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The Time Sotheby's and Christie's Played 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' for a Cézanne

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 2005, a Japanese electronics company called Maspro Denkoh Corp. decided to sell its Impressionist art collection. From Cézanne’s Large Trees Under the Jas de Bouffan, a landscape worth $16 million (pictured), to smaller works by Picasso and Van Gogh, the pieces Maspro Denkoh had hanging on the walls would have been enough to impress any aficionado.

In fact, experts were impressed—prestigious auction houses Christie’s and Sotheby’s were both eager to get in on the action. To choose between the two potential hosts for the epic sale, Maspro Denkoh president Takashi Hashiyama asked representatives from each auction house to explain how they would go about getting top bids for the Cézanne, the heart of the collection. The proposals ended up being so similar that Hashiyama still couldn’t choose. Rather than make a decision himself, he asked Christie’s and Sotheby’s to convene on their own in order to figure out who would take responsibility for the sales. The two auction houses still couldn’t come to a conclusion.

To settle the matter once and for all, Hashiyama resorted to a technique that has resolved playground disputes for centuries: a rousing game of "rock, paper, scissors." The president of Christie’s in Japan spent the weekend reading up on strategies and consulting experts, including a colleague’s 11-year-old twins, Flora and Alice, who recommended using scissors. “Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper,” Flora explained.

On the other hand, Sotheby’s didn’t prepare at all. “This is a game of chance, so we didn’t really give it that much thought,” Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art expert said.

Both auction houses were asked to write their “weapon” choices on pieces of paper, which were then turned over to an accountant. “Looking at the face of the accountant holding the piece of paper, you could tell nothing,” Jonathan Rendell, deputy chairman at Christie’s, told NPR. “He looks at it for what was probably 30 seconds, and your heart’s in your mouth.”

In the end, Christie’s preparations paid off. Their scissors beat Sotheby’s paper. The twins were unimpressed with Sotheby’s choice. “You never go paper. It’s a weak move,” Alice said, years later. Flora agreed: “Paper just sounds that it’s not going to win.”

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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