Monthly Archives: August 2005

Empire State Building (photo)

The Thirst for Oil

Reading through the world press about rising oil prices, I have long been surprised at how many writers have ignored the link between the price moves and "easy money" conditions in the United States. The Economist does not make that same mistake.

The two main engines for the world, the United States and China (also the two biggest oil consumers), have both had their growth boosted by lax monetary conditions in the past couple of years. Indeed high oil prices can partly be seen as a consequence of low interest rates. The two most important prices in the world economy are the price of oil and the price of money, and they are linked. If interest rates are abnormally low (in bond yields as well as short-term rates), then as global demand increases in response, oil prices should rise—especially if production capacity is tight, as it is today.

Jim Rogers made the case for a long bull market in oil and other commodities in his latest book Hot Commodities. Everyone knows the rapaciousness of China’s growing economy, but the bullish end of commodity cycles have been driven by other growing countries in the past: more recently and notably Japan and Germany as they rebuilt themselves in the aftermath of World War II. You do not have to believe in the dwindling of long-term supplies of oil to understand that current bottlenecks in refining and other structural factors will keep prices high until market participants find conditions economically favorable enough to solve those problems. So eventually, we will reach a tipping point where new oil technologies or alternative energy forms will drive oil and gas prices down again, but that time might still be years away. In the meantime,  I have been surprised at how many pundits have attributed oil prices solely to speculation, even as we have watched oil climb from $30 to $70. But I guess those of us long energy and natural gas need someone to take the other side of our trades.

Walking at Tiffany’s (photo)

Matisse and His Blue Tablecloth

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has put together an exhibit showing Henri Matisse’s collection of textiles and how he used them to inspire his artwork.

This is the first exhibition to explore Henri Matisse’s (1869–1954) lifelong fascination with textiles and its profound impact on his art. "Matisse: The Fabric of Dreams—His Art and His Textiles" features forty-five painted works and thirty-one drawings and prints displayed alongside examples from Matisse’s personal collection of fabrics, costumes, and carpets. The exhibition marks the first public showing of Matisse’s textile collection—referred to by the artist as his "working library"—which has been packed away in family trunks since Matisse’s death in 1954.

The Guardian notes how often we see the textiles in Matisse’s paintings. Especially fun is seeing how often Matisse incorporated a blue tablecloth he acquired while he was still a young, unknown artist

The fabrics are
instantly identifiable in many paintings: a luscious length of French
silk woven with brilliant coloured posies of flowers which resurfaces
in Tangier as the table cloth in a still life Picasso bought;
elaborately embroidered African wall hangings that form the background
of the "odalisque" paintings of languid, exotically costumed women; and
a length of blue floral print which has been worn to rags in the
service of art. He
spotted the cream French cotton/linen table cloth, printed in pale and
indigo blue, as his bus passed a shop window in Paris. He leaped off to
buy it, and used it in a string of paintings over the next 30 years,
sometimes barely visible in the background, sometimes filling the
canvas.

Grand Central View (photo)

Car Conversation (photo)

Wanlun, Taiwan

At the Edge of the World

James Whitlow Delano will be among the photographers featured at the International Bienniale of Photography and Debate between Science and Culture in Viterbo, Italy at Tuscia University September 23 to October 9. Photographers Antonin Kratochvil, Abbas, Arko Datta and Francesco Zizola will also be featured.