Cake Stool or Fake Stool?

[Above: ‘Cake Stool‘ (2008) by Humberto and Fernando Campana (Designers) and Estudio Campana (Manufacturer) from Sao Paolo, Brazil.  (Made from soft toys, steel, and canvas).]

Brazilian designers, “The Campana Brothers” are Humberto Campana, (b. 1953) and Fernando Campana, (b. 1961).  In 1983, the two teamed up to make furniture made of ordinary materials including scrap and waste products such as cardboard, rope, cloth and wood scraps, plastic tubes and aluminium wire.

They draw inspiration from Brazil’s street life and carnival culture, by combining ‘found’ objects (such as scraps of wood, furry toys and fabric off cuts); with advanced technologies, to create a vibrant energetic and definitively Brazilian approach to design. The brothers refer to this as ‘zest for life’ which celebrates the discarded and mundane.

In 1998 they became the first Brazilian artists to exhibit their work at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, along with work from the German lighting designer Ingo Maurer.

  • The Campana Brothers are currently represented by Friedman Benda in New York, Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London and Paris, as well as Galleria O in Rome.

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Time Fur Breakfast

[Object (or Breakfast) in Fur, (1936) is Méret Oppenheim’s famous cup, saucer and teaspoon covered with Chinese gazelle fur].

German-born, Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer, Méret Elisabeth Oppenheim was born on 6 October 1913 in Berlin. She was raised by her grandparents in Switzerland during WW1. At the age of 18 Oppenheim went to Paris where she enrolled at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. She presented her 3D objects to the Surrealist Exhibition (1933) which helped establish her as a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement.

  • On one occasion, Oppenheim staged a banquet in which a nude female formed the centerpiece of the table decoration.
  • In her paintings and sculptures, she often explored female sexuality. This typified much of her later work in which ordinary everyday objects were transformed into articles with fetishistic or sado-masochistic undertones.
  • Oppenheim’s best known piece is [Object or (Breakfast in Fur)] which was purchased by Alfred Barr for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and included in the museum’s first Surrealist exhibition Fantastic Art: Dada and Surrealism in 1936.

Oppenheim kept careful notes about which patrons and colleagues she liked and where her works ended up. She died in Basel, Switzerland on 15 November 1985 at the age of 72. An archive of most of Oppenheim’s artwork has been entrusted to institutions in Bern, Switzerland, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the National Library.

  • At Oppenheim’s acceptance speech in 1975 upon receiving the City of Basel Art Award, she declared “Freedom is not given to you — you have to take it.”

And I say, “If you do not think that this is your ‘cup of tea’ –  you might need to fake it.”

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There is Nothing Finer Than the Chimes of the Clinaman

[Featured – Clinamen (2013) MDF floor, PVC liner, water pump, heating device, porcelain bowls, water]. Paula Cooper Gallery New York and Galerie Xippas, Paris. This installation is generously supported at the NGV by the Loti and Victor Smorgon Fund.

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot is a French artist born in Nice in 1961. After training as a musician and composer, he formed an art experience that merges both visual and auditory sensors which allows us to experience the intangible and abstract at the same time.

Based on these principles Boursier-Mougenot creates large-scale acoustic installations drawing upon the laws of nature and the rhythms of everyday life; to produce new forms of art and music.

  • Clinamen encourages a form of multi-sensory or ‘synesthetic’ engagement, whilst creating a social space for reflection and contemplation.
  • Its white porcelain bowls float on the surface of an intensely blue pool.
  • Circulating gently and swept along by sub-maritime currents, the floating ‘crockery’ acts as a percussive instrument; creating a resonant, chiming acoustic soundscape providing an unorthodox musical sound.
  • As the floating plates move about the pool, they create a visible score, translating the aural into the pictorial and establishing a visual equivalent to the act of listening.

Hear Clinamen chimes

May the Clinamen Chime-a-momento to your heart

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Katnjupayi Benson | A Tale of Two Sittings

Katnjupayi Benson (Ngaanyatjarra) born c. 1933 comes from Papulankutja (Blackstone Community, 300 kms west of the Western Australia (W.A.), Northern Territory and South Australia borders); and spends time between Blackstone and the Docker River communities. She began to make baskets and animal sculptures in 1995 due to a weaving project within the community.

  • Wati Kutjara – Trans. Two Men. (2003) Papulankutja, (W.A.), (Wool, wire, human hair, raffia, gauze, found objects, spinifex and woolybutt) are two woven Tjanpi figures representing the Wati Kutjara Tjukurrpa; an important narrative associated with the artist. The Two Men were ancestral beings with special powers who came all the way from Perth and camped briefly near Blackstone before visiting Kuli Pirtin and Bang Mana Milpin near Blackstone. Then they went on to Docker River, 200 kms North East of Blackstone where another man killed them.
  • Bush Banana (2003) Papulankutja, (WA). (Wool, wire, human hair, raffia, gauze, found objects, spinifex, woollybutt, and grass). These three woven Tjanpi figures represent the Bush Banana Tjukurra; a dark narrative associated with the artists Country, which concerns a mother and her two children, a boy and a girl, who are used to stop camp and eat the bush bananas. One day the mother leaves the children at camp while she goes to collect some bananas. Two men are hiding in nearby bushes watching her and one throws his boomerang at her, hitting her across the back of her neck and kills her. He then followed her tracks back to camp and found the children. He threw the boomerang at the boy; hit him on back of his legs and killed him. He then chased the young girl and killed her too.

Kantjupayi is a respected senior Ngaanyatjarra law woman who has a son and two daughters. Both her son and one daughter are blind and Kantjupayi contributes all of her income from her art to these children.

Her fibre work was featured strongly in the national touring exhibitions Straight From the Heart (1998); Manguri Weaving (2001); and Seven Sisters: Fibre Works Arising from the West, Craftwest Centre for Contemporary Craft and Design, Perth, (2004).

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The Crusader, The Thief, The Nun & The Unknown

St Michan’s Church of Ireland is located in the heart of inner-city Dublin, where worship has existed on this site since 1095, when it was originally built by the Vikings who dedicated it after a Danish bishop. The Church encountered a rebuild in 1685 and a large pipe organ was installed in 1724, on which Handel is said to have first played the Messiah when he visited Dublin during 1741-1742.

Most of St. Michan’s visitors come to view the crypts underneath the church where there are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families, including the legendary Sheare’s brothers  who were executed by the British in response to the Rising of 1798. There are also the highly decorated coffins of the Earls’ of Leitrim.

There are a number of theories as to why the corpses in the crypts have been preserved over time. One is that the basement contains limestone, making it particularly dry and ideal for mummification and the preservation of the coffins. Another is that the church was built on former swamp land and that methane gas is acting as a kind of preservative for the bodies. Regardless of the reason, whatever is preserving the mummies is also disintegrating their coffins. After a certain amount of time the wood falls away and a well-preserved mummy comes tumbling out.

Only two of the crypts are open to the public for viewing. The most visible mummies are The Big Four, four mummified corpses which have no lids on their coffins and are displayed together. On the right is a woman, known as The Unknown. The one in the middle is referred to as The Thief  because he is missing parts of both feet and a hand, (some say the hand was cut off as punishment). Next to him on the left lies a small woman known as The Nun.

Another vault contains the remains of the Crusader, claimed to belong to an 800 year old mummy.  It is believed that he was a soldier who either died in the Crusades, or returned and died shortly afterwards. The Crusader was quite tall for his time (six and a half feet tall), and his legs were broken and folded up under him to fit him into his small coffin. He lies with one of his hands stretching slightly out of the casket and in the air. Legend has it that those who touch his finger will have good fortune.

  • As of July 2017, you can no longer touch any of the mummies, so I am lucky to say that I rubbed the Crusader’s finger, before the ban.
  • Nevertheless, a visit to the Crypts to see the historic mummies is a remarkable experience.

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With a Huffin’ and a Puffin’ These Covers Will Blow You Away

[Above: Book covers for Puffin Story Books published in 1951. Gloria Freedman’s front and back cover (The Secret Garden) and John Harwood’s covers for Fairy Tales From the Isle of Man.]

Four years after Australian paperback publisher Penguin Books had been founded by Sir Allen Lane, the idea for Puffin Books was hatched. In 1939, Noel Carrington (an editor for Country Life books), met Lane and proposed a series of children’s non-fiction picture books; inspired by the brightly coloured lithographed books, mass-produced at the time for Soviet children. Lane saw the potential and the first of the picture book series were published the following year.

The name “Puffin” was a natural companion to the existing Penguin and Pelican books. Many continued to be reprinted right into the 1970s. A fiction list soon followed when Puffin secured the paperback rights to Barbara Euphan Todd’s 1936 story Worzel Gummidge and brought it out as the first Puffin Story (PS) book in 1941, which was illustrated by John Harwood.

John Harwood illustrated 11 books for Puffin paperbacks including:

  • Baby Puffin (BP) books Puffin Rhymes (BP3) and The Old Woman and Her Pig (BP4)
  • Junior (J) books – Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (J1)
  • Puffin Picture Books (PP) A Christmas Manger (PP103) and The Yuletide Cottage (PP107)
  • Puffin Story (PS) books including Worzel Gummidge (PS1); My Friend Mr Leakey by JBS Haldane (PS16); No Other White Men by Julia Davis (PS29); Worzel Gummidge and Saucy Nancy by Barbara Euphan Todd (PS30); Fairy Tales From the Isle of Man by Dora Broome (PS59); and A Moor of Spain by Richard Parker (PS78).

Gloria Freedman illustrated two Puffin Story books:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett (PS69); and
  • A Puffin Book of Verse compiled by Eleanor Graham (PS72).

Many well-known illustrators and artists illustrated covers for Puffin including Charles Tunniliffe, Ronald Searle and Edward Ardizzone.

“with a huff and a puff I’ll blow your covers away”

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Bathing or Resting But Never Protesting

[Francois Boucher The Surprised Bather (1736) and Diana Resting After Leaving Her Bath]

French Rococo style artist Pompidour François Boucher was born in Paris on 29 September 1703, the son of lace designer Nicolas Boucher.

Boucher is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, reflecting inspiration gained from artists such as Watteau and Rubens. His early work celebrates the idyllic and tranquil; portraying nature and landscape with great élan.

  • Typical of the French Rococo style, Boucher was a court painter at the time of Louis XV and enjoyed the patronage of Madame de Pompadour.
  • His art portrayed scenes with a definitive style of eroticism and his mythological scenes were considered passionate and intimately amorous.
  • Along with his painting, Boucher also designed theatre costumes and sets, closely parallel his own style of painting.

Boucher died on 30 May, 1770, in Paris.

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Is Art Trash? or Is It ‘Trash Art’

The Destroyed Room (1978) by Jeff Wall. Transparency in light-box 159 cm x 234 cm. (Collection  of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa)

Canadian photographic artist Jeffrey “Jeff” Wall, was born in Vancouver on September 29, 1946. He is best known for his large-scale back-lit cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Wall has been a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene since the early 1970s. He attained an MA from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1970. Wall then became Assistant Professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1974-1975), Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University (1976-1987) and taught for many years at the UBC and lectured at the European Graduate School.

Wall, a member of the Photo Conceptualism Movement, experimented with conceptual art while an undergraduate at UBC. He then made no art until 1977, when he produced his first back-lit photo-transparencies.

  • Presenting his first gallery exhibition in 1978 as an “installation” rather than as a photography show, Wall placed The Destroyed Room in the storefront window of the Nova Gallery, enclosing it in a plasterboard wall.
  • The Destroyed Room is a staged scene of destruction in the bedroom of a young woman in which only the lithe figurine on the bureau and one black stiletto-heeled shoe remain standing. The discarded objects are the debris of commodities that promise personal beauty, but are subject to constant changes in style and planned obsolescence.
  • Sonic Youth’s compilation album The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities uses Wall’s 1978 The Destroyed Room.

Since the early 1990s, Wall has used digital technology to create montages of different individual negatives, blending them into what appears as a single unified photograph. His signature works are large transparencies mounted on light boxes. He says he conceived this format when he saw back-lit advertisements at bus stops during a trip between Spain and London. In 1995, Wall began making traditional silver gelatin black and white photographs, and these have become an increasingly significant part of his work.

  • The Destroyed Room could also be called a ‘Trashed Room’ and as a piece of art, I guess you could describe it as ‘Trash Art’.

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Underpants in Art? | I’m Just Going to Keep This Brief

Yes, it appears that underwear and underpants can be a feature of art and here are some examples which prove this. Firstly, “The Connoisseur II”  by Peter Corlett, (born in Melbourne, on 16 January 1944) produced an Australian fibre-glass, reinforced polyester resin sculpture, 157×45×43 cm (National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne).

  • Secondly we have Jordi Cordal’s Handle With Care’ which was shown at the 2012 Platform Contemporary Art Spaces. ‘Platform’, is Australia’s longest operating artist run initiative. One of its main exhibition points is the Campbell Arcade within the Flinders Street underpass area in central Melbourne. (Mixed media including Y front underpants, remote control, walnut shells, pea, plastic, graph paper and board).

Lastly I have included an ‘installation’ of a random pair of underpants which were attached to some external infrastructure in Hosier Lane. How they arrived and ended up, let alone displayed there, is anyone’s guess.

Y Fronts in Art? – Y Not!

When it comes to underpants as art, Y-Fronts? Y-Not!

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Early Depictions and Accounts of Fake News

“The Suicide of Alice Blanche Oswald” (from The Illustrated Police News, 21 September 1872).

During Queen Victoria’s British reign there was an increase in reporting sensational news stories which whet the general public’s appetite for more.  Many of these stories were accompanied by  crudely sketched pictures featured in publications such as The Illustrated Police News; adding sensationalist imagery to reports like “The Suicide of Alice Blanche Oswald” in 1872.

This kind of reporting is often referred to as “Penny Dreadfuls” which specialised in the genre of sin and sensation where the standard of illustration and tone gained a reputation during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. The content of The Illustrated Police News was similar to that of The Newgate Calendar and various contemporaries.

Most of the dreadful true happenings recounted in the papers were ‘news’ although some  must have been invented. Headlines were a specialty and sometimes a wonder to behold. For example:

A Sanctimonious Scoundrel Murders His Own Child
Suicide of Two Girls
A Living Woman Measured for Her Coffin
A Child Stolen by a Monkey
An Encounter With a Mad Dog at a Post Office
Death from Swallowing a Mouse
Throwing a Wife Out of a Window

The Illustrated Police News was never salacious, although it sometimes noted other matters rather than murder, such as:

  • Robbing Schoolgirls of Their Wearing Apparel” – is a headline of more promise than the supporting story provides.
  • A Girl Seized by a Gorilla” sounds even better, but it isn’t.
  • Extraordinary Science at a Wedding” tells a tale as old as bigamy.

There are also grisly executions, a side glance at sport (killed by a cricket ball); some distressing signs of sectarianism (horrible treatment of a nun); and a regrettable cessation with mutilating, flogging and cannibalism.

Clearly the fiction of the Victorian age was often far from nice and undoubtedly reported ‘Fake News’.

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All You Need is Love

American Pop Art movement artist Robert Indiana was born Robert Clark on 13 September, 1928 in New Castle, Indiana. His work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images and his best known image is the word LOVE in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter O. The iconography first appeared in a series of poems originally written in 1958, in which Indiana stacked LO and VE on top of one another. Then in a painting with the words “Love is God”.

  • His first red/green/blue LOVE print was created for the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) 1965 Christmas card.
  • This was followed in 1973 when the United States (US) Postal Service distributed Indiana’s LOVE stamp.
  • Sculptural versions of the image have been installed at numerous American and international locations. The sculpture LOVE is situated on Sixth Avenue at 55th Street, New York.
  • In May 2011, a 12-foot LOVE sculpture – one in an edition of three identical pieces – sold for $4.1 million.

LOVE is one of the most recognised and replicated pop-art images of all time. For example, the 1970 movie “Love Story” based on Erich Segal’s novel of the same name with its famous “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” line. The Love Story logo has a distinct likeness to Indiana’s varied LOVE images and uses the same colours, however there is no leaning letter O featured, so I assume it is not one of Indiana’s originals.

  • Indiana’s work is well represented throughout the US and worldwide. In 2013, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted a retrospective of his work entitled “Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE “.

 What a LOVE Story | LOVE Is All You Need

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Crate Works of Art | Very Smart

[Jeff Smart ‘Self-Portrait at Papini’s’ (1984-85) oil & polymer on canvas 85x115cm]

Having always enjoyed this work by Smart, I was reminded of it whilst walking past the back-door of a local milk bar. Likewise, when I saw this ‘Random Acts of Gentle Anarchy‘ in Hosier Lane some time ago.

Jeff Smart (Full name: Frank Jeffrey Edson Smart), was born in Adelaide on 26 July 1921. An expatriate Australian painter, he is known for his precisionist depictions of urban landscapes that are ‘full of private jokes and playful allusions’. Self-Portrait at Papini’s was partly based on a photo of the artist standing in front of Papini’s workshop in Pieve a Presciano, in Tuscany. Papini was the owner of the petrol service station. Smart lived in Tuscany for 40 years until his death from renal failure in Arezzo, on 20 June 2013, aged 91.

  • This mid-career painting set an auction record for Smart when it sold in 2014 at Deutscher and Hackett’s Fine Art Auction in Sydney for $1.28 million. It is one of only 3 known self-portraits by Smart and considered the most substantial.
  • It was the first time the painting had come on the market since 1986 when it was bought by a Melbourne collector  from Smart’s Melbourne and Sydney gallery, Australian Galleries.
  • It appeared at the Master of Stillness: Jeffery Smart Paintings 1940-2011 at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in Victoria.

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Compare the Pair #18 | The Lovers

[Left: Jeremy Park – Lovers (2002) c-type photograph; Right: Rene Magritte – The Lovers (Les Amants) oil on canvas (1928) 54x73cm National Gallery of Australia]

Sydney photographer Jeremy Park pays homage to Rene Magritte’sThe Lovers‘. Magritte’s original (painting) is one of a small group of pictures he painted in Paris in 1927-28, in which the identity of the figures is mysteriously shrouded in white cloth. The group of paintings includes L’histoire Centrale (The Central Story) 1927 (collection Isy Brachot, Brussels); L’invention de la vie  (The Invention of Life) 1927-28 (private collection, Brussels); and Les Amans (The Lovers) 1928 (collection National Gallery of Australia).

  • The origin of this disturbing image has been attributed to various sources in Magritte’s imagination. Like many of his Surrealist associates, Magritte was fascinated by ‘Fantômas‘, the shadowy hero of the thriller series which first appeared in novel form in 1913, and shortly after in films made by Louis Feuillade. The identity of ‘Fantômas‘ is never revealed; he appears in the films disguised with a cloth or stocking over his head.
  • Another source for the shrouded heads in Magritte’s paintings has been suggested in the memory of his mother’s apparent suicide. In 1912, when Magritte was only thirteen years of age, his mother was found drowned in the river Sambre; when her body was recovered from the river, her nightdress was supposedly wrapped around her head.

Magritte himself disliked explanations which diffused the mystery of his images. His matter-of-fact style deliberately eschewed the assumption that these images were simply the expression of personal fantasy or private neurosis. They are images calculated to unlock the darker side of the mind.

  • Lloyd, Michael and Desmond, Michael. (1972) European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery p.173.

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Summer Nights | Tell Me Moore, Tell Me More

[A Summer Night by Albert Moore, (1890) Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool]

Albert Joseph Moore (4 September 1841 – 25 September 1893) was an English painter known for his depictions of langorous female figures set against the luxury and decadence of the classical world. He was born in York and was the youngest of 14 children. In his childhood he showed an extraordinary love of art. Moore’s first exhibited works were two drawings which he sent to the Royal Academy in 1857 and a year later he became a student at the Academy. From 1858 to 1870, he produced and exhibited many pictures and drawings, and in 1863, he painted a series of wall decorations at Coombe Abbey, the seat of the Earl of Craven.

  • In 1866 he painted The Last Supper and The Feeding of the Five Thousand on the chancel walls of the church of St. Alban’s, in Rochdale and in 1868 A Greek Play, an important panel in tempera for the proscenium of the Queen’s Theatre in Long Acre.

Several of his pictures are now in public collections throughout the United Kingdom including the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, all in London and at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, to name but a few.

  • Moore was sensitive to the beauty of flowers so much that he could not work in his studio unless he was surrounded by bowls filled with many coloured blooms.
  • In 1890, whilst finishing A Summer Night, Moore fell victim to a malady that within three years would prove fatal and he died at his studio in Spenser Street, Westminster on 25 September 1893.

Summer days drifting away, to uh oh, those Summer Nights!

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Lascaux Cave Art

The Lascaux Cave is a fine example of ‘Cave Art’. In the late 1930s on a wooded hill above the village of Montignac near Lascaux, France, a huge pine tree fell, revealing a narrow opening into an underground cavern. This remained unexplored until 12 September, 1940 when four teenage boys decided to venture inside. With a lantern in tow and at the bottom of the underground chamber they saw painted on the walls images of bulls, stags and horses. This chamber is now known as the Great Hall of the Bulls. This leads into a place even more wonderful, known as the Painted Gallery, a passageway of around 90 feet long almost completely covered with paintings of wild beasts including aurochs (an extinct form of ox) measuring 1.7 metres each.

The unknown artists used paints derived from metal oxides including iron oxide and manganese oxide. In other chambers, the figures of animals were incised into the stone face of the cave, probably using a sharp piece of flint.

Many examples of cave art are presented in alcoves and recesses which can only be reached via a tortuous network of underground channels . Mostly the caves were uninhabited and hardly located at eye-level on a handy upright wall, but situated several metres off the ground requiring their creators to have daubed while either lying on their backs or clinging precariously to a rock face. At Lascaux, the artist or artists used the entire chamber for their composition and incorporated the natural curves of the walls and ceiling to give more life to their images.

There are many interpretations for these paintings, varying from symbols of magic, relationships between hunters and “spirit animals”, or used at religious or ritualistic events.  Some experts believe that to early human beings, the animal images bore a significance that was related not to species, but to gender. One theory has it that the bison or aurochs represented femaleness and the horse maleness and their relative positions in a cave, spelling out symbolic messages, perhaps about birth and reproduction.

  • There is only one human figure in the Lascaux caves, in a room known as the Shaft of the Dead Man. It features a man lying flat on the ground while above him is a huge bison; its head down; posed to gore him to death. Off to one side, a figure of a rhinoceros is seen fleeing from the bison.

After the end of WW2, the Lascaux caves became a tourist destination with about 1200 visitors escorted through the chambers every day. By 1955 the tours were altering the atmosphere and the paintings were beginning to deteriorate. By 1963, the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs decided to close the caves to tourists.

  • Since 1983 visitors have been able to explore Lascaux II, an exact replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Chamber.

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