Sunday, October 6, 2013

Lunch with Goti


It could be nothing more than a Goto. A glass. From Venice. Here's one of them above, hand blown. It was a gift from a friend who came to lunch earlier in the summer. He explained just what a Goto was.

When the blowers of Murano had lunch they blew glasses for themselves out of leftover bits of glass that happened to be in their pots.

There was no scheme to it, as there would have been for a proper Murano product. What happened in the blowing happened.

Once lunch was done they destroyed the glasses, throwing them back into the molten glass byproduct. It was apparently Peggy Guggenheim who spotted them and had the blowers make her a set for her palace on the grand Canal. Never before had these glasses been taken seriously.

This was the choice of wine for our little Sunday lunch at home. We seem to be on a theme of the Veneto today!

Except for where the food is concerned. Melanzane alla parmigiana.

 We're at the end of our eggplant season. It seemed like a good idea.

 That's me, plating up.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We Once Had a King


Not everyone knows that Italy once had a king, as did all European countries in recent past. The last king of Italy, Umberto II (di Savoia), reigned for slightly over a month, from 9 May 1946 to 12 June 1946. However, he was de facto head of state from 1944 to 1946. He left Italy with his family at the close of WW II when a national referendum calling to preserve the monarchy failed. He lived out his life in exile in Portugal where he died in 1983, never having been allowed to return to Italy.

Here he is as a lad, the only son of King Vittorio Emanuele III. He was married in Rome on January 8th 1930 to Maria José of Belgium, daughter of King Albert I, and they had four children, Maria Pia, Vittorio Emanuele, Maria Gabriella and Maria Beatrice.

This is me on Saturday morning with Christine Camerana, Gil, Princess Maria Pia di Savoia, her husband Prince Michel de Bourbon Parme, and Maria Pia's son, Prince Michel de Yougoslavie, in the garden here at Villa Massei.

Many years ago Gil and I found this painting of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of freshly united Italy. It's a very good portrait of Maria Pia's great great grandfather, and our royal guests were very amused to see it here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Art Continued


No, this is not a Brigid Reilly. The great "Op" artist of the mid-twentieth century. It's a detail of a sign I saw at the Venice Biennale. Don't recall what the sign was saying. I've noticed that there's something of an Op Redux at large in the art world. And this is just a sign. Of it.

At the Dogana, a room draped. I thought of Colette. Not the writer though. Fabric is big this year, the weavers (or the modern equivalent) are going at it hot and heavy. I imagine it's Chinese.

There are lots of these book sculptures on view. Very clever. Lots of work. Like braiding.

A giant piece of steel upon which drops of water slowly fall, their sound amplified. And the visual result is this.

Giulio Paolini is one of my favorite contemporary Italian artists.

He showed a whole room filled with these drawings and constructions in the Arte Povera style.

Palazzo Grassi has been carpeted, walls, ceiling and floors, in this faux Persian rug. By Rudolf Stingel. There are three floors to the exhibit, all carpeted in this way. When I think of what it cost just to carpet my little Palm Beach apartment!

But the odd thing is this. Mr. Stingel has used the carpeted space as a backdrop for an exhibition of his paintings. I couldn't help but want to judge. The carpeted rooms in themselves would have been sufficient for a work of art (see my first illustration) as installation, an impressive one, given the scale and ambition, and a somewhat amusing one as well. But to go and hang your paintings in it? I felt that the so-called "site specific" paintings were out of place here, an afterthought, as if he wanted, at all cost, to remind us that he can paint, that he has "skills." I recall his paintings from the Dogana when it first opened. They were pretty much like some of these. If these paintings truly belong here, site specifically,  then are we to conclude that they were out of place in their last contexts? Some of the paintings are photo realist renderings of photographs of old or antique Christian sculpture, painted in black and white. Others are illusionistic paintings of chain link fences, while still others are monochromatic. Can't this carpeting, in this regard, be suddenly dismissed as merely an elaborate frame, a frame that suits, in the artist's view, all his varied works equally well? I can't help but feel that we've got a confused outcome here, perhaps one that isn't fully honest with itself.

A detail of the side of one of his canvases. He's not a bad painter, with his easel artist's somewhat nostalgic touch, recalling early Modernism. But if these painting were to find themselves on the wrong walls no one might be the wiser.

The brush strokes.

This is a fragment of a painting. Don't know the artist. I liked this bit more than the sum of all its parts.

And just outside these amazing exhibition spaces we find this. Venice.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Biennale: My Take


This is Richard Wilson watching a video in one of the pavilions of the Giardini at the Venice Biennale. A city so stuffed with art of almost every type that if Stendhal Sindrome really existed you'd surely come down with it here.

There are articles and reviews of the show everywhere and most of them discuss the more important offerings. I've noticed things others may not have, such as this photo montage. Don't ask me who made it—if I'd stopped to read every tag I'd never have got through a thing like this.

These German building models are made by someone truly obsessed—there are hundreds of them here.

I very much liked the work of these two gentlemen. As you enter the Biennale main pavilion you come upon them, on the floor. There is no wall tag explaining who they are or what this is all about. One of them makes electronic sounding music with his mouth while staring the other in the eye as the other performs a kind of slow-moving dance, all very contemporary. What I admired here is that the art they make is made of almost nothing; there is no technology between the inspiring idea and the finished product.

Small efforts intrigue me, like this collage, a medium I'm not necessarily fond of.

And this jug.

Or this Turkish miniature. (Most of Venice's visitors this summer were dressed like this).

The American Pavilion was given over entirely to New York-based artist Sarah Sze. Perhaps the work comes off better in my photograph than in real life.

Gil deep in thought. About Mickey Mouse as serial installation. More to come.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Private Norfolk Retreat


A treasure of a private garden Elsing Hall, in its current impeccable state, is the work of two committed and talented gentlemen who've retreated here after successful careers in finance in Asia. Their days are spent gardening and the extraordinary love they have for this unique historic property is apparent in everything you see.

Of course the history of the house is long. It was completed in about 1470 by John Hastings on the site of a much earlier house built by his ancestor, Sir Hugh de Hastings. Little is known of this earlier house erected prior to Sir Hugh's death in 1347 but the remains of a gate house and curtain wall on the inner edge of the moat are clearly visible today. Sir Hugh was the younger son of the 2nd Baron Hastings and acquired Elsing by marriage to his mother's ward, Margery Foliot. To find out more go to the Elsing Hall website.

Lush borders, in the English style, seem to be the center of horticultural concern here, all handled masterfully—in spite of the fact that the garden's owners and creators knew nothing about gardening just a few short years ago.


This impressive "moat" is something of a centerpiece here and from each direction it's perceived its look changes entirely.

We've just crossed the moat via a tiny bridge to approach the house from the front—it sits on a kind of island in that respect.

And off the "island," walled gardens enclose further gardens, each with a different classic character.

That black swan followed us for the entire visit. It's said that she's "mad." She didn't seem to like the intrusion of our presence there but at the same time she couldn't get enough of us.

This is a close up of the flint facade, typical of Norfolk. Most original.