The Easel

13th November 2018

There has been no greater artist since Andy Warhol than Andy Warhol

An imminent Warhol retrospective in New York will unleash a torrent of reviews. To kick things off this appreciation helps pinpoint the salience of Warhol’s art. “He changed what art is … and where it resides within culture. He fused … popular culture … with fine art, forever repositioning both. A profound and relevant artist”. (Note: Schwartzman is a senior executive at Sotheby’s)

Klimt/Schiele review: Protégé steals the show in tale of two great Austrian artists

A head to head of Viennese modernism. Klimt was older and established, a mentor to Schiele. He produced ravishing female images that are all beautiful, flowing curves. In contrast, Schiele’s drawings are angular, gaunt, “unremittingly electric” His images, in particular, raise difficult gender issues. Nonetheless they are “amazing paintings of human existence.”

Pots, pans and pondering in Chardin’s domestic scenes

One of the year’s more elegant essays. At a time when history painting was the zenith of artistic ambition, Chardin chose humble domesticity. His painting is distinguished by “a capacity to render the everyday charismatic”. In some works exquisite still life objects are put together with distracted humans, showing “both depth and surface … a conjuring of concentration out of emptiness.”

Tintoretto’s drawings bring new surprises and scholarship to his 500th birthday celebrations

Titian bestrode the Venetian art world and did not appreciate the young Tintoretto’s lack of deference. Unbothered, Tintoretto developed his own style – “in-your-face energy”, full of muscular bodies – in contrast to Titian’s “mood and movement”. And he focused on the day to day lives of the poor. An admirer of Titian, for sure; an acolyte – never. More images are here.

Largest collection of Mario Merz igloos pop up in Pirelli HangarBicocca

Not the greatest review, but the show itself is important. Igloos fascinated Merz. They are a nomadic home which reflects our “very temporary era”. They are ambiguous, expressing both individuality and collectivity. And he thought them enigmatic, leading him to write in neon lights “do we go around houses or do houses go around us?”

Russia: Royalty and the Romanovs at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Centuries of shared self-interest between the Romanovs and the Windsors led to a tradition of lavish gift giving – including lots of art. It stopped abruptly with the Russian revolution. British public opinion, unsympathetic to the czar, prevented any offer of sanctuary. The royal family was promptly murdered, ending the dynasty. Those dazzling gifts now memorialise the friendship.

6th November 2018

Striking photos of human scars on earth

‘Post-industrial sublime’ is a neat phrase coined to describe Burtinsky’s large format images of landscapes blighted by human activity. They often have an abstract beauty that, once the image is fully recognized, gives way to an “ominous documentary undertow.” Burtinsky admits “I’ve become hardened like a war photographer”. An interview with Burtinsky is here.

The Hopeful Art of Olafur Eliasson, Who Brought the Sun into Tate

Eliasson hates the view that an artwork “must have a tangible quality in order to have validity”. His diverse output ranges from painting to installations, light shows and “public space” projects. With many of his projects staged in museums, he sees museums as part of the fabric of the “public space …they are essential vehicles for the health and identity of civic society.”

‘I Like Your Photographs Because They Are Beautiful’

A remembrance by Nobel laureate Pamuk of the renowned Turkish photographer – and fellow resident of Istanbul – Ara Guler. “There is no end to beautiful cityscapes in Istanbul, but first, the individuals! The crucial, defining characteristic of an Ara Guler photograph is the emotional correlation he draws between cityscapes and individuals.”

British Museum’s Islamic art finally gets its fairy-tale ending

Militant Islam grabs much of the attention given to the Islamic world. A new display of the British Museum’s collection of Islamic art tries for a broader perspective.  One of the three great collections of Islamic art in the West, it shows an artistic achievement that is more international, diverse, “colourful and boisterous” than usually thought. More images are here and video here..

Goya Kept His Politics Hidden In His Portraits

An art history anecdote. Goya enjoyed royal patronage in Spain but with that came exposure to its turbulent politics. After the French invasion, Goya painted a member of the new regime. Once the Bourbons returned, Goya had a most inconvenient portrait on his hands. His solution was recently discovered with x-ray analysis – overpaint it with yet another masterpiece.

One of the Greatest of His Time

Sergei Shchukin was perhaps the greatest art collector of the twentieth century. A Russian textiles magnate, he bought the best Impressionists, Picasso, Matisse, and more. His biography is reviewed here but the book excerpt better conveys the drama of the collection. One critic notes “snapping up the latest expensive trophy at Art Basel Miami Beach just doesn’t cut it.”