The Easel

21st November 2017

Why Would Anyone Pay $450 Million for the ‘Salvator Mundi’? Because They’re Not Buying the Painting

Before reading the story, watch this video clip of the auction (7 min). It really is something! One expert hailed the sale as vindication of the Old Masters market. True, but surely it’s a bigger deal than that. “It’s like taking your dog out for its regular morning walk only for it to be snatched off the street by a pterodactyl. This was not just an acquisition. This was arguably the greatest socioeconomic flex the arts have ever seen”.

How Modigliani’s Jewishness Informed His Art

An exhibition of Modigliani’s drawings focuses on the issue of identity. When he moved to Paris, Modigliani encountered anti-Semitism for the first time. This experience changed his art. Subsequent portraits of friends “conveyed … a degree of masklike opacity. In the artist’s late paintings, there are those who see, those who do not see, and those who cannot be seen or known.” More images are here.

Carolee Schneemann Finally Gets Her Due

Carolee Schneemann is not your average painter. Often referred to as a “first generation feminist artist”, she has long focused on how men and women view their bodies differently. She commonly appeared nude in her early works in order to present the female body as other than the object of male desire. After decades of critical disapproval, this year’s Venice Biennale recognized her with its lifetime achievement award.

Face to face with Murillo at the Frick

Just over a dozen of Murillo’s portraits survive, a handful of which are on show in New York. They are celebrated for their lively, naturalistic style. Included are two self-portraits – intended as advertisements of artistic prowess. One shows him young and in his pomp; the second as a weary single parent. Technical virtuosity is evident in both but the older image has a rarer quality – truthfulness. An excellent video is here.

31st October 2017

EASEL ESSAY Alexander Calder and the Optimism of Modernism: Jed Perl in Conversation with Morgan Meis

In the view of renowned US author and critic Jed Perl, Alexander Calder remains America’s greatest sculptor. Easel Contributing Editor Morgan Meis recently talked to Perl about his biography of Calder (“Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940″) the first volume of which has just been published.

“When so many emigres arrived from Europe – artists, writers – the Calders were the go-to people even for those they didn’t already know… In a larger metaphoric sense that is part of what mobiles are about. The Calders loved dancing. On New Year’s Eve, the Calders would entertain their friends at their house in Roxbury, Connecticut, and they would all still be dancing wildly in the early hours. You can see the connection between that social dancing and the idea of a mobile. Mobiles are about a sense of community, a sense of connectedness, the relations between people, the way parts go together.”

Image: Alexander Calder Vertical Foliage, 1941 © 2017 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York