September 6th, 2012

1. Your man in Frankfurt.

If you are not a banker, or a traveller waiting for a connection, there is just one thing that might make you stop in Frankfurt: the Städel (paintings) and the Liebieghaus (sculpture) museum – and the Schirn Kunsthalle, depending on how good the current exhibition is. The rooms of the Städel, recently renovated, are filled with those kind of masterworks you didn’t realise you would find there, from Van Eyck to Anselm Kiefer. All in all, they show a kind of alternative, yet equally rigorous, history of art, in which the Italian Renaissance does not play a big role. But I’ll leave you to judge it for yourself, along with your art history powers of intuition. At the end of this post you will find pictures of some works from the Städel collection: why you do not try to guess who the artist is?


2. Revealed: Jeff Koons is a Rococo artist.


Jeff Koons is receiving rock-star treatment these days in the Main city. The Schirn devotes a solo exhibition to his paintings, and at the Liebieghaus his sculptures are mixed with the historical collections. Praise comes from the celebrated director of Frankfurt’s three main museums, Max Hollein:

“With flawless modelling and the unblemished application of the paint as his main ingredients, he [Koons] concocts a perfection that accounts not only for the illusion of narrative in his works, but also for their aesthetic agreeability”.

Nonsense. Precisely because Koons’ objects are confrontedwith the wonderful works of Tilman Riemenschneider and Andrea della Robia, two things become quite apparent. First, that his “perfection” is the same that plastic can show side by side silk – Koon’s surfaces look so boring, and tasteless. Second, that the “narrative” Koon uses is the same easy trick with which Rococo anxiously tried to charm its clients: endless, playful, occasionally risquée irony.


3. Local news, global reach.


Wherever I travel to, I try to give a glimpse of the local press – which in Frankfurt is no less than the Frankfurter Allgemeine, as you know. In its August 31 print edition, spectacular history of art news made the front pages, filling two additional ones in its excellent Feulleiton section. Stephan Klingen, a German researcher, has unearthed the post doctoral essay that earned a 34 year old Erwin Panofsky (1892 – 1968) his chair at Hamburg University in 1926, the first step on his way to become one of the key figures of art history theory. The work, thought to be lost for a long time, ought to be a major text: its title (“Die Gestaltungsprinzipien Michelangelos, besonders in ihrem Verhältnis zu dennen Raffaels”) points to a fascinating study of Michelangelo art from the Gestaltung point of view – a formal approach that Panofsky will later abandon in favour of meaning-focused iconology, his major contribution to the discipline. The finding comes with a sad story. The half hand-written, half typed manuscript was found among the papers of Ludwig Heinrich Heydenreich (1903-1978) in a large safe in the basement of the Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. Heydenreich was a former pupil of Panofsky in Hamburg, and inherited his Jewish born master position when the later flew to Princeton in 1934. After the war, Heydenreich went on to be the founding director of the Zentralinstituts, apparently taking Panofsky’s writings with him – saying nothing to nobody. Panofsky himself was convinced his early essay had disappeared, presumably during the fire that followed Hamburg’s allied bombardments in 1943-1944. What is more, Panofsky had written much-helpful lines of recommendation for Heydenreich during the initial post-war years, and both men continued having a good relationship afterwards – up to the point that Heydenreich presided over the presentation ceremony of the “Pour le Mérite” Order to Panofsky in 1967, a kind of reconciliation with his native country fittingly held in the very ZI premises. It is only now, 35 years after Heydenreich’s death, they decided to kick down the armoured door – the key was long missing.

4. Our common enemy: autarchy.


In his fine review (for Fòrum de les Arts i el Patrimoni) of the current exhibition on International Gothic in the Uffizi (Bagliori Dorati. Il Gotico Internazionale a Firenze. 1375-1440, from June 19th to November 2nd, 2012), Alberto Velasco has found the key word: autarchy. He criticizes this kind of approach for the Italian show, but also warns the same error is very easily made at home. I can only agree with it, as advanced in my post of mid–August. There are so many connections to be made out there. And for Alberto, who first appeared in this blog as a curator at the Museu de Lleida, who knows what he will achieve in the future.

5. Meeting people.

The new academic term starts with two interesting local gatherings. On Friday, 5th October, the Museu Maricel in Sitges will host the first, and widely anticipated Meeting for Art, Market and Collectors in which professors, museum specialists, dealers and collectors will explore the roots and the aims of Catalan art-collecting. A few days thereafter, October 15th and 16th, French, English, Catalan and Spanish specialists will discuss Art and Gregorian Reform in France and Spain, which is expected to deal with the recurrent by-concept of “Gregorian Reform” in a systematic way, for the first time. A pair familiar to this blog, Manuel Castinñeiras and the Tapestry of the Creation, will reveal their latest secrets after the Tapestry’s restoration (see for details).

6. A difficult choice.


Paris in September or in November? A true dilemma, since opting for the Biennale des Antiquaries (September 14th – 23th, Grand Palais, admission €30) plus Gerhard Richter’s Panorama (Centre Pompidou, until September 24th,  admission €13) seems as good as deciding myself for Paris Tableau  (November 7th – 12th, Palais de la Bourse, no prices announced) and the Louvre’s version of Raphael. The Last Years (October 12th, 2012 to January 14th, 2013, admission €12). To make things even more complicated, the same Palais de la Bourse will host the Salon du Dessin in late March.

7. Prize.

Did I not mention it? I am offering a full-covered, all-you-can-see-and-eat weekend in Barcelona for the first reader to email me the correct attributions for the Städel paintings highlightedbelow, along with Jeff Koons’ private mobile number (sure he wants to have a talk with me). I am making the difficult part of the challenge very easy: click on the picture for the revealing link.

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