Thursday, 29 January 2009

James Perry Wilson and the Wolf

In an interview this month with Calvin Tomkins in The New Yorker, the contemporary painter Walton Ford (see his stuff here) describes this scene as "one of the most beautiful things in New York". It's the diorama of grey wolves running through the snow by Gunflint Lake, Minnesota at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, created by James Perry Wilson (1889-1976). Wilson was a former architectural draftsman legendary among museum diorama designers (and museum diorama aficionados) for his extraordinary ability to create convincingly receding space on the curved wall of the backdrop. (It was making the bit where the curved back bit and the tilted front bit met segue together smoothly that made Wilson a legendary figure in the world of the diorama). 

I was reminded, looking at this, of Frederic Remington's great painting 'Moonlight, Wolf' from 1909 (see it here) - it has that very American 'Walden'-esque sense of romantic loneliness and melancholy. But the main thing is the hold these scenes have on the young imagination. Think about all the nightmares these things have prowled into. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bellini Rubato

This is the altarpiece in a small, stark chapel in the church of Madonna dell'Orto (Madonna of the Garden) in Venice. It's an empty frame on a simple marble altar. I've seen a mop and bucket leant against it; I don't think anyone prays there. Somewhat passive-aggressively propped beneath - not in - the frame is a scale colour photo of a painting, Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child from 1478. It's a very glossy, slightly warped print; you couldn't mistake it for the real thing. It's very definitely not allowed in the frame, either. (Don't get any ideas).

Beneath the picture (not quite legible in this photo) is a label with text in small capital letters, claiming that this is a faithful reproduction of a painting stolen during the night of the 1st of May 1993. That was the third time this painting was stolen. I like to think that the previous two times were the nights of the 29th and 30th of April 1993. 

It turns out that two novels were published last year that are both about stolen Bellini paintings. (The name 'Bellini' may have a nice ring; there aren't many books about stolen Sodomas, for example). Maybe Bellinis are particularly poorly-guarded, I don't know, but look at that Madonna's face (here's a better image): she's doing that God-not-again starey-eye thing you do when someone won't stop telling you about their year of self-discovery in Nepal, or when someone keeps stealing you, again and again. 

Monday, 26 January 2009

Art21 Blog posts

All Letter from London posts are here. articles to date

Guido van der Werve at the Hayward Gallery is here.

The Turner Prize media coverage is here.

Scope Art Fair is here.

GSK Contemporary at the Royal Academy is here.

Lisson Gallery 'Perplexed in Public' is here.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Artnet articles to date

Mark Wallinger at Tate Britain is here.

Anthony McCall at the Serpentine Gallery is here.

Raark-London at Bargehouse is here.

Paul Chan at the Serpentine Gallery is here.

Hans Schabus at Curve Gallery, Barbican, is here.

London galleries round-up one is here.

London galleries round-up two is here.