Remembering Vaclav Havel as a Revolutionary Artist, Macabre Michael Jackson Furniture Sale Makes $1 Million, and More

Remembering Vaclav Havel as a Revolutionary Artist, Macabre Michael Jackson Furniture Sale Makes $1 Million, and More
Former Czech President, playwright, essayist and film director Vaclav Havel on set of his film "Leaving"
(Photo credit should read Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

– Remembering Vaclav Havel, Czech Author, President, and Playright: “Although playrights from Bertolt Brecht to Athol Fugard have instilled their work with a fervid political commitment, only Mr. Havel went from being a prisoner of a state to the leader of that state,” writes Mel Gussow. The dissident Vanek trilogy writer, who became president of the Czech Republic in 1993, died on Sunday. [NYT]

– Buy the Mirror of the Man in the Mirror: If the recent sale of Liz Taylor’s jewelry and clothing was a classy celebration of her life, the auction of art and furniture from Michael Jackson’s family home — including the rug that lay beneath the bed where the King of Pop died — was slightly more macabre. The sale brought in nearly $1 million, more than twice the high estimate of $400,000. Among the hot ticket items was a kitchen chalkboard on which Jackson’s children wrote “I love daddy,” which sold for $5,000. [Daily Mail

– Oils Well As BP Pledges More UK Arts Funding: The oil giant has pledged another $15.5 million to British art institutions, including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and Tate Britain, despite an 8,000-name petition earlier this month asking the Tate to end the corporate sponsorship. The pledge comes at a time of austerity for UK arts, but Tate director Nicholas Serota still said he was "thinking very hard" about the issue. Critic Jonathan Jones has his own take on art and oil in the Guardian. [BBC

– Artist Behind NYC’s Ugliest Public Art Project Returns: Kristin Jones, the artist behind artwork/digital time piece “Metronome” that was met with a scathing reaction, will unveil her latest work. She hopes to transform four New York trees into a 24-hour multimedia extravaganza of lighting, time-lapse filming, poetry, and music. [NYT

– Metropolitan Goes Google: The Met has provided a database of images for Google Goggles, an application that allows smartphone users to snap a picture of an object and identify it. Now, when users take a picture of an iconic artwork — real or reproduced — owned by the Met, the museum collection's data will pop up in the app. [NYT]

– Queen’s Leonardo da Vinci Drawings Tour UK: A collection of 10 rarely seen drawings by Leonardo da Vinci that are part of the royal collection at Windsor Castle will tour the UK to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. [BBC

– Best Film for Marclay: Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan’s pick for the best film of 2011 isn’t technically a film at all, but rather a work of art: Christian Marclay’s 24-hour clip collage “The Clock.” [LAT

– Occupy Aspen Leader Barred from Museum: The community activist behind the Occupy Aspen movement is now forbidden from setting foot on the future site of the Aspen Art Museum after museum officials complained he had replaced museum signs with his own “For Sale” signs. [Aspen Times]

– Travel Channel Gets an Art Show: The Travel Channel has just taped the premiere episode of a new series called "Sand Wars," which pits sand sculptors against one another in a beach art battle, at Florida's Siesta Beach. The pilot apparently involved actual dynamite. [Sarasota Patch

Blue Chip Art Gets Pawned in Beverly Hills: Collectors in the 90210 zip code are apparently suffering: "unprecedented levels" of contemporary art, including works by Hockney, Warhol, and Chagall, are going to pawn shops as collateral for loan. Beverley Loan Company's CEO explained, "Our exclusive clientele is interested in confidential and secure loans for big ticket items, and it is clear that contemporary art and collectibles are the favored pieces to secure them quickly." [SFGate

– Letterman Gallery: Steve Young, a staff writer from the Late Show With David Letterman, has opened an exhibition at the Ameringer McEnery Yohe gallery of photographs taken from the show's second-story window. The shots depict celebrities, reporters, and guests, all in sight of a gray blob of gum affixed to the window ledge. The host, who helped organize the show, is something of an amateur photographer himself.[NYT]

– Renaissance Christmas Stamp: The “Madonna of the Candelabra,” an Italian Renaissance panting by Raphael hanging in Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum, has been chosen by the U.S. Postal Service as its official Christmas stamp. [WaPo]

– Christopher Knight’s Best of 2011: The Los Angeles Times critic assessed the legacy of the massive postwar art initiative Pacific Standard Time in his end-of-year review. Two long-lasting effects? An inadvertent shopping list for collectors (“A guide to assembling major postwar L.A. art collections has been handed to them on a silver platter”) and more texts on the subject than had been cumulatively published before 2011. [LAT