De Los Angeles a Vic

1. La Getty compra i com.

Foto: Sotheby’s

La fundació Getty ha anunciat la major compra de dibuixos de la seva història, un grup de 16 obres de Miquel Àngel, Andrea del Sarto, Parmigianino, Beccafumi, Rubens, Barocci, G.D. Tiepolo, Degas, entre altres. Inclou El caçador d’àligues venut a Sotheby’s el 2010 per 881.250 lliures. Tots provenen de la mateixa col·lecció britànica, de la qual la Getty encara pot obtenir-ne més peces. Articles al The New York Times, Los Angeles Times; nota de premsa, amb la llista completa d’obres, a la web de la Getty i al The Art Newspaper, imatges i una suggerència de qui pot ser el col·leccionista.

2. Colección Delgado

Las Provincias primer i l’Ars Magazine més tard, ens informen de la cessió per 5 anys de 32 obres , de la Col·lecció Delgado, moltes d’elles inèdites, al Museu de Belles Arts de València. Entre els autors inclosos, hi ha Velázquez, Cajés, Meléndez, Murillo, però també Ramsay. Ara s’en fa una exposició fins al 29 d’octubre i el catàleg està firmat per José Gómez Frechina, que ha estat instrumental per a l’acord, i David Gimillo Sanz, conservador al Museu.

3. Restauració, pas a pas.

Foto: MBA Valencia

A la web del mateix Museu de Belles Arts de València hi trobareu, per capítols de 5-10 minuts, el procés de restauració en curs del seu Retrat eqüestre de Francesc de Montcada, de Van Dyck.

4. Cara a cara a la National Portrait Gallery.

Foto: NPG

Fins al 22 d’octubre, la National Portrait Gallery de Londres mostra The Ecounter, una atractiva exposició de dibuixos de  retrats del Renaixament i del Barroc, provinents de col·leccions britàniques, amb obres de Holbein, Rembrandt, Leonardo i altres. Les critiques han estat entusiastes, com aquesta de Alistair Sooke al The Telegraph.

5. I el 2020, Morosov.

Si, a pesar d’algunes falls en la instalació, vau disfrutar de la col·lecció Txukin a la Fondation Luis Vuitton de París, esteu d’enhorabona: han anunciat que a la tardor del 2020 portaran la col·lecció dels seus contemporanis els germans Morosov. Per conèixer les relacions socials I professionals entre ells, val la pena la biografia de Natalia Semenova i André Delocque: Chtchoukine. Le patron de l’art modern, ed. La Collection Chtchoukine, Paris, 2016; 400 pàgs. The Art Newspaper ens recorda a Pierre Konowaloff, un hereu dels Morosov molt actiu.

6. La caixeta de ciment.

Foto: Musée de Cluny

Aquest és l’aspecte que tindrà l’entrada del Musée de Cluny a París una vega hagin acabat els treballs de construcció – a finals d’aquest any, si tot va com està previst. Podeu veure el projecte complert de renovació, anomenat Cluny 4 i que afecta també a l’interior i als recorreguts, a la secció que s’hi dedica a la web del museu.

7. Fins d’aquí 125 anys?

Foto: MEV

El blog Mev125 tanca.  El van obrir, fa un any, a l’excel·lent web del Museu Episcopal de Vic, per tal de celebrar el seu 125è aniversari. Des d’aquí el saludem i li donem les gràcies, perquè les seves 40 entrades han estat un exemple de com difondre coneixement i bona informació d’una manera ben planificada, clara i amena. Tots hem après sobre la història del museu, les obres que conserva i la gent que l’ha fet possible – entre ells, el Dr. Eudald Junyent (1901-1978), després de renunciar a una prometedora carrera a Roma. Els continguts quedaran disponibles en obert.

De Sixena a Washington.

1. Itàlia, capital Sixena.

Foto: Stuker

Entre les descobertes d’aquesta temporada destaca aquesta Adoració dels Reis Mags (155,5 x 130,5 cm). Va sortir com a “Escola Italiana, s. XVI” a Stuker, Berna, el passat 20 de juny i el seu preu de sortida de 5.000 francs suïssos va disparar-se fins als 130.000 francs suïssos finals. Pot adscriure’s amb prou seguretat al Mestre de Sixena i podria pertànyer al retuale major del monestir que li dóna nom – el seu Naixement per al mateix retaule, ara el Prado, medeix 171,5 x 130,5 cm i els 16 cm de diferència podrien explicar el tall brusc a la part inferior de la taula.

2. Ha arribat el temps per Venusti?

Foto: Christie’s

A la darrera Old Masters Day Sale de Christie’s (7 de juliol), aquest fi Davallament atribuït a Marcello Venusti (?1512/1515 – 1579) va superar amb escreix l’estimació de 20.000 lliures, fins a arribar a les 115.000 lliures del preu final (incloses les comissions). És un rècord per l’artista que, com assenyala el títol del catàleg de la seva obra que està preparant Francesca Parrilla, encara ha de sortir de l’ombra allargada del seu amic Miquel Àngel (Marcello Venusti, un pittore all’ombra di Michelangelo, ed. Campisano, Roma). A The Telegraph hi ha un bon resum dels millors resultats de les vendes d’Old Masters.

3. Ja està aquí.

Foto: Yale

Amb molta antelació respecte el dia de la inauguració, ja s’ha publicat el catàleg de l’exposció Murillo. The Self-portraits, primer a la Frick Colecction (entre el 30 d’octubre I el 2 de febrer de 2018) i després a la National Gallery de Londres (entre el 28 de febrer I el 21 de maig de 2018). El firmen Xavier F. Salomon, Chief Curator a la Frick i Letizia Treves, Curator of Later Italian, Spanish, and French 17th century Paintings a la National Gallery.

4. Rigaud reobert.

Foto: L’Indépendant

Després d’una reforma de 9 milions d’euros, el Musée Rigaud de Perpinyà va tornar a obrir les seves portes el maig passat. Didier Rikner no n’està gens convençut. En tot cas, hi continua exposat el gran Retaule de la  Trinitat del Mestre de la Llotja de Mar de Perpinyà  i, com a novetat,  hi arriben diverses obres d’Aristídes Maillol prestades per la Fundació Dina Vierny.

5. Nonell terrible.

Foto: NCWAW

En aquest interessant article a la revista online Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide,  la doctorant Maria A. Dorofeeva defensa que la recepció, furiosament negativa, de l’exposició de les Gitanes de Nonell a la Sala Parés de 1903, va ser deguda a dues causes complementàries. La primera seria que Nonell hi trencava el tòpic de les gitanes que les volia  andaluses, exòtiques, festives i folklòriques i les presentava, al centre neuràlgic de la vida artística burgesa, com a conciutadanes que patien els rigors de la pobresa extrema i la marginació en una Barcelona i una Catalunya que es volien veure només modernes i triomfants. En aquest sentit, esdevenien molt més intolerables que els Cretins presentats anys abans amb èxit, convenientment isolats en les llunyanes valls pirinenques. La segona causa seria que Nonell assenyalava un grup social que, per causa del seu rebuig a barrejar-se amb altres grups, posava en risc la barreja racial que, segons els teòrics racials hispànics de l’època, era el tret distintiu del vigor de la població espanyola – una visió que anava radicalment en contra de la idea de puresa racial més pròpia del nord d’Europa. No tracta aspectes relacionats amb l’estil, igualment trencador i potser, igualment rebutjable als ulls dels crítics que no li perdonaven el tema. D’altra banda, potser algú s’animi a fer un segon estudi, en què es ressegueixi com aquestes obres, aleshores rebutjades, s’han acabat convertint en un signe de gust artístic i, de fet, en un dels monuments culturals del país – i només del país, per què més enllà de les nostres fronteres, encara no han estat prou reconegudes.

6. És un hospital? És la nova seu de l’OTAN? No, és un museu!

L’edifici del nou Museo de las Colecciones Reales, encara per inaugurar, ha guanyat el premi FAD d’Arquitectura 2017. No m’acaba de convèncer.

7. Alternatives

Foto: Artsy

Artsy publica un article atractiu sobre nous edificis per a col·leccions d’art; entre ells, el National Museum of African American Art a Wahington de David Adjay.

 

18.11.2012: From Paris to Barcelona

1. Two for the price of one.

 

Bohèmesone of the current shows in the Grand Palais, Paris (until January 14th, 2013, admissions €13.-), plays on the double meaning of the word of the title in French, which refers both to gypsies, and to the marginal lifestyle led by advanced artists in 19th century, especially in Paris. The exhibition explores the common ground between them. It therefore offers you a double show, the first being a survey on gypsies in Western European Art (and 19th century Hungarian paintings), and the second on the struggles, miseries and works of art produced by impoverished, yet resolute free artistic spirits. Gustave Courbet’s (1819-1877) Bonjour Mr Courbet (oil on canvas, 1332 x 150.5 cm., 1854) from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, offers the point of junction between the two worlds: the artist portrays himself as a wandering traveller, respectfully greeted on the spot by a middle-class friend and client. On the other hand, the show comes with a nice surprise for the Catalan visitor. Many of the paintings portraying the Bohemian Paris were in fact by Catalan artists living there at the time – a sense of accomplishment came from seeing Ramon Casas’ (1866-1932) Madeleine (oil on canvas, 117 x 90 cm, 1892, Museu de Montserrat) on the opposite wall from Edgar Degas’ (1834-1917) In a Coffee-Room or l’abshinte (oil on canvas, 92 x 68.5 cm, 1873, Musée du Quai d’Orsay).

 

 

 

2. Small is beautiful.

 

As noted, the Museu de Montserrat is one of the lenders to the exhibition in the Grand Palais (as a matter of fact, one of the major lenders to it). Part of the Benedictine Monastery in the hills of Montserrat, this not so little museum is living some extraordinary years under the leadership of Father Josep Laplana. It not only attracts new donations – except some very early purchases, the vast majority of the museum holdings have come in as gifts, but also dealing with major centres on an equal basis. On November 13th, it received two fine paintings  (The gipsy of pomegranate, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 114.5 x 147.5 cm, and Portrait of Sonia de Klamery, countess of Pradère, 1913, oil on canvas, 188 x 126 cm; see press note here) by Hermen Anglada – Camarasa (1851-1979), in a an 11-month loan from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – in exchange for Salvador Dalí’s (1904-1989) Neocubist Academy (oil on canvas 190x 200 cm, 1926), which travelled to París for the retrospective opening in the Centre Pompidou this Wednesday (until March 25th, admissions €13.-), that will then transfer to MNCARS in Madrid. Besides, the Museu publishes El Propileu, an interesting on-line news bulletin.

 

 

 

3. See you in Barcelona?

But precisely because of  this strong Catalan presence, the absence in the exhibition of any work by Isidre Nonell (1872-1911), was somehow disconcerting. In Nonell’s life and art, the two bohèmes clearly converged: his choice of earnest, human, not a bit topical portraits of gypsy women as his main subject gained him the establishment refusal, and a life as a bohemian artist in the Barcelona of the early 20th century – with some short stays in Paris. Works like Misery (oil on canvas, 75 x 100 cm,  1904, MNAC) shows that in his case, the double meaning of bohème was more than a happy troubaille. That said, and taking into account that one of the main sponsors of the Grand Palais show is Fundación Mapfre (the cultural arm of the Spanish insurance company), and that they will bring the show to its headquarters in Madrid in January 2013, I can only hope they will make it travel a little further east, so we can also greet it in this city.

 

4. Destination Madrid

Should you cannot make it to Bohèmes in Paris, think about waiting for them in Madrid. The Spanish capital is now a must-go for fans of Old Master’s and 19th century art, and the Museo del Prado will be its centrepoint.  Young Van Dyck  is inaugurating this Thursday in the Prado (until March 13, 2013, admissions €12,.-), Martín Rico, the landscaper is already there (until February 20th, 2013, admissions €12,.-), and two interesting works had joined the party a bit earlier:  Portrait of a Young Man  (oil on canvas, 68, 6 x 55.2 cm, 1630 – 1635) by Velázquez (1599-1960), from the Metropolitan (until January 23th, 2013), and the rediscovered, and heavily restored  Titian’s (c.1489 – 1576) Saint John the Baptist (oil on canvas, 195 x 127.5 cm, c. 1555, reclaimed by the Museum from the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Cantoria in the province of Almeria; until February 10th, 2013). Add to that Goya and the Infante Don Luís (Palacio Real, until January 20th, admissions €5.-), about the Aragonese genius and one of his most important patrons,  the opening for the first time in history of Duchy of Alba’s family collection, in their Palacio de Liria  home (from December 1st to March 31st, 2013, admissions to be announced) – arguably the most important, and historically charged Old Master’s collection in Spanish private hands. Among the 150 or so works, expect the Titian, Goya, Rubens, Zurbarán, Renoir, and Chagall highlighted by the press – and also the only two pure landscapes by Ribera known to date. But  just in case you have a more modern taste, Gaugin and the Voyage to the exotic (until January 13th, admissions for €10.-) is open for you, with its international loans, in the nearby Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza.

 

5. And from Madrid to the stars

 

Coll & Cortés, a leading Madrid Old Master dealership which opened its shop in Calle Justianano just some ten years ago, has put a new milestone in on its road to stardom. If 2012 has already  seen their first official participation in TEFAF Maastricht, and in the inaugural Frieze Masters, London, they can now head to a merry Christmas after convincing the Metropolitan Museum, New York, to buy a stupendous The Penitent Saint Peter (1612-1613, measurements not given) by  José de Ribera (1591-1652; see report in NYT) from them.  This work from the artist’s early years comes 40 years after the Met’s last  purchase of a painting from the Spanish School, and it was discovered by Gianni Pappi, the Italian researcher who established the hitherto anonymous Master of the Judgement of Salomon was hiding the artist’s entire early output (as seen in The Young Riberain the exhibition at Museo del Prado from April 5th to August 25th, 2011).

 

6. Getting closer

We read in Le Figaro that the Musée Courbet of Ornans isnearing the fabulous 4 million euros asked by the Japanese owner of Gustave Courbet’s (1819 – 1877) masterpiece The Oak at Flagey (also known as The Oak of Vercingetorix, oil on canvas, 89 cm x 100 cm, 1864). It seems that the support shown by private firms (€2.5M) and the general public (€200,000  by a thousand donors) will prompt public authorities in the region and Paris to offer the remaining €1.3M, therefore backing the bid by Mr. Claude Jeannerot, the noted president of the regional council of the Franche-Comté, of transforming the town (population 4,000) into a Courbet’s international hotspot.

 

 

7. Porticvm works.

A year ago, we noted the launch of Porticvm, a half-yearly online journal on Medieval Studies managed by a group of young Catalan researchers, and focused on publishing the studies of their colleagues around Europe. They have just released its fourth issue, with no less than three studies coming from Italy. For the local news, there is an interesting article by Lorena García Morato, in which she bravely downsizes the catalogue Master of Roussillon to just four works, and also advances Arnau Pintor as his real name (Lorena García Morato, The Master of Roussillon. A catalogue raisonné, p. 64 – 79). The Master’s or Pintor’s Calvary (c.1415-1425, tempera on panel, 114,5 x 80 cm) from the Kunstmuseum Basel was one of the interesting discoveries (for the general public) in Catalonia 1400. The International Gothic Style,  the exhibition  hanging in the MNAC in Barcelona last spring (March, 29 – July, 15, 2012).

 

 

04.11.2012: From Provence to Switzerland

1. Parallel lives: Rico and Cézanne

Martín Rico (1833-1908), La Corniche,1881. Oil on canvas, 42.9 x 74 cm. Minnesota, Collection of the Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Gift of Howard Lyon.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Mont Saint-Victoire, 1881. Oil on canvas, 72.40 x 97 cm, The Barnes Foundation, Merion.

Martín Rico (1833-1908) and Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) were not only contemporaries and fellow newcomers to Paris around 1860 and 1862, but also artists that used landscape as their preferred motive. Both are receiving a major retrospective now, Rico in Madrid (Martín Rico as landscaper, Museo del Prado, October 30 to February 10, 2013; admission €12; catalogue €35 here) and Cézanne in Budapest (Cézanne and the PastMuseum of Fine Arts, from October 26, to February 17, 2013, admission 3,200 HUF, catalogue available). But the coincidences stop here, says history of art. Rico, thanks to his encounter with Marià Fortuny (1838-1874) in Paris in 1871, and his joint trip to Granada, learned how to use his natural talent and his teachings from the Barbizon school to produce brilliant, attractive and dexterous renderings of the most topical views usually of Southern Spain and Venice, which brought him huge commercial success in his time, but critical derision today. Cézanne, as we all know, responded to the Parisian establishment snubs by returning home to Aix to start his lonely, stubborn, revolutionary quest on using the paintings’ plane to reveal the structure of the image, which will establish him as the pioneer of modernity. But in the same way that the excellent work of curator Javier Barón Thaidigsmann, Head of 19th Centruy Paintings Department at the Prado, reveals a more nuanced, investigative Rico, the current blockbuster in Budapest wants to emphasize Cézanne’s debt to the Old Masters. On the other hand, a new biography by Alex Denchev, reviewed here by Waldemar Januszczak, shows a more sensual, vital Cézanne at work (Alex Denchev, Cézanne: A Life, Pantheon Books, New York, 2012; $24.50 on Amazon).

2. Sold! 

Noche en Cadaqués

In a weak 19th Century Art Sale at Christie’s  New York (1st November),  marred by a post-Sandy atmosphere and phone lines recurrently cut-off, the three Catalan lots  (n. 60 to 62) in the catalogue gave auctioneer James Hastie the comfort of being sold, at least.  The best of them, Eliseu Meifrèn’s (1859 – 1840), Night in Cadaqués (oil on canvas, 130 x 151 cm), featured in this blog on October, 13th, was introduced by Hastie as a “fabulous painting” and did quite well, selling at the middle of the $80,000 – 120,000 estimate for $100,000 ($122,250 with commissions) to a bidder in the room. It has however failed to enter the painter’s top ten. The big days of 2003-2008 are gone, but it seems that Catalan painting, when offered at reasonable estimates, remains attractive even on the international circuit.

3. A bargain?

The Thebaid (tempera on panel, 27.5 x 37.5 cm, 1430 – 1435), a fragment cut from a panel by Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – 1455) and his studio, has been sold on October 27th in Leclere (Marseille) for €552,000 (commissions included), to a French collector,  informs Le Journal des Arts. They see it as a relative bargain in another weak sale (only 29% sold). But given that its condition was not pristine; that it does not show Fra Angelico at his best,  and that the Louvre, who had already passed on the chance to buy it during the export deferral, I think they should be quite happy to have found a buyer for it, and indeed someone from the same country it was about to leave – my guess was that it would go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art,  which holds the fragment, The Papacy offered to Gregory the Great(tempera on panel, 27.9 x 19.7 cm) that most directly relates to the one on offer.

4. Make your own Rijk

The Rijksmuseum has decided to open its digital doors well ahead of its off-line ones (now officially planned for April 13, 2013), and its new website is certainly a feast for eyes. Its on-line catalogue lists 275,556 files, of which 132,847 come with high-resolution images – including of course one of my absolute favorites, Johannes Vermeers  (1632-1675) The Street or a view of houses in Delft (oil on canvas 54.3 x 44 cm, 1656)which for some reason unknown even to me, I prefer to his even greater The Milkmaid (oil on canvas, 45.5 x 41 cm, 1660). However, there are some loose ends  (here and there, a text in Dutch pops up in the English version), and it would be great if they could include, in the same file, all the information about the painting available on line, and produced by the museum – it is a bit disappointing that Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) Portrait of Ramon Satué (oil on canvas, 107 x 83.5, 1823) does not include a mere link to the research that, just a year ago, discovered a portrait of a French high-ranking military underneath (see this blog’s note on September, 29, 2011). Anyway, they worked hard to develop the star feature of this digital trove of images, called Rijkstudio, which running with the motto “Create your own Masterpiece”, is designed to allow you to download any picture for free (expect when copyrights apply), and make use of it to give free rein to your creative appropriation instinct.

5. From Charles to Beatrix

The word “Rijk” in the name “Rijksmuseum” is a tricky one – it seems that in current Dutch it is used to refer to the whole of the kingdom (including the Caribbean territories), in the same way that, in German, “Reich” was used to include territories beyond Germany (perhaps near to English “Empire”, as in “Imperial War Museum”). So it’s only natural that the Rijksmuseum, besides its role as art museum, gives some idea of the different parts of the kingdom and their history – becoming in a way both an art and a national museum. You will find some of that on the new website: under the uncompromising label Timeline Dutch History, it offers you a general introduction to the history of the Low Countries, which they like to start with the unification of many of its current territories under emperor Charles V (1500-1558), and end with the current user of the Koninklijk Paleis, Queen Beatrix. It really works as a context to the artworks from the collection, and makes for an absorbing story in its own right – and reading it from Barcelona is a plus, not only because of our shared history under the Spanish crown.

6. Books: Vicenç Furió, Arte y reputación. Estudios sobre el reconocimiento artístico

How great have great artists looked to the following generations of artists, critics, and specialists? Is fame, and artistic reputation granted once and forever more? These are questions that Vicenç Furió tries to answer in six different essays, now revised and expanded in this new book. I found in it the healthy idea that there are no such things as discoveries of unknown artists, but rediscoveries of them – which can only be true if we agree that history of art is built upon pieces of memory, either ignored, tolerated or celebrated by our ancestors  (Vicenç Furió, Arte y reputación. Estudios sobre el reconocimiento artístico, Memoria Artium, Barcelona, 2012; €35.- here).

7. Make art, not war

I learned through the  Huffington Post (full of curious pieces of news), which clips a Reuters dispatch, that the Swiss government has found an imaginative solution to two different national issues at the same time; namely, the overcrowding of the art-depots in Geneva’s free-port (said to already store a fabulous, yet uncertain number of billions of dollars in art), and the disuse of the bunkers they built in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s for WWII and the Cold War. They are offering them to buyers willing to revamp them into big safes for art – last in the offerings list is a 1955 ammunition stockpile near lake Lucerne, for just 386,000 Swiss Francs.

28.10.2012: From Naples to Rome.

1. Sometimes it is just too late.

Giovanni Battista Lusieri (c. 1755- c. 1821), Bay of Naples, 1791; pen and ink, gouache, and watercolor on six sheets of paper; 102 x 272 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Sure some of you are familiar with the work of Giovanni Battista Lusieri (c. 1755 – c.1821), but it has taken me about three and a half decades, plus this review in the FAZ about Expanding Horizons, the current retrospective in the Scottish National Gallery, to come across this absolute master of landscape painting. To make things worse, the show is just closing on October 28, and even the catalogues are sold out! The only consolation is to reserve one of the reprints, planned for early December.

 

2. Also late, but still on time.

A recent visit to the Museum of Barcelona’s Cathedral, a small annex in the building’s cloister that also houses its chapterhouse, came with a nice surprise. It seems that since at least July 2009, you can admire here not only the Pietat Desplà, (oil on panel, 175 x 189 cm, signed and dated 1490) the key masterwork of Bartolomé Bermejo (active between 1468-1561), but also the so called Chair of King Martin, a wooden, silver-gilded portable throne that works as a seat for one of the finest monstrances from the International Gothic. The spectacular set (approximately 140 cm high) is probably the high point of the famed early 15th century Barcelona silversmiths.

 

3. Books: The Brueghels at work.

I learn through La Tribune de l’Art about this monumental work on Pieter Bruegel the Elder, his copyists, and his son and close follower Pieter Brueghel the Younger (C. Currie, D. Allart, The Brueg(H)el Phenomenon. Paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Pieter Brueghel the Younger with a special focus on technique and copying practice,1062 p, Brepols, 2012, €160 from the publisher’s website). It is not a light matter. The most important recent rediscovery and purchase of a work by Bruegel (the Elder) was made by the Spanish Ministry for Culture for the Museo del Prado in 2010. But the museum wanted to acquire The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day (glue-sized tempera on linen, 148 x 270.5 cm, c. 1556 – 1568) then attributed to the son, only if its own research on the painting’s technique revealed that the work was in fact by the father. The owners were brave enough to agree, and their good luck was eventually confirmed not only by the technical aspects, but also by the finding of the signature of the artist itself (see the Prado’s report here).

 

4. Books: Looking for Ottonian manuscripts? Please help yourself.

Medieval Histories, by Karen Schousboe, is one of the most readable, and interesting blogs on art history you can find. In the October issue, she urges us to fly to Munich, and pay our respects to Pracht auf Pergament, the exhibition in the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung (until January 13th), a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to see the precious, rare and very fragile collection of Caroligean, Ottonian and Staufern manuscripts held in the Bavarian State Library (including the Gospel of Otto III, Reichenau, c. 1000; pictured above.). But in these days of digital access, the real wonders come out of true academic generosity, which is now the norm. On the exhibition’s website, they loaded up the 74 manuscripts, most of them illuminated, dated between 800 – 1175, ready to be downloaded, free and fast, directly to your computer (I tried, and it works). Perhaps steps like this can bring about a new push on teaching Early Medieval Art by starting with illuminated manuscripts?

 

5. Manuel works.

As you have surely noticed, I like to follow the work of those interesting academics I have the good luck to know. This time, it is  Dr. Manuel Castiñeiras, who is participating in the upcoming Fourth Annual Anne d’Harnoncourt Symposium, on The Art of Sculpture 1100 – 1500: Sculptural Reception, and organised by The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Penn University and the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris (November 2-4. Penn University Campus). The title of Castiñeira’s paper is quite suggestive: They Are All the Work of Artists (Jer. 10, 9): the Romanesque Portal as liturgical Performance, following his brilliant essays on Saint James in Compostela. You can read the rest of the programme here.

 

6. A wrong approach – and an error in political strategy.

I am sad to note that the electoral manifesto of Convergència i Unió (the Nationalist Catalan party that everyone expects to win the crucial elections on November 25th) is very clear about its proposal for a referendum for independence (more than happy with that), but extremely weak when it comes to cultural matters. You have a bit of illustrated democratic despotism (“The Government will guarantee, and govern the network of basic facilities”, including museums), combined with an inward vision on cultural heritage, which seems to work only as evidence of Catalan culture’s self-sufficiency. Thank God, the professionals at the fore of basic facilities tend to follow a more advanced form of nationalism – an open one, which knows you cannot explain Catalan culture, nor any other European culture, without taking into account some of the rest of European cultures (here is my humble attempt in August to explain that).

 

7. Roma locuta.

The union of The Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church and The Pontifical Council for Culture, ordered by the Motu Propio Pulchritudinis Fidei signed by Pope Benedict  XVI in July and recently made public, might sound like a very unimportant piece of Vatican bureaucracy. Not so, perhaps. In fact it could be very good news for the endless buildings and artworks under the care of the Catholic Church – because it means the Holy See is willing to make use of them for its renewed purpose of dialogue with non-believers through culture. Hopefully that will lead to joint restoration campaigns and research – and also a wider openness to contemporary art. Just to see how far this can go, read this interview with the mastermind of this policy, Card. Gianfranco Ravasi, in which he discusses the Vatican pavilion in the upcoming Venice Biennale (June 1st – November 24th, 2013), and also the tragic death of Amy Winehouse.

13.10.2012: From the Pyrenees to Sitges, via Rome.

1. It was just one century ago.

 

The stellar news of the week follow a familiar pattern. In 1904, the architect and art historian Lluís Domènech i Montaner took the picture on the left, the first to show off the nave of the shockingly fine Sant Climent of Taüll church, lost in a remote valley in the Catalan Pyrenees. However it was not only architecture that drove him there, but also these hidden wall paintings sticking out behind the Gothic altarpiece. And for good reason: he had stumbled upon the Master of Taüll’s Pantocrator, a true Romanesque masterpiece, now in the MNAC. Last week, the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles du Midi – Pyrenées reported a similar story of wonder from the other side of the Pyrenees: a new group of exceptionally well preserved Romanesque wall paintings was discovered in the parish church of Ourjout, a small village in Arièja, when restorers removed some panels of the noted Baroque altarpiece placed before it (see report and pictures here).  Specialists are now busy establishing its relationship with the other cycles in the Pyrenean area -my amateurish eye sees at least two hands in the Occitan examples, and a more direct link with wall paintings in Santa Maria de Boí (also in the MNAC), rather than Sant Climent.

2. Between Van Gogh and Dalí.

 

This is where the catalogue for Christie’s 19th Century European Art sale (November 1st, New York) places this powerful  Night in Cadaqués (lot 60, oil on canvas, 130 x 151 cm) by the Eliseu Meifrèn (1859 – 1840). Perhaps there is a gentle touch of spin that justifies the $80,000 – 120,000 (€60,000 – 90,000) estimate, but still a hint about how a fresh, open approach can help present Catalan painting in an international context. A very similar one, yet slightly less dramatic example with a starting price of €90,000, went unsold in October 2006 in Balclis, an auction house in Barcelona (lot 804, also 130 x 150 cm).

3. Is this really a Vermeer?

Well, you can decide for yourself after examining the impressive reunion of eight works by his hand (including this St. Praxedis, 102 x 83 cm, 1655; from The Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation), plus forty-two others by contemporary Dutch Masters, currently on show at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome (Vermeer. The Gold Century of Dutch Art, up to January 20th, admissions from € 9.50 to 12.-). But perhaps only a Titian would put you on a plane? Then wait for the next grand show of the Venetian master in the same venue, from February to January 2013 – why not pair it with a visit to nearby Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Via del Corso?

4. Private hands in public venues.

 

Mondo Mostre is the private exhibition’s agency behind Vermeer’s show in the Scuderie.  Founded in 1999, and specialized in Italian – Russian exchanges, it offers a commanding international projects list that can help to brush off some of the prejudices against this kind of alternative partners for museums, both private and public.

 

5. First steps.

 

The new directors of the MNAC have announced its 2013 exhibition plans. Hampered by budget cuts, and the absence of any plans by the previous director, it offers however some degree of variety. It combines a retrospective of recent work by Antoni Tàpies (born in 1923 and deceased last February) and Joan Colom (1921; he donated his entire oeuvre and archive in July) with some in-focus presentations of certain works in the permanent collection. Above all, it is a feasible program, in which their curators have a real chance to shine – I am expecting how far and deep will go Drs. Francesc Quílez and Jordi À. Carbonell on the enormous The Battle of Tetouan (oil on canvas, 300 x 972 cm, Rome, 1862-1864) Marià Fortuny (1838-1874), on show between March and June 2013. Meanwhile, on the list of matters pending, I would put: widening a vision that for the moment does not embrace art from beyond Spain’s borders, and starting using the Museum’s loans for international projects as a way to secure the corresponding exhibition also at home.

6. Time for a Baroque rescue effort.

 

Whose is the hand behind this wonderful Still life with fish and seafruit (oil on canvas, 65 x 99 cm), bought by the Museo del Prado in 2009? A Dutch master in Italy? An Italian ex-pat in the Netherlands? A provincial French, or a Spanish court artist in Madrid? None of them, but the Catalan Antoni Viladomat i Manalt (1678-1755). His catalogue raisonné, already completed by Dr. Francesc Miralpeix but still unpublished, reveals a painter who, thanks to imported engravings, knew how to kept himself aware of what was happening elsewhere, and made his own interpretations of the available models. Which makes for an interesting book and its corresponding exhibition to add onto the waiting list.

7. Revelations in Sitges. 

As trumpeted in this blog in September, on Friday, 5th this month a sold-out 1st Meeting for Art, Markets, and Museums took place in Sitges, near Barcelona. The different speakers made interesting contributions to this world of close relationships, but the most interesting news for me came from dealer Artur Ramon. In his rapid sketch of art dealers in post-war Barcelona, he identified a couple of Jewish émigrés, Dr. Arnaldo and Rutta Rosenstingl setting the tone for high quality dealing, but also a German fugitive, Gestapo related Ludwig Losbichler-Gutjahr working from the shadows of a room in the Majestic Hotel. If Losbichler had had his hands dirtied by Holocaust-tainted property, then a door for restitution cases has been open in a city that, belonging to neutral Spain, at first seemed irrelevant to the matter. To make thinks even more complicated, the principal source of Ramon’s findings is the 1951-1969 correspondence between Losbichler and Germain Seligmann, a dealer in New York of Jewish origin.

From Bosch to the Courtauld

September 29nd, 2012

1. Books: Rush for Bosch!

 

I just received an email from the publisher Brepols reminding me next September, 30, their introductory offer expires for F. Koreny Bosch. Die Zeichnungen, the 456 pages (451 colour ill.) complete catalogue of the master’s drawings. 100 Euros, instead of 125 Euros: irresistible? Then buy it here now.

 

2. Putting together Peter’s puzzles.

 

The lists of works for the exhibition the Frick Collection in New York has just announced, lead to a natural question. Named  Piero della Francesca in America (February 12th to May 19th, 2013, catalogue by James Banker, Machtelt Israels, Elena Squillantini and Giacommo Guazzini) it will present Madonna and Child attended by Angels from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, alongside with the different panels of  his Sant Agostino’ altarpiece now in New York and Washington. But it will also show an additional panel from the other side of the Atlantic: Saint Augustine from  the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon. “Why?” – I asked in my email to Heidi Rosenau , Frick’s Head of Media Relations. She promptly provided me with the answer from guest curator Nathaniel Silver:

“The title of the exhibition, Piero della Francesca in America, signifies the fact that this is the first exhibition of his work in the United States. Significantly, all of the paintings were made for the artist’s native city so the exhibition is about Piero working in his hometown. While the vast majority of paintings in the exhibition are in American collections and this theme introduces the exhibition catalogue, it is not the show’s primary theme. The magnificent painting from Lisbon was, however, discovered partly as a result of Miss Frick’s acquisition of St. John the Evangelist. In 1947, Kenneth Clark attributed the Lisbon St. Augustine to Piero for the first time, a discovery catalyzed by the recently published Frick acquisition.”

Then, the exhibition will perhaps be the first step to see, one day, all the surviving panels from the altarpiece at one place – this time, the Saint Michael in the National Gallery, and Saint Nicholas Tolentino in Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, stayed home.

 

3. Your man in Paris.

And there attending last night of the Biennale des Antiquaires at Grand Palais, last day of Richter’s exhibition in the Pompidou, and second public day in the new Islamic Arts wing in the Louvre.  I could write a long post on all of that, but what really caught my attention this time were the not so new salles n .18 and n. 1 of the infinite museum – that is Ruben’s 1621 – 1622 clever cycle for Maria de Medici’s self-celebratory hall in Palais du Luxembourg, and the extraordinary Byzantine (Barberini Ivory, first half of the 6th century) and Caroligian ivories (The Earthy Paradise, c. 870-875.) you find on your way to the Baroque feast. What make a great museum grand are these permanent, sometimes unexpected lessons.

 

4. When did it all start? (2).

Francesc Lacoma i Fontanet (1784-1812), Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 68.5 x 57 cm, 1805, MNAC, Barcelona.

Last week’s note dealing with the pioneering relationship between Pelegrí Clavé and German Nazarenes in Rome around 1845, prompted an interesting comment from Dr. Francesc Miralpeix, from the University of Girona. This is it:

“The connection of 19th century Catalan artists with their European colleagues can be pushed some years back. I will propose the generation of Solà, Campeny, and especially the little known, yet very interesting Francesc Lacome. I suspect they were the link with the Romantics and the Nazarenes”.

Here you have a nice subject for your thesis. Anyway, what strikes me from Pelegrí Calvé is his willingness to surpass the Nazarene model in its own field, and his decision to embark on an international career (in Mexico) after his Roman years. In this sense, I would say he was a forerunner of the great star of the following generation, Marià Fortuny (1838-1974) – a truly European phenomenon.

5. A bold choice.

 

The “guess-who’s-coming-to-dinner” way, by which top posts in Barcelona’s museums are provided, has struck gold over these last months. If Dr. Pilar Vélez (Barcelona 1957) was an excellent choice as director of DHUB (which will hold the city collections of decorative arts, dress, industrial design and graphic arts) in May, now filling her previous post as director of  Museu Marès with Josep Maria Trullén (Barcelona 1954), deliver good news again.  Mr Trullén is a good friend of mine, which is totally irrelevant, especially when taking into consideration his brilliant job of first transforming the Museu of Solsona, then the Museu of Vic into regional powerhouses that involved up to three  different public bodies, plus the Church. His years as director of the Museu d’Art de Girona was not that successful, but we can be sure he will now show this was not his fault, by no means. But who will take the crown in Girona? Stay tuned!

 

6. Another good reason for transferring to Italy.

Just in case you wonder about spending a long time in Italy, let me give you another good reason for the move. This upscale  bocetto (Glory of Saints, oil on canvas, 92 x 136 cm) by Corrado Guiaquinto (1703-1766) has been denied an export licence, so it cannot travel outside the country. It will be auctioned, therefore, by Antonina in the Italian capital on October 2nd, with the ridiculous estimate of 12,000 / 15,000 Euros. Why not buy it, and doubly enjoy your stay in the land that produces such kind of wonders?

 

7. Work in a Royal Palace, Central London.

My alma mater is looking for a marketing “s/he” – political correctness can be so creative! Working in Somerset House selling world-class exhibitions and art-history courses, might perhaps lure you? At £59,715-£66,923 pa you will better paid than the President of Spain (the increasingly busy man gets only €78,000, according to the new budget). Details in The Art Newspaper.

30 August 2012

Nothing to be spared.

Luis E. Meléndez (1716 – 1780), Still life (apples, grapes, melon, bread, a jar and a bottle), oil on canvas , 52,5 x 75 cm, c. 1771; MNAC, Barcelona.

Apparently my last post with some ideas about the MNAC was well received, so I am closing these longer summer pieces (instead of the customary seven short news items) with some lines about the star museum of this blog. For those who want it in one sentence: the point I am making today is that MNAC must deal with all aspects of Catalan art, including the less brilliant ones.

Last week we said MNAC may profit from engaging itself in a cultural dialogue with a European accent. Romanesque, Gothic and fin de siècle Art Nouveau (know here as “Modernism”) were the times when this corner of the Mediterranean produced its best art. Therefore, the corresponding collections at the MNAC would provide it with the works most suited for the international layout we advance.

However, something would be lost were the museum not moving beyond these three movements. It is true that the Renaissance collections are near to non-existent, and that the best pieces in the Baroque and Neoclassicism sections are Spanish and Italian. That’s why the museum has tended to manage these collections as a mute custodian, just keeping them, and lending them to third parties only when asked. Even when this was its only role, the Museum could be more active in attracting the outside projects, and making them also be shown in Barcelona.

But it can do more. First, it can foster a more thorough research of its own collections – which include these four wonderful still-lifes by the misfortunate Madrid court painter Luís Meléndez (1716 – 1780). They also feature some Catalan works – among them, the paintings of Antoni Viladomat (1678-1755), which can deepen our understanding of the moment. Another suitable subject could be the history of these collections, and its relation with the MNAC as a museum. Since they were not seen as obviously Catalan, why were they incorporated? When? How well did they fit into the general discourse of the museum?

But perhaps more interesting, they could be used for a kind of broader research. Given the lack of outstanding works, the MNAC could focus itself on some other questions, e.g.: can the absence of great masters from Catalonia be explained just on economic grounds? Since the Catalan artists were not serving a growing, self-centred Madrid court, what other clients did they cater to, and what roles did their art play? Why did their works follow certain models, and why did they ignore others? In which moment was the decision made, to start something of their own? Which parallels can we find in Europe?

Sure, an exhibition on these subjects will not become the season’s continental blockbuster. But dealing with them is a job the MNAC can do, and can give the lead to more general patterns across Europe. And that could be welcomed by someone else – at the end of the day, we did not lose the the train of post Medieval Europe, but like some other Europeans we were not travelling in first class.

 

23 August 2012

The name as a challenge – or why it is a bit too early to change MNAC’s name.

Master of the Trebon Altarpiece, Madonna from Roudnice (detail), Prague, c. 1385 -1390, Convent of Saint Agnes of Bohemia, National Galleries in Prague.
Pere Serra (active in Barcelona between 1357 -1408), Our Lady of the Angels (detail), c. 1385, MNAC, Barcelona.

This summer’s longer piece (instead of the usual seven shots post) is about museum names. Just like people’s names, they are a link to its history, and a lead to its current place in the world. One of my preferred ones is “British Museum”, which I find rather odd, since there is little in its collections coming from Albion. In fact, most of them are inherited from Empire, as a result of sheer looting, and ruthless appropriation for some. But in some cases they were brought in in an act of rescue, and most importantly, they can work now as a tool for international dialogue. In fact, calling such a worldwide collection “British” asks for an continuous effort of openness, and wide-ranging research from that very British institution – otherwise, it would be better they just return the works, even it that means abandoning them to an uncertain fate. Not something that will happen any time soon, since the recent BM exhibitions, Treasures of Heaven. Saints, relics, and devotion in Medieval Europe (June 23th – October 9th, 2011), Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam (January 26th – April 15th, 2012) or even Shakespeare: Staging the World, (July 19th – November 25th, 2012) show its people are doing their job.

However, this effort is not always made. Without leaving London, and our field of interest, Catalan and Spanish (quite) old art, we can point to Martí de Sas and Miquel Alcanyís Saint George Altarpiece  (660 cm x 550 cm, tempera and gold on pine panel, first quarter of the 15th century) in the V&A. It was a work left in oblivion since Judith Berg–Sobré’s investigations on the history of the Spanish altarpiece in 1989, until Matilde Miquel Juan, from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, came forward with an extensive article in the Spanish review Goya (“El Gótico Internacional en la ciudad de Valencia. El retablo de san Jorge del Centenar de la Ploma”, Goya, 336, 2011, pp. 191-213). In between, the V&A had not featured this major Gothic International work in any exhibition or research project.

The case with MNAC in Barcelona is similar. I hope regular readers of this blog already know what these four letters stand for, but in case your have forgotten, can you make a guess? Its current director is aware this is a tricky question, and that “Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya” might be not the first thing to come to mind. That’s why he proposed to change its name in order to make it attractive to the non-insiders. After a summer storm followed, he modulated his words, by saying that he was refereeing to the acronym MNAC, not the whole denomination, and by suggesting inserting the international magnet word “Barcelona” just in certain cases.

In my opinion, it is too early for this move. The MNAC should not to change its name, because it is not yet working as the national museum of art of Catalonia. It has all the resources to do it: a good collection, especially strong in the Romanesque, and a talented team working within its walls. But very few of their projects have had this international approach that the museum needs to work as national representative – some of the notable exceptions were “Romanesque Art and the Mediterranean. Catalonia, Toulouse and Pisa (1120 – 1180)” (February 29th to May 18th, 2008), and “Prague, Paris, Barcelona. Photographic Modernity from 1918 to 1948(May 18th – September 12th, 2010).

How could this international message be defined? I got a first idea about it while visiting the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, home of one of the Czech National Galleries in Prague. Its wonderful (and tourist-free) collection shows Bohemian medieval painting negotiating the French, Italian, German and Byzantine influences, to eventually give birth to something unique. In the same way, there is not a single work in the MNAC without a foreign connection. In the end, Czechs, Catalans, and many other peoples in the continent follow the same European pattern of incessant exchange. And this fact could give the basis for the MNAC’s place in the international stage: a case study of how one of these “minor” European cultures has been able to connect with its peers, both receiving huge influences and making some significant contributions.

In other words, the challenging bit of MNAC’s name is “Catalonia”, which might sound somehow enigmatic for foreigners. Using the museum collections as a tool for international dialogue could help filling the gap, while fulfilling part of MNAC’s mission. Once we all have achieved it, we could start thinking about exciting names.

 

16 August 2012

Let the master talk.

I first tried to skip that tricky deadline, in the middle of real holidays, with a mild pun on appropriation practices in contemporary art. Until I saw Robert Hughes (1938-2012) 2004 The New Shock of the New, and his vigorous defence of some of today’s greatest artists: Ansel Kiefer, Paula Rego, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Sean Scully – they are not on the appropriation fashion. Here you have the Youtube version of Hughes’ piece:

 

The New Shock of The New. Robert Hughes, 2004

 

It prompted a revision of Hughes classical bestseller Shock of the New (McGraw Hill, 1991, from $28.46 at Amazon).

And talking of Sean Scully, you can now visit his Classical Greece inspired Doric show at IVAM Valencia (July 26 – October 28, c. Guillem de Castro 118, Valencia, admissions €2.-). Besides, his Stations of he Cross will not have to wait for long to be hung in the church they are intended for, Santa Cecilia in Montserrat hills near Barcelona. According to the latest news I heard, the Patronat de la Muntanya de Montserrat, the public trust in charge of Montserrat’s management, is engaging itself  wih the last step of the project: pooling the funds for the works needed to accommodate Scully’s paintings in the little Romanesque temple.

Shall we therefore wonder at Hughes, like Scully, being a true lover of Barcelona? As a matter of fact, he wrote the most memorable of its guides (Barcelona, 1993, $10.20 at Amazon).