The Silence of the Blog

I have just received a mysterious message on the answering machine asking if I was ailing since it is at least three days since I have written a blog.

The truth is that I have never wanted to feel compelled to write something if I haven’t got something to say.   I have been recovering from the shock of becoming a knicht and answering the wonderful deluge of correspondence from all corners of the globe.   And this weekend I have particularly been mourning the loss, a second time, of Glasgow School of Art.   It seems unbelievable and unfair that one of Scotland’s greatest architectural masterpieces – the ruggedly solid and beautifully detailed Glasgow School of Art – should have burnt down not once, but now twice: the first time because of a projector catching fire and this time on the night of the students’ graduation.  

I have been trying to remember it from the few times I have visited, never recently, and can only recall its noble hillside setting, the sense of Scottish baronial massing, and the way that the art students treated their masterpiece so magnificently unceremoniously.  

I suppose that the craftsmen will just have to go to work again and recover what they can.

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Theaster Gates

In the interests of completeness, I should record that I attended a memorable, but inscrutable performance by Theaster Gates with The Black Monks of Mississippi as a musical homage to the Black Madonna who sat in the middle accepting libations of wine.

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Kunstmuseum Basel

I had a therapeutic hour at the end of the day in amongst the Old Master paintings on the first floor of the Kunstmuseum.

A Cranach of Lucretia:-

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Grünewald of the Crucifixion:-

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An amazing Altdorfer of The Resurrection:-

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It must be one of the greatest Holbeins of The Dead Christ (1521):-

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Holbein of Bonifacius Amerbach (1519):-

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Erasmus himself in 1532:-

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And a Frans van Mieris of A Young Woman with a Feather Fan Prepared to Go Out:-

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Bengal Architecture

I called in at the Basel Museum of Architecture to see their exhibition Bengal Stream about contemporary architecture in Bangladesh.   In the early years of Independence, they employed major American architects, including Stanley Tigerman working with Muzharul Idlam at the Polytechnic Institute in Sylhet, Paul Rudolph at the Mymensingh Agricultural University and, most memorably, Louis Kahn designing the Capitol in Dhaka.   Since then, they have developed their own traditions of lightweight construction, designed, as far as possible, to withstand the consequences of flooding, cyclones and the monsoon, low-rise and often brick:-

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Fondation Beyeler

I’ve always liked the Fondation Beyeler – the beautiful, suburban building designed by Renzo Piano between the road and fields on the outskirts of Basel, with spaces which are all daylit, looking out through large windows onto fields, but, at the same time, well judged, well proportioned, and providing the best possible conditions for the viewing of art.

The Foundation was established in 1982 by Ernst Beyeler and Hilda Kunz.   They showed their collection at the Reina Sofia in 1989, at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 1993, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1997.   The building opened on 18 October 1997.

I walked round the outside to get a better sense of the ways that it connects to nature and the surrounding countryside:-

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Bacon Giacometti

I took the no.6 tram out to the Fondation Beyeler in the posh suburbs of Basel to see their exhibition Bacon Giacometti, a compare and contrast of two of the major figures of the 1950s, both extremists and established outsiders, who met one another twice in London in 1962 and 1965.

Giacometti:-

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Meets Bacon:-

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They go well together: both examples of post-war angst, hovering between figuration and fragmentation.

Early Bacon (Head III 1949):-

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Early Giacometti (The Nose 1947-9):-

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BP Portrait Award

I went tonight to the announcement of the winner of this year’s BP Portrait Award.   It turned out that it was the 29th. year that the award has been sponsored by BP, which must be one of the longest and most consistent examples of corporate support, now worth £35,000 to the winner, as well as a portrait commission, which makes it one of the biggest prizes in the country.   Before BP, it was the John Player Portrait Award, established in 1980, and one of the early examples of title sponsorship in the arts.   The winner was Miriam Escofet, a Spanish artist in her fifties, who has painted her mother:  a demonstration of the way that the BP Portrait Award keeps alive the tradition of serious and life-like portraiture as a legitimate practice in the arts.

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