As illustrated by the Administration's lame excuses for ignoring the Geneva Conventions and civil liberties laws, ideals are codified to ensure we remain our best selves when times get tough. It's easy to live up to ideals when everything's peachy. Your best self is the one that emerges through a crisis. Keeping your priorities clear is the surest means of doing that with honor.
A test of a nation's priorities is being played out in Britain at the moment. Having just lost in their effort to keep two Pietro Cipriani statues in the country (the Getty purchased them for an undiclosed amount, reportedly at least $10million though), the next big test comes in the form of two Titians. From the New York Times:
In a parallel effort to prevent the departure of masterworks from Britain, the National Gallery in London and the National Galleries of Scotland are seeking to raise about $165 million to acquire two Titian paintings, “Diana and Actaeon” and “Diana and Callisto,” Reuters reported. Both paintings are being sold by the Duke of Sutherland.Called by one source one of the best 50 works of art in the world (nice fodder for another post), the thought of losing "Diana and Actaeon" is eliciting some powerful responses from British artists:
"To lose this vivid, action-filled tone-poem of a painting from our public collections would be "like the Louvre not having the Mona Lisa", according to the National Gallery curator Carol Plazzotta. And a host of Britain's most prominent artists, from Sir Peter Blake to Paula Rego, are in passionate agreement.
Plazzotta was referring to Titian's Diana and Actaeon, which will be lost to the nation unless £50m is raised by the end of the year. She was speaking at the National Gallery in London as the work, which has not left Edinburgh since 1945, was reunited with its companion piece, The Death of Actaeon, for the first time in 200 years.
Speaking in support of the public appeal, Blake said: "This should be thought of separately from the recession. We shouldn't be thinking of not doing this when there is so much money in the art world, so many rich people."
Patrick Brill, better known by his pseudonym Bob and Roberta Smith, echoed him: "If we can spend £50bn on nationalising our banks, we ought to be able to nationalise this painting for £50m."
I'm sure there are museums around the world who would love to acquire these, and while it's hard for me to really insist Italian paintings belong in the UK, seeing how much they mean to the British is enough for me.
Postscript: I'm not entirely sure the NYTimes is correct in stating that both paintings are being sold by the Duke. I've found other evidence which indicates that The Death of Actaeon has been owned by the National Gallery since 1972. Nevermind.
Labels: art appreciation