On vacation at the moment? Slow day at the office? Head to your local periodical merchant and pick up the Dec. 22 New York Review of Books, which has not one, not two, but four choice articles about art, each well worth a read.
First up we have Ingrid D. Rowland’s review of art critic Robert Hughes’s new book, Rome, which The Observer also reviewed, a few weeks back. Here’s a bit from Ms. Rowland’s review, which begins with a quotation from Mr. Hughes:
“And he says at the very end of Rome: ‘For all its glories, and for all the legacy it left in art, thought, and politics, Greek civilization did perish. That of Rome is still somewhat with us.’ And the reasons for Rome’s staying power, he argues, have to do with the city’s eternal embrace of crassness, as intrinsic to Roman grandeur as majesty, beauty, and spiritual transcendence.”
Second, and sadly the one article an Internet user will have to pay for, is Julian Bell’s review of the current Vermeer show, “Vermeer’s Women: Secrets and Silence,” now on view at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. Mr. Bell writes:
“The thirty-two assembled canvases and panels [four are by Vermeer], all executed in mid-seventeenth-century Holland and all bearing some form of female subject matter, amply justify a detour to Cambridge.”
You have until Jan 15, 2012. We wish we could make it.
Third, Christopher Benfry takes a look at four books about American modernists Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, and digs up this line from Stieglitz, about one of his photographs of Duchamp’s urinal sculpture, Fountain (1917): “The Urinal photograph is really quite a wonder… It has an oriental look about it—a cross between a Buddha & a veiled woman.”
For the fourth and final piece, you may want to grab a mug of spiked eggnog or warm up a hot toddy: it’s a long and depressing one. Martin Filler flashes us back to the fun and frivolity of Frieze Week in October, noting that, at the same time, libraries in London were being shuttered and poverty charities were being painfully strained.
Mr. Filler also takes us on a nice tour of some of the exhibitions now on view in—as the cover of the paper puts it—”art-mad London,” like the Gerhard Richter show at Tate Modern and the postmodern design show at the Victoria & Albert Museum. He writes:
“As winter approached in London this year, the cultural riches of an exceptional fall season had a warming effect on the spirit. But a visitor sensed that before long the real scene of threat would more likely be found in the streets of the capital rather than merely being viewed as handwriting on the walls of the Tate.”