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In Rare 'Antiques Roadshow’ Misfire, High School Art Gets Valued at $50,000

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PBS Screenshot

PBS's Antiques Roadshow is a television show where people have their furniture, art, and other collectibles appraised by a panel of experts to the delight of the at-home audience. The experts look over each piece and give their best estimate on its origin and value. Since it's just for entertainment, the appraisals are considered “verbal approximations of value” and not necessarily entirely accurate. Past appraisals will even sometimes get updates on the show's website with more exact values, but for the most part, the panel generally lands somewhere in the ballpark of the actual worth of the item. That is, until they accidentally appraised a high schooler's art project for $50,000.

As Hyperallergic reports, last year, PBS aired an episode of Antiques Roadshow where an Oregon man named Alvin Barr brought in a "grotesque face jug." The jug had six different contorted faces on it along with a variety of scales and patterns. Barr found it covered in feathers and mud at an estate sale in a barn in Eugene, Oregon. He bought it for a mere $300.

Expert appraiser Stephen L. Fletcher examined the piece and estimated that it was from either the late 19th century or early 20th century. He assigned the jug a hefty value of $50,000. Understandably, Barr was floored. It didn't come to light until later that the jug had actually been made in the 1970s by an Oregon high school student named Betsy Soule.

Soule was alerted to her artwork's television premiere by a friend who saw the episode in January. “You’ve got to get on the internet and look up Antiques Roadshow; that weird pot you made is on there,” the friend said, according to The Bulletin.

The artist contacted the show and let them know about their mistake. She accompanied the story with a picture of herself as a student surrounded by the various jugs she created. Roadshow admitted their error and added the correction to their website. They also included a tidbit from Fletcher, who explained that he started to feel doubts after his initial estimate:

"After a couple of decades of Roadshow seasons, I note that each city presents new opportunities for discoveries and learning experiences. The grotesque glazed redware pot I saw and admired in Spokane is unlike any other example I have seen. We have sold at auction several examples from the 19th century — all of which are from the eastern half of the United States, and have a single grotesque face — some for five figures. This example, with its six grotesque faces, was modeled or sculpted with considerable imagination, virtuosity and technical competence. This mysterious piece was reportedly found at an estate sale, covered with dust, straw, and chicken droppings, and purchased for $300. As far as its age is concerned, I was fooled, as were some of my colleagues. Alas, among the millions of people who watch Antiques Roadshow faithfully was a woman who identified herself as being a friend of the maker, a lady named Betsy Soule! She created this in [1973 or ’74], while in high school! The techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries. Obviously, I was mistaken as to its age by 60 to 80 years. I feel the value at auction, based on its quality and artistic merit, is in the $3,000-$5,000 range. Still not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”

You can watch the whole episode on the PBS website.

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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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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