Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remember My Name: Edmé Bouchardon

The Getty Museum's "Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment" ends with a larger-than-life gesture: the bronze hand of the artist's equestrian statue of Louis XV. The monument was toppled during the French Revolution, and this is all that remains of it. 

Louis XV is remembered for a style of French furniture and "après moi, le déluge." Less survives of the reputation of Edmé Bourchardon (1698-1762), "the greatest sculptor and the best draftsman of his century." That assessment, by critic Charles-Nicolas Cochin, is the stenciling on the wall. You won't walk out 100 percent convinced (Houdon, Watteau…) but the exhibition demonstrates why Bouchardon was so acclaimed. It doubles as a meditation on how fame may pass for reasons hard to pin down. 

The reputation of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is now overshadowed by that of his wife Mary, author of Frankenstein. Percy's poem Ozymandias, on the transience of fame, is now recalled as the title of Breaking Bad episodeRemember my name.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pettibon on Trump

Who knew that Donald Trump was an artistic muse of the 1980s? Raymond Pettibon's No Title (A Certain Donald Trump…) dates from 1986 and is included in "Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work," at New York's New Museum through April 9, 2017. As I noted last week, the 1980s Trump also caught the attention of Jimmie Durham and José Bedia.

Below, Pettibon's 2016 No Title (I spent ayll…).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

L.A. Wins a Donald Judd Dinette Set

Donald Judd, Prototype Desk and Chairs, 1978-1980, jointly owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, purchased for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with funds provided by Kelvin Davis in honor his brother, Paul Davis through the 2011 Collectors Committee; purchased for the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens with funds provided by Kelvin Davis and the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation Acquisition Fund for American Art. Donald Judd Furniture © 2017 Judd Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
LACMA and the Huntington have jointly acquired two knotty pine chairs (1979-80) that Donald Judd designed for his children's use in Marfa, Texas. They go with the Prototype Desk (1978) that LACMA acquired in 2011. The suite will debut at the Huntington in 2018 and thereafter alternate between the two institutions.
The purchase augments a group of pivotal modern furnishings at both museums, starting with an Arthur Mackmurdo Century Guild Dining Chair (1883, below) that is also jointly owned.
LACMA has two Judd sculptures, including the monumental Untitled (for Leo Castelli), 1977, installed in the neglected, tar-pit-adjacent sculpture garden east of the Bing Center. The Prototype Chairs are the first Judd works for the Huntington collection. (Huntington curator Kevin Salatino asked architect Frederick Fisher to "imagine that Donald Judd was a Shaker" in designing the new Jonathan and Karin Fielding Wing.)
Frederick Fisher's shelving for early American boxes in the Huntington's Fielding Wing. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen

Friday, February 10, 2017

UK Bars Export of Getty-Coveted Parmigianino

Britain has placed a temporary export bar on Parmigianino's Virgin and Child with Saint Mary Magdalene and the Infant Saint John, a painting the Getty Museum hopes to buy. The bar, through June 9, 2017, will allow a U.K. buyer to match the Getty's price, revealed as £24.5 million ($30.6 million). Needless to say, that's a record for artist, and notable because the painting is technically a work on paper. It's oil on paper laid down on panel.
An export bar is a foregone conclusion with the kind of paintings the Getty buys from the U.K. The question now is whether any British museum or collector is willing to match the price. If there is interest, the bar can be extended another six months, through December 9, 2017.
(Above, the painting when on loan to the Getty in May 2016. Below, via Bendor Grosvenor's Art History News, the painting hanging at its longtime home, Sudeley Castle—"skied" above a door!)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Eleanor Roosevelt's Favorite L.A. Artist

Mark Hilbert has acquired Milford Zornes' Canyon (1935), a watercolor view of Wall Street, to put on view in Chapman University's Hilbert Museum of California Art, Orange. Zornes (1908-2008) was one of a generation of now-lesser known L.A. artists who once had national reputations. At age 25, Zornes rated a one-artist show at the Corcoran Gallery. FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt saw that exhibition and picked out a Zornes watercolor to hang in the White House.
I'd guess Zornes might have been the first L.A. artist to have a work on view at the White House. Below is Ed Ruscha's I Think I'll… (1983), hung by the Obamas.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Getty Plans Shows on Bellini, Pontormo, Manet

La Stampa has an interview (in Italian) with Getty Museum painting curator Davide Gasparotto. He mentions several ambitious upcoming exhibitions: Giovanni Bellini and landscape (fall 2017); a small show on Pontormo, organized with the Uffizi; and for 2019, an exhibition on late Manet, built around the Getty's Jeanne (Spring). At top is Pontormo's Halberdier, c. 1529.


Opening next month at the Getty Center is "Gerard David: An Early Netherlandish Altarpiece Reassembled" (March 21-June 18, 2017). It will reunite panels now owned by museums in London and Antwerp. The two Antwerp paintings were recently conserved by the Getty. Below, the London National Gallery's Christ Nailed to the Cross (c. 1481).


Monday, February 6, 2017

Art v. Trump v. Art

It's easy to miss, but there's a surprisingly topical piece in the UCLA Hammer Museum's "Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World." It's a deed to Trump Tower—an alternative-fact work-on-paper. The deed is part of a 1987 collaboration between American sculptor Durham and Cuban painter José Bedia, an artist's book titled The Mystery of the Two Islands: The true story of how Cuban Communists gained control of Trump Tower.
At the time, Donald Trump was relatively little known outside of New York. But Trump Tower, opened in 1983, was already notorious as a symbol of bad taste and worse ethics. Trump was regularly in the New York media for lawsuits, mob connections, stiffed contractors, and mislabeled floors (Trump Tower's 58th floor is labeled the 68th, presumably so Trump could charge more). Yet nothing drew more bad press at the time than Trump's destruction of artworks promised to a museum.
The story was extensively covered in The New York Times and revisited last year by Callum Borchers in The Washington Post. I'm drawing heavily on Borchers's account here.
In brief, Trump Tower replaced a Bonwit Teller department story, a prime art deco building that had opened two weeks before the 1929 market crash. The store had two art-deco bas-reliefs of nude dancers and an ornate nickel-plated bronze grille. The Metropolitan Museum wanted these pieces for its permanent collection. Trump promised to donate them to the museum, provided it was practical to remove them. A Met patron agreed to help defray the cost of removal. But on June 5, 1980, the sculptures were jackhammered on Trump's order.  He acted without informing the museum.
A Trump spokesman, "John Barron," told The New York Times that the sculptures were "without artistic merit." It would have cost $32,000 to save them, and their "resale" value was only $9000. As to the bronze grille, "we don't know happened to it."
"John Barron" was a fake name that Trump used in speaking to the media by phone. He pretended to be an employee rather than himself. (Trump admitted the deception in 1990, and in 2006 he named his third son Barron.)
A Met spokesman, Ashton Hawkins—an actual person and VP of the board of trustees—insisted on the Bonwit Teller sculptures' value, artistic and economic (put at $200,000). That made Trump's decision look like not the smartest business move. 
This provoked Trump, as Trump, to comment. According to The New York Times,

“Donald J. Trump said last night that he had ordered the destruction of two Art Deco bas-relief sculptures on the Bonwit Teller Building last week because their removal could have cost more than $500,000 in taxes, demolition delays and other expenses, and might have endangered passing pedestrians on Fifth Avenue.
‘My biggest concern was the safety of people on the street below,’ said the 33-year-old developer, who contended that cranes, scaffolding and the most careful handling could not have assured the safe removal of the cracked and weathered two-ton limestone panels from high on the building’s facade.
‘ If one of those stones had slipped,’ he said, ‘people could have been killed. To me, it would not have been worth that kind of risk.’
“Mr. Trump, who is having the 50-year-old Bonwit building on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street razed to make way for a $100 million glass skyscraper, also said that he had ordered demolition workers several weeks ago to cut up and dispose of a huge Art Deco nickel grillwork over the building’s main entrance because the piece could not have been taken down otherwise.”

In a few days, the cost of saving the sculptures had increased 16-fold, and Trump had become the savior of the common man and woman.
In a follow-up piece The New York Times wrote,

“'There is nothing I would like to do more than give something to a museum,' he said in a recent interview. Why? 'I’ve always been interested in art.' A visitor observed that there was no art in Mr. Trump’s office. The developer considered this for a moment. Then, with a smile, he pointed to an idealized illustration of Trump Tower hanging on one of the walls.
“'If that isn’t art,' Mr. Trump said, 'then I don’t know what is.'"
José Bedia's Piango piano llega legos (Step by Step You Can Go Far), 2000

Jimmie Durham's Snake Eyes!, 2006. Captions include: "SOMETIMES THE CAST OF THE DICE BRINGS ONLY MISFORTUNE… NOTHING WAS WHAT IT SEEMED… AS THOUGH IT WERE TWILIGHT, BUT PERHAPS ONLY BUREAUCRACY AND FAKERY… A MAELSTROM OF CONFUSION…"