Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Tsar(ina) is Born by B. Cappellini


Last review of the Catherine the Great show at the Musee des Beaux Arts, as it says up top this one was written by Bianca Cappellini.

I went to the press preview on January 31st with the Zeke’s gang. The MFA pulled all the stops out for Catherine: bangin’ breakfast buffet, extra personnel tushes to fill the press conference seats, and a good dose of gushing gung-hoism about the exhibit. To paraphrase the curator, Danielle Champagne, ‘zis is ze best! ze biggest! ze most expensive- pleez buy tickets or we’ll be broke.’

Going to this press release made me realize they involve a lot of pageantry. The function included a high concentration of colored square framed eyeglasses and unconventionally tailored ladies’ designer wear. Let me name drop some local art scene celebrities present: Guy Cogeval, director of MFA, the art critic for Le Devoir, Pierre Landry from CBC Radio’s “Daybreak,” and the Zeke’s gang, of course. We helped bring down the average age of attendees.

I digress to the exhibit- There is some wicked stuff in the exhibit you’ll never see unless you go to the Hermitage. Firstly, the gilded coronation carriage is one of the finest examples of an 18th century French carriage. It’s so frail that it will never leave Russia again. There is a lack of such carriages in France, as the French Revolution left few, if any, behind. In contrast to the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks were smarter cookies. They preserved tsarist Russia’s palaces and booty therein. Then they pawned it when they were broke.

Now, I subscribe to the belief that Empresses (like princesses) should be surrounded by glittery things at all times and furthermore, their mundane everyday items should be fashioned of impractical materials. Like a john made of gold. Well that’s what the Diamond Room is all about. The micro precious stone mosaics, jewel encrusted snuff boxes and the steel and glass bead pillow (looked supple enough to me) are the tangible kick-ass evidence of the Russian Empress’ power (“Take this jewel encrusted broche and stick up your trade policy’s %$#”) Apparently Catherine’s personal apartments were covered floor to ceiling with crystal glass- I’m talking furniture, walls, door paneling. That seems like a disaster waiting to happen for temperamental inbred nobility.

Also, the issues of politics being played out on the Empress’ body was fascinating. It becomes obvious [-----Yada Yada------ feminist theory blurb -----blah blah-----] dichotomy inherent in the paradigm shift of post-modern discourse on the ‘body’ politic.

Keep a look out for all the great films and lectures offered at the museum that pertain to the exhibit themes. I was pumped for the free screening of L’Arche Russe (dir. Sokourov), but disappointed when two busloads of seniors ambushed the lobby and maxed out the available seating 20 minutes before showtime. But there is lots more good stuff to come, just take the retirees into consideration when time managing.

If you'd like to read other views on the Catherine the Great show, try these:
  1. Grace Morgan's take
  2. Art in Montreal: From Russia, With Bedazzled Snuff Boxes by Jacquline Mabey
  3. The Vanity Table and accessories at Catherine the Great (pictures}
  4. Snuff Boxes at Catherine the Great (pictures)
  5. The cool stuff at the Catherine the Great exhibit (pictures)
  6. Compare and Contrast at Catherine the Great
  7. Catherine the Great Press thing-y
  8. Catherine the Great ain't so bad... my impressions

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