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.”
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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Hong Kong’s famous Tiananmen Square ‘Pillar of Shame’ statue removed from university
Il Divo singer Carlos Marin dies aged 53
bbc– Il Divo’s Carlos Marin has died aged 53, the classical group has announced.
Marin would be “missed by his friends, family and fans”, a statement on social media said. “There will never be another voice or spirit like Carlos.”
The group had said they were praying for Marin’s recovery after he was admitted to hospital this month leading them to postpone a UK Christmas tour.
The male quartet was brought together by Simon Cowell in 2003 and achieved three UK number one albums.
Marin was born in Germany, but moved to Spain at the age of 12 and was a baritone in the group, performing alongside tenors Urs Buhler and David Miller, and pop singer Sebastien Izambard.
“Singing is my way of saying what I feel, my way of life,” he is quoted as saying on the group’s website.
“Singing is what makes me feel alive, so thank you for letting me continue making a living from what I love.”
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Marin had been taken ill during the UK tour and placed into an induced coma at a hospital in Manchester. The nature of his illness has not been disclosed.
Il Divo’s international composition helped them achieve notable success across several worldwide tours.
Their hits included Regresa a Mi (Unbreak My Heart), The Time Of Our Lives, and I Believe In You – a duet with Celine Dion – as well as a version of Adele’s Hello.
They sold more than 30 million records, and had 160 gold and platinum discs across more than 33 countries, the group’s website said.
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