It has to be said: I’m itching to see some art in person.
The last show I saw, the Met’s retrospective on the legendary Gerhard Richter, was only open for a few days before it had to close due to Covid, and now that the Breuer Building has been leased to the Frick Collection, the exhibition won’t be mounted again. After that, I was supposed to see a major show on Baroque painting in Genoa, another on the life and work of American Modern artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000), a show about the evolution of Victorian majolica, and a survey of Contemporary French artist Erik Desmazières’ architectural fantasy illustrations. And that was just going to take me through the first part of the summer.
One show that was on my radar, which has now reopened but is a bit too far for me to travel to under current circumstances – thanks again, Covid – is the traveling exhibition “Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library” in Houston. It’s really a must-see for those of you who can get to it, since all of the big names in Spanish art are represented: El Greco, Ribera, Velázquez, Zurbarán, Murillo, Goya, and so on. Among the many gems in the show is Joaquín Sorolla’s (1863-1923) luminous portrait of his friend, the always nattily-dressed American designer Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), painted in 1911 while the two were doing some plein air painting.
For as long as it’s possible anyway, the show has reopened and will run through January 3rd, although I doubt I’ll be able to get down there to see it during its run.
Then of course, there are the shows that have been announced, but are actually something of a tease, because no one really knows whether they’ll be able to come off or not. This isn’t the fault of museums of course, because they have to announce these things in a timely fashion, Covid or no. If they want to put on an exhibition borrowing works from other museums or private collections, the larger the show, and the older the art, the more logistically complicated it is to pull off. You can’t simply show up at the Hermitage one day and ask to borrow their Leonardo for the next few months. An exhibition of any decent size involves all kinds of considerations, such as reciprocal loans, insurance, transportation, and so on.
Case in point, the National Gallery of Art here in DC recently announced two shows for 2021, including the first solo exhibition ever held in the U.S. on the weirdly wonderful Venetian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1465–1526), whose interiors in particular are mesmerizing windows into life in the Veneto five centuries ago. His “Vision of St. Augustine” (1502), for example, is perhaps less interesting as a depiction of its subject matter, and more interesting for its details, including a very sweet dog who seems fascinated by his master’s reaction to something that he himself cannot see or understand.
This NGA show will be held in addition to the aforementioned exhibition on Baroque art from Genoa that had to be postponed until next year – all assuming, of course, that there *is* an exhibition season next year.
While no one really knows what’s going to happen next, in the meantime we can certainly make use of the many online resources available. You may not be able to see the once-in-a-lifetime Raphael exhibition at the Quirinale in Rome for example, or the show of Spanish turn of the previous century artists at Colnaghi in London, but there’s an app or a site for those things. It’s not the same as being able to see the art in person, but at least shows like these are going on as best they can.
And on that note, let’s move on to some art-and-internet related things that caught my eye this week.
This evening soprano Grace Srinivasan and keyboardist Patrick Merrill will be live-streaming a concert on YouTube of classical music by French composers, stretching from the Early Baroque period into the 20th century, including works by Debussy, Grigny, Fauré, and others. Those of you who follow me on Instagram have probably heard Grace’s beautiful voice in an occasional Story post, such as when I happen to get to church early and catch choir practice. If you can’t watch the performance live, no worries: it will be posted to YouTube for you to watch later. And while you’re at it, thanks to Covid both musicians have had the rest of their concert events canceled for the year, so if you’d like to make a donation to their virtual tip jars, information on how to do so is available at the YouTube link.
Speaking of Instagram, one of the accounts that periodically pops up in my search feed is that of digital artist and designer Daniel Volshart, who of late has been posting some astonishingly realistic images of the Roman Emperors. “For each portrait,” notes ArtNet, “he uploaded dozens of images of stony busts depicting the emperor in question, creating an increasingly refined approximation of their likeness. Once he was satisfied, he moved to Photoshop where the more interpretive work took place: he removed cracks and replaced broken appendages, added skin texture and eye color and so on, essentially turning chiseled rocks into hi-res photographic pictures.” Mr. Volshart’s thinking and methodology are just as much about artistic instinct and historical research, as they are about using existing works of sculpture and painting in combination with new technologies, to help us get a better mental and visual picture of some of these fellows, such as the Emperor Caracalla (188-217 A.D.), shown below.
While not an online experience in itself, but rather brought to you by the people who bring you online experiences (for good or for ill), I was rather stunned earlier this week to learn that Facebook will be occupying ALL of the 730,000 square feet of office space being created in the former Farley Post Office, opposite Penn Station in Manhattan. The massive building is, in some ways, a more restrained echo of the magnificent Pennsylvania Station that was torn down in 1963 to create the exceptionally awful current station, in which one wants to spend as little time as possible. Both the old Penn Station and the still-standing Farley Building were masterworks of America’s greatest firm of architects of the Beaux Arts period, McKim, Mead, and White, so at least the remaining structure should have a useful life for some years to come, thanks to being occupied by a tenant with rather deep pockets up above, and a new Amtrak hall on the main and lower levels.