The Easel

26th September 2017

The Surprising History (and Future) of Paperweights

Cheap paper led to more letters and documents, for which people needed … paperweights. By the 1860’s the novelty had worn off but not before glassmakers achieved stunning levels of technical and artistic proficiency. A century later, a revival, this time without the merest hint of functional purpose. A video on paperweight masterpieces (46 min) is here.

19th September 2017

America—What’s in a Name?

Los Angeles’ has a big Latino population but cares little for Latin American art. The Getty has responded with Pacific Standard Time, a “mammoth” initiative focused on Latino and Latin American art. An “undeveloped” market is not helping, says a curator: “It is only when the collecting community gets involved in a particular type of art that museums can really engage in a meaningful way,” Some local press is here.

Camera Obscura

It’s impossible not to be fascinated by Vivian Meier. Working as a nanny paid the bills but her secret preoccupation was street photography, for which she had “magisterial gifts”. Meier made numerous images but printed relatively few. Those she did scarcely overlap with those that have brought posthumous fame. A biography fills in some blanks but she remains a “particularly vivid … ghost”. Multiple images are here.

Vase to Vase

Bernard Leach is often called the “father” of British studio pottery. But by extolling the humble domestic pot he inadvertently introduced the craft / art distinction that has plagued ceramics. A major survey show suggests this argument is now losing relevance as ceramics break out of “the specialized craft gallery context and [come] into the larger world of art”. An excellent overview of British ceramics is here.

China’s 8 Brokens

Bapo painting became popular with China’s emerging middle class in the nineteenth century. With its hyper-realistic style – radically different from traditional Chinese painting – and coded allusions, it was more witty than scholarly. Bapo also provided a platform for coded dissent at the presence of Western occupying forces. Forgotten after 1949 it is now being rediscovered by curators and collectors.