| By Carolin C. Young

Unabashed opulence

April 13, 2009  |  Medieval splendor at Belgium's Groeningemuseum in Bruges and baroque magnificence at London's Victoria and Albert Museum ebulliently controvert the recession raging outside their doors. Each exhibition exudes the sumptuous confidence of the era that it explores. Nevertheless, beneath their luxurious veneers both offer significant insights into their respective subjects, making them must-see destinations for aficionados of European decorative arts.

Burgundian luxury
After months of refurbishment, the Groeningemuseum reopens with an exhibition devoted to Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy from 1467 to 1477, whose tomb lies just around the corner in the Church of Our Lady (Onthaalkerk Onze-Lieve-Vrouw). The soaring ambitions of the swashbuckling duke, who hoped to extend his territories from Bruges to Dijon, are reflected in the fineness of the art and objects with which he surrounded himself. The carved frame of an ivory chessboard, the fancifully foliate border of a manuscript, the enameled decoration of a gold and silver reliquary—such exquisitely rendered details speak to the attenuated elegance that made the Burgundian court the envy of Europe.

The exhibition showcases Flemish primitive masterpieces from the museum's permanent collection, such as Hans Memling's triptych of Willem Moreel, mayor of Bruges, and his family, but also includes important loans such as the Louvre's portrait of Charles's elegant third wife, the admirable Margaret of York, wearing a necklace with Cs and Ms interlaced with lovers knots in honor of her marriage.

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| By Carolin C. Young

Maastricht and beyond

March 12, 2009  |  The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht has become the show of all antiques shows, attracting art and antiques world luminaries from around the globe. For those wishing to counterbalance the excitement and the throngs with more tranquil pleasures, a host of venues of superlative historical and aesthetic interest lies just a short distance away.

The Bonnefantenmuseum Maastricht is showing Italian Renaissance masterworks acquired by Dutch collectors

The relatively small city of Maastricht (estimated population: 120,000) abounds with concerts, exhibitions, lectures, and special events timed for the massive influx of international collectors, curators, and art enthusiasts who come for the fair. In addition to these temporary attractions, this ancient city boasts numerous sites of historical interest, from the part Romanesque, part Gothic Basilica of Sint Servatius (the oldest church in the Netherlands) to its medieval city walls and thirteenth-century town gate-and even, the Museu…» More

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| By Carolin C. Young

Paris Dealers

February 20, 2009  |  From the stalls of the bouquinistes along the Seine to the rarified galleries of Saint-Germain and the Made­leine and out to the puces (flea markets) at the Porte de Clignancourt in the north and the Porte de Vanves in the south, Paris brims with antiques. As with many things, from architecture to cooking, the French refined the trade into an art form and a ritual.

The sacrosanct relationship between dealer and client has special importance in a city in which buying an ordinary baguette is a complex act that is as social as it is commercial. The European sculpture dealer Patrice Bellanger defines it as "a profound cultural exchange" and "an intimate relationship born of shared interests, which is enriched over time." Despite the increase in Paris auction activity ensuing from the amended European Union regulations and François Pinault's purchase of Christie's in 1998, Bellanger conjectures, "Paris is the only city that has resisted public auctions." To fully depict Paris's antiques trade would require the pages of a book. The dealers described below, however, hint at its contours.

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| By Carolin C. Young

Whither Londongrad?

February 1, 2009  |  The Victoria and Albert Museum in London celebrates Magnificence of the Tsars with a sumptuous display of men's ceremonial attire from the Russian imperial court on loan from the Moscow Kremlin Museums' collections. What could be more fitting in the British capital that is currently nicknamed Londongrad or Moscow-on-the Thames for its several hundred thousand Russian émigrés and its dominant role in the market for Russian objects and art? However, in the wake of the recent economic crisis, during which the Russian stock exchange plunged by more than 65 percent of its value since May, and huge portions of the November Russian sales in London failed to sell, one wonders if this exhibition constitutes a belated finale to the boon for things Russian? Or does it hint that the Russian presence in the art world cannot be snuffed out by one mere blip on the radar-even a seemingly cataclysmic one?

 

According to Lesley Miller, senior curator of textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert, the show originated with a proposal for an exchange made to them by the Kremlin back in 2005, not long after the Russian market had exploded. Experts concur that the Russian industrialist Victor Vekselberg's splashy purchase of Malcolm Forbes's entire Fabergé collection in February 2004, two months before its scheduled auction at Sotheby's in New York, marked this sea change. Renowned Fabergé expert Géza von Habsburg summarizes, "Prices rose slowly until the oligarchs made an appearance at the London auctions in November 2003; then, after the sale of the Forbes collection, they rose astronomically until the end of 2007."

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NYG 2013

[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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