English summaries December 17 - January 13

Le Musée d’Art ancien Jordaens and the Antique 12.10.2012 – 27.01.2013 Effective, calculated and somewhat superficial By Roland Groß On Brussels' so-called "Art Mountain" – the venue of the Instrument Museum, the Magritte Museum, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, and the Palace of Fine Arts - there's something genuinely Flemish right now. Primarily, this refers to the Baroque artist, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), whose special involvement with the antiques is spread out in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. In parallel, the earthy retrospective Flemish expressionist, Constant Permeke (1886-1952) also triumphs in the Palace of Fine Arts. Completely different from the two unquestionably important contemporaries, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthonis van Dyck, both of whom he outlived (after 1641) by almost four decades, Jordaens concentrates primarily on the people's lives in his Flemish habitat, which he never left during the entire course of his life. Van Dyck, and above all, Rubens – those were the superstars, internationalists, kings of painters of the Baroque era. However, Jordaens was also a businessman, specifically serving the taste of an almost petit bourgeois art and entertainment cosmos in the upper-class Antwerp of the tradespeople; including the unlimitedly varied illustration of popular proverbs, which above all made him so well known. But with this exhibition, Brussels plans to correct the commonplace banality where Jordaens is concerned. The oeuvre contains about 1000 works, amongst which, however, are more than 500 workshop products. Jordaens became known as a lover of a frequently repeated, large-formatted accessory theatre composed of mythological and biblical themes. From a biographical point of view, there's not much more to say about Jordaens than that he painted and painted. In his temperamental early phase from 1615 to 1630, Jordaens especially soaked up the artistic achievements of his time like a sponge, but relinquished the fluids that he absorbed, back again unfiltered. He borrowed the dramatic management of light from the Italian Caravaggio, the lusciously contorted body language from Peter Paul Rubens, without however, ever being able to achieve the latter's anatomical brilliance and humanity. Nothing is ever scrutinized, commented upon or indeed called into question in any of his paintings. Everything is always effectively calculated at the cost of overwhelming the current theme with persons and superficial decoration. The chronologically displayed Jordaens project is fanned out into nine myth-laden chapters. Whereby here, too, the popular Jordaens doesn't just accidentally favour the lively spectrum of the theme: from Aesop's Fables to Homer's "Odyssey" and Ovid's "Metamorphoses". "The Fable of the Farmer", after Aesop, addresses the clash between shaking the moral index finger to indicate temperance and a glimpse into the now pleasure-oriented structure of the human being (and the Flemish). The versions of the theme begin in 1615 and in 1645, show a farmer with the apparently caricatured face of the artist. The numerous allegories of fertility and excess are also compliant with the essence of the artist. The exhibition attempts to refute Jordaens’ "middle class image" by pointing to the aristocrat Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Hessen Kassel who acquired ten Jordaens creations – since then, Kassel has been endowed with Jordaens’ museum pieces and will, as of February 2013, be the German venue for this exhibition project. Le Musée d’Art ancien 1000 Brussels, Rue de la Régence 3 http://www.fine-arts-museum.be Opening hours: 10.00 – 17.00 hours Städel Museum Dark Romanticism from Goya to Max Ernst 26.09.2012 – 20.01.2013 Cold horror in 7 chapters By Daniela Gregori What is there to expect from an exhibition that devotes itself to “Dark Romanticism”? Of course, the works must include Johann Heinrich Füssli’s “Nightmare” as well as works by Francisco Goya, who, as a master of horror, guides us through the depths of human existence in which victims and offenders, good and bad appear as interchangeable objects. Théodore Géricaut and Eugène Delacroix must also be part of this exhibition, likewise the German Romanticists – even if their works were devoid of people: open graves, derelict churches, lonely bleak landscapes, cold, gloomy scenarios. Somewhere one seems to find an abyss in this heavy silence among the works of Caspar David Friedrich, Gustav Carus and Carl Blechen. Recent works come from the younger generation, which includes Odilon Redon, Arnold Böcklin, James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff, Edvard Munch, Alfred Kubin or at least one secretive sin by Franz von Stuck. The surrealists presented themselves as eager successors and even movies were able to contribute to the general feeling of horror: Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu in the 1920s, the famous scene in the Andalusian Dog by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali in which one sees an eye being slit by a razor or the films Dracula and Frankenstein. So far, so good and predictable. Yet, the exhibition in the Frankfurt Städel Museum is wonderful. The little surprises are what make the difference; practically unknown examples by well known artists. Among them William Blake’s “The Great Red Dragon”, Paul Delaroche’s portrait of his dead wife, and Victor Hugo, whose scribblings were inspiring to surrealists. And finally, for more than two decades, Brassai collected graffiti, cracks and holes in walls that transformed into scalps, masks and faces and thereby become a momento mori in urban space. Yet, what is especially surprising in the seven sections of this exhibition that narrate loneliness, melancholy, passion, hopelessness, insanity and death, is the special type of visitors. Rarely does one encounter so many interested young visitors in an exhibition. And that definitely had nothing to do with the cheerfully fluttering bats dashing across the museum’s website. Städel Museum 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Dürerstrasse 2 Tel: +49 69 605098-0 Fax: +49 69 605098-111 email: info@staedelmuseum.de www.staedelmuseum.de Opening hours: Tue, Fri - Sun 10.00 - 18.00 hours, Wed, Thu 10.00 - 21.00 hours BAWAG Contemporary Michaël Borremans – MAGNETICS 23.11.2012 -17.02.2013 “A painting is an illusion, it is just paint on canvas” By Patrick Schabus On one occasion he was in his studio in a suit and started to work on a painting. He felt better able to concentrate when he was wearing a suit. Since then, Michael Borremans always paints wearing a suit because it enables him to work more concentrated and precisely. In particular, because of his habit of locking himself up while he is painting, the act of painting has become a sort of ritual. His style can be likened to that of the old masters – and it makes it just that bit more unbelievable that he is self-taught. He demands of his pictures that they permeate the eye like a scalpel. If one of them does not possess this quality, he doesn't exhibit it, doesn't let it be part of his oeuvres. Drawing is like a dialogue to him - he never completes a drawing in one step and it can last months. But with painting, he knows exactly what a picture should look like. And because of this, he paints his pictures in one or two sessions. Earlier, he used photographs that he found as inspiration for his pictures but latterly, he changed to a different method: now, he photographs models in almost the exact poses that he then paints. Because he doesn't want to use old clothes or present-day articles of clothing, he designs their attire. He doesn't portray people as individuals; they resemble dolls or statues. And because of this, the pictures evoke an undefinable, claustrophobic atmosphere. And even if one finds implicit references to artists such as Velasquez or Goya in some of his works, the meaning is still shrouded behind many veils. One could say that these are nihilistic pictures that leave the observer without answers to questions that could have been answered before the viewing. His works, be they films, drawings or paintings, always remain enigmatic. The answers lie with us, each sees something different in the pictures and therefore many of the works exist as pathways that lead one past them. The observer inevitably becomes an accomplice to Borremans. What he shows us is an open wound in ourselves that will not heal. A wound in all of our eyes. The contents of the pictures remain undefined; it's our viewing pattern that wants to define these contents and inevitably fails. When one moves around the spaces in the BAWAG Contemporary, the pictures ensnare you, don't let you go. A quick walk-through is impossible here because every picture develops its own pull and you can only wander slowly from one to the next. It's a pity that there's no film to be seen here that combines all aspects of Borremans' oeuvres. Unfortunately, this otherwise well worth seeing exhibition only encompasses a partial aspect of the artist who poses the same unanswerable questions both in film and in paintings. Bawag Contemporary 1010 Vienna, Franz Josefs Kai 3 http://www.bawagcontemporary.at Opening hours: daily from 14.00 to 20.00 hours Photoinstitut Bonartes Oriental Fantasies – Photographs of an artist’s journey to Cairo in 1875 25.10.2012 – 10.02.2013 With the Orient in mind By Daniela Gregori The gentlemen’s stay abroad must have been highly amusing and, at least for part of the group, it was also quite profitable – both artistically as well as financially. Those who were left at home received many letters, something that was customary at the time, and the letters informed them that the “photographic machines were (….) constantly in use”. All of this made the artist’s journey to Cairo legendary. Leopold Carl Müller, who knew his way around the Orient and who was known as “Orientmüller”, initiated the journey. The other members of the group included the artist legends Hans Makart and Franz Lenbach, the animal artist Carl Rudolf Huber and the architect Adolf Gnauth. A series of photographs made during the trip - and which are attributed to Huber - have recently been acquired by the Photoinstitut Bonartes. Together with material from other collections they form part of a small but delightful exhibition. The presentation offers an interesting insight into everyday life in Cairo at the time and provides an image of the Orient reflecting the imagination of the artists. They include stray horses, camels and riders, herds of goats and haggard cattle. The images served as templates for their own work as well as that of other colleagues and became known to a wider public through Egyptologist Georg Eber’s publication “Egypt in word and image” in 1879. While the women in the streets of Cairo could only be encountered completely veiled, everyone was almost nude in the palace that the Viceroy of Egypt made available to the group. The mysterious young beauties appear in half-length portraits, seen either resting or dancing wildly; all of these were motifs that could be used in numerous ways. And at some point, they staged a photograph that replicated Pieter Breughel’s “The Land of Cockaigne” – it shows the entire group together with the collector Count Lanckorónski lying in the sand. But possibly the cheerful troop meant to depict the replica of a slaughter on the slave market. The Orient, and that’s what we learn, the Orient in the 19th century was often seen as what one imagined it to be like. Photoinstitut Bonartes 1010 Vienna, Seilerstätte 22 Tel: +43 1 2360293 Email: info@bonartes.org http://www.bonartes.org

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