The couture line that Balenciaga launched this summer is another thing that has permanent residency in my brain. I think that what Demna [Gvasalia, creative director] is doing with sculpture and architecture through fashion is some of the most interesting theatre of our time. It’s like a marriage of Romantic and gothic style – it’s a bit ecclesiastical, almost monastic, and I want it all. There’s this really wonderful circular headpiece that feels like: “I’m going to service, but in the year 3021.”
Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents (around 1610)
© 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario 2014/1581
This September, Peter Paul Rubenss early painting The Massacre of the Innocents (around 1610) heads back home to the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp, where the artist lived and worked, for a solo presentation (26 September-April 2019) during Antwerp Baroque 2018. The work was given in 2008 to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto by the collector Ken Thomson, who bought it in 2002 at Sothebys London for £49.5m, then the record sum in sterling for a painting at auction. It was falsely attributed to the relatively minor artist Jan van den Hoecke during the 18th century, when it was in the collection of the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, and reattributed to Rubens only in the 20th century.
The focussed look is “a nice precursor” to its display in The Early Celebrity of Peter Paul Rubens, a major exhibition co-organised by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where it is to be shown at the Legion of Honor from 6 April to 8 September 2019, and the AGO, where it is due to travel that October. Large shows “dont always afford the opportunity to stop and pause and think around one painting”, says the AGOs curator of European art, Sasha Suda.
Seeing The Massacre of the Innocents in the artists studio, to which it had never before returned since its sale, “We can imagine with disbelief that he painted as much as he did within that relatively small space over a relatively short period of time… He establishes what is arguably the most productive artistic studio of all time to date in that space,” Suda says.
This dynamic, large-scale work, a heart-wrenching depiction of the Biblical story, was made shortly after Rubenss return to Antwerp after eight years in Italy. It is a crucial demonstration of an “alchemical meeting” between what the artist learned there—an “incredible respect” for sculpture, the human body and a Caravaggesque “drama and enjoyment of light and contrast”—and Northern and Flemish characteristics such as directness, saturated colours and precise brushstrokes, Suda says. “Theres a dynamism for me of what comes out of that sort of alchemy that makes his early work feel like its so full of tension.”
During its time in Antwerp, “we hope to further research the commission and provenance of the picture”, which “will act as a catalyst for further research on Rubenss workshop”, says Benjamin van Benden, the director of the Rubenshuis. The museum and the adjacent research institute Rubenianum plan to hold a symposium around the Massacre next March. The painting will also undergo imaging research in Antwerp. There are no plans for restoration work, as it is in “astonishingly” good condition and has only needed very minor restoration in the past, Suda says. “Theres no question that it experienced a sort of benign neglect” when it was hidden away in storage by the Liechtensteins for many years, she says.
Why was the masterpiece neglected? “Its a tough picture in terms of its subject matter and the directness of the way he depicts it,” Suda says, and the Liechtensteins were known to deaccession violent works. “When you look at pre-Rubens Massacres, they tend to be quite a lot more choreographed and aesthetically sensitive, and he just subverts that expectation—if there was one—and creates something that is so visceral that you cant turn away from it.”
This “extreme violence” is logical when you think of life in what was then the Spanish Netherlands during the Counter-Reformation, the curator says. Rubens made the work during the Twelve Years Truce, a respite to the violence, and Suda thinks such paintings are “demonstrations that history repeats itself”. With issues like migration and a “decline in human decency” today, she says, “this painting is really relevant to me.”
Leeds Festival: Bad Boy Chiller Crew get Yorkshire bouncing
Bad Boy Chiller crew may have started out as a bit of a joke online but on Friday they provided some serious party vibes as Leeds Festival got under way.
Bradford’s notorious bassline collective got a sea of bucket hats bouncing with their infectious energy and hilarious stage presence.
The rap-dance collective brought their dads/friends onstage for a rave, while downing booze in between spitting bars.
But they were enjoying themselves for so long organisers pulled the plug.
Having overrun, the fun-loving outfit had their microphones, decks and music silenced, drawing boos from revellers as they stormed off to make room for a “No Leeds on a Dead Planet” public service video about environmental concerns around the event.
West Yorkshire Police later said they arrested two people following an incident on stage at Leeds Festival shortly after 16:00 BST on Friday.
The pair were subsequently bailed, pending further enquiries.
In recent years, the rap trio, comprised of Gareth “GK” Kelly, Kane Welsh and Sam “Clive” Robinson have have been not so quietly working their way up the bill at their home county festival, rapping over old school dance beats.
They’ve gone from starting in the BBC Music Introducing tent to one of the main stages, where they looked very at home, leading the crowd in a chorus of “oggy oggy oggy”s.
Dressed in their crispest white shirts and big red ties, the local rappers – who recently starred in their own ITV2 docu-series – raced through verses from their recent mixtape and debut album, including 450 and BMW, as well new track When It Rains, It Pours (thankfully it didn’t, as the clouds covered the Yorkshire sun for the first time on Friday).
They raced through beer, cider and vodka at an (alarmingly) equally rapid rate, as a family friend known affectionately as Kitchen Steve twirled a cane in a head-masterly fashion and Kelly’s dad Hopper, wearing a Burberry outfit, threw out some serious shapes and hip shakes.
One Twitter user commented: “Omg! Bad Boy Chiller Crew. What is this?! It’s like [Welsh act] Goldie Lookin Chain on speed. There is even a ‘Bez'”.
Robinson even appeared to have had an influence on, or at least reflect, some of the festival-goers’ fashion senses, with mullets adorning the heads of young men at Branham Park, for possibly the first time in decades.
Rap music from around the UK regions, not just the capital, has become more prominent on the bill here in recent years. “It’s tongue-in-cheek funny and unashamedly Yorkshire,” wrote the BBC’s Will Chalk about Bad Boy Chiller Crew – who recently launched a fans for foodbanks initiative – in an interview two years ago, when they were just starting their journey to where they are now.
Earlier on Friday, emo rocker Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith brought the first big singalong of the day as the crowds began to arrive in the searing heat, with one of the songs of last year, her viral hit Meet Me at the Spot.
She followed it up with a new one of her own, Hover Like a Goddess. “Every woman is a goddess,” she beamed, drawing loud cheers.
Bastille did an early set on Friday evening, having just released an extended version of their latest album Give Me the Future.
They told the BBC that performing at the double header Reading and Leeds Festivals 10 years ago in a smaller tent – and hearing one of their softer songs sung back to them with gusto – was the first time they thought they were really on to something as a band.
“We had to stop because I was it was so blown away, it just was just so overwhelming,” said singer and songwriter Dan Smith.
“That was kind of amazing moment, as particularly as back 10 years ago, Reading and Leeds was much more like rock and heavy music. So as a as a weird little cinematic indie band, and being the massive cynic that I am, I was like, ‘what’s the crowd gonna make of us?’
“So to have that first experience all those years ago was pretty surreal.”
The Leeds leg of the Bank Holiday weekender was officially opened on Thursday evening by up-and-coming Sunderland indie rocker Tom A Smith, who recently supported Sir Elton John. Afterwards he told the BBC it was “without doubt the best [gig] I’ve ever done”.
“We had mosh pits and people singing my songs back,” said Smith. “It was absolutely insane, what an experience.”
Reading and Leeds Festivals take place across two sites and will feature headline performances at each from artists including The 1975, Dave, Arctic Monkeys and Megan Thee Stallion.
On my radar: Moses Sumney’s cultural highlights
theguardian– Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, 29, grew up between Ghana and California and studied creative writing and poetry at UCLA. His piercing falsetto and genre-defying music have brought him critical acclaim, starting with his self-recorded 2014 EP Mid-City Island, followed in 2017 by his debut album, Aromanticism, and the 2020 double album Græ. Sumney has collaborated with musicians including Bon Iver and James Blake and toured with Solange and Sufjan Stevens. His latest project is Blackalachia, a self-directed concert film created in association with WePresent, shot over two days in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, where he lives.
Selling Sunset (Netflix)
I pity anyone who hasn’t seen this show. It’s a reality show about a real estate agency in west Hollywood, and it follows the lives and deals of the people who work there, predominantly the female staff who are all ridiculously Barbie-ish – essentially “career Barbie on crack”. It’s incredible. I love reality TV – it tells us a lot about humanity. Reality shows are always inherently dated, so they’re a great capsule of the modern era.
Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty by Yeule
I don’t know what it is about this song, but I’m addicted to it. Yeule is a Singaporean artist based in London who’s kind of new on the scene, and this song is just so hypnotising – it hints and winks at hyperpop while being an absolutely heart-shattering folk tune. It’s a beautiful amalgamation of a lot of different genres, and it’s stunning. I have a lot of playlists – for driving, for chilling at night, a morning playlist, a folk playlist – and this is in all of them.
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
I’m currently reading this – I put off reading it because it looks like a self-help book – but it’s really fascinating. The author is an artist who works largely in digital art and the book is about how to free yourself from the capitalist trappings of the workforce – not necessarily saying “quit your job”, but suggesting a new path for work. It asks the question: how can we construct our identities apart from defining ourselves by what we do and by our income? It’s a very radical book, and it’s often a hard read. But it has been mind-shifting.
Western North Carolina
I’ve been travelling a lot for work, so I’ve been thinking about how much I would prefer to spend my time in western North Carolina, particularly in the mountains, where I live. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I first arrived in Asheville when I was on tour and knew immediately I wanted to live here. You turn around, 360 degrees in any direction, and you’re surrounded by trees, by the sound of animals, and that’s really a rare feeling for anyone who’s spent most of their life, as I have, living in the city.
Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
This stars a young Jurnee Smollett, who recently had a resurgence with Lovecraft Country. She’s 10 years old in the film, which is set in a fictional small town in Louisiana. Samuel L Jackson stars as the patriarch of the family, who is maybe cheating on his wife, his daughter sets out to kill him and punish him, perhaps through witchcraft. It was incredibly critically acclaimed and subsequently snubbed by every major award ceremony. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking film. I first saw it last year and I think about it every day.
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