Tag Archives: art museums

CONFUSING ART WITH ARCHAEOLOGY

14 Aug

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Kakuzo Okakura, 茶の本 (The Book of Tea, 1906):

“We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe, – our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions.”

“Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The veneration born of antiquity is one of the best traits in the human character, and fain would we have it cultivated to a greater extent. The old masters are rightly to be honoured for opening the path to future enlightenment. The mere fact that they have passed unscathed through centuries of criticism and come down to us still covered with glory commands our respect. But we should be foolish indeed if we valued their achievement simply on the score of age. Yet we allow our historical sympathy to override our aesthetic discrimination. We offer flowers of approbation when the artist is safely laid in his grave. The nineteenth century, pregnant with the theory of evolution, has moreover created in us the habit of losing sight of the individual in the species. A collector is anxious to acquire specimens to illustrate a period or a school, and forgets that a single masterpiece can teach us more than any number of the mediocre products of a given period or school. We classify too much and enjoy too little. The sacrifice of the aesthetic to the so-called scientific method of exhibition has been the bane of many museums.”

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MONET IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL

15 Dec

I don’t condone the vandalism or destruction of art works. Attacking art in a public museum or gallery is a particularly dickish act, even by the normal standards of no, seriously, don’t fucking do it you idiot. However, I question the need to jail a man for six years simply because he punched a Monet painting. The incident took place in 2012 at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, but he’s only just been sentenced. Andrew Shannon (described here as a “French Polisher”, which I’m sure is also some kind of obsolete sexual slang) claimed in court that he had a dizzy spell and fell fistwards into the painting. Witnesses said otherwise, and it didn’t look good that he’d muttered something about getting back at the state or that he had paint stripper in his bag. Maybe the French polishing thing was an attempt to explain the paint stripper. I’m never sure exactly how so-called rebels or iconoclasts think the state or the art world elite is more than fleetingly bothered by attacks on old paintings by dead artists, let alone rocked to its very foundations, but anyway… he’s doing six years in the slammer for it. I know it’s a different country and legal system, but for some perspective let’s consider Oscar Pistorious recently getting five years for riddling his screaming, terrified girlfriend with bullets.

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What we really need to examine here is the phrase that’s parroted uncritically, verbatim, in all the reports about the initial vandalism and the recent conviction of Shannon: “painting worth £7.8 million.” How and why is it “worth” £7.8 million? Is it really? According to whom? The artist wasn’t paid the equivalent of £7.8 million. The museum probably didn’t pay £7.8 million for it. How can any work of art be “worth” such an arbitrarily large sum, which is clearly beyond any form of rational analysis or justification? “Valued at” £7.8 million might be a more measured and correct phrase, though this also fails to tell us why or by whom. It’s not even an interesting painting. Only the Monet signature on it would ever make anybody look twice; it’s a prestige fetish object. It is certainly irreplaceable as an authenticated Monet relic, but it’s not as if nobody before or after him ever did a pretty little nothing of a painting with a lake and a sailboat. Now it’s been restored and repaired, a significant proportion of this small painting is not even the original one that Monet worked on. So at this point how does it differ significantly from an indistinguishably perfect copy painted by a hack in China?

When you’ve pondered these weighty and complex issues for a while, you may like to relax yourself by “getting back at the state” and accidentally “falling” on the painting in this startlingly realistic simulation of Mr. Shannon’s exciting day out at the art museum:

Punch a Monet

ROMANCING THE STONERS

20 Oct

OR: PEOPLE WHO THROW STONES SHOULDN’T LIVE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSES

The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being pimped out by the French to the jolly Emirs, and on the way we can have a wee think about what made the land of liberté, égalité, fraternité lose their damn minds and decide to have a gigantic art baby with the United Arab Emirates.

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Leonardo da Vinci, ‘La Belle Ferronière’, 1495–99.

La Belle Ferronière will need to cover up that whorish hair and stop making insolent eye contact if she doesn’t want a taste of the whip.

I mean, does her husband, father or brother even know she’s out? According to Human Rights Watch and probably anybody else with eyes, ears and a rudimentary sense of right and wrong, the way Sharia is applied in the UAE systematically discriminates against women. Rape victims can face prison sentences of a year or more. Yes, you read that right. Victims of rape are prosecuted. Being raped is an “extramarital relation”, which is illegal. Women can’t marry without permission from a male guardian. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man; this is considered “fornication” and therefore worthy of corporal punishment. Kissing in public is also against the law, and can lead to deportation if you’re lucky enough to be a foreigner. Worse if you’re not. In the UAE, flogging (between 80 and 200 lashes) and stoning to death are legal punishments for offences including adultery, premarital sex and prostitution. Not just in theory, either; these barbaric punishments are regularly carried out. The UAE refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the elimination of torture.

Bonus fun fact: Apostasy (renouncing or denying religion, i.e. Islam) carries the death penalty too! Renouncing other religions is probably fine because only one religion is allowed anyway. Don’t worry, though; even if you’re a devout follower of Islam there are still many great opportunities for you to be abused, executed or unjustifiably detained in the UAE!

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METASTUPID

1 Sep

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The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam is having an intellectual navel-gazing session and a nice jolly for boring people who work at universities a symposium called Metamodernism at the end of September. Sadly it’s sold out, or was not open to the public in the first place, so we plebs will probably never know what happens when they “draw a cognitive map of our present in order to grasp the changing contours of our everyday lives, towards a paradigmatic shift lived by a generation born in the 1980s’, whatever that means. They’ll be answering a random collection of baffling questions that absolutely nobody ever wanted answered, such as: “What precisely constitutes a historical moment and/or rupture? What defines this generation that was born in the 1980s?” Ooh, I know… is it being in their late twenties to mid thirties, age wise? Do I win something? Oh shit, Francis Fukuyama’s had a rupture! I wondered what that smell was.

For no discernible reason “as the speakers inside the Stedelijk debate these questions and more, actor Shia LaBeouf will embark upon an actual (#meta)marathon around the perimeter of the museum.” There are more questions? I’m gagging with excitement, but the point is I don’t think they’re even joking about Shia LaBeouf. But if they let him indoors at the Stedelijk he might wipe his dirty bum across the floor like an incontinent dog, or something. So stay at the perimeter, you bad boy, dirty boy, sit, stay. Are they hoping he’ll be distracted by the opportunity to buy cheap booze at the Albert Heijn supermarket next door, like the other drunks who roll around in the park? That branch of Albert Heijn is particularly exciting because it’s underground. He might not be able to find his way out again without help.

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AUTHENTICITY IS IMPORTANT

9 Sep

12702WThe Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam sells lots of bourgeois knick-knacks and posh toys, as all art museums do nowadays. Exit through the gift shop and all that. Along the lines of the previously mentioned Edvard Munch Screaming Hello Kitty, here’s the (quote) “authentic Miffy as a painter! Has she painted the ‘Night Watch’ maybe?”

Yes. I’m sure she has. If anybody needs me I’ll be in the museum painting over some priceless Rembrandt selfies to reflect this astounding new information.

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Update: Giant version of Miffy as an artist in the Rijksmuseum shop, photographed with my own fair hand. Or with a camera that was in my fair hand, to be pedantic. I don’t think this oversized Miffy artist was for sale.

MiffyArtistRijksI was very disappointed that they didn’t have any of their Rembrandt-shaped candles in stock, because I always wanted to set Rembrandt’s head alight. I did visit his house, though. Pretty swanky for a rabbit’s abode. Though now it’s just down the road from a fairly unglamorous Albert Heijn supermarket.

I’d like there to be a candle version of me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

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