It was a long holiday weekend here in New York, so we’re bringing you these tidbits of weekend reading at the beginning of our week:
Islamic Art Breaks
Souren Melikian’s coverage of the London sales of Islamic art calls out the usual suspects: callow middle-market speculators and juiced-up estimates. But amid the rest of the financial turmoil, the market for Islamic works may have truly shifted.
Financial Turmoil Reshaps a Corner of the Art Market (International Herald Tribune)
A Taste of Tooker
The New York Times’s Ken Johnson reviews the George Tooker retrospective at the National Academy Museum in New York:
“The first museum survey of Mr. Tooker’s paintings in three decades, it comes at a favorable moment, as many contemporary artists — Hilary Harkness, Lisa Yuskavage and Mark Greenwold, to name three — fruitfully explore imaginatively far-reaching possibilities of traditional figurative painting. [ . . . ] Part of what makes Mr. Tooker’s baleful visions of modern life so gripping is how he updates models and methods that Modernism had supposedly rendered obsolete. He emulates masters of the Italian Renaissance, especially the rounded, simplified figures and exactingly calculated architectural perspectives of Piero della Francesca. And he uses egg tempera, a recalcitrant medium that oil paint drove close to extinction 600 years ago.”
Baleful Visions of Modernity, Mystically Rendered (New York Times)
The Muse Lands on the Mersey
“The founding of the Liverpool Biennial a decade ago by James Moores, a relation of the great art patron of the region, John Moores, was an inspirational breakthrough. At long last, Britain cast off its national habit of refusing to stage a spectacular, regular survey of new international art. Before then, the whole notion of holding a UK biennial was regarded as a hopeless fantasy. Such events were only held abroad, preferably in sublime locations like Venice.” So opens Richard Cork’s review of the Liverpool Biennial in the Financial Times.
Liverpool Unleashed (Financial Times)
Picasso, the Pupil
You’ve undoubtedly already heard of the gigantic “Picasso and the Masters” exhibition up in Paris. The Economist takes a minute to make this claim: “RARE is the event that pushes the financial crisis off the front pages. But “Picasso et les Maîtres”—a visual conversation between the cubist master and the great painters that shaped him—claims that honour. Ten rooms are devoted to ten themes at the Grand Palais, where the bulk of the exhibition is displayed: self-portraits, colours, still-lifes, variations, portraits, nudes. In each room, works by Picasso join those of the masters he cannibalised. Some 210 masterpieces—by El Greco, Goya, Ingres, Manet, Poussin, Rembrandt, Renoir, Van Gogh, Velázquez and others—have been gathered from collections the world over. [ . . . ] The exhibition deftly avoids a two-dimensional confrontation between simple pairs of paintings. The thematic collections act almost like a hall of mirrors, reflecting layered influences over the centuries.”
Though not everyone is pleased with the success of the exhibit. According to UPI, it seems to be attracting the wrong crowd: “They visit the Louvre like they’d visit Chernobyl,” Marc Dumaroli, the chairman of the Society of Friends of the Louvre, told the newspaper, adding the masses descending on the museum were “a cancer.”
Elizabeth Peyton has had ups and downs in her prominence as a painter. But a recent run of auction records and a new retrospective opening at the New Museum brings her back to center stage. Roberta Smith wrote last Friday about the museumshow of 100 works:
“Few are much larger than your face. The best collapse the distances between realist painting, modernist abstraction, personal snapshot and magazine, and are accessible, devotional and visually alive. Their gem-rich colors are applied with brazen abandon, like miniature action paintings. This elegantly micromanaged presentation doesn’t have the best timing. It comes after the first peak of Ms. Peyton’s career, in the late 1990s, when her influence
was at its height, but before a second phase has completely gelled. [ . . . ] This will help perpetuate the underestimation that has often surrounded her work.”
There’s also a lovely portrait of Princess Elizabeth Age 16 in Phillips de Pury’s London sale this weekend. The lot is estimated at between £250,000-350,000. Her top prices reach well into the £400,000 range.
The Personal and the Painterly (The New York Times)