Sometimes when I’m tapping out a blog post or a magazine article, I wonder what the point of it all is. Case in point, when I visited the opening of “Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice” at the National Gallery this past Sunday I was sitting, completely enthralled, across from his “Madonna of the Treasurers”, when a group of older tourists sauntered by, commenting on the paintings as they passed. One of them stood before this picture and commented to his companions: “This kinda looks like the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus, but look at that guy over there [pointing to the figure of St. Sebastian in the painting.] What’s his gift? A big ol’ spear through his chest?” Hearty laughter ensued.
By the time I recovered from a fit of eye-rolling and barely-contained volcanic rage, the group had moved on to watch a film presentation in the next room. “Why do I bother writing about these things,” I thought to myself, “when most people don’t really seem to care?” Had I been more self-possessed in the moment however, I could have said something helpful or instructive to the group before they left the gallery: instead, I blew it.
What I *could* have done would have been to put out that, in a way, the fellow was right on both counts. Tintoretto did, in fact, intentionally evoke the story of the Magi from St. Matthew’s Gospel in his composition, which the commentator would have known had he bothered to read the accompanying exhibition placard. And in a sense, St. Sebastian’s martyrdom was indeed a sort of gift, in that he gave up his life in witness to the Gospel. (cf. St. Matthew 16:24-25)
Also, that’s an arrow, not a spear.
Look for my review of the NGA’s Tintoretto show in The Federalist soon; in the meantime, let’s take a look at some interesting stories from the art world this week.
A century ago, as Imperial Russia descended into the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution, members of the princely Narshykin family saw the writing on the wall and decided to pack all of the family silver – over 2,000 pieces of it – and brick it up inside a secret storage room in their St. Petersburg mansion before fleeing the country. In 2012, workers renovating their former palace stumbled across this treasure trove, which has now gone on display to the public for the first time at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, the former country estate of the Imperial family just outside of St. Petersburg. I haven’t seen any reporting on the exhibition indicating whether the Narshykins have tried to reclaim the treasure through the courts, but such an effort would hardly be surprising, given the scale of the hoard.
I’m not a fine photography collector, but if I were, I’d probably be interested in the work of California-based photographer Renzo Sanchez-Silva, who is featured in a new exhibition at the Agora Gallery in New York. Titled “Opening the Window”, the show brings together the work of eleven artists working in different media, who like to blur the lines between abstract and representational art. Mr. Sanchez-Silva’s mesmerizing, gloriously atmospheric observations of light on sea and sky are far and away the most captivating works in this show. “Opening the Window” runs through April 16th.
Opining on Opie
Staying nearby in Chelsea, the Lisson Gallery recently opened what is apparently the first-ever New York solo show for British Contemporary artist Julian Opie (1958- ). I confess I’m rather stunned by this fact, since I’ve always loved his painting and graphic design (his sculpture, not so much.) It seems incredible that up until now, he’s never had his own show in Manhattan. I appreciate his use of color, his thought process on how to distill things such as movement, personality, and texture with an economy of line, and overall I just find his stuff to be great fun. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t agree with my opinion of course, but if you do happen to find yourself in New York, go have a look and let me know what you think. “Julian Opie” is on view through April 20th.