As someone who once went out after dinner as a graduate student and spent my last remaining dollars on a used book, figuring that I could squeeze an advance on my next stipend disbursement out of the college dean the next morning, I get what Count Carl Gustaf Tessin was about. Tessin was a Swedish politician, man of letters, memoirist, and art lover who, following the success of his party in 1738, accepted an appointment as an ambassador to the court of Louis XV. Once in Paris, he embarked on a glorious binge of collection, commissioning, and buying vast numbers of paintings and prints.
Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époch opens at the Phillips Gallery Saturday, presenting for the first time in the United States a rare collection of ninety-six prints and posters from the artist’s lithographic period, along with five works by his contemporaries. This exhibition is the first collaboration between the Phillips and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and allows its patrons a glimpse at the lively nightlife of the turn of the century and the celebrated figures who enjoyed it, and a look at the peak convergence of art and advertising in the posters that lined the streets of Paris.
Midway along the path of life’s journey, I found myself lost in a dark wood.
This is how Dante Alighieri began his epic poem La Comedia, the so-called Divine Comedy, which tracks his journey of the soul through hell, purgatory, and finally into heaven, in a quest to better his own soul. Written in beautiful rhyming Italian and using complex imagery and intricate references, the poem is difficult enough to translate, let alone to reinterpret through dance.
One does not have to struggle to find a polemic about cultural decline that focuses on the art world. However, Sohrab Ahmari’s The New Philistines stands apart because it examines these questions on serious, philosophic grounds, avoiding the complaining tone of similar works.
Ahmari (who is a London-based editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal) has written a finely argued volume that does not focus so much on the rote messaging inherent in most modern art today. Rather, he shows how the left’s increasingly strict demands for ideological orthodoxy has led to a dearth of creativity and dynamism.
Reviews of the Kennedy Center’s Marriage of Figaro have been middling, and I mostly concur with that assessment. Thankfully, when you are working with one of the most brilliant comedies conceived by man, even a middling production can be a treat.
The orchestra, led by director James Gaffigan, lacked oomph. Its overture was a tad on the soft side, while some of its arias—notably Cherubino’s stirring, love-drunk “Non So Più”–were charged through at such speed that mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Romano did not have an opportunity to showcase her talent beyond her ability to recite tongue-twisters.
The hottest art exhibit in New York this summer is the Museum of Ice Cream. It is a pop-up museum that opened on July 29 across from the Whitney Museum on Gansevoort Street in Chelsea. The Museum of Ice Cream was originally scheduled to close at the end of August, but due to popular demand it extended its run until September 10. Maryellis Bunn, the 24-year-old creator of the Museum of Ice Cream, tells us that she conceived of the idea as a child and now, as an adult with the means to do it, has made that dream a reality.
With few exceptions, the patrons of the Museum of Ice Cream are not children. They are well-dressed New Yorkers, conspicuously of the Millennial variety.
Antoine Watteau had a brief but influential career as a painter in France at the turn of the Eighteenth Century. The vast majority of his works are the kind of scenes we have come to expect from that period: powdered aristocrats in landscaped gardens; lovers, also in landscaped gardens; the occasional fête gallante, again, in a landscaped garden. Watteau painted with a cool pallet of muted greens, blues, and yellows, occasionally punctuated by a splash of red on a coat or azure on a vest. Most of the figures he depicted are rendered in only a few layers of paint, giving them an illustrated quality that we now associate with cartoons. It is style of painting, both in form and subject-matter, that readily lent itself to the decoration of tea sets and dinnerware.
Damien Hirst’s wares are exhibited in one room of the National Gallery, a cramped elevator lobby on the bottom floor that leads directly into a gift shop. For anyone else, the placement could be mistaken for an insult; for Hirst, the metaphor fits. Hirst came from humble and troubled beginnings—from the bottom floor of society, so to speak. Early in life he fell in with a bad crowd and had several run-ins with the law, but soon after discovered his talent for showmanship and salesmanship. His professional ascent was meteoric, easily outstripping the young Brits who competed against him for attention in the 1990s. Now the begoggled businessman sits commandingly in the industry C-suite.