Friday, 1 December 2017

Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites

Fig.1 Jan van Eyck, Portrait of Giovanni (?) Arnolfini 
and his Wife and ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’,1434, Oil on oak,
82.2 x 60 cm, National Gallery, London
© The National Gallery, London
The exhibition “Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites” at The National Gallery in London highlights the influence that Van Eyck and his use of mirrors had on the Pre-Raphaelites.

The Pre-Raphaelites and Van Eyck
Van Eyck’s 15th century Portrait of Arnolfini and His Wife (fig. 1) inspired the 19th century English painters William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rosetti to form the society of the Pre-Raphaelites. These artists aspired to capture the sincerity and spirituality they saw in pre-Raphael Italian and Flemish art, and they held as their ideal Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait.

The Unexpected World Inside the Picture
From Van Eyck, they observed many lessons including the use of deep and rich colors and the depictions of scenes with elaborate texture. They were most enamored by the presentation of another distinct universe within a picture through the use of a mirror, as seen in the Arnolfini Portrait. In the round mirror in the background, Van Eyck inserts his own image, demonstrating that the painter himself was present as a witness to the wedding of the couple.

Fig.2 William Holman Hunt, The Awakening Conscience,
1853, Oil on canvas, 76.2 x 55.9 cm
© Tate, London (T02075)
Captivated by the Mirror
Many of the Pre-Raphaelites painted interiors that included a mirror. Hunt’s The Awakening Conscience (fig. 2) contains a large mirror reflecting a garden. The woman who was sitting on the lap of her lover sees the garden up ahead, and her conscience is suddenly awakened. The painting captures the moment when she rises to stand and attempt to escape her degenerating life. The mirror also plays an important role in the story of Lady Shalott from the Arthurian legend that was a favorite theme of the Pre-Raphaelites. A curse on the Lady of Shalott deems that she will die if she looks directly outside, so she can only view the outer world through a mirror. In John William Waterhouse’s painting, the mirror that reflects the outside has a large crack in it, alluding to the fate of death that awaits the Lady simply because she had wished for a glimpse of the man she loved.

“Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites” Exhibition until April 2, 2018

The National Gallery, London
Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DN
The United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7747 2885
Opening Hours:
Daily  10:00-18:00
Friday 10:00—21:00
1 January and 24–26 December

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Japanese Architecture Exhibition at Centre Pompidou Metz in France

Fig.2 DumbType, S/N, Performance photo: Yoko Takatani

The Japanese architecture exhibition at Centre Pompidou Metz in France, “Japan-ness: Architecture and urbanism in Japan since 1945” is the first large-scale exhibition in Europe that surveys Japanese architectural history from postwar to present day through the works of 118 Japanese architects and artists.

Takeshi Hosaka, Restaurant Hoto Fudo,
Fujikawaguchiko, 2009© Takeshi Hosaka Architects
© Nacasa & Partners Inc. / Koji Fuji
Japan-ness is a concept presented by Arata Isozaki in his 2003 book “Japan-ness in Architecture.” Isozaki defines Japan-ness as the unchanging values and reinterpretation symbolized in the periodic rebuilding of Ise Shrine. Japan-ness accepted and transformed the Western modernism that flooded into Japan, which gave rise to postwar Japanese modern architecture.

Postwar Architectural History
The exhibition displays original models of large-scale buildings by Kenzo Tange representative of their era such as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Yoyogi National Gymnasium built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the pavilions for the Osaka Expo, as well as numerous urban planning models that never materialized. Residential plans reveal how new ideas and materials solved problems that arose from population growth and population density in urban areas.

Fig.1 Tadanori Yokoo, Motorcycle, 2002 (1966),
Peinture acrylique sur toile, 53 x 45,5 cm
Shun Kurokochi
Japanese Season: Three Exhibitions
Preceding the “Japonism 2018” cultural events that will be held in France to commemorate the 160th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, Centre Pompidou Metz in France presents “Japanese Season,” three comprehensive exhibitions introducing Japanese culture and arts. Beginning with the architecture exhibit “Japan-ness. Architecture and urbanism in Japan since 1945” which opened in September, “Japanorama. A new vision on art since 1970” introduces Japan’s modern art and visual arts from around the time of the 1970 Osaka Expo (Fig. 1), and in January of next year, “Dumb Type. Extra-Sensory Odyssey” presents for the first time in France Dumb Type, the artists who have gathered global acclaim in visual, sound and performance art (Fig 2).

Centre Pompidou Metz
1 Parvis des Droits-de-l’Homme
57020 Metz
Opening Hours (from 1st November to 31 March):
Wednesday to Monday 10:00-18:00
Opening Hours (1st April to 31 October):
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday  10:00-18:00
Friday to Sunday 10:00-19:00

Monday, 2 October 2017

A Retrospective Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the House of Dior

© Emma Summerton for “Christian Dior Designer of Dreams”

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the House of Dior with an exhibition from July 5th to January 1st, 2018. For the first time, some 300 haute couture gowns will be brought together with fabrics from the atelier, fashion photographs and several hundred archival items, including illustrations, sketches, letters, memorandums and advertisements.

The “New Look” that Changed Fashion
Christian Dior has been a central figure of 20th century fashion since he launched the “New Look” of his 1947 spring/summer collection. A feminine silhouette comprised of an exaggerated hourglass shaped bust and waist combined with a billowing skirt characterized the “New Look.” Dior had managed to overturn the masculine fashion of strong and stoic silhouettes that dominated the era still facing the deep scars of World War II.

The Spirit of Beauty that Flows Through the House of Dior
Christian Dior was also a collector of art nouveau works, and his pieces emanate the aesthetics and designs of his gowns. Dior’s profound insights into art have been handed down to the six artistic directors who followed him: Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and today’s Maria Grazia Chiuri. By following the chronologically arranged exhibition from 1947 to 2017, visitors will witness the spirit and legacy of Christian Dior through the decades and the global distinction of the fashion house that is a symbol of France.

“Christian Dior, couturier du rêve ” Exhibition until January 7, 2018 (Closed on Mondays)

Musée des Arts décoratifs
107, rue de Rivoli
75001 Paris
Opening hours:
Tue to Sun 11:00-18:00 (until 21:00 on Thursdays for Temporary Exhibitions only)

Monday, 21 August 2017

The New British Pottery of the 20th Century

Ewart Uncles © Bristol Culture

The Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in Bristol, the United Kingdom is showing a retrospective exhibition of 20th century British pottery.

Twentieth Century British Pottery
Fig.1 Hans Coper © Bristol Culture
In the 20th century, a ceramics industry born alongside post-industrial revolution mass production coexisted with a studio system that had a division of labor between artisans who painted and those who threw clay on wheels. In that environment arose a new trend of the individual pottery artist. These artists should be recognized as conveyors of the beauty of the combination of highly practical pottery and artistic expression.

The driving force behind this trend was Bernard Leach. In 1920, Leach returned from Japan with Shoji Hamada and created a style that fused the tradition and style of Eastern and Western, and Japanese and British ceramics. It was simple, solid and powerful pottery.
The New Shape of the New Pottery
The potters Lucie Rie from Austria and Hans Coper  (fig. 1) from Germany fled the battles of World War II and sought asylum in Britain. Both artists were influenced by the sudden spread at the time of abstract sculpture and pursued the spatial representation and figurative aspects of pottery. Their works were thin and light and gave rise to a new balancing of modulation. As mechanization allowed for high quality mass-produced goods and decreased the need for artisans to create daily commodities, the younger generation, led by Rie and Coper, experimented with new forms and expressions of pottery in their artistic quests.

“Radical Clay: Teaching with the greatest potters of the 1960s” Exhibition until June 10, 2018 (irregular closings on Mondays)

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Queens Rd
Bristol BS8 1RL
The United Kingdom
Opening times:
Tue to Sun 10:00-17:00
Dec. 25, 26. Irregular Mondays (see website)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Outsider Painter –– Jean Dubuffet

Fig.1 Jean Dubuffet: Personnage hilare (Portrait de Francis Ponge), 1947,
oil on plaster on cardboard, 60.5 x 45.5 cm, collection Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam, donation of the artist

A forerunner of the art informel movement and an advocate of art brut (or raw art) who expressed a strong interest in the art of children, the mentally ill and primeval cultures, French painter Jean Dubuffet has had a major impact on the international art world. This summer two art museums in Amsterdam are simultaneously holding exhibitions on Dubuffet, a painter who is crucial in tracing the history of 20th century art.

Impasto Paintings
The Stedelijk Museum is showing Dubuffet’s paintings and lithographs from the 1950s. During this period Dubuffet was attempting to develop new textures in his paintings. He created his own unique textures by applying paints so thickly that they imparted a strong presence in themselves and then mixing in materials not normally used such as dirt, asphalt and bits of glass. In the Portrait of Francis Ponge (fig.1), Dubuffet used plaster.

Fig.2 Monument au fantôme (1969–1971) Fondation Dubuffet, Paris. ©2017
Fondation Dubuffet, Paris / Pictoright, Netherlands. Photo Johannes Schwartz
Graphic Outdoor Sculptures
Dubuffet’s works from the 1960s into the mid-1970s were often filled with patterns that are bordered with strong contour lines. His colors gradually became more organized to have a graphic effect. Around 1970 he made sculptures that looked as if they had jumped out of the patterns in his paintings (fig.2) and large-scale outdoor sculptures. Twelve of these are displayed in the Rijksmuseum Gardens.
The two exhibitions offer an opportunity to discover from various viewpoints the world of Dubuffet’s creations, built from his power of expression and unique sense of humor that broke the conventions of established art.

Jean Dubuffet –– The Deep End Until 2018, Jan. 6 (open daily)
Dubuffet in the Rijksmuseum Gardens Until 2017 Oct. 1 (open daily)

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Museumplein 10
1071 DJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Mon to Sun 10:00-18:00 (Friday until 10 pm)

Museumstraat 1
1071 CJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Open daily 9:00-17:00

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Arp: The Poetry of Forms

Fig.1 Jean Arp, Cloud Shepherd, 1953, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo,
photo: Marjon Gemmeke
Hans Arp (1886-1966) was born in Strasburg, a city where the cultures of France and Germany are intertwined. A fluent speaker of French and German, Arp started off as a poet, and went on to success as a sculptor and painter in France, Germany and Switzerland. The Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands is showing some 80 works of Arp, including sculptures, paintings, poetry and other publications in the exhibition “Arp: The Poetry of Forms.” (fig.2)。

Form and Poetry
Arp’s works are characterized by the sense of affection they conjure in the viewer and their wavy lines and poetic titles as seen in Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest and Pagoda Fruit. No shepherd can be identified in his representative work Cloud Shepherd (fig.1), but its ambiguous shaping and fairy tale-like title express the world view of Arp who loved poetry and a utopian world. The rounded form of the work and the protrusions that grows out from it remind one of a living creature or a growing fruit. One can sense Arp’s compassionate view of the creations and modifications that take place in the natural world.

The Universe of Arp
Fig.2 Overview Arp: The Poetry of Forms, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo,
photo: Marjon Gemmeke
World War I prompted Arp to take part in the founding of Dadaism that aimed to destroy existing values. Rejecting the machine civilization and anthropocentric thinking that gave rise to the war, Arp looked for inspiration in nature or the meaningless forms in nature. Recognizing plants, clouds, stars and all natural forms in the universe along the same lines as his works, Arp created his ideal universe through abstract and soft shapes and poetry.

Arp: The Poetry of Forms : Until Sept. 18 (Closed Mondays)

Kröller-Müller Museum
Houtkampweg 6
6731 AW Otterlo
The Netherlands
Opening times:
Tuesday through Sunday and national holidays* from 10:00 to 17:00. The sculpture garden is open until 16:30.
* Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Christmas, King’s Day 27 April, Liberation Day 5 May
Closed   Monday and on 1 January

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Gardens exhibition

The ambitious exhibition on the theme of gardens underway at the Grand Palais offers a comprehensive look at the convergence of art and gardens by examining botanical history and the background of the art of gardens. From a Pompei fresco created in the first half of the first century to installations from contemporary artists, the exhibition presents a variety of genres over a wide period of time, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, sketches and films.

Garden of the Virgin Mary
The depiction of gardens by artists dates back to the Middle Ages. They portrayed “the enclosed garden Hortus Conclusus,” based on the Canticles from the Old Testament which attest to the virginity of Mary, as a garden of an abbey with white lilies and wild strawberries that symbolize the Virgin Mary and utilitarian plants such as medicinal herbs.

 Origins of the Botanical Garden
Illustration© Rmn-Grand Palais, Paris 2017
The “enclosed garden” underwent a major change during the Renaissance. Plants that were cultivated for practical use became objects of scientific study and were observed and collected extensively. In 1545 the first garden was created in Padua, colored by various plants discovered by explorers. Beautifully shaped and flourishing with rare plants, the garden offered new scenery for artists and stimulated their creative appetite.

Gardens Created by Artists, Gardeners and Landscape Artists
Beginning with the Pompei fresco believed to be the oldest depiction of a garden, extending to the paintings of Dürer, Monet, Cezanne and Picasso, the botanical specimens of Klee and an installation by the Japanese artist Koichi Kurita who collected soil from various locations, the fascinating exhibition allows the viewer to enjoy the diverse works related to the garden. There is also a garden created with dried samples of flower and fruit and a section that displays design plans for gardens.

Garden, until July 24 (Closed Tuesdays)

※ Curator Laurent Le Bon talks about the exhibition (Auto-translation available)
Grand Palais
3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower
75008 Paris, France
Opening times:

Sun, Mon, Thu 10:00-20:00
Wed, Fri, Sat 10:00-22:00