Miro in London, Monet in Martigny, Atget in Madrid, Alexander the Great in Oxford, Economou collection in Athens: in crisis-stricken Europe, never have exhibitions been so exciting…

Joan Miró, The Ladder of Escape,1968–1973, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, © Succession Miró/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London (exhibition Tate Modern, London)

Society portraits

BARCELONA – The Belle Epoque? Those mind-blowing years before the cataclysm of World War One. People danced, drank, dressed sumptuously, raced in Bugattis, went to the seaside … What we all remember from those years is the birth of Cubism, with Picasso and Braque or the first steps of Futurism, under the baton of Marinetti, and even Surrealism. Actually, overshadowed by these movements there were others that were highly more appreciated, such as la society painting. The role of the artists shown at Caixa Forum was similar to the one played by today by magazines such as Gala, Gente, Ola, OK or Hello! They give an ideal, appetizing, distinguished image of stars and royalty. The choice shown was made starting with the best interpreters: from Sorolla to Toulouse-Lautrec, from Steinlen to Sargent and Serov, we drift among some of the best interpreters of portraits in the XXth century.
Retratos de la Belle Epoque at the Caixa Forum, from 20 July to 9 October 2011.
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Latest news from Poland

BRUSSELS - Where does contemporary Polish art stand today? That is precisely what Bozar wishes to investigate, at the time of the 6-month Polish presidency of the European Union (as of 1st July 2011). While Pawel Althamer’s wild performances or the sculptures of Miroslaw Balka (who was the object of an exhibition at the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in 2009) are known beyond their borders, it is not the case for most of the artistic scene, which has undergone many upheavals over the last two decades, from the fall of Communism to the entrance into Europe. Under the aegis of the great Bruno Schulz and Tadeusz Kantor, many of the artists shown (Maciej Kurak, Marcin Maciejowski, etc.) are ironic and enjoy the absurd. To prove that new practices also exist in Warsaw, Kracovia and Lodz, graffiti artist Mariusz Waras created a fresco for this event.
The Power of Fantasy at Bozar until 18 September 2011
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Antonio Lopez, such a long absence

MADRID - Antonio López (born in 1936) is the big attraction this summer, and the exhibition of his work at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum puts an end to a sixteen-year wait. Considered as the last of the great Spanish realist painters, López draws his subjects from every day life: a refrigerator, a bathroom, an empty lot, a quince tree in the garden. He is capable of setting his easel for days on end in the middle of the Gran Vía, he has created urban landscapes of a rare density in delicate colors (during the sixties he was in charge of preparing the colors at the San Fernando academy, in Madrid). He is also the creator of sculptures– among them a nude couple that created quite a buzz at its presentation during his previous retrospective at the Reina Sofía museum and that required decades of work and of regrets (1968-1994). Nearly 200 works are presented, covering half a century of activity.
Antonio López at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum, from 28 June to 25 September 2011.
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Saints' Club

LONDON - During the Middle Ages, in the same way as salt, silk or alum, religious relics were one of the most profitable businesses. These precious elements, supposed to protect against all evils and give a touch of prestige to their owners, these bones of saints, thorns from Christ’s crown, be it drops of the Virgin’s milk, all needed elaborate reliquaries, some real works of art in some cases, with gold work like that of saint Baudime, which will be exceptionally leaving Saint-Nectaire. The British Museum grouped together a large choice, including those of Saint Marc (in Venice) and of Saint Thomas Becket (in Canterbury). As a consequence for the appetite during the medieval era for those «good luck charms», they multiplied in an unusual manner: certain popular saints had various arms or multiple teeth, spread throughout all of Europe…
Treasures of heaven at the British Museum, from 23 June to 9 October 2011.
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Monet, the return

MARTIGNY - Monet was one of the blockbusters of the year 2011 by attracting over 900 000 visitors to the Grand Palais in Paris. The show is on again in Switzerland, at the Gianadda foundation, with an equally ambitious selection: 170 paintings that will be shown next to the artist’s collection of Japanese prints. While the musée Marmottan in Paris lent many works, the visit to Martigny is worth the trip for the selection of works from the Swiss collections, either public (such as the Kunstmuseum in Bern) or private (such as the Buhrle foundation). Certain paintings, from private collections, have not been shown since the painter’s demise.
Monet au musée Marmottan et dans les collections suisses at the Gianadda foundation, from 17 June to 20 November 2011.
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All the Atget you can get

MADRID - He is the most famous writer of memoirs of old Paris, of its alleyways and the “quais”, its strollers, and artisans – florists, coach men, and its hurdy-gurdy men. And yet, the works of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) were on the brink of disappearing. After his death, it took the interest of American photographers, of Man Ray in particular and especially of his secretary Berenice Abbott, who saved a part of his funds by taking it to the United States, to bring it back to life. The exhibition in Madrid, the first in an international itinerary, presents a selection of images taken by the photographer between 1898 and 1923: the Seine, the gardens, indoor scenes examined carefully without omitting, of course, the fortifications, the «zone» where the ragmen and other homeless lived.
Eugène Atget, el viejo París at the fondation Mapfre. From 27 May to 27 August 2011. The exhibition will the be presented in Rotterdam, Paris (in April 2012) and Sydney.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 9 June 2011

Makart’s beautiful women

VIENNA - He was as famous in the past as he is unknown today: this exhibition dedicated to Hans Makart (1840-1884) should help place the painter back in the geography of XIX century art. An enthusiast of large compositions, just like Bougereau or Munkacsi (sometime sin strange formats, to surround the doors of sumptuous apartments), Makart knew how to satisfy the taste of his contemporaries for historic and mythological evocations full of color and in which muses did not mind being undressed (it can be seen in a brilliant manner in the series of the Five Senses). He was attracted very early in life by the court of Vienna, when it shown with all the splendor of Sissi, and he also shone in women’s portraits (Sarah Bernhardt was among his models) and he knew how to give a convincing visual interpretation to Wagner’s operas. And the fact that he impressed Klimt surely suffices to confirm once again his renown…
Hans Makart at the Belvedere, from 9 June to 9 October 2011
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Russian Revolution in 3-D

MADRID – During the years prior to and following the Revolution, Russia experienced unique creativity: Rayonism, Suprematism, Constructivism shattered the foundations of classic art and opened the door to artists such as Malevitch, Lissitsky, Tatlin, Rodchenko or Gontcharova. The links between art and architecture are stronger than ever before: buildings are made far from «bourgeois aesthetics», in which privilege is given to pure forms. The photographs of that time, the large, recent models (the monument to the IIIrd International movement by Tatlin, the Roussakov club and his own house, by Melnikov) prove it here in a dialogue with the paintings and drawings. Once again, the Costakis collection, grouped together in the 1960s by a learned embassy attaché in Moscow, is the base for this exhibition. It is presented permanently at Thessalonica, and includes the most famous names of those decades. The fund is completed by loans from the museum of Architecture of Moscow, and the aim is to show that at that time, to change the world one had to through architecture as well as through art.
Construir la revolución, arte y arquitectura en Rusia 1915-1935 at the Caixa Forum, until 18 September 2011.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 2 June 2011

Ileana's Italy

VENICE - Today she is not as well known as her ex-husband Leo Castelli but Ileana Sonnabend (1914-2007) was his equal in being one of the great figures of the art world in the XXth century. A Romanian beauty and heiress of a great industrial dynasty, Ileana Schapira (she took the name of her second husband, Michael Sonnabend) linked her destiny to that of the young executive of the Generali insurance company, when he was on a mission in Bucharest on the eve of World War II. It was in the United States that the two discovered their talents as exceptional art dealers and collectors. The exhibition set up in the sanctuary of another exceptional woman – Peggy Guggenheim – can be looked at like a Who’s Who of the great art currents, from the avant-gardes of the fifties to the most recent ones, from Rauschenberg to Lichtenstein, from the Becher couple to Jeff Koons. But the aim of this exhibition is mainly to illustrate the links Ileana Sonnabend had with Italy, embodied not only in the Arte povera (Kounellis, Merz, Pistoletto) but in Fontana’s slashes or Mimmo Rotella’s reassembled collages as well.
Ileana Sonnabend, an Italian Portrait at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, from 29 May to 2 October 2011.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 26 May 2011

The artist, that hero

TURIN - What does the word "hero" mean today? Following the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid, that has dedicated an exhibition to "Heroines" from art and in art, from Artemisia Gentileschi to Frida Kahlo, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Torino is shining its light on the masculine gender. "Eroi" (Heroes) tries to demonstrate that individual, "classic" heroism, in the form of shattering actions, is no longer in fashion. It has been immediately recovered by television and talk-shows, and has become the vulgar fodder for the media. The real heroism would actually be the patient, solitary search for new forms of living in society, and the resistance to the global communication system, to the formating of thoughts. It is in this sense that creators such as Abramovic, Boltanski, Kieffer, Nitsch, Baselitz, Vezzoli are brought together, with drawings, paintings and even installations set up purposely for this exhibition.
Eroi at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, from 19 May to 9 October 2011
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Serra in search of Brancusi

BASEL – In 1965, a young 26 year old American artist received one of the fundamental influences in his career during a study trip to Paris, by visiting the workshop of an artist of the historic avant-gards. Half a century later, the encounter is played on stage and updated. The neophyte from 1965 is considerd today as one of the greatest active sculptors: it is Richard Serra, present with works that span his whole career (on paper, in rubber, in steel). The revered model is Constantin Brancusi, dead a long time ago but who continues to head towards the pinacle of icon-artists: his works reach prices at auctions which the Rumanian vagabond (he walked from Bucarest to Paris) would never have imagined (26 million € for Madame L.R. at the Bergé Saint Laurent auction in 2009). The confrontation, with some thirty wors of art, shows what the second owes the other and how inspiration can be creative, stimulating, and not plagiarism.
Constantin Brancusi and Richard Serra at the fondation Beyeler from 22 May to 4 September 2011. The exhibition will the be presented at the Guggenheim Bilbao from 8 October 2011 to 15 April 2012.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 19 May 2011

Focus on the George Economou collection

ATHENS - As Greece sees itself plunged in a deep crisis, it holds on to art with the energy of despair. The North angles of the Parthenon are currently being restored while the museum of the Acropolis, designed by Bernard Tschumi, is a real success: it welcomed nearly 1.5 million visitors in 2010. And on 5 May 2011, when the programs of France Culture delocalized completely to Athens, the private collection of ship owner George Economou was being unveiled at the latest cultural site in the city, a former silk factory in the district of Metaxourgeio. This man born to a wealthy family in 1951, created a colossal maritime trading company, Cardiff Maritime, which made him one of the richest men in the country. He has been collecting for nearly twenty years and we can see among his 3000 works paintings and drawings by Schiele, Dufy, Nolde, Metzinger, Brauner, Miro, Delvaux, Hockney or Tsingos… The selection is inspiring but it seems the most beautiful pieces are still hidden away in storage, with an unknown body of works by artists from the German and Austrian “Sezession” and Expressionist movements. He recently bought all of Otto Dix’s graphic works (524 pages!), and they will go on long-term loan to the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung in Munich. «I am thinking of a permanent museum», the collector explains. «It could be in Athens as well as Berlin, Vienna, London, New York or Paris.» As all good businessmen, he promises to reach a decision very soon …
The George Economou collection is presented at the Municipal Gallery of Athens (Metaxourgeio building, angles Leonidou and Milerou) until 2 October 2011.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 12 May 2011

Initiation to Gabon

GENEVA – One of the pieces exhibited has been the talk of the town for some time. It belonged to Tristan Tzara before being exhibited by gallery owner Charles Ratton, the pioneer of «primitive arts» at the beginning of the thirties, then at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, triggering the dubbing of «African art». It is a Kwele mask, with traditional traits in the shape of a heart, covered with white paint. Around this «monument» the exhibition groups masks, figurines and reliquaries from neighboring cultures– the Fang, the Vuvi, the Mbete – to draw up the portrait of an art that is proper to Gabon, which has become so difficult to discover in situ today.
Art ancestral du Gabon at the musée Barbier-Mueller, from 9 May 2011 to 15 January 2012.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 5 May 2011

Miró heads for London

LONDON – We well remember the Miró retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1974 and the one at the fondation Maeght in 1990. The Tate Modern has also decided to tackle one of the great art figures of the XXth century. The gathering of works of art is very complete, coming from great collections throughout the world and, of course, from the Miró foundation in Barcelona and Majorca. Of course we will see the Farm (1921), painted during the years of poverty in Paris and which Hemingway supposedly won in a dice game, as well as May 68, when the artist, at the age of 75 and incensed by the regime, took the side of the students in their demand for freedom. The exhibit presents 160 works carried out over a period of six decades, and is the first retrospective of this magnitude on British soil since 1964 (also at the Tate). Its leading idea is the political dimension of an artist who rebelled against ideologies up to his death in 1983.

Miró at the Tate Modern from 14 April to 11 September 2011
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 21 April 2011

New light on Alexander the Great

OXFORD - Can anything new still be said about the Macedonian dynasty whose heroes lived over two thousand years ago? It seems so, according to this exhibition of nearly 500 pieces, many of which have never been shown to the public. They proceed, not from antique collections but rather from archaeological digs carried out over the last three decades in Vergina, the former Aegae, the city of Thrace which was the family’s seat. The discovery of the tomb of King Philip II and his grandson Alexander IV (the son of Alexander the Great) by archaeologist Manolis Andronikos in 1977 triggered off a very successful campaign: other tombs, in particular of women, have been unearthed up to these very last few years. As a matter of fact, one of the jewels of the exhibition is the golden trousseau of the Lady of Aegae, discovered in 1988 (pendants, brooches, rings, etc). Clay heads, marble busts, fragments of gold shields, tiaras and bronze kouros complete the demonstration.

Heracles to Alexander the Great at the Ashmolean Museum, from 7 April to 29 August 2011.
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Read again the art-of-the-day.info newsletter from 14 April 2011