Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Agha Khan's Art, Hadyn's Quartets, Japan's Ports, Eiffel's Tower & Serge's Dancers


- The Aga Khan's Islamic Arts Collection Goes on Dislpay : "The Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, is a generous man. He heads a network of nonprofit development agencies and plans to open a museum for his collection of Islamic art in Toronto in 2013. Until then, he is loaning the art to museums worldwide. The current beneficiary is Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau, where “Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum’’ is showing through June 6. The 73-year-old philanthropist, in an introduction to the catalog, says he believes that tensions between Islam and the Western world are less about a “clash of civilizations’’ than “a battle of mutual ignorance.’’ Exhibiting his collection, which spans a vast area from Spain to China, is a way to fight that ignorance"... The Story in the Boston Globe


March 31, 1732: Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer, was born. "One of the most prolific and prominent composers of the classical period, Haydn is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these genres. He was also instrumental in the development of the piano trio and in the evolution of sonata form.

March 31, 1835: John La Farge, American painter, illustrator, & stained glass window designer, is born.

March 31, 1854: Commodore Matthew Perry signs the Treaty of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade and ending Japan's 200 year policy of seclusion.

March 31, 1872: Serge Diaghilev, Russian ballet impresario, was born. Diaghileve was a prominent Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario who is most famous for founding the Ballets Russes from which many famous dancers and choreographers would later arise.

March 31, 1889: The Eiffel Tower officially opens. "An iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris, the Eiffel Tower has become both a global icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tallest building in Paris, it is the single most visited paid monument in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch for the 1889 World's Fair.


“Islamic Art. The Past and Modern”

By Nuzhat Kazmi.
Published by the Lustre Press / Roli Books in 2009.

“This book looks at the artistic output of the Islamic civilization from its origins to the modern day in painting, calligraphy, textiles, decorative arts, and architecture. Among more than 100 color illustrations are a 16th-century Safavid painting (in which an elephant is actually made up of dozens of men and other creatures), a gorgeously penned monogram of Sultan Murat III, a lush 18th-century carpet with a sunburst of paisley, an elegantly filigreed wooden beggar's bowl from the 19th-century, and the mosaicked Nasir ul molk mosque in Iran. ”


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bond, Banned, Goya, Vincent, Woody & Hiroshige

- Swann's to Conduct First-Ever Exclusive Auction of British Spy Novels : "On Thursday, April 8, auction house Swann Galleries in New York will offer The Otto Penzler Collection of British Espionage and Thriller Fiction. The sale represents a select portion of the private library of the well-known mystery fiction specialist and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City who amassed his collection of rare spy and suspense books over 40 years". The Story at Seattle pi

- Zimbabwe Artist in Court After Controversial Exhibit : "Zimbabwe artist Owen Maseko was in court in Bulawayo after the government shut down his art exhibit exploring violence blamed on President Robert Mugabe. Owen Maseko's exhibition at the national art gallery in Bulawayo focuses on an uprising that was crushed in western Matabeleland after Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. Thousands of civilians were massacred by members of the Shona tribe trained by North Korea and loyal to Robert Mugabe." The Story at Voice of America


March 30, 1746: Francisco Goya, Spanish painter, was born. A romantic painter and printmaker regarded both as the last of the Old Masters and as the first of the moderns, Goya was a court painter to the Spanish Crown and a chronicler of history and political oppression. "The subversive and subjective element in his art, as well as his bold handling of paint, provided a model for the work of later generations of artists, notably Manet and Picasso."

March 30, 1853: Vincent van Gogh, Dutch artist who popularized sunflowers & Don McLean, was born.

March 30, 1909: New York City's Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, opens. "The Queensboro Bridge has been referenced numerous times in popular culture. The best known use of the bridge was from Woody Allen's film Manhattan, when Allen and Diane Keaton's characters relax on a bench in front of it at twilight; it became the film's poster image. It has been used in the credits of the television series Taxi, Archie Bunker's Place, and The King of Queens as well as being the backdrop of scenes in the films Escape from New York, Spider-Man, and Manhattan. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway traverse the bridge on their way from Long Island to Manhattan. "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge," Nick says, "is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world". The Simon & Garfunkel song "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" uses the bridge as its namesake. It appears in The Simpsons episode "You Only Move Twice", when Hank Scorpio destroys it to show that he's not bluffing.


“Hiroshige. Birds and Flowers”

“Shunning the popular tradition of courtesan subjects in the 1830s, and inspired by Chinese bird and flower painting traditions and miniaturist techniques, Japanese printmaker Hiroshige concentrated on landscapes and nature scenes, ultimately creating some five thousand prints of bird and flower studies. A pheasant perched against chrysanthemums; an egret crouched among reeds; an eagle soaring high above Edo in a sky full of stars—these are a few of the 91 magnificent color reproductions here (some more than 13 inches long) of his meticulously rendered prints.”


Monday, March 29, 2010

Ballet Twits, Saving Shit, Royal Albert Hall, E. Power Biggs, & Early Maiolica


- Ballet Stars Now Twitter as Well as Flutter : "In the rarefied world of ballet, where dancers are expected to speak with their bodies, sometimes it seems that aloofness is something to aspire to. Lately, though, the ribbons are loosening. Courtesy of Twitter, dancers are starting to make themselves heard. It isn’t always dainty"... The Story at the New York Times

- The weird alchemy of archaeology -The Northwest Anthropology conference yields some interesting stories about what our waste can teach us. "The alchemists said that you could turn shit into gold, and thus archaeology was born"... The Story at

- Antique-hunting in Arezzo, Italy - Arrezo, Italy's Piazza Grande antiques fair is country's oldest and largest street bazaar. "Prayerful angels carved from oak, grinning terra-cotta cherubs and gold pocket watches with time on their hands. All are stacked on the cobblestones of Arezzo's Piazza Grande. Through the shutters of my hotel window, I watch vendors unload a treasure trove of antiques: gleaming wood dining tables, paintings, pottery, jewelry, copper pots and Murano glass." The Story at the LA Times


March 29, 1871: Queen Victoria opens Royal Albert Hall. "The Royal Albert Hall is one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings, recognisable the world over. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from every kind of performance genre have appeared on its stage. Each year it hosts more than 350 performances including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, tennis, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and lavish banquets."

March 29, 1906: E. Power Biggs, concert organist and recording artist, was born. "Biggs did much to bring the classical pipe organ back to prominence, and was in the forefront of the mid-20th-century resurgence of interest in the organ music of pre-Romantic composers. On his first concert tour of Europe, in 1954, Biggs performed and recorded works of Johann Sebastian Bach, Sweelinck, Dieterich Buxtehude, and Pachelbel on historic organs associated with those composers. Thereafter, he believed that such music should ideally be performed on instruments representative of that period and that organ music of that epoch should be played by using (as closely as possible) the styles and registrations of that era. Thus, he sparked the American revival of organ building in the style of European Baroque instruments".


"A Descriptive Catalogue of the Maiolica, Hispano-Moresque, Persian, Damascus, and Rhodian Wares, in the South Kensington Museum. With Historical Notices, Marks, & Monograms"

By C. Drury E. Fortnum.
Published in London by Chapman & Hall: 1873.

A thick, heavy catalog of this noted collection, featuring many woodcut illustrations and a dozen beautiful chromolithographic plates. Solon ("Ceramic Literature") notes- "The specimens of Italian and Persian ware in the South Kensington Museum form, perhaps, the richest and most comprehensive collection ever brought together. A catalogue of such a collection, written by one of our most accredited connoisseurs, will always be one of the best text-books on the subject that may be placed in the student's hands."


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rudolph Serkin, Naughty Toys & Divination


March 28, 1472: Fra Bartolommeo, Italian Renaissance painter of religious subjects, was born.

March 28, 1903: Rudolf Serkin, Austrian-born American pianist and teacher, "Revered as a musician's musician, a father figure to a legion of younger players who came to the Marlboro School and Festival, and a pianist of enormous musical integrity", was born.


- Historic sex toys sold for £3,600 at Essex auction : Two historic sex toys thought to date back to the 1700s have been sold at an Essex auction for £3,600. The wooden items, believed to be French, were auctioned at Brentwood Antiques Auction on Thursday. Auctioneer Wendy Wood said: "You might laugh but it's a good opportunity for investment. You won't see another one in a long time." The Story at the BBC


“Art and Oracle. African Art and Rituals of Divination”

By Alisa LaGamma & John Pemberton III.
Published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000.

“Throughout history and across the world, humankind has sought clues about the future and attempted to control its fate by appealing to higher spiritual powers. In Africa, the legacy of such efforts is evident in works that display an especially diverse range of artistic expression.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Art of the Gaman, Currier & Ives, Mies, Grofe, & Needleworkers-


- A New exhibition explores the arts and crafts of Japanese-American internees during World War 2 : " The Art of Gaman is devoted to art and crafts made by some of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese who were shipped off to inland detention centers by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's infamous Executive Order 9066. The works on display at the Renwick are provisional and makeshift. They include furniture cobbled together from scrap lumber, simple tools and household goods, and small works of art that in many cases spent decades stored away in garages until broader American recognition of the internment travesty gave the items new historic and cultural vitality." The Article in the Washington Post


March 27, 1813: Nathaniel Currier, American lithographer and lead partner in the firm of Currier & Ives, was born.

March 27, 1879: Edward Steichen, American photographer & a leader of the Photo-Secession Group, was born.

March 27, 1886: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German architect and one of the pioneers of "modern" architecture, was born. His penultimate design was for New York's Seagram Building. "Less is more".

March 27, 1892: Ferde Grofé, American composer who celebrated the American landscape in music, was born.


“In Praise of the Needlewoman. Embroiderers, Knitters, Lacemakers, and Weavers in Art”
By Gail Carolyn Sirna.

“This collection of some 80 paintings celebrates the centuries-old iconography of women engaged in needlework—an activity that has united women from all countries and in all stations of life. As long ago as the Middle Ages, artists sought to capture the needle-worker's quiet concentration and domestic mien, and to convey the social and cultural symbolism of this largely female domain. Here are treatments of the subject by Vermeer, Chardin, Velasquez, and Dalí; by the Pre-Raphaelite school; and by the Impressionists—in particular the works of women artists Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Confucius, Cage aux Folles, Frost & Suits of Lights...


- Envisioning an Abstraction Who Was Also a Man : He’s hard to know. Mao has a visual presence, thanks to his many portraits. But Confucius — Kong Fuzi, or Master Kong, to use one of his Chinese names — is an abstraction, which is one reason that a small, fine, get-acquainted show called “Confucius: His Life and Legacy in Art” at China Institute Gallery is so valuable. It neatly encapsulates some of the ideas that have made him a monument. But it also puts a face to his name, even if that likeness, as seen in paintings and sculptures, is fictional... The Article in the New York Times

- The Fine Art of Selling a Show: Remember when a poster with a little French street waif or a pair of cat’s eyes was enough to sell a Broadway show? Now, with advertising trying to stand out on television, the Internet and mobile devices, choosing the right Broadway campaign often means finding a look that is flexible enough for different platforms, and one that also catches attention quickly. For the coming revival of “La Cage aux Folles,” Sonia Friedman, one of the producers, hung poster candidates on her office walls for a week, then asked herself, “Do I want to live with this for the rest of my life?” The Story at the New York Times


March 26, 1794: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, German painter of the Nazarene Movement, specializing in frescoes and subjects & techniques of earlier centuries, was born.

March 26, 1874: Robert Frost, American poet, was born.


"Oro Plata: Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight"

“Enchanted with the "suit of lights," the heavily embroidered and beaded suit of the bullfight—gold for matadors, silver for the cuadrillas who also play their parts—photographer Peter Müller created this singular portrait of bullfighters and their "second skins." Because he worked with Don Fermín, the designer who clothes many of the greatest Spanish, French, and South American toreros, Müller was able to bring these men and their teams together in his studio. The resulting photographs—including gatefolded panoramas over 28 inches long of entire seven-man teams—reveal both the stunning workmanship of these unique costumes and also the pride and confidence of the bullfighters”.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Super Bowl Bets, Bartok, Toscanini, French Actresses & Hair Combs


- NEW ORLEANS: A 210-year-old oil painting will go on display at the New Orleans Museum of Art this week - the payoff in a Super Bowl wager of high taste. Joseph Mallord William Turner's "The Fifth Plague of Egypt" is part of the permanent collection at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. But for the next three months, it will reside at the New Orleans Museum of Art instead. Museum executives struck up a bet on the outcome of the February showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. The Story at WDSU


March 25, 1867: Arturo Toscanini, Italian conductor, was born. "One of the most acclaimed musicians of the late 19th century and 20th century, he was renowned for his brilliant intensity, his restless perfectionism, his phenomenal ear for orchestral detail and sonority, and his photographic memory. He is especially regarded as an authoritative interpreter of the works of Verdi, Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner."

March 25, 1881: Bela Bartok, Hungarian pianist, regarded by many as one of the most important composers of the 20th century, was born.

March 25, 1921: Simone Signoret, French stage and motion picture actress, was born. The first French actor to win an Academy Award, she also received a BAFTA, an Emmy, Golden Globe, Cannes Film Festival recognition and the Silver Bear for Best Actress.


"Antique Combs & Purses"
By Evelyn Haertig.

A beautifully illustrated, information-packed study of antique from ancient times to the 20th century, but with a vast majority of the focus on Victorian, Art Nouveau, and 20th century specimens. The first book on the subject, it was the result of seven years research, and provides the dealer, collector, and designer with complete information on the history, styles, repair, and display of antique combs and purses, as well as covering rarities, materials and artisans. The author was a veteran collector of vintage beaded purses and wrote several books on the subject.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Legos, Matzohs, Mines, Moons, Morris, & More!


- In the brick of it: When an NYC artist recalled his childhood Legos, something snapped into place : "Nathan Sawaya got a Lego set from his grandparents when he was 5. While most kids outgrow the toy building bricks, this 36-year-old artist is still playing with them. The Manhattanite has made a living selling massive Lego sculptures to everyone from famous musicians to moguls, and he's about to open New York's first full solo exhibit made entirely of the plastic pieces. "Brick by Brick: The Lego Brick Sculpture of Nathan Sawaya" opens tomorrow at the Agora Gallery in Chelsea, focusing on the human form." The Story in the New York Daily News

- Urine Containers, 'Space Boots' and Artifacts Aren't Just Junk, Argue Archaeologists : "California has named the remains of the Apollo 11 mission a state historical resource -- to the delight of the young profession of space archaeologists. They fear that the trash and equipment left behind by the United States' journeys to the moon could someday wind up for sale on eBay if they aren't protected. There is an unwritten law in America's national parks: Carry out what you bring in. When they visited the moon, though, the Americans weren't nearly as considerate or in touch with nature. Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong left behind more than 100 items when they left the moon on July 21, 1969, at 5:54 p.m., Earth Time. The items included four urine containers, several airsickness bags, a Hasselblad camera, lunar overshoes and a complete moon-landing step. The mission was historically significant. But are the urine containers?"
The Full Story at Der Spiegel Online

- The art and architecture of matzoh balls : the Story in the Washington Post


March 24, 1494: Georg Agricola, German scholar and scientist, known as "the father of mineralogy", was born. his book "De Re Metallica" published in 1556, stood for centuries as the definitive and unsurpassed treatise on mining and mining-related metallurgy.

March 24, 1693: John Harrison, the self-taught British clockmaker who invented a working marine chronometer, a long-sought device which solved the problem of establishing the East-West position or longitude of a ship at sea, and revolutionised long distance sea travel and trade, was born.

March 24, 1834: William Morris, English textile designer, artist, writer, poet, socialist and pre-eminent figure in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement, was born.

March 24, 1886: Edward Weston, regarded as one of the most important photographers in the 20th century, was born.


“William Morris. Redesigning the World”

“As an artist, poet, political writer, activist, and public figure, William Morris was astonishingly prolific. His collected writings total 24 large volumes, a body of poetry (for which he was best known in his own day), prose romances, and political essays that alone would constitute a formidable life's work. Today, of course, his reputation relies more on his innovative and plentiful textile designs, his decorative arts business, and his work as a somewhat unlikely and controversial socialist. This beautifully illustrated visual biography—with 100 color and black and white photos and reproductions of his art (up to 17 x 12 inches)—chronicles Morris's life and work from his boyhood in Epping Forest through his association with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the founding of his design firm Morris & Co., his experimentation with illuminated manuscripts, his creation of Kelmscott Press, and the political endeavors of his later years.”

"Designing Utopia. The Art of William Morris and His Circle"

“An exquisite catalogue with many illustrations as well as period photographs documents this important exhibition. William Morris (1834-1896) wished to change the political and social values of Victorian society through design. Inspired by Gothic and Medieval art, his work countered the mass-produced patterns of the period. The exhibition included wall papers, textiles, carpets, furniture, tiles, tapestries, stained glass, and illustrated books. Dr. Stephen F. Eisenman, Professor of Art History at Occidental College, Los Angeles, has written an informative essay dealing with Morris’s art and politics.


"Historic Arts & Crafts Homes of Great Britain"

“Exquisitely photographed and produced, this volume tours ten magnificent British homes designed in the Arts and Crafts tradition. Red House, the only house that William Morris ever built (and that also inspired his design firm), is here, as is Hill House— family home to prominent Glasgow publisher Walter W. Blackie, designed by Scotland's Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Also included are Charleston, home to Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant; Kelmscott Manor, William Morris's idyllic country escape; and Edward Lutyens' eccentric medieval Castle Drogo”.