Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dali's Dalliance With Mass Production

Salvador Dali apparently labored less for art than for his purse.

In May 1973, a witness affirmed that, at the Hotel Meurice in Paris, Dali had signed 4000 sheets of paper, weighing in at about 750 pounds! The following year, French customs agents waylaid a small truck heading to Andorra loaded with 40,000 blank pieces of paper signed by Dali.

Apparently, “on a good day”, the Surrealist was capable of signing 1800 sheets in an hour, with the assistance of three helpers who whisked the papers under and out from under his pen. Now that’s a surreal image! He joked about what easy, profitable work it was.

Needless to say, questionable
Dali lithographs have been surfacing in Europe, the US and Canada in recent years.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Is Culture Just Politics By A Different Name?

The frieze, the metopes and the wondrous pediments that constitute the Parthenon Marbles represent the acme of classical Greek art, and Athens' fantasitc new Acropolis Museum now provides a proper display for the parts of the Marbles which remain in Greece.

The remainder famously, or infamously, are owned by London’s British Museum, having been "rescued" in the early 19th century by the Scottish aristocrat Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin, from the neglect of the Ottoman regime that then occupied Greece.

Peter Aspden's article, A manifesto for the Parthenon Marbles, (Financial Times Nov 29th) navigates through the controversy-laden history of the Marbles with clarity and thoughtfulness.

As he unfolds the history of the separation of the marbles, Aspden wonders if the positions of Athens and London ever be reconciled. A self-described "interested observer and of Anglo-Greek parentage", he has spent years following the arguments on both sides of the issue, and here proposes a five-point reconciliation plan to help break the deadlock.

Aspden points out, “We owe it to the remarkable humanistic legacy of ancient Greece to move forward on this vexed issue; for culture is politics by a different name, and if we cannot decide on the future of a few marble stones, what chance do we have to do the right thing for all the world’s dislocated peoples?”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Quelle Surprise! C'est un Tiepolo!

I do love stories about extraordinary artworks that have been lost -- sometimes not even known to be lost -- turning up in attics or behind bedroom doors (see my Nov 14 , 2006 post, and Dec 17, 2007).

Imagine the shock: rummaging around in Grandmamma's attic and finding a Tiepolo! Of course the rummaging was taking place in the attic of a French ch√Ęteau, so the discovery would perhaps have been less of a surprise than if the family home were a farmhouse in Kansas. Nonetheless ... how exciting!

The rediscovered masterpiece, Portrait of a lady as Flora, by the great Italian artist Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), had been hidden two or three generations ago because of the semi-naked subject. It is thought to have originated as part of a series of pictures commissioned by Empress Elizabeth of Russia (1709-1762), probably intended for the Winter Palace.

This is one for Antiques Roadshow ... the painting was just sold at auction for $4,227,780!