AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale
By JILL LAWLESS
Monday, October 22
LONDON (AP) — Stephen Hawking was a cosmic visionary, a figure of inspiration and a global celebrity.
His unique status is reflected in an upcoming auction of some of the late physicist’s possessions: It includes complex scientific papers, one of the world’s most iconic wheelchairs and a script from “The Simpsons.”
The online sale announced Monday by auctioneer Christie’s features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, some of his many awards, and scientific papers such as “Spectrum of Wormholes” and “Fundamental Breakdown of Physics in Gravitational Collapse.”
Thomas Venning, head of books and manuscripts at Christie’s, said the papers “trace the development of his thought — this brilliant, electrifying intelligence.”
“You can see each advance as he produced it and introduced it to the scientific community,” Venning said.
Of course, Hawking’s fame rests only partly on his scientific status as the cosmologist who put black holes on the map.
Diagnosed with motor neuron disease at 22 and given just a few years to live, he survived for decades, dying in March at 76.
The auction includes one of five existing copies of Hawking’s 1965 Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, “Properties of Expanding Universes,” which carries an estimated price of 100,000 pounds to 150,000 pounds ($130,000 to $195,000).
Venning said the thesis, signed by Hawking in handwriting made shaky by his illness, is both a key document in the physicist’s scientific evolution and a glimpse into his personal story.
“He was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) just as he arrived in Cambridge to begin his Ph.D. studies,” Venning said. “He gave up his studies for a time because he was so despondent.
The thesis “was the fruit of him reapplying himself to his scientific work,” Venning said, and Hawking “kept it beside him for the rest of his life.”
The disease eventually left Hawking almost completely paralyzed. He communicated through a voice-generating computer and moved in a series of high-tech wheelchairs. One is included in the sale, with an estimated price of 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds ($13,000 to $19,500). Proceeds from its sale will go to two charities, the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Venning said the wheelchair became a symbol not just of disability but of Hawking’s “puckish sense of humor.” He once ran over Prince Charles’ toes — and reportedly joked that he wished he had done the same to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — and appeared in a “Monty Python” skit running down fellow physicist Brian Cox.
Venning said Hawking “very much thought of himself as a scientist first and a popular communicator second,” but accepted and even enjoyed his celebrity status. He appeared several times on animated comedy show “The Simpsons” and kept a figurine of himself from the show in his office.
The sale includes a script from one of Hawking’s “Simpson’s” appearances, a copy of his best-seller “A Brief History of Time” signed with a thumbprint and a personalized bomber jacket that he wore in a documentary.
Hawking’s daughter Lucy said the sale gave “admirers of his work the chance to acquire a memento of our father’s extraordinary life in the shape of a small selection of evocative and fascinating items.”
Hawking’s children hope to preserve his scientific archive for the nation. Christie’s is handling negotiations to hand it over to British authorities in lieu of inheritance tax.
The items — part of a science sale that includes papers by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein — will be on display in London for several days from Oct. 30. The auction is open for bids between Oct. 31 and Nov. 8.
Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
Banksy and the tradition of destroying art
October 19, 2018
Author: Preminda Jacob, Associate Professor of Art History and Museum Studies, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Disclosure statement: Preminda Jacob does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
When the British street artist Banksy shredded his “Girl With Balloon” after it was purchased for US $1.4 million at Sotheby’s, did he know how the art world would react?
Did he anticipate that the critics would claim that the work, in its partially shredded state, would climb in value to at least $2 million? That the purchaser would not object and would instead rejoice?
We have no way of really knowing, though the famously anonymous artist did suggest that the shredder malfunctioned: The painting was supposed to be fully shredded, not partially destroyed.
As an art historian, I view his act in a larger context – as the latest example of artists deploying guerrilla tactics to expose their disdain for the critics, dealers, gallery owners and museum curators whom they depend on for their livelihood.
In shredding “Girl With Balloon,” Banksy seems to be pointing to a central absurdity of his graffiti art being treated as fine art. When it appears on city streets, anyone can vandalize it; now that the same images are in galleries and auction houses, they must be handled with white gloves.
But, as he may well know, the art market is far too wealthy and adaptable to be undone by a shredder.
In fact, we’ve seen the same pattern play out, time and again: An artist will launch a withering critique and instead of taking offense, the market simply tightens its embrace.
The many versions of subversion
Some of the most well-known of Banksy’s subversive artistic predecessors were part of the early-20th century Dada movement. One of their principal strategies involved denying the market of objects that could be commodified.
French-American artist Marcel Duchamp is perhaps the most well-known Dadaist. In 1917, his “Fountain,” a urinal laid on its back and remounted on a pedestal, was his first volley against the art market’s intellectual pretenses about art.
Duchamp wanted to force the art world to acknowledge that its judgments about quality were based on media hype and money rather than artistic innovation.
However, years later Duchamp admitted to the futility of his gesture.
“I threw … the urinal into their faces as a challenge,” he lamented, “and now they admire [it] for [its] aesthetic beauty.”
In 1920, Francis Picabia, a Cuban-French Dadaist would follow Duchamp’s lead and participate in a performance purposefully designed to provoke the French art world.
Before a Parisian audience gathered at the Palais des Fêtes, Picabia unveiled a chalk drawing entitled “Riz au Nez” (“Rice on the Nose”). The artist’s friend, André Breton, one of the hosts of the event, then erased the drawing. The artwork lasted for just a of couple hours and is now lost to history. The work’s title, it’s been noted, sounds too similar to “rire au nez” (“to laugh in one’s face”) to be coincidental.
In 1953, Robert Rauschenberg, who was then an up-and-coming American artist, plucked up the courage to ask Willem de Kooning, an established abstract expressionist, for one of his drawings. Rauschenberg didn’t tell de Kooning much – just that he intended to use it for an unusual project. Athough de Kooning was disapproving, he acquiesced.
After securing his gift, Rauschenberg proceeded, over the period of a month, to carefully erase all traces of the expressive pencil, charcoal and crayon drawing that de Kooning had put to paper.
Rauschenberg then re-titled the work, now preserved in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art, “Erased de Kooning Drawing.”
Jean Tinguely’s auto-destructing work, “Homage to New York” (1960), is probably the closest parallel to Banksy’s stunt. Made of scrap found in New Jersey junkyards, the massive work – 27 feet high and 23 feet in length – was supposed to be a mechanical display, sort of like a Rube Goldberg device.
The piece was set up the sculpture garden of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and those attending the show included collectors Walter Arensberg and John D. Rockefeller III, and artists John Cage, Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg.
Tinguely briefly set the piece in motion – and then it burst into flames.
The Museum of Modern Art described the scene:
“… a meteorological trial balloon inflated and burst, colored smoke was discharged, paintings were made and destroyed, and bottles crashed to the ground. A player piano, metal drums, a radio broadcast, a recording of the artist explaining his work, and a competing shrill voice correcting him provided the cacophonic sound track to the machine’s self-destruction – until it was stopped short by the fire department.”
Apart from a fragment from Tinguely’s “Homage” preserved in the MoMA collection, all that remains of the work is some choppy film footage.
Some black and white film footage captured ‘Homeage to New York’ before it disappeared forever.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone surpassing Tinguely’s sound-and-light spectacle.
But in 2001, Michael Landy of the Young British Artists group orchestrated the most comprehensive “art as destruction” work to date.
Titled “Break Down,” Landy placed objects on a conveyor belt running into a machine that pulverized them. In the process, he destroyed all of his belongings – 7,227 pieces in all – including his own paintings and the art of his Young British Artist peers.
Guerrillas in the midst
These acts of destruction are motivated by the same impulse.
In the late 19th century, art production largely became untethered from patronage offered by the church or the state, and artists turned to powerful art dealers for their livelihood.
But many found that the radical, critical aspect of the artistic act was severely compromised – or erased altogether – when the most well-known feature of a work became the dollar sign attached to it.
To many, the market symbolized nothing more than a void.
With the urban street as his studio and insurgency as part of his artistic mission, Banksy’s graffiti often critiques institutions, such as the art museum, and authority figures like the police) and the Queen of England.
Though the market value of his work has soared in recent years, Banksy continues to paint images in public spaces that make preservation near impossible – and even invite theft or defacement.
Still, as guerrilla theater, Banksy’s recent act will be tough to beat. It’s certainly his most subversive and penetrating public foray into the elite art marketplace.
But even with all his critique, the question continues to nag: Is Banksy complicit with the art market? The very society he undermines, one that feeds on spectacle, has made him famous and his art immensely profitable.
In the wake of World War I, Dadaist artists made a practice of shocking their public audiences by wantonly destroying their own artistic creations. The public soon learned to cheer them on, and to detach themselves from the attack artists were actively waging on their sensibilities.
A century later, at Sotheby’s, the initial shock of a shredded “Girl With Balloon” dissipated quickly. The hype only grew. The market adapted.
Sotheby’s has since released a statement declaring that the piece – renamed “Love is in the Bin” – is “the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”
Terrence Treft: thanks for the interesting article. in the case of rauschenberg, he does destroy the de kooning to make his own work, but of the tinguely and banksy, the “destruction” was an original aspect of the work itself and its conception. without it, the works would be incomplete, like a missing brush stroke, but on a larger scale. actually, the banksy is not even destroyed, it is intensified, becoming more relevant and valuable. banksy now says the shredder malfunctioned, unlike in rehearsals in the studio, when the paper was completely shredded. a fortunate serendipity, for the new owner. but there had to be some collusion in this piece, for sotheby undoubtedly noticed the unusual casing of the frame and its weight. even viewers would have noticed it standing forward of the wall.
Bob Bruce: Surely the point of destroying the artwork at auction – is as a result of secondary sales which brings no largess to the creator.Artworks should be subject of a percentage of ongoing benefit to the artist. A simple mark up rights this wrong.
AG DeWine, Prevent Blindness, Ohio Vision Professionals Board Warn Against Dangerous Cosmetic Contacts
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, and the Ohio Vision Professionals Board have joined forces to warn consumers about the dangers of wearing decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription this Halloween season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses. Many consumers may not be aware that contact lenses are medical devices and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Additionally, the FDA states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter (OTC) devices and companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations by selling contact lenses without having a valid prescription.
“Wearing contacts without a prescription could cause damage to a person’s eyes,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Non-prescription contacts can add creativity to a costume or bring convenience to a person’s routine, but they can also cause serious harm. I encourage consumers to buy contacts from a licensed eye care professional. Your eyesight is too important to risk using non-prescription contacts.”
The Ohio Vision Professionals Board warns that cosmetic contacts may be sold illegally online — including on Craigslist or, most recently, via Facebook — or in costume stores, tattoo parlors, beauty supply stores, truck stops, wig shops, gas stations, convenience stores, or thrift stores.
Kathleen Eagan, Executive Director of the Ohio Vision Professionals Board, says, “The Ohio Vision Professionals Board takes the dangers of buying over-the-counter contact lenses very seriously. We are proud to partner with Prevent Blindness on efforts to educate the public about the dangers of illegal contact sales without the benefit of professional evaluation and instruction on the proper care and wearing of contact lenses. If you are aware of illegal contact dispensing we encourage you to notify the Vision Professionals Board.”
Contact lenses are a good option for many as an alternative to eyeglasses. However, the use of contact lenses also brings a higher risk of infections. Causes may include sleeping in lenses when not approved by an eye doctor, not cleaning the lenses or lens case properly, sharing lenses, or wearing contact lenses during water activities.
Ill-fitting lenses can cause eye pain, bacterial infections, and corneal ulcers. One study found that wearing decorative lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis, a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer in the eye. This increased risk was over 16 times more likely than those seen in vision correcting (“regular”) lenses.
“It may be tempting to create a unique look for Halloween or other social events by changing the look of your eyes. But beware that using cosmetic contact lenses accessed without a prescription from an eye doctor or borrowed from someone else is asking for trouble. Infections, scarring and even blindness can result,” said Sherry Williams, President and CEO of The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness.
“I’ve seen many young patients who were not aware of the dangers of these products and are now living with permanent vision loss,” said Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University/MetroHealth Medical Center and a Prevent Blindness volunteer. “Even if the lenses are cosmetic or non-correcting, they are still classified as medical devices and should only be prescribed by an eye care professional.”
Prevent Blindness offers the following safety tips regarding cosmetic contact lenses
- Always visit a licensed eye care professional to be fitted for cosmetic contact lenses.
- Never buy contact lenses without a prescription.
- Always clean and disinfect contact lenses according to instructions.
- Always use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses. Do not apply skin creams or moisturizers too close to the eyes.
- Never wear opaque lenses if you have any problems with night vision.
- Never share or trade your contact lenses with anyone.
- Seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red or have ongoing pain or discharge. Be watchful about your children’s or teens’ appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, question them about where they obtained them.
The non-profit group has a dedicated webpage with free information.
Attorney General DeWine encourages Ohioans to report illegal sales of contact lenses to the Ohio Vision Professionals Board at 614-466-9709. As a U.S. Senator, DeWine sponsored the legislation that requires consumers to obtain a prescription from a licensed professional to purchase contact lenses, including corrective and non-corrective lenses.
AAA Urges Lawmakers to Make Ohio’s Roads Safer
House Bill 293 will save lives by modernizing Ohio’s young driver licensing system
COLUMBUS, Ohio (October 18, 2018) – Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teenagers, and the problem is getting worse. Teen crash rates continue to rise in Ohio, putting everyone at risk. In advance of Teen Driver Safety Week (Oct. 21-27), AAA encourages lawmakers to pass important lifesaving legislation that will make Ohio’s roads safer by modernizing Ohio’s young driver licensing system.
A series of press events and rallies are being held in Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus today to support this cause. The Columbus event will take place at 10 a.m. at the Ohio Statehouse in the Senate Press Room.
“Parents rely on the state’s young driver licensing system to guide them and their children through the learning-to-drive process, but our state’s young driver licensing system is failing families,” said Kellie O’Riordan, traffic safety program manager for AAA Ohio. “It hasn’t kept up with the latest research on teen driver crashes and how to prevent them.”
Ohio’s Teen Crash Epidemic:
- The number of people killed or injured in Ohio teen driver crashes jumped 15 percent in just two years. In 2017, 116 teens died in crashes on Ohio’s roads. New teen drivers, ages 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash.
- It’s an issue that impacts everyone, as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found two-thirds of those injured or killed in crashes involving teen drivers are people other than the teen driver.
- Inexperience accounts for a large number of teen crashes. Nighttime driving is especially dangerous for these young novice drivers.
- House Bill 293, sponsored by Representative, Gary Scherer (R) and Representative Michael Sheehy (D), proposes to make Ohio’s roads safer for all drivers by providing teens with more experience. Specifically, the bill will:
- Ensure teens gain experience driving in all seasons with an adult along to guide them during a year-long learner’s permit.
- Give young novice drivers more practice driving at night with an adult driver to keep them safe, by starting the nighttime driving protection for newly licensed teen drivers at 10 p.m., rather than midnight.
- The nighttime driving protection is not a curfew. Newly licensed teen drivers can still drive after 10 p.m., with an adult present. The bill also provides exemptions for newly licensed teen drivers driving to or from work, school and religious activities after 10 p.m.
A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study confirms the importance of having an adult driver along to help guide young novice drivers. The study found that when a teen driver has only teen passengers in their vehicle, the fatality rate increased 51 percent. In contrast, when older passengers (35 or older) ride with a teen driver, overall fatality rates in crashes decreased 8 percent.
Support for Change:
“The increase in practical experience offered by H.B. 293 will help new drivers gain vehicle-handling skills, improve their ability to judge traffic and learn how to be better defensive drivers,” said Susan Hans, president, Ohio PTA. “We believe that parents are very supportive of additional driving experience to ensure teen safety.”
A 2013 AAA survey found 90 percent of Ohio parents with teenagers supported a 10 p.m. nighttime driving protection. After North Carolina enacted a 12-month learner’s permit, 95 percent of parents surveyed said 12 months was just right or not long enough.
H.B. 293 passed out of the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety committee on Feb. 28, 2018 and has been awaiting a House floor vote. The bill must pass the House and Senate by the end of the year in order to become law.
A coalition of more than 50 organizations, including AAA, the insurance industry, law enforcement, hospitals, teens, and the Parent Teacher Association, is urging lawmakers to take action. The bill has no known opponents.