One of the great losses of the pandemic for the art world has been unexpected closures of numerous exhibitions worldwide. Perhaps the most missed, because it entailed such a monumental task to bring works together that had last been partially brought together in the early 19th century, was Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution. What a loss and what a joy for those few who saw it before it closed, Van Eyck’s brilliance refreshes the soul. Fortunately its available online and well worth viewing.
After months of anticipation, the Covid blackout seems to be lifting. Gradually businesses are coming back and in New York, one of the most anticipated openings was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Opening on August 29, lines snaked out and around the plaza and among those waiting was Eric Gibson, former employee of Andre’ Emmerich Gallery, former Executive Editor of ARTNews and now the long-time editor of the WSJ Leisure & Art page. Gibson shared his experience in the Journal’s edition of August 31, providing a first-hand seasoned observer’s eye to an event that marks the new, new for not just the Met, but museums across the country and elsewhere. Just as Howard Carter must have felt when the tomb long-shut opened, expectations for the Met were tempered by our own experiences of isolation and wonder about what it would be like. As Gibson tells it, it’s not the same.
One of the pleasures of the WSJ is the arts section. Critical eyes share insights about just about everything having to do with Life & Arts, on subjects ranging from stately estates to hot rods. One of the recent gems was a short article by Jason Zweig, whose normal beat is The Intelligent Investor published each Saturday. His August 31 column, Born of Boom and Bust made me think of the frenzied circumstances of our current situation with the election, policing, disease, and in general a stew pot of nasty bits and pieces of societal disfunction and upheaval. Though it is in human nature to think the time we live in as absolutely unique, it isn’t. Humanity regularly creates messes and among the messiest of the messes was the South Sea Bubble of 1720 which was satirized by William Hogarth in an engraving of 1722. Zweig surgically unravels the allegories and allusions in his article as if before a circle of aspiring students clustered around a corpse. The engraving presents nearly all the foibles and vanities capable of man, and it's well worth reading in light of our own.
On July 23, 2020, curators Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, Sarah Laursen and Sarah Fee presented three magnificent museum exhibitions that were either postponed or not available for viewing due to the Covid-19 pandemic: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Up Close at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Lost Luxuries: Ancient Chinese Gold at the Middlebury College Museum of Art; and The Cloth That Changed the World: India's Painted and Printed Cottons at The Royal Ontario Museum.