September 21, 2014 | On our cover, the cacophonous world in which we live--digital and artisanal, ephemeral and timeless--is rendered, ironically, in the disciplined quiet of limewood by the master carver (and prose master) David Esterly. Carving, Esterly has observed in his book The Lost Carving: A Journey to the Heart of Making, is a metaphor for many things. I'd count among them the energetic meeting of past and present that you will find in his article on the centuries long tradition of letter-rack paintings that inspired his own creations shown here.
I hope Esterly's article will lead you to his book, where you will find in addition to his account of restoring a masterwork by Grinling Gibbons lost to fire at Hampton Court Palace, a dramatic meditation on physical skill, creativity, and beauty that will excite anyone who has ever, for instance, admired a great cartouche, wondered at the invidious distinction between craft and art, or pondered the fashions of the art world, where the word disci…» More
July 15, 2014 | Here is a curious turn of events: British folk art, although obviously many centuries old, is just this summer receiving its first ever museum exhibition. Robert Young, who with his wife Josyane has carried aloft the standard of European folk art in their handsome London gallery for several years now, discusses Tate Britain's exhibition in this issue with his customary intelligence and brio. It is gratifying to see the Youngs' passion for beautifully idiosyncratic work finally recognized in a museum setting.
By contrast, in our made-up nation where we have no ruling artistic tradition to inhibit us, museums have been busily celebrating, exhibiting, and validating the art of the folk without cease for most of the past century. At Antiques we continue do our part...thus this our annual (mostly) folk art issue. And still, after all this time of mining the field, there are surprises, from the little known-the Autry's show of traditional and contemporary North American floral bead…» More
May 1, 2014 | Here is the conventional wisdom about our world: contemporary art, in the ascendant for decades now, is on an ahistorical rampage, wielding its industrial strength newness and sowing disdain for beauty, mastery of technique, and anything that smacks of pastness. While this may be true of a segment of the art market and its press, artists are quite another matter. Tucked into nearly every issue of Antiques are the works and words of living artists for whom the things we value here are a significant source of inspiration. The British artists described below are a case in point as is Stephen Rolfe Powell, a glass artist whose Whackos and Teasers sit amiably amidst a great collection of Kentucky-bred sugar chests and early stoneware.
The Yale Center for British Art currently has an ambitious exhibition of artists' books inspired by the natural world that pairs examples from the distant past with those of contemporary makers. The printmaker and engraver Andrew Raftery who is wel…» More
March 10, 2014 | The photographs by Charles Marville in this issue and on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art strike me as an important early chapter in the story of our modern lives. Marville's job was to photograph Paris before and after Baron Haussmann erased its centuries old densely wound streets, replacing them with the broad new avenues and alluring vistas that seduce us with life's limitless possibilities. Marville's street scenes are mostly absent of humanity, in part because capturing people during the long exposures required of early photography made populous scenes unlikely. But the photographer does seem to have intuited-or else I am making this up-that the freedom promised by modernity would come at a certain cost and that we might not always be at home on the vast boulevards of the future. To my eye these vistas (both before and after Haussmann) look a little like crime scenes; they hint at how life will feel when people have to struggle with a world of constant upheaval, so…» More
January 9, 2014 | Is it too soon to propose a quota on installations of contemporary art in period settings? Yes, I know, everything is mashable these days, but not all these border crossings of present into past deserve a visa. I recently went in search of a silver box in one of the period rooms of a major museum (it wasn't there). What I found instead was a series of interventions by artists who had installed video projections of old movies, recorded interviews with local folk jawing about their relatives, and, for some reason, multiple reproductions of twentieth-century plumbing fixtures. Makes you wonder, who's zooming who?
Not all conjunctions are so cockamamie, and many are simply wonderful. The recent sound installation by Janet Cardiff at the Cloisters in northern Manhattan comes to mind. There in the twelfth-century remnant of the Fuentiduena Chapel, Cardiff's recording of Thomas Tallis's sixteenth-century motet Spem in alium (In No Other Is My Hope) emerges from forty speakers arra…» More
by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton» View All