Monday, March 05, 2007

The National Gallery of Canada is my new favorite museum


Back in February, there was this press release from the national Gallery of Canada that touted
A rare David Milne painting acquired by the National Gallery of Canada with the help of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Canadian Art Fund.
What caught my eye was a line at the bottom of the press release, that said the painting 'is not signed, which suggests it was never exhibited during Milne's lifetime...The painting was first published and exhibited by John O'Brian in 1981.'

I have always understood that the way a painting becomes important in the art world was by being exhibited and written about. So I wrote to the National Gallery of Canada, and asked 'if Alcove wasn't exhibited during Milne's lifetime why it is 'one of Milne's most important canvases...'? And I got this back from Charlie Hill (the Canadian Art Curator there)
You asked why an unexhibited painting can be one of Milne's most important canvases. First Milne was very prolific and exhibited few of his New York canvases before leaving the city. Douglas Duncan who from the 1940s on catalogued Milne's work held the New York paintings in lower esteem than his later paintings. At the same time I think it is often the case that artists make a breakthrough in a particular painting, recognize its importance but are not sure where it is going so put the painting aside. The lessons learned need digestion and emerge at a later date. A change in direction is not always attributable to one canvas but to a body of work which is then surpassed by newer work in the artist's own interests. This may be the situation here though I can't document it at this time. However I am certain that within the body of work produced in New York this painting marks an important high point and differs considerably from almost all his other paintings of 1914. I hope you will get an opportunity to see it. It is currently hanging in the Canadian galleries (room A107).
Man! Open easy access to the people who know stuff, some kick-ass contemporary art exhibits, what more could you ask for?

OK, let me rephrase that, if they start podcasting the A/V material that they have, and make admission to the permanent collection absolutely free all the time my head would explode from the sheer pleasure and joy of knowing that they existed.

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