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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Art, Technology & The Tour de France 2009

The Tour de France is Europe’s most famous platform for professional cyclists, a competition held annually since 1903 and interrupted only by the First and Second World War. Covering almost 3,000 miles in around three weeks, the competition is the most important summer sporting event for many in Europe. The attention the race gets in the United States pales in comparison to the great excitement it is met with by our Atlantic neighbors, but that has changed a bit since Lance Armstrong overcame cancer and broke the record number of Tour de France victories in the early 21st century. Ending on July 26th this year, many wonder if Armstrong will again be able to overcome the odds and cycle through Paris to victory.

Artists have had a long fascination with the bicycle. Marcel Duchamp’s famous bicycle wheel mounted on a stool and the groundbreaking bicycle advertisements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Ferdinand Lunel and Choubrac have imparted mystical qualities to this conventional vehicle. The most famous Avant Garde bicycle enthusiast of the early 20th century has to be the writer Alfred Jarry, forefather of the Surrealists and all around provocateur. Jarry frequently rode his touring bicycle through Paris, clearing traffic with his pistol (a pistol Picasso reportedly claimed after Jarry’s untimely death) and even wrote a short story entitled “The Crucifixion Considered and Uphill Bicycle Race.” The simple mechanics coupled with the liberating sense of mobility and speed a bicycle provides have enchanted every generation since its invention in the early 19th century.

Today, the race receives a great deal of publicity, especially in a year when Lance Armstrong is competing to increase his lead in overall titles. The attention it is receiving has compelled racers, advertisers and artists alike to engage in the race in new and interesting ways. Besides the conventional coverage of the various stages, leaders, and teams, news agencies of the United States and Europe have also covered a range of interesting topics beyond simple statistics.

CNN reported earlier this week on how the recent phenomenon Twitter has crept its way into the famous race. Lance Armstrong is Twittering daily on his reaction to the day’s stages, updating his fans and the public on his health and mindset. Chalked messages, traditionally written along the route by enthusiasts, offering messages and encouragement, are now being written by a robot who receives those messages from all over the world. The “Chalkbot” is the last in an interesting line of technological developments that afford humans the ability to make their presence and ideas known even from the opposite corner of the globe.

Interest in this year’s race extends beyond the technically inclined and to the peaks of the art world. Damien Hirst, Britain’s premier contemporary artist and supporter of Armstrong’s cancer charity Livestrong, has announced that he has designed the bike the American athlete will use during the last stage of the race. The bike, said to be a Trek, will apparently feature the butterflies that appear in a number of the artist’s works. Few details beyond that are available, but Bloomberg reports that Armstrong recently Twittered that he was “speechless” after seeing the bicycle. As the sports world waits for the outcome of the race, the art world looks forward to seeing this masterpiece in action.

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Works cited:
Duff, Alex. “Armstrong Gets Tour de France Bike Designed by Hirst,” on

Sutter, John. “Robot Chalks Tweets on Tour de France Route,” on;jsessionid=16E9A4F9478C33CA417F433B11608EA9.live5i#___1__


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    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.