Tag Archives: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

Sunday Morning — Victoriana of the Week


“Bluebells.” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

At first glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that the painter of “Bluebells” was Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, since much of his best-known work consists of paintings showing scenes from classical antiquity.  Once you know it’s his, though, it seems obvious.  The colors, the poses, the composition—it’s all classic Alma-Tadema.

The story of the changing critical perception of Victorian art is well known.  It went out of fashion in the early 20th Century, and by the 1950s, some Victorian paintings were being sold at thrift shop prices.   Alma-Tadema, one of the most popular and most financially successful Victorian painters, fell particularly hard.

Things turned around in the 1960s, which saw a major re-assessment of the Victorians.  One of the factors contributing to that re-assessment was an exhibition of Alma-Tadema’s paintings at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, which was held over the objections of Thomas Hoving, the museum’s director.

Wikipedia gives the happy ending to the story:

“In 1962, New York art dealer Robert Isaacson mounted the first show of Alma-Tadema’s work in fifty years…Allen Funt, the creator and host of the American version of the television show ‘Candid Camera,’ was a collector of Alma-Tadema paintings at a time when the artist’s reputation in the 20th century was at its nadir; in a relatively few years he bought 35 works, about 10% of Alma-Tadema’s output.  After Funt was robbed by his accountant…he was forced to sell his collection at Sotheby’s in London in November 1973.  From this sale, the interest in Alma-Tadema was re-awakened.  In 1960, the Newman Gallery firstly tried to sell, then give away (without success) one of his most celebrated works, ‘The Finding of Moses’ (1904).  The initial purchaser had paid £5,250 for it on its completion, and subsequent sales were for £861 in 1935, £265 in 1942, and it was ‘bought in’ at £252 in 1960 (having failed to meet its reserve), but when the same picture was auctioned at Christies in New York in May 1995, it sold for £1.75 million.  On 4 November 2010 it was sold for $35,922,500 to an undisclosed bidder at Sotheby’s New York, a new record for the artist and a Victorian painting.  On 5 May 2011 his ‘The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra:  41 BC’ was sold at the same auction house for $29.2 million.”

Day 5 of the Twelve Days of Christmas, 2013


As the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s site points out, the tradition of decorating Christmas trees comes from Northern European Protestants, while the custom of assembling elaborate Nativity scenes comes from Southern European Catholics.

Santons (from the Provençal for “little saint”) are small, painted terracotta figurines. They originated in Provence during the French Revolution, when large nativity scenes were banned.  A traditional Provençal crèche contains 55 figurines, representing not just the customary figures from a Nativity scene, but also characters from old Provençal village life:  A baker, a water carrier, a blind man, a gypsy, a chestnut seller, a farmer, etc.  (There are many, many more characters available beyond the traditional 55, and, as you’d expect with this kind of “collectable”, some people go more than a little overboard.  With santons averaging about $50 each, this can add up fast).

There are about 100 ateliers–most of them small family businesses that have been handed down through many generations–making  santons.  For 210 years, santonniers have gathered in Marseille from mid-November to the end of December to display and sell their wares at the Foire des Santonniers.

The blog Santons et crèches de Provence has some excellent pictures.

We had a small set, a gift from my Great Aunt Hélène, who was one of the people who exported santons from France to the United States.

santons s 50

You really have to click and enbiggen this picture and the next one to get an idea of the range of santons.

sqantons d 50

A Variation -- Clothed Santons

A Variation — Clothed Santons

Santon Street Scene

Santon Street Scene

Day 3 of the Twelve Days of Christmas, 2013

Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum’s notes on this are really fascinating.

“The annual Christmas installation is the result of the generosity, enthusiasm, and dedication of the late Loretta Hines Howard, who began collecting crèche figures in 1925 and soon after conceived the idea of combining the Roman Catholic custom of elaborate Nativity scenes with the tradition of decorated Christmas trees that had developed among the largely Protestant people of northern Europe.”

When I was growing up, we had both a tree and a crèche. Throughout the holidays, however, the Baby Jesus figure would periodically disappear from its cradle, and be mysteriously replaced by another Christmas decoration: A cheerful grinning grey plastic mouse wearing a Santa Clause suit and hat. No one ever figured out how that happened….

Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Angel -- Giuseppe Sanmartino.  Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Angel — Giuseppe Sanmartino. Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

St. Joseph -- Attributed to Salvatore di Franco.  Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

St. Joseph — Attributed to Salvatore di Franco. Photo from the Metropolitan Museum of Art