Previous Posts: October 2018

Tate in China

October 8 2018

Image of Tate in China

Picture: Shanghai Museum

It's good to see that Tate's touring exhibition in China has been such a success, as Martin Bailey reports in TAN:

The Tate’s most popular ever exhibition is not one that was staged in any of its London galleries—but in Shanghai. Landscapes of the Mind: Masterpieces from Tate Britain (1700-1980), which closed at the Shanghai Museum in August, attracted 615,000 visitors in 14 weeks—more than 6,000 a day. Up until then, the Tate’s most successful show had been Henri Matisse: the Cut-Outs at Tate Modern, which was seen by 467,000 people during 21 weeks in 2014. [...]

The two-venue exhibition has been supported by a one-off £1.3m grant from the UK government—a huge subsidy for a single show. 

It's interesting that Tate didn't just take modern works, but the full range of British landscape art, including Gainsborough, Wright of Derby and Constable. Imagine the transformative effect on interest in art history (and indeed the market) if just a small fraction of Chinese art lovers took an insterest in, say, Gainsborough.

More here.

The future of art history publishing

October 8 2018

Image of The future of art history publishing

Picture: Birkbeck College

On 19th October in London, Birkbeck College are hosting a seminar on 'the future of art history publishing':

We are at a turning point in the publishing of art historical research. To what extent is the existing model of art history publishing sustainable? What does the future hold for the illustrated scholarly print journal and monograph? How is art history responding to the push for online open access publishing? How do copyright and licensing restrictions and costs affect what can be published and in what form? This session brings together print and online publishers and editors, an intellectual property expert and academics to think about the way forward.

* Baillie Card, Paul Mellon Centre

* Natalie Foster, Routledge

* Bernard Horrocks, Intellectual Property Manager, Tate

* Steve Edwards, Birkbeck

* Chair: Leslie Topp, Birkbeck

Sadly, there it appears there will be nobody speaking from an Open Access poit of view. But if you want to go along and challenge Tate's intellectual property manager, tickets are free, and available here. Ask him why Tate refuses to put anything other than low-res images on its website, and why they don't know if they actually make a profit from image licensing.  

New pictures at the Rubenshuis

October 8 2018

Image of New pictures at the Rubenshuis

Picture: Rubenshuis

Good news from one of my favourite museums, the Rubenshuis in Antwerp; they've acquired one of Van Dyck's Apostle paintings (St Matthew, above), and have on loan from Ontario Rubens' extraordinary Massacre of the Innocents. The latter picture is the most expensive Rubens ever sold - and I imagine his ghost will be delighted to see it back in the studio where he painted it, some 400 years ago. Worth getting on a plane for, anyway. 

Mid-season Old Master sales

October 8 2018

Image of Mid-season Old Master sales

Picture: Dorotheum

There are some nice, even bargain pictures on offer in the mid-season Old Master sales. Bonhams in London, 24th October, is here, Christie's in New York on 30th October is here, and Dorotheum in Vienna on 23rd October is here, where a highlight is the above Artemisia Gentileschi at €500k-€700k. Happy bidding. I'm always happy to answer any questions you might have on upcoming lots. 

Mantegna and Bellini at the National Gallery

October 2 2018

Video: National Gallery

The new Mantegna and Bellini exhibition at the National Gallery has opened, and looks to be fascinating. It's on until 27th January. The critics like it: Jackie Wullschlager calls it 'marvellous' in the FT; Ben Luke gives it five stars in the Evening Standard; and Nancy Durrant in The Times gives it four stars. Jonathan Jones in The Guardian is less keen, giving it three stars. 

I'm glad to see the National Gallery making another good video for the show, above. But as talking about Old Masters on film is dear to my heart, I can't avoid pointing out that it doesn't really deliver. This is a video made by art historians for art historians. It should be made for the more general audience of potential visitors, who might not know why Mantegna is worth getting excited about. It needs to get quickly to the point about what the exhibition is about, why these artists matter, and in an accessible way. It doesn't even say that Mantegna and Bellini were brothers-in-law, which is rather a key point in why the exhibition is looking at the two artists together.  

Art and Brexit

October 2 2018

Image of Art and Brexit

Picture: via OSF Home

Does your taste in art dictate your political preferences? I suspect not. But some academics at Oxford's Nuffield College have set about trying to find out. The trouble is, the artworks they've chosen are ill-suited to the task, and there aren't enough of them. I've seen some pretty pathetic attempts to link art and politics before, but this is the most risible yet. I can't believe any academic, yet alone an Oxford one, thought this was a good idea.

The aim of the study was to see if people who preferred 'realistic' art - as opposed to 'abstract' art - also preferred Brexit to Remain. The study concluded that they did, by some 15-20%. Now, you might well think that a preference for abstract art equates to a preference for more 'liberal', or globalist, Remain-type politics. And that's doubtless the stereotype the study's authors were hoping to promote - modern art lovers have more modern politics. 

But leaving aside whether we can ever characterise Leave/Remain politics along such lines, let's look at the methodology behind the study. Which is frankly laughable. The authors chose four pairs of pictures, and in each one there was a 'realistic' picture and an 'abstract' picture. And we can tell all we need to know about the study by the fact that the first 'realistic' painting was a Thomas Kinkade 'light' painting, 'Village Lighthouse' (above), a completely invented, fantasy picture of so little artistic merit and such confected, cloudy schmaltz that it's actually impossible to decide whether it's 'realistic' or 'abstract' (in fact, it's more catarract than abstract). The 'abstract' pair to the Kinkade painting is a fairly literal depiction of Yarmouth Port by Irma Cerese (below). 

The other pairs are only slightly less daft. Here's the portrait category. 'Realistic' is Jessica in Profile by David Gray.

Then for the 'abstract', Francis Bacon's Isabel Rawthorne. 

For the still life category, the realistic picture was Purple of Lilies with White Variation by Michael Klein.

Versus Pink Caladium by David Hockney. 

Now, I don't doubt that it may be possible to determine if people who like, say, 'old' art versus modern art have different political outlooks. But the way to do this is not by showing a small group of people a small number of badly chosen pictures. If you want to choose a 'realistic' landscape, then at least go for something that is a real scene, painted outside, by an artist who was determinedly trying to capture something 'real'. Perhaps a scene by Calame, say. And then you need to allow for all sorts of other biases in the way people choose their art preferences, like modern versus old - so perhaps an abstract painting by Turner should be included too. There is a way to do studies like this; it just requires a better understanding of art history. Let's stop using tired clichés about art to justify pre-determined social and political conclusions. 

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