Art News Roundup: Kind Of Blue Edition

Due to the Labor Day holiday, I didn’t have time to give you a post earlier this week, gentle reader. So let’s make up for that by giving you a larger-than-usual usual helping of stories from the worlds of art, architecture, design, archaeology, and collecting, which may prove to be of some interest. And we’ll begin with some jazz, which is always a good place to begin.

The legendary Miles Davis (1926-1991) took a break from music in the late 1970’s, after a lifetime of alcohol and drug addiction. When he finally cleaned himself up and returned to performing, he ordered three new trumpets from the Martin Company in Chicago: one red, one black, and one blue, each decorated with gold moons and stars and bearing his first name. Apparently, it took multiple coats of blue lacquer to get the horn to the point where it could read blue, but it was a kind of blue – if you’ll forgive the pun/allusion to Miles’ classic 1959 album – that in a certain light can appear purple.

Davis died in 1991, and was buried with the black trumpet, while his family held on to the red one. The blue one entered the collection of the great George Benson, who later sold it along with many other instruments he was no longer using, at a massive sale at Skinner’s Boston back in 2007. That trumpet is now coming up for sale again, this time at Christie’s, and given my recent experience with the “Concierto de Aranjuez”, I particularly enjoyed this anecdote about the night Davis took delivery of it from Larry Ramirez, the man who helped Davis to design them:


Ramirez lived in Denver, which — as good luck would have it — was where Davis was playing one of his first comeback concerts, in the summer of 1981. The designer was able to hand-deliver the first two trumpets he’d finished (the blue and the black) to Davis’s motel room one night.


Ramirez told the story, in later life, of the nerves he’d felt at the moment Davis handed him back one of the horns and said, ‘You play, don’t you?’ He duly played a tentative passage from Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and remembers his relief when Davis observed, ‘Man, you play pretty good.’

The “Exceptional Sale” will take place at Christie’s New York on October 29th; the pre-sale estimate on Miles Davis’ blue trumpet is between $70,000-$100,000.


And now, let’s scat on over to some other art news stories in brief.

Ashes to Ashmolean

We’re often told about how suddenly death and destruction fell upon the people killed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., but a new exhibition at the Ashmolean in Oxford will allow visitors to get a sense of just how unprepared the residents of Pompeii were for the end of their way of life. “Last Supper in Pompeii” brings together a wealth of archaeological finds and technical analysis from the dining rooms, restaurants, taverns, and even kitchen sink drains of the doomed city, to give us a sense of the interrupted lives on that day. Among the highlights is this remarkably preserved loaf of 1st century A.D. Roman bread, that to me looks for all the world like Thanksgiving cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet. “Last Supper at Pompeii” is on view at the Ashmolean Museum through January 12th.


Atlanta Acquisitions

The High Museum in Atlanta recently received a major gift of 24 paintings from local philanthropists Doris and Shouky Shaheen, significantly expanding the High’s existing collection of Impressionist and Early Modern art. The gift includes works by Boudin, Corot – his wonderfully sketchy “La bohemiènne à mandoline assise” (c. 1860–1870) is shown below – Fantin-Latour, Matisse, Modigliani, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Utrillo, Vlaminck, and Vuillard. By themselves they would constitute a substantial display of late 19th and early 20th century pictures, which is probably why they are getting their own gallery at the High. The Shaheen Collection is expected to go on display to the public before the end of this year.


Caillebotte Collection

Speaking of major gifts, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris recently unveiled an unexpected legacy of five almost-unknown works by the popular French Realist-Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), donated earlier this year by the great-granddaughter of the artist’s butler. The works include a landscape with the Caillebotte country house in Argenteuil, a town on the Seine particularly favored by Impressionist and Early Modern artists, as well as two paintings of the nattily-attired butler, and two pastels of the butler’s son. I’m sharing this particular image from Le Parisien because while researching this story, I spotted my friend Paul Perrin, Curator of Paintings at the Orsay, rolling out three of the Caillebottes. [Waves]


Tiffany’s Temples

And speaking of friends, in light of the new exhibition opening this weekend at Chicago’s Driehaus Museum, I wanted to point you both to that exhibition as well as a past one at the Corning Museum of Glass. “Eternal Light: The Sacred Stained-Glass Windows of Louis Comfort Tiffany”, opens this Saturday, and will feature a side of his work which may be unfamiliar to those who only think of him as a designer of table lamps and jewelry. Tiffany (1848-1933) also did public and private interiors, including an over-the-top renovation of the White House for President Chester A. Arthur, as well as commercial buildings, private residences, and churches; his window designs for the latter category are highlighted in the Driehaus exhibition. Meanwhile, back in 2017 the Corning’s show, “Tiffany’s Glass Mosaics”, explored Tiffany’s work in that particular medium, and the exhibition catalogue – which is available here – features a section on his ecclesiastical designs in mosaic written by my friend Natalie Zmuda Peters. “Eternal Light: The Sacred Stained-Glass Windows of Louis Comfort Tiffany” is at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum through March 8, 2020.


A View to a Car

Have you recently purchased a pricey ride, but find that the garage back at your lair is just not quite up to snuff, when it comes to displaying your latest acquisition? Legendary British luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin can help. The makers of Bond vehicles are now branching out into architectural design partnerships, enabling you to create the car hole of your – or Ernst Blofeld’s – dreams. The company sees this effort as not only a way of showcasing automobiles as beautiful works of art, but potentially providing an entire living space for the display of both owner and collection. The aquarium filled with sharks and poisonous cephalopods will run you a bit extra, natch.


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