The master propagandist by Henrik Bering

When we think of propaganda art, images of Soviet Stakhanovites furiously exceeding their production quotas, heroic tractor drivers on their mighty machines, and fresh-faced collective farm girls in abundant wheat fields fill the mind. Above it all rules Stalin, the Man of Steel, who comes in two basic versions: as the unshakable defender of Mother Russia against fascism, or as the bountiful father of the nation, whichever suits the occasion.

F. S. Shurkin’s Morning of our Fatherland from 1948 has it all: Stalin—the man who had dismissed the famine of 1932–33 as just a minor bureaucratic foul-up by a few overeager officials who were “dizzy with success”—positively glows with benevolence as he surveys the landscape, while the combine harvesters whir and the power lines sing. About the portrait, the wonderfully sycophantic artist has pronounced: “In the sound of the tractors, in the movement of the trains, in the fresh breath of the spring fields. In everything I saw and felt the image of the leader of the people.”

“Official” propaganda art, we have all been taught, is crude and laughably primitive, invariably inferior to real art. Except, of course, when it isn’t. And here the career of Jacques-Louis David is highly instructive. David became France’s leading artist during the nation’s most turbulent period, first acting as the high priest of the Revolution, then switching horses to become the celebrator-in-chief of Napoleon. Through his ability to make the politically reprehensible appear attractive, David delivers the ultimate proof of the seductive power of art.


Banksy, Daft Punk, Elena Ferrante: The New Cult of the Anonymous Artist By Ted Gioia

I’m a devoted fan of novelist Elena Ferrante, but I can’t match my wife—who is currently reading her sixth Ferrante novel and is game for more. Of course, we are hardly alone in our enthusiasm: Ferrante is ultra-trendy right now, and has emerged as Italy’s leading candidate for a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Except there’s a tiny problem—she probably won’t show up to accept a Nobel Prize. In fact, readers have no idea who Elena Ferrante really is. Ferrante isn’t her real name, and the author might not even be a woman. Various theories about the novelist’s identity have been bandied about, but the only thing her publisher will admit is that she “was born in Naples.”

By the same token, Satoshi Nakamoto deserves a Nobel Prize in Economics for his creation of bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that is changing the world of international finance. But there’s a problem here too—no one knows Nakomoto’s real identity. A number of candidates have emerged, including Australian Craig Wright, who recently tried to take credit for bitcoin, but many experts doubt his claim. The bottom line: The leading innovator in money matters is a mystery man, and we may never know his real identity.

Falsuri și falsificatori

The secret to all great art forgeries by Jeff Taylor

At the center of every major forgery scandal of the last century stands someone like Greenhalgh who not only could produce a very convincing fake, but who also understood how to corrupt the very systems of knowledge the art world uses to determine attributions and authenticity.


Why do we love Picasso? A ‘creativity algorithm’ explains by

The scientist ran an analysis of 1,700 paintings throughout history. Among those which received high creativity scores were “The Scream,” Kazimir Malevich’s first Suprematism paintings and paintings by Piet Mondrian and Georgia O’Keeffe. The painting that ranks first in the batch is Picasso’s “Ladies of Avignon,” while da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is notably absent from the top picks. The algorithm didn’t like that one much at all.