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Cappucinos, flaky pastry, cute bridges and the Guggenheim. In Venice. Emily Martin’s year abroad…

What was interning at the Guggenheim in Venice like? To be honest, everything you might imagine and a thousand times more amazing. This write-up proved to be a little tricky to do, because every time I started to write it I wasn’t satisfied with how it sounded. The grand canal didn’t seem impressive enough, the bridges weren’t appearing cute enough, the markets came across cheesily rose-tinted, the architecture of the city was too disneyfied, and my experience of the Guggenheim itself was overly nostalgic as though I were reflecting on another lifetime. I felt as though I was writing a sickly-sweet travel brochure and none of my descriptions were doing justice to the four months I spent there. This is the problem with perfection; it sounds rather impossible and naïve when you attempt to explain it. However, I’ll try again… Eighth time lucky maybe!

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The view from work down the Grand Canal

On my fourth day in Venice, I was doing some shopping and getting a few things for my little flat, which had a great big lion head knocker on an enormous front door that opened onto one of those little side streets off the Grand Canal in Dorsoduro, (the bit of Venice that sticks out and finishes in a point), when a lady asked me (in Italian) where such-and-such a street was. It was at this moment that I realised I blended in. I had been feeling rather British, and acting rather britishly too, smiling politely, nodding a lot and standing at the back of queues. Impatient by nature, this had rather been getting on my nerves as clearly the Italians are not known for their waiting in line abilities (for example, but please also insert here pretty much all stereotypical differences between our two nations that you know of). However the very instant I realised I wasn’t a tourist on an extended holiday I threw myself in, with a sort of ‘if you can’t beat them (and I didn’t want to), them join them’ attitude. The firmly ordering a coffee from behind a group of Venetians who wouldn’t budge from the counter in a bar, like the scene in Eat Pray Love, took a bit of courage and a lot of practice, but after a month I had it down. Eating a sugared, flaky brioche with my morning cappuccino, one handed standing at the bar, trying not to look like a three year old with crumbs everywhere and holding onto a scratch of elegance took a lot more work. I set that as my personal goal…really that should have been written into the Learning Agreement contract for the year abroad under ‘cultural integration’.

Over the four months I’m not sure I could pick a day that wasn’t brilliant, but a few moments stick out in my memory, and are my go-to stories… Acqua Alta was amazing to see and have to live with. Everything flooded, this year was particularly bad and splashing through a deserted St Marks square with a few friends at midnight, on the night of my birthday, with the water pouring into my wellies, and wading up to the doors of the basilica looking at the mosaics in the portico was magical.

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Splashing in a flooded St Mark’s Square…

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Venice at Christmas

Christmas was also wonderful. Instead of going home my family came out and we enjoyed a very different Christmas; shopping in Rialto Market and going to listen to carols in my favourite church because of the stunning altar piece by Titian (Basilica dei Frari, and Assumption of The Virgin). The whole city was covered in twinkling lights and Christmas decorations, hot wine flowed in place of spritz and the lack of teaming tourists turned the streets and squares silent, as the mists swept through the canals and shrouded visibility to a few inches.

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Misty Venice in the winter

Then there was the Guggenheim, the internship, and the whole reason I was in Venice to begin with. As interns we did all the behind the scenes opening, cleaning sculptures, guarding rooms, learning everything we could about the art works on display and Peggy Guggenheim herself, whose house the gallery used to be and who, despite anything you might have heard, was really an incredible woman ( probably because of anything you might have heard). We gave talks on the art, the gallery, Peggy, and eventually full guided tours of the whole collection which is comprised of some of the most remarkable works of art. If you aren’t aware of the Guggenheim Collection in Venice (everyone seems to have heard of the one in New York) have a look… It is beautiful, select and full of high quality works.

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Emily giving a talk in the galleries

In my fourth month I was made assistant capo, which meant I was awarded a clipboard and a walkie- talkie and helped run the internship program, this was a fantastic little promotion because it meant I was able to really understand how a museum is run, the importance of certain aspects and the value of integral components; such as art works, reputation and ethics. There is an awful lot more than meets the eye! In a truly hands-on way I was able to help curators and registrars  with installing and organising the temporary exhibitions, do condition reports, help with restoration projects and facilitate press conferences and publications.

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Doing practical gallery things…

Of course, as with any placement like this, the people around me were just as important as anything else and I have made wonderful friends from among the other interns but also from the long standing staff and I went back to shadow  Dr Phillip Rylands while I was studying in Verona (the second part of my year), who has been the Peggy Guggenheims director since the gallery opened in 1979, to properly understand what his role fully compromises. From my experience of the visitors I have become truly appreciative of lovely people! It is astonishing how many personal issues people can air in an art gallery at the ticket desk. I could write a book of anecdotes I witnessed when visitors thought no one was watching… Arguments sparked by Dali were continuous, amorous affections in front of Magritte were surprisingly common and Pollock did his infamous job to divide an audience the second you mentioned his name. In the midst of the general public we also had a few more well known visitors. Jude Law stopped by (wasn’t the friendliest), Novak  Djokovic and his stunning wife came (as lovely as his TV interviews), Jenny Agutter (Call the Midwife) chatted to me with her husband about Pollocks’ early portraits. She looked far too familiar but I only realised once she smiled at me on the way out, I kept my cool…it wasn’t easy. It turns out I’m really not great at celebrity spotting. One day I was walking through the galleries checking everything was alright when a really lovely American family greeted me, all smiles. The man made polite chit chat but he was very interested in the museum so  told him all about it, we chatted for about twenty minutes. I noticed a few visitors taking photos in his general direction but I didn’t think much of it, after all it’s an art gallery. I realised it was time to organise the other interns to close the museum so he thanked me for the conversation and I  left. It was only once a few fellow interns, members of staff and other visitors asked me what the man I had been chatting to for so long was like that I twigged he might be someone famous… Turns out I had been asking Laurence Fishburne and his wife Gina Torres, among other things, if they travelled much and if they liked modern art (they do). My bad,  I’ve never seen the Matrix.

 

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Carnival in preparation

So, what was interning at the Guggenheim in Venice like? It was the best experience and it has made me more enthused than ever about following a career in museum and cultural management. Especially after the wobbly year we’ve had (Brexit) that boost of motivation hit at just the right moment, so all in all, it couldn’t have been better.

Emily is studying for a BA in History of Art with Italian. For more details about her course, click here.

JH Graduate Sophy Thomas on her new job at the V&A

Sophy Thomas graduated in 2014 with a First Class Honours degree in English and History of Art. She is now Coordination and Liaison Assistant to the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Performance 

I have to say that each of the last (c.) 500 days I’ve spent working at the Victoria and Albert Museum have been different. There have been many times when I have wondered at the unusual nature of my job there and the strange things I have had to do. Babysitting 30 giant fibreglass Olivier Award statues for example. Or manhandling three mannequins into a cupboard. Or hoovering the Joey Warhorse puppet. Working in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Department for the last year and a half has been a busy, exciting, eye opening experience and I have learnt a lot.

After graduating I wanted to take a year to try different things and get some experience to get more of an idea of what I wanted to do. I started in the Theatre and Performance Department at the V&A as a volunteer, working for 6 months unpaid which was wearing but worth it. And it’s what you have to do if you want to work in museums, I knew that already. I hadn’t considered working with theatre collections before (hadn’t even really known about it) as all my previous experience was in exhibiting art, but it has turned out to be a really great combination of my interests and, roughly speaking, my degree: English Literature and History of Art. I got involved with lots of different projects within the department and, at the end of the 6 months, was asked to stay on as full time (and finally paid!) staff.

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Installation shot of the Curtain Up Exhibition (c) V&A Images

I have worked predominantly on the department’s smaller independent projects, exhibitions and events, where I have had more responsibility and been involved with more stages of the process. This has also meant more variety. One of the first major projects I worked on in the department was a three week series of live performances by entertainment PR Alan Edwards, talking through 60 years of Public Relations with a different high-profile guest each evening – the likes of Jeremy Deller, Bob Geldof and Alistair Campbell. I have also had the opportunity to go to Vienna and install a video display called Five Truths at the Theater Museum, which explores different types of theatre direction using a scene from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and organise a three-hour dance performance involving 50 students showcasing weird and wonderful costumes designed by Sandy Powell. More recently, I oversaw the installation of the Curtain Up exhibition about award winning theatre in London and New York which is currently on display at the V&A. I’m hoping I might even get to take go to New York when the exhibition tours there in the autumn…!

Though my job has its aches and pains, as every job does, the V&A is an incredible place to work, not just because of the beautiful building and vast collections, but because it’s a busy and forward-thinking museum.

Bosch at the Prado continued (if you understand Spanish)

JAMIE EDWARDS

The Prado have just released another video ahead of the opening of their new Bosch exhibition: Bosch. The 5th Centenary Exhibition (31.05.2016 – 11.09.2016).It’s presented by Pilar Silva, who is head of the Prado’s collection of flemish painting before 1600, and who has had the lovely job (gripes over the findings of the BRCP notwithstanding) of curating the Bosch exhibition.

To say that my Spanish is rusty is putting it generously. But unless I’m totally wrong, and if I am, sorry, I think that Silva mentions in the video that the Garden of Earthly Delights was probably commissioned by Engelbrecht II of Nassau. If this is indeed what she says (?!), it heralds an interesting shift in the accepted view.

Most scholars have up to now tended to view the Garden as a mature work by Bosch (usually 1510 or thereabouts; certainly post-1500). The earliest documented reference to the triptych comes from 1517, when it was seen by Antonio de Beatis in Henry III of Nassau’s Brussels Palace. Since this became known, it always been used as evidence to support the view that the Garden is late, since it has often been assumed that Henry commissioned the triptych from Bosch. Underlying all this, of course, has always been the idea that Bosch’s most visually spectacular work must have been the product of his fully-formed genius. Silva’s reference to Engelbrecht in the above video, though, signals serious interest in an alternative point of view.

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, Prado, ,Madrid

Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights, 1480s, Prado, Madrid

I’ve always believed that the Garden is an early work; Bernard Vermet has convincingly, in my view, championed just this. It is based on style (I, for example, don’t see how the Garden can seriously be thought of as a mature work when you put it next to the Haywain, which certainly is). The surprisingly early dating of the planks of wood from which the triptych is made–surprising, that is, to proponents of a late date for the Garden– fully supports an earlier dating: the tree concerned was felled in the 1460s, meaning that the panels could have been assembled and painted on, say, during the 1480s, which seems to be the most likely date for the picture’s execution. And if you believe this, that the picture could have been made as early as the 1480s (and note at the start of the Prado’s video that the dating has indeed been pushed back as far as 1490), then you have to look elsewhere for possible patrons. And it turns out that you needn’t look far: Engelbrecht II of Nassau was Henry III’s uncle, and when Engelbrecht died his estate fell into the hands of Henry. Engelbrecht could therefore have been the patron of Bosch’s Garden, who, it turns out, had the opportunity to commission the work from Bosch in 1481, when he stayed in Bosch’s hometown of ‘s-Hertogenbosch to attended a meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

It’ll be interesting to read more about this when I get my hands on the literature…

Should also say–I am going to Madrid in a fortnight’s time, and will do a write up of the show. So watch this space.

DEPARTMENTAL RESEARCH SEMINAR: 18 MAY

‘Church Design in Counter Reformation Venice: San Nicolò dei Mendicoli.’

Faith Trend

(University of Birmingham)

Wednesday 18 May
4:10pm
Barber Institute Photograph Room

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‘In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the churches of Venice were a hive of activity as the majority were updated – either rebuilt entirely or retrofitted with new features – to correspond with the new requirements for ecclesiastic architecture that were triggered by the Counter Reformation. Until recently, this is an aspect of the architectural history of Venice’s churches that has not had enough academic attention and this paper considers the reasons behind this, as well as demonstrating through the renovation of the church of San Nicolò dei Mendicoli just how significant this climate of reform was on the city and how clearly it can be demonstrated.’

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter: SET497@student.bham.ac.uk

DEPARTMENTAL RESEARCH SEMINAR: THURSDAY 12 MAY

‘Sweetness and Light at the Grosvenor Gallery’

Dr Melody Barnett Deusner

(Indiana University Bloomington and Fulbright-University of Birmingham Scholar 2016)

Thursday 12 May
4:10pm
Barber Institute Photograph Room

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Grosvenor Gallery, 1877 (more images below)

‘Sir Coutts Lindsay’s Grosvenor Gallery in London has long been known to art historians as the premiere showplace for Aesthetic Movement painting in the late 1870s and 1880s. To technological historians, however, the location has a different significance as the site of London’s first truly successful central electrical power station, operated by Coutts Lindsay and located in the basement of the gallery itself. This paper draws together these two parallel histories and probes the relationships between the individuals involved in both projects. The cadre of upper-middle-class and aristocratic investors that speculated in this new technological field and reshaped the city as a series of interconnected nodes included collectors and promoters of Aesthetic paintings by James MacNeill Whistler and Albert Moore—pictures that elevate compositional arrangement and systemic organization to the level of the highest art.’

Biographical Statement:

Melody Barnett Deusner is an art historian for whom the networked conditions of our present world have sparked a series of investigations into the ways that an international range of artists and their audiences experienced and visualized the interconnected world of the past. As a Fulbright Scholar based at the University of Birmingham’s American & Canadian Studies Centre, she will be walking the canal towpaths and exploring the rail systems that served as key components of the nineteenth-century transportation, communications, and economics networks at the heart of her current research and teaching. Her own pathways have led her from Texas to an undergraduate degree at Rhodes College, a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware, and a post at Indiana University, Bloomington, where she serves as a specialist in American art to 1945. Her work has been recognized and supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS, and the Kress Foundation.

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter: SET497@student.bham.ac.uk

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Grosvenor Gallery Electric Network

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Albert Moore, Study for Birds, 1878

DEPARTMENTAL RESEARCH SEMINAR: WEDNESDAY 16 March

‘The Modernist Making of an International Rhythmic “Race”: Katherine Dreier’s Lithographs and Ted Shawn’s Dreier Lithograph Dance.’

Professor Robin Veder
(Penn State Harrisburg)

Wednesday 16 March
4:10 pm
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre

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‘In the 1920s and 1930s, artist Katherine Dreier and dancer Ted Shawn believed they could make a new “race” by rhythmically stimulating viewers’ neuromuscular systems. Veder locates their joint contribution to American modernism within the overlapping discourses of physiological psychology, neurasthenia, and theosophy.’

Biographical Statement:

Robin Veder is Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture at Penn State Harrisburg. She received her doctorate in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, and she has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center for American Modernism, Harvard’s Garden and Landscape Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks, and in spring 2016, the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University. She is author of several articles on transatlantic art history, visual culture, history of the body, and landscape studies of the long nineteenth century, appearing in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, American Art, Visual Resources, Journal of Victorian Culture, Modernism/Modernity, and International Journal of the History of Sport. Veder’s book, The Living Line: Modern Art and the Economy of Energy, was published by the Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England’s Visual Culture Series in 2015.

All welcome; refreshments served
Enquiries to Sara Tarter: SET497@student.bham.ac.uk

Departmental Research Seminar: Wednesday 24 February

‘”Love is simply the name for the desire and the pursuit of the whole” Love and money in Abraham Ortelius’s Album Amicorum

Professor Joanna Woodall
(Courtauld Institute of Art)

Wednesday 24 February
4:10 pm
Barber Institute Lecture Theatre

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‘Abraham Ortelius’s Album Amicorum, fol.53r’

‘Abraham Ortelius was a renowned Antwerp humanist, merchant, businessman, collector and, from 1573, official geographer to King Philip II of Spain. He is accredited with the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World), published in 1570, which became a best seller for over forty years. His beautiful Album Amicorum (Book of Friends) is a collaborative work of art, made up of a huge variety of texts and images written, designed and contributed by the individuals counted amongst his wide network – all but one of them men. This paper explores the relationship between love and money in the Album Amicorum, in particular the links between the virtuous, ‘heavenly’ form of love and desire for physical and material fulfilment. It associates the Album with the Symposium, Plato’s famous dialogue on love, in which a group of elite men at a feast decide to forego complete surrender to drink in favour of speeches from each of them, offered in praise of Eros, one of the oldest and most revered of all the Gods.’

All welcome; refreshments served

Enquiries to Sara Tarter: SET497@student.bham.ac.uk

Mary Beard on Blogging: why etc.?

JAMIE EDWARDS

Little podcast here of Prof. Mary Beard (Cambridge classicist) discussing her enormously popular Blog A Don’s Life, which, it must be said, us Golovine’ers (this one in particular) are big fans of (I happen to be a major fan of its author as well). Beard takes us through the genesis of her blog–which started a decade ago now!–and considers why blogging matters in the 21st century. Why exactly do we blog? What do we talk about? And what’s the point of it all?

Her thoughts in response are pretty interesting, and gives much food for thought for me, who happens to blog as often as I can and who also happens to believe that blogging is very important indeed (not least because it provides a platform for free thought on a whole host of interesting subjects without having to worry, for instance, about the kind of decorum or conventions that are involved in academic writing proper).

Anyway, give it a listen here.

 

 

 

 

New Bosch found in storage.

JAMIE EDWARDS

Bosch (?), Temptation of S. Anthony, c.1500-10, oil on panel, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (credit: Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

Bosch (?), Temptation of S. Anthony, c.1500-10, oil on panel, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri (credit: Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

The Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP) strikes again. Regular readers might remember my previous post in which I set out some of the initial findings of the BRCP, which has seen a number of works removed, once and for all, from Bosch’s œuvre, along with the addition of a new drawing. Now more information about the BRCP’s findings have come to light and it’s good news for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, since the Project have concluded that its Temptation of St Anthony, which has been attributed to a “follower of Bosch” and is usually kept in storage, is in fact a bona fide Bosch.

Using powerful and sophisticated infrared photography and infrared reflectography, which reveal, amongst other things, images of the painting’s underdrawing, the BCRP have determined that they can assuredly identify Bosch’s “handwriting” in the St Anthony picture. This is to say that the underdrawing, its appearance and technique, along with the way in which the paint has been applied subsequently, compares favourably with other pictures by Bosch that the Project have examined. They’ve also removed a number of overpaints and more modern retouching, which, we read, obscured many of its details. This has all gone towards their revised attribution of the picture, and they have also concluded that the panel, which has been trimmed on all sides, was originally part of a triptych that has at some point been dismantled (a fate that befell many of Bosch’s works…).

Credit Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project)

Credit Rik Klein Gotink/Image processing by Robert G. Erdmann for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project

Anyway, there’s more here. You can see the picture for yourself in less than 2 weeks’ time when the major Bosch retrospective Hieronymus Bosch: Visions of a Genius opens at Noordbrabants Museum, ‘s-Hertogenbosch (13 Feb. to 8 May).

Careers and cake.

JAMIE EDWARDS

Careers after Art History? Undergraduates and Postgraduates – we’ll show you how.

Come to the ‘Bake off and Beyond’ careers event hosted by the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies and the Careers Network.

2nd March 2016:

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts Lecture Theatre

Mondrian cake

Come and hear from UoB graduates in Art History who are now working the fields of curating, insurance and marketing. Find out about what it’s really like working with contemporary artists, working behind the scenes at Tate Britain, and going round people’s houses and valuing their art, antique and jewellery collections. Get advice on how to write a good C.V., where to look for a job, eat exquisite cake, and win £30…..all in one afternoon!

SPEAKERS INCLUDE: 

Poppy Andrews (Communications Assistant at the Turner Contemporary, Margate)

Chris Packham (Careers Consultant – Arts and Law Careers Network – University of Birmingham)

Rebecca Peake-Sexton (Project Co-ordinator at Multistory, a Sandwell based arts organisation, on working with international photographers such as Martin Parr (UK) and David Goldblatt (SA) on community projects and publications)

Dr Jennifer Powell (Head Curator at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, previously Tate Britain Curator and worked on blockbusters such as, ‘Schwitters in Britain’, 2014)

Henrietta Thatcher (Appraiser at Chubb Insurance Company, valuing the rebuild of historic and modern private houses; advising on the conservation, protection and collection of fine art, antiques and jewellery)

There will be discussion and a chance to ask questions. As part of this event, the department is holding a tea party with a twist – a ‘Bake off’. Tea and coffee will be provided. Participates can make a cake, which will be served as refreshment with tea. The best cake will be voted by the participants and will receive a prize of £30.

So, if you think you can take on the Mondrian cake, why not give it a go? To attend, RSVP to Liam Campell-Cave: l.b.l.campbell-cave@bham.ac.uk by 25 February 2016

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