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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. New shows: "events;" how to support the online edition: "works."



Koga Harue (Kurume, Japan 1895–1933 Tokyo), Umi (The Sea), 1929. Oil on canvas, 51 3/16 × 64 in. (130 × 162.5 cm). The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo



At The Metropolitan Museum of Art we have "Surrealism beyond Borders" (through January 30).   This mammoth exhibition, with work from 45 countries in all six inhabited continents, has nearly 300 items in it. God forbid anybody should say that surrealism – as defined by André Breton -- not only started in Paris in 1924, but also reached its acme there in the later 1930s. The good people who put together this show proceed instead on the assumption that surrealism went on for eight decades and could be defined all over the world and in all sorts of ways.  Read More 

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"Hans Hofmann: Chimbote Murals," Miles McEnery Gallery, 520 West 21st Street, New York, NY, 9 December 2021 to 29 January 2022, Photo courtesy Miles McEnery Gallery.

There is something so wonderfully happy about the paintings of Hans Hofmann (1880-1966).  (This is true even when they're not perfect, which is often the case.)   So if you want to forget about the Omicron variation for a few moments, and enjoy life to the fullest extent currently possible, I highly recommend heading to the Miles McEnery branch at 520 West 21st Street to take in "Hans Hofmann: Chimbote Murals" (through January 29).   Don't worry about getting infected by the crowd: Hofmann was a straight white Northern European male, which means he is way out of style just at present. Talk about extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.  Read More 

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"Lindau Gospels," in Latin. Switzerland, St. Gall, ca. 880 (manuscript).Eastern France, ca. 870 (front cover) Salzburg, ca. 780–800 (back cover). Morgan Library & Museum, 1901.The Morgan Library & Museum, MS M.1, front over. Photography by Graham S. Haber


J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), the financier, was particularly fond of collecting lavishly illuminated and gilded medieval manuscripts.   The later 19th century, when he started collecting them, must have been a good time to do so, as his only major rival in this field seems to have been Henry Walters (1848-1931), founder of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Certainly, Pierpont Morgan's passion for the medieval helps enormously to make a magnificent show out of "Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800- 1500" at the Morgan Library & Museum (through January 23, 2022). On the other hand, this exhibition is also a "spare no expense" loan exhibition, with yet more opulent and frequently eye-popping contributions not only from the Walters but also The Getty in California, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, and – but  you get the general idea.

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Francisco de Goya (1746 -1828), "Monks Reading," ca. 1812-20. Brush and brown wash, 7 15/16 x 5 1/2 inches (20.2 x 14 cm.).  (c) Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.  Photography by Herbert Boswank.

J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), the financier, loved works on paper.  As early as 1890 he was already collecting illuminated, historical and literary manuscripts, early printed books and Old Master drawings and prints in his home on Lower Madison Avenue.  His son, J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943) turned that home into a public institution in 1924, but neither he nor any of his successors have much altered the basic emphasis of the Morgan Library and Museum from historical works on paper. 


Sad to say, in recent years the museum seems to have felt obliged to display a small amount of typically execrable postmodernist work, but the two special exhibitions currently on view are both historical and excellent. The first is "Van Eyck to Mondrian: 300 Years of Collecting in Dresden" and the second is "Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, ca. 800- 1500" (both through January 23, 2022). Read More 

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