Tuesday 27 September 2016

One More

One effect of visiting an art-rich city like Venice over a span of years - decades indeed - is that you get to notice how your taste changes over time. Mine has certainly widened to include much more Venetian 18th-century painting (especially the Tiepolos and Piazzetta), which I used to regard as essentially frivolous and sketchy. How wrong I was...
 On this visit, looking round the beautifully sited Peggy Guggenheim collection for the first time in many years, I realised that my taste in modern art had changed as well. Whereas before I had marvelled at the pioneering early-20th-century work of the Cubists, Surrealists and even Futurists and had been left cold by the Abstract Expressionists, I now found, to my surprise, that these responses had been reversed. Much of the early-20th-century stuff now seemed dry, lifeless, even academic - whereas the small collection of Abstract Expressionists stirred me as never before. In particular Jackson Pollock's vast Alchemy now speaks - or sings - to me, and I found it hard to tear myself away from the beautiful early Willem de Kooning (Untitled, 1958). Clearly I have changed, or my taste has.
However, the division was not that clear-cut, as at least three of the early-20th-century paintings caught my eye: a magical 1911 Chagall, La Pluie, and two wonderful Klees, Magic Garden (1926) [below] and Portrait of Frau P in the South (1924) [above], neither of which reproduces very well.
 But enough - basta.


  1. About 6 years ago I honeymooned in Venice. My bride and I took in the Guggenheim but we went on to the Punta della Dogana next to the Salute where the latest modern art is exhibited by the Foundation of French billionaire Fran├žois Pinault. Here we were treated to wallpaper with repeated designs made up entirely of human genitalia (we were solemnly rebuked for attempting to take a selfie in front of it to prove that it actually existed to those at home), half life-size stuffed horses emerging at the charge through brick walls and a display cabinet containing thousands of airfix soldiers in a landscape, all painted as dismembered or dismembering Nazi troopers by the Chapman brothers and artfully named "Fucking Hell." The Italians love it.

  2. Yes it is quite astounding how bad modern Italian taste and modern Italian art are - and in Venice, for heaven's sake! If you can't learn something about art and taste there, you are surely lost...

  3. Bumped into Francesco da Mosto in the Campo Santa Maria Formosa with my daughter this evening. Was able to tell him how much I loved his BBC 'Francesco's Venice' programmes. He comes from Venetian aristocracy dating back to the 5th century I believe and still lives in the city.

  4. The direction of my art preferences over the past 40 years matches yours. I absolutely adore the vibrant light of Tiepolo now. As Roberto Calasso says of him, he was 'the last breath of happiness in Europe'. Maybe that's why he appeals to us as we get older. That, and the fact that a Tiepolo tour in Venice tends to take one away from the worst crowds. You can lie on your back admiring the ceiling alone in the Carmine.