Tag Archives: Art Knowledge News

Museums onscreen: Google Art Project

UPDATE: The New York Times’ Roberta Smith took the Art Project on a long test drive and filed this excellent report on what works well and what still needs to be done, emphasizing that this is very much a work in progress.

"The Harvesters," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder," Metropolitan Museum of Art. Detail from Google Art Project.

By Bob Hicks

Say you have a hankering to see Hans Holbein the Younger‘s portrait The Merchant Georg Gisze but you just can’t get away to Berlin today to see it where it hangs, in the Gemäldegalerie.

You can always go online. But chances are that when you find it, the image will be pretty poor quality. And what if you want to examine it closely, to see Holbein’s brushstrokes or the effects of craquelure?

Then you might want to check out the new Google Art Project, which is bringing gallery tours and specific artworks together from 17 major international institutions, including the Gemaldegalerie. Not every great museum is on this list, but the 17 are pretty impressive.

Continue reading Museums onscreen: Google Art Project

It’s a new year, Scatterers: Think outside the box

Pere Borell del Caso, Escaping Criticism, 1874. Madrid, Banco de España. From artdaily.org

Sometimes you write a post purely as an excuse to run a picture you’ve fallen in love with. This is one of those times.

That kid crawling out of the picture frame is from an 1874 trompe l’oiel painting by Pere Borell del Caso, and he lives at the Banco de Espana in Madrid. The title of the painting? Escaping Criticism. Seems Pere Borell had some issues with the nattering nabobs of the press, and he whipped up a pretty foolproof case for himself.

Escaping Criticism is part of the exhibit Genuine Illusions: The Art of Trompe-l’oiel, which opens Feb. 13 at the Bucerius Kunst Forum in Hamburg. Besides fooling the eye, trompe-l’oiel is about wit: It has fun fooling you, and you have fun back. Critics be damned, right, kid?

Read more about it at Art Knowledge News.


A couple of weeks ago the Oregon Jewish Museum reopened in new, much bigger quarters on Northwest Kearney Street in Portland, and I wrote about it in last Friday’s A&E section of The Oregonian. You can read that story, which discusses the new space’s first big show, The Shape of Time, here.

One thing I didn’t mention in that story: The museum shares a parking lot with its neighbor ComedySportz. Culture is all about collaboration these days, so think of the possibilities. Jewish humor is vital to the American comedy scene — it’s almost as if Jews invented American comedy, especially the urban variety. What might the Jewish Museum and the improvimaniacs at ComedySportz cook up besides parking Priuses if they really got their heads together?

Just a thought.

Monday event: I met a traveller from an antique land

UPDATE: Ixnay on Thursday’s bell-tower raising. Word arrives that the tower hoist at Central Lutheran Church (see below) has been postponed a couple of weeks because of some last-minute troubles that the structural engineers will have to sort out. Something about board & batten siding and a connectivity issue. Sidewalk superintendents will need to rejigger their schedules.

Harald Schmitt's 1991 photo of Lenin deposed.

China Design Now, the big exhibit from the Victoria and Albert Museum about the waking of the sleeping giant, opens Saturday at the Portland Art Museum, and that’s got me thinking about the rise and fall and rise of civilizations.

We are at war in the Tigris and Euphrates, the once-verdant “cradle of civilization.” We are also at war in Afghanistan, the destroyer of empires. More pragmatic Americans, looking to the inevitable shift of world power toward the east, are trying to figure out a best-scenario future that has us looking something like Scandinavia or the Netherlands. Russia, so recently brought low, is still a shambles but is beginning to shake its fist again.

This morning I ran across the compelling image above on Art Knowledge News, announcing a show at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin of photographs by Harald Schmitt, who documented the social turmoil in Eastern Europe and China in the latter 20th century. This one, taken in Vilius, Lithuania, is titled simply Lenin, thrown from the pedestal.

And that reminded me of another visit from a ghost of empire, this one in a famous poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written in 1818. Happy Monday! Anybody feeling heroic?


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


n16769Also fast approaching for Portlanders is Wordstock, the celebration of writing that sprawls over the Oregon Convention Festival this weekend. And that got me to thinking about the series of fine profiles written lately by Jeff Baker, The Oregonian’s book editor and lead critic, of some key Northwest writers. If you’ve missed them, they’re well worth your time. Baker has a way of opening up a writer’s heart and mind:

  • Tess Gallagher, the fine poet, who lives in Port Angeles and still guards the legacy of her late husband Raymond Carver while continuing to expand her own rich body of work. Read it here.
  • Portlander Katherine Dunn, maybe the world’s greatest writer about the art of boxing, whose struggles with her long-awaited next novel are legendary in literary circles. Read it here.
  • Seattle’s Sherman Alexie, maybe the best-known Native American writer alive, who likes a good laugh and loves a good fight. Read it here.


Our friend Jane, who is executive director of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon and who sometimes leaves funny comments on Art Scatter posts, passes along this tip:

The bell tower, on the rise.Sometime on Thursday the shorn-off Central Lutheran Church tower, a lamented landmark in close-in Northeast Portland that had taken a Lenin-like tumble, will rise again. Good news!

The frame was prefabricated at Western Wood Structures and delivered a week ago to the church site at Northeast 21st Avenue and Schuyler Street for reassembly in the church parking lot. (That was after a 14-month delay while wading through the building-permit process.) If all goes well, the frame will be hoisted into place sometime between 9 and 11 in the morning on Thursday. Be there if you want to watch the fun. Things are looking up!

Saturday heat-wave scatter: The farm is on fire!

Mario Carreno, "Fire in the Farm," 1943. Photo: CHRISTIE'S

Eighty-seven degrees, the creaky old thermometer hit this afternoon, and although the nervous native Northwesterner lurking inside me can’t help fretting about an imminent neo-Dust Bowl and amateur revivals of 110 in the Shade (can you imagine a stranger named Starbuck riding in to save the hinterlands from thirst?), the better part of me is exulting in this nice dry heat and the brilliant sun that brings it. A walk with my 11-year-old son to the nearby neighborhood coffee shop confirms that it’s still possible to enjoy a hot cappuccino in a mini-heat wave (or, depending on your age, a cold chocolate milk), and I’m trying to discover the downside to that.

Longtime Portlanders are wondering how the weather can possibly be so glorious before the end of the Rose Festival:
It is clearly written in the city constitution that the Grand Floral Parade must be marched in the midst of a monsoon. So how could this sunshine be? Global warming, I imagine, and although I suppose I feel a little guilty for not feeling guilty about that, I’d rather just enjoy the sun. I promise to worry later. When it rains.

Mrs. Scatter has conveniently scarpered to the coast for a weekend of sampling the vine and creating strange craft-ish items with some girlfriends, which means it’s bachelor days here with the Smelly Boys, 11 and 14 in their chronological persuasions. And that means pizza: cheese for them, “gourmet” veggie for me, and thank you, Papa Murphy, you friendly little corporate entity on the corner. Mine will be accompanied by the Chez Scatter house white, a Covey Run guwurtztraminer. I’ve just given the bottle a feel: It has a nice chill.

Next door this morning, a lawn-mower drone buzzed against the sky, and I cheerfully ignored it. Nor did I force the 14-year-old to unlock the garage and take out our grass-manicuring Luddite model, an antiquated push machine: Wouldn’t want him to actually break a sweat.

Air-conditioning, of course, is evil, but it has its places, and one of them is in movie theaters. As the height of late-afternoon sizzle approached, we three brave males entered the arctic oasis of the Avalon Theatre on Southeast Belmont Street to catch Monsters vs. Aliens, the DreamWorks animated fantasy about, well, a battle supreme between monsters and aliens. May I say a word in appreciation of second-run movie houses? This entire escapade cost seven bucks. The movie was mildly amusing, as easy to ingest as a Sunday morning screwdriver, and it was well worth the minimal price of admission just to see a 50-foot-tall Reece Witherspoon as a space age Gulliver being taken down by an army of G.I. Lilliputians. Spotting the evil alien was easy: If the brainiac squid body wasn’t enough of a tip-off, the fact that he put sugar in his coffee clinched the deal. Yet I must protest: Why was the blob without a brain named Bob? A prediction: An army of angry Bobs will be the next to invade the Earth. Or at least, Hollywood. We’re mad as hell, and we won’t take it any more.

I imagine that sometime around mid-August I’ll start to feel like those poor wilted saps in the painting Fuego en el Batey (Fire in the Farm), above. Thanks to Art Knowledge News for tipping me off that Cuban artist Mario Carreno‘s 1943 painting sold earlier this week at Christie’s in New York for two million, one-hundred-eighty-eight-thousand and one-hundred dollars. Now, that’s a summer sizzler.

Many long moons ago, long before the Huxtables, when he was a young stand-up comic and recordings came on large long-playing vinyl discs, Bill Cosby did a routine about Seattle. As I recall it, whenever the sun came out the natives fell trembling to the ground and cried out lamentations to their god. Oh, forgive us! (or something like that), they shouted. What have we done wrong?

Sorry. Not buying it. Welcome, Sun King, to our humble abode.


P.S.: Happy birthday (on Friday) to Laurel. And many happy returns.

Calatrava in Manhattan: It’s a jungle out there

Conception for World Trade Center transportation hub

Everything old is new again. Or everything new is old again.

Or (and this is much more satisfying to type) DINOSAURS ARE ON THE LOOSE IN NEW YORK CITY!!!

Thanks to Art Knowledge News for this story about architecture superstar Santiago Calatrava‘s design for the new transportation hub at Manhattan’s World Trade Center site. (And when, if ever, will Portland start thinking about this sort of architectural landmark?) An exhibition on this and other Calatrava projects will be at New York’s Queen Sofia Spanish Institute through Aug. 31.

I love the look of this building, which seems, well, Jurassic. You might even say, stegosauran, although Calatrava prefers to think of it as suggesting a bird being released from a child’s hand. Well, we know about birds’ prehistoric line of descent. Which prompted me to poke around Google until I found this image, of a stegosaurus model at the Bartow Jurassic Park in Poland. Maybe this guy’s the Model T to Calatrava’s Ferrari. But the family resemblance is unmistakable:

Stegosaurus, Baltow Jurassic Park, Poland/Wikimedia Commons