viernes, 28 de junio de 2019


El presidente en funciones, Pedro Sánchez, acompañado por el ministro de Fomento José Luis Ábalos, durante el viaje inaugural del AVE Madrid-Antequera-Granada. KIKO HUESCA EFE


Queridos pensionistas, queridos pobres, queridas familias menesterosas o al borde de la exclusión, queridos desahuciados, queridos falsos autónomos, queridos trabajadores precarios, queridos becarios, queridos asalariados que no llegáis a fin de mes, queridas parejas cuya situación económica no os permite tener hijos, queridos niños sin escolarizar, españoles todos: paciencia. Vuestros problemas, aun siendo graves, no pueden compararse con los de Sánchez o Iglesias, tampoco con los de Rivera, Casado, Abascal y demás líderes políticos que no gozan todavía de la estabilidad personal deseable. Tienen sus ansiedades, sus conflictos, sus vástagos, sus hipotecas, sus ambiciones, su vanidad, sus heridas narcisistas. Y lo que decimos de ellos podría aplicarse también a los rufianes, los torras, los puigdemonts, los junqueras, los forns, los cuixarts, etc.

Hay que priorizar. ¿De qué hablamos primero, a ver, de constitucionalismo o de desigualdad? Dígalo usted que duerme en la calle. ¿Resolvemos su problema de orden práctico o debatimos sobre la vertebración de la patria? Evidentemente, prima la vertebración. Dígalo usted, si no, señora de la limpieza que tarda dos horas en llegar al trabajo y en regresar de él. ¿Es más importante que pongan el metro en su barrio o que discutamos sobre la pertinencia del referéndum catalán?

Lo bueno es que pudiera hacerse todo a la vez, pero la de andar y mascar chicle al mismo tiempo es una utopía que nos ha hecho daño a lo largo de la historia. Primero la filosofía, después, las lentejas. Queridos conciudadanos, tranquilizaos, pues. El Gobierno y la oposición, o las oposiciones, están en lo que deben. Una cosa después de otra. Entretanto, a ver la tele, que es gratis. O casi.


Kathryn Hughes

At the age of 50, the acclaimed writer was divorced and living in a new flat. In elliptical, allusive prose, she re-engages with the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir
here’s a wonderful moment in a series of wonderful moments in this second instalment of Deborah Levy’s “living memoir”. It’s a “sad Tuesday” and she is being told off by a neighbour in the block of flats into which she has recently moved with her daughters following divorce from their father. This is supposed to be a fresh start for Levy, a liberation from the contortions of a family life that has become too difficult to sustain alongside her work as a writer. But now here comes a new kind of cultural policing, imposed not by a man but by another woman, who is part of what Levy calls the “societal” system.

Deborah Levy. Photograph: Sheila Burnett

With her sharp little teeth, rictus smile and high sweet voice, the woman is dripping gentle venom about Levy’s habit of parking her bike in the front car park, her resistance to ordering her shopping online like everyone else, not to mention the fact that she appears so “busy busy busy all the time”. As the teeth get pointier, Levy’s necklace, the one she always wears even when swimming, breaks and the large pearls bounce across the entrance hall floor. She is unstrung, undone in this place where she was supposed to be aiming for a “new composition”.

A good 30 years after someone clever and optimistic (no one is quite sure who) first announced that we had landed safely on the shores of “post-feminism”, it’s clear that being both a creative and reproductive woman is as tricky as it’s ever been. As with Freud’s return of the repressed, those angers and desires, the consequence of botched compromise and thankless sacrifice, have come bubbling up, all the more potent for being choked for so long. Into this molten moment some of our finest writers including Rachel Cusk, Maggie Nelson and, indeed, Levy have poured their blistering experiences of the psychic and emotional cost of being a wife and mother in the 21st century.

Levy’s oblique and elliptical prose, on magnificent show in her Booker shortlisted novels Swimming Home and Hot Milk, does not lend itself to a route march through chronological time and external circumstance. Instead, what Levy gives us is an account of her internal world, a shape-shifting space where past and present coexist, where buildings are not so much bricks and mortar as extended metaphors and where identity is in a radical flux of unravelling and remaking.

All the same, Levy’s prose is not so slippery that it can’t serve up the basics. At the age of 50 and after decades of what sound like the usual patterns of north London family-making, she finds herself cast adrift from her marriage and, crucially, without any desire to swim back. We’re not given names or details, but that is not so much a matter of tact as irrelevance, since the story Levy tells, she insists, does not belong to her alone. It is the story of every woman throughout history who has expended her love and labour on making a home that turns out to serve the needs of everyone except herself.

 Levy is not shy to elevate her drama to the realm of the immortals but is picky about which mythologies she co-opts
Not that getting free is exactly easy. Indeed, as Levy’s wry title suggests, choosing not to be married to society costs a lot. Her comfortable family home has been exchanged for a flat where the heating often doesn’t work and the lavatory often won’t flush. The communal parts – there are 100 flats in this huge block – are a hallucinatory tube that she dubs “the Corridors of Love”. This sounds promising, but Levy’s most rewarding experiences turn out to be with an electronic screwdriver that bites efficiently into spoiled old wood, and her new electric bike, which whizzes her home along the Holloway Road with the groceries. She pays for the screwdriver and the e-bike, not to mention the groceries and her daughters’ trainers, by taking teaching and writing jobs that, she hints, are not ones that she would otherwise choose.

Into this present tense Levy inserts incidents that reveal the conditions that made her want to break away from the family racket in the first place. She tells us about a man she knows who can’t look at his wife, another who never remembers women’s names, and a downstairs neighbour who invites her in for a drink but whom she actually values for the loan of his power tools. Working further back, earlier encounters show her dealing with random men who take up too much space, time and air in cafes, on trains and in conversation, barging into her narrative as if it is their natural right.

It is to counteract this sense of diminishment that she sets about expanding her own domain. A neighbour, the elderly widow of the poet Adrian Mitchell, offers Levy her garden shed as a writing hut. It is a provisional kind of liberation, though, shared with a fuming deep freeze and a gas heater that makes the place sweat. Still, in case there is any doubt about the allegories in play, Levy describes this particular Garden of Eden as having its own abundant apple tree (the fruit goes splat on the shed roof) and a loving gardener-god who tends to all living things (in fact a handsome out-of-work actor).

As the biblical allusions suggest, Levy is never shy about elevating her personal drama to the realm of the immortals. Still, she remains picky about which mythologies she is willing to co-opt in the process. Penelope patiently waiting at home for Odysseus to return from his adventures definitely will not do. Instead, Levy prefers to tell us about the Medusa who dares to return the male gaze, transforming all those gawpers into stone. Then there are the Maenads, the raving female followers of Bacchus who remind her of her friend Sasha, a high-flying city woman who goes out to get blind drunk every Friday. In an extravagant gesture of refusal Sasha always ends up being sick over her short-skirted business suit and high heels, a fantasy uniform of female empowerment that could only have been dreamed up by a male boss.

Femininity for Levy, then, is a kind of shoddy masquerade, an elaborate costuming of body and desire that she no longer has any interest in maintaining. There’s nothing new about this idea. You see it in early radical psychoanalytical circles before it disappeared as the 20th century unfolded, pushed off stage by more pressing anxieties about life and death. After the second world war, Simone de Beauvoir re-engaged with the idea of gender as performance, only to see the thread get lost again in the 1980s and 90s with the emergence of so-called “lipstick feminism”, a mode that positively relished the dressing-up side of things.
Now, in The Cost of Living, Levy explicitly recuperates De Beauvoir’s position, not only by engaging closely with The Second Sex, but by going deeply into the philosopher’s personal struggles to reconcile sexual love with intellectual liberty. The result is a piece of work that is not so much a memoir as an eloquent manifesto for what Levy calls “a new way of living” in the post-familial world.


Alina Cohen
Long before Peter Hujar shot his black-and-white portraits of New York’s queer community, Robert Mapplethorpe captured the city’s BDSM subculture, and Nan Goldin turned her lens on downtown couples, a group called PaJaMa was taking sexy, nostalgia-fueled photographs of their erotic exploits in Manhattan and on East Coast beaches. Their pictures from throughout the 1930s and ’40s feature nude men preening on the sand and indoor shots of lithe bodies and shadowy, theatrical figures.

Painters Paul Cadmus and husband-and-wife Jared French and Margaret Hoenig French comprised PaJaMa, named for the first two letters of each of its founders’ names. The trio’s lifestyle and intimate photographs were daring for their day. Their sexual politics were permissive and fluid—Jared and Cadmus were lovers—and their frames reflect a sense of freedom that contemporary art viewers hardly associate with their era. PaJaMa’s pictures are important documents in the histories of art and photography, and their playful, queer aesthetic still resonates in 2019.
PaJaMa’s oeuvre occupies a strange place in the chronology of 20th-century art. The 1913 Armory Show in New York brought European avant-garde art to the United States, gradually turning American artists away from the Realist scenes they’d previously embraced. Surrealism hit first, then non-representational art. In the 1930s and into the early ’40s, as the Great Depression raged, many American artists turned to the government’s Works Progress Administration for jobs. They collaborated on murals and illustrated textbooks, forming artistic communities that eventually became codified groups like the Abstract Expressionists.

In their painting practices, however, Cadmus and the Frenches demonstrated continued interest in the body and sexuality, despite the trend toward abstraction. In pictures of soldiers and sailors, Cadmus alluded to homosexual pick-ups and illicit sexual activity. His famously scandalous 1934 painting The Fleet’s In!, for example, depicts drunken naval officers on leave. One seductively offers a cigarette to a man with a red tie—at the time, a covert signifier of being gay. Jared, for his part, designed campy ballet costumes, and Margaret once painted nude men outside a beach house.
In the summer, the trio brought this sense of liberty to the shore. And these artists summered. Many photographs from the PaJaMa oeuvre document jaunts to Fire Island, Nantucket, Provincetown, Saltaire, and Truro. They captured fellow artist George Tooker vamping nude on the beach, holding a cow skull–shaped piece of wood over his crotch. In another photo, men in tiny swimsuits eye one another at the ocean’s edge. Publisher Monroe Wheeler appears in one shot regally reclining, shirtless, on the sand beneath a piece of salvaged wood. These pictures revel in their young, attractive subjects’ muscular physiques. Each figure becomes a carefree character in a larger story of pleasure that altogether seems classical rather than modern.
PaJaMa’s photographs simultaneously glorify and demystify their creative subjects, depicting them in all their beauty and youth. Even when they’re naked, the figures are more self-possessed than vulnerable. Body shame and inhibitions have no part. This uninhibited attitude wasn’t limited to the collective: One friend, Chuck Howard, had a nude film career beyond PaJaMa’s frames. He participated in Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s famous studies, performing sexual acts with poet Glenway Wescott—another PaJaMa model—in front of the researchers’ camera.
This sense of erotic play and theatricality persisted when PaJaMa went indoors. It’s easy to imagine the group putting on plays, or giving dramatic readings as they entertained themselves in New York and on vacation. Margaret French, Paul Cadmus, Provincetown (ca. 1945) features the titular pair by a spotlit white curtain. Margaret stands behind it, holding a leafy branch, her shadowy figure soft at the edges. Cadmus appears to be draped in the curtain itself, his features even darker and more mysterious than hers.
Indeed, back in the city, the trio was immersed in the world of the New York cultural elite.They were a part of the major philanthropist Lincoln Kirstein’s permissive, progressive circle, and they rubbed shoulders with (and photographed naked) the era’s greatest cultural minds. Their 1943 photograph of Tennessee Williams shows the lauded playwright facing away from the viewer as he reclines nude on a bed.
It’s easy to forget, while looking at these joyful pictures, that they were made during and just after a major world war. Sometimes, however, a moody sobriety did infiltrate the work. Margaret French, George Tooker and Jared French, Nantucket (ca. 1946), for example, features Margaret lying in a white garment at the top of a staircase that leads down to the ocean. One man sits on the stairs, while the other looks off toward the distance. The composition conveys disconnect—three characters in their own worlds in the face of the gray expanse of sky and sea.
Their bohemian attitudes, no doubt,helped protect the sexually liberated trio and their friends from significant danger and societal judgment. Around the country, doctors were still lobotomizing homosexual patients in hopes of turning them straight. Homosexuality itself was criminalized. Yet the PaJaMa trio hardly squandered their privilege. Their photographs capture a safe space of their own making: a tight-knit community of creative personalities in a place where they could be fully themselves—or invent new selves altogether.

jueves, 27 de junio de 2019


Swinton’s photography exhibition at Aperture, based on Woolf’s iconic novel, Orlando, does not challenge our imperious need to classify bodies, but is definitely one worth seeing.
Ksenia M. Soboleva
View of Orlando at Aperture Gallery (photo by Deyane Moses, courtesy of Aperture Gallery)
“Guest-edited by Tilda Swinton. Inspired by Virginia Woolf,” so reads the cover of this year’s summer edition of Aperture. The issue and the accompanying exhibition are centered around Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando, a piece of writing Swinton knows intimately, as she embodied the character Orlando in Sally Potter’s 1992 film adaptation of the novel.

Let me start by saying that I tend to be rather skeptical at the idea of award-winning actors curating art exhibitions, not so much because it indulges the cult of celebrity (I am guilty of writing quite a few fan-letters in my younger days), but because it implies that anyone — regardless of their professional background — can pick up curating as a leisurely hobby. As such, the widespread use of the term threatens to debase the profession irretrievably.
Swinton, however, is not a complete outsider to the art world. In the early 1990s, she starred in some of experimental filmmaker Derek Jarman’s most well-known films, and came of age with the Young British Artists crowd. A close friend to Cornelia Parker, Swinton was featured in the installation artist’s 1995 exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, where the actress was on view among other curiosities, resting in a glass box constructed by Parker. Swinton’s presence struck such a cord with then MoMA curator Klaus Biesenbach, that he invited her to restage this particular performance (without any of its original context) at MoMA in 2013, drawing in significant crowds.

Orlando is Swinton’s first foray into curating, and perhaps not surprisingly (it being Pride month and all) she has decided to revisit a queer narrative in which a young English nobleman lives for three centuries without aging and changes genders along the way. Rather than selecting (dare I say curating) specific works, Swinton invited 11 contemporary photographers to contribute to the exhibition, including Zackary Drucker, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Mickalene Thomas. Some artists made new work specifically for the show, while others contributed something from their archive.

What results is an undeniably pleasing show aesthetically, reminiscent of those moments right before falling asleep in the sun; soft, hazy, and drenched in color. Cast against various lush backgrounds, Thomas explores androgyny in extravagant portraits of her partner Racquel Chevremont and performance artist Zachary Tye Richardson, while brilliant colors bleed into cold monochrome sculptures in Viviane Sassen’s Venus & Mercury series.
In her introduction, Swinton notes that she views Orlando as “being far less only about gender and far more about the profound flexibility of the fully awake and sensate spirit.” She is supported in this vision by various writing contributions to this issue, which include the usual suspects such as Jack Halberstam, Eileen Myles, and Maggie Nelson.

However, this vision does not shine through in the exhibition. There are a few notable exceptions; Sepuya thoughtfully addresses the blatant racism that takes place on the first page of Woolf’s novel, where Orlando is found playing with a decapitated head of a Moor. Lynn Herschman Leeson’s documentation of the five-year-long performance (1973-1978) she did as a fictional persona named Roberta Breitner demonstrates that as early as 1973, she was exploring the false notion of an authentic self, visualizing a fluid identity that is not necessarily connected to gender.

Most of the photographs, however, are focused precisely on gender as it relates to the body; from Collier Shorr documenting the transition of model Casil Mcarthur, in breathtaking photographs that risk falling into the “before” and “after” trope of gender transitions; to Drucker capturing her role model and trans icon Rosalyne Blumenstein wearing a number of fabulous outfits, as well as fully nude.
Showcasing some of the most talented photographers of our time, Swinton’s exhibition is certainly one worth seeing, even if it does not offer a curatorial intervention or challenge our imperious need to classify bodies. Remember that Woolf wrote Orlando as a fictional biography of her lover Vita Sackville-West, not intending for it to be a creative masterpiece, but rather an expression of affection or a compliment to someone she admired.

Orlando, guest curated by Tilda Swinton, is on view at Aperture Gallery (547 W 27th St, 4th floor, New York, NY) through July 11.



In una afosa giornata di luglio, quasi in simbiosi percettiva, ho scelto Porgy & Bess: una calda, anzi rovente storia di ribellione, uccisioni e polvere d’angelo tra gli usi e costumi dei discendenti degli schiavi delle piantagioni di cotone, narrati dalla stupenda musica di Gershwin.
Porgy and Bess – Prova generale del 30 giugno 2019 di George Gershwin, DuBose e Dorothy Heyward, Ira Gershwin
New York Harlem Theatre℠ Produzione
William Barkhymer direttore artistico e musicale
Baayork Lee regia
Michael Scott scene
Reinhard Traub luci
Christina Giannini costumi
Richard Cordova direttore d’orchestra associato e maestro del coro
Dan Saunders assistente del direttore d’orchestra
Orchestra del Teatro Regio
Solisti e Coro del New York Harlem Theatre℠
Musica di George Gershwin
Libretto di DuBose e Dorothy Heyward e Ira Gershwin
Prima rappresentazione assoluta:
Boston, Colonial Theatre, 01/01/1935

Si spengono le luci, arriva William Barkhymer il direttore artistico e musicale e come per incanto è subito ritmo…e che ritmo! Dalle trasparenze del sipario in un preciso gioco di luci affiorano i personaggi che iniziano a danzare e poi altri a far ‘girare i dadi’ in un turbinio di sound ricercato ed evoluto che descrive la vita a Catfish Row, bolla spaziale di micro mondo. La prima song è cantata da Clara la moglie del pescatore Jake, la quale cullando tra le braccia il bimbo, intona la celebre ninna nanna Summertime!

La storia è quella dello storpio Porgy che innamorato della donna più bella e ‘disinvolta’ del villaggio, ovvero Bess riesce finalmente ad averla come ‘sua donna’ dopo che questa è stata abbandonata da Crown, fuggito dopo aver ucciso Robbins; da qui un evolversi di situazioni tra polvere d’angelo, ritrovamenti ed innamoramenti, pesche fortunate e picnic, fino a quando Porgy, rilasciato dalla polizia, si mette in viaggio alla ricerca dell’amata Bess fuggita con Sporting Life nella fantasmagorica New York.

Una dettagliata descrizione della messa in scena richiederebbe troppe parole, quindi mi limito ad alcuni spunti: interessantissimo il clima e la preghiera quasi esoterica per invocare la guarigione di Bess, cosi come i duetti sono di splendore musicale e raffinata ricercatezza. Gli insieme con il coro sono di un livello altissimo e vengono esaltati da carica interpretativa non comune con la contestualizzazione dei costumi, una bella scenografia e luci ben disegnate.

La direzione è di grande qualità e tenendo il giusto volume dell’orchestra, fa si che questa non sovrasti mai il canto espresso con forti momenti di passionale liricità.
Alvy Powell esprime il personaggio di Porgy con veemente passione carica dei toni scuri del bass-baritone che coinvolgono emotivamente; Bess ha diversi volti: da quello della carnalità a quello di donna buona e forse anche innamorata, per poi rifugiarsi nella cocaina: Morenike Fadayomi è bel soprano dai toni lirici che incanta con il suo Summertime. Sporting Life è interpretato da Chauncey Packer con voce tenorile buona e ben governata anche nelle situazioni vocalmente ispide. Mary-yan Pringle sovrasta per colore e vigore dando al suo personaggio Serena una impronta indelebile, così come Marjorie Wharton rende la corpulenta Maria con un caricaturalità eccelente e con interpretazione da manuale !

Sinceramente uno spettacolo di grande qualità in ogni suo aspetto, con un plauso ai solisti ed al coro per canto, danza e movimento scenico e coreografico! Una globale cifra stilistica viene espressa attraverso codici espressivi di intensità.

Il 1 gennaio del 1935 al Colonial Theater di Boston andava in scena la prima rappresentazione assoluta di questo capolavoro e viene da pensare che dall’America all’Europa il periodo era uno dei più fervidi e produttivi; il pensiero in automatico va al 31 agosto del 1928 quando allo Schiffbauerdamm di Berlino, andava per la prima volta in scena L’Opera da tre Soldi di Brecht-Weill creando un immenso ponte di congiunzione tra due mondi diversi e paralleli che stavano mutando e che l’arte e quindi anche la musica stavano emblematicamente narrando.
La musica vince sempre.

Renzo Bellardone

La vacanza termale ogni volta incontra un avvenimento degno di interesse ed anche questa volta, ecco che da un post di Laura Polverelli, mezzosoprano italiano affermato nel mondo, vengo a sapere di un concerto dell’Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto; valutate le opportunità scelgo la prova generale, certamente entusiasmante, partecipativa e divertente come tutte le prove!
L’occasione è per me tre volte ghiotta: potrò incontrare Marco Bertona, mio concittadino e, vanto nostro, primo corno dell’orchestra,  Laura Polverelli amica da tempo ed ascoltare musica meravigliosa…..
LES NUITS D’ĖTĖ  -  Hector Berlioz op.7 (1803 -1869
L’ITALIANA - Sinfonia n. 4 in la maggiore op 90  – Felix Mendelssohn –Bartholdy  (1809 – 1847)

Nel mio peregrinare musicale non avevo mai incrociato l’eclettico direttore Luigi Piovano, che conquista sia nella iniziale guida all’ascolto, che poi per la cura direzionale. Introduce la Sinfonia di Mendelssohn (con un variazione di sequenza rispetto al concerto serale a villa Zuckerman a Padova), raccontando che la versione eseguita sarà quella del 1834, ovvero una riscrittura, in quanto l’autore, in quel momento non aveva a disposizione la scrittura originale: il direttore annuncia la gioia e la luminosa solarità che la sinfonia contiene e subito con gesto ampio e di grande comunicazione, attacca con sicurezza ed attenzione, creando immediatamente l’atmosfera appena descritta e  suggellata dagli archi sognanti e narrativi. La direzione di Piovano insieme agli artisti dell’orchestra esaltano la bellezza della scrittura e scavando, trasmettono l’emozione vissuta e  che vado a raccontare.
La nota composizione è davvero ariosa e l’Allegro vivace iniziale rimanda tutta  la vivacità e tempra mediterranea in tutte le sue sfumature evocando luminose suggestioni musicali. I violoncelli, all’ andante con moto, scandiscono il tempo all’interno dei vibranti violini, sottolineati dai contrabbassi  al richiamo dei fiati e dei legni volti ad una maestosità raffinata che giunge a conclusione con un misurato pizzicato dei violoncelli.
Segue con moto moderato  e l’entusiasmo si affievolisce lasciando spazio alla riflessione che pur si proietta nel paesaggio assaporato durante il viaggio italiano del compositore,  riflettendo forse la musicalità anche operistica dei nostri migliori maestri dell’800. Dopo l’afflato conclusivo si parte con il quarto movimento Saltarello presto e subito il vigore e la velocità si impongono d’imperio fino alla celebrazione.

La seconda parte prevede l’intervento del noto mezzosoprano Laura Polverelli a cantare brani composti da Berlioz una decina di anni dopo l’Italiana di Mendelsshon e rispecchia tutte altre emozioni. In Villanelle,  Polverelli esprime timbro interessante in una interpretazione di tutto rispetto e  con escursus  agile di gran effetto per la vivacità descrittiva.  Segue Le spectre de la rose ed il mezzosoprano diventa intima e raccolta esprimendo colorazioni scure che lasciano però trasparire il sorriso soddisfatto anche negli acuti ben modulati; Sur les lagunes  viene interpretata con liricità  che diventa pura poesia invocante con un finale emozionante. In Absence l’intesa con il maestro diventa palpabile e la sicurezza espressa è coinvolgente: un dolce racconto passionale con accenti vigorosi per un affresco di sentimenti.  Au cimitière  contiene lunghe frasi dai toni bassi che impongono una salda tecnica espressiva di dolcezza ed accettazione. L’Ile inconnue  è un brano arioso e vivace in cui le capacità vocali si levano nel divertissement interpretativo di un gioioso racconto.
A fine prova il maestro Piovano prepara la sorpresa finale fuori programma, che mi permetto di raccontare in quanto questo commento viene pubblicato dopo il concerto serale.
Il brano scelto è angosciante e l’orchestra in simbiotica interpretazione con la cantante  realizzano il racconto accorato del momento in cui Didone ha ingerito la pozione velenosa ed i primi accenni di morte le  pervadono il corpo; Polverelli è superba …Remeber me …nell’interpretazione tratta da Dido and Aeneas di Henry Purcell.
 La Musica vince sempre.

Renzo Bellardone


             Pierre Jean Mariette (1694-1774) a réuni l’une des collections les plus fascinantes de tout le XVIIIe siècle, dans laquelle le dessin tenait le premier rang, avec environ neuf mille six cents feuilles. Les chefs-d’œuvre des grands artistes y côtoyaient les morceaux de bravoure des petits maîtres, suivant une volonté encyclopédique assumée par ce « touche-à-tout de génie », afin d’offrir un résumé aussi parfait que possible de l’histoire du dessin, des origines aux artistes contemporains.

Faisant suite à la publication en 2011 par Pierre Rosenberg des deux premiers volumes consacrés aux dessins français de la collection Mariette, la parution du catalogue raisonné des dessins italiens s’accompagne de même de l’exposition d’une centaine des plus belles feuilles Mariette de cette école, dues aux plus grands artistes italiens : Raphaël, Michel-Ange, Titien, Véronèse, les Carrache, Guido Reni, Guerchin…, et issues des fonds de plusieurs collections parisiennes, au premier rang desquelles celle du musée du Louvre.
Dernier représentant d’une illustre dynastie de marchands d’estampes, admis comme «associé libre » à l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, Pierre Jean Mariette est graveur et dessinateur, traducteur et critique d’art, épistolier infatigable et surtout l’un des plus formidables collectionneurs de dessins qui fut.

Si Mariette veut bâtir une collection universelle, l’Italie a bien sa prédilection, tel qu’en témoigne une lettre du 12 décembre 1769 à l’architecte Tommaso Temanza : « On compte les curieux qui, comme moi, donnent la préférence aux ouvrages des maîtres italiens, sur ceux des peintres qu’ont produits les Pays-Bas (…). Cela ne m’empêche pas de suivre mon goût, aussi n’est-ce point une exagération de vous dire que ma collection, formée dans cet esprit-là, est peut-être la plus complète et la mieux choisie qui soit en Europe. »

C’est donc la partie de la collection Mariette qui participait le plus du plaisir et de la fierté de son auteur, que le Louvre réunit dans cette exposition. Après avoir brossé le portrait de Pierre Jean Mariette et rappelé le caractère mythique de sa collection, le parcours entraîne le visiteur sur les pas du voyage qu’il fit à 23 ans en Italie et qui fut pour lui une formidable « école de l’œil ». La collection Mariette est en effet pareille à un voyage dans l’espace (par la distinction des foyers) et dans le temps (des origines du dessin aux artistes contemporains) : de Venise à la Toscane en passant par Bologne, Rome et Naples.

La dernière section évoque l’un des éléments distinctifs de la collection, le montage spécifique de ses dessins (une bande le plus souvent blanche, une bande dorée et ce célèbre papier bleu orné de filets noirs ombrés et agrémenté de cartouches toujours différents portant le nom de l’artiste), avant de conclure sur l’histoire de la dispersion puis de la reconstitution de la collection, qui se poursuit encore aujourd’hui.

Commissaires de l’exposition : Pierre Rosenberg, président-directeur honoraire du musée du Louvre et Victor Hundsbuckler, conservateur du Patrimoine, département des Arts graphiques, musée du Louvre.
Commissaires associés : Laure Barthélemy-Labeeuw, Marie-Liesse Delcroix


Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore’s graphic novel BTTM FDRS blends discussions around race relations, cultural appropriation, and urban injustice with body horror and an eerie plot.

Dan Schindel

Writer Ezra Claytan Daniels and artist Ben Passmore’s new graphic novel BTTM FDRS is a coy, gruesome satire of gentrification. Taking place in the fictional Chicago neighborhood Bottomyards (riffing on Back of the Yards), it blends discussions around race relations, cultural appropriation, and urban injustice with a creepy plot centered around a mysterious force which metaphorically feeds on those very phenomena.
Bottomyards is a rundown area now getting its first taste of “renewal,” as landlords are beginning to lure in well-off outsiders with cheap rents. One new move-in is Darla, an aspiring fashion designer with a complicated relationship to the place. She’s originally from there, but her upwardly mobile family then moved out, and she’s since grown up in wealthier (and much whiter) environs. She’s contrasted with her white BFF Cynthia, who’s almost stereotypical in her enthusiasm for the “authenticity” of the neighborhood. Darla’s mixture of ambition, guilt, and reticence over the frictions between her Blackness, status, career, and relationships with her friends and family forms the backbone of the story’s arc. While there are plenty of broad (and funny) jabs at artwashing, hipsters, and both NIMBYs and YIMBYs, the book doesn’t settle for an easy examination of the issues at hand.
Darla soon suspects there’s something off about her new apartment building (in which she is currently one of the very few residents). The odd noises aren’t merely leaky pipes or rusty fixtures, and some of the blight is suspiciously organic … and mobile. There’s something else in the building, and soon its presence goes from disturbing to actively malevolent. The plot recalls the films of both Jordan Peele and David Cronenberg, with flavor from manga creator Junji Ito, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, and J.G. Ballard as well. But the nature of the satire and setting puts Daniels’ script not just in the horror-comedy genre, but the more specific category of apartment horror.

This is an under-examined but distinct realm of fiction, drawing on the unique elements of apartment living. Other examples include Cronenberg’s Shivers, Ballard’s High-Rise and its film adaptation, Otomo’s graphic novel Domu: A Child’s Dream and his film World Apartment Horror. The contradictions of experiencing simultaneous isolation and inextricably united community have been fodder for writers ever since the rapid increase in urbanization after World War II. An apartment is your home, but also just a few rooms. You are cut off from those around you, even as hundreds or even thousands of people are stacked together in one building. Such a setting can easily shift from familiar to sinister, as urban density becomes a trap.

Such is the growing spookiness in BTTM FDRS, which melds social horror with body horror, as the thing in the apartment building integrates its inhabitants, the gentrified space literally consuming humanity. Passmore’s artwork skillfully balances the wry comedy with the escalating scary moments. The key to body horror is to make sure it’s properly gross, and he concocts some terrifically vile-looking creatures and scenarios. There’s an identifiable arc in the way the line blurs between what in the building is stone and metal and what is made of flesh. Passmore’s colors, often working with just a few tones in any given scene, evocatively convey the feel of each scene and location. In comics, great scares often rely on alarming panel transitions or page break cliffhangers, and the book skillfully utilizes these as well.

Beyond the creepiness, there’s unease underlying BTTM FDRS which stems not from the monsters but from Darla’s questioning of her place in her community. This sense of alienation, and the suggestion that gentrification will outlive any scientific abomination, are what ultimately linger. Unresolved questions are more haunting than any lurking creature.


The Venus de Milo at the Louvre. Photo by Jorge Royan, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Louvre is adding another sensorial dimension to some of its treasures—the museum hired two of France’s top perfumers to create scents based on selected works from its collection.

Works chosen to be translated into the olfactive realm include the Venus de Milo, Winged (130- 100 BC) Victory of Samothrace (ca. 220-185 BC), La Baigneuse (1808) and Grande Odalisque (1814) by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Bolt (1777–78), Georges de La Tour’s Joseph the Carpenter (1642), and Thomas Gainsborough’s Conversation in a Park (ca. 1740s).

The museum chose Ramdane Touhami and Victoire de Taillac, who co-founded the French perfume company Officine Universelle Buly, to take on the task. They in turn hired eight perfumers, giving each one a highly specialized task. Touhami told AFP:

It is about adding an olfactory dimension to a visual experience. I chose eight parfumeurs, all stars and gave them 100-percent freedom, with no limit on their budgets.
One scent specialist brought on for the job, Daniela Andreier, said of the decision to work with Ingres’s La Baigneuse:

With her tender and milky skin, the water running, the linen on which she sits [. . .] I immediately thought of orange blossom, neroli, lavender, a rather modest accord evoking the sheets that have dried in the sun. [. . .] I see perfumers as translators, capable of transforming a color, light or texture into a note. Thus the green velvet curtain, on the left, evoked to me the absolute of lavender, rich and dark.
The scents will be on sale at a store near the Louvre from July 3rd through January 2020.

Further Reading: The Scent Designers Trying to Capture the Smell of the New Museum
Wallace Ludel