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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."



Félix Vallotton (1865-1925), The Lie, 1897. Oil on artist's board, 9–1/ 2 × 13–1/3 in. (24 × 33.3 cm). The Baltimore Museum of Art. The Cone Collection, formed by Dr Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.298

At The Metropolitan Museum of Art we have "Félix Vallotton: Painter of Disquiet" (through January 26). If you can insulate yourself from this show's dystopian title and accompanying dystopian verbiage, you may enjoy some of the very pleasurable painting it displays by an artist who reached the acme of his accomplishments in the 1890s, or only a decade or so before artists as varied as Kirchner and yes, even Matisse (to say nothing of Picasso, Braque & Duchamp) were beginning to put simplicity, strength, and emotion and/or wit before beauty as traditionally defined. Read More 

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Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Tightrope Walk, 1908-10. Oil on canvas, Neue Galerie New York



The fact that Die Neue Galerie is taking a fresh look at "Ernst Ludwig Kirchner" (through January 13) is attested to by the fact that it has installed this splendid show of one of Germany's early 20th century pioneers very differently from most of the shows it has held in its third-floor space.  Instead of turning to the right as you get off the elevator, in order to start the show, you must now turn to the left and traverse the narrow hall (with a printed chronology on its wall) to get to the show's first display, in the spacious gallery backing up against Fifth Avenue on the west side of the building. Read More 

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One-half of "Comedian"



In the really old days, before the advent of the talkies in 1927, the lowest form of variety show in the U.S. was burlesque, home of striptease and the raunchiest jokes.  Here's where the phrase, "top banana," originated, meaning the lead comedian in the show.


I suspect this info is already known to Maurizio Cattelan, the Italian conceptualist, heretofore famous as the creator of "America:" a fully-functional, solid gold toilet that had art-lovers who visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York a year or so ago lined up to use it. 


Why do I suspect that this artiste is already familiar with the phrase, "top banana"? I say this because his contribution to civilization this year was a real, live banana fastened by silvery-grey duct tape to a partition in the Paris-based Perrotin gallery booth at Miami Basel.  Its title was "Comedian," and its price tag ranged from $120,000 to $150,000. Read More 

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