Art of the New Deal

May 23 2011

Image of Art of the New Deal

Picture: Smithsonian American Art Museum

A fascinating new exhibition opens this week at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art - 1934: A New Deal for Artists.

The show will have 56 works that emerged from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Public Works of Art Project. Under the scheme artists were encouraged to depict various aspects of 'the American Scene'.

Above is Lily Furedi's 'Subway', 1934. See more examples here and here.

The project lasted just six months, but led to 15,663 paintings at a cost of $1.3m. Should we something similar for the Great Recession?

Lady with an Ermine vs Mona Lisa

May 23 2011

Image of Lady with an Ermine vs Mona Lisa

Might The Lady with an Ermine one day trump the Mona Lisa as the most popular Leonardo painting? Sam Leith, in the Guardian, investigates ahead of the National Gallery's Leonardo blockbuster.

Sinful bronze

May 22 2011

Image of Sinful bronze

Picture: AP

The Vatican doesn't like Oliviero Rainaldi's new statue of John Paul II - despite the fact that they approved the artist's original sketches. 

National museums 'lack vital expertise'

May 22 2011

Complaints in Scotland about the lack of academic expertise on museum boards. 

Titians make it to Houston

May 22 2011

Image of Titians make it to Houston

Picture: National Gallery of Scotland

Titian's Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto, currently on a loan tour of the US, have now made it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. They will be there until August 14th.

If you see them, please leave a few bucks - we're trying to buy them and are about £50m short.

Armageddon outta here

May 21 2011

Image of Armageddon outta here

Picture: 'The Last Judgement', Museo di San Marco, Florence

Some people are convinced that the world will end today.

Who knows? But here is Fra Angelico's view of what will happen if it does: good guys on the left, bad guys on the right. It'll be more fun on the left.

Update 22.5.11: it didn't happen.

Illuminating Fashion

May 20 2011

Image of Illuminating Fashion

Picture: The Morgan Library & Museum

A new exhibition of medieval illuminated manuscripts has opened at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. There's a nifty online exhibition here.

The exhibition closes on 4th September.

Vote for the Art Fund Prize 2011.

May 20 2011

Image of Vote for the Art Fund Prize 2011.

The Art Fund has announced its shortlist for the Art Fund Prize 2011: the British Museum, The Polar Museum, Cambridge, The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, and the Roman Baths Museum. Well done to all four.

You can vote here. The prize will be announced on 15th June.

New Frick director

May 20 2011

Congratulations to Ian Wardropper, who has been appointed the new director of the Frick Collection in New York. He takes over from Anne Poulet.

Letting 'the nest egg hatch'

May 20 2011

Image of Letting 'the nest egg hatch'

Picture: The Parish of St Michael and All Angels

A church in Withyham, East Sussex has been given permission to sell four paintings by Niccolo Di Pietro Gerini. They are expected to fetch up to £1.5m when sold at Sotheby's in the summer. 

The church has been unable to pay for the insurance since 1995, and the pictures have been at Leeds Castle ever since. Probably, selling them is the right decision: as the Chancellor of Chichester Diocese put it, 'The nest egg must be allowed to hatch.'

You've been Sewelled

May 20 2011

Image of You've been Sewelled

Picture: Evening Standard

Trecy Emin gets the Brian Sewell treatment. Worth reading, for whether you agree with him or not, there's no doubting that Sewell is a brilliant writer.

Bill & Melinda

May 19 2011

Image of Bill & Melinda

Picture: Smithsonian Institute

A new portrait of Bill & Melinda Gates has been unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington. The artist is Jon Friedman. News reports say that it was based on a photograph.

New Walpole Society Volume

May 19 2011

Image of New Walpole Society Volume

Picture: National Gallery

Splendid news - the latest Walpole Society publication contains the travel notebooks of Charles Eastlake (1793-1865), artist and the first 'Keeper' of the National Gallery. His notebooks contain details of the pictures he saw in Europe. You could say they are the 19th C equivalent of George Vertue's notebooks.

Happily, this publication comes equipped with a full index. The 2009 issue, with the account books of Joseph Wright of Derby, had no index - the art historical equivalent of a car with no steering wheel.  

Congratulations to Dr Susannah Avery-Quash, who has edited the notebooks and written detailed introductions. Buy a copy here.

Andy Warhol should have thought of this

May 19 2011

Image of Andy Warhol should have thought of this

Picture: Lee Hadwin

Donald Trump is reported to have paid a 'six figure sum' for the above, by Lee Hadwin.

Lee, a former nurse, paints while he sleepwalks. From the Daily Post:

Explaining how it all began, Lee said: “I was staying at my mate’s house and I drew on his mum’s kitchen wall without knowing. He ended up getting the blame for it because his mum thought we had just been drunk. But my mum caught me under the stairs drawing, and it’s gone on from there. It started out just being scribbles everywhere, and I still do scribbles from time to time."

“But then I started doing proper artwork, really complicated things.” 

Lee said he can draw between two or three times in a good week, with ordeals in his life playing a part in his creations.

I wonder what currency the six-figure sum was in. Rupees?

Re-joining 'Leftover Mountain Painting'

May 19 2011

Image of Re-joining 'Leftover Mountain Painting'

Picture: CNTV

Great excitement in China as the two halves of one of China's most famous landscapes are to be reunited. 'Leftover Mountain Painting', painted by Huang Gongwang in c.1350, is travelling to Taiwan to be joined together with 'The Wuyongshi Painting'. More here, and a video here

Easter Island comes to Liverpool

May 19 2011

Image of Easter Island comes to Liverpool

Picture: Liverpool Echo

A basalt statue from Easter Island has gone on display in Liverpool's World Museum. On loan from the British Museum, it was stolen removed from Easter Island by the crew of HMS Topaze in 1868. 

Met App

May 18 2011

Image of Met App

This must be the first of many: the Met Museum has launched an iPad interactive e-publication. The exhibition is Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art. Download it here.

No more reckless de-accessioning in NY

May 18 2011

A potentially important development in New York state. From the Wall Street Journal:

Important museum pieces will be protected under rules adopted by the New York state Board of Regents. The Regents approved new rules that would restrict the sale of museum pieces as facilities face continued hard fiscal times.

The rules would require proceeds from sales to be used for acquisitions and would also seek to keep museum relics and pieces in the public domain even if a museum shuts down.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester says the rules will prohibit important cultural pieces being sold to private collectors in order to pay for operating expenses.

Meanwhile, in Scotland

May 18 2011

Image of Meanwhile, in Scotland

Picture: NMS

Interesting to note the contrasting fortunes of two museums in Scotland. According to The Scotsman:

  • The National Museum of Scotland has blitzed its public appeal target, raising £13.6m. This total included £1m from 'reclusive tycoon' Dr Walter Scott, and £2m bequeathed by Adele Stewart, a spinster. National Museums Scotland had already raised £17.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and £16m from the Scottish Executive Government. 
  • The National Galleries of Scotland, however, have not fared so well. The campaign to raise £7.5m for the refurbishment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery fell short, and a £2m bail-out from the Scottish Government was needed. 

Does the discrepancy mean the Scots are philistines? I doubt it, since both projects essentially revolved around the telling of Scottish history. Perhaps it just came down to the quality of the appeals. 

Gainsborough's House

May 18 2011

Image of Gainsborough's House

Some very sad news about Gainsborough's House in Sudbury. The museum, Gainsborough's birthplace, is apparently facing a funding crisis. Diane Perkins, the excellent Director, has been made redundant. 

Who will run it now? It has always suffered slightly from an identity crisis, being not quite devoted to Gainsborough, whilst trying to be a contemporary art space for the region. Perhaps the trustees should use this opportunity to shift the focus of Gainsborough's House to a proper 'centre of excellence' for the study of Gainsborough and, say, the Norwich School. A tie up with the Paul Mellon Centre perhaps?

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