The Transformation of the Art Museum

I’m doing an online talk tomorrow evening, organised jointly by the Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard Department of History of Art and Architecture, where I was a Henry Fellow in 1976. I have been nervous about it because I never did my Generals, but I have now written the talk on three of my case studies, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Bilbao and the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

There is still time to sign up.

https://haa.fas.harvard.edu/event/transformation-art-museum-conversation-charles-saumarez-smith-martha

Standard

Start the Week

I don’t normally get to hear Start the Week – it’s when I’m working – so it was quite a treat to hear the episode this morning in which Andrew Marr dexterously juggled topics and ideas between Cynthia Saltzman at home in New York, Francesco da Mosto in Venice, and me sitting immediately opposite Andrew in Portland Place, as we roamed from Milan to Venice, to Paris and Berlin in search, first, of where Napoleon seized the greatest pictures to build up the collections of the Louvre and then, how the Louvre itself helped to inspire a great era of national, if not nationalist, museum-building:-

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vq72

Standard

Plunder, power and prestige

Tomorrow morning, I appear on Start the Week, together with Cynthia Saltzman, who has written a magnificently detailed account of how Napoleon and his army marched through northern Italy, compelling each of the major cities – Milan, Parma, Mantua – to sign treaties compelling them to give up their twenty best works of art to the Louvre (in Rome 100); and Francesco da Mosto, who has the advantage over us in that his ancestor was a Senator at the time that Napoleon arrived in Venice to demand works by Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, including the Wedding Feast at Cana which was brutally stripped off the wall of the Refectory next door to S. Giorgio Maggiore, rolled up and transported to the Louvre never to return. It makes what Elgin did just a one-off piece of plunder by comparison.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vq72

Standard

Eli Broad

The news of the death of Eli Broad yesterday has made me read his brief newspaper autobiography, published in the LA Times in May 2019 – pre- COVID. It’s an interesting and in many ways impressive life, making a great deal of money out of real estate and then getting involved in the arts: first, by establishing the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, with its building by Arata Isosaki on Bunker Hill, run to begin with by Pontus Hultèn; then Temporary Contemporary in 1983, designed by Frank Gehry, which he doesn’t mention; then the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA, designed by Renzo Piano, definitely not his best building; and finally The Broad itself on South Grand Avenue, right next door to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro. He made his fortune out of tract houses, but then spent it on civic monuments for his adopted city.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-grand-avenue-eli-broad-essay-2019-htmlstory.html?s=09

Standard