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Reading the writing on the wall (text): Beckmann in New York — When Brilliant Art meets Dull Presentation, or why Trump Tower isn’t the only sign of dumbed down cultural discourse on Fifth Avenue

beckmann-falling

Max Beckmann. German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York, “Falling Man,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 55 1/2 × 35 inches (141 × 88.9 cm). Frame: 62 1/4 × 41 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (158.1 × 104.8 × 7 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Max Beckmann. SL.9.2016.13.1. Wall text for the Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Max Beckmann in New York” has reduced the interpretive possibilities for this complex tableau, rich in mythological and historical references, to a sort of back to the future echo of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

I was all set to write about how refreshing it was to discover an exhibition, Max Beckmann in New York, whose curator, going against the trend in many leading Paris museums, does not feel the need to re-encadre a painter who should be able to stand on his own merit in an artificial curatorial construct that contrasts him with other artists or situates him, after the fact, in a historical, literary, or sociological context that has more to do with museum marketing than the artist’s actual intent and universe.

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Art not Bombs: In Artcurial Impressionism & Modern Auction, Hope

modimpacpapazoff-smallGeorges Papazoff (1894-1972), “Tete,” circa 1928. Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm (36 1/4 x 28 3/4 inches). Signed at lower left. Pre-dates by 17 years Duchamp’s intergallactic View cover.  Artcurial pre-sale estimate 20,000 – 30,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

modacpuigaudeau-smallFerdinand du Puigaudeau (1864-1930), “Jeune fille à la bougie,” 1891. Oil on thin cardboard laid down on canvas, 50 x 72 cm (19 3/4 x 28 3/8 inches). Signed and dated lower right. Du Puigaudeau landscapes available in this auction are also breathtaking. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 20,000 – 30,000 Euros. Image copyright and courtesy Artcurial.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

“The opposite of war isn’t peace – it’s creation.”
–Jonathan Larsen, “RENT”

As my longtime readers know, even if Artcurial may be best known as France’s leading auction house, I venerate it as setting a curatorial example more museums would do well to follow. Not just because of its storied past as an art gallery which unabashedly announced its arrival in the mid-sixties, under the glamorous patronage of L’Oreal, in the previously hushed gallery ghetto of Paris’s 8eme arrondissement, but because of the artists I’ve been able to discover by thumbing through its auction catalogs, many of whom have been neglected by museums which have stashed their holdings away in the basement….
To access the full version of the article and more images, subscribers please e-mail  paulbenitzak@gmail.com . Not a subscriber? 1-year subscriptions are just $49, or $25 for students and unemployed artists. Just designate your PayPal payment in that amount to paulbenitzak@gmail.com , or write us at that address for information on how to pay by check or in Euros or British pounds.