A Patient Optimist

A Matisse stolen from a Swedish museum was recently recovered in the UK. I can’t decide if the standard line is meaningless optimism or just a negotiating tactic:

At the time of the theft, a spokesman for the museum said the painting was too “well-known” to “sell on the open market”.

Mr Marinello agreed with the sentiment, adding: “I commend the museum for not giving in to ransom demands a quarter century ago.

“Stolen artwork has no real value in the legitimate marketplace and will eventually resurface… it’s just a matter of waiting it out.”

Well, they had to wait 25 years. Is that optimism?

Cave Painting and You

Frederick Turner, In the Land of Temple Caves: From St. Emilion to Paris’s St. Sulpice, Notes on Art and the Human Spirit.

First book of the year – well, first book started and finished this year. I’ve got a novel going, too, but it’ll be a few more days at the rate I’m reading in bed.

I picked this up at big discount at McKay’s Books, which reminds me a little bit of Oxford Books of old in Atlanta where I was shopping for my nephew’s Christmas presents. In the Land of Temple Caves was filed in aesthetics or some such – and it is indeed in part a meditation on art.

Turner was hit hard by the evil destructiveness of 9/11. One thing and another made him think of the Paleolithic cave paintings, and this book is a memoir of exploring some of the great caves of France. The book ends with a weird episode in Paris. The whole is a mediation on the Vital Spirit and its endless opposition to the Destructive Impulse. It’s been too long since I’ve read Bergson to remember is this is just straight Elan vitalism, but it certainly seems so.

All in all the Paris part is too indulgent (why on earth did his publisher waste a page on a useless map of the neighborhood around St. Sulpice — and THAT map — instead of getting a decent map of SW France?), but his cave-talk is pretty good, whether he’s scrambling around bluff faces looking for flint cores or riding a little railroad into the heart of a hillside to see the paintings at Rouffignac. He reports a lot of the recent theorizing well and remains admirably unpersuaded by them.

I’m unpersuaded by his theorizing about art, but I agree that art does matter. It’s not an antidote to barbarism or something that makes us proof against evil, but art is a good. Getting from there to “what is good art?” is another problem entirely.

Body Art. BRRRRRR.

OK – earlier this evening I thought I broke the internet. It took about 10 restarts of the the modem and the router to get it back. In the meantime I actually went back to cable tv – and found the show of my dreams! Tattoo Nightmares on Spike…trying to cover or reconfigure really really really horrid tattoos.

Guy with a marijuana leaf on his wrist. Woman with a weird abstract city on her pelvic girdle [“it’s made me embarrassed to show my stomach and there aren’t any cute one piece swim suits out there!”]. Man with an ex GF’s name AND FACE on his shoulder.

Of course, laser removal is still an option!

Hard times in Bosnia

The National Museum of Bosnia in Sarajevo, home to the Sarajevo Haggadah, is set to close.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is an important 14th Century manuscript of the Seder service produced in Spain (testimony to the Sefardic tradition), brought to Italy sometime in the Renaissance. It was sold to the National Museum in the 1890s – so though it is an important object documenting Jewish history, it doesn’t have much to do with Bosnia. I hadn’t read the provenance until just now – I, silly early medievalist, had always imagined it got to Bosnia (an example of the Spain-to-Islamic-Ottoman-Empire) in the wake of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain rather than an example of the Spain-to-just-as-Christian-Italy population movement. I’ve never read enough to know what the relative sizes of emigration to the Ottoman Empire versus other Christian territories.

Painting Bought for $9.99 at Goodwill Valued at $15K

That’s the headline. The story is better! She was going to paint over them!

“I thought they would be awesome canvases. They were $9.99 a piece and I just thought they would be great to just draw on them and paint over them because I didn’t like them as paintings. They were really ‘70s kind of looking, but not ‘70s in that fun, kitschy way, ‘70s in a different way that I don’t really enjoy, so I was like, ‘I’m going to paint big cat heads or whatever,’” Feeback,who specializes in pet portraits, said. “I was going to paint on them and so I bought them.”

She showed them to a friend at the art fair, and her friend spotted labels on the backs of the canvases that read: “Weatherspoon Art Gallery. University of North Carolina – Greensboro.” Her friend told her to find out more about the paintings before she painted them over.

Feeback took the canvases home and they languished in her art studio until mid-June. She nearly painted over them a few times.

“But I decided, you know, I’ll check, I’ll Google these guys. The first one I Google was Bolotowsky. And I Google it and the first thing I saw was the Wikipedia page and I was like, ‘Holy crap. I better get those up off the floor over there,’” she recalled. “And then it just went crazy. When I saw what it was I thought, ‘This painting has got to be worth something, but what do I do now? I don’t know anything about selling a valuable painting.’  We made $200 at the art show that day.”

You know, someone de-accessioned those!

Is this an excuse for stealing art?

But your honor, I had a delusion that I was an art thief. Yes, in fact, I took the paintings, but, but . . . .

And the judge bought it.

Michael Gerard Sullivan, 54, has pleaded guilty to stealing two paintings from the Katoomba Fine Art Gallery in December 2008.

At the time the gallery was also a restaurant and CCTV vision clearly shows Mr Sullivan stealing two James Willebrant paintings between courses.

During his court case Mr Sullivan’s lawyers tendered two psychiatric reports which concluded he had dissociative amnesia and his actions were totally out of character.