June 30th, 2012
May 7th, 2012
- That the female body is available and easily consumed.
- The notion of prostitution that evolved Parisian environment in 1865.
Olympia is a nude (a subject that plays an important role in Classical Art); nevertheless, the manner in which she is represented is highly controversial as it breaks with convention. She is not a timeless nude, as it is obvious that sex is for sale. This is a notion that is part of the economics of the new bourgeoise, whereby the female body takes on the connotations of a commodity within a new capitalist economy. The title itself of “Olympia” is of concern, as it is a name associated with prostitutes – equivalent to “Candy” of today’s standards.
Her stark nakedness is accentuated by the objects that adorn her – the necklace, bracelet, orchid in her hair, and her shoes. An additional contentious issue with this painting is her confrontational gaze, which obliterates the “peak hole” or Voyeur quality, as she knows that the viewer is looking at her. The presentation of flowers from her maid signals that she has an admirer (perhaps someone who has just left her company) and underscores the notion of her occupation as a prostitute. No respectable woman would show herself nude. The orchid, upswept hair, black cat, and bouquet of flowers were all recognized symbols of sexuality at the time. A fully-dressed black servant is featured, exploiting the then-current theory that black people were hyper-sexed.
Manet turns the well-known subject matter of a Classical nude into a prostitute of low class. Everything presented in this painting destabilizes one’s participation of this painting; which is obvious to the bourgeois male. The public sphere belongs to the male and it is controversial to be confronted at the Salon with such imagery (it would be seen as embarrassing to the bourgeois man that takes his wife to the Salon), where he is the recognized consumer of women like Olympia.
April 28th, 2012
Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1863) was rejected from the official Salon and seen in Salon de Refuse set up by Napoleon III to ridicule the works rejected, which was highly provocative. Napoleon turned away in disgust as he saw this painting, as it addresses the underside of the fashionable world…the woman is naked (not nude) sitting next to two fully dressed men. The message here is clear, only a woman from a certain class would take her clothes off. In this regard, the painting shows two Bohemian upper class men with a courtesan or prostitute.
The scenery signals that the painting is set on an island in the Seine River – a commonly known place for men to take prostitutes. This blatant act of “undressing” (see clothes lying on the side) is titillating and a problematic subject for contemporary viewers, as it calls up promiscuity and aspects of low class labor. Furthermore, the woman’s gaze is very confrontational as she looks directly at the viewer. In this painting, it is impossible for the male viewer to take up a traditional role of a “voyeur”, as he becomes an unwilling participant by simply observing this subject matter. The ambiguity of the subject matter is a direct link with modernity and the rupturing of norms – there is no narrative, a confrontational gaze, and a leisure scene calling up class discrepancies. The woman bathing in the background is a borrowed image from a famous painting by Raphael (from the Renaissance era), which is obvious and thus signals the rupturing between two kinds of discourses – namely Academic Art versus Modern Art.
On the whole, Manet’s painting speaks to the truthfulness in Modern Art and as a critique of the bourgeois world and its often scandalous activity. This painting is significant as it is regarded as the beginning of the break between artists and the public, whereby the public does not appreciate or applaud the Modern Art view.
April 19th, 2012
A new way emerges as to how people relate to and see the world. A new social system emerges, many critics start viewing the world as a “spectacle” – a world of capitalism where everything is surface oriented in a commodity style. An economic discourse where the idea that everything becomes a commodity and becomes consumed.
Between the Revolution of 1789 and Haussmann’s renovation of Paris in the 1860s, ideals changed from those of a politically motivated city to those of an economically and socially centered city. Modern technology such as railroads and gas lamps were conveniences that the rising bourgeoisie could enjoy in their leisurely lifestyle. New spaces that were created during the renovation encouraged the bourgeoisie to flaunt their new wealth, creating a booming economy. All of these examples of the changes occurring in Paris during this period can be seen in representations of the city. There are two views of Baron Haussmann: One depicts him as the man who destroyed Old Paris, and the other as the man who created New Paris.
Georges-Eugène Haussmann was hired by Napoleon III on 22 June 1852 to “modernize” Paris. He hoped in hiring Haussmann that Paris could be molded into a city with safer streets, better housing, more sanitary, hospitable, shopper-friendly communities, better traffic flow, and streets too broad for rebels to build barricades across them. The Haussmannization changed the look of Paris and reconstituted social life. The old conglomeration of the medieval city was completely modernized with straight boulevards and park sites. Paris becomes a middle class site. And a stage for Modern Art…
April 16th, 2012
The Salon or rarely Paris Salon (French: Salon de Paris), beginning in 1725 was the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France. Between 1748–1890 it was the greatest annual or biannual art event in the Western world.
The French Revolution opened the exhibition to foreign artists. In the 19th century the idea of a public Salon extended to an annual government-sponsored juried exhibition of new painting and sculpture, held in large commercial halls, to which the ticket-bearing public was invited.
The 1848 Revolution liberalized the Salon. The amount of refused works was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, the increasingly conservative and academic juries were not receptive to the Impressionist painters, whose works were usually rejected, or poorly placed if accepted. In 1863 the Salon jury turned away an unusually high number of the submitted paintings. An uproar resulted, particularly from regular exhibitors who had been rejected. In order to prove that the Salons were democratic, Napoleon III instituted the Salon des Refusés, containing a selection of the works that the Salon had rejected that year. It opened on 17 May 1863, marking the birth of the avant-garde. The Impressionists held their own independent exhibitions in 1874, 1876, 1877, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1886.
April 14th, 2012
A Vancouver man “innocently” bought a supposed Tom Thomson painting at a yard sale for $50 that Maynard’s Auctions will now be auctioning off next month for upwards of $150,000. Is there something wrong with this picture? If the painting is indeed authentic, is the previous owner out of luck? Is there any sense of honor in such a purchase? Fooling someone out of the proceeds of a major asset? Is it not like the conduct of a thief? I cannot believe that this man just bought it with a hunch and decided to bring it in for a sales evaluation. The whole story sounds suspicious…and the fact that Canada’s foremost expert on Tom Thomson is skeptical about its genuine provenance places enough doubt on the matter for me… I would not buy this painting at auction next month. Fakes are on the rise and it is becoming a serious matter (see a recent article in the Art Newspaper).
April 11th, 2012
Traditionally, art was “academic” – depicting mythical, legendary, religious or political motives in large-scale formats commissioned by church, state, or wealthy aristocrats. The surface of paintings was deemed to appear “false” with smooth, slick and idealized finish showing no real texture. Similarly, the scene was always removed in a myth of a classical atmosphere of position. The Academy did not want to address the “everyday life”, as it did not consider this real art.
April 10th, 2012
Often times the concept and basis of Modern Art is lost on us, as we live in “Modern” times and history is not always top-of-mind. In my next few posts, I will give a little bit of an Art History lesson to those of you who are not as familiar with art and the beginning movements that have evolved to where we are today.
The concept of Modern Art is to stand up and go against conformities of society. Overall, it addresses the issues of class, ideology, spectacle, and modernity – where “modernity” represents flux and change.
Europe was vastly transformed from 1789 onwards as a result of the French Revolution – a feudal society became capitalistic. There was a new economy. Art becomes centered on individualism and self-worth, as well as the rise of the middle class. Modern Art talks about the condition of the modern world (the every-day experiences) and the new language it creates for expressing this rhetoric.
There is a shift from commissioned work to art created by the artist for the artist himself, whereby he expresses his personal feelings. As such, Modern Art focuses on the inside condition of modernity and the organization of relationships within society. Much of the commentary from artists in Paris in the 1800’s is that they critique the bourgeois world and its single-mindedness in making money.
April 4th, 2012
Have you seen these beautiful blue trees in West Vancouver on Bellevue and 14th? Take a look at this documentary of artist and environmentalist Konstantin Dimopoulos created by Miranda Andersen, a 12-year old award-winning film-maker. Kon created “The Blue Trees” for the Vancouver Biennale to highlight worldwide social and environmental issues, specifically global deforestation. The evocation of spirituality and breathlessness leaves you to ponder what is happening on our planet and what we need to do.
March 27th, 2012
Moroccan artist Latifa Echakhch shows a moving installation at a Paris gallery with a show titled “TKAF”, which is a word taken from her North African roots signalling a given curse by someone close to you. The exhibit reveals smashed and pulverized bricks, spread directly across the floor and walls of the gallery along with prints and marks of hands made straight onto the walls with reddish clay. Latifa adheres to an aesthetic of destruction, even ruin, bringing the symbolic dimensions of the material of powdered red brick, like traces of blood in combination with the sensation of an obliterated, eviscerated architecture. The scene leaves you with a feeling of heaviness and sorrow for the destruction experienced by many in our world.