Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here Comes Trouble

The Michael Vick school of museum programming holds that the way to draw crowds is to put two alleged adversaries in the same small space. LACMA is trying something of the kind tonight, with its Michael Govan v. Martin Scorsese smackdown—er, conversation. The participants don't have much left to disagree about, but predictably, the event is sold out. LACMA's Allison Agsten will be tweeting.
A more substantial confrontation seems to be brewing for Feb. 2. There will be a daylong Rembrandt Symposium at the Getty Center's Harold Williams Auditorium. At the last big Rembrandt conclave, at Herstmonceux castle in June 2009, scholar Gary Schwartz had this frosty exchange with Peter Schatborn (a curator of the Getty's big Rembrandt drawing show):

Schwartz: Peter, do you still think that the core list of Rembrandt drawings is no larger than 70?
Schatborn: Yes. It may be a bit larger, say 75.
Schwartz: Have you ever published the list?
Schatborn: No.
Schwartz: Why not? Shouldn’t you and Martin [Royalton-Kisch] back up your claims with argued information? In preparation for my book of 2006 I began assembling a list of the drawings that answer to your criteria, and there were 125 items on it.
Schatborn: If you show me your list I will cut it down to 75.


Says Schwartz, "If anyone else in the hall shared my impression that this was a trifle arrogant, they kept it to themselves." The core group of "certain" Rembrandt drawings is the linchpin of the Getty show. Schwartz has posted his list on his website and promises some pointed Q. and A. at the Getty symposium's opening talk: Peter Schatborn on "The core group of Rembrandt drawings." "There I hope to spark a more satisfying discussion of this matter than that at Herstmonceux," writes Schwartz. "Unless, of course, Peter Schatborn succeeds to the contentment of the field to slash my list back down to 75."
Tickets are still available for this, at $15 (lunch included).

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