We’re thrilled to welcome Dr. Kathy Battista as the new Editor in Chief of the Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Director of the MA program in Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Institute, she has dedicated her life to furthering knowledge of art history through a teaching career, one that has taken her from London to New York City. From issues in contemporary art to dramatic changes in the art market over the past decade, Battista addresses all our burning questions regarding the state of her field.
What could philosophy have to do with odors and perfumes? And what could odors and perfumes have to do with Art? After all, many philosophers have considered smell the lowest and most animal of the senses and have viewed perfume as a trivial luxury.
Johannes Kepler, the astronomer who famously discovered that planets move in ellipses, presents an exceptional case we can reconstruct. Kepler got his assistant to paint an image of himself for a friend. This was just before Kepler stored up all his belongings to move his family back from Austria to Germany. His aged mother had been accused of witchcraft.
In antiquity, ‘Arabia’ covered a vast area, running from Yemen and Oman to the deserts of Syria and Iraq. Today, much of this region is gripped in political and religious turmoil that shows no signs of abating.
Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.
A reasonable line of thought can give rise to a crisis of commitment: Many a commitment requires persistence or willpower, especially in the face of temptation. A straightforward example is the decision to quit smoking; another is the promise to be faithful to someone for the rest of one’s life.
In 1682, the French court moved from Paris to the former royal hunting lodge of Versailles, which had been transformed under the supervision of Louis XIV into Europe’s most splendid palace, one which moreover was set in a stunning park that stretched all the way to the horizon. Versailles established a fashion for palaces surrounded by ample gardens that most major European courts would soon imitate.
Too often, we in Europe and the English-speaking world presume that we have a monopoly on both modernity and its cultural expression as modernism. But this has never been the case. Take, for instance, the case of sixteenth and seventeenth century urbanism in Europe and Asia. One can focus on the different ways in which classical precedent was deployed in Europe, teasing out the distinctions between the early and late Renaissance, not to mention Mannerism and Baroque.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered kindred religions–holding ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common–but there are definitive distinctions between these “Abrahamic” peoples. The early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three groups.
I am constantly perplexed by the recurring tendency in western history to connect creativity with mental disability and illness. It cannot be denied that a number of well-known creative people, primarily in the arts, have been mentally ill—for example, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Robert Schumann, Robert Lowell, and Sylvia Plath.
On 27 October 2005, two French youths of Tunisian and Malian descent died of electrocution in a local power station in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Police had been patrolling their neighborhood, responding to a reported break-in, and scared that they might be subject to an arbitrary interrogation, the youngsters decided to hide in the nearest available building. Riots immediately broke out in the high-rise suburbs of Paris and in hundreds of neighborhoods across the country.
Today, 29 July 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent Willem van Gogh, the legendary Dutch post-impressionist painter behind Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night. His talents went widely unrecognized until after his death. Van Gogh was a brilliant artist with a tormented soul suffering from a mental illness.
Fried dough has been enjoyed for centuries in various forms, from the celebratory zeppole of St. Joseph’s Day to the doughnuts the Salvation Army distributed to soldiers during World War I. So important were doughnuts for boosting troop morale that when World War II came around, the Red Cross followed closely behind the US Army as it advanced across Europe, offering doughnuts from trucks specially outfitted with vats for deep-frying.
After illegal drugs, illicit arms and human trafficking, art theft is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. According to the FBI Art Crime Team (ACT), stolen art is a lucrative billion dollar industry. The team has already made 11,800 recoveries totaling $160 million in losses.
The city that we now call Naples began life in the seventh century BC, when Euboean colonists from the town of Cumae founded a small settlement on the rocky headland of Pizzofalcone. This settlement was christened ‘Parthenope’ after the mythical siren whose corpse had supposedly been discovered there, but it soon became known as Palaepolis (‘Old City’), after a Neapolis (‘New City’) was founded close by.
The British Museum’s current blockbuster show, Defining Beauty: the Body in Ancient Greek Art, amasses a remarkable collection of classical sculpture focusing on the human body. The most intriguing part of the show for me was the second room, “Body colour,” which displays plaster casts of several Greek sculptures brightly painted in green, blue, yellow, red and pink. The press has not known what to make of “Body colour.” It has been met with surprise, sneers, or been entirely ignored in otherwise glowing reviews.