New Botticelli exhibition
August 27 2015
Here's a picture from a photocall at the V&A to publicise their new show happening in March next year, Botticelli Reimagined. Of course, being a 'modern' show, this is not simply about Botticelli - but how later and contemporary artists and designers have ripped off 'reinterpreted Botticelli'. But the good news is that 50 works by Botticelli are to be included.
The picture above, tweeted by the V&A, shows the picture being held up with someone in white gloves, even though it's on an easel. Regular readers will know of my fondness for unnecessary white glove shots. Anyway, here's more on the show in The Guardian.
August 26 2015
In The Guardian, the writer Julian Barnes has some wise words for us on the origins of contemporary art guff:
[...] he said artists were today expected to explain and write about their work far too much: Matisse had offered good advice to young practitioners “when he said that ‘artists should have their tongues cut out’, because it has increasingly become the case that from a very young age artists have to have a narrative about what it is they are actually doing. You sometimes feel that the narrative is almost floating free from the art; it’s part of the publicity that they have to do. You feel that instead of gradually discovering what it is they are doing they seem to have to have a thesis to begin with.”
By way of example, he offered a text written by American artist Jeff Koons to accompany his work Puppy [above], a vast sculpture formed from flowering plants belonging to the Guggenheim Bilbao in northern Spain. Reading aloud from Koons’ text, he told the Edinburgh audience that Puppy “helps you have a dialogue about the organic and the inorganic. It’s really about the issue of the baroque, where everything is negotiated. The different aspects of the eternal through biology. Whether you want to serve or be served, love or be loved, all these types of polarities come into play because Puppy sets them up.”
Barnes added: “To use the technical term of art criticism, it’s bollocks. I know it’s like shooting fish in a barrel but sometimes fish need to be shot.”
I think Barnes is right - that these days the narrative (that is, the words) must come before the art. Furthermore, the assumption that words and theories must come first has infected not only art criticism but also art history. Hence the profusion of art guff even about works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
I recently went to a selling exhibition of works by a reasonably well known Scottish landscape artist. I won't embarrass him or his gallery by naming either here. The artist is in his eighties, and paints extraordinarily beautiful but straightforward landscapes.
In Constable's day, the honest and evocative rendering of landscape was seen as a Good Thing in itself. But now, as Barnes reflects, such pictures need 'narratives'. Sometimes, artists, especially those of an older generation, aren't especially good at drumming up the words beloved in art speak; these artists prefer simply to paint. And in such cases a wordsmith is often drafted in on their behalf; in this case the exhibition catalogue had an introduction by a well regarded, young art historian academic evidently steeped in contemporary artspeak.
I've no doubt that those fluent in artspeak understood what the academic was trying to say in the catalogue. But personally I couldn't figure out why the fine landscapes on display were about such things as 'subsiduary dualities', and 'dualities of the present'. I just about understood the bit about a 'deeply human connection' with the landscape, but wondered if human connections with landscapes - whatever they are - could ever be 'deep', or indeed rendered in a painted form.
To see if the artist himself (who was at the preview) understood his paintings in the manner described, I decided to ask him about one of the landscapes on display. And, charmingly, he told me all about the particular scene he had painted, when he did it, and how. I heard not a word about 'dualities', and was reminded of Turner's remark on Ruskin; 'he sees more in my pictures than I ever painted'. I appreciated the picture even more on hearing the artist's own interpretation, and bought it.
Update - Dr Matt Loder of the University of Essex tweets:
Steven Spielberg thinks Jaws is about a shark, Bendor. Artists are rarely the best people to ask about their work.
On which basis too much art history, as an academic discipline, has become what it has; a bullshitter's charter to impose upon a work or works of art whatever social, political or economic theory happens to be in fashion at the time, even though it may be impossible to base such a theory on contemporary evidence. I have no problem with people who go in for this sort of thing, and some of it is interesting and stimulating - at least in the sense that it poses questions. But it's not the way I see pictures, and I don't think it's the way artists painted them either.
Blockbuster exhibitions - what's the point?
July 12 2015
The Royal Academy's announcement of a new exhibition next year called Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse has prompted a new round of angst about blockbuster exhibitions. Another Monet exhibition, went the cry?
Here is The Guardian's Jonathan Jones:
This week the Royal Academy’s announcement of its January 2016 blockbuster Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse was greeted with groans. What, more Monet? The editor of the Burlington magazine confessed a “fatigue” with the same famous names being trotted out again and again because they “draw people in”.
Personally, I can take a lot on Monet – what’s not to like about his shimmering contemplative bottomless water garden? – but the really irksome thing about the way our big museums and galleries now operate is right there in the dates. This exhibition opens next January. Why is it even news six months in advance? Why the press breakfasts, pumped-up interviews and remorseless cavalcade of advance publicity?
And here in The Times, is more from Burlington Magazine editor Richard Shone :
Art historians suggest the academy is in thrall to the artist’s power to pull in audiences and there is a danger of “Monet fatigue”. Richard Shone, editor of The Burlington Magazine, says there is a hint of desperation about the show.
“I think there is some fatigue with Monet,” he says. “It’s a name that exhibition organisers almost automatically put on to a title even if the artist is hardly represented. It’s the same with Caravaggio. It just draws people in.
“It does seem a little late in the day for the Royal Academy to be doing this. It’s coming at the end of many Monet shows. I think they’re a bit desperate for their historical shows. Getting these works costs a fortune, but it does put money in the coffers of the RA, which has no government grant. But it’s going a little far.”
Shone, albeit perhaps reluctantly, points out just why the RA (and other institutions) indulge in the crime of putting on exhibitions people are actually keen to see - because they pay the bills, and bring in the funding needed to put on less popular but more academic shows. I see nothing wrong with that; indeed, I applaud it.
Here is the RA's blurb for the show:
In January 2016, the Royal Academy of Arts will present Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, a major exhibition examining the role of gardens in the paintings of Claude Monet and his contemporaries. With Monet as the starting point, the exhibition will span the early 1860s to the 1920s, a period of tremendous social change and innovation in the arts, and will include Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Avant-Garde artists of the early twentieth century. It will bring together over 120 works, from public institutions and private collections across Europe and the USA, including 35 paintings by Monet alongside rarely seen masterpieces by Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Gustav Klimt and Wassily Kandinsky.
New Liotard exhibition
July 12 2015
Picture: Shonbrunn Palace, Vienna
The new Jean-Etienne Liotard exhibition here in Edinburgh, at the Scottish National Gallery, is extremely good - and well worth a trip if you can make it. That said, the show moves to the Royal Academy in the Autumn.
I blagged a trip to the press preview, where I pretty much had the place to myself. This was lucky, for the delicacy and stillness of Liotard's works, the majority of which are in pastel, is best appreciated in silence and space. When looking at Liotard's portrait of his daughter, above, I experienced one of those rare moments when my eye was momentarily fooled by the painting's exquisite realism; for a split second, I believed I was looking at an actual wooden doll. Then my brain caught up - nope, that's a painting. It's happened to me before with a Holbein.
Anyway, for mastering the then relatively new medium of pastel, Liotard ranks for me as one of the great geniuses of painting. To see so many works together in one place and in good condition was a treat. He could also paint in oil - though the portraits on show reveal a hesitancy and adherence to convention one doesn't see in his pastels - and he was good at portrait miniatures too, as a fine pair of Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart (below) show.
I was glad to see the below portrait of the Countess of Northampton on display as a work fully catalogued as by Liotard. It had recently been sold at Christie's in New York as 'attributed to Liotard' for the relative bargain price of $242,500. The picture had been rejected by the authors of the 2008 catalogue raisonné, but was considered an autograph work by the great pastel connoisseur, Neil Jeffares. For what it's worth, I saw the picture at the sale and thought then that it was 'right'. It now belongs to the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth - a good buy, for a not dissimilar and fully catalogued Liotard made almost £1.2m in Paris in 2012.
The show is in Edinburgh till 13th September. There is an excellent catalogue, available here.
Re-assembling Charles I's art collection
June 29 2015
Here's an exhibition I can hardly wait for: the Royal Academy will, in 2018, bring together a large number of works from the former collection of Charles I. Although many pictures were brought back into the royal collection by Charles II - after the great Commonwealth sale of the collection in 1649 - a large number of works escaped overseas, and these are the ones the RA (working with the Royal Collection Trust) hopes to bring back.
Another little-known loss to the royal collection came in the late 17th Century, when William III took a stack of pictures with him to Holland, to furnish his palace at Het Loo. The British government tried to get them back after William's death, but the Dutch resisted. Eventually some of them were even sold, after the Dutch government ran into financial trouble.
More on the 2018 show here, where the Surveyor of the Queen's pictures, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, discusses the show's aims in further detail.
A trip to Antwerp
June 26 2015
I was in Antwerp last week, and took the time to hunt out Van Dyck's birthplace, which is thought to be no. 4 on the Grotemarkt. In Van Dyck's day it was called 'Den Berendans', or 'the Bear Dance'. Today, the house is rather a sad sight - there's a rusting plaque declaring that Van Dyck was indeed born there, but the place itself is empty, having been a tea room by the look of it. Next door is the 'Pizzeria Antonio', which must be where the great man went for his Friday night takeaway.
In fact, no. 4 Grotemarkt is available to rent, if anyone fancies turning the place into a 'Van Dyck-huis', rather like the excellent Rubenshuis museum just down the road. If I was a billionaire, that's what I'd do.
Talking of the Rubenshuis, I went to have another look at the really excellent Rubens in Private exhibition. It closes on 28th June, so you have two days left to go and see it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the juxtaposition of Van Dyck's portrait of Rubens' first wife, Isabella Brant, and Rubens' own portrait of her. In the below snap, you can see Van Dyck's portrait on the left, and just in the distance in the next room, Rubens' portrait.
For me, Van Dyck will always be the better portraitist, for when you encounter a Van Dyck portrait you get the sense of truly individual human character. He (usually) resists the temptation to stick to a formulaic way of constructing heads, as so many portraitists do - in England, the likes of Lely and Kneller are obvious examples of artists who, it can feel, barely bothered to look at the person they were tasked with painting. Sometimes, it must be said, one does sense this towards the end of Van Dyck's career in England, when he was beginning to churn portraits out with the help of assistants - but it's rare.
Rubens, who was not fond of painting portraits, doesn't fall into this trap either, but can sometimes seem to produce works that border on the caricature - are they real people, we wonder? But the flipside of Rubens' approach is that his portraits are often full of character, even if this sometimes comes at the expense of verisimilitude, an age old problem for the portraitist. And in Rubens' portrait of Isabella Brant (below)* we see an example of a great artist painting a portrait that conveys both character and likeness to an almost perfect degree. In Van Dyck's portrait we feel confident to say 'this is what Isabella Brant looked like'. But in Rubens' portrait we can just as confidently say, 'this is what Isabella Brant was like'.
*I'm not entirely sure that hand is by Rubens by the way, could be an addition.
New Samuel Pepys exhibition
June 15 2015
I think Samuel Pepys' diary would be the one book I'd take to the desert island - perfect for dipping in and out of, and always amusing. So I'm glad to see there's a new Samuel Pepys exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, opening on 20th November 2015, until 28th March 2016. Here's the bumf:
Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution opening at the National Maritime Museum on 20 November 2015 will be the largest ever exhibition about the famous diarist with 200 objects from national and international museums, galleries and private collections.
Pepys, one of the most colourful and appealing characters of the 17th-century, witnessed many of the great events that shaped Stuart Britain, bringing them brilliantly to life in his famous and candid diary. He lived through a time of turmoil which saw kings fighting for their crowns, and medieval London transformed into a world city following the devastation of the plague and the destruction of the Great Fire. He was a naval mastermind, a gossip and socialite, a lover of music, theatre, fine living and women. He fought for survival on the operating table and in the cut-throat world of public life and politics, successfully navigating his way to wealth and status until his luck, intimately entwined with the King’s fortunes, finally ran out.
Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution places this fascinating and multifaceted figure within a broader historical context, beginning at the moment a schoolboy Pepys played truant to witness the execution of King Charles I in 1649. It explores the turbulent times which followed, including the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 in a year of personal crisis for Pepys as he underwent a life-threatening operation to remove a bladder stone the size of a snooker ball without anaesthetic or antiseptic. He was fortunate to survive the ordeal; his recovery perhaps, in part, due to being the first on the operating table that day, reducing the risk of infection. The grisly and extremely painful procedure is graphically brought to life by 17th-century medical instruments (Royal College of Physicians).
Pepys began his now-famous diary on 1 January 1660 and was on board the ship that carried Charles II out of exile at the restoration of the monarchy later that year. He met and conversed with the King and his brother, James, Duke of York (later James II), who promised Pepys ‘his future favour’. In the diary he records his disapproval of the debauchery at court during Charles II’s reign, including the King’s many mistresses. But Pepys himself was frequently unfaithful to his wife. The exhibition will display the famous Portrait of Charles II in Coronation Robes (Royal Collection), as well as objects connected to his mistresses including one of his love letters to Louise de Kéroualle which uses her nickname ‘Fubbs’, meaning chubby (Goodwood Collection).
During his lifetime Pepys was best known for his important work in running the naval affairs of England, a career that propelled him towards wealth and power and the creation of a truly ‘professional’ navy. His work also took him to the English colony of Tangier, a place notorious for drunkenness and immorality, all of which he observed and noted in his writings.
The penultimate section of Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution looks at the dawn of the scientific revolution. Pepys was president of the Royal Society when Newton’s Principia Mathematica (Royal Society) was published, placing him at the centre of scientific debate. Publications like Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (British Library), which Pepys thought ‘the most ingenious book that ever I read in my life’, made unseen worlds of lice and fleas visible. While the matters discussed at the Society interested him, he confessed not always to understand what he heard.
The exhibition ends with extraordinary events of the Glorious Revolution, which resulted in the overthrow of Pepys’s great patron, James II. It shows how intimately Pepys’s own career was intertwined with larger national events outside his control. With the accession of William and Mary in 1689, Pepys stepped down from office and began an active retirement, indulging his many passions.
Using the voice and personality of the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution explores and interprets a remarkable time of great accomplishment, upheavals and excess. It was a formative era in British history that saw the repositioning of the monarchy and the development of Britain’s place as a maritime, economic and political force on the world stage.
Art History ads (ctd.)
May 15 2015
I saw many plugs for the Rijksmuseum's 'Late Rembrandt' when in Amsterdam airport yesterday.
'Spot the fake' at Dulwich Picture Gallery (ctd.)
April 28 2015
Picture: BBC/Dulwich Art Gallery
In January, Dulwich Picture Gallery hung a fake painting in place of one of their masterpieces, and invited visitors to see if they could identify it. I thought it was a good idea - anything to encourage close-looking. Now they've revealed which picture the fake was; Fragonard's Young Woman. More here.
The lure of the blockbuster
April 21 2015
I love a blockbuster exhibition, and I love smaller offbeat ones too. Many bemoan the prevalence of the former these days, but as Charles Saumarez Smith points out in The Art Newspaper,* blockbusters have always been with us. Do read the full article, which looks at the history of the blockbuster from the 19th Century in Britain. But Charles focuses onto his experience of such shows at the Royal Academy, of which he is Chief Executive:
In the past two decades, our most successful exhibitions have been the two Monet shows held in 1990 and 1999, which attracted 7,003 and 8,597 visitors a day respectively. The Van Gogh exhibition in 2010 drew 4,785 visitors a day; David Hockney in 2012 drew an average of 7,512 a day; and “Manet: Portraying Life” in 2013 drew 4,359 a day.
What conclusions can one draw from a historical analysis of exhibition numbers? Statistically, exhibitions by the Impressionists have always come top, not just in Britain and the US, but most of all in Japan. The Pre-Raphaelites are also popular, as was evident when we exhibited Waterhouse in 2009, and when Tate Britain showed “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde” in 2012. In recent years, we have demonstrated that contemporary artists can be as popular as the Impressionists. The Hockney exhibition was a mass cultural phenomenon, not only in London but also, more surprisingly, at the Guggenheim Bilbao, wh ere the show again got more than 500,000 visitors in a city with a population of only one million.
While we study our visitor numbers, and have to, this does not preclude trying to ensure a varied exhibition programme. We try to develop a portfolio of exhibitions in which the more commercial shows subsidise the loss-leaders. This year, “Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined” drew 167,906 visitors; an average of 2,332 a day. Anselm Kiefer drew 184,910; an average of 2,341 a day. What the bald numbers disguise is that both were particularly successful in drawing new visitors to the Royal Academy.
*which has a zippy new website - looks nice.
Re-uniting Rubens three Magi
March 24 2015
Picture: NGA Washington
It's all go for Rubens at the moment. In Washington DC, the National Gallery has re-united Rubens' three c.1618 Magi paintings. There's a good online exhibition site here.
Reynolds exhibition at the Wallace Collection
March 13 2015
Picture: Wallace Collection
There's what looks like a great new exhibition at the Wallace Collection on Joshua Reynolds. The approach is refreshingly old-fashioned, for it looks at what Reynolds did, and how he did it:
This exhibition offers a snapshot of Joshua Reynolds’s creative process, and reveals discoveries made during a four-year research project into the outstanding collection of his works at the Wallace Collection. We have selected not only significant portraits but lesser known ‘fancy pictures’ and a rare history painting, all of which will be shown side by side. Among the works on display will be famous pictures such as Nelly O’Brien, Mrs Abington as Miss Prue and Reynolds’s own Self Portrait Shading the Eyes.
By focusing on the themes of experimentation and innovation, we trace Reynolds’s working practice in two ways: on the material level, through his use of pigments and media; and on a conceptual level, through his development of composition and narrative. What emerges is a vision of Reynolds as a pioneering painter, highly original in his approaches to pictorial composition. This drive to innovation is exemplified in his ambitious allusions to the great masters of the past, such as Titian and Rembrandt and his obsessive tendency to rework and revise his images as he painted.
Rembrandt and the Royals
March 5 2015
Flicking through my new online subscription to the Art Newspaper, I saw the above photo of the Dutch king Willem (left) opening the Rijksmuseum's leg of 'Late Rembrandt'. And it made me wonder when the last time the Queen opened an exhibition in the UK. It's been a while, hasn't it?
When I'm king, it won't be possible to open any exhibition without first inviting me.
Update - a reader writes:
Quite: when did any of our Royals last patronise ANYTHING cultural?? - honourable exception being the Duchess of Cambridge and the NPG - with many congratulations to Sandy N. But honestly - only horses, elephants, Olympics (quite right) but never a concert, exhibition, play anything of what most would call "culture" - alas. Although I do like the Freud portrait!
Update II - another reader writes:
I’m not sure that the Queen ever “opens” exhibitions; rather she “views ”them either officially or unofficially.
I did see the Duke of Edinburgh at an early morning “view” of the Leonardo ex in the N.G .He’s rather shorter than one would imagine.
Anyhow the King of Holland can easily park his bike outside the Rijksmuseum. Try doing that in Trafalgar Sq.
By the way; just where are you in the line of succession?
'Rubens and his Legacy' at the Royal Academy (ctd.)
March 5 2015
Picture: National Gallery
The reviews of this show have tended to be a little underwhelming, but I must say I thought it was really rather good. You should certainly go if you can. Yes, there may be a relative dearth of 'great' Rubens paintings, but the show is packed with lesser known gems by Rubens, with many oil studies - which for me is where we often see Rubens at his virtuoso best. It was more interesting, I thought, to see works one isn't familiar with. And I greatly enjoyed seeing the very plausible links made between Rubens' work and those of other artists, from his contemporaries to much more recent artists.
On his blog, Neil Jeffares took issue with the thematic element of the show, which it is true is perhaps a little too contrived. It certainly doesn't do the catalogue any favours here. I think Neil's wider points about what can go wrong with exhibitions are spot on.
There was one curious aspect to the exhibition - many times, reference was made to Rubens' celebrated portrait 'Le Chapeau de Paille' (above), and that work's omission from the exhibition was a notable absence. The labels explained that the portrait 'is not able to travel'. But it lives just down the road at the National Gallery! I can't easily understand why such a painting can't be very carefully taken less than a mile across London, from one climate controlled place to another. It's always struck me as a picture in quite good condition. Personally, I'd take it in a cab...
Update - also in the RA show is a small Rubens panel discovered in Oslo by the curator of the exhibition, Nico van Hout, back in 2012. For earlier AHN on that story see here. Having seen the picture, I think there can now be little doubt that it is indeed by Rubens. So well done him.
Lost Gauguin sculpture found
February 9 2015
The Art Newspaper reports that a lost sculpture by Gauguin (above) has been discovered. It will feature in a Gauguin retrospective at the Fondation Beyeler. More here.
Quick - to Margate!
January 23 2015
The first leg of Sir Anthony Van Dyck's nationwide, 3 year tour begins tomorrow in... Margate. The National Portrait Gallery's newly acquired self-portrait is part of what looks to be a very impressive exhibition at Turner Contemporary on artist's self-portraits. The shop (above) is already bursting with Van Dyck goodies. I want one of those T-shirts!
On the new exhibition, Turner Contemporary's website says:
We reflect on artists' self-portraits from Sir Anthony van Dyck's last Self-portrait of 1640-1, recently saved for the nation, to Louise Bourgeois. Over 100 works, most of which are from the National Portrait Gallery London, are brought together for an expansive look at the artists’ self.
Historical and contemporary artists sit side by side, including Sir Anthony van Dyck, Mary Beale, Louise Bourgeois, John Constable, Tracey Emin, Jason Evans, Lucian Freud, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Angelica Kauffmann, Sarah Lucas, Gillian Wearing, Yinka Shonibare MBE, JMW Turner and Andy Warhol.
I'm definitely going to try and see this. Long way from Edinburgh though... The show is on until 10th May.
On the Turner Contemporary website (and here on You Tube) there's a most curious video of 'visitors' to the gallery discussion Van Dyck's self portrait, and what it 'means'. The discussion was apparently 'led by philosopher Ayisha de Larerolle', and the results 'inspired the script for the Comedy Art Audio Guide, narrated by Comedian Hugh Dennis.' Well, having watched the video, I'll be impressed if Dennis if can salvage anything remotely amusing from the discussion; much nonsense was talked. It might have been better with an art historian in charge. But these days I suppose everyone's view is valid, no matter how wrong it is.
Update - here are the dates for the rest of the Van Dyck tour:
- Turner Contemporary, Margate: 24 January – 10 May 2015
- Manchester Art Gallery: 21 May – 31 August 2015
- National Portrait Gallery, London: 4 September 2015 – 3 January 2016
- Dulwich Picture Gallery, London: 12 January – 24 April 2016
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: May – August 2016
- National Portrait Gallery, London: September – December 2016/January 2017
- Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle: January – May 2017
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh: June – August 2017
- National Portrait Gallery, London: September – December 2017/January 2018
'Rubens and his Legacy' at the Royal Academy
January 21 2015
I'm hearing mixed things about the RA's new Rubens show. Surprisingly, it seems that some exhibits - from the Hermitage - have not yet arrived, so there are gaps on the walls. Apparently they are expected next week. I've never seen that before.
The Telegraph gives the show four stars, calling it 'fascinating', as does the Evening Standard (alas, it's not the Great Brian). But Jonathan Jones in The Guardian gives it a real stinker of a review:
Rubens and His Legacy applies a simplistic theory and smashes as much evidence as it can into its rigid, short-sighted argument that Rubens is the fons et origo of almost everything painters have ever done. And not just painters: in an incredibly desperate extra room of the exhibition, curated by mediocre Royal Academician Jenny Saville, there are sculptures by Sarah Lucas and Rebecca Warren, whose carnality is roped in as “Rubens-like”. Come on. Two fried eggs and a baroque kebab?
Jones tells us that there are just six major Rubens paintings in the whole exhibition.
We must look forward to Waldemar's review in the Sunday Times.
Update - there's lots of talk of Van Dyck being Rubens' 'pupil' - he wasn't, he was employed as an assistant, and had his own, independent practice beforehand.
Update II - a reader writes:
I'm just back from the RA Rubens exhibition. I'm with the 'stinker' reviewer. I found the quality very varied, mostly poor, the hanging very strange, and the headings of the various sections, not nessesarily ageeing with the paintings shown. I think the main problem being that the great paintings that inspired other artists weren't available for loan.
Vermeer on loan to Minneapolis
January 16 2015
Here's a nice story - to celebrate their centennial, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is planning a series of high-profile loans, and the first is Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter (on loan from the Rijksmuseum). But to liven things up, the MIA isn't making any early announcement of the loans, just on the morning that the pictures are hanging. I think I prefer things that way - museum PR campaigns can sometimes happen so far ahead of time, that you forget about the event or exhibition by the time it comes around. More here in The Art Newspaper.
One of the MIA loans is a major discovery I was involved with last year. But I have to keep shtum till it's announced.
Update - the Vermeer and the National Gallery's Raphael Madonna of the Pinks are also being lent to the Timken Museum in San Diego. The loans are quid pro quos for Rembrandt loans to the National Gallery's current Late Rembrandt.
Burrell Collection at Bonhams
December 9 2014
Picture: Burrell Collection
There was much debate last year (including here on AHN) about whether the Burrell Collection in Glasgow should be able to send its treasures out on loan, even overseas. Previously, they weren't able to, but a change in Scottish law now allows loans to be made, bringing in much needed funds while the buildings which house the collection are renovated.
The first stop for the collection is Bonhams in London, where (with free admission), you can see 50 items including the above Rembrandt self-portrait from 15th December to 9th January. I think this is a commendable initiative from Bonhams and the Burrell collection, and the works will look very fine in Bonhams' snazzy new showrooms.
While I'm on the subject of art trade loan exhibitions, pray allow me to plug one at John Mitchell Fine Paintings, which is just down the other end of Bond Street. They're having a show on depictions of Harrow School. Some of them are even for sale, if you're looking for a stocking filler for that hard-to-please Old Harrovian.
Update - a reader writes:
The Burrell has always been able to make loans within the UK: the Rembrandt was at the National’s exhibition of self-portraits a few years ago and a substantial group was shown at The Hayward in the 1970s.
What’s new is being able to loan abroad, which was not permitted under the terms of the original gift. Maybe in future, if it needs the money, the Wallace might consider breaking the will of its donor?
It is sometimes a shame that the Wallace can't lend.* That said, at least at the Wallace they go in for generous hanging, with two or even three rows of pictures, so there isn't too much of an issue of works remaining unseen in storage.
They still don't dust their frames though.
Update II - more on the Burrell items on display here in The Guardian.
* I earlier said that the Wallace can't borrow, which is wrong; it has a small exhibition room downstairs, where many fine shows can be seen.
Koons take down
December 9 2014
There's a good review of Jeff Koons' new show at the Pompidou centre in Paris by Jackie Wullschlager in the Financial Times. Here's the main conclusion:
As the market has endorsed and enriched him, Koons has swollen, in his two latest series “Antiquity” and “Gazing Ball”, into the most tedious self-imitation. “Balloon Venus” blends his own inflatables lexicon with the archaic forms of the Venus of Willendorf. Outsize plaster replicas of classical figures – “Farnese Hercules”, “Ariadne” – bearing bright balloon-like glass spheres are destined, no more and no less than the garden ornaments they incorporate, for manicured suburban lawns.
“He says, if you’re critical, you’re already out of the game,” announced Koons’s dealer David Zwirner when these repetitive follies launched last year. Dollar power goes some way to explaining why Koons’s smooth sales-speak – “when people make judgments, they close all the possibility around them” – is not seen for what it is: a reversal of the spirit of intellectual openness that has allowed art to flourish since the Enlightenment. And of course it is obvious why Koons, like any entrepreneur boasting a luxury monopoly, directs his factory to produce a controlled stream of high-end, high-tech baubles. Less obvious is why this trading currency for the super-rich should interest the rest of us, or why museums and critics are endorsing it.
Quite. But then I'm "out of the game".