the curriculum. Owing to this fact,  many experts have concluded that this work was meant as a juvenile joke. Others have noted his poor health at the time and considered this work a vanitas or memento mori. We do know from his letters, however, that van Gogh himself thought his classes to be boring and pointless in their instruction.

The Night Café, 1888
Yale University Art Gallery

Van Gogh wrote that with The Night Café, he tried “to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime.” The café’s clashing colors visually expressed what van Gogh saw as the, “terrible passions of humanity.”

The Red Vineyard, 1888
Pushkin Museum

Purchased by Anna Boch for 400 francs The Red Vineyard at Arles is supposedly the only work van Gogh sold. Painted two weeks after fellow artist, Paul Gauguin moved into van Gogh’s home. Gauguin would create The Wine Harvest based on the same scene.

Portrait of Joseph Roulin, 1888
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Considered one of van Gogh’s most trusted friends, Roulin tended to van Gogh following his ear slicing incident. Roulin saw him committed to the psychiatric hospital in Arles and provided constant solace to the artist in his convalescence.

The Courtyard of the Hospital at Arles, 1889 Oskar
Reinhart Collection

Van Gogh entered the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum on 8 May 1889, he had two cells with barred windows, one of which he used as a studio. The clinic and its garden became the main subjects of his paintings.

Starry Night, 1889
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Painted a year before van Gogh’s death, The Starry Night captures the expressionist nature of van Gogh’s method. Rather than simply representing the night sky as it appears in nature, van Gogh transforms the nocturnal landscape into an emotional exploration of one’s place in the cosmos. Set against the deep blue background, the viewer is left transfixed by the swirling of paint and combustion color.

Writing to his brother Theo, van Gogh seems to reference the work indirectly:


Is the whole of life visible to us, or isn’t it rather that this side of death we see only the one hemisphere?

Painters–to take them alone–dead and buried, speak of the next generation or to several succeeding generations through their work.

Is that all, or is there more to come? Perhaps death is not the hardest thing in a painter’s life.

For my own part, I declare I know nothing whatever about it, but looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shinning sots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots of the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star.

— Vincent van Gogh

Posted on December 3, 2019

Part II: Leonardo DiCaprio

Are we really surprised that Leonardo DiCaprio has developed into one of the world’s most prolific art collectors?  He was, after all, named for one of the most famous artists in the world. According to DiCaprio, the actor’s pregnant mother was standing in front of a Da Vinci painting at the Uffizi when he began kicking furiously, and taking this gesture as a sign, she decided to name him Leonardo. Art seems to have been a childhood staple for the actor; in an article for Rolling Stone, he was asked to describe one of his earliest memories, and DiCaprio recalled a painting that hung above his crib: Hieronymous Bosch’s infamous “Garden of Earthly Delights,” which depicts Eden being squandered away by man. “You literally see Adam and Eve being given paradise,” DiCaprio says. “Then you see in the middle [of the triptych] this overpopulation and excess … then the last panel is just a burnt-down apocalypse. That was my favorite painting.” The natural-history museum was also a staple of DiCaprio’s childhood, and he has since accumulated an important collection of fossils in his home, mostly predatory dinosaurs.

Over the years, DiCaprio has found ways to marry his passion for art with his crusade to save the world from climate change. According to ArtNews, in 2013 he orchestrated a charity auction at Christie’s, entitled “The 11th Hour Sale,” to benefit environmental causes. His own Andreas Gursky satellite image of Earth, Ocean V, was auctioned. In total, the auction raised $38 million in one night and set new sales records for 13 artists, with all proceeds benefiting global conservation projects.

Who is he collecting?

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Salvador Dali

Takashi Murakami

Oscar Murillo

Pablo Picasso

Jean-Pierre Roy

Ed Ruscha

Frank Stella

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

``Untitled`` (Boxing Ring) (1981). Source:

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

``Mononoke`` (2013). Source:

Jean-Pierre Roy

Jean-Pierre Roy

``Nachlass`` (2015). Source: The Creators Project.

Art Trivia
  • Estimated value of art collection: $10 million
  • In 2017, DiCaprio voluntarily handed over to US authorities a $3.2 million Pablo Picasso painting and a $9 million Jean-Michel Basquiat collage
  • According to reports, the works were gifted to DiCaprio, but now appear to be part of an embezzlement scandal connected to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund (also known as 1MDB), founded by the country’s prime minister, Najib Razak
Posted on November 7, 2019
Blue represents intelligence, communication, trust, efficiency,
serenity, duty, logic, coolness, reflection and calm

Blue + the Defiant Contrarian

A natural problem solver and creative thinker, you have a gift for seeing the broader picture. You’re drawn to colors that mimic the natural patterns of winter — colors that are clear and strong with no subtleties. When deciding on the right shade of blue be sure to look for cooler hues that are either very light or very dark that contain blue in their mixing.

Your color sweet spot:  extremes — either very light or very dark and no midtones.

Did You Know

An artistic revolution occurred between the Medieval and Renaissance periods — influenced by new concepts of sovereignty, republic city-states, as well as emerging secular views of human nature regarding literature and art, artists began to paint the world as it was actually seen, with perspective, depth, shadows, and light originating from a single source. Where Medieval artists had used blue as a means for steering the visual gaze of a viewer towards the Virgin Mary, much like a modern day spotlight is employed, artists of the Renaissance attempted to create more harmonious relationships between colors. And thus began create the illusion of space on flat surfaces.

Sourced in Afghanistan, ultramarine was considered among the most sought after blue pigments of the Middle Ages. By the Renaissance, blue was associated with purity, and ultramarine was used in depictions of the Virgin Mary, where she was almost invariably depicted wearing ultramarine blue garments. The high price of the pigment, also meant that its use was appropriate in the case of a noble subjects. While blue was an expensive and prestigious color in European painting, it became a common color for clothing during the Renaissance. The rise of the color blue in fashion in the 12th and 13th centuries led to a blue dye industry in several cities, notably Amiens, Toulouse, and Erfurt.

Physical Effects

Angela Wright, world renowned expert and author of ‘The Beginners Guide to Colour Psychology’, asserts that blue is the color of the mind and is essentially a soothing color that impacts us mentally. For instance, blue in the right shades can lower the heart rate, improve mental clarity and inspire creativity. It also has the ability to instill confidence and trust. 

Strong blues will stimulate clear thought, while lighter, softer blues will calm the mind and aid in concentration. Blue is also considered the color of clear communication. However, it can be perceived as cold, unemotional and unfriendly.

Color Trivia
  • Blue can lower one’s pulse rate and body temperature
  • Blue is the color most preferred by men
  • Greeks believe that blue wards off “the evil eye”
  • 53% of the flags in the world contain blue
  • The Hindu god Krishna has blue skin
  • In China, shades of blue are described as shallow or deep instead of light or dark
  • Blue is for a baby girl; pink for a baby boy in Belgium.
  • “Prince Charming” is called “The Blue Prince” in Italy and Spain
Posted on October 31, 2019

Artist's ArtDNA® Breakdown:

Alluring Romantic

History has described 19th century American painter Winslow Homer as curious, imaginative and passionate, optimistic, lively and composed; Team Mona describes him as an Alluring Romantic! Known as a thoughtful and reclusive man who strived to capture the struggle between mankind and the forces of nature, his works are considered amongst the most powerful and expressive of his time.

Homer was born in Boston at a time when no formal art institution there existed. He was thrusted into an early artistic education as an apprentice to the commercial lithographer, John H. Bufford. Following his apprenticeship, Homer worked as a freelance illustrator for such magazines as Harper’s Weekly and Ballou’s Pictorial. Homer went to the front lines of the American Civil War (1861–1865) as a war correspondent where he sketched both the quiet and chaotic scenes of life on and off the battlefield. Gaining national recognition for those illustrations published in Harper’s Weekly, Homer was afforded the financial stability to travel to Europe and continue his autodidactic education. When he returned in 1868, his works remained stylistically the same, though a noticeable shift in his color palette suggests Barbizon influences from his time spent in France.

The life that I have chosen gives me my full hours of enjoyment for the balance of my life: the sun will not rise, or set, without my notice and thanks.

— Winslow Homer

Homer's Work:

His works are a visual representation of society’s struggle to orient itself in the wake of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, in the climax of the industrial revolution, and in the aftermath of The Civil War. The thematics of man vs. nature and “survival of the fittest” are thematically imbued in depictions of women tending to the homestead, the men absent and assumed to be at war; of sailors bravely facing the brunt of the storm. Fueled with the passion, beauty and tumult of everyday life, Homer’s body of work exudes the emotional authenticity of his Alluring Romantic sensibilities. Discover the evolution of American Realist, Winslow Homer!

Prisoners from the front, 1866
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Prisoners from the front, was completed one year after the war ended and only four years after Homer first began working in oils. This work would help to establish Homer’s reputation.

Rainy Day In Camp, 1877
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Homer completed Rainy Day in Camp, his last major scene of life at the front, six years after the Civil War ended, using studies made during the siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in April and May 1862.

Dressing for Carnival, 1877
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dressing for Carnival reflects Homer’s interest in understanding and depicting the ‘silent tension’ that prevailed throughout postwar society. Produced one year after the failure of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, Homer’s subject matter evokes both the emotional and physical dislocation as well as the mental endurance of African Americans and their culture in the aftermath of slavery.

After 1890, Homer frequently depicted “naturalist” subjects – hunting and fishing in the Adirondacks and coastal or marine views at Prout’s Neck, Maine. The Fox Hunt, shows a fox desperately bounding through deep snow in an attempt to flee a flock of half-starved crows. The birds descend with outstretched wings, forming a dark hovering mass above the struggling fox.

The North Road, Bermuda, 1900
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
The Fog Warning, 1885
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

While the fisherman has been successful, the hardest task of the day, the return to the main ship, is still ahead of him. Turning towards the horizon, the fisherman measures the distance to the mother ship, and to safety. The seas are choppy and the dory rocks high on the waves, making it clear that the journey home will require considerable physical effort.

Key West Hauling Up Anchor, 1903
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Posted on October 18, 2019

This series is devoted to the curious and combustible true stories of crimes committed in the art world. Does the criminal action and/or the perpetrated injustice incurred from the action besmirch the character of the work? Can we, the consumers of art, cognitively disconnect our negative emotions about the outcome of the crime such that we can retain our enjoyment of the creation? How do we feel about “problematic” artists?! We’re on the fence! Be prepared for some beefy discussions!

Posted on October 18, 2019

The Mental Health Benefits of Art

Are you struggling with 21st century burnout? Welcome to the club! Let’s face it, 24-hour connectivity takes its toll on everyone. Though many of us choose to display art in our homes for aesthetic purposes, MLG has always believed art is powerful medicine. And recent research and studies support our claim! Whether viewing it, analyzing or creating it, art stimulates the brain in ways that directly impact our stress levels, memory and empathy.

The Research

Conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the Nord-Trondelag Health Study, collected information from 130,000 Norwegians regarding how often they participated in cultural activities. Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher with the university, asserts that the study discovered a definite correlation between participating in cultural activities—creating or viewing art, or attending concerts—and having increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression in both men and women.

In an article with Live Science Cuypers discussed the intention of the study, in particular how activities other than physical activity could promote good health:


There has been a focus on physical activity as an instrument to promote good health in the last decades, but who is sure that all people are equally capable of doing five days a week of intensive training? I doubt it! Studies suggest that 50 percent of leisure time is spent in other activities than physical activity, so we aimed at investigating whether participation in cultural activities would also be associated with good health/good satisfaction with life/low anxiety and depression.

A study conducted by the Happy Museum Project looked into how one’s involvement in museums and the arts impacted their health and wellbeing. Using data collected on roughly 100,000 people between 2005-2011, the study concluded that:

  • Visiting museums has a positive impact on happiness and self-reported health after controlling for a large range of other determinants;
  • Participation in the arts and being an audience to the arts each have positive effects on happiness; being an audience to the arts has a bigger impact on happiness.

In addition to conducting their own research, Guy Noble from University College London Hospital and Helen Chatterjee collated, reviewed and analyzed hundreds of projects, reports, publications and other evidence for their 2013 book Museums, Health and Well-Being. Calling the results both startling and impressive, Noble and Chatterjee contend they found substantial anecdotal and scholarly evidence affirming the mental health benefits of museums and art, including:

  • Positive social experiences, leading to reduced social isolation
  • Calming experiences, leading to decreased anxiety
  • Increased positive emotions, such as optimism, hope and enjoyment
  • Increased self-esteem and a sense of identity and community
Learn More
Posted on October 18, 2019

Part I: Beyoncé & Jay-Z

“What I find in the artwork of Jean Michel Basquiat, I search for everyday in music. His art is musical, his broad strokes, he is lyrical and raw. Thank you for your life’s work JMB.” – Beyoncé

“I just want a Picasso in my casa, no, my castle.” – Jay-Z (lyrics from Picasso Baby)


Like many couples, Jay-Z and Beyoncé don’t always agree on what to hang over the sofa. According to a  Rolling Stone interview, Jay-Z purchased a Laurie Simmons photograph featuring “a noirishly lit pistol with a pair of women’s legs emerging from the handle”. His, wife, Beyoncé, promptly sent it back and  replaced it with a different piece by the artist, choosing a perfume bottle instead of a gun. After all happy wife, happy life!

Who are they collecting?

Damien Hirst

Andy Warhol

Richard Prince

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Pablo Picasso

David Hammons

Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons

Laurie Simmons

``Walking Gun`` (1991). Source:

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

``Cineole`` (2004). Source:

Art Trivia
  • Estimated collection valued at $33 Million
  • Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” was “inspired by” video/installation artist Pipilotti Rist (Ever is Over All), arguably out-right stolen
  • Not only does Jay-Z name-drop famous modern and contemporary artists in his songs, but he also has artists design his album covers and features their work in his music videos
  • The couple paid $4.5 million for a 1985 Basquiat entitled Mecca
  • The power couple’s 2018 “Apes**t” video was filmed at the Louvre among the museum’s masterpieces and garnered some criticism for equating their personality with iconic art.

Ever is Over All


Posted on October 18, 2019

When Art Makes You Sick: Pt I Mark Quinn

ArtDNA®: Authentic, Emotional, Original MEETS Challenging, Independent, Theoretical

Have you ever seen or tried to make a jello mold? Well in 1991, Marc Quinn did just that. Except instead of jello he used blood, his blood to be exact. Self was produced during a time when Quinn was an alcoholic and deals with notions of dependency. For instance, Self requires roughly 10 pints of the artist’s blood, which is drawn over the course of 5 months. The completed work is kept in special refrigeration units to prevent melting, further speaking to ideas of dependency. Since 1991, Quinn has continued to make a sculpture every 5 years. He considers them to be part of an ongoing conversation about life, death, ageing and all that jazz. 

[…] the artwork has to be like a magnet for your eyes and emotions so you are sort of hypnotized and don’t want to look away, after all we all spend most of our time trying to avoid feeling anything at all.


Marc Quinn

Posted on October 18, 2019

Art 101: Terminology

The words of art are complex (and perhaps confounding), but not to fear! Your first lesson in Art 101 is here to help you recognize and contextualize common art terms, and thus vastly improve your score in Words With Friends (don’t quote us on that)! Get your learn on!

Juxtaposition – to compare or contrast

“The artist excels at juxtaposing the issues of modernity in her work.”

Pictorial Window – the flat surface the image is painted on

“Her painting focuses on explorations of the pictorial window and its relationship to space.”

Formulist Criticism – evaluating the composition or work

“The artist has a true grasp on the formulist qualities of his work.”

Aesthetics – to evaluate art & beauty of a work

“The aesthetics of the piece created an uproar at the opening.”

Posted on October 18, 2019

Who Really Collects Art: An Introduction to the Series

This series offers a peak into the vast, wide, and surprising world of the Art Collector. Big Bucks Collectors, Small Bucks Collectors, those who collect literally big and literally small pieces, every collector has a curiosity in art, and those curiosities are curious to us, too! We present to you the intriguing stories of art collectors about the world, and what their collections convey to the outside. Happy voyeur-ing!

Posted on October 18, 2019

Art is an imperative element in the infrastructure of the public sphere. Engaging with art can lower stress, improve memory and increase empathy. As a centerpiece of the quotidian, art can shape the emotional landscape about it, no matter where it is set. This series gives perspective on the importance of having art as a part of our day-to-day, with suggestions to approach interior decorating for your pleasure and well-being.

Posted on October 18, 2019

MLG Art 101: Your Pocket Art Encyclopedia

It is our mission to put you on your path towards discovery! With a well-founded understanding of the basics in art — art terminology, art history, art theory, and art period movement — you can feel purposed and assertive to explore and discover what you LOVE. Hence we present to you this blog series, Art 101: your comprehensive survey course in All Things Art.

Posted on October 17, 2019

Art is Also Despicable /Odd/Uncomfortable/Disgusting, etc.

Art elicits myriad feelings, welcome and unwelcome — excitement, passion, discomfort, disgust. Art is weird like that, and so, this series is dedicated to unpacking THE STRANGE. Hold on to your butts, you’re in for a wild ride!

What's the role of the artist?

An artist requires neither a job description nor a boss. I’d argue that courage is the only thing an artist truly needs — courage not to create a work of art, but to show it and be judged by it. In truth, the job is a little masochistic. Yet despite this tendency towards masochism, or perhaps because of it, humanity has been provided a visual tale of the human condition that lays bare our greatest triumphs, losses and darkest moments. To create this narrative tapestry is the real job of the artist.

But what about the viewer?

Understanding the role of the viewer has been a hobby of mine. Some, like my husband, may argue that it is a border-line obsession. I’m willing to admit that my enthusiasm has grown slightly since founding Mona Loves Gustav. That said, if you believe that:


…the main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live,

Auguste Rodin

then how could you want to be anything but ‘obsessed’? Much like the artist, being a viewer also requires courage — courage to recognize works that speak to who you are, even when you question who that actually is; courage to feel the emotions, whatever they might be and know they are valid.

As much as it is the artist’s job is to push the boundaries, his or her true purpose is to remind the rest of us to be who we are and say what we feel. Not all art is created equal, nor are all of our feelings about art. Art has the ability to elicit from us a mixed bag of emotions: some pieces will pleasantly remind us of a first love or adventure while others will evoke uncomfortable, potentially suppressed childhood traumas of Batshit Crazy Aunt Betty.

So, sometimes, art makes us sick! Aunt Betty may be a special breed of crazy, but she likely has something important to teach us, despite and because of it. This series is my personal tribute to all the crazy Aunt Betties of the art world. I may not want any of them as permanent fixtures in my house, but maybe I can’t stop staring at them, either. Cheers to THE STRANGE!

Posted on October 11, 2019

Creative types are bursting with intrigue! The more we learn about them and subsequently see ourselves in them, the more we understand about our selves and about what we love. This series is a deep dive into the myriad personalities of The Creative! Discover the person, discover the art!

Posted on October 11, 2019

So, you’re not sipping champagne with Gagosian, huh? No big whoop. Affordable art fairs are popping up across the globe — not to mention emerging art galleries, end-of-year student shows and platforms like Mona — finding amazing works of art that won’t break the bank is the new norm. 

That said, let’s get you ready for buying a work of art in the following spaces…

1. THE ART GALLERY -- Don't take it personally... it really is them not you!

Some (not all!) galleries and gallerists can be snooty, conceited, hoity-toity and just plain rude to inexperienced collectors, or to people whom they don’t consider to be “serious buyers”. The good news is that you’ll know almost immediately that you’ve wandered into one of these abysses, so don’t sweat it! Just move on to a more welcoming elsewhere!

Here are a few tips for dealing with a gallerist like a pro:

Look for the red dot --

If an artwork on the wall or on the gallery’s price list (which, by law, must be prominently displayed, though often is not) has a red dot, that means it has been sold.

Let's make a deal --

Found something you absolutely love and gotta have, but it’s out of your budget? Take a moment to collect your thoughts, figure out how badly you want it, and what you can afford to offer. Most galleries are willing to negotiate with collectors on higher-priced work, as the contract between the artist and the gallery may allow for it. The gallery may even allow the buyer to pay for the work in installments.

Go with Plan B or C --

So you love the artist but even with a discount and a payment plan, the work is still too expensive — time to get creative! For example, ask to look at  smaller works by the artist, or see if the gallery has works on paper rather than canvas. You may even consider an older work or study by the artist. 

2. THE STUDENT -- Let's help them pay off that student loan!

Art schools across the country hold end-of-semester student shows by M.F.A. candidates. These are my favorite hunting grounds for new artists and inexpensive art. Keep in mind that some shows will be held on campus, while others will be hosted in gallery-like spaces, often with guest curators.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of a student show:

Relax and be cool --

Unlike galleries, student shows are informal and often without price lists. In most cases the school will act as a go-between and takes no fee, so the artist receives the full price.

If talking about money makes you uncomfortable --

Grab the artist’s card so you can follow up in an email. This also gives you a chance to do some Instagram-stalking to see more of their work. 

3. THE AUCTION HOUSE -- Sit On Your Hands... TRUST ME!

For the uninitiated, art auctions, whether in person or online, can be a little overwhelming and a lot like watching live theater. 

Here are some important tips to consider before entering the arena:

Create a plan of attack --

Review the catalog before going in and create a plan of attack. For example, pay attention to the low estimate vs high estimate for a particular work you are interested in. Then ask yourself:

  • Is it love or lust?
  • Can I afford owning it? Remember some works might require framing, special transportation costs, insurance, or all of the above.
Set a budget --

Set a budget, know exactly how much you are prepared to spend. Don’t get caught up in the feeding frenzy! Auction houses are hoping that the excitement and thrill of the conquest is going to get your hands in the air. It can be helpful to bring a friend along to provide some gentle nudging, should you need it.

And for all that is holy --

Please sit on your hands and refrain from unnecessary nodding during bidding! 


Open studios are annual events in art districts across the country. In Houston, we have a number of great places to visit, such as Sawyer Yards in EADO. Open studios (in general) are where individual artists, and/or buildings that house multiple artists’ studios, join forces and hold an open house for a weekend. Open art studios are typically very informal and are often without price lists. 

Here are some tips to help you navigate open artist studios like a champ!

Nosey much --

You are not being nosy by actively looking through the stacks — artists want you to go through the space.

Ask permission --

Before moving or picking up a piece, ask permission. Keep in mind not every piece you see will be available for sale.

The 'In' Crowd --

You will likely encounter a few established collectors of the artist — they love going to open studios. They get to see what new works are in progress, possibly check on a commissioned piece, and,  take up a ton of the artist’s time. If this happens, you have two options: wait around or grab the artist’s information and contact him or her later.

Posted on August 29, 2019

There is only one way to avoid criticism:


With the 2020 Democratic primaries getting ready to kick off, we thought a trip down memory lane was in order. Afterall, it goes without saying that 2016’s Presidential election was one for the record books. From the east coast to the west, and everything in between, the country was divided in ways not seen since the Civil War. Social media was awash with calls for friends and family to ‘unfriend’ themselves, the spreading of fear and hatred. Sadly, we’ve been unable to heal those rifts, and if anything, they’ve grown deeper and more entrenched. 

This election season and those past remind me that history is a living and breathing thing, it judges us for our actions or lack thereof and provides a compass in times of uncertainty. I believe it is through our understanding of culture and art that we see not only where we have come from, but what we are capable of being.

The works below represent snapshots in time, moments for future generations to explore and judge us by. They highlight the fervor of supporters, as well as the divisiveness that remains pervasive in our society.

David Horsey, Top of the Ticket, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2016
Rick McKee, The Adventures of Bernie Sanders, Augusta Chronicle, April 19, 2019
Steve Sack, When Joe Biden Speaks, StarTribune, August 14, 2019
Théodore Géricault, Raft of the Medusa, Museo del Louvre, 1818-19
Diego Rivera, Exploitation of Mexico by Spanish Conquistadors, Palacio Nacional de Mexico, 1929-1945
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, 1793
Yu Youhan, ‘Untitled (Mao Marilyn)’, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, 2005
Goya, The 3rd of May 1808 in Madrid or “The Executions”, Museo Nacional del Prado, 1814
Paul Revere, The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1770
Felix Nussbaum, In the camp, German Historical Museum Berlin, 1940
Glenn McCoy, Based on The Problem We All Live With, TalkingPointsMemo, February 15, 2016
Do Ho Suh, Karma, Art21, 2003
Wang Guangyi, Coca Cola (Great Criticism Series), Tate, 1994
Rick McKee, Drones vs Torture, Augusta Chronicle, December 10, 2014
Sabo, She knew, artnet news, 2017
Posted on August 29, 2019

From time to time we all feel the inextricable urge to shake things up. For some it’s trying out a new hairstyle, going vegan (good luck and godspeed), or maybe a new cocktail—for me it’s revamping my art!

No. 1: Have a plan

I beseech you to learn from my countless screwups and have a plan for your shake up. Otherwise, you’ll most likely find yourself staring at a wall that now resembles Swiss cheese, having wasted both time and money. So do yourself a favor, and ask the following:

  1. Do I want to accomplish a certain look, feel, or both?
  2. Do I want to focus on one or multiple rooms?
  3. Do I want to repurpose, or start from scratch?
  4. Do I have a budget?

No. 2: Go naked

Who says you need a frame around a work of art? This is your collection, which means have some fun and express yourself!

Changing out frames gets super expensive, so why not try some different and affordable alternatives? Once you’ve established your priorities and purpose, the fun really begins. Word to the wise: just make sure whatever method you choose won’t damage the work.

Source: Heather Day
Source: HonestlyWTF

No. 3: Break the rules

Besides going naked, breaking rules is my favorite thing to do! Art is all about expressing yourself, so enjoy trying out new things. Think outside the box and try something unconventional!

Posted on August 6, 2019

Seriously, it's all science's fault!

Let’s be honest, nothing truly prepares you for that first job. If you’re anything like me, you dive in head first and learn as you go.

When I started my consulting company, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, because I had been working in the art world for a number of years before going out on my own. When I landed my first corporate client, I had no fear, no hesitation, no “OMG what have I gotten myself into” moments.

What could go wrong -- EVERYTHING!

When I tell you it couldn’t have gone worse, I mean it couldn’t have gone worse. Perhaps if the secretary pool had pitchforks readily available, it could’ve been worse. And before you think I’m just being dramatic, let me explain what actually happened. This was a BIG project, it covered 3 floors and over 50 works of art. I worked for months with both the company’s interior designers and Vice President of Facilities. So when installation day finally arrived, my only real concerns were the works wouldn’t all show up or we’d break something. God I wish we had just broken something!

The day started out normal.

The crew began working on the lower floors, slowly making their way up to the executive level. The crew had maybe installed a total of 3 works on the executive floor when we began hearing rumbles. Unlike most revolutions throughout history, ours began silently through email and group chat. 

It started with an executive assistant who became visibly upset when a painting was installed on the wall in front of her cubicle. She felt the work was offensive and refused to work across from it. Before I could say or do anything, we noticed a small group of female employees making their way toward us. And that’s when demands for all the work to come down started.

Men At Work No. 6, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

My massive mistake!

I was at a complete loss. It’s not like we didn’t get approval for all the work. It had been seen by a number of people and not a single one expressed a problem with it… So what had I missed? Looking back, I now realize that everyone who approved of the collection were either males or had been in the oil industry for years. For them, the works conjured up memories of time spent in the oil fields. They focused on the figures sun-burnt skin, the details of the machinery, and the equipment, dirt, and sweat-drenched clothing.

No one, including myself, had considered what the larger audience would think about the collection.

Men At Work No. 2, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)
Men At Work No. 9, Allan Skriloff (@allanlskriloff)

For the female employees and those new to the industry, the works offered no emotional connection. Rather, they served only to reinforce the “good ol’ boy” mentality of the industry. And highlighted the disconnect between themselves and those they reported too.  What seemed like a perfect marriage between artwork and company turned out to be anything but.

I’ve always known artwork had the ability to stir strong feelings within all of us. And each and every one of those feelings are valid.But I have to admit: just how strong was somewhat surprising.

Ultimately, we ended up removing all the offending works and brought in works that spoke to everyone. At the time, I felt like a massive failure—after all, I was the “art professional”. Looking back on this experience, as painful as it was, I realize now it planted the seed for the philosophy behind Mona Loves Gustav.

Posted on February 7, 2018