Category Archives: art

When Rembrandt Was King of the World

The year was 1639, and Rembrandt was 33 years old. While he was still a young man, he was in his prime. For over a decade, he had been receiving important commissions from  Constantihn Huyygens.. It was through this connection that Prince Frederik Hendrik purchased Rembrandt’s work. He had moved to Amsterdam, married, and was living it up. Why not? He was clearly a man of genius!

Rembandt’s life in Amsterdam was, shall we say, exuberant. He bought an expensive house , and with his commissions, he should have been able to pay off the mortgage.

It was not to be. He spent his  lived closer to the edge than a more prudent man would have.

Rembrandt lived beyond his means, buying art (including bidding up his own work), prints (often used in his paintings) and rarities, which probably caused a court arrangement to avoid his bankruptcy in 1656, by selling most of his paintings and large collection of antiquities. The sale list survives and gives us a good insight into Rembrandt’s collections, which, apart from Old Master paintings and drawings, included busts of the Roman Emperors, suits of Japanese armor among many objects from Asia, and collections of natural history and minerals.

This would not end well.

But in the year 1639, the dark days were yet to come. And Rembrandt received a commission for a grand painting.

The painting was commissioned (around 1639) by Captain Banning Cocq and seventeen members of his Kloveniers (civic militia guards).[4] Eighteen names appear on a shield, painted circa 1715, in the centre right background, as the hired drummer was added to the painting for free.[5] A total of 34 characters appear in the painting. Rembrandt was paid 1,600 guilders for the painting (each person paid one hundred), a large sum at the time. This was one of a series of seven similar paintings of the militiamen (Dutch: Schuttersstuk) commissioned during that time from various artists.

Rembrandt decided to create an epic work. It would become known as The Night Watch, one of the greatest works of art in modern history (I use the word modern here broadly).

Here is an image that shows you the composition

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The thing is that to fully appreciate The Night Watch, you need to see it in person. It is massive. This can be arranged, as the painting hands in Amsterdam in the Rijksmuseum. And just now,  you can enjoy the painting, as well as watch experts working on its restoration.

A reason to go to Amsterdam? Perhaps!  And if you do, you might consider staying at the Pulitzer.

Peter Pulitzer—yes, of the American Pulitzers, who are of Dutch descent—started Amsterdam’s habit of cobbling 300-year-old townhouses into larger lodging properties. He founded the Pulitzer in 1970. One could argue, as the hotel does, that the Pulitzer was the world’s first boutique hotel, before that became the overused grab-bag concept that it now is. Nearly fifty years on, the result is a grand hotel made from twenty-five contiguous canalhouses. The Pulitzer even has its own salon-launch, the Tourist, for daily cocktail-hour canal tours. The noble launch, which once numbered Winston Churchill among its passengers, can be privately booked for dinners aboard. Do that.

Of course, there are plenty of other options!

You might consider the Hotel de L’Europe with its magnificent Restaurant Bord’eau.

Yes, these are luxury treats. But does one approach the great Rembrandt on a skimpy budget? Live large!

Sign me up!


Brise de Printemps in New York? Yes!

Brise de Printemps (breath of spring) is a wonderful expression! We all yearn for spring, especially for that first breath of spring air after a harsh winter!

And it is an art installation in New York’s Loew’s Regency Hotel lobby (reviewed by Fathom). It looks like this

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It is

…  by Brooklyn’s Nina Helms, which showcases 438 handcrafted dogwood flowers in various stages of bloom.

Here is NIna

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Her story started this way

Nina’s work draws inspiration from the traditional European wall relief sculptures, she first discovered during a stay at a chateau in the Loire Valley of France. “Struck by a plaster flower on one of the antique ceilings,” Nina explains, “I stopped, and in a split second I saw my creativity unfolding. I knew I could take this art form and reinterpret it in a fresh way for this century.”

I love how this gives some history to a place that might on the surface appear to be just another luxury hotel.I will check it out on my next trip to New York and raise a glass to Nina!

New York: The MET Wants to Break Your Diet

Great museums operate on rather uncertain terms. I say uncertain because they need visitors, lots of them. So how do they get visitors to … well … visit? The formula has been to offer a glimpse at the sublime. Great works of art and design.

In the last century, this worked rather well. The wealthy collected sublime works of art, and  at convenient moments, were willing to donate or sell them to great museums. For a donation, they got the credit for being generous. For a sale, the prodigal heirs to great fortunes got the benefit of another summer on the Riviera.

Meanwhile, the rest of us who crave to be like the rich and famous, were willing to pay to see what this sublime thing was all about. We might not be welcome at Buckingham Palace, but we were and are welcome at palaces dedicated to the same sort of art that one expected to find in palaces and grand manors like this one (that many will recognize from TV)

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There was one more wrinkle. That wrinkle was the solution to the problem who will pay for it all. Ticket sales are not enough. Great museums have had o attract their capital from the various wealthy people who feel allegiance towards them. Most of those people either live in the vicinity or want to be associated with it or the museum itself.

This makes for a two tiered experience. The visitors to the museum get their glimpses, but are not insiders. They visit paradise, but must leave at closing time. The backers of the museum get access to a club, where they get to show off their good taste and style on selected occasions. Those occasions are often star studded evening affairs or other exclusive events.

Here is an image of the opening of the MET in New York which took place in 1872

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And here a promenade at a campy costume ball

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And the desired result?

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But what if for some reason,  glimpses of the sublime suddenly offer less appeal? What if visitors find other things to do? Other places to visit? Empty museums are white elephants. And so, great museums must have strategies to keep the flow of visitors coming, no matter what. And that has given museum managers a headache.

Most recently, this has meant opening up museum space for a different sort of sublime experience — eating. Sorry, I meant fine dining. The first step was o radically upgrade museum cafeterias. We are now at he next step. And that is the backdrop for our story

It starts off this way

Sure, you’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art before. But did you know it has a full dining room on the top floor with a tasting menu conceived by a Michelin-starred chef? John Fraser launched his new spring pea menu in early May at the previously members-only restaurant that will run through July, with items like a snap pea salad and housemade pea agnolotti.

Voila, as they say. Come for a great meal and some art. Art? Well, “art” itself may be a bit vieux chapeau. Isn’t “fashion” more the rage? Yes! Our story continues

To pair with the museum’s blockbuster summer exhibit, Camp: Notes on Fashion, the Met’s Dining Room also introduced three new cocktails for the season, including the Pink Dress, a tequila-based drink inspired by Lady Gaga’s Met Gala dress that is topped off with bubbles, habanero shrub, and finished with raspberry salt. End the evening on the museum’s fifth floor Cantor Rooftop Garden Bar, which stays open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays and now serves boozy poptails in glasses of prosecco.

Lady Gaga inspired cocktails? Poptails? Prosecco?  This is a new era indeed. And I gladly admit that if the food is good, I will check it out! And I will be delighted to wander the great galleries.

How about you?

Rembrandt Lived Like a King in Amsterdam! Check it Out!

I ten to think of Rembrandt as a serious dude. In fact, that is not the full story. He became famous and well to do, and lived well. You can check out what it was like — in Amsterdam at a time when the city was one of the great trading centers of the world.

The competitive commissioning of wealthy East India Company merchants funded the artistic boom of the Dutch Golden Age and allowed Rembrandt to buy a large waterside home. Inside the Rembrandt House Museum

If you travel to Amsterdam and have some spare time, you might make a bit of a tour of Leiden (where Rembrandt grew up and first studied painting) and come o understand the city from he perspective of that golden age.

The Guardian has a nice article o get you started.

Go for it!

A Peek at Meow Wolf

NYT Mag – on “IMmersive Bazaar”

Meow Wolf started as a loose group of penniless
punks. Now it’s a multimillion-dollar dream factory
anchoring an “immersive bazaar” in Las Vegas.

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If you want more – From Rohit Bhargava

Earlier this year I curated a trend I called Strategic Spectacle to describe the growing use of attention-grabbing experiences to more deeply engage audiences. Last week the New York Times Magazine offered an inside look at the growth of one of the most pioneering companies in this space: Meow Wolf.

“The ideal experience-economy offerings are engaging enough to distract us from our devices but also optimized to be shared on those devices,” the author of the story writes. And Meow Wolf has been growing ambitiously to deliver on this mission, with a multi-million dollar development planned to open in Vegas in December, a new themed hotel in Phoenix and a $60 million flagship amusement park project in Denver.

As a brand, this vision is so “on trend” that it is immediately worth paying attention to and putting on your shortlist to learn more about. Their growth may offer a new experience-driven model that others will use to reinvigorate public spaces like shopping malls and perhaps even retail itself.

Icelandic LSD in Venice?

The background

Working with curator Birta Guðjónsdóttir and a specially commissioned soundtrack from Icelandic heavy metal band HAM, Shoplifter is transforming Spazio Punch, a former warehouse in the Giudecca Art District, itself a new cultural initiative that will launch this month on the largely residential Venetian island of Giudecca as the city’s first official permanent art quarter.

How can you say no?

Who Was Cerruti and What to do With his Art?

I might have entitled this post, “Living and Dying with Art”.

It is not something that most of us do. We cannot afford it. Not just because we do not have the money, though that is a major barrier. Also because we do not have the orientation.

Who would spend he time needed to learn what objects are worth collecting, to acquire them, to place hem in our living spaces, and tend o them with loving care? Not many.

And ye, that is exactly what the recently deceased Mr. Frederico Cerrtui did in his villa just outside of Turin.  You might say hat his collection was is own work of art.

NYT has an interesting article on this. Check it out!

Here is a peek at one of the rooms in his illa

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Another room

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And who was this Cerrui? Wikipedia offers a glimpse. For our purposes —  thinking about his villa —- perhaps this is the most important idea

Cerruti’s collection was described by Artribune as one of the best in Europe.[2] It ranged from the Medieval period to works of the 20th Century. The first work he acquired was a drawing by the Russian Expressionist artist Wassily Kandinsky. He also owned ten works by modern Italian Metaphysical and Surrealist artist Giorgio de Chirico which hung in the dining room of his villa. In the main bedroom were late Medieval and early Renaissance paintings by Paolo Veneziano, Sassetta, and Bergognone. Cerruti often allowed his works to be shown at exhibitions and small groups of art lovers were allowed to view his collection.[1]

Appropriately, Cerruti also collected books in fine bindings. He owned the Atlas Maior by Joan Blaeu in 12 volumes and an edition of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu in an Art Deco design by Pierre Legrain.[1]

The man himself

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And his secret villa

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