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Freer-Sacker Digitization Project: A Modest Suggestion

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The other day, the Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian announced that it had digitized its entire collection and was putting it all online for all to see and use--with more than 90 percent of the images in high-definition resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial uses--as of Jan. 1, 2015. This is good news, and I applaud the initiative. But another sentence in the press release stopped me: “The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public…” Now, I know full well that many … [Read more...]

Happy Thanksgiving, Courtesy of The Bruce

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The Bruce Museum sent a seasonal greeting yesterday that I'd like to share. It's Frans Snyder's Still Life with Fruit, Dead Game, Vegetables, a live Monkey, Squirrel and Cat (c. 1635). It's on view now there, as part of Northern Baroque Splendor: The HOHENBUCHAU COLLECTION from: LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections, Vienna.  Well, part of it is, anyway, through Apr. 12, 2015. Thereafter, the exhibit will travel to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Here's the BG, drawn from the press release: The Hohenbuchau Collection was gathered by Otto … [Read more...]

Two “Transformative” Gifts That Actually Are

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Two lucky museums made big announcements this week--"transformative" gifts of art. And these do seem to fit that bill, no exaggeration. In Los Angeles, a reclusive billionaire named A. Jerrold Perenchio said he would bequest "the most significant works of his collection to LACMA’s planned new building for its permanent collection." The trove includes "at least" 47 art works, including some by Degas, Monet, Bonnard, Manet (at left), Picasso and Pissarro. They would go into the new buildings, designed by Peter Zumthor, planned by LACMA … [Read more...]

It’s A Masterpiece!

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Yes, I wrote another Masterpiece column for The Wall Street Journal, which published in Saturday's paper, headlined Folding Culture and Politics Into Art. Can you guess what it is? I've already mentioned it here, in 2012. I was enamored of the object, a folding screen made in Mexico at the turn of the 18th century, from the first I heard of it, when it was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum.* And when I saw it last year in Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492–1898 there, I wasn't disappointed. What's more, the screen has … [Read more...]

Once More Into the Storerooms >> Discoveries!

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Now it's the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh's turn to find fantastic art works in its storerooms, as many other museums have done. Among the newly discovered pieces: a hand-painted enamel bowl with roundels of butterflies from the Yongzheng period, a “bizarre googly-eyed dragon bowl” and cinnabar lacquer panel (below right) from the Qianlong period, a ritual bronze from the Western Zhou period, a Gupta period Buddha head (at left), a gilded bronze Thai Buddha head and a Bamana Boli figure. Many are going into a reinstallation of the … [Read more...]

A Question to Nobelist Kandel Reveals A Big Gap At the Met

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Last week, I was honored to sit opposite Nobel-prize winner/neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel at a small dinner. Kandel, seeking to understand how memory works, figured it out by studying its physiological basis in the cells of sea slugs. For that, he won the Nobel in 2000. More recently, he has turned some of his attention to art. In 2012, he published The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present. Kandel and his wife, Denise, go to museums a lot. "I would say art is our … [Read more...]

ArtPrize Matures: The People Vs. Experts

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In its sixth incarnation, ArtPrize--the open competition in which the public chooses the winners--is trying a new tack. Not only will experts also weigh in separately--as they have in the past--but also their choice will receive a grand award prize of equal size, $200,000, the same as the public. This is good, more about which in a minute. This year, ArtPrize has 1,536 artist entries, drawn from "51 countries and 42 U.S. states and territories, exhibiting work in 174 public venues throughout the city."  (That's down a bit from last year, … [Read more...]

Is This A “New” Piero della Franscesca? (Corrected)

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"New" works by Old Masters turn up all the time in places like Italy -- especially Italian churches. So it's not surprising perhaps that one of the latest discoveries took place in St. Anthony the Abbott Church in San Polo. There, a fresco -- some art historians say -- is at least partly by the hand of Piero della Francesca. San Polo is about a 165 miles to the north and west of  in the hills just above Arezzo, where Piero created his famous Legend of the True Cross frescoes. A few weeks back, the Italian press published articles, including … [Read more...]

About That Stolen Guercino

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This is just plain bad: Last week, a painting titled Madonna with the Saints John the Evangelist and Gregory Thaumaturgus (1639) was stolen from a church in Modena, Italy. Not only was the church alarm system in active, but also the Baroque masterpiece wasn't insured. It's a big painting -- 10 ft. by 6 ft. -- and reports say it was stolen in its frame, with speculation that the theft was "ordered" by a private collector because a work of this size and renown would be hard ever to resell openly. Unless, speculated the Telegraph in London, it … [Read more...]

Take Control of The Tate, With A Robot, After Dark

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If an interactive experience with art is all the rage these days -- and to some people it is -- the latest project (I don't know what else to call it) at the Tate in London is both in vogue and new. I think -- at least I've not heard of anything like this. It's called After Dark and it just won the inaugural IK Prize, which is going to be awarded annually by the Tate to a project that "celebrates digital creativity and seeks to widen access to art through the application of digital technology." (That's per the press release.) After … [Read more...]

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