Required Reading

  • New Yorkers are not too eager to return to in-person work: Only 8% of Manhattan office workers are back full time, according to a survey of more than 160 major employers in the city conducted by the business advocacy group Partnership for New York City. Here are more findings from the report:

As of mid-April 2022, 38% of Manhattan office workers are currently at the workplace on an average weekday. Only 8% are in the office five days a week. The share of office employees that are fully remote dropped from 54% in late October 2021 to 28% as of late April. Return to office rates will increase after Labor Day, with 49% of workers expected in the office on an average weekday in September 2022.

Remote work is here to stay, with 78% of employers indicating a hybrid office model will be their predominant post-pandemic policy, up from just 6% pre-pandemic.

Employers remain committed to New York City: 58% expect their New York City office employee headcount will increase or stay the same over the next five years; only 8% expect a decline in headcount. Among those who may reduce their New York presence, high costs, taxes and public safety rank among the biggest factors.

  • Writing for Aperture, Melissa Harris pays tribute to Letizia Battaglia, an Italian photographer who died in April at the age of 87. Battaglia is known for fearlessly documenting the Sicilian mafia’s bloodshed in the city of Palermo. In the article, Harris shares memories from her meeting with the intrepid photographer in 1994:

Her fierce intensity felt almost feral. The proverbial force of nature and then some. And not only as a photographer but also as a publisher, Green Party member with the Palermo city council, ecological activist, and defender of women’s and of human rights. We spoke about women, we spoke about justice, she asked me personal questions—not my forte, as I’m so private, but she was like truth serum. I soon understood I was being tested. That she was naturally suspicious. But our conversation was somehow instantly intimate. From that moment on, there was this extraordinary, powerful woman in my life who declared herself my sister, who could get annoyed with me, and who demanded a kind of complicity.

Sometime late in the summer of 1962, Andy Warhol began to silk-screen the face of Marilyn Monroe onto canvas, on backgrounds painted green, blue, red, orange, black — sometimes even gold. Those repeating Marilyns, which sold for all of $225, were some of the most radically novel and influential works of the 20th century; they filled much of Warhol’s first New York show of Pop Art.

The silk-screened Marilyn that sold last night at Christie’s auction house in Manhattan, for the almost incomprehensible sum of $195 million, was not one of those groundbreaking canvases.

That 1964 Christie’s painting, the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” — despite the title, no bullet ever pierced it; the title comes from an early scholar’s error — is what I’d have to call a “retread” of those earlier works, ordered up from the artist a full two years later by the art entrepreneur Ben Birillo, for resale to the Pop collector Leon Kraushar. (In a 1998 interview, Birillo told me that the money to pay Warhol had come from a backer named Waldo Díaz-Balart, a wealthy Cuban exile who had been Fidel Castro’s brother-in-law.)

The original Marilyns from 1962 had been strange, distressed images, crudely silk-screened to leave blotches and blank spots that convey the decay and distress of the fallen movie star — it’s said Warhol conceived them right after Marilyn’s death, though there’s reason to believe that’s a myth. The 1964 repeats, of which Warhol did five, are much cheerier works, bigger and brighter and crisper, far more celebratory than mournful. If I were a collector — in 1964, or 2022 — I’d certainly prefer to have one of those over my sofa than one of the sad, tough versions from 1962.

(The buyer must be thinking: Now you’re telling me?)

  • Hollywood actress and Goop mogul Gwyneth Paltrow was scolded online for selling disposable diapers — called “The Diapér” — at $120 dollars for a pack of 12. The luxury diapers are “made of virgin alpaca wool and fastened with amber gemstones.” Sounds on brand, right? But wait, it turned out that Paltrow was pulling a prank on us to criticize the taxing of diapers as “luxury goods” in some states. I’ll let her explain:
  • Coinbase, the largest crypto trading platform in the United States, said that if it went bankrupt, its users would lose all the cryptocurrency stored in their accounts. Excuse me? This is from Nicholas Gordon’s report in Fortune:

Coinbase said in its earnings report Tuesday that it holds $256 billion in both fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies on behalf of its customers. Yet the exchange noted that in the event it ever declared bankruptcy, “the crypto assets we hold in custody on behalf of our customers could be subject to bankruptcy proceedings.” Coinbase users would become “general unsecured creditors,” meaning they have no right to claim any specific property from the exchange in proceedings. Their funds would become inaccessible.

That shouldn’t happen.

  • While we’re on the subject of tech abuses, here’s a useful guide by CNET on how to ask Google to remove your personal data — phone number, email address, home address, medical documents, and more — from search results.
  • NPR‘s Odette Yousef spoke with anthropologist and filmmaker Sarah Riccardi-Swartz about the far-right American Christians who are converting to Russian Orthodoxy out of admiration for Vladimir Putin:

Riccardi-Swartz’s study focused on a community of mostly former evangelical Christians and Catholics who had joined the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). The West Virginia location, in addition to having a church parish, was also home to the largest English-speaking Russian Orthodox monastery in the world.

Over a year of doing research, Riccardi-Swartz learned that many of these converts had grown disillusioned with social and demographic change in the United States. In ROCOR, they felt they had found a church that has remained the same, regardless of place, time and politics. But Riccardi-Swartz also found strong strains of nativism, white nationalism and pro-authoritarianism, evidenced by strong admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“For many of them, Putin becomes this sort of king-like figure in their narratives,” she said. “They see themselves as oppressed by democracy because democracy is really diversity. And they look to Putin because democracy isn’t really, as we see right now, an option [in Russia].”

  • Another terrifying display of the consequences of global warming, this time in Pakistan:
  • And finally, congratulations to Raven Chacon on becoming the first Native American artist to receive the Pulitzer Prize in music.

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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