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In the news: Selfies and artistic collateral damage

Selfies: Artistic Collateral Damage?


 Leticia Marie Sanchez

This article first appeared in Cultural Cocktail Hour in 2016


 One cannot enter a gallery, museum, or even concert venue without encountering a selfie taker, some more subtle and thoughtful than others.

Taking a selfie as a souvenir of an artistic experience is one thing.

But what happens when I-phones become Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Unfortunately, at the 14th Factory, a pop-up gallery in Los Angeles,  a clumsy student taking a selfie apparently caused more than $200,000 worth of damage to a series of crowned pedestals by Hong Kong based multimedia artist Simon Birch.

Birch decided not to press charges against the individual because

1) she was a student and

2) it was an accident.

In a statement released by Birch, the artist reveals:

“Each sculpture was painstakingly designed and built from all kinds of materials and involves 20-30 hours of man labor each. There are 64 unique ones, some made in the US, others in China. Four different creative collaborators and artists were involved in the process … It took years for the sculptures to be designed …”

An article in this week’s New York Times about the Birch incident reveals that this is only one of many episodes around the world of selfies causing artistic destruction.

Even the powerful, mythical Hercules has been crushed by a selfie; in 2015, a 300 hundred- year-old statue depicting the demigod was damaged by two eager selfie takers in Cremona, Italy.

A thoughtless selfie taker in Lisbon caused a statue of a 16th- century Portuguese king, Dom Sebastiao, to topple over and shatter.

Other news outlets report that the 19th Century Greek sculpture “Drunken Satyr” was damaged by a selfie taker in Milan who thought it was a good idea to jump into the statue’s lap. Unfortunately, the sculpture lost a leg.

Destruction by selfie is not limited to the artworks themselves; rather the collateral damage can extend to the entire artistic experience. Last year, I missed the overture to a lovely Mozart opera due to two selfie takers sitting in my row, snapping away and chatting loudly, long after the performance had begun. There is no reset button on a live performance. Once you miss the notes, they’re gone. On another occasion, my two-year old’s quiet discovery of the fountains at the Getty Center was brusquely interrupted an individual who barked, “Move out of the way of my selfie.”

At what point does an individual’s quest for a selfie take precedence over the artistic experience of those around them? There can be no doubt that we currently live in a solipsistic society. The most popular gadgets begin with the self-serving pronoun “I”: I-phone, I-pad, I-Tunes. Me. Me. Me.

Even if we were to ignore the damage to the artworks or the irritating distraction to those around them, how meaningful of an experience can an individual have with a work of art if his eyes and fingers are consumed by his I-phone?

The 19th century art critic John Ruskin once observed, ”

All that is good in art is the expression of one soul talking to another.”

And by soul, I don’t think that Ruskin meant Siri.

Photo: “Immortalization of Self” by Jana Cruder and Matthew La Penta photographed by Leticia Marie Sanchez at 2016 LA Art Show

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Young Verdi: Altar Boy


By Leticia Marie Sanchez

      Cultural Cocktail Hour® is a registered Trademark

In his Book of Musical Anecdotes, Norman Lebrecht relates a revealing incident from Verdi’s childhood.

The seven-year-old Verdi, born into a modest family, once served as an altar boy at the church of Le Rencole. During Fête Day, the young boy heard the organ for the first time. Transported by the emanating musical harmonies, the child did not hear the priest’s request for water. Three times did the priest make his demand, to no avail. Enraged at the child with his head in the clouds, the priest struck a severe blow, pushing young Verdi down the three altar stairs, knocking him into unconsciousness.

When the child thankfully awoke from his ordeal, what was the first thing for which he asked his parents? A painkiller? A glass of water? A restraining order on the belligerent priest?


Young Verdi asked for music lessons.


To learn how an older Verdi handled a brazen opera-goer, please read:

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This week in LA: Christie’s Preview of Old Masters Sale



Preview of Old Masters sale

including Masterworks from The Estate of Lila and Herman Shickman

and an Important Private Collection

Christie’s Los Angeles
336 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

January 10–16
Weekdays: 10am – 6pm
Saturday: 12pm – 4pm
Sunday: Closed

Angelenos have a chance to preview works from the estate of Lila and Herman Shickman, in advance of an Old Master sale in New York in May.

A prominent art dealer of the 20th century, Herman Shickman fled Nazi Germany and moved to New York where he dealt Old Master works on paper and still life paintings. Until he retired in 2003, Shickman ran his eponymous gallery on New York’s Upper East Side.

Juan van der Hamen y León’s Still Life with Flowers and Fruit is expected become the most expensive Spanish still life ever auctioned.

For more information, please see:

Image Above: Detail of Juan van der Hamen y León’s (1598-1631) Still Life with Flowers and Fruit. Oil on canvas, 33¼ x 51½ in. (84.5 x 130.8 cm.). Offered in Masterworks from the estate of Lila and Herman Shickman on 2 May 2019 at Christie’s in New York Image: Courtesy of Christie’s

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2011 Art Crime: Stolen Rembrandt found in Encino Church

This post first appeared in Cultural Cocktail Hour in 2011:

Only three days after a Rembrandt drawing valued at $250,000 was snatched from the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey, “The Judgement,” turned up mysteriously at St. Nicholas of Myra Episcopal Church in Encino. An assistant priest noticed the drawing placed inside his boss’ office. He assumed that it was a donation by a parishioner before recognizing the work as the stolen Rembrandt.

Questions abound:

Why did the art thief dump the painting in the church? Was it a spiritual crisis of conscience? Or a convenient place without security cameras? Did the title of Rembrandt’s drawing, “The Judgement,” give the thief pause?

How did the art thief get access to the church’s inside office? Did he watch Ben Affleck’s heist-caper “The Town” too many times and don a nun disguise?

Do we know for a fact that the drawing dumped in the church is the real Mc Coy? Could it possibly be a copy to get the police off the criminal’s scent while the thief sells the real painting on the black market to a Rembrandt-loving oligarch? (This is one theory on the current location of Rembrandts stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum)

What happened to the person who “distracted” the curator with art chatter on Saturday at the Ritz, coincidentally at the very moment when the painting was snatched? The articles imply that this person was part of a team? Shouldn’t the loquacious interlocutor be an LAPD “person of interest?”

Why did the thief choose to take a Rembrandt from the sailing haven of Marina Del Rey to Encino? He could have made a seaside escape with his looted booty. Is it possible that the art thief is,in fact, a Valley Boy?

Photo from LA Times by Irfan Khan: Detectives handle Rembrandt’s “The Judgement”

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George Gershwin and the Parisian Taxi Horns

Thanks to Brian Lauritzen of KUSC for today’s Cultural Trivia!

His show revealed that George Gershwin purchased taxi cab horns in Paris to produce the effect of bustling city streets for American in Paris. The taxi horns were used in the New York premiere of the piece at Carnegie Hall in 1928 with the New York Philharmonic. Since then, orchestras have often rented taxi horns to perform the piece. If you listen to it again, you will be sure to hear the unmistakable honk!


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This weekend in LA: CCH Highlight- Zubin Mehta, Yefim Bronfman, and Brahms


This weekend’s Cultural Cocktail recipe includes  a splash of Zubin Mehta, a dash of Yefim Bronfman , and 2 Oz. of Brahms Enjoy!

Former LA Phil director Zubin Mehta returns to conduct the music that started his tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 24: Brahms!

Thurs. Dec 13th 8:00 P.M Brahms Symphony No. 1

Friday Dec 14th 8:00 P.M Brahms Symphony No. 1

Saturday Dec 15th 8:00 P.M Brahms Symphony No. 2

Sun Dec 16th 2:oo P.M Brahms Symphony No. 2

Walt Disney Concert Hall. 111 S. Grand Ave. LA, CA USA 90012 (323) 850-2000


Zubin Mehta Toast at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Opening Night on December 6, 1964.

Photo Credit: LA Philharmonic Archives

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Review: Family Day at the Norton Simon “Artful Weaving”


Family Day at the Norton Simon

“Artful Weaving”


Leticia Marie Sanchez

Norton Simon Family Day 3

Family Days at the Norton Simon are always a treat for parents and children, due to a wonderfully engaging formula that packs a two-fold punch: 1) A kid-friendly tour of the latest exhibition 2) A children’s craft project  inspired by the latest exhibition

Norton Simon Family Day 5

Educator Gorman Bentley is a natural with children, with an ebullient personality and insights about art history. He patiently explained the concept of a loom and taught my four year-old to complete his own tapestry. With his friendly spirit, Mr. Bentley welcomed all the children sitting at the tables, making each of them feel included and welcome.

Norton Simon Family Day 6


Following the craft project, Educator Fabrizio Flores took us on a child-friendly the visually arresting new exhibit, “Once Upon a Tapestry: Woven Tales of Helen and Dido.” Flores embodied a perfect balance between playful and informative, showing my son the difference between the cartoon and the tapestries, which happened to be highly informative for me as well!

Kudos to the Norton Simon for creating a space for children to reflect and create!


Photography  © 2018 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Norton Simon Family Day 2

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This weekend in LA: Holiday Open House at the Pasadena Museum of History

Pasadena Museum of History

Holiday Open House 

Sunday 12/9

1:00 – 4:00 pm. 

The perfect Cultural Cocktail of Music, Visual Treats, and a Family Craft in a Beaux-Arts style Pasadena Cultural Heritage landmark.

Pasadena Museum of HistoryPasadena Museum History 4

Performances by the Ad Hoc Consort throughout the afternoon. The costumed musicians will perform on a variety period instruments including the Viola da braccio and the Oud, an early form of what became the Lute; and a 16th century German Serpent horn.

In addition to the music the event will include:

refreshments, a family craft, and a visit to the exhibition

Something Revealed; California Women Artists Emerge, 1860-1960.

470 W. Walnut Street
Pasadena, CA 91103


All Photography from a prior Holiday Open House

© 2018 Leticia Marie Sanchez


Pasadena Museum History 5Pasadena Museum History 3









Photo Below:

Children’s Craft Station at the Pasadena Museum of History’s Holiday Open House

Pasadena Museum History

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Autumnal Splendor in Southern California


“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” 

- Albert Camus

(at the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, Huntington)

All Photography  © 2018 Leticia Marie Sanchez

Autumn Gold









Huntington Stroll

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Rossini’s Risky Business

“Please don’t throw me out the window!! I’m a MAESTRO!”

Does Procrastination lead to Defenestration?

Professor Robert Greenberg, in a wonderful lecture for the Teaching Company, read a letter in which opera composer Gioachino Rossini (nicknamed “The Italian Mozart”) confessed his last minute habits.

According to Rossini:

Wait until the evening before opening night- nothing primes inspiration more than necessity!

Whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing at his hair (In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald by 30).

I wrote the overture to La Gazza Ladra the day of its opening-

in the theater itself-

where I was imprisoned by the director

and under the direct surveillance of the stage hands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page, to the copyists waiting down below.

If I did not compose quickly enough-

the stage hands were instructed to throw ME out the window, instead.”

Lucklly, Rossini finished the overture to La Gazza Ladra in the nick of time.

Thus, avoiding the fate of the gentleman in pantaloons above.

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