Well, if you haven’t read the first part of this post then I recommend that you do, namely because I explore the history of the nude, and also how the concept changed in the early 20th Century as we moved from the public to the private space. The other thing is that I am running through is the idea of where the line is drawn, and what we would consider offensive. One idea has suggested as to whether the image is sensual or not, yet there are works of art hanging on the walls of art galleries for everybody to see that are incredibly sensual. The other thing is that we are probably much more relaxed with regards to the naked body that the British of the Victorian era were, who were renown for being rather prude.
There is probably very few things more controversial in art than the idea of the nude. Sure, artists have been painting, sculpting, and creating nude images for millenia, yet there is always this debate over whether it is right to display the unclothed human body, and whether we should prevent the young from being exposed to such images. The question always comes down to where one draws the line between art and pornography. Mind you this line is actually a pretty subjective line, and is also a line that isn’t necessarily set between gender identities – there are women who consider pornography to be fine, while there are men who are absolutely appalled by the industry.
We were fortunate enough to have an exhibition of some of the works of Vincent Van Gogh come to the NGV this year, which has made me expedite my post on my visit to the museum that is dedicated to his works – the main reason being that I really can’t write a post about the exhibition at the NGV (the National Gallery of Victoria, which in my opinion is by far the best art gallery in Australia) without first writing a post about my experience at the titular museum in Amsterdam. The problem was that you aren’t actually allowed to take photos in the museum, the main reason being that because he is such a popular artist the museum is going to be crowded and if everybody were to stop to take photos of the paintings then it is basically going to ruin it for everybody. Fortunately the museum actually have posted all of their paintings on the web, so even though I left my notebook in my bag, I am fortunate enough to be able to simply go to their website and use that, as well as the notes I made on my mobile phone, as inspiration for this post.
The annoying thing about my trip to the Leibeighaus (which happens to be the home of Frankfurt’s Sculpture museum) is that I didn’t end up seeing any of the permanent sculptures. Mind you, they did have a major exhibition here, and I didn’t actually make any effort to go and look for the permanent collection, and it wasn’t until afterwards that I discovered that there was more to this museum than the exhibition that I ended up seeing (actually, now that I found the photos, I realised that I did see the permanent exhibition). Mind you, it isn’t a huge collection and the only reason that people go to the museum is to see one of the temporary exhibitions – but then again that is the main drawcard for most museums, though the other drawcard is the tourists (and it can be annoying when you travel all the way to Europe only to discover that all of the Renoirs are out on loan).
Banksy certainly does raise a question as to where you draw a line between art and vandalism, but then the whole modern (or should I say contemporary) art movement that has swept the world theoretically suggests that smashing up a car (that doesn’t happen to be yours) with a sledgehammer could quite well be considered art. It could also be considered a criminal offence, and I doubt that the defence of “I’m just expressing my artistic ability” would work with any judge. Yet isn’t this what graffiti basically is – defacing somebody else’s property? Yet what if that property is public property, and what if the mural that is appearing on that property is actually really good – does it become art, and does the artist escape criminal sanction because they have created a work of art?
I’m not really sure if the four paintings that I have posted in the title are strictly caricatures, but they were on display at the Caricature museum in Frankfurt (which in German is the Museum für Komische Kunst) so I guess they should fall into the category of Caricature (because why would a caricature museum have such paintings on display if they were not caricatures). Anyway, I visited the museum the first night I was in Frankfurt and what was cool was that the concierge suggested that I come back at 8:00 pm (the museum closed at 9:00 pm) because then I would get in for half price – which is what I ended up doing, and while I was waiting I headed off to a pub that happened to be nearby (which was the plan all along, and fortunately for me, daylight saving in Europe stretches out to beyond 9:00 pm).
One of the things that I have discovered about the Singapore Art Museum is that it doesn’t seem to have a permanent collection. Well, I did find a couple of rooms with some artwork that could be considered permanent, but it wasn’t anywhere near as large as some of the other art galleries (or Art Museums) that I have visited. Actually, as a side note, it is interesting that they use the word ‘museum’ as opposed to ‘gallery’, which is what you tend to expect in the English speaking world. However, after travelling around Germany and France for about six weeks, was that the French and the Germans (and I suspect the Dutch as well) consider them to be museums since a gallery is where you go and purchase art (which is also the case in the English-speaking world, it is just that a Museum tends to focus on the natural world while art galleries focus entirely upon art).
We basically left off with the Netherlands at war with the Spanish and many of the artists fleeing to the North from what is now Belgium, bringing their styles and skills with them. Initially, this was a form known as mannerism, which focused on the raw beauty of the subject, in an idealised setting. However, in Italy, Caravaggio was starting to make his mark, with a much more realistic feel to his paintings, a more down to Earth, grittier style. As such, this began to filter north to start influencing the Dutch, resulting in a change in style and a movement away from Mannerism.
So, this is the final post on the MoMA’s visit to Melbourne. I probably could have reduced it to two posts, but it is really that there are quite a number of works that I wanted to look at, and explore. The other thing is that the exhibition itself was also quite large, having two major sections at each end of the art gallery. Then again, my understanding is that the MoMA itself is quite large as well. The other interesting thing is that I wonder whether the sections that we were exploring here are the sections as they are laid out in the MoMA itself. Well, maybe, one day, if I ever end up in New York, I’ll find out.
One of the interesting things about the Andy Warhol exhibition that I attended was that they combined it with the art of a more contemporary artist – Ai Wei Wei. Mind you, the main reason that I wanted to go to the exhibition was simply because of Warhol and to be honest I wasn’t really interested in seeing any other artist alongside him. I guess if there was one thing about this exhibition is that Ai Wei Wei seemed to be intruding upon it a little too much. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he isn’t any good – he does have his own interesting style, and he also has some very confronting artwork, however, it wasn’t Ai Wei Wei I went to see, it was Andy Warhol (and if you are interested, here is a link to my post on Warhol).