Culturegrrl looks at some of the long-term loans in the Met's sumptuous new Greek and Roman galleries. It's not quite clear to me from the post whether she's trying to imply that there's something unusual or not proper about their presence there ("That's because these 'permanent galleries' are not entirely permanent:
Quite a few of the finest pieces are, in fact, on temporary loan.") It is, in my experience, a perfectly normal practice, one that the Met itself generously partakes in by lending works from its own collection to other institutions around the country on a long-term basis. That said, there are truly some amazing objects currently featured in those galleries, ones that make me itch to get down there as soon as possible (which won't be too soon, alas.)
That said, let me offer an answer to Lee's concluding question regarding the Euphronios Krater, still in New York for a limited time:
And, as I told you
on WNYC earlier today, don't forget to say a fond farewell to the
celebrated Euphronios Krater (down the hall, to the northwest of the
new galleries), which has a one-way ticket to Italy next year. It
embodies an important argument of the archaeologists---that we lose
important information about an object when it is taken from the ground
by non-professionals whose motive is profit, not scholarship: As the
Met's label tells us, one of the puzzles about the krater is why "an
enemy of the Greeks should be featured on such a large and fine vase
produced by one of the leading Athenian artists." Would archaeological
context have given us some clues?
We'll never know.
Well, in strictly technical sense, this is true. We don't know what was in whatever grave site the krater was found in, so we can't rule out that it might have had some lessons to teach us about the vase. But let me hazard that while we may never have absolute knowledge, the answer to the question of whether archaeological context would have given us some clues to the meaning of a detail of the subject matter of the vase is "Sadly, no." The krater, like so many other vases, was almost certainly a relic of the trade between Greece and Etruria. The context in which it was found was quite different from that in which it was created, and would be very unlikely to yield answers about its iconography and meaning in its original context. It wasn't found there. Etruria, from my understanding, gained its Athenian pots generally through trade. But perhaps Italy should do an exhaustive inventory and then return all Greek antiquities acquired by the Romans after the sack of Syracuse? The sanctity of archaeological context demands no less.
(I'm kidding, of course, and in fact generally take a very strong stand against the illicit antiquities trade. But there are limits to the arguments that can be made against it.)
- Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide has a review of the Americans in Paris show that was in Boston last year (and London prior to that) before heading to the Met over the winter. It's a bit heavy on description, though not in a bad way, as it gives a very good sense of the installation and design of the show as it appeared in New York. More attention is paid to the catalog as well, not surprising given the greater scholarly interest in it on the part of the reviewer and her (presumed) audience. At the same time, I'm not sure her very positive review of the exhibition was shared entirely by audiences, at least in New England (the reviews I remember best ranged from lukewarm to hostile.) Franklin and Bunny had different opinions, of course, so it's a matter of perspective. What NCAW sees as the "culmination of more than two decades of scholarship" may look to New England viewers like the same old thing (sometimes literally--while there was a lot of great stuff, a number of the paintings have been featured in exhibitions together many times, including in recent years and at times at the MFA.)
- Greg Cook reviews the Scott M. Black collection at the MFA and offers a pragmatic take on the question of shows of a single private collection in a museum. I never really wrote about the show, after getting really excited that it was going to happen. Why was I so excited? I had seen the collection in Portland where it was installed as a long-term loan in the permanent collection intermingled with the museum's own holdings. It looked much better that way.
In the post below regarding The Most Arrogant Man in France I mentioned it owed something to visual studies and discussions of print culture, and linked to a couple of examples of the social history of art covering the same period to which the book could be considered in some loose sense kin or successor (though not necessarily the same in outlook.) Given that, it almost goes without saying (but won't) that the recent interpretation Chu takes issue with the most seems to be Michael Fried's. I don't want to overstate the case; there are readings of particular works that Chu agrees with Fried on, and the book neither offers polemic or extensive methodological debate. Chu prefers to tell her own story, but she does point out on several occasions where she disagrees with Fried. More importantly, she notes that her emphasis on Courbet's use of the press as a model and borrowings from literary modes can't help but stand in opposition to any sort of phenomenological (or otherwise) emphasis on Courbet as a painter predominantly concerned with vision and the body.
"'But what about your review articles?' asked Lucien as they drove away to the Palais-Royal.
'Pooh! you've no idea how they're dashed off. Take Travels in Egypt: I opened the book and read a bit here and there without cutting the pages, and I discovered eleven mistakes in the French. I shall write a column to the effect that even if the author can interpret the duck-lingo carved on the Egyptian pebbles they call obelisks, he doesn't know his own language--and I shall prove it to him. I shall say that instead of talking about natural history and antiquities he ought only to have concerned himself with the future of Egypt, the progress of civilization, the means of winning Egypt over to France which, after conquering it and then losing it again, could still establish a moral ascendancy over it. The a few pages of patriotic twaddle, the whole interlarded with tirades on Marseilles, the Levant and our trading interests.'
'But supposing he had done all that? What would you say then?'
'Well, I'd say that instead of boring us with politics he should have given his attention to Art and described the country in its picturesque and territorial aspects. Thereupon, as a critic, I fall to lamentation. We're snowed under with politics, I should say; it's boring, and we can't get away from it. Then I should yearn for those charming travel books which explain all the difficulties of navigation, the thrill of winding through narrow straits, the delight of crossing the line, in short everything those who will never travel need to know. But, while commending them, one mocks at travelers who rhapsodize over a passing bird, a flying-fish, a haul of tunny, geographical points they have spotted and shallows they have recognized. One puts in a new claim for perfectly unintelligible scientific facts, which are so fascinating like everything which is profound, mysterious and incomprehensible. The reader laughs--he gets his money's worth. As regards novels, Florine is the greatest novel-reader in the world. She analyzes them for me, and I knock off an article based on her opinion. When she's been bored by what she calls 'literary verbiage' I take the book into serious consideration and ask the publisher for another copy. He sends it along, delighted at the prospect of a favorable review.'
'Great Heavens! But what about criticism, the sacred task of criticism?' said Lucien, still imbued with the doctrines of the Cénacle.
'My dear chap,' said Lousteau. 'Criticism's a scrubbing brush which you mustn't use on flimsy materials--it would tear them to shreds.'"
Is the field of visual studies growing, or has it failed to live up to its promise? The signs apparently are contradictory, but I can say that a visual studies approach can be found fruitfully deployed in Petra ten-Doesschate Chu's recently published study, The Most Arrogant Man in France: Gustave Courbet and the Nineteenth-Century Media Culture. Chu, a noted Courbet scholar, editor of his letters and of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, places the artist in the context of the developing nineteenth century French press, the milieu of Balzac's ambitious journalists and backdrop to Flaubert's ironic realist treatments of striving provincials. Courbet reveled in the world of newspapers, Chu argues: not only was he an avid media consumer and friend and drinking partner to journalists, Baudelaire and Champfleury not least among them, Courbet also looked to manipulate the press to further his career and even drew upon literary and journalistic modes in his paintings. It's a story of the early days of modern art that has a good deal of contemporary resonance.
Hey, whaddya know, someone with actual expertise on a topic has posted about it! Donn Zaretsky of The Art Law Blog, which I really need to add to my sidebar links, offers his thoughts on the whole tax deduction debate. The good news for me? He thinks there is a genuine case to be made based on the legislative history that charitable deductions are meant to reward philanthropy done domestically--a so-called "water's edge" policy by which the grant of a tax benefit compensates for the fact that the government doesn't directly supply funds, at least at the level it theoretically should. I think I was fumbling toward something like this argument, so yay me. The bad news? He thinks this theory is nonsensical in light of how we actually provide charitable tax deductions. Boo hiss. I'll admit that Donn is right that it can't reasonably apply to all charitable deductions, so that is a problem. I don't see why charitable deductions of one type couldn't be justified for reason x while others depend on reason y; but you'd still have to think these were good reasons, and they'd actually need to have been offered by someone at some point. Although as I've said, I think there are arguments not yet made that seriously undercut what I've been arguing, so I'm not inclined to pursue it much further. I'd be very happy if the government would, in fact, supply that would-be funding that's instead being siphoned off by foreign museums, though.
"'It's always the same story, every year the same enthusiastic inrush of beardless ambition from the provinces to Paris: an equal, indeed an increasing number of young men who leap forward, with high head and lofty heart, to their wooing of Fashion, the Princess Turandot of the Thousand and One Days to whom everyone would play Prince Calaf! But not one guesses the riddle and wins her. They all fall into the pit of misery, the mire of journalism, the morass of the book-trade. These mendicants go round like gleaners, picking up biographical articles, 'tartines', news-in-brief columns on the newspapers or else write books bespoken by the shrewd-minded pedlars of scrawl who prefer a piece of nonsense they can sell in a fortnight to a masterpiece which stays long on their hands. These caterpillars, squashed before they can turn into butterflies, live on shame and infamy: they're ready to bite or boost budding talent at the bidding of some pasha from the Constitutionnel, the Quotidienne or the Journal des Débats, on a hint from the publishers, at the request of a jealous colleague or often in return for a dinner. Those who get over the obstacles forget the squalor of their beginnings. I myself spent six months putting the best of my wit into some articles for a scoundrel who passed them off as his own and, on the strength of these samples, was put in charge of a feuilleton; he didn't take me on as a collaborator; he didn't even pay me five francs; and yet, when I meet him I'm obliged to shake hands with him.'
'But why?' Lucien asked with proud resentment.
'Because I may need to get a dozen lines into his feuilleton,' Lousteau coldly replied."
"One has no choice but to resign oneself to new ways, to the invasion of democratic literature as to the arrival of all other democracies. It matters little whether it hurts more in literature. [It is in line] with our electoral and industrial customs that everyone may have his page."