Art Renewal Center
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The Art Renewal Center (ARC) is an organization led by New Jersey millionaire, businessman, and art collector Fred Ross dedicated to the promotion of what it terms classical realism in art, as opposed to the Modernist and Postmodernist developments that can be seen as early as the 1890s. ARC is a nonprofit educational foundation dedicated to the renewal of classical training and the re-appreciation of traditional art. They function mainly though their website, www.artrenewal.org. In addition to providing the public with art educational tools such as articles, artist biographies, podcasts, upcoming and current exhibition information, information on the atelier and academy schools where the atelier method is still taught and hosting a large online museum with over 75,000 images dedicated to traditional painting, they hold two competitions for living artists who paint in the realist tradition. The International ARC Salon is open to all artists who paint using realistic imagery, and their scholarship competition was formed to aid aspiring artists learn traditional training methods. They are large supporters of the Contemporary Realist Movement, which is founded with realist imagery, but with contemporary subject mater. They have a section titled Approved Artist and Living Master's Gallery, which shows the work of many contemporary realist artists of today, and includes several leaders of the movement.
The Art Renewal Center (ARC) was founded in 2000 by a group of artists, art collectors, historians, and enthusiasts, and is chaired by Fred Ross. It is a visual arts organisation which advocates the rejection of Modernism and the current art establishment, in favour of what it defines as the previously established "standards of craftsmanship and excellence". The ARC sees the acquisition of academic skills as being essential for the art of the future. It operates primarily through a web site sponsored by Fred Ross, a millionaire New Jersey businessman and art collector, who is a strong campaigner for its ideas.
The web site examines values of art with articles, messages, and a detailed statement by Fred Ross, the ARC chairman. It is a campaigning site that is harshly critical of most modern art, and equally fervent about prior art. The site contains nearly 63,000 images of past works as examples of the art it endorses, as well as listing contemporary artists, schools and studios of which it approves. Particular emphasis is given to the work of French nineteenth-century Salon painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, who is represented by over 226 images on the site; Ross says that Bouguereau's work is accessed twice as often as any other artist on the site, including such esteemed artists as Michelangelo.
Ross wrote in an essay:
- For over 90 years there has been a concerted and relentless effort to disparage, denigrate and obliterate the reputations, names and brilliance of the academic artistic masters of the late 19th century. ... It is incredible how close Modernist theory, backed by an enormous network of powerful and influential art dealers, came to acquiring complete control over thousands of museums, university art departments and journalistic art criticism.
Ross is a strong admirer of Bouguereau's work. In 2002 he spoke to the New York Society of Portrait Artists and described the impression made on him in the Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Massachusetts) by Bouguereau's 8.5-foot-tall (2.6 m) painting, Nymphs and Satyr:
- Frozen in place, gawking with my mouth agape, cold chills careening up and down my spine, I was virtually gripped as if by a spell that had been cast. Years of undergraduate courses and another 60 credits post-graduate in art, and I had never heard [Bouguereau's] name. Who was he? Was he important? Anyone who could have done this must surely be deserving of the highest accolades in the art world.
Images on the ARC site include many works of Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Romantic and French Academic art. It includes some Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet and Édouard Manet, but other than Vincent van Gogh, it does not include any of the Post-impressionists, such as Paul Gauguin or Paul Cézanne, nor any other Modernist school except the Surrealism exemplified by Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy. The group is critical of much twentieth-century art, arguing that it demonstrates weak technique and conveys ideas ineffectually, if at all, and focuses on false, obscure, or trivial subject matter, in addition to being weird for weirdness' sake. Exceptions include such twentieth-century artists as Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, and a number of contemporary realist painters featured in its Living Masters List.
The ARC says it abides by a concept of art exemplified by art produced from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. ARC's concept of art is defined by this quote from their FAQ:
- Specifically, the way that art accomplishes its expression is through the manipulation of a medium as a selective recreation of some aspect of reality. That is to say that the artist "fictionalizes" reality in order to highlight some idea he thinks is important, and to diminish ones he considers irrelevant to his intended message.
The group actively promotes the French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau, considering him not only the greatest French artist of the nineteenth century but also "unquestionably one of history's greatest artistic geniuses." Several Art Renewal Center members are, in addition, involved with the "William Bouguereau Catalog Raisonné" project. The group is openly hostile to contemporary art education and dismissive of contemporary art history from the Impressionists onwards. Among the published polemics, there are attacks on David Hockney for his thesis that many artists used lenses and visual aids. The Art Renewal Center also encourages the development of supposedly traditional painting styles and methods such as instruction by atelier for painters.
The ARC has received criticism even from some people with reservations about Modernism. Artist and blogger Mark Vallen posted on his web site that the ARC "are not incorrect when noting the follies of modern art, but their total rejection of it is beyond the pale and thoroughly reactionary." Vallen was also critical of Bouguereau: "Bouguereau's strength was his dedication to the craft of painting, and his technical mastery of oil painting can't be denied. If today's artists knew but a fraction of the painting skills possessed and employed by Bouguereau, they would be better off. Nevertheless, Bouguereau was also imprisoned by his extremely conservative vision of what painting could be—and that was his greatest weakness."
Online art museum
The ARC has an online art gallery which contains thousands of images from classical painters across the world. Some images require visitors to sign up with an account on the ARC website in order to view them. Paid account members have access to high-resolution images of paintings.
The ARC runs a scholarship project and also an annual Salon competition since 2003. Dana E. Levin was one of the ARC International Scholarship winners in 2001 and 2002. Daniel Gerhartz won the Best in Show in 2004 and Paul G. Oxborough in 2005. Donato Giancola won first place in the figurative category in 2004.
- Roth, Mark. "Gifted artist? Bouguereau's work controversial more than a century after his death", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 21 August 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2007.
- "Course - To ‘Make it New’: the Modernist revolution in literature from the 1890s to the 1920s - University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education". Ice.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Art Renewal Center® Scholarships and Programs with Online Museum". Artrenewal.org. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Art Renewal Center : Homepage". Artrenewal.org. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
- "Art Renewal Center Salon Prospectus". Artrenewal.org. 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "Art Renewal Center". Artrenewal.org. 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- "ARC Galleries of ARC Approved™ Artists and ARC Living Masters™". Artrenewal.org. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- Edwards, Alun. "ARC : art renewal center", Intute: Arts and Humanities, 17 October 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2008.