Tag Archives: Picasso

WE’RE SURPRISED HOW MUCH WE LIKE THIS PLACE

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Luxury yachts and a crowded beach. All the things we’re supposed to hate in a resort town.

We Australians don’t visit France’s Côte d’Azur for its beaches. We don’t like paying to sit on a deckchair or renting a towel. We hate the idea of private beaches for hotel guests only.   

On the other hand, we don’t know any Australian resort towns with covered markets, massed petunia baskets hanging above cobbled alleyways and a Picasso Museum.  Continue reading

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ART TOURISM – what if the paintings were fake?

I’ve just read Joost Zwagerman’s entertaining book Duel, in which a subversive young artist substitutes her copy of a famous painting for the original in a museum. It fools the gallery’s director. Visitors don’t notice any difference. None but the gallery’s conservator can tell the real painting from the fake.

It got me thinking…

While we’re travelling, we spend a lot of money, time and effort visiting great art museums to see famous paintings. Even if we have little interest in art when we’re home, we feel that in Paris, Amsterdam or New York we ought grab the chance to see ‘real’ Rembrandts, Picassos or van Goghs.

Having forked out our hard-earned cash for our entry tickets, we expect to see real Da Vincis, original Renoirs and 100% genuine Monets. We marvel at the technical artistry, are moved by their beauty and feel we are in the presence of greatness. Would we be half so excited if we knew we were looking at fakes?

Suppose the Rijksmuseum announced that because their Rembrandts and Vermeers were in danger of deteriorating, they all had to go into climate-controlled storage, and meanwhile they would be replaced on the museum walls by reproductions. We can assume the copies will be so good that an expert would need a microscope and a chemistry set to tell the difference. Would we still queue up to see them?

Or what if the Louvre fessed up that the Mona Lisa had been in a vault since 1963 and visitors had been paying to shuffle past a poster ever since? Would we feel ripped off?

Suppose the MoMA offered to make numerous excellent copies of each its greatest treasures, then send them off as travelling exhibitions. It would save a fortune in insurance costs and everybody could enjoy them at an affordable price. Would anybody be interested?

A few years ago Mrs T and I went to an exhibition in Brussels of work by the Breughels, Elder and Younger. Pieter Breughel the Younger set up a studio and employed artists to produce reproductions of his father’s work. There was nothing fraudulent about this. In those days when travel was difficult it was the only way to have the paintings reach a wider audience. The reproductions were presented as copies and sold for much less than the originals. But in a number of cases we found the reproductions technically superior, sharper and more aesthetically pleasing. We were just as happy with the ‘phoney’ versions as with the originals.

So why are we so obsessed with seeing the real thing? Because we want to know that when we peer closely at an individual brush stroke that we are seeing the exact moment that Vermeer painted the pearl earring. We’ve heard of Vermeer; the name of an imitator means nothing to us. And we can’t help speculating on the astronomical sum the work would bring on the open market, and comparing it to the pittance the artist earned for painting it.

But isn’t this ridiculous? Surely a good painting is a good painting is a good painting, whoever created it. If it moves you or sparks your interest or speaks to you in a particular way, why should it matter who created it or when, or how much it last sold for? The experience is supposed to be about the artist communicating his or her idea of what is beautiful or interesting with us the viewers. An accurate copy could probably do this just as well as the original.

Strangely, we don’t seem to mind much if sculptures or buildings are reproductions. We know that a Rodin bronze is one of a series which came out of the same mould. We’re happy to admire the rebuilding of towns like Ypres and Dusseldorf after their original buildings were bombed flat. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the original sculptures from Prague’s lovely Charles Bridge are in a vault somewhere, protected from the visitors and the vandals, and those we see out there on the bridge are reproductions. Does it matter? Not to me.

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AMSTERDAM’S GREAT ART – for a limited time only…

It’s a particularly brilliant time for art exhibitions in Dutch galleries at the moment. Mevrouw T and I are fans of art – maybe we don’t know as much about it as we should, but we know what we like, and we very much like what we are seeing right now.

Of course in Amsterdam there are always the Rembrandts and Vermeers in the Rijksmuseum. It is being renovated at the moment, with work set to drag on till at least 2013, but I regard that as a plus. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Rijksmuseum is simply too big to take in at a sitting (or rather, a wandering) so for first time visitors a tour of the highlights which are on display may well be a better option.

The Van Gogh Museum is brimming with Van Goghs any time of year, and people queue to get in to see them. The Van Gogh has a new Gaugin exhibition at the moment. http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp

On the Amstel canal in the newly-opened (2009) Hermitage Museum there are some of the best works of Matisse (notably his very famous ‘Dance’) as well as Picasso, Kandinsky, Malevich and others. If the Hermitage can keep presenting work as good as this, it is a worthy rival to the big two above.

It’s only on until May 16, but we highly recommend the exhibition in the Jewish Historic Museum Gedurfte Verzamelen or “Daring Patronage”.  This was an unexpected treat. The collections of three wonderful Jewish art patrons from the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries are on show. The highlights are three superb Chagalls, including his green-faced violinist, and a selection of Piet Mondriaan’s paintings, proving he could do more than just rule a few black lines and colour in the boxes. http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/daring-patronage

The Rembrandthuis, the house where Rembrandt lived, has an exhibition of early photography: http://www.rembrandthuis.nl/cms_pages/index_sub.php?url=actueel_en.php&path=1,0,0&nav_lang=en

Meanwhile down in Den Haag (the Hague), a 40 minute train ride away, the Gemeentemuseum has a superb Kandinsky retrospective.
http://www.gemeentemuseum.nl/index.php?id=1&langId=en

Tip: For anybody planning to visit four or more museums in Holland, a museumkaart (museum card) is excellent value. It is valid for most museums in the country, good for a year, and can be bought at most major museums. We are wearing out our museum cards by having them swiped so often. Cost: EUR35 plus EUR4.95 ”handling costs”. Why don’t they just say they cost EUR40? Since individual museum entry is EUR7.50 to EUR12.50, that’s still a very good deal.

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HERMITAGE AMSTERDAM – from Russia with love

Hermitage and Amstel River

The Dutch and the Russians go way back as allies. In 1813 Peter the Great sent some Cossacks to help the kick the French out of Holland. The royals on both sides got matey and Prince William of Orange married Anna Pavlovna Romanova in 1816. Hitler’s mistake in invading Russia hastened the end of German occupation of the Netherlands. Dutch supercoach Guus Hiddink now trains the Russian World Cup soccer team.

Now there’s an art gallery connection. Last year the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg opened a regional branch in Amsterdarn. The Hermitage has more paintings lying around in the dusty cellars than it has walls to hang them on, so it was a sensible idea to lend some of their surplus pics to their Dutch pals.

Amstel River

Amsterdam had a nice big building on a spectacular site on the Amstel River. For three hundred years it had been a home for old people, but with the rising standards of care demanded in modern Holland, it was no longer considered suitable for housing anybody. So in 2007 the last old person moved out, and the redevelopment team under architect Luuk Kramer moved in.

They did a beautiful job. The fabulous Matisse to Malevich exhibition has just opened and will be in Amsterdam till September. It features some of Matisse’s masterpieces, including the stunning Red Room and his famous Dance II (those girls holding hands and dancing in a circle), as well as some of the best work of his fellow “fauves”, Derain and de Vlaminck. Then there’s a room of full of great Picassos, and another of Kandinsky’s bright-coloured landscape period as he moved towards abstraction.

The view of the Amstel from the gents’ toilet is lovely too.

The displaced old people are not entirely forgotten in this museum. Downstairs in the cellar is a reconstruction of a 1725 kitchen, to show how the old people used to live, on a diet of artificial potatoes, apparently. Upstairs is a super modern Luuk Kramer designed café – so smart that we assumed we couldn’t afford coffee there.

I suspect most visitors go to St Petersburg for one main attraction – the Hermitage. Shame it’s so complicated and so expensive to get there. It’s much cheaper and easier to get to the Amsterdam branch.

TIP: A Dutch ‘museumkaart’ (museum card) gives unlimited access to most museums in the country. It is valid for a year, costs 40 Euros and is good value if you’re planning to visit five museums or more. You can buy a museumkaart at all major museums.

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