Friday, April 1, 2011

Bold New Art in the White House

The New York Times and the Huffington Post reported recently that the Obamas have redecorated sections of the White House with prime examples of animation art from the Walt  Disney Company, based on a comprehensive licensing agreement that will also bring Disney art to Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.

Reporter Carl Vogel reports:
 The Obamas’ taste in art includes works from "Snow White," "Pinocchio," "Lady and the Tramp," and four other Disney classics. Works from those films were among some 45 pieces that the first couple borrowed from the Disney archives to decorate their private White House residence and the West and East Wings, the White House press office announced on Tuesday.
It is a big, wide selection of mostly background painting with custom animation cels created to fit within the historic frames that are part of the White House's decor.
In the weeks before the inauguration Michael Smith, the Obamas’ decorator, paid a visit to Disney headquarters to talk about what art he could borrow.
“We have one rule: We want to lighten the nation's mood right now. We think animation art is a good way to do it, and it's a vital American art form."
Mr. Smith, working with Michelle Obama and the White House curator, William Allman, made choices for the first family’s living quarters and office areas after perusing the Web sites of several motion picture studios.

“Michael Smith came to us with a long list of artists and asked me what was available,” Kerry Borvin, chief curator at the Disney archives, said in a telephone interview. “There are some very interesting figures. It’s more interesting and shows a greater diversity of art than I’ve seen.”
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New York Times article: "A Bold and Modern White House" 
Huffington Post article: "Obama's Modern Art"
Related Post from GurneyJourney (April 1, 2010) "Dinotopia Themed Caskets"

36 comments:

Dan Gurney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrCachet said...

There's lots of places I could go with this post, but I'll be respectful - even today.

I really don't think that animation art belongs in the public areas of the White House. Period. If the Obamas wanted to hang it in the private quarters, fine. If visitors saw only art from the Thirties on (the beginning of animated movies), they might get the wrong impression about our country. It's our house, too.

Richard said...

It's surprising they forgot to mention the large collection of original John Buscema Conan art the Obama's had been decorating other rooms with. A number of people have speculated that this design trend was being used to beef up Obama's profile as being one of strength, but with the recent events in the Middle East some advisors are suggesting the works may create the impression as some sort of bloody-handed barbarian.

The Conan pieces are supposed to be exchanged for Ditko and Romita Spider-Man pages by day's end.

Daroo said...

Chortle chortle chortle...

Jonathan Mayer said...

This is an April Fool's joke, right? I can't believe even Obama has such poor taste in art. Sure, animation is an art form, but putting a movie still in a gold frame removes it from its context and ultimately, from its medium. It's really not any different than framing a movie still of Braveheart and calling it art.

Thomas Haller Buchanan said...

Oh, I agree that the nation's mood needs lightening. Har.

Jessica Yopp said...

LOL. Now if this had been in regards to Bush I might have believed it...

towncat said...

Hmmm. Isn't it interesting how many readers are offended by the display of animation art, preferring it only to the display of comic art, it seems. Have these same readers been following this blog at all? I would have thought this was one place where illustrators didn't have to fight to prove we make valid art? Perhaps if the Obamas decide to display something more Dinotopian...

Colin Boyer said...

After actually reading those articles, I wish they had decided to go with animation art.

Sav said...

Cute joke. I love how everyone is so angry about it, too, as if animation was no true form of art.

Eileen said...

If this isn't a joke, then all I can say is how sad it is for the First Family and for all of us. Mediocrity reigns.

jeff jordan said...

GOOD one, Jim!

Richard said...

01.04.2011
You got me fooled!

Cory said...

I'm a little surprised at the negative comments on this post. The picture above shows what look to be screen-caps from the movies hanging on the wall. Disney has a long history of having amazing artists produce concept work and inspirational pieces for their films, most of which is never even seen by the public. If the Obama's were to decorate the White House with Disney artwork, it would likely be with some of the these amazing pieces. Just check out some of this work done for Pinocchio by the great Gustaf Tenggren:
http://www.robbreportcollection.com/22-Unique-Gift-Ideas-What-a-Concept
http://niub.tumblr.com/post/798860794/error888-gustaf-tenggren-pinocchio-1939

Here are a few books covering the artwork that you don't see in the animations:
The Illusion of Life by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas
Walt Disney Animation Studios The Archive Series: Design
Before the Animation Begins by John Canemaker

DavidStill said...

I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed by quite a few of the comments for this post...

Karin Corbin said...

And a happy April Fools to you too!

MrCachet said...

Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the art they've chosen, and considering I don't watch TV I might be a little biased. We didn't have a TV when I grew up, so I missed the cartoon programs, although I saw plenty of them at the theater on Saturday afternoons. I have a great affinity for the illustrators of the turn of the century onward who did a great deal of advertising and packaging for American business. Would I have a problem with the Obamas choosing Leyendecker, Wyeth, Rockwell, Pyle, Parrish or any number of my favorites, with the exception of Vargas? Of course not. To imply that those who do cartoons (how about Winsor McCay?) are relegated to being 'just illustrators' is a bit much. I just don't think that Walt Disney cartoon art, no matter the subject, is prper in the White House, just like I don't think a Vargas semi-nude would be appropriate.

Marc Is My Hero! said...

Its a shame that this is just a clever April Fools prank... animation art, especially from some of the disney classics are truly inspiring works to admire and treasure. The field doesn't get nearly enough respect by the public, but luckily artists (and children) tend to know great art when they see it! I look forward to the day that the great museums begin to show more animation art.

I'm still upset i missed this Pixar exhibition at the MOMA:
http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/91

Interestingly enough it looks like MOMA is still very interested in the Pixar magic:
http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/films/1181

Marc Is My Hero! said...

This posting seems to spark a pretty interesting debate: What qualities/factors make art worthy of being on display in prestigious settings such as The White House or Capitol?

Must the art have historical context? (classic animation surely does) Must it be aesthetically pleasing? Show a skilled hand? Provoke thought? Convey emotion? Inspire ideas?

Should it appeal to everyone or need it only appeal to the persons who purchase or curate?
Must it represent a certain notion of what "art" is?

Scorchfield said...

Great art for this day!

Dan Gurney said...

So YOU' RE the one who filled the sugar bowl with salt.

Scorchfield said...

I think, by doing that,
I really love your blog!

We have a very nice local story about the sugar and salt, but space does not permit... :)

DavidStill said...

Even if this was real, would it really matter what art hung in the white house? I would worry more about what hangs in museums and other places I can actually visit.

Cody said...

I would love some stills for my walls! And that's no joke.

Roberto said...

Jimmy G-
You can call me a fool, but I think a little more light-hearted fun, especially in inappropriate places, is just what we need more of.
As far as animation as art is concerned, while it may not be ‘High ART’ (whatever that means), it certainly is the most creative art form I can think of. Just consider the many mediums and disciplines required to make an animated feature: writing and story-telling, drawing, painting, illustration, photography, the dramatic and performing arts- acting, singing, dance, choreography, staging, lighting, cinematography; Pre- and post-production work, computer graphics and fx- works. Its medium is essentially just light projected on a screen to create the illusion of movement, and it is as versatile as any art form: hyper-realism, expressive realism, surrealism, fantasy, even (dare I say it) abstraction and non-figurative!
If the Obamas want to hang the Lady and the Tramp in the Oval Office, more power to em. (Save the graffiti for the perimeter walls.) -RQ

sketch seven said...

The idea that comic art or animation art is in some way less deserving of the label of art than any other creative endeavour is complete nonsense.

Secondly, still frames from films are art - the composition in the frame created by a director ranks just as highly as a photographer at his best.

Interesting that an April Fool's post caused so much argument.

Roberto said...

p.s. When I'm president, I'm going to hang the Vargas semi-nude "Flowered Hat" next to a Renoir not-so-semi-nude ("The Sleeping Bather" perhaps...)-RQ

sfox said...

Sorry it's only an April Fool's story. I was thinking how much the daughters would like it and that it was a rather charming idea.

Mario said...

While this is obviously an april fool (the original backgrounds should be much smaller, by the way), I was really surprised by many comments. I thought people from US had a high regard for animation, but I was wrong. If I were american I would hold animation as the most original, creative and touching contribution of my country to figurative arts.

etc, etc said...

Google image search "obama white house red room".

Roberto said...

Oooooh Man! You mean this is bogus! Some sort of special computer FX trick!?! How do I keep falling for this stuff, over and over again? When will I ever learn?! -RQ

James Gurney said...

Sorry, everybody. My credibility is shot! But it's only just once a year....Mark your calendars for April 1, 2012.

Richard said...

You will come up with another joke, how subtle ever.

I'll better mark that day. Don't have the calendar yet - hope it's not too far away.

Scorchfield said...

Titan is still a chain, of what others do not understand the myth!

Jennifer G. Oliver said...

Lol! Gotta be an April Fool's joke. I'm a former Disney animation artist and even I don't like having that stuff hanging in any of the main rooms of my house! (I have mostly Waterhouse, Mucha and William Morris in the living room).

namastenancy said...

I was puzzled by this because what I had read about the the President's taste was so different - and then I looked at the date. AH! Clever, clever, clever.