New York Arts in Italy

La cultura italiana. Recensioni di mostri, concerti, l’opera, ed altri destinazioni culturali in Italia.
Italy in the Berkshire Review: reviews of exhibitions, concerts, opera, theater, and other cultural destinations in Italy.

Leonard Freed, The Italians – exhibition now at The Leica Gallery, New York, until August 9, 2014

Leonard Freed, The Italians, Quantuck Lane Press, 2011, exhibition now at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere through May 27, 2012.

The great documentary art photographer’s warm-hearted, but sharply observed takes on Italian life between 1956 and 2005 appear in 190 superb duotone illustrations. With an introductory essay in English and Italian by Berkshire Review/New York Arts editor, Michael Miller.

The selection of images in the book and in the exhibition was made by Freed’s widow, Brigitte and James Mairs, editor at the Quantuck Lane Press. The Italian edition, which is also bilingual and virtually identical, is distributed by the local organizer, Admira.

Bomarzo tra il Santo Biscotto e la Fava Marxista: La Festa di Sant’Anselmo (April 23-25, 2014)

Il biscotto di Sant'Anselmo

My days in Bomarzo in 2009 did not show the town at its most industrious…or, on the contrary, perhaps it did. The end of April and the beginning of May mark holiday season in this medieval hill town of fewer than 1800 inhabitants. The third weekend of the month and the weekdays that lead up to it mark the festival of the local saint, Saint Anselm of Bomarzo, the 25th also being the national holiday of the Liberation. The following weekend embraces May Day, the international celebration of the working man and woman, which needs no explanation. A young person asked me why we don’t celebrate this holiday in the United States, conjuring up old photos of the police and the National Guard in my mind.

Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel: Celebrating Five Hundred Years of the Greatest Vision of Hope

prawled across the east wing that stretches from the papal residence to the Vatican Museums is an inscription commemorating one of Pope Julius II’s most important contributions to the complex now known as the Apostolic Palace: IULIUS II PONT MAX LIGURUM VI PATRIA SAONENSIS SIXTI IIII NEPOS VIAM HANC STRUXIT PONT COMMODITATI. The text is ambiguous in that “VI” may signify the ablative case of the word vis meaning power or strength, or it may stand for the Roman numeral “6.” If the former, it indicates that Julius was the sixth pope from Liguria, the others being Innocent IV (1243-1254), Hadrian V (1276), Nicholas V (1447–1455), Sixtus IV (1471–1484), and Innocent VIII (1484–1492). If the latter, it refers to the indomitable Ligurian spirit that put Julius on the throne of Peter.

Shakespeare in Rome: Come vi piace at the Silvano Toti Globe Theatre

If you ever need proof of Shakespeare’s universal appeal, stop by Rome’s Globe Theatre. Within a single evening you’ll be convinced that the Bard, disarmed of dactylic hexameters, can still speak to everyone and anyone.

All the more so to Italians when it comes to As You Like It (Come vi piace). Their temperament — irascible, passionate, effusive — stands opposite that of the English but squares precisely with what Shakespeare wanted to lampoon in this subtle masterpiece. Rosalind (Melania Giglio) is so sickly in love with Orlando (Daniele Pecci) that she can barely maintain her act as “Ganymede” in his presence. Duke Frederick (Nicola D’Eramo) hates his brother (also played by D’Eramo) so fiercely that anyone who reminds him of Duke Senior is mindlessly banished from the dukedom. Silvius (Patrizio Cigliano) dotes on Phebe (Barbara Di Bartolo) so cloyingly that the audience would gladly join her in strangling him if only he weren’t so hysterically funny. Each character is a caricature of Italian emotional excess, and no one can make fun of emotional excess better than the excessively emotional Italians.

Petition Madness in the Art World…SECOND REVISION! More Petitions and a Modest Proposal…

A cruise ship enters the Giudecca. Photo © 2011 Michael Miller.

Since the Mona Lisa affair was reported, other petitions and protests have emerged. Earlier this month (September 17) the protests agains the huge cruise ships that pass through the lagoon in Venice were renewed with vigor. The invaluable Tomaso Montanari has organized a petition against the privatization of the Brera in Milan. At the beginning of the month, in the United States, the New York Times demoted Allan Kozinn, one of its more intelligent music critics, who has been writing for them since 1977 and a staff member since 1991. He is now a “general cultural reporter.” Norman Lebrecht, who announced the bad news, received an avalanche of mostly angry and disgusted comments. Petitions were organized on Facebook, urging the Times to change their mind…but to no avail. Kozinn’s gone. For some years it has been hard to imagine that once upon a time Paul Griffiths wrote music criticism for The New York Times, and both he and Andrew Porter for The New Yorker.

Marketing Italy — with Sustainability(?)…and a Word about Museums

Giovanni Paolo Pannini, Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome, Oil on canvas, 1757. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In a part of Florens 2012, the academics, business figures, and other experts who attend will explore the subjects developed two years ago, within a wide-ranging scheme, specifically tailored for this meeting, mainly the theme: “from the Grand Tour to the Global Tour.” Fundamentally, the way the world perceives Italy and enjoys the many extraordinary things the country has to offer descend from the Grand Tour, the capstone of an English aristocrat’s education beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing on into our own time, however much its character has been democratized in the twentieth century.

The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolo di Fredi: A Masterpiece Reconstructed at the University of Virginia Art Museum and the Museum of Biblical Art in New York – A Review

Bartolo di Fredi, Adoration of the Magi, tempera on panel. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena.

The Adoration of the Magi by Bartolo di Fredi: A Masterpiece Reconstructed is a what museum people call a focus exhibition. It is built around a single work of art in a museum’s collection, supplemented by other works which cast light on one or more aspects of the work. For the museum, it is an opportunity to take the work out of its usual context in the gallery and to direct the visitor’s attention towards that one individual work and its own historical context.This rich exhibition had several themes: the reconstruction of the dismembered work of art, the re-evaluation of the artist who created it, the Sienese master Bartolo di Fredi, the date, the patron, and the original location of the work. This small, but ambitious exhibition goes beyond even this. Through a series of thumbnail biographies, it provides the reader with a guide to Sienese painting in the decades following the Black Death, a period which remains underestimated and comparatively little-known. The exhibition catalogue would make an instructive companion to a visit to the Siena Pinacoteca and the churches of the city.

Can statistics and digitized procedural rules create reality in the arts…perhaps with a bit of Barnumesque assistance? The Official Recommendations of Florens 2010…

Jacques Callot, La Fiera di Impruneta, etching and engraving. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

It seems right to begin by grounding whatever else I have to say in the recommendations of Florens 2010. Since much of this will be discussed at Florens 2012. I’ve entered my thoughts simply as comments on the thirteen proposals of 2010. Some of these mention examples from my experiences in the U.S. While the U.S. scored quite well in the Florens 2010 surveys, there is no reason why it should be considered exemplary. The arts struggle there as much as anywhere, although there are a variety of resources to support it. The Tanglewood Music Festival is without a doubt the most important summer music festival and school in the country. They have just published their attendance figures for this past summer, the summer of their 75th anniversary celebrations, and it is makes for depressing reading. The most popular classical concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra — and these were the cornerstone of the founder, Serge Koussevitzky’s vision for the festival — ranked ninth below eight pop concerts and semi-popular ceremonial events. Even with an array of private and corporate donors at hand and painstakingly cultivated, the arts have to work hard in the New World to survive and risk compromising their mission.

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