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welcome wsj readers

Post #658 • November 12, 2005, 1:31 AM • 65 Comments

Indeed, welcome.

It's good to have you here, although I must confess that you've dropped in to find the place a bit of a mess. The author's house was without electricity for eleven days after Hurricane Wilma, thus derailing his regular publishing schedule (one post each weekday, come hell or high water) and aggravating his already strained feelings about the city in which he lives. He has been devoting energies since then to frantic catch-up on his other projects and the nigh hopeless task of finding a roofer. Lately, he has resorted to brief posts linking to items of note, what we in the blogosphere call "phoning it in."

There's an About page for basic orientation. For incisive local scene coverage, to loosely employ Mr. Teachout's kind characterization, maybe the above will do. I'm rather more proud of this, though. The most recent piece of real criticism lies here. Occasional slice-of-life pieces and heavy-duty art geekery show up periodically. I ought to do more image-heavy art roundups than I do. I probably ought to do fewer think pieces. The blog noted its own 500th post, which is 142 in human years, with this.

No one actually comments on this blog. The comments are all written by me. I suffer from a severe multiple personality disorder.

Really, I'm blessed with some of the most active commenters I've ever seen on a blog that doesn't cover politics. I take no credit for this, and I am grateful to them for making what it is. Even the ones who come here to pick fights and hurl insults are on my team - the team that believes that art is important. Our team.

Anyone interested in more web-based cultural coverage in Miami should check out The Next Few Hours, Critical Miami, the Miami Art Exchange, and the sites to which they link.

Otherwise, have a look around and feel free to join in.

And last but not least: Thank you, Terry.




November 12, 2005, 7:08 AM

Franklin - Congratulations on the Wall Street Journal mention. That's great.

Maybe now we can get some of those billionaire hedge fund guys to wake up and buy some real art.


that guy

November 12, 2005, 8:34 AM

Hedge Fund Manger!, I'd doubt they would find the time, what with the SEC breathing heavely down their necks. I'd settle for the disinfrancised commodities barron who wants to corner the market for my work. But in retrospect a manager from a small to mid cap mutual fund would do fine as well. Great work Franklin.



November 12, 2005, 9:11 AM

Hedge fund MANGER, Guy? I don't think so. There is always room at the inn for those guys.



November 12, 2005, 10:21 AM

good job franklin. interesting how the possiblilities of this thing are seemingly endless...



November 12, 2005, 10:30 AM

Does this mean it's OK to be authoritarian? Well, I'm relieved. I was beginning to think most people wanted an art world version of the Stepford Wives, especially when it came to art criticism. Now I can be nasty in peace.



November 12, 2005, 10:40 AM

new here. (welcome me!). Curious to know "oldpro"– it was interesing that you wrote on that first comment "Maybe now we can get some of those billionaire hedge fund guys to wake up and buy some real art."

What's your definition of "real art"– I'm intrigued.



November 12, 2005, 10:54 AM

Just one question, Ordinarily_strange - are you a hedge fund manager?

Kidding. He's going to tell you that he has no definition, that art can only be perceived, not defined. He can correct me if I'm wrong.



November 12, 2005, 11:15 AM

no not a hedge fund manager. haha.
however, reading some of the past comments and topics– i came across for example some views expressed on "digital art" compared to "hands-on art" from the withdrawal of the body posts-
and it got me to wondering- what is considered real art? or true art?

old pro started it without even knowing!!

or... maybe i'm just cranky? (sigh)



November 12, 2005, 11:39 AM

Number Seven ........... that art can only be perceived, not defined.

By saying wake up and buy some real art. Oldpro is implicitly making a definition and everyone here wants to dodge the issue.

So, what is real art?



November 12, 2005, 11:46 AM

oh god we've rehashed this so many times with oldpro. glad to have you join us ordinarily, but please don't make us go through all THAT again. well if you must...i'm off to enjoy the lovely day.



November 12, 2005, 12:19 PM

Mek, ok, just making a point.



November 12, 2005, 12:23 PM

I find it less useful to deliniate art and non-art (and by extension, separate the real from the false) and more useful to talk about about good and bad art, as the conversation is slightly less likely to spiral into oblivion. What kind of thing do you go for, Ordinarily?



November 12, 2005, 12:35 PM

You have to forgive us, Ordinary. You are joining an old poker game (no fault of your own, of course, and please keep commenting whenever you want to).

We have been wrangling and wringing the good/bad thing so long that reracting to it is like turning over in our sleep. Hence MEKs frustration and George's half-hearted attempt to poke the fire.

What Franklin said is what I think, more or less. Art is a matter of experience, not definition.

But, hey, if you were a hedge fund manager I would invite you to Miami to see some good art (mine) real quick!


moustache anear

November 12, 2005, 4:37 PM

I suppose if you go for oilstick paintings with compositions that don't even venture off the edge of the paper, then oldpros stuff is all for you.

If you like your work with more oomph, less hohum, and a more advanced sense of hmmm and ahhhhh, then keep your eyes open and your ears pointed to some of the other voices on this channel...



November 12, 2005, 5:10 PM

Sounds like I got you breathing hard, Moustache.



November 12, 2005, 5:52 PM

Oldpro, if you want to hear heavy breathing, you should listen those panting to go to the Hernan Bas opening at Snitzer. The stuff is probably all sold already, or soon will be. After all, having a Bas is now absolutely imperative in the right Miami circles. Pity the have-nots still on the waiting list.



November 13, 2005, 12:24 PM

Went to the Bas opening last night. Sure enough, everything had been sold beforehand (the right people always get first dibs, of course). Lots of small paintings, either mixed media on paper or water-based oil on panel. Bas is distinctly better on paper, as usual. His oils look too glossy and sticky, like fingernail polish or melted plastic, and not a little garish (which has a cloying effect, especially in such small format). He's better served by something thinner, drier, more delicate, less aggressive. Oil is less forgiving and more harsh, and neither his temperament nor technique is really up to it. The best oil piece, Unwholesome, in larger format than the rest, was the most restrained and least colorful.

Generally speaking, relative to the hardly formidable competition, the stuff is OK but too overrated for comfort (certainly mine). Much of it is like a modern version of Gustave Moreau, only less "exotic" and more wistful. The waify-boy business may be useful as a "signature" or identifier, but it's getting old, not unlike what happened with Naomi Fisher's "asscrack ikebana" photos. The problem is not that it's limited as subject matter (in that sense Morandi was much more "limited"), but that what he does with it technically or formally is not interesting or satisfying enough. Besides, the dreamy-boys angle won't go over nearly as well when he gets old enough to be their father.

Then there's the Elizabeth Peyton factor, as there has always been--the pretty preciousness of it all. This can have a certain charm, no doubt, but it's not very sturdy or substantial, because it's too superficial, like make-up. The problem is not decorativeness per se; Tiepolo was highly decorative but always unquestionably a great painter as such. Bas does pretty pictures that lack the formal backbone to hold up to scrutiny and, I expect, time.


that guy

November 13, 2005, 12:42 PM

What! There was a Bas opening last night! I had to do my cultural diversity sensitivity awareness classes, sponsored by the Miami-Dade Cultrual Affairs Committee, so I was unfortunately unable to attend. I get community service credit for them and a nice tax right off, but it means that I have to miss some art openings.


Fun with Anagrams

November 13, 2005, 1:48 PM

Moustache Anear = A Chosen Amateur

An oldpro beats a chosen amateur any day.



November 13, 2005, 2:22 PM

Hey, Fun, thanks.

Unfortunately "oldpro" anagrams to "Or plod" or "Dr. Loop".

Thought I'd better say it before Mousty does.


moustache anear

November 13, 2005, 3:05 PM

L. Dr. Poo is better


Fun with Anagrams

November 13, 2005, 3:42 PM

moustache anear = Anathema Source



November 13, 2005, 4:36 PM

Dear WSJ readers: this is exactly the kind of high-level discussion about art that we pride ourselves on, here.



November 13, 2005, 4:46 PM

Hey, Franklin, we ain't through yet. Here are a few more for moustache:








November 13, 2005, 6:51 PM

Re#17, Jack, that was a fair review on Bas.



November 13, 2005, 7:03 PM

Thanks, George. I expect I'm still far too authoritarian for some people, but I simply call it the way I see it.



November 13, 2005, 7:05 PM

I thought it was an excellent review, authoritative or not.



November 13, 2005, 7:28 PM

Jack, if you don’t like Bas’ work why do you still go to his exhibitions?

Did you go to the grand opening of Castillo Gallery?



November 13, 2005, 7:42 PM

Well, Mystified, Bas is now the Miami artist, and with so many people in raptures over him, somebody has to deviate from Snitzer's press releases and the ubiquitous official establishment line. Obviously, one can't puncture a balloon without going near it. Besides, it gets me out of the house.

As for the Castillo opening, I hadn't heard about it before heading out to Wynwood. I'll try to see the space and the show next week.



November 13, 2005, 7:45 PM

Regarding Jacks comments on Hernan Bas, authoritarian or not, I felt he was fair with the work. The question of whether Bas is overrated or not needs to be taken in context.

So, mulling over the context. Bas is a young artist with work in a personal and identifiable style. He is, as they say, "is in the hunt" So what does this mean?

First, the context, which is the marketplace. We would like to think that acclaim is all about quality but it's not, it's about the marketplace. In this particular case it is about a very specific tier of the marketplace, the "emerging artist"

If we viewed this in the context of the stock market, Bas is a newly issued $5 stock with potential. Why do people buy $5 stocks? because they hope it will appreciate tenfold and because they love the kick they get over cocktails when they can proclaim "yeah, I got in at $5". They are buying bragging rights on a dream, a dream of the potential, just as investors buy a $5 stock with a story for the dream and the potential. They are in effect discounting the future by bidding prices up in anticipation of better things to come.

The price and attention move partly based on the fundamentals but much more on the excitement and the anticipation of the future. The difficulty for the artist is that he eventually has to live up to the potential. Bas still has time to sort things out, his success should be allowing him time to work.



November 13, 2005, 8:15 PM

Jack goes out and looks at things all the time, Mystified. He really likes art and keeps searching for something good to look at.

I think looking at something you do not expect to like is an obligation for a real art lover, as difficult and as frustrating as this may be. Jack certainly puts me and most others to shame in this respect.



November 13, 2005, 8:31 PM

George, the sort of acclaim you refer to is certainly not all about quality; in fact, quality may have very little to do with it--that couldn't be clearer. But it all depends on whose acclaim is involved and for what reasons, which has everything to do with why there's no acclaim from me, while so many others are trying to claw their way up Bas's waiting list.

Yes, a lot of what's going on is based on buzz, excitement, anticipation of big returns on investment, and potential bragging rights. Some people are much more susceptible to these lures than others. Some people would gladly buy a Bas, any Bas, sight unseen, just because it's hot, "in" and happening, and they want a piece of that kind of action regardless of the nature of the work as art. Some of us don't operate that way.

Bas is still young, as you note, but big success this early can be a double-edged sword. He may see no need to change much. He may be pressured to keep making the kind of work that's known to sell well. He may be pressured to crank out as much work as possible to keep the cash register ringing, to strike while the iron's hot. He may not get the luxury of reflection, serious exploration or truly organic development.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, that's one reason why a "review" like mine, though not necessarily by me, is needed. All the guy is hearing is how terrific he is, how his stuff is selling like hot cakes, and how many people are clamoring to buy what he hasn't even made yet. In my opinion, this sort of frenzy is simply not justified by the work as such (as it all too frequently isn't, in general). He may not care what I or people like me say, assuming he even hears of it, but I'm saying it anyway.



November 13, 2005, 9:00 PM


I don't disagree with most of what you say, my last observation was really about the psychology of the marketplace and the influence of crowd behaviour. In a way it sets the stage for the emerging artist. They are allowed a certain slack in one area if they hit it in another, but in the end, they have to pull it altogether. In that respect a strict crit may indeed prove useful.



November 13, 2005, 9:25 PM

jack nailed it
bas is Elizabeth Peyton!!!!!!!!



November 14, 2005, 12:03 AM

I understand and agree with your critique but, it is very similar to other comments you have made before about Bas’ work. I still don’t understand why go and see his work again and again. In my opinion, I rather stay home than experience this visual torture you just described.

Honestly, I was tempted to go but saw one image of what was expected in the gallery’s website and I knew immediately that it was the same stuff and therefore I chose not to go.

Luckily, I found out by word of mouth about the new Castillo gallery which was showing new works by Arturo Rodriguez and later a musical performance by the one and only Alfredo Triff….all in the same place….

When you have a chance go and see Arturo’s work. His imagery has changed and the gallery is impressive.

Next Saturday MOCA is showing Albert Oehlen.



November 14, 2005, 12:15 AM

In a way, I appreciate all the work that Jack is doing for all of us. After his critique, who wants to see that stuff anyway?

I used to go to all the shows too… but, I realized that the bad ones were making me bitter and depressed.

So now, with some research ahead of time, I only go to the ones that are going to be visually or intellectually inspiring. If there is nothing good going on, then I just work in my studio or have a good time with my non-artist friends…


that guy

November 14, 2005, 12:20 AM

You got the right idea Mystified in 36. The gallery you mentioned doesn't look too promising however. Your comment 28 seemed like a back door way of advertising.



November 14, 2005, 12:33 AM

Yes, I can't disagree. I find it difficult and discouraging to go see yet another gallery full of visually dispirited work, time and time again.

I agree with guy about Castillo. More paintings full of distored figures and miscellaneous detritus. It is almost a period style by now. I am constantly bemused by how much this stuff looks like 1940s & 1950s watered down surrealism, but I doubt any of these artists have a clue about this.



November 14, 2005, 1:07 AM

that guy

Well can you show me another effective way of letting people know about this new gallery or any new gallery?

Not too long ago, the Goldman warehouse was mentioned in the same manner and nobody complained about advertising. In fact, all of you were actually angry that it was not advertised. All I am doing is letting you know what is new out there. That’s all!

Oh … I realized that the preference here is a limitation and concentration with just Dorsch and Snitzer galleries….wow very exciting, indeed ….


that guy

November 14, 2005, 1:48 AM

well, Franklin's rule "No ads" is a good one. The minute every tom dick or harry carries on about the great art in his coffee shop is the same minute artblog takes the suicide potion. The quality of the gallery you mentioned was suspect, the Goldmen show was a post that Franklin posted himself. If someone mentioned it in the comments area before the post, it was absorbed as relevant due to the enormity of Olitski. In other words it didn't need an "ad" as such. Go print a postcard.



November 14, 2005, 8:53 AM

that guy

Please, don’t confuse information with advertising.

First, what I wrote happens here all the time. Fortunately, in the past, Jack has informed us about new shows like the one at MDC featuring Guido Llinas, or the one at the Miami Art Lab featuring one of his favorite artists….and I can go on and on….

Second, it was meant to inform specifically Jack. Unlike you, he kind of likes to see art and wants to know about what‘s going on in town.



November 14, 2005, 9:32 AM

Re#38, OldPro, that short comment really says something about you and it's not all good. To me, it reads as a remark made by a bitter artist and that's too bad.

You start blabbing, without even recognizing the artist by name. He is Arturo Rodriguez, about 50 which means he has been painting more than a few years. Based on seeing one or two jpegs, you quickly declare that you won't bother to go see the work and then perfunctorily dismiss it.

You start off with More paintings full of distorted figures and miscellaneous detritus which simply means "more paintings full of signifier "A" and miscellaneous detritus. " which doesn't mean much critically at all. One could have as easily said "more paintings full of gloppy smeared color and miscellaneous squiggly detritus." It carries the same dismissive content without ever really addressing the work.

You go on to say It is almost a period style by now. Rhetorically speaking, how long ago qualifies as a period style? Twenty years? that might well include the nascent historical roots of his body of work. Forty years? nah.

Then I am constantly bemused by how much this stuff looks like 1940s & 1950s watered down surrealism Gag, when I was in art school, the painters, who were now primarily teaching, would dismiss any other art which challenged their limited belief system, with a similar remark. Of course they would have used a different stylistic period. Further, what do you think of the possibility that a contemporary of ours could investigate work from a dismissed period with a fresh eye and come up with a new solution?

And finally you have the gall to say but I doubt any of these artists have a clue about this. You don't suppose that another artist, who has been painting for over twenty years, would have just a teensy weensy tad of historical knowledge?

What I don't understand is why you bothered to comment on the work of Mr. Rodriguez at all. It is obvious you did not like the work but also clear you had nothing to say. It is a kind of public exposure that's better off left in the closet.

An aside for Franklin, I didn't have a problem with Mystified linking the Castillo gallery in comment #28. I'm interested in looking at different kinds of work and there was no excessive hype in his post. Fits the spirit of the TOS.



November 14, 2005, 9:58 AM

I owe Castillo a link on the following thread and couldn't find it on Google. I'll take care of that later. Thanks, Mystified.


that guy

November 14, 2005, 10:49 AM

thanks mystified. your snide "unlike you" wasn't necessary. I just like to point out when the links start to confirm a aesthetic slip the leads nowhere good.



November 14, 2005, 11:01 AM

There is so much poor art around, how can anyone be expected to look at it all "in the flesh", so to speak?

That's what "That Guy" and others appear to be asking.



November 14, 2005, 1:00 PM

I guess I bother you a lot, George, otherwise you would not take so much time tossing potshots at me, at such length.

I asked you previously not to lay the age thing on me, and now I will ask to please lay off on the "bitter artist" thing as well. We have been over this before. I may be an old fart but I am certainly not a bitter one. Disappointed in the level of art in Miami, but not bitter. We need to take each other at face value and not resort to accusations and charcterizations, as per the rules, which you know as well as i do.

I don't need to know the name of an artist to know the art is no good. Or are you suggesting that the neme should make a diffrence? That way I would know what to think, right?

I have stated right here that it is the olbligation of the serious art lover to see art even when it is expected to disappoint, but I certainly do waffle here. I find it very difficult to take the time and effort to go look at something if I know from several reproductions that it is just silly. Jack has this kind of endurance and persistence, and I admire him for it, but even he constantly grumbles about how his expectations are constantly dashed. Do you see every show and go to every play and movie and concert just because they are there? No, you don't. Nobody does.

As for young artists - or even not so young artists - " having a clue", I do know about this. They do not have a clue. I talk to them all the time. 9 out of 10 give you a blank look when you get down the list past the major major people of the recent past and a bunch of stars of the present. The possibility that any of these people knows anything about the artists who painted just like they do 50 or 60 years ago is nil, in my opinion.

But keep on bitching at me if it makes you happy. I am going to keep right on bitching about art that sucks, so you will have plenty of material.



November 14, 2005, 1:19 PM

I agree with OP in that too many artists don't have enough of a grasp of art history. that's not to say that I do neccesarily (sp) , but in my experience it's the case. I had a friend who went to Cooper Union for a semester, and while she said the kids there had a real knowledge of say Body Art, they didn't know the first thing about Courbet, or any of the artists around the time of the Industrial Revolution. Pretty sad, really, considering that it was the beginning of Modern art, a movement (if I can use that term) that the art kids are trying so hard to be critical of.

I think that most of the art in Newfoundland is pretty poor, and like Jack, I'm out to the openings all the time... it's like beating your head against the wall. what masochism!



November 14, 2005, 1:20 PM




November 14, 2005, 2:04 PM

george! what i wrote wasn't meant to knock what you said. i agree with both of you. as you already know, i'm much more inclined to agree with you on the vast majority of things, but OP does occaisionally say something that i don't find hopeless.

please also keep in mind that here in St. John's, the stuff that gets the most attention is oil paintings of fishing boats etcetera etcetera so that gallery going is painful for me in a totally different way than Jack.

if it means anything, i think your comments are always well considered and right on the mark. so, dude, chill.



November 14, 2005, 2:19 PM

Craig, sorry about that, you beat me to the click. I was replying to opie not you



November 14, 2005, 2:28 PM

no harm done, my friend.



November 14, 2005, 5:36 PM

I'm not as masochistic as I was. I had to pull back, not just because it made sense, but because I was getting too disgusted. I'm hardly contented now, but it's a more manageable and reasonable situation.

However, if all I knew was recent and contemporary art, I probably would have walked away from it all by now. It's been crucial to me to know what has been done all along, what can be done, not just for the sake of having proper standards but for the sake of hope, if not faith.



November 14, 2005, 7:19 PM

Courbet? Forget Courbet. I seldom find any who know artists from 50 years ago, much less 150. Older art is something you have to suffer through in Art History 101. It doesn't interest them.



November 14, 2005, 8:06 PM

There would appear to be something seriously wrong with any proclaimed art lover, let alone artist, who feels no interest in or attraction to art unless it's of recent vintage. The idea that any art person, especially a practitioner, would find art history "painful" is very disturbing, or at least it raises very troublesome questions about such a person in relation to art.



November 14, 2005, 9:13 PM

re#54: Jack, There would appear to be something seriously wrong with any proclaimed art lover, let alone artist, who feels no interest in or attraction to art unless it's of recent vintage. You betcha.

Let's play, who you looking at now?

I'll start with: All of the 820 Van Gogh's paintings. I've been looking at the whole set of 800 paintings 3-4 times a week. As a painter, this is an incredible experience of the highs and lows, of the feints and dodges on the way to the sublime. Yeh, a lot of the reproductions are poor but the overview is clear and instructive

Fore another take on this see Saltz comments on MOMA The lack of space means MOMA must show mainly masterpieces. Obviously, everyone wants to see the peaks. But if you're only seeing mountaintops you can never know how high they are. Often more can be learned from so-called "lesser art" than "great art." These days too many alleged "geniuses" are being propped up by their isms and would be of little interest otherwise (e.g., Motherwell, Hoffman, and Gottlieb).


ordinarily strange

November 14, 2005, 9:16 PM

well. it was nice to read everything... BUT I WILL BE BACK!!



November 14, 2005, 10:29 PM

Well, George, since you ask, I've been doing a lot of "sampling," as I do pretty much on an ongoing basis. It's relatively random, which keeps it fairly relaxed and open-ended. Some recent examples: Salvator Rosa, Guido Reni, Jacob von Sandrart, Gerard de Lairesse. On a Baroque kick, I guess. The first two are big names (though not to people who don't know Courbet); the other two were big in their time (Sandrart was the most famous German painter of his day; de Lairesse was known as the Dutch Poussin). Maybe I shouldn't have said anything, though; this isn't likely to go over well with the in-crowd. Good thing I couldn't care less.



November 14, 2005, 10:59 PM

George, that's why when I lived in NY my favorite place to look at paintings was the exhibit rooms of the auction houses. Very few materpieces, but what a sumptuous buffet of work you could find, and just about every one a surprise, good bad or indifferent.

After initially finding out about Saltz through a dandy piece he wrote about museums he persists in disappointing me. If he thinks Motherwell, Gottlieb and Hofmann are merely propped up by their "isms" he is just telling us he can't see. And, painfully, he feels no inhibition saying so.



November 14, 2005, 11:33 PM

re#57: Jack, What crowd. Even from my perspective that is a fairly obscure group. I think the LA county museum has a Reni I might have actually once seen and I can't find anything on Sandrart. I liked"Diana and Endymion" by Lairesse it is an odd painting compositionally. Thanks for answering



November 15, 2005, 12:05 AM

OK, George. Here's Sandrart being proper:

And here's Sandrart being German:

Apparently, his best works were large altarpieces which remain where they were made to go, meaning outside museums, which hasn't helped his reputation because relatively few people ever see them.


Marc Country

November 15, 2005, 1:31 AM

Often more can be learned from so-called "lesser art" than "great art.

Isn't that what one goes to art school for... to learn from the lesser art that they make, in order to eventually (hopefully) graduate to making great art? When I go to a museum, on the other hand, I'm more interested in enjoyment than education.

Hoffman an alleged genius? More likely Saltz is an 'alleged' writer.



November 15, 2005, 7:49 AM

Marc, read the whole piece that Saltz wrote and Jack provided the link to. I think Saltz has become a little screwy. He is all hot and bothered by PC things, and he not only thinks Hofmann is way overrated (in my opinion he is way underrated) he thinks Henry Darger is one of the great geniuses of the 20th C. He appears to have simply stopped seeing.



November 15, 2005, 8:09 AM

George provided the link, actually.

I agree with Oldpro about Saltz's eye going off, but otherwise agree with Saltz that a non-programmatic, chronological presentation that leaves room for the viewer to make up his own damn mind sounds like a good idea.



November 15, 2005, 8:23 AM

You are right, Franklin, but plain and simple might not be sexy enough for MoMA.

Salz it good when it comes to museums and such. He seems to be losing it on art.



November 24, 2005, 2:28 PM

jordan, also forgot to mention in a previous thread from a few weeks ago that i liked the male face you did that was half finished. i think it was listed under from "real life" with the foot and skulls on the same page. nice. in general you have a nice feel for the face.



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