Wednesday, January 04, 2006

What Does it Mean to "See" a Masterpiece?

Nothing raises the blood pressure of the purist in me as much as idiotic schlock like this. Mindless mental midgets...

To create an exhibition of all the 400-year-old masterpieces of the Italian painter Caravaggio, loans would have to be obtained from the most heralded museums of Rome, London, Paris, New York and St. Petersburg.

Churches, smaller museums and private collections also would have to be persuaded to lend cherished works. In other words, it would be "an impossible exhibition" -- the name of a Caravaggio show on view through Feb. 11 at the new Loyola University Museum of Art.

"Caravaggio: Una Mostra Impossibile!" does not feature the actual paintings of the artist, known for his realistic and dramatic treatment of religious themes -- and his rebellious, bad-boy lifestyle.

Instead, high-resolution digital photography has been used to create true-to-scale reproductions that are backlit to mimic the artist's famous chiaroscuro, or interplay between dark and light.
Oh, they take a passing shot at being honest about what they're doing...
Organizers stress the show is not intended to replace the experience of seeing the original art but to serve as an exciting teaching tool. It's also a way to view complete works of a great artist in a single setting at a time when soaring insurance costs and fears of terrorism and theft make such comprehensive exhibitions rare.

"This is a catalogue. It's a very big, full-sized-scale catalogue," said Pamela Ambrose, Loyola's director of cultural affairs.
But they are complicit with the snake-oil salesman who wrote the actual accompanying text catalog for this sideshow sham:
The exhibit, created by Rai-Radiotelevisione Italiana, the Italian government's broadcasting agency, was viewed by more than 300,000 people in Europe starting in 2003 during several stops including Rome, Naples and Malta.

Rai has expanded beyond Caravaggio to capture 20,000 high-definition reproductions of artworks, with the plan to create more "impossible" exhibits organized by artist or theme, according to Renato Parascandolo, Rai assistant director general.

"The aim is to let millions of people all over the world see the masterpieces of Italian art. It's an example of the 'democratization' of art," Parascandolo writes in the exhibit catalogue.
That is a flat-out bald-faced lie! The aim is absolutely nothing of the sort. This project accomplishes nothing...NOTHING...toward letting millions of people all over the world see any masterpiece. The attendees are not "seeing" a single "masterpiece." They're looking at posters.

Now I know...I know...there are possible educational uses of such efforts, but for that shyster to insinuate he's exposing anyone to "masterpieces" is blasphemous and he should be taken out and pummeled to within an inch of his life....and then pummeled some more.
Phoebe Dent Weil is a St. Louis-based art conservator who has worked on several Caravaggios in her career. She toured the "Una Mostra Impossibile" exhibit while lecturing at Loyola on the painting techniques used by Caravaggio and said it is a "wonderful second-best thing" to viewing the originals.

"It's a fantastic teaching tool, so long as you don't confuse the fact that these are reproductions and not the real thing," she said.
So long as you don't read the freakin' catalog, she means.
Viewers can see the cracks that exist in the original canvases, but not the actual texture created by the painter's brushstrokes.
ARGHHHH!!!! That's like saying you can see the members of the orchestra moving their arms, hands, and lips, but not hear the actual sounds coming from their instruments. What's the freakin' point???? It's called PAINT, you halfwits. If the texture wasn't integral to "seeing" the image, Caravaggio would have drawn the damn things.
The show's Italian organizers said they brought in experts to certify that the colors in the digital reproductions matched the originals -- sometimes requiring photos to be taken four or five times.
We-e-e-e-e-ell, so long as it took four or five times, that imbues it with integrity. I mean it only took Caravaggio years to learn enough to create some of those works...but you go ahead and take credit for bringing the "masterpieces" to the masses because you photographed them four or five times.

This kind of crap makes me weep.

48 Comments:

Blogger James W. Bailey said...

It's the ultimate digital divide: those who have the bucks get to enjoy sitting in their private gallery soaking in the pleasures of Caravaggio.

Can't afford to own a Caravaggio? Don't know a billionaire collector who'll invite you over for a private viewing? Adobe Photoshop could be your ticket.

It gets to the heart of a deep question: what per centage of art viewers (lovers) actually "see" the original? The overwhelming majority of people who know of the artist Jackson Pollock have never actually stood before an original Jackson Pollock painting. They have seen reproductions, posters, photographs, but not the original. The more "famous" the artist is, the more dramatic the gap is between those who have seen the original and those who have not, and never will.

Is it live or is it Memorex?

James

1/04/2006 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous George said...

me too.

I saw the Fra Angelico's last week at the Met and may go again today. There were a lot of paintings, several I had never even seen reproductions of before. What was amazing was both the color and the surfaces. The surfaces were very physical, carved or incised in very shallow relief and then frequently gold leafed. The effect was somewhat holographic. Whatever they say there is no way this gets caught on film. (From a purely technical point, some colors, Cobalt Blue for one, reflect light from two points in the spectrum and the pixel captures one or the other.)

"This is not a pipe"

1/04/2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Ron Diorio said...

Ed, I wouldn't sweat it.

I read this and thought it was a brilliant idea - like a big walk through book .... fun - no worse than The Gates.

Is there any difference to to this or a book or documentary on Caravaggio.

Wouldn't you buy a recording of an orchestra playing with a picture of the conductor's arms waving on the cover?

Still I have always wondered about the people who bough the Beatlemania soundtrack album.

1/04/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous crionna said...

Wasn't it the Albert Brooks character in Broadcast News who said that the devil wouldn't be a guy in red with a tail throwing brimstone around, that he'd be someone respected who'd lower our standards just a little bit?

1/04/2006 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ron,

I do see some carefully contextualized value in such an effort (I acknowledged that above), but that line is a quote from the catalog essay:

The aim is to let millions of people all over the world see the masterpieces of Italian art.

This represents a delusional self-importance that is wholly unwarranted in my opinion. It also possibly represents the first step in a descendency down a slippery slope of exhibition standards. When art viewers decide they needn't travel because one day someone with a camera and commitment to at least 4 or 5 takes will bring the next best thing to them, museums around the world will rue the day these freaks headed down this trail paved with good intentions.

Besides, there's often as much value in the pilgramage as there is in the actual viewing.

1/04/2006 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

crionna,

EXACTLY!

1/04/2006 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

This is the most inane thing I've seen a long while. It is to viewing art what phone sex is to sex.

1/04/2006 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

"It is to viewing art what phone sex is to sex."

Franklin is absolutely right. But you know what they say about phone sex: it's relatively cheap, it's damn convenient and you don't have to roll over to be alone!

James

1/04/2006 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

JL of Modern Kicks makes an excellent point about this:

The museums and other institutions which own the works in question had to agree to allow the reproductions to be used. Typically there's a fee for such use, although it may be waived in some cases. Fees vary from organization to organization, and often by use (a full color poster for commercial sale versus a small black and white image in a historical society's newsletter, etc.) What fees did the owners of the paintings charge for this use? And in agreeing to allow their paintings to be used, what do they implicitly say about the importance of the direct experience of art?

What indeed? If their own attendance dwindles, who will they have to blame but themselves?

PS. JL, aw shucks...you've gone and made me blush. ;-)

1/04/2006 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

When I was fifteen I went on an exchange trip to france. One day my exchange family and I went to Lascaux to see the cave paintings. We walked through the dimly lit cave and I marveled at the primitive paintings done so long ago. Only afterwards did I find out that this wasn't the actual cave, it was a reproduction cave for tourists (the real one was getting too deteriorated from all the people traipsing through). I didn't know enough french to read the sign that said the cave I was about to enter was a fake. Needless to say it was a let down when I found out.

I'm sure a lot of visitors to the Loyola will miss the part about the exhibit containing reproductions. It's too bad but it's probably a trend: in the future more and more museums will hang copies of their most valuable work, for insurance or conservation reasons. If you were the Moma, would you hang individual pieces that will then be worth 300 or 400 million dollars, even if they're behind glass?

1/04/2006 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

You raise another important point, Edward.

The only thing museums can do (short of selling the art to the highest bidder, which will naturally draw the wrath of the art world) is "sell" the experience of "viewing" the work in person. I place viewing in quotes because viewing at MoMA has turned into a cattle auction experience - move 'em on in 'n out.

Or, they can sell the experience of viewing the reproductions at your own slow pace through books, posters, etc. available in the IRS defined earned income gift shop.

It's quite interesting to exmaine the IRS Form 990s for major museums and to compare their reported earned income figures to donations, which includes revenue streams from admission fees.

In the present bottom-line art business 501(c)3 environment, what increases net revenue in the gift shop is good for business. I'm not saying I agree with this (I don't) but it is what it is.

If book and poster sales increase from this type of "exhibition", then I'll wager you'll see a lot more of them in the future.

James

1/04/2006 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

These mock-ups or repro's are getting fairly common. Cultural history museums like the new National Museum of The Amer Indian or the African American museum here in Baltimore have many photo reproduction displays. It makes for a very disappointing visit, where's the beef?

1/04/2006 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

I've seen REAL art that made me weep and think the world was ending, so I don't think this is such a huge dilemma. Of course they tried to sell the idea in the catalog; apparently they are deluded enough to believe in it.

But in their defense, few people can have an actual experience with a room of Caravaggios, yet they may be able to appreciate the prints - maybe even think a little about what it means to see a repro rather than the original. Who knows, maybe it will spark a dialog that digs deeper. In the late-19th century everyone freaked out about printmaking. If we're going to consider this blasphemous, we also have to criticize all the painters who have sold out their own images to repros in order to create a lower price point and disseminate their images. There will always be sellouts – they don’t dilute the real thing, they just cater to the people who don’t know the difference.

Hell, I spent years looking at repros in magazines before I could encounter real art. I didn't and don't see it as reckless. I realize that when you open a magazine, you don't expect to see real art, and when you walk into a gallery or museum it's supposed to be the opposite, but that doesn't make it unethical to present graphic repros to the public, especially since we can watch Golden Girls on our iPods and look at internet porn instead of having sex with real people. At least Caravaggio’s dead and can’t get offended. I know plenty of artists whose work gets reproduced backwards or in the wrong color, which totally sucks worse.

Maybe the organizers of this exhibition are misguided, but I think it's eliteist and a little pretentious to think that the public can't benefit from at least seeing repros of paintings that they might never see otherwise. I think Impressionism isn't worth a damn, but they keep sending that crap all over the world for people to gawk at.

1/04/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

but it's probably a trend...

I thought that for a second then wondered. Considering only the near future, the best available reproduction technology is the photograph.
Even with flat art, this has its limitations, the viewing audience is just looking at a picture. It is as if the Museum decided to literally be Sherri Levine, turning inside out, inside out. With more three dimensional work, part of the viewing experience is given up, replaced with a substitution based upon a "you know what we mean" idea (it's a sculptural object in 3 dimensions)

So for the museum, the question becomes; do we show photographs of art? or the art itself? If we cannot afford to assemble a show of certain works, should we exhibit works we have actual access to?
Ultimately the museum visitor will have to ask the question, should we go look at the reproductions of "A"? or just look at jpegs on the web? or buy a good book on the work of "A" or take a trip to Padua?

I have a 25 year old niece who studied art history at UCB. A year ago she made her first trip to NYC, went to the Met and was overwhelmed by the Jackson Pollock there. "I had no Idea" she said, "all I had ever seen were reproductions and slides, it's not the same."

1/04/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Well, I'm often something of an elitist, bemoaning this or that "dumbing down" in the cultural arena, but I think this light-box show is only a problem of context and presentation. As you point out, Edward, what most incenses you is the deliberately misleading catalog text.

Furthermore, having just returned from rural Virginia, where everyone describes me as an "abstract artist" - this, despite most Art World initiates considering my paintings somewhat traditional, even illustrative - I am a proponent of exposing "the people" to art. Unfortunately, museum shows rarely do this and, when work is in a museum, "the people" will approach the displayed work as "the real thing," catalog or no.

It's called PAINT, you halfwits. If the texture wasn't integral to "seeing" the image, Caravaggio would have drawn the damn things.

Sure, but this sort of thing is less important to my parents than to you or me; a Vermeer reproduction on a calendar satisfies my mom as much as the real thing, just as a CD recording of a symphony pleases me no end, despite the condemnation of my "middle mind" by a music purist.

1/04/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

but I think it's [1] eliteist and a little pretentious to [2] think that the public can't benefit from at least seeing repros of paintings that they might never see otherwise.

Edna, I'm guilty as charged of the first accusation (and your point is?) but the second one isn't my responsibility, as it's not what I wrote. It's not the fact that technology now permits one to make a life-sized replica with stunning detail. That's fine. It's that such a reproduction is installed in a museum as if the real thing.

As HH points out, it's mostly the catalog that sticks in my claw. I've lost respect for the museum, but it's the flatout lie therein about what this represents that must be corrected IMO.

Sure, but this sort of thing is less important to my parents than to you or me; a Vermeer reproduction on a calendar satisfies my mom as much as the real thing, just as a CD recording of a symphony pleases me no end, despite the condemnation of my "middle mind" by a music purist.

I enjoy art calendars as well, but I doubt your mother wouldn't find the real Vermeer even more satisfying. I don't know her, but I have had the exquisite pleasure to see a few Vermeers in person.

And again, it's not the ability to record an orchestra I object to. I love listening to recordings. But if I paid good money, got dressed up, went to the Met, sat in the seats, saw the musicians take their seats and then heard a recording, you' better bet I'd be pissed.

How many visitors to the new Loyola University Museum of "Art" will be going to a museum for their first time? What will this exhibition do in setting their expectations? It's a freak show of an exhibition idea to me.

1/04/2006 01:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul Roth said...

Not sure but it seems no one else on this thread has said this...museums are not magazines. They are spaces designated for cultural encounters with objects and artifacts. Museums of art are typically set up so that visitors can experience original works of art -- reproductions are historically used only in their publications and, when included on the wall, to aid in interpretation of the original.

When museums enter territory such as this (which they do more often than you might think these days), they abrogate the historical function of art museums. Let's be honest: in this case Loyola did it for the money that would come from heightened attendance of a show from a big name artist. Pure and simple. You don't need to be cynic to realize that simple, crucial fact.

As museums increasingly engage in such technological gimmicry as a means of fulfilling the "entertainment" side of their mission, it is worthwhile for people to consider what this means about society's changing valuation of the "original," in the abstract; and how intellectually-focused institutions are increasingly driven by a variety of factors to "earn their keep," even at the cost of their identity, and - yes - their soul. Perhaps the whole field is in some kind of jeopardy?

1/04/2006 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Edward,

"But if I paid good money, got dressed up, went to the Met, sat in the seats, saw the musicians take their seats and then heard a recording, you' better bet I'd be pissed."

Would you still be pissed if it's a wannabe John Cage performance art student MFA thesis stunt? :)

James

1/04/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

museums are not magazines

Eccoci!

1/04/2006 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Mr. Roth offers some very interesting thoughts.

I have long argued that unless, and until, the IRS clamps down on earned income revenue stream schemes, that the corrupting influences that easily tempt museums to sell out their mission for entertainment will only continue to grow. Earned income is subject to tax. Currently, and for many many years, museums have had a free ride in this area of tax law.

The IRS does not grant 501(c)3 tax exempt status to a museum for the mission of providing entertainment to the public. They are legally charged with and mandated to provide education. That's why they're given the 501(c)3 letter of determination.

If the IRS were to seriously ramp up its audits of museum that have engaged in the rampant massive abuse of the tax law in the area of earned income, it would dramatically (overnight pratically) force museums to concentrate solely on their identified legal mission and to jettison the Disneyland/Pixar b.s.

James

1/04/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Edward:

Your point about the experience is well taken and, yes, my mother would enjoy the "real thing" more than a Vermeer calendar reproduction. I'm guilty of a little hyberbole, even though I do think she might be happy with the calendar, all the same. Not sure what that suggests....

Paul Roth writes:

They are spaces designated for cultural encounters with objects and artifacts.

True, but as we all know this is a complicated arena (given the colonial, cold war history of most institutions) and I feel a society is better served if its museums view their mission as one of education, through whatever means possible. Granted, light-box reproductions are, um, less than ideal.

1/04/2006 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose someone could just create a website with reproductions of the paintings and undercut this whole stupid PT Barnum circus eh?

1/04/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Anonymous,

Alexandra Silverthorne of Solerize This has already rendered that public service - and at no cost to the taxpayer's I might add!

---

On Exhibit: Caravaggio...kinda

http://solarizethis.blogspot.com/2006/01/on-exhibit-caravaggiokinda.html

1/04/2006 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Hmmm... what's my point. My point is that it's pretentious to assume that people don't know the difference between posters and paintings.

HH, I agree with you. Museums have an educatation mission that deserves to be a factor in this debate. Besides, we're not talking about the Met here. I suspect there is little danger of first-rate curatorial efforts and art historical scholarship being jeopardized by a show of digital prints of Caravaggios.

That's not to say that a museum's reputation shouldn't suffer as a result of its staff's (or hire's) retarded ideas.

1/04/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My point is that it's pretentious to assume that people don't know the difference between posters and paintings.

It was a joke Edna.

I'll outline my concern with a hypothetical future.

Say this exhibition is a huge hit and other cash-strapped university museums line up to get their own "impossible exhibitions." The creators of this show certainly hope that happens. Eventually, these shows begin to shift the expectations of what a local museum can exhibit such that a more modest exhibition with the real work seems a sorry substitute.

Further, because these photos are reproducible, you could distribute the same exhibition to virtually every museum across the country that could cough up the licensing fee. Again, I'm sure RAI has thought this far ahead.

Next is the same sort of nation-wide marketing for exhibitions we see for films. Once that much money is involved, you can bet the "real" artwork exhibitions will begin to seem quaint and pointless.

What this leads to is the minimization of up and coming artists in the museum context (even more than they are now). The way that proven brand stories/characters (Batman, Spiderman, Dukes of Hazzard) with built-in audieneces get spun into movies again and again, but new ideas/scripts/characters have to struggle to get backing.

It's a bleak future in my opinion.

1/04/2006 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Yeah, well, I guess I just think we're getting our panties in a giant collective wad over something that'll all come out in the wash. Ew, that's kind of gross, no? If this catches on, and everyone starts doing shitty pseudo-shows, I'll beat the shit out of everyone at Loyola in a show of solidarity.

1/04/2006 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I guess I just think we're getting our panties in a giant collective wad over something that'll all come out in the wash

Appreciate the solidarity (and if it happens, you'll get a call), but I'm guessing you're not familiar with my writing enough to know the "outrage" in this post is hyperbolic more for entertainment value than to signify any sincere anger. I strongly object to the idea of this exhibition, but the pantie bunching is mostly my poetic way of asking folks to pay attention to such shenanigans moving forward.

1/04/2006 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Edward,

What you've described in your Future Shock vision is perfectly acceptable in the for profit world. Indeed, in D.C. we have a wonderful for profit business model of a "museum" with the International Spy "Musuem". This is a joke, of course.

If this new definition of the rewrite of the word "not for profit museum" is the future, which unfortunately I believe it is, then it seems to me that it becomes even more important for the art world to hold not for profit museums accountable to their educational mission.

The contemporary art world will never win a battle with Hollywood. If Disney wakes up one day and decides it can rake in a gazillion dollars opening up a chain of galleries in every mall across the country that features digital takes on famous paintings to push a designer product line of books, DVDs, Jackson Pollock shower curtains, etc., then they will do it.

What Disney cannot compete against is providing educational art programs focused on original works of art that are funded by tax exempt donations to a 501(c)3 museum. There's not enough money in that for them to undertake such a venture.

I strongly believe that holding 501(c)3 museums accountable for their mission and purpose as stated in their corporate charter and IRS application for 501(c)3 status would make these arguments irrelevant.

This is a great discussion. Thanks for posting this today. It's given me something to concentrate on at the airport in Memphis!

James

1/04/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Well in that case, I'll check back for a daily dose of hyperbolic poetry. Is that like Haiku, but longer?

Let's lobby for panty wads with 501(c)3 status!

Ciao babies! Edna

1/04/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Edna,

Panty wads are members of home owners associations. Those dudes usually organize under 501(c)4 or 501(c)7 status!

James

1/04/2006 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous callmelordjim@hotmail.com said...

So I was having coffee with Caravaggio the other day when he told me that, once he got over the initial shock of the thing, he was rather impressed with the show, had no idea that photo reproduction technology had reached such heights, admired the determination of the folks who took the trouble of trying four or five times to get the colors just right, and that he preferred one lump not two. "But Cara," I said, (even though I know sometimes he goes by the less formal "Gio") "aren't you bothered by the creepy, fraudulent nature of the whole thing?"
"Actually no, " he said. "I'm flattered that everyone went to the trouble. Who knew?"
So I guess that settles that.

1/04/2006 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Cara (or Gio) could stand to raise his exhibition standards a bit, me thinks. I understand he must have been flattered, this long after he died, that anyone still gave a damn, but imagine how much more flattered he would have been if one young viewer, seeing one of his real paintings for the first time, had an epiphany about painting that changed the course of the medium for ever rather than just "Cool, you can see the cracks in the painting."

1/04/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

I heard he thinks the backlighting is "genius." How swell that the word genius is being thrown around again, after so many years of disuse! He also thought the printing was "masterful," and heralded the advent of bathing.

G-G-G-GIO!

1/04/2006 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear callmelordjim@hotmail.com said...,

Is it possible that the only reason Gio is going along with this scheme is to raise money because he's a silent investment partner on a Mel Gibson film deal?!

Caravaggio: The Evil-doer Whose Work Inspired the Imagery of The Passion - http://www.cryingvoice.com/Gibson_film4.html

“The only reason anyone knows anything about this guy is from prison records, because he was a wild man, a rabble rouser. But I think his work is beautiful. I mean it's violent, it's dark, it's spiritual and it also has an odd whimsy or strangeness to it. And it's so real looking. I told Caleb I wanted my movie to look like that and he said, 'Yeah, OK.'”

– Mel Gibson (FIRST-PERSON: Mel Gibson's 'Passion' for Jesus)

I think Mel's take on Cara in the film will be along this Opus Dei approved line:

---

Caravaggio was a bisexual pervert, who rose to fame with the help of “Cardinal Francesco del Monte, who was rumored in his lifetime to be homosexual, and who sponsored several of Caravaggio's more romantic paintings of young men.” (Caravaggio: A Passionate Life, Editorial Reviews)

“Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Cardinal Del-Monte bought Caravaggio's painting 'The Cardsharps', and subsequently invited Caravaggio to join the homosexual menagerie of young musicians and painters that he kept in his mansion. Caravaggio's homosexual preferences are evident from his paintings, and are known from other independent sources.”(Caravaggio: The Violent Enlightenment)

All his “religious”paintings contain unbiblical elements, but it would take a whole book to analyze them. Anyhow, the greatest blasphemy committed by him is the depiction of Jesus Christ as an ordinary human being and as a feminine figure. In the blasphemous Supper at Emmaus Jesus is depicted as a plump, androgynous person in a red robe.

In his time, Caravaggio's paintings were considered vulgar and heretic. The Church rejected his paintings, but he had protectors in high places. In respect to this, nothing has changed since then.

---

Another homosexual film conspiracy! Somebody call Oliver Stone. Clay Shaw may be dethroned by Gio!

James

1/04/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

It makes me think of two things; 100 years ago music was a big part of the curriculum at high schools because there were a lot of jobs for musicians. If you wanted to hear music you had to play it yourself or go to a club, concert or church. Now music is seen as an elective course or absent all together because mass produced recordings made live music a luxury and being a musician the province of big name stars with reputations to match their distribution channels. Don't try this at home, folks.

Second, one hundred years later huge corporations control the distribution channels and decide who gets a place at the table based on who knows what, skim all the profit for themselves, leaving the few musicians left to feel grateful they can make a living touring the world or retiring to Branson or Vegas to play schlock for the tourists.

These boardroom types want to interpose themselves like a tollgate at the entrance to culture. Problem is their priorities are all wrong

1/04/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous callmelordjim@hotmail.com said...

On the way out to the car after coffee, Gio grabbed my elbow and said, "You know, it's sort of like this Chrysler 300 with the Bentley grill that I'm driving. Sure, everybody knows it's not the real Bentley...But goddam, it feels great when you're behind the wheel. Does it mean I don't want the real Bentley? Hell no. But when in Rome.....er, when at Loyola."

P.S. There are homosexual cardinals?? Say it ain't so!

1/04/2006 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

This digitized dog and phony show amplifies the absurdity of our experience of art gained through the tiny windows of bad text book and magazine prints. What can we really know about artworks that we haven't personally confronted? Yet, how can we personally confront all the art that we must in order to be aware, empowered artists?

To quote the freaky kid from The Ring, "It's a conundrum."

1/04/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Art museums in general tend to take art out of context. Context is important to understanding the work, not looking at it but understanding it. Whether it's a digital reproduction or a painting removed from the space it was designed for, the experience is diluted.

Basically what this museum has done is to create giclees of original works. It's done all the time - museum stores prove this. Maybe what we should be suggesting is that museums return original works to their original contexts and all of us who don't live there - we should view the giclees.

Not seriously, but it is a logical conclusion.

1/04/2006 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What can we really know about artworks that we haven't personally confronted? Yet, how can we personally confront all the art that we must in order to be aware, empowered artists?

the freaky kid is right.

That reminds me of a statistic I heard once, but can't recall the source: The average American college student has read more books by his sophomore year than Samuel Johnson (who during his time was noted for having read more books than any man alive) had read in his entire life.

1/04/2006 07:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

It's art as rock concert or Art-Lite, more about colorful splash rather than deeper understanding. On the one hand, I don't mind it if they're at least honest about what it is, and so long as some part of the exhibit demonstrates the distinction between the images in this exhibit and the real things. I'd be even more open to it if they merely highlighted sections of the original paintings as a means of demonstration. But this exhibit is troubling because it 1) replicates entire canvasses and 2) denies the viewer brushstrokes, shadows, and other dimensional elements that were of the artist's original concept. (Presumably a good digital print shouldn't even need to be goosed with back lighting.) These images sound more like backlit outdoor billboards.

1/04/2006 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger patsplat said...

It's hard for me to disagree with you -- its wonderful when anyone cares enough to get angry, especially about art.

But Ed, most (all?) successful artists make work that reproduces beautifully (part of the fun of the site, actually). How else do you spread the word? And given that, how many of them are playing to the camera?

In fact, I'd say most artwork looks better in spread than in person, though there are the various tactics of intimidating the audience into subservience with size / OCD / etc.

So sure, this is an old fuddy master, not one of our present day media whores (jk). There's enough that comes through in a reproduction of Caravaggio's work that I can see the value in seeing a poster size, 300dpi print.

Or buying a book, for that matter. Do you feel the same way about art books?

1/05/2006 12:48:00 AM  
Blogger adrian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/05/2006 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger adrian said...

I took a film class taught by Paul Roth a billion years ago--yeah, before gio was born--and I remember him saying that he liked teaching cause it was like curating. He could pick the texts that would pick his students brains...

Thing is I agree that the museum is a space for original works of art but Loyola is an educational institution and here it is curating these faux-works backlit monstrosities to educate. There would be a problem if Paul had to come to class with a master 35mm of Kiss me Deadly to show our class the last great film noir.

So in curation there's always the intent of educating. Should education come first? Cause I kindof want to see those lightboxed Caravagio's now

1/05/2006 01:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

There's enough that comes through in a reproduction of Caravaggio's work that I can see the value in seeing a poster size, 300dpi print.

Or buying a book, for that matter. Do you feel the same way about art books?


There is plenty of value to this, I agree. What alarms me is are two things: exhibiting this in an "art" gallery and the false advertising in the catalog. I'd be happy to go see this if it were held in some other venue. I'm sure it's interesting. But personally, I've lost a bit of respect for Loyola's decision making now. None of this is related to art books, though, imo. The context for what they provide is clear.

1/05/2006 07:02:00 AM  
Blogger Perry said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/05/2006 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Patsplat writes:

In fact, I'd say most artwork looks better in spread than in person, though there are the various tactics of intimidating the audience into subservience with size / OCD / etc.

At first I recoiled when I read this...but then I accepted it, realizing I agree in most cases. Is this a function of conditioning? Is this why I prefer the headphone experience to a live show and, often, the catalog to the exhibition?

I mean, I love seeing paintings in person - and sculpture is almost silly in reproduction; like a saved concert ticket stub, it is more about reminding one of an experience than offering one anew - but I am equally thrilled to page through a catalog in the studio. Perhaps our generation manufactures images, not paintings? This certainly connects with the SuperFlat aesthetic touted by Murakami's tribe, but I've always reacted against his philosophy, even though it is historically valid.

Anyway, this is getting off subject...it does make me wonder about the future of digital museums, though. As resolution and bandwidth continue to improve - and people continue to adjust to digital absorption - it seems the trans-Atlantic museum meccas may become a thing of the past.

Just two years ago, I mourned the passing of print - in favor of an increasingly digital media - and complained that I couldn't even read articles on a screen. I printed out every article I was interested in and, when I did try to read online, my eyes became tired and my brain fried. Now, however, I read page upon page of text on the screen each and every day (at least when I'm at the day job). In just two years, I've become an online whore!

Plug it in, plug it in...A thought that makes me as ill as it does excited.

1/05/2006 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ML, totally agree with your comments, "Art museums in general tend to take art out of context. Context is important to understanding the work, not looking at it but understanding it. Whether it's a digital reproduction or a painting removed from the space it was designed for, the experience is diluted."

Seems a bit strange to bemoan the loss of texture (which doesn't play as great a role in Caravaggio's works imo as, say, the abovementioned example of Pollock), when more often than not so much has been already lost in the sterile viewing experience of a museum, especially in the case of those works once installed in churches (site-specific art avant la lettre).

I was looking at some images from the official website of the installation at Castel Sant'Elmo; it is quite apart from a usual hangings and does a good job of signalling these both as reproductions, and as a completely artificial grouping (though the Loyola installation does seem a bit more ambiguous).

On a side note, I recently went to the Caravaggio exhibition now in Milan. I was tired that day, saturated on art (occupational hazard of studying art history), and was just not in the mood for any epiphanies. A reproduction on a better day would probably have been more satisfying for me.

As for the long-term consequences, I don't know. I do think the lines in the end are clear enough, both in the minds of curators and museum-goers, that a slippery slope into reproduction-only museums is unlikely.

1/05/2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Felix Salmon said...

You're wrong, and this is why.

1/11/2006 12:36:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home