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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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Dan Bell
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Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

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iStock
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Art
The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself
iStock
iStock

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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