As 2018 comes to a close in a few days, I think it is best that we have a look back at some of the most important art historical discoveries this year has given us.  Out of 15 of the major discoveries that we have seen so far, these are the top three that I have decided to highlight:

1. A stolen Degas turns up in a bus

In 2009, a pastel painting by Edgar Degas, Les Choristes (1877) that was on loan to the Cantini Museum in Marseille, France by the Musée d’Orsay, was stolen. French police had no clue how it was done, so they assumed that it was an inside job. Fast forward to February of 2018, customs officials conduct a random search of a bus stopped at a gas station near Paris and find the painting that had been missing for almost 10 years inside a suitcase. Unsurprisingly, none of the passengers on board claimed the luggage as their own, nor the painting for that matter. It was quickly taken back into the collection of the Musée d’Orsay and estimated to now be worth over $1,000,000. In 2019, the museum will feature the painting in the exhibition “Degas at the Opera,” which will travel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. the following year.

2. New Michelangelo bronzes were identified by their 10-pack abs

Two bronze statues named “Bacchants Riding On Panthers” displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge on February 2, 2015.

Yes, you read that sentence right. Anyone who has ever studied a painting or sculpture by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni will know that he has the tendency to elaborate on the human anatomy. This year, an international team lead by the University of Cambridge finally confirmed after four years of research that the two bronzes sold at Sotheby’s in 2002 for £1,821,650, are in fact Michelangelo’s bronzes that he cast. As the BBC now puts it, these bronzes could now be worth “hundreds of millions.”

3. A professor in Italy claims to have discovered one of Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest works

A handout photo made available by the Press Office shows the work that portrays the Archangel Gabriel, considered the oldest of Leonardo Da Vinci, built on a square glazed terracotta tile.

Is it just me, or does it seem like every year there is always someone claiming that they found a new da Vinci painting? After the painstaking, record breaking sale in 2017 of his Salvator Mundi (which sold for $450.3 million AND people are still skeptic of its authenticity), we have another piece that has surfaced, but this time it is an eight-inch by eight-inch terracotta tile featuring a profile figure of the Archangel Gabriel. Italian professor Ernesto Solari held a press conference in Rome back in June where he claimed that the figure is Leonardo himself at the age of eighteen. Solari said that he used thermoluminescence testing to date the tile to the artist’s lifetime. He also worked with handwriting expert Ivana Bonfantin to verify a mirrored signature in the corner of the tile which Solari said read: “I, Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, represented myself as the Archangel Gabriel in 1471.” Leading scholars quickly jumped in to attack it as inauthentic, and claim that there is no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks that it is a da Vinci original. “One rule of thumb is that if a work is signed by Leonardo it’s not by him,” one scholar said when speaking to the Times of London. “The chance of its being by Leonardo is less than zero,” he continued. I guess only time will tell.

Personally I cannot wait to see what new discoveries 2019 will bring. Especially when a new painting resurfaces and is claimed a da Vinci once again, or when we find a long lost stolen painting inside of a super market.

From all of us here at LAAFA, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Meet Harmonia Rosales, the Afro-Cuban American artist based in Chicago who is causing a buzz in the art world with her re-imagined classical works of art with Black Femininity.

“Replacing the white male figures — the most represented— with people I believe have been the least represented can begin to recondition our minds to accept new concepts of human value. … If I can touch even a small group of people and empower them through the power of art, then I’ve succeeded in helping to change the way we see the world. … And when you consider that all human life came out of Africa, the Garden of Eden and all, then it only makes sense to paint God as a black woman, sparking life in her own image.”

“The Creation of God” by Harmonia Rosales. Image via Instagram.

These are just some of her thoughts when she talks about her now viral piece, The Creation of God. As you can see from the image above, it is an interpretation based on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam (c. 1508–1512) from the Sistine Chapel in Rome (below).

“The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo, ca. 1512

Rosales told BuzzFeed that she wanted to take widely recognized paintings showing white men as the central figures of authority, and “flip the script,” adding, “White figures are a staple in classic art featured in major museums. They are the ‘masters’ of the masterpieces. Why should that continue?”

In a recent video that Buzzfeed also featured her in, she mentions that the reasoning behind her artwork was for her daughter. “I wanted her to accept herself, her fro, everything,” Rosales says.

“When I create my work, I create it for her so she sees the beautiful Venus as a black woman with natural hair.”

The Birth of Oshun

With her daughter’s self-acceptance as her guide, Rosales aims to give all black women and women of color artworks that reflect their beauty that has been ignored for so long.

It’s no secret that a lot of the artworks in art history were created within the Western world view, where you have the main characters represented in a fair, light-skinned race. The art history books even go into detail about how a Madonna is represented with “milky white” and “porcelain” skin. People of color in classical paintings are always represented as the lower, poor working class, usually maids or slaves. What Harmonia is doing with her paintings is not copying the sacrilegious scenes, but deconstructing and establishing a counter narrative as to who and what we consider powerful and authoritative. For example, in The Birth of Oshun, Harmonia offers the benevolent and venerated Yoruba, goddess of fertility, sensuality, and prosperity. In the mid 1480s, Sandro Botticelli gave us The Birth of Venus where the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and fertility is represented as Western European.

Of course, with the powerful representational artworks that Harmonia is creating, it’s obvious that she inevitably receives backlash from conservative religious folks. But Harmonia is not giving up:

“Although it hurt me, it also encouraged me that I need to keep going. This is what art should be about, it should bring change; you should use your talent to empower and I am so glad that my work is doing that.”

Meet Amaro, a Swiss-born conceptual designer, illustrator, 3D artist, and recent graduate from LAAFA with a BFA in Entertainment Art. He moved to Los Angeles in 2015 after spending much of his childhood years dreaming about becoming an artist in the entertainment world.

On the event of our 2018 LAAFA Graduation and Exhibition, I asked Amaro to share his experience during his time with us at LAAFA. Below is a set of questions to help get to know him:

Q: Tell me about your experience at LAAFA, what was it like? What were some challenges that you faced?

A: Coming from Switzerland, what stands out about my experience at LAAFA is the “LA” part as much as the “AFA” part. This urban jungle took a while to get used to. Initially, the downsides of this city were a bit daunting; it was built for cars rather than for pedestrians, getting anywhere of note takes up large chunks of one’s day. The blatant display of vain consumerism and material distraction plastered across every inch that isn’t devoted to something more substantial was pretty off putting, only in the US have I seen advertisements and logos hung up in bars and restaurants as if they were there to create a desirable aesthetic. It took me a while to fall in love with the unique things only this city has to offer; an incredible diversity of cultures and cuisines, an unending variety of services, products, experiences and communities and a distinctly amicable attitude from even the most casual of acquaintances. LA is the world’s megaphone, blasting out ideas and culture with a force that no other city can rival. Also, California has some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes I have ever seen.

The AFA part was also challenging of course. We all start out doing art because we enjoy doing it and once one commits to doing art systematically, including external pressure to perform and meet deadlines, the enjoyment can drain out of the activity fairly easily. This was especially true during the first half of the education, which is solely focused on practicing the fundamentals of figurative art. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot and improved tremendously. I really do enjoy the craft, but drawing a dozen naked people a month can be daunting. In the end though, the practice has paid off greatly. My grasp of traditional draftsmanship has made my digital art all the better!

“Nausicaä” by Amaro Köberle. Fanart of the movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind by Studio Ghibli, depicting the movie’s namesake and protagonist.

Q: How does it feel for you to have finally graduated?

A: It feels great! After having spent as much of my life in school as I can remember with any accuracy, I finally have full control over my time. Of course, this is soon to change if I am to find a job, but it feels like a breath of fresh air for now. I am currently just working on improving my portfolio and applying for jobs, the former of the two activities makes me look forward to every day spent working on it.

Q: Tell me a bit the artwork that you submitted to the exhibition. What are they about and what made you include them?

A: Some of the work is simply the product of practicing the craft and is not representative of some deeply personal motivation for self expression. Some pieces are part of a personal project, the Edge Inn, which is something I intend to keep working on in the coming years. I hope to make it a full fledged VR experience.

“Welcome to the Edge Inn” by Amaro Köberle.

Q: What is next for you? What are your plans for the future?

A: Finding a job and working for the 12 months that I am allowed to stay in this country. Apart from needing to put food on the table, I have plenty to learn and there is no better way to learn than by working in the industry. What I ultimately want to do is apply all the skills I learn to my own personal projects and try to make a living off of those.

“Tribal Vampire Kid” by Amaro Köberle.

Q: What advice do you have for current and future students of LAAFA?

A: If you are in the entertainment art track, do yourself a favor and decide the following three things as early as possible, even while you are still learning the basics of the craft during the first 18 months:

  1. What kind of job do you want to apply for when you get out of school? Be specific, acquaint yourself with the positions that make up a movie or game production pipeline, pick one or two, don’t dilute your focus too much and get good at doing the things that people working in your chosen position need to be good at. Companies hire artists that can solve a specific problem that they need solved (character design, story-boarding, environment design, etc.), they don’t just hire “talent” and hope for the best. You have to show that you can do exactly what they need you to do. That also means that you need to prioritize classes and perhaps under-perform in some so that you can focus on what you actually care about.
  2. Find successful portfolios that have gotten high profile jobs that you want to do. Marty [Director of Academic Affairs] can help you get your hands on some if you ask him. Use those portfolios as a reference. Write out a list of pieces that you want in your portfolio by the end of school  (i.e. 3 character designs, 2 environment designs, 5 key-frame illustrations, etc.) Try to be specific, know how many pages a character design constitutes and what part of the design process you want to display on each page and then start working on them. Your first attempts are inevitably going to be mediocre at best, which is why you want more than one attempt at whatever you want to put into your final portfolio.
  3. Right from the start, decide on one or two projects that you want to develop for your portfolio. Those can either be a truly personal narrative/world or an adaptation of an existing fictional universe that you love. Stick to your projects as much as possible so that you have a cohesive body of work by the end of school. Also, consider that the more time you spend working and thinking about a particular fictional universe, the easier good ideas and fitting designs will come to you. If you keep switching between 15 different themes each and every one of them is inevitably going to be half baked and shallow. Basically, don’t wait until a month before Graduation to start putting your portfolio together…Bad idea!

“Encounter” by Amaro Köberle.