An Important Message to the Nation

December 1, 2016

To the Board of Trustees:

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and the circumstances surrounding it, including the discrepancy between the popular vote and the Electoral College tally, the shock of the outcome, the sharp divisions within the electorate, the shape the transition of power is taking, and the role of the media have all triggered some reflection on the state of the nation, its institutions, and its politics.

I think it is my obligation to share with the Trustees of the College preliminary observations and conclusions with respect to how the politics of the day might affect Bard and its mission.

First and foremost, the election has made it clear to me that Bard is a far more important institution in the nation than we realize. Just as Bard assumed its distinctive mission in the 1930s, in response to the Depression and the rise of Fascism in Europe, the opportunity once again faces Bard to make a decisive contribution to the cause of democracy, freedom, and justice.

The reasons I think we must seize this opportunity now is true are based on these observations:

 1)   The election revealed not only deep resentment and anger that stem from economic inequality, but a general sense that the “establishment”—and more specifically “elites”—particularly of liberal political persuasions, failed to protect and support ordinary people.  We are faced with a nation divided on many grounds—from race, ethnicity, religion, to region, city, countryside, and class—and experiencing a shifting demography. Only education has the potential of forging a common nationwide ground for citizenship.

 2)   As consumers we may embrace and depend on new technology and the benefits of globalization, but the toll taken on how we conduct our public and private lives and how we form and maintain communities is extreme. We have become dependent on speed and convenience in communication rather than on sustained contact in real time and on substance. The fake and the real have become hard to distinguish. In these various senses, Trump is to politics and public service what Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Paris Hilton are to art and entertainment. Inquiry and research beyond what appears at the top of the screen from an Internet search seem superfluous.

 3)   The educational system has failed not only to inspire active participation—more voters did not vote than voted for any candidate—but also to impart basic information about our laws and the world we all live in. Most disastrously, education has failed to communicate respect for and understanding of distinctions between fact and fiction, reasonable and unreasonable opinions, the rules of evidence, or the constructive uses of skepticism and self-criticism—attributes that encourage curiosity and listening to others, particularly those with whom we disagree.

 4)    The disintegration of any shared notion of common citizenship in a free society has left the virtue of individual material self-advancement as the only dominant value. In this vacuum, a hollow notion of utility has become the criterion by which culture and education are judged. Science must be translatable into products, and nothing in the arts merits support unless it “does” something or makes money. What we do is seen either as a business or is justified on account of social utility.  Literature, the arts, scientific inquiry, the conduct of philosophy—indeed, the life of the mind and the work of the imagination—are not seen as proper ends in themselves.

 Against this Bard must strengthen its role.

 1)   We must reclaim the integrity and value of the liberal arts, and defend the notion of excellence and an elite not defined by money or power. The exceptional character of what our students and faculty can do must not be ether falsified or denigrated. Excellence in learning—the virtues of knowledge and talent in art and science are not inherently at the expense of the commons, and of others—and they do not threaten political egalitarianism. Indeed, a true republic requires a parallel free republic of letters, and therefore in the arts and sciences. We must not “dumb” down our curriculum or standards. We must resist the erasure of memory and the trivialization of the historical. We must deepen the taste and capacity for debate and dissent. We must cultivate a love and command of language.

2)   We must not abandon the patronage of art beyond mass entertainment any more than we should abandon the pursuit of science beyond what is obvious or easily comprehended. Bard has been a pioneer in the area of curriculum in the liberal arts. It has been in the forefront of placing the arts into the center of the purposes of the university. It must redouble these efforts—in the college, in its graduate programs, and the Fisher Center. We must seek out the broadest public since in today’s context vulgarity and ignorance are in the ascendancy.

3)   We must underscore the link between higher education and democracy, through the integration of civic engagement in the educational mission. This aspect ranges from the Center for Civic Engagement to the college’s work in the environment and land use.

4)   We must augment access to educational excellence to those who are underserved. This means sticking to financial aid based on need, and retaining a diverse student body. We must strengthen and expand the BHSEC network, BPI, Clemente, and all initiatives that seek to extend the liberal arts into the larger social fabric. Bard must continue to pioneer the improvement of the quality of public secondary education in the nation.

5)   We must combat xenophobia and isolationism through international programs in regions that are vulnerable in terms of freedom and educational excellence and readily subject to distortions in domestic public opinion. The programs on the West Bank, Central Asia, Russia, Berlin, and potentially Vietnam are particularly pertinent to this goal.

These are personal views that inform my commitment to Bard. The institution we have all been part of is more than a fine liberal arts college. It has shown the capacity to make a real difference in the country. The nation now needs it and its success more than ever.

With best regards,

Leon Botstein






Nov. 4, 2016

We’ve been hearing about him for more than a year. This wunderkinder out of Düsseldorf, Germany, media darling and art world sensation since the age of seven. Multiple sold-out shows in his native land before his sixteenth birthday and by his seventeenth, Leon Löwentraut would take his hyper-expressionist pop paintings overseas for two solo, sold-out exhibitions: one in London, at Knotting Hill’s Muse Gallery, the other in Singapore at Bruno Gallery. And last month in Basel, at Galerie Loeffel, every Löwentraut canvas on the gallery’s walls were scooped-up by collectors within fifteen minutes from the show’s opening. Impressive, indeed.


But who is he? And why does he have over 7000 adoring fans on Facebook and a free, Leon Löwentraut app downloadable in the Apple Store? What’s his shtick? As it turns out, our very own publisher/writer, Gregory de la Haba, was asked to curate this boy wonder’s first stateside exhibition at Avant Garde LES. And since de la Haba loves a good story, he enthusiastically embraced the offer to do so and in the interim find out exactly who, or what, this Leon Löwentraut is made of.


QL: Hello, Leon. Welcome to New York. Now tell us, please, who you are and when did you start painting?
LL: Hello, I am Leon Löwentraut, a painter from Düsseldorf.  I started painting at seven years old. My mother, an amateur painter, created these wonderful naturalistic landscapes and I loved to watch her paint and she was the first to put the paintbrush in my hand. I haven’t stopped painting since.
QL: So you started painting early–as a child–but when did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
LL: When I was a child, I remember visiting a friend of my grandfather’s who was an artist and walking into his studio and seeing these large canvases with bright colors that I found so amazing and exciting and to this day I never forgot them –although I did forget this artist’s name, sadly. This was around the same time I started painting with my mother and between the experience of being in a real artist’s studio with massive, bright paintings and a mother providing me the tools necessary to begin, I knew very early that I wanted nothing else other than to paint and create works of art on canvas. I’m still learning about being an artist.
QL: What is your daily schedule like? School in the morning, painting in the evening?
LL: Yes, exactly. I wake every day at 6:30 for school, come home, do homework and then start painting right away, often till very late. Painting is very calming and I enjoy it tremendously. My goal each morning when I wake is to work on one painting each evening. And I do. But I finished school this summer and I feel very good. Now I can concentrate all my power for painting!


QL: I like that, ‘all my power’. Good for you. Where is your studio, Leon?
LL: It is in the cellar of my parent’s home near Düsseldorf at Meerbusch-Büderich.
QL: You paint in the cellar of your parent’s home?
LL: Yes, why? Is that a problem?
QL: No, not at all. I love it. The rumblings in the European press painted you as a spoiled kid and I assumed you probably had a ten thousand square foot studio in Berlin or Leipzig. With assistants to boot.
LL: Ha, ha, no. I paint everything myself, thank you, and work at home.
QL: Tell me what dead artist you admire and one living artist you admire?


LL: Well, I admire four dead artists: Picasso, Basquiat, Pollock and Warhol. Each completely different with their own style and attitude and attitude matters a lot to me. I’m not a fan of the drugs Basquiat took but god do I love his attitude, his force in expression on canvas, pure genius, raw genius. With Picasso, I loved most his marketing genius as well as his line. With Pollock, I like that it took him a while to find himself, I find this very hopeful. Unfortunately, he had to drink too much to mask the fact that he didn’t have his unique style early on and that he was insecure, I believe. But when he found his own style he really killed it, yes?
QL: He sure did.
LL: And with Warhol, I love his erscheinungsbild, how do you say this in English?
QL: His appearance?
LL: Yes, his appearance, his style and connection with fashion and art, I really like that and admire when someone has the ability to really create their own persona as he did with his trademark wig and glasses plus make art that looked like no one elses before him. Amazing, no?



QL:Totally. And what living artist do you admire?
LL: I haven’t met Gerhard Richter yet but he would definitely be my favorite!
QL: And I saw that you did meet Julian Schnabel. Was he nice?
LL: Yes, he was great. Very nice. I met him when he had his opening in Germany and we talked and traded emails. And I showed him my work. He was very impressed about my pictures for my age and loved also the colors very much.
QL: Well that’s impressive to have Julian Schnabel look at your work and have something nice to say about it. Good for you. You carry yourself  well, confidently, people see that, are drawn to that and I’m sure has contributed to your tremendous success, no?
LL: Yes, but confidence also comes from working hard and this is what I do most.
QL: Bingo! A solid work ethic is key to success. But what do you contribute your commercial success to?
LL: It’s very rare to sell paintings for certain prices and I also know that it is not normal and I thank god for my luck and I am very thankful about it. Nonetheless, I work very hard all the time and make well thought-out decisions and plans about my career. I’m constantly asking myself and those around me who know better what more I can do better in regards to marketing, selling and what art shows are best for me to participate. I believe people respond to my work and purchase it because I work from my guts, my soul. I’m not creating art to make money and I’d really like to believe people see that and feel it. They enjoy the honesty of my work.


QL: With success come the haters and you seem to have a few. Tell me about the negative press you’ve gotten. Do you care? And, what are they saying about you in Germany?
LL: I don’t care about negative press, but sometimes it’s good; people want to read about bad things and they also want to see that successful people collapse. Sometimes they wrote that my parents just want to make me famous which is pure bullshit. My parents care about their son and wish for me to succeed, plain and simple. They do no more or less than what parents of a talented athlete would do for their son or daughter. How many parents around the world are driving their children miles and miles for proper training or to play in competitive games, yes? Or what about musically inclined children and the hours and hours devoted to practice every day?  What parent doesn’t wish success for their child? The difference is my parents take me to participate in art shows and exhibitions instead of football games to play. They see how hard I work with my art. I paint everyday. It’s a true passion for me. My critics also say I’m just dreaming and don’t know how the real life is. They’re right. I’m not as old as them (laughs). And they can say whatever they want.  I’ll take my dreams over their criticism any day (laughs). It’s all part of the journey, yes, Gregory?
QL: It most certainly is, Leon. I commend you for seeing it so lightly and not being negatively affected by it. Tell me what the act of painting means to you? Why do you paint?
LL: I paint because it is my passion. I’ll paint for two weeks straight and then it might catch up to me and I’ll get tired and need to rest but when resting I start to get anxious and need to start painting again soon. I’m always thinking about paintings. Another thing,  I do not speak very well about my feelings, I tend to be quiet about them in this regard, but in my paintings I find it very easy to express my feelings and emotions.  Normally, with friends and family, I am the extrovert.  I love to have fun and meet people.  But when I paint, I’m a complete introvert and prefer to be left alone to work.
QL: When I look at your work, I see expressive linear mark-making –something akin to the way graffiti artists ‘tag’ a wall or a NYC subway train. Tell me about your process, your approach to picture making. Tell me about the layering of paint (oil or acrylic?), tell me about the surface, the ground and how you feel about paint. What turns you on about art and being a painter?
LL: When I was a kid between the ages of 6-10, I had many books on graffiti art and I sometimes tried to copy these graffiti lines and styles. I work in acrylic on white primed fabric and usually listen to music and almost always just begin working without much premeditated thought. I just do it. Sometimes I have a subject in mind or a theme or the thought of a girl gets me going and sometimes before I paint I might make a sketch in pencil. But I love to work at night and go right at it. I can honestly say that art and being a painter excites me and that I can be myself when working and what matters more in life than being yourself?


QL: Very true. You seem wise above your years. Talk to me about two of your paintings: ‘Come and Go’ and ‘Evening With Friends’.
LL: ‘Come and Go’ is about how I feel for this beautiful girl I really like. I want her physically–to have sex with her–but I don’t want a relationship with her because my feelings are not strong enough for her. One hand is pulling her close, trying to grab a kiss, and the other is pushing her away. The drama of an 18 year old boy. (laughter) ‘Evening with Friends’  depicts my best friends Philipp, Tristan and Lea who enjoy visiting my studio and one night I just decided to paint them. On the right side, you can see some triangles one on top of the other and the triangles interprets Phillip’s voice. He was shouting for some reason while we were all laughing and having fun and just being kids. We spend much time together and these moments mean a lot to me and I very much wanted to capture that youthful specialness, our teenage fun in paint to last forever.
QL: Are you ready for your New York show?
LL: Yes, I hope so. I’m very exited and anxious to see how the people respond to my paintings and which people I will meet there.
QL: Tell me about the title, Träumereien?
LL: I believe in English the simplest meaning is dreams. But also it can mean reverie or a fantastic, visionary idea; fanciful musings. All of these wonderful things that are mysterious and exciting at the same time. Like coming to New York to exhibit my paintings. A dream come true.
QL: Thank you, Leon. We wish you well. Keep rocking it!
LL: Thank you very much, Gregory. See you at the opening.



Levy Economic Institute


Dear Friends,

I am writing this note in the hope that you, like me, will have an interest in sponsoring one of the few institutions of fair-minded economic thinking.

The Levy Institute conducts research programs and offers solutions to a myriad of politically fouled economic issues abounding in today’s world. The Institute is clear in its objectives, which are clearly to explore and present, without prejudice, the answers to issues confronting economic difficulties worldwide, offering macro solutions reaching deeply into all strata of economic reality.

Founded by the great investor Leon Levy in honor of his father Jerome, and built upon the economic principals of Hyman Minsky, perhaps the most important economic thinker since Lord Maynard Keynes, the Levy Institute occupies the prime position in the field of independent progressive economic thinking today. Leon Levy meant for the Institution to carry forward in perpetuity. Sadly, the arrangements were incomplete at the time of his death.

The Institution is crucial to the exploration of economic reality. I am calling on all of you to support the Levy Institute. Below is a request for donations. Here is a short paper called Destabilizing an Unstable Economy (you might visit the website for more and even subscribe to the work of the Institute).

Without institutions such as the Levy Institute economic thinking will continue to veer to the right, to austerity, to penalizing the poor for the benefit of the rich and ultimately leading to complete social disintegration. We must not allow the continued degradation of economic thinking sold to the world to further the cause of the right wing, GREED.

Asher Edelman

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CounterPunch: How the Economy Loses under Trump or Clinton

by Michael J. Sainato

Oct. 5, 2016


Famous Wall Street Investor Asher Edelman served as the inspiration for the character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in the 1980’s Oliver Stone film, Wall Street. A recent CNN article published on August 23rd about Donald Trump’s controversial investing in the 1980’s referred to the time as the “Gordon Gekko Era” though Edelman, the character’s inspiration, called the election between Trump and Clinton, “the worst of two evils or the best of two evils,” in a phone interview with me, noting “I guess Hillary is the best of two evils.”

Earlier this year, Edelman’s segment during a CNBC interview in which he described his support for Bernie Sanderswent viral. He described Sanders as the best candidate for the economy due to Sanders’ ambitions to redistribute wealth in this country to the lower and middle classes who tend to spend much more of their income than the wealthy. Recent trends have seen wealth increase for the wealthy, while the consumer base of the lower and middle classes continues to shrink. As far as providing solutions to the increasing wealth and income inequality throughout the United States, the candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t provide any, according to Edelman.

“I think a Clinton presidency would leave us in the same position we are in today. That is to say with the middle class and lower classes remaining disadvantaged, with the wealthier people becoming wealthier, with favoritism towards Wall street, the oil companies, and the pharmaceutical companies,” he said. “I think with a Trump presidency, it’s foolish to even think of one, but it’s a remote possibility because of Hillary’s difficulties.”

Edelman cited the idea of Trump having the authority to fire nuclear weapons increases the threat of nuclear war, but even if that were evaded, the United States would still be headed towards an economic disaster. “Donald Trump doesn’t have a clue about economics, and doesn’t have a clue about macroeconomics. I imagine you would have one of these dictatorships which are favorable to his friends and unfavorable to the rest of the country, with most businesses moving offshore pretty quickly.”

One of the most economically divisive issues this presidential election is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.Hillary Clinton has vocally opposed it, although she helped further negotiations as Secretary of State, the surrogates she appointed to the Democratic Party platform voted in support of it, and her running mate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has spoken highly of the deal. Bernie Sanders has vehemently opposed the trade agreement and led progressive opposition against the deal, while Donald Trump has also opposed the agreement for different reasons.

Edelman explained it’s a much bigger question as to opposing or supporting the agreement.

“You have to make a couple of decisions. Whether your real wish is to attempt to continue to dominate the world both politically and economically or whether you want to run trade as something that has to do with trade and not something that has to do with political needs and advantages,” he said. “If you were to take that trade agreement and convert it into something slightly different from what it is, and I wouldn’t say I’m very in favor of it, and that something has to do with protecting labor from the consequences of cheap labor elsewhere. This would mean you would try to adjust tariffs in a way that reflected the cost of labor in the countries with which you were dealing as oppose to having total open trade without any additional expenses for those countries that are taking advantage of very inexpensive labor.”

Edelman also added the deal would also have to apply this to American companies who exported their manufacturing and service jobs to countries with cheap labor, and adjust tariffs for them accordingly.  “I think that would very successful and I think something like that is necessary because you do need these trade agreements. The U.S. can’t isolate itself from the rest of world, but it also can’t use it to politically dominate the world. These agreements have to be used to be economically sound both for the U.S. and its relationships with other countries.”



Geoffrey Diner and AXA Insurance Company

Dear all,

Now and then we find, in life, behavior which, though it is a passing event, sufficiently moves us to tell the word. Should any of you want to chat about the idea of shipping other people’s extremely fragile art in a sea container with furniture (Geoffrey Diner’s choice), a total disregard for contractual arrangements (Geoffrey Diner again), and the art of obfuscation and delay (the AXA insurance company), please feel free to contact me at If you leave a phone number I will call. If you have questions I will do my best to answer in detail.

This one goes down in the annals of insurance company behavior.

Asher Edelman