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Episode 27
The Best Bits of 2021

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

On this week’s episode, we take a look back at 2021 with clips from a number of different episodes. We kicked off Art Sense in June of this year and have thus far interviewed 34 guests over 26 episodes. Guests have included best selling authors, museum curators, art historians, blue chip artists, auction house execs, technology experts, crypto artists and top collectors. Guest artists have included the likes of Sandy Skoglund, Marilyn Minter, Raymond Pettibon, Eric Fischl, SWOON, and Mona Kuhn. 2021 is destined to be known for year two of the global pandemic and the rise of NFTs. The market for NFTs skyrocketed over the course of the year and I was able to bring you conversations with some of the most knowledgeable and influential voices in the industry. In March, Beeple’s “First 5000 Days” sold for $69 million through an auction at Christie’s. Over the course of the year, I spoke to the auction house executive that brokered the deal as well as the person who paid the $69 million to acquire the work. Crypto artists like Sarah Zucker, Robness and Jen Stark provided the artists’ perspective, while Colborn Bell explained what motivated him to create the Museum of Crypto Art. There was one question that I asked each guest from this space. What’s in store for the future of NFTs and what hurdles stand in the way?


Craig: [00:00:10] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. On this week's episode, we take a look back at 2021 with some choice selections from a number of different episodes. We kicked off Art Sense in June of this year and have thus far interviewed thirty four guests over twenty six episodes. Guests have included bestselling authors, museum curators, art historians, blue chip artists, auction house execs, technology experts, crypto artists and top collectors. Guest artists have included the likes of Sandy Scoglund, Marilyn Minter, Raymond Pettibon, Eric Fischl, Swoon and Mona Kuhn. But one of my favorite conversations with an artist was part of episode one. Episode one included two guests with ties to artist Andrew Wyeth. One of those two guests was artist Bo Bartlett. Bo is an extremely popular artist in his own right who is represented by Myles McHenry Gallery in New York, but once upon a time was a project for Wyeth's wife, Betsy. As a result, Bartlett was asked to produce a documentary about Wyeth, which resulted in years of observations, long walks and talks about life as a painter,

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Bo: [00:01:38] And I realized what a great painter it was. And so as we became friends and spent a lot of time together, you know, he really encouraged me and encouraged me to not worry about the reviews because he'd gotten so many negative reviews over the years and to, you know, just paint your life and paint your story and paint what you're excited by. And you know, I've said this but before. But you know, one time I was with him, I said, How do you stay motivated? You know, year in, year out, you know, you've had such a long career. How do you how do you do that? And he said, Oh, I'll just be going along and I'll see a piece of barbed wire with a piece of horse's mane stuck in it, and he'll just keep me going. You know, it's like he gets excited by something as simple as a piece of barbed wire. I mean, that's like that is the kind of meditation that we're not used to, you know, we're like, you know, one millisecond edits. If it's not exciting, we flip to the next thing or, you know, we don't have the patience and we're just not contemplative enough to to slow down enough. And I mean, I learned so much from him because I really learned how to draw from bin long and how to how to paint from Nelson Shanks. But I didn't really know why to paint. And Andrew Wyeth taught me why to me. And it's, you know, it's it's to tell your own unique story, and we all have our own unique stories. And so it's a universal. And he would he would start in his own backyard. I mean, he didn't have to go off somewhere far to find a subject matter. He would just wander off into his own backyard.

Bo: [00:03:20] I remember seeing him. I worked on the film in a little schoolhouse across the way from their mill, their house, and I would see him leave in the morning to go to a studio and he'd be driving his jeep down the driveway. And all of a sudden it would just pull off to the side and stop like, like he had died or had a heart attack or something. And I like what's going on, you know? And he would just sit there for hours drawing like he wouldn't even get out of his driveway before he'd see something that excited him. He would be drawing some fence line or something. And then the next day, if he liked it, he'd come back again and, you know, bring his watercolor anyway, you know, and eventually he would get out. And if he liked it again, he would eventually get tempera and take it to the studio and take all his studies and make a painting of it. But but, you know, he wasn't just painting some random thing. I mean, he was painting. He knew the tree that had been felled to make that fence. They knew the farmer that, you know, cut that tree down. And it was a whole life. It wasn't just a scene, you know, he was painting everything inside and out. So he took the microcosm of his life and made it universal so that when people see it, they don't know why they're attached to it or drawn to it. But they are because it's got his own genuine voice and his own genuine life in it. And he's not doing it for anybody else. He's doing it for the right reasons. And that's that's what's so rare. I think it's really rare.

Bo: [00:04:48] It's inward, you know? And he said, you have to be ingrown to be any good. That's what he told me. You know, it's like, OK, you know, you just think about that. And he says, I never show anybody anything I'm working on because if they like it, it's a bad thing. And if they don't like it, it's a bad thing. So you realize you really just have to maintain this kind of contemplation and focus like a zen master. And that's what that's what he told me.

Craig: [00:05:12] What is great about that story is this firsthand account of art history. We had the benefit of another such guest in episode six, Philip-Larratt Smith served as the literary archivist for the incomparable Louise Bourgeois during her lifetime and now serves as curator for the Easton Foundation, which works to maintain her legacy. Larratt-Smith curated a wonderful show at the Jewish Museum this year that looked at Bourgeois' work through the lens of her years in psychoanalysis and the writings she created in the process. In this clip, Larratt-Smith provides insight into a large cage like sculpture by bourgeois that was in many ways symbolic of her life.

Philip: [00:05:59] Massage Guns is the largest cell installation that Louise ever made. He began making them in the early 1990s. These are architectural installations that originally the viewer was meant to be able to enter and walk through, and they were made out of a combination of objects Louise had made and also objects that Louise had found so found objects. And this was a shift for Louise because up until the 1990s, she worked predominantly. I mean, she predominantly made her sculpture at the beginning. To use the found object is significant because it's as if Louise needed something that had a heightened sense of reality so she could use the perfume that she wore throughout her life, Shalamar. She would use objects that she kept over the course of her life. Louise was a pack rat, so she had a lot of things from her early childhood that she took with her when she left France. And the way in which she orchestrates these installations is really to kind of recreate, I think, know the original scene of the trauma and passage room in particular, is unusual among the cells because the cells in general deal with the themes of memory, desire the five senses passage. Nigeria is really the only one that consists of multiple bays, so it really has that narrative element that you mentioned, and I think it unfolds almost to me like a dream sequence.

Philip: [00:07:15] Whenever I see it, I think it's again this mechanisms of condensation and displacement, the way that she's tied different things together, you get a fragment of this and a relation to that. And so you're catching glimpses of something seen almost in a flashback. And I think the you know, the story that it tells in my interpretation is really the the edible deadlock that that was a central traumatic kernel of at least as Louise was never able to liberate herself from the fixation, the unconscious fixation on her father. And this would play havoc in her relationships with men throughout her life. It was also possibly part of the, you know, at least a component part of her creativity that informed your entire, I think, your entire world view. You know, the insistence on the couple is a kind of fundamental structure of the world. I think that she, you know, in a way, you know, and it was it was through it was through psychoanalysis that she really came to recognize the lingering hope that this fixation had on her.

Philip: [00:08:12] And you know, she wrote in a very late writing, Never let me be free from this burden that will never let me be free. So there's a kind of circularity to it, and it's as if it's a closed circuit that she can't fully get out of. And I think a lot of the cells have that feeling, too. I mean, for all that, they're open to different perspectives and they actually allow the viewer to have the pleasure of the voyeur or looking at something that's almost like a private scene, you know, like almost almost a little. I sometimes think of Duchamp's étant name, you know, with this feeling of glimpsing something or kind of like some sort of perversion or some sort of something that normally isn't presented to to the view of others. But at the same time, I think it's Louise had this, you know, had really created this kind of closed symbolic world in which she was able to reenact these these traumatic memories from the past and partly in order to try to, you know, to exorcize them. But at the same time to it was a way of holding on to them, too.

Craig: [00:09:05] Sure. You know, I believe I read that it was originally conceived that to experience the work, you could pass through the cell. That's right. But ultimately it was chosen that it would be viewed from the outside. And conceptually, I think what would it be like passing through in experiencing that inside the cell versus viewing it from the outside? And I guess part of that kind of goes back to this whole nature of psychoanalysis. Looking at your world from a first point perspective versus from the outside looking in.

Philip: [00:09:36] I think the one thing I would say about that is that the truth of the analytic situation emerges from the dialog between two people. So even if even if the analysis is doing all the talking, in the end, it is only occasionally interjecting it still the dynamic that sets itself up between those two, that creates the truth of that encounter. And so in a strange way, I think that that's also the case with the cell. So even though it's impossible really for conservation reasons to let people walk through the cells at this point, you know, part of it was this idea of seeing some seeing a situation both from within and from without. And you know, in general, I would say what their art Louise is attempting to, you know, she wants to experience the trauma in order to abolish it. And beyond the pleasure principle, Freud talked about the fact that so many shell shock victims were having this sort of return, you know, mental return to the most anguished moment of their life, to the origin of the trauma. And he didn't understand what it was exactly that they were attempting to do until he realized that it was, you know, it was it was attempting to relive the trauma in order to release themselves from it. You know, this was largely unsuccessful attempt to to liberate themselves from the traumatic event that had made them who they were.

Philip: [00:10:41] And this is this is, I think, also true of Louise in a way that she, you know, she said art is a form of psychoanalysis and indeed psychoanalysis and art become overlaid in Louise's work and at times seem almost indistinguishable from each other. But Louise never said that it was a cure. Was no cure, and I think psychoanalysis also does not purport to be accurate, can do many things. It can alleviate your suffering. You can give you insight into why you're doing the things that you're doing and possibly you can use that information to live in a different way. But it's, you know, it's it's not it's not some sort of quackery where you go to the psychoanalyst three times and then your back feels better. I mean, it was always I. It's much more it's much more labor intensive. And it's I think for Louise, there was there was a kind of analogy in a strange way with between, you know, what art was for her. She saw being, you know, to be an artist is really to be condemned to this life of repetition where you have no choice but to continue, you know, expressing yourself and sort of acting out of your traumas

Craig: [00:11:39] In episode nine of the podcast. I spoke with Abby Winograd, the MacArthur Fellows Program, 40th Anniversary Exhibition Curator at the University of Chicago Smart Museum of Art. The MacArthur Foundation has a long history of providing, "genius grants" for those that show great promise, including visual artists. When a grad was instrumental in bringing together the majority of MacArthur Artist Fellows to create work specific to and in conjunction with neighborhoods around Chicago, as well as coordinating an accompanying museum exhibit toward common cause art, social change in the MacArthur Fellows program at 40 raised questions about whether art is capable of creating social change.

Abby: [00:12:31] You know what part of what I also was trying to do and thinking about this list of artists was look at kind of a spectrum of practice. And, you know, very early on, the idea was that the foundational idea here is that, you know, all art is a form of social practice and that that is what happens across the spectrum so that there are artists like Ida Appleby and Nicole Eisenman and Kerry James Marshall, who have spent decades trying to expand the canon of representation and that that is a form of social practice. And it happens in traditional art spaces. But you know that that's foundationally important. You know, I had the privilege of working with Kerry James Marshall on his retrospective when I was an intern, or it was a curatorial fellow at the MCI Chicago and continued to work on that project as a research associate. And you know, one of the things that that project taught me was how, you know, fundamental representation within institutions is so I wanted to make sure that there was that kind of a presence. But then, like you said on the other end of that spectrum are the Malkin's and the reclose. And Wendy Ewald sees these kind of artists who are doing work that's deeply embedded in community and that's produced with, you know, that's context specific, that's produced by community through community engagement, but that all of these types of artistic practice are fundamentally committed to an idea of that that art is is capable of creating social change in various ways.

Abby: [00:14:39] And I do, you know, the reason that I'm a curator is because I fundamentally believe that art has the power to change things and that the, you know, the visual encounter the esthetic encounter is capable of, of changing the way people see. And if you can change the way people see, then you can change. You can have a different kind of conversation. You know, it's obviously an incredibly cliche, things to think, to say, right? But there's a reason that cliches exist. So there's a million of them, right? Seeing is believing in a picture is worth a thousand words. And and all of those things are, I think, embedded in this fundamental, fundamentally fundamental true, this fundamentally true thing, which is that, you know, the encounter with an an art object is unlike anything else. And so wouldn't it be interesting to give all of these artists this platform, this prompt and to then present it in aggregate and see see what comes of it? So I don't know if that's exactly there was. The response, but no, it's nothing like that

Craig: [00:16:02] In episode 11. I spoke to another artist that is focused on representation in social change. Vincent Valdez's work holds a mirror up to America and asks for answers. In this clip, Valdes talks about his massive twenty fifteen painting The City,

Vincent: [00:16:22] So The City I began in the summer of 2015. It took me approximately 365 days to complete. I never had encountered before a subject or a work in the studio that began unfolding in real life outside of the studio doors while I was creating it. And so I would be in the studio working on this 40 foot painting of a night scene with a huddled group of hooded Klan members, men, women and child on an obscured hillside overlooking the city and the city became the title of the piece. The city became this larger than life symbol for me. It became the epitome of what this piece represented. If this could be any city in America that, as again, as artist, as citizen, as a person of color, from a community of color. For far too long, it couldn't be more clear to me that America has convinced itself or that these that a scene like this was relegated and isolated to those kinds of people in those kinds of places far away from the rest of us, because that's not really who we are. And this was my creating a scene like the city actually contradicted that notion. It was my attempt to say Shame on you, America, for being for prematurely being or for being so eager to call yourself a post-racial society on the heels of your first black president, because what I was seeing was a much different picture in 21st Century America. This the, you know, I was never interested in the agency or the presence or the organization, the history of the Ku Klux Klan that had nothing to do with it, really.

Vincent: [00:18:24] I merely used it as a symbol for a much bigger threat, which is white supremacy in this country and the power structures of white supremacy. And so the beauty and the truth, as always for me, is hidden in the detail. So when I'm I'm more concerned with the hidden symbols that most of us as Americans living and working in 21st Century America don't even really realize we don't. We're not conditioned in this country to inform ourselves enough about enough to be aware of what really is at play in Daily America, right? When you think about the power, the powerful symbols of advertising icons, iconography in this country and how they almost always lead back to the fundamentals of nationalism and patriotism, that in turn can become agents for racism, discrimination, sexism and so forth. So there's floating around in that canvas. These hidden symbols like the think about you mentioned Charlottesville. Mm hmm. Every time I think about of being recently completed with that painting and then watching the scenes of Charlottesville occurring and then all these other scenes that started began erupting around the country and over and over, I quickly began to recognize that there was one symbol that kept that just stuck with me. And it was the symbolism of that of these trucks that were being used as as symbols of aggression, right? And so when I think about so when I devised the composition of the city, there's one light source, one main light source, almost. It creates a chiaroscuro like effect, and it's the headlamps of this brand new souped up Chevrolet truck, right? This becomes.

Craig: [00:20:28] Heartbeat of America, was their tagline bigger.

Vincent: [00:20:31] There you go. So I compositionally as composition, as a compositional strategy. I made damn sure that that cross right? It becomes like equated with like the burning cross, you know, the Ku Klux Klan. This eight, this symbol of the past, a symbol of terror and how that's, you know, that can quietly be viewed in very, very different manners, depending on who you are and where you are in America. So that slogan, The Heartbeat of America became everything for me. The Nike, the baby Nike Air Jordans that are laced on the feet of the toddler who's in a Ku Klux Klan hood who's pointing at you like Uncle Sam, I want you. Here is the next generation that is learning these methods and these ways that have been passed down for generations and centuries in this country. There is the metropolitan city down below, and if you follow the traces in the mud and the tire tracks and the footprints, they lead you down like a golden brick road from Wizard of Oz down into the Golden City. It could be anywhere in America. And what does that tell the viewer? It says. It suggests that these aren't people that are again isolated into these, you know, forgotten community communities. They're in your classrooms tomorrow morning. They're in the courthouses, they're in the medical systems, they're in the police force, they are part of. We are all part of this community. And the idea that these forces exist in the shadows right and out in the open more than we like to admit is a very real concern and threat in this country. And so this was my way of confronting the elephant in the American living room.

Speaker1: [00:22:32] 2021 is destined to be known for a year or two of the global pandemic and the rise of NFTs. The market for NFTs skyrocketed over the course of the year, and I was able to bring you conversations with some of the most knowledgeable and influential voices in the industry. In March, Beeple's First 5000 Days sold for $69 million through an auction at Christie's. Over the course of the year, I spoke to the auction house executive that brokered the deal, as well as the person who paid the sixty nine million to acquire the work. Crypto artists like Sarah Zucker, Rob Ness and Jenn Stark provided the artist's perspective, while Colborn Bell explained what motivated him to create the Museum of Crypto Art. There was one question that I asked each guest from the space. What's in store for the future of NFTs and what hurdles stand in the way? It's interesting to hear the different perspectives. First up is Noah Davis, Head of Digital Sales at Christie's.

Noah: [00:23:37] I have no idea. My friend, I I've been. I get this question obviously constantly, and I just like to say I don't I don't have a crystal ball. If anything, I have a snow globe and all I do is pick it up and shake it around. So that's what what I can promise you is that it will always be chaotic and it will always be unpredictable. So if anybody tries to tell you what the marketplace is going to look like in six months or even a couple of weeks, I would be deeply skeptical of that person. But what I what I can say is the reason why this is all super unpredictable is for a few reasons. I think it's this equation. I think about this all the time for the people who are driving this marketplace. The collectors and the artists, people who have been really immersed in this stuff for a while. For them, the future does not exist. The future is an abstract concept that is completely irrelevant for them because the future is now essentially right. It's grandiose, but it's true. People in the space. Think about the future as something that they're bringing into reality in media res. So when the future is now and the art doesn't exist and the money doesn't exist, quote unquote exist, then that's the equation. There's no way to predict what the outcome is. It's just it's just impossible. So. But that's also what I find so rewarding and fascinating and stimulating about the spaces that is that unpredictability and that chaos. So I guess it takes a certain type to really enjoy it.

Craig: [00:25:17] Next, we'll hear the perspective of Jason Bailey, a well-respected technologist who has been in the space for years.

Jason: [00:25:25] Sure. Yeah. So I always tell people that I'm really bullish on digital ownership and the ownership of digital goods and digital property. So look, I think eventually, even though I love collecting NFTs and I've been collecting them since before they were called NFTs, it's the nature of anything popular that eventually people are going to get tired of the word NFT. No, maybe maybe this trend a year, four years, you know, a decade out kind of runs its course, but I don't think the trend of people wanting to own digital things ever goes away at. Only goes up from here, in my opinion, right? We've seen it increase over the last several decades, and I think there's no reason to think that it won't only increase moving forward, right? So I'm very bullish on the idea that, you know, people are going to want increasingly to own things digitally as as sort of our existence increasingly goes online and becomes less physical. So I think the things that can get in the way of that happen or the things that need to be laid in place are today so much of the focus on NFTs has been around buying and selling. So it's all about if I buy this, can I flip it? Can I sell that? Can I buy this? How much is my collection worth? But we've kind of raced ahead of the infrastructure, so there's still a lot of non buying and selling oriented infrastructure stuff that has to be built and put into place.

Craig: [00:26:48] Museum of Crypto Art founder Cobram Bell provided his insight in episode 14.

Colborn: [00:26:55] I mean, I'll be brutally honest, I think like a cataclysmic supply shock, right? I think it's a lot easier for artists to hear the storylines to think they're entering a a world paved with gold to think that if they take the time to learn the systems and mints, whatever their creation is from Cinema 4D that they will receive, like the recognition that I think it's all a bit of a misnomer. I haven't particularly seen the collector pool growing at the same pace. And you know, they're it's just not in my mind, particularly sustainable at the moment. I think we've seen like a rapid evolution of the culture, whereas there was kind of like a focus on one of one art pieces. It's all very much evolved into, you know, 10K KPFA projects, lower price points, open editions, rampant speculation and kind of what identify what I identify as people trying to pick up pennies in front of a steamroller where they'll buy something for a thousand dollars and try and sell it for a thousand one hundred dollars and realize there's just no liquidity in the market.

Speaker1: [00:28:11] Anne Bricegirdle founded the Art and Tech Initiative at Christie's before moving on to the NFT design studio and consultancy Metaverse, while she weighed in on episode twenty two.

Anne: [00:28:24] I think there needs to be a lot of education on both sides and by both sides. I mean. The traditional art world and the NFT community, I think there's still a lack of understanding from both sides of the most beautiful and exciting elements of the other. You know, as I mentioned earlier, many people within the legacy art world just see these massive sales and have no idea why they should just be excited by a tape, for instance, and they're thinking of it in the traditional sense of just purely esthetically without understanding. The collective nature of the project, the utility aspects of the tokens, right, I think there's still such a lack of understanding of the utility of NFTs and the potential to engage and reward and incentivize your collector base, who also then defines a future of the project, right? It's that nature of active collective ownership. But I think there's there's still a lack of understanding of that, and I think, you know, on a very basic level. The traditional art world has never existed on Twitter. You know, going back to the Constitution, though, Brooke Lampley, who was the ultimate winner of the Constitution, the specialist of Sotheby's, she just made a Twitter account last week to engage with the with all of the hype that was sort of on Twitter about her. So on a basic level, there's a need for people with the legacy art world to engage with the NFT and crypto community to understand.

Anne: [00:30:09] The value system, which currently feels very different from the value system of the art world. Another quote I read Fanny Lockerby in her weekly newsletter made a joke about how, oh, last week the art world learned like how to have fun. And I think there was this sense of fun with regard to the Constitution bidding and. Generally speaking, the art world has been, you know, it thrives a bit on exclusivity. It can be a bit impenetrable. Again, it's hard to understand there's a lot of elitism that drives the space and there's it's really quite the opposite in the Web3 community and and so I think there's a real opportunity for both sides to get to know one another. You know, I don't want to necessarily just say that that is the entire value structure within the art world, because the reasons why we are all so moved by art like that is, of course, very real. There's also a need to educate the NFT, Web3 and crypto community on the beauty of fine art as well, right? So there's I think there's still a ways to go before those two worlds really collide. I'm hoping there's more. I'm hoping there's openness to to educating on both sides.

Craig: [00:31:25] And lastly, Metapurse co-founder Twoubadour, who along with Metakovan purchased Beeple's First 5000 Days, provided his view of the NFT horizon in Episode 24.

Twobadour: [00:31:37] There is a larger vision and I think it will address the collective good eventually, but it's going to be incremental. It's going to be over a period of time. And speaking of this in abstract and not specifically in terms of projects that are out there because I think that's important as well, because there are very powerful forces, very powerful trends that you know, that people tend to fall over and it's very difficult not to feel that feeling of FOMO, right? But I think they will give way to initiatives and ideas and projects that have a much more long term vision, even within the NFT space. And it's hard to do that because in a space that changes and evolves so quickly to come up with an idea or a concept that can sort of subsume any current trend that so happens to come about and sort of hold its own is rare. And I think projects of that sort, which which are determinedly decentralized, which are determinedly long term in their vision, which have a certain percentage of ambiguity in how they will unfold, which don't necessarily fill a vacuum that exists right now, but address a sort of a necessity which will arise a year from now or two will be very interesting. And I think that's what the NFT states has in store for us. I also think there would be a larger realization of the actual potential of NFTs and being. Time capsules and vehicles for culture and as the, you know, probably the best archival tools that ever existed in human history, which which hasn't happened yet. And the third aspect that I see unfolding in front of us is this idea of. Collectively experiencing any of these in interesting and different ways. Dreamverse is just the beginning of it. But people know that you can experience the work of art on on massive screens that you can experience it collectively that you can look at it on. You know, you can make a spectacle out of it. You can make it immersive and you can do it in a physical space. So there's going to be a lot more of that also.

Craig: [00:34:08] So that's a sampling of what we heard in 2021. There were plenty of other gems in this year's episodes, so I encourage you to go back and check them out. In the meantime, I'll be hard at work, continuing to educate and inform you about the past, present and future of art in twenty twenty two. Happy Holidays! That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rates show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. You can click on the podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Krag at Canvia. Art. Thanks for listening. Do.

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