Guffwatch - Old vs New

January 21 2013

Image of Guffwatch - Old vs New

Picture: Christie's

Here's something I'm looking forward to seeing at the Old Master viewings in New York. I think there's lots of potential for a Guffwatch Special. From Christie's website:

Two major contemporary video works – Bill Viola’s The Last Angel and Eve Sussman’s The Rape of the Sabine Women – will be on view alongside the historical works featured in Old Masters Week. This dialogue between the old and the new will highlight the power of visual languages at two distinct and transformative moments in time. Visitors to the view are encouraged to experience the relationships that exist in this art historical continuum across a variety of media.

And here's more detail about one of the videos:

Bill Viola’s The Last Angel is a ten-minute meditation on spirituality. Projected lengthways on a large plasma screen, the cryptic and hypnotic imagery depicts the lazy flow of water at the top of the frame, much like clouds scudding across the sky. While we are being mesmerized by this slow-motion imagery, eventually some bubbles start to collect at the bottom of the screen. In the final moments of this looped video, a fully-clothed angel emerges, plunging upwards through the shadowy underwater realm, creating a poetic visual experience.  His sudden arrival hauntingly evokes innumerable Renaissance depictions of divine visitations, visions and resurrections, with a beautiful, startling immediacy.

The auction house's increasing attempts to lure contemporary art buyers into the world of Old Masters is to be applauded. As a dealer in the latter I can't help but hope it succeeds. However, I wonder what a contemporary art buyer, used to the diet of guffy verbiage seen above, makes of the more plodding variety of art history found in an Old Master catalogue. Will they open a page on a Rubens, and be disappointed if they find no mention of 'hauntingly evoked and cryptically hypnotic depictions of startlingly immediate beauty'? One hopes not...

Click here for a reminder on how contemporary art guff is written.

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