Steve Sachs Duke


Wednesday, October 27, 2004


Two Thoughts on Art: I spent Sunday and part of Monday in New York City, where I learned two things:

1. The art in the Metropolitan Museum is really good. Giovanni Bellini is one of my favorite artists of all time. I've long been enamored of his San Zaccaria Altarpiece, which is even more impressive seen in context -- the altarpiece isn't so much in the church as part of the church, as San Zaccaria's architecture continues unbroken into the painted space. (And when you put the 50-Euro-cent coin into the slot and turn on the lights nearby, the details are extraordinary.)

In any case, after briefly getting lost in the Metropolitan Museum this weekend (reminding me of one of my favorite childhood Sesame Street specials), I noticed a Bellini Madonna and Child in the Met collection.

The focus here is clearly on the Madonna -- the child might as well have been a vase of flowers or a loaf of bread for how her hands are placed -- but the Internet image doesn't do justice to the lifelike glow of her appearance, or the humanity of her expression. It's amazing how you can walk through a room of painted figures, even some beautifully rendered, but then you suddenly stare at one of them and get the feeling that another soul is staring back.

2. The art at the U.N. is really bad. As longtime readers will know, I'm no fan of socialist realism. But the U.N. walls are covered with Symbolic Murals done largely in that style, depicting muscular Workers, women Pursuing the Arts of Peace, children Displaced By War, etc. Many of the murals require substantial explanation, which I overheard helpful U.N. tour guides providing. (Explanations are also available on the website: "The blue and gold silk tapestry on the walls and in the draperies by the East River windows features the anchor of faith, the growing wheat of hope, and the heart of charity.")

I understand--and in a general sense, agree with--the message of "Food Not Bombs" which the art conveys. But surely the U.N., as an organization, should be committed to the principle that sometimes you need to use the bombs, in order that others may provide the food. (Cf. the wall posters with statistics on military spending--which reminded me of something I'd seen before.) Don't get me wrong; the art at the U.S. Capitol building can be pretty terrible too. But at a certain point, the self-important allegory gets a little top-heavy, especially if the political content is questionable as well.




Blog Archives

Front page
XML Feed


© 2011 Stephen E. Sachs


Anglia Regnum