Silly art journalism

If there’s ever a place where transcendent values =/= economic valuation, it’s the art market. Nevertheless, we read things like this:

Raphael’s Medici Valued at Little More Than Warhol’s `Marilyn’
May 21 (Bloomberg) — Raphael’s portrait of Florentine ruler Lorenzo de’ Medici, almost five centuries old, has been priced by Christie’s International at little more than a 1962 Andy Warhol image of Marilyn Monroe.
Christie’s top estimate for the Raphael at a July 5 sale in London is 15 million pounds ($29.6 million). Warhol’s “Lemon Marilyn,” showing a purple-faced Monroe on a yellow background, sold for $28 million in New York last week, including commission.
The Raphael valuation shows how art that has survived for hundreds of years is losing ground as new millionaires opt for contemporary pictures.

The article goes on to explain, probably almost of course, that the painting is not an undisputed Raphael and the sitter might not even have been a Medici. So, suddenly, there’s some accounting for taste and price.

Airport Blogging, again

Ah, free wireless at the Rochester airport, how I love you!
Off again – this time for a family thing. My parents have been genealogizing in Richmond, VA, and are now at my sister’s in NoVa. I’m running down for a few days to overlap with the parents and see the others. Should be fun!
My friend the Artemisia Gentileschi specialist tells me there’re Aretmesias at the National Museum of Women in the Arts show of Italian Women Artists from Renaissance to Baroque. I might even go, since Dumbarton Oaks is still (grrr!) closed and they have an American Western Art show up at the Philips. Maybe the big Modernism show at the Corcoran? It got great reviews.

Underwater Recovery

This is a huge haul:

Deep-sea explorers said Friday they have hauled up what could be the richest sunken treasure ever discovered: hundreds of thousands of colonial-era silver and gold coins worth an estimated $500 million from a shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean.

I never cease to be amazed at underwater recovery and archaeology – talk about a single subfield that has changed the way we look at the past!
via Cronaca

What happens when you cross a state church with modern fundraising?

Something like this:

Cathedral funds hit £10m target
A campaign to raise £10m for improvements to Norwich Cathedral has finally reached its target.
The Dean of Norwich, the Very Reverend Graham Smith, made the announcement eight years after the appeal started.
Funds raised during the campaign have already paid for a restaurant on the site of a medieval refectory destroyed by Henry VIII.
Work is also due to start this autumn on an education centre on the site of a medieval lodging house.
Campaign manager Henry Cator said: “I believe these two buildings will put Norwich Cathedral in the premier division of cathedrals in the country.

I especially love the caption on the first picture: “The cathedral was founded in 1096 and is still being improved.” The refectory looks interesting – it’s not only on the site of but inserted into the shell of the medieval refectory (I found some photos on google slightly better for understanding the siting).
Well, if they want to keep the building up they have to do something, especially in the light of the funding cuts from the state agencies. I wish it didn’t have to involve bishops appearing in charity pantomimes, but the building is worth it.

Marcel Breuer, Unloved Architect

Cleveland Trust Tower (Extant)

Originally uploaded by John Drain.

The 21st century is starting badly for Marcel Breuer – another of his buildings is threatened with destruction, this time a 29-story office building in Cleveland. I last blogged about a threatened Breuer library in Michigan back in April.
Here’s the story, with my Soltanesque comments inserted.

The commissioners have differed over whether it would be more costly to raze and demolish the asbestos-laden building and replace it or to renovate it. In either case, commissioners have agreed to preserve an adjacent landmark, the 1908 Cleveland Trust rotunda. Note: the commissioners aren’t mere vandals
The Breuer building has supporters, but few willing to admit loving the boxy, unadorned style. Even Jones takes a long pause before sizing up his position.
“Aesthetically, it doesn’t move me,” he said.
Style point: I prohibit the use of the word aesthetic and all its derivatives in undergraduate papers because all it means to them is ‘move me.’
The architect community has pressured commissioners to save the building, in part because of its Breuer origin and as an energy-saving gesture with the thought that it would be less costly energy-wise to renovate.
Watch for this new tactic – calling renovation ‘green.’ I want to see the numbers before I believe that asbestos abatement for a 40 year old, 29-story, asbestos-laden building is cheaper than removal and building new. We’re talking 1968, not some fabled age of great construction.
Lawrence Lumpkin, a planning commission member, toured the building in advance of the public hearings and said he was undecided on its future.
“It definitely has some historical significance, but I also wonder if it has the ability to meet the needs of the county services that are being planned for it,” he said Tuesday.
David Niland, an architecture professor at the University of Cincinnati, said it would be a shame to tear it down.
“In Cleveland, it’s a significant building and the architect himself is one of the icons of the so-called ‘modern movement’ in this country,” he said by phone from Cincinnati. “He had a profound influence on many, many architects.”
It’s not unique even in Cleveland – there’s another Marcel Breuer down the block – the 1970s wing of the Cleveland Museum. I like that “so-called ‘modern movement.'”
Tony Hiti, 43, an architect and fan of the building, joined a recent sidewalk protest outside the building to support its renovation and predicted the structure would be missed if demolished.
“I think it’s a fine example of modern architecture,” he said.
Still, Hiti said, “I understand why it doesn’t have wide appeal,” lacking ornamentation and familiar details like columns, arches or sculpted facades.
In other words, like most Breuer buildings it’s ugly. It not only doesn’t have wide appeal, it’s big in its ugliness. 29 stories of so-called modernism.
“This is a very important building by one of the pioneering architects of the 20th century,” Hiti said as fellow protesters handed out leaflets to fans headed to a Cleveland Indians game.
I’d say that Breuer is better known for the chairs, and those are damned uncomfortable – I lived with a set of 4 for a long time and hated them. I did like their bounce.
Dimora and Hagan, who lost a campaign for governor in 2002, didn’t return messages seeking comment on the dispute. Hagan said earlier that he didn’t want to be lobbied on the issue and had made up his mind.
Hagan has said the government for Ohio’s most populous county deserves a signature building. As for Breuer’s design, “If it was a great building, it wouldn’t be vacant,” he told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer.
Great conclusion – and not a bad way of thinking about the issue.

My criticism of the preservationists and architects is not entirely aimed at Breuer. It looks like a distinguished example of what I will go ahead and call Modernism. But it’s not lovely and was never meant to be. Now if you think the style expresses something important about local government, and I’m not at all sure that it doesn’t, given the political proclivities of Modernism towards central planning, go right ahead. But I would want to see the numbers worked out very carefully before accepting any ‘green’ arguments about renovation being cheaper. Renovation will certainly be cheaper in the short term than tearing down and building another 29-story building, but is that scale what Cleveland needs? And in the long run, will it be possible to renovate and retrofit a 1968 building to meet any contemporary standards economically? I have my doubts – Breuer was designing for a different world. Asbestos is just the beginning.

Balcony time!

Balcony time!

Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

This is the slightly less cranky version of me – grades in, summer weather (at least yesterday!), time for a glass of white wine on the balcony. This is the first day in I don’t know when that I haven’t had something SCHEDULED – a meeting, an interview, an exam, grading, writing under a 2-week deadline. Today I can start thinking about slightly longer projects. Just slightly, but every little bit counts. And maybe I’ll hang a picture?

Touring North Korea

DPRK (540)

Originally uploaded by waasa.

This is a great story of a trip to North Korea – a few excerpted paragraphs:

Cao said there were few police in North Korea because everyone polices each other. He meant it as a compliment. Our minders were polite, vigorous debaters, showing genuine pride in their country, where they said all people were treated equally.

. . .

The highlight of the tour was the “Arirang” mass games. Opposite the spectator bleachers in the massive May Day Stadium, thousands of performers held up painted cards to make dot-matrix pictures. Through uncanny choreography, the images moved, shimmered and changed in a blink. On the field, thousands more danced, did gymnastics and swung flags.

The story was a stylized history of Korea in 1 1/2 hours, ending with a plea for reunification. It was an amazing spectacle and, with actors outnumbering the audience by at least 2-to-1, a showcase of socialist economics.

I believe, based on the tags, the photo I found on Flickr is the mass game mentioned in the article.

Me and the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek Airport

I survived another Medieval Congress – what a week. However, as per usual, I’m in airport hell. Last year Delta cancelled my flight – on a weekend when there are 3,000 extra academics in Kalamazoo, all of whom need to leave on Sunday, Delta canceled a flight. This year I got bumped (of course they’re all overbooked – see the above # of academics) and am now waiting until 1:30 or so to leave. Wireless helps – and I’ll be here long enough to finish my grading.
We were session #236 out of 632:

Medieval Humor: Laughter in and Laughter about the Middle Ages
Organizer: me
Presider: Simon Trafford, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
Playing the Fool on Misericords Paul Hardwick, Trinity and All Saints, Univ. of Leeds
Laughter: Breaking the Silence – Darren Trongeau, DePaul University
Objects of Adornment? Detached Body Part Pins and Pilgrimage Badges – me.

The session went very well – there were more than 30 people in the room, they all stayed, they clapped enthusiastically, and they asked lots of questions! All 3 papers were quite good – Oz Hardwick talked about foolishness and the Fool on misericords in England. He had great slides. Darren Trongeau talked about Merlin’s bizarre laughter in Silence – a 13th century romance. Merlin wouldn’t tell anyone why he was laughing and it drove everyone around the bend. I talked about the anthropomorphized body part badges again; I’ve figured out what I think about them now – it’s no longer an exploration. In the q&a after the talks someone asked if I knew of any British examples of parodic version of the Vigin Mary and I said that I didn’t. Luckily I own my copy of Brian Spencer’s Pilgrim Souvenirs and Secular Badges, so I didn’t feel nervous about saying “to the best of my knowledge….” Afterwards a curator from the British Museum came up, gave me his card, and told me that they’re currently preparing a catalog of their several thousand badges, that they do have one, that the metal tests make it conclusively English, that it’s never been published (so I wouldn’t have known), and that he’ll email me an image!
That’s one of the best reasons to go to conferences – the things you learn from people who you’d never meet otherwise.
I was also part of a roundtable discussion of blogging – Weblogs and the Academy: Pedagogy, Professionalism, and Technical Practices. I enjoyed seeing and talking about blogs with some of the folks on my link list! Lisa Spangenberg had some great advice (the link in the right column goes to the top page, I think – I’m linking here to her IT site given what we were talking about). There was a pseudonymous blogger on the panel who lives with a particularly strict IT department and campus human experimentation protocol; she couldn’t have shown us her class blogs even if she wanted to without redacting names, which is way more trouble than it’s worth! Scott Nokes convinced me that I need to set up a parallel all-medieval-all-the-time blog (see my Flickr Gothic Revival group for an attempt to do some medievalist outreach)). Here’s his take on the panel – I agree it was poorly attended compared to the breakfast, and compared to last year. Maybe blogging isn’t hot any more? There were two non-blogging-but-high-technology-course folks from Western Michigan University, Kim Laing and James Ryan Gregory. I’ve always wanted to try an online course – Kim had some interesting speculations about who persists in them (the non-technophobic, to put it simply).
Thanks to Elisabeth Carnell and Shana Worthen and for organizing.
I heard lots of great papers, saw some amazing images, drank some spectacularly cheap wine at the expense of publishers, and danced the night away in a carnivalesque dissolving of barriers (I hope folks post some of those cameraphone shots of the break dancing Cornell grad student). Medievalists may be stodgy, but we’re not stuffy!


Laptop hard drive backed up – check
Paper printed in duplicate – check
Dog walked – check
Ticket in pocket – check
Bye! Back Sunday – if not before.
later . . .
Oh, who am I foolin’? Free wireless at the Rochester Airport! Yay! So…
Business cards – DAMN! I knew I’d forget something.