Category Archives: Museums

More Images from the Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo Experience

I’ve found more images from this year’s Carrières de Lumières program, which features the works of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo.

Even these still photographs are awesome. Seeing them in motion, with a soundtrack that ranges from Carl Orff to Vivaldi to Led Zeppelin, must be amazing. There’s a brief video at the above link that will give you a hint of what visitors to the site will experience.

(All photos found on the Net.)

“The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo” is open now, and will run through 7 January 2018.

“The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo”

This year’s Carrières de Lumières program looks like a stunner. It’s called “The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, and Arcimboldo”, and it runs from 4 March 2017 to 7 January 2018.

Here’s a peek:

Carrières de Lumières is an immersive art and music installation which is staged in what used to be a quarry, in the French village Les Baux de Provence. The massive rock walls of the quarry form the backdrop for a son et lumière program that changes each year.

I’ve posted items about the 2014 Klimt and Vienna and the 2015 Chagall: Midsummer Night’s Dreams programs, and about how much I’d like to work for Culturespaces, the European company that designs and manages events like this for 13 monuments and museums, most of them in France. The only things that are standing in my way are my total lack of artistic talent and my residence on the wrong continent.

Complementing the son et lumière this summer are four monumental sculptures by Philip Haas, which will be on display in the Château des Baux-de-Provence from 23 May through 30 September. The sculptures of the giant heads are inspired by Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s “The Four Seasons” paintings.

“Oh, to be in Provence, Now that Summer’s there”
—Close, but not quite by Robert Browning

Empress Elisabeth of Austria Rides Again

The girl in the painting would soon become Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I. She gave this portrait to the Emperor for Christmas after the two were engaged to be married. It became one of Franz Joseph’s most prized possessions, and hung on the wall above his bed for 60 years, until his death.

It was sold at auction in Vienna last month for €1,540,000 (US$1,721,643).


It’s curious how people, places, and things you’ve never been aware of can make an unanticipated appearance in your life, and gradually draw you in until they become, at least for a while, a prominent part of your existence. An exhibition of Victorian art at the National Gallery totally altered my views on painting, for instance, and led to an ongoing obsession with the Pre-Raphaelites. A few years ago, my appreciation for The Hunger Games eventually resulted in my spending an entire summer reading nothing but teen dystopia novels.

OK, some unexpected tangents are more rewarding than others.

Until a few years ago, I knew next to nothing about Sisi–sometimes written as  “Sissi”–the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. But then in Vienna, I visited the Sisi Museum and the Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg Complex and did The Grand Tour of 40 (out of 1,441) rooms of the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, the Habsburg imperial summer residence.*

Sisi as Empress

Sisi as Empress

The unconventional and brilliant Sisi has been on my mind ever since. She was a searcher, always looking for something different, something new. She hated court life, and spent months at a time away from the capital, travelling to Morocco and England, Egypt and Corfu, France and Malta, learning languages as she went. She championed the empire’s Hungarian subjects, and they, in turn, idolized her. She was only 16 when she married the 24-year-old Emperor. He loved her passionately; her feelings were less intense.

The more I learn about her, the more I want to know. I just recently discovered that her favorite cousin was another historical figure who has always fascinated me, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, builder of Schloss Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Palace, and patron of Richard Wagner. Researching that relationship immediately landed a spot on my To Do list.


*There are some ravishing pictures of those sites at the links, most of them found on the Net, but a few of them my own. You can also view some pictures of her partially restored apartment in the Museo Correr that I took when I was in Venice this spring.

The Naked Man at the Met Gala (Mildly NSFW — Brief Nudity)

“Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With”

That quotation is frequently attributed to Andy Warhol, and it certainly sounds like something he would have said, but it was Marshall “The Medium Is the Message” McLuhan who actually coined the phrase.

Sometimes, for some artists, Art Is Anything…whether you get away with it or not.  Take Russian artist/provocateur Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich, for instance.

Here he is doing a performance piece called Os Caquis (The Persimmons), outside the School of Visual Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.


That’s Pavlov-Andreevich, sitting naked on a tall plywood chair at the entrance to the museum. His assistant is offering very soft persimmons to the visitors, who are invited to throw them at the artist.

The goal?

“By the end of the performance the artist and the podium will all be covered in the orange pulp from the more or less successful attempts of the visitors to hit the artist.”

Ah! That explains it!

And then there’s Fyodor’s Performance Carousel-II, a hard-to-describe collaborative performative installation he orchestrated last year in Vienna.

This is all leading up to what happened last Monday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


The Background

The Met Gala is the big annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. It’s an evening packed with celebrities—this year’s honorary chairs were Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams—and with the very, very rich.

Vogue editor Anna Wintour—the presumed model for the “Miranda Priestly” character in The Devil Wears Prada—is a trustee of the Met, and oversees the annual 700-person guest list. Those not on the list can buy individual tickets to the Gala for $25,000.

It was only $15,000 until 2014. They raised the price to keep out the riffraff.


Enter Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich

Fyodor’s most famous—maybe notorious is a more appropriate word—performance piece is called Foundling. Over the past two years, he’s staged it, uninvited, at art-related events in Venice, Moscow, London, and São Paulo. On Monday, 1 May 2017, he completed the five-part performance art project at the Met Gala in New York.

Foundling is easy to describe:  Fyodor gets completely undressed and curls up inside a clear plastic box. He’s tall, and it’s a tight fit. The box is then sealed and transported to the event du jour. The artist’s assistants deposit the box, and the naked artist within, at the selected site.

Here’s how it went down in New York:


The Aftermath

Despite the fact that the Gala attendees and staff shown in the video were amused rather than disturbed or offended, Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested on a bunch of bogus misdemeanor charges, including  public lewdness, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

So much for New York’s celebrated reputation for sophistication and tolerance for eccentricity—the police were never called in at any of the previous four performances of Foundling, and Fyodor has never been arrested anywhere else.

The box remains in police custody. “If anyone cares about the box’ fate, it’s under arrest as well,” Pavlov wrote on Facebook.

Free Fyodor!  And free the box, too!  

Je suis Pavlov-Andreevich!


All photos and videos came from the artist’s website, linked above. It’s well worth a visit.

Proof: Time Travel Exists! And the Wrong People Are Using It.

A few weeks ago, I posted an item about Il Paradiso, the huge painting that hangs in the Chamber of the Great Council in Venice. That’s it in the picture above, which, btw, you should definitely enbiggen, because it’s a stunning work of art. It was painted by Tintoretto and the members of his workshop, and I’ve been entranced by it for more than a decade. It was the one great cultural achievement that I had to see in Venice.

But now it’s all been tainted. I noticed something for the first time, and I’ll never be able to un-see it.

Look at the picture again. Look at the center of the painting. Do you see it now?


There, directly behind Jesus, some time-travelling tourist with a selfie stick is ruining the Ascension of the Just into Heaven because he wants a souvenir photo of himself at the great event.


That’s it.

And I’m left with the sad knowledge that I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life missing the grandeur of great art, because I’ll be too distracted by looking for depictions of IPads in the paintings of Rubens, and images of smartphones in the works of Burne-Jones.

In the Doges’ Palace

We’re near the end, now. And we’re right back where we started, at Piazza San Marco.

For centuries, Venice was a dominant—sometimes the dominant—force in the commercial and cultural life of Europe, playing a role similar to that of New York City in the 20th century. The Doges’ Palace was Venice’s ultimate power center.

The Palace is adjacent to Saint Mark’s Basilica, and its entrance is just around the corner.


The Courtyard

You approach the palace grounds through this dim passageway…

…which opens to the central courtyard, and a magnificent assemblage of architecture. It’s a much smaller space than Piazza San Marco, but every bit as awe-inspiring..

Emerging from that shadowy entrance into this exquisite space is similar to going from Kansas to Oz.


“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold…”

Beautiful as the exterior is, it doesn’t prepare you for the grand rooms of the Palace.

This is why I keep going back to Europe. It takes centuries of civilization for a society to create an environment like this.


In the Armory

Every palace needs an armory.


The Reason I Came to Venice

There’s one more room in the palace still to visit: The Chamber of the Great Council. It gets a separate posting.

Ca’ Rezzonico, Where I Fantasized about Stealing the Furniture

New day, new palace.

Ca’ Rezzonico, another magnificent 18th century palazzo, fronts on the Grand Canal. It’s now the Museum of 18th Century Venice.

Like every other great building in Venice, it comes with a story.

Work on the palace began in the mid-17th century, but the original architect died, and the owners ran out of money, so the building was left incomplete. Giambattista Rezzonico, a merchant of Venice, bought the palace a hundred years later, when his family’s wealth and power was at its peak. The building was completed in 1758, in time to welcome a visit from Rezzonico’s younger brother, Carlo, who had been elected Pope under the name Clement XIII. At Ca’ Rezzonico, you can still see the large papal throne Clement used when he visited.

Fifty years later, the Rezzonico family was extinct, and the palazzo went into a slow decline. Along the way, it was the final residence of the poet Robert Browning, who died there. Eventually, in 1935, it was sold to the Venice Town Council.


Ca’ Rezzonico now houses some finest 18th century furniture in the city. I eyed many of the exquisite pieces with covetousness in my heart. If I could have figured out a way to stuff some of the furniture into my now-depleted knapsack and smuggle it back to Washington, I would have done so in a second.

Unfortunately, and not for the first time, I was unable to bend the laws of physics and the universe to my will. The furniture remains in Venice. But I do have some pictures…

Tapestry chairs.

A perfect desk.

OK, I definitely have dibs on this door.  It grabbed my attention the second I entered the room.

If I had a door like that, I would probably only walk through it when I was formally dressed, and I’d certainly require a background check before I’d let anyone else use it. And they’d have to wear gloves.

I wonder if I could find a young Arts major in DC who would be willing to do something similar to a door in my condo? Seriously.

This painted chest belongs close to the door.