Madrid Offers Up Great Summer Art Season

Madrid
Dalí, El gran masturbador, 1929 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, VEGAP, Madrid, 2013

Madrid is one of the best destinations in the world for art, and this summer its many museums and galleries are putting on an impressive array of temporary exhibitions.

The blockbuster of the season is at the Reina Sofia, which is having a major exhibition on Salvador Dalí. “All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities” brings together almost 200 works here by the famous odd man of surrealism.

Organized in roughly chronological order, the earliest paintings in the exhibition date to the mid-’20s and show a surprisingly traditional technique. Once he’d mastered the basics, however, Dalí soon plunged into his own unmistakable style. The exhibition is accompanied by detailed texts on Dalí’s life and career. For example, we learn the reason why we keep seeing the same set of cliffs in Dalí’s work. In his youth Dalí and his family would vacation at the seaside town of Cadaqués, where he became obsessed with the cliffs of Cape Creus. He once said, “I am convinced I am Cape Creus itself. I am inseparable from this sky, from this sea, from these rocks.”

%Slideshow-2876%Many of his best-known works are here, as well as early sketches and little gems, like a painting of Hitler masturbating. Who but Dalí could pull that off? (Pun intended.) Numerous video screens shows Dalí’s many film experiments, including the famous “Un Chien Andalou” with Luis Buñuel and several other lesser-known films. The show runs until September 2.

The Reina Sofia has two other exhibitions. “1961: Founding the Expanded Arts” looks at a vital year in the history of modern art that saw the expansion of artistic collaborations and music experimentation and the launch of Concept Art. It runs until October 28. At the museum’s annex at Retiro park is “Cildo Meireles,” which looks at the acclaimed Brazilian conceptual artist’s work and runs until September 29.

The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza has a major exhibition on Camille Pissarro. This cofounder of Impressionism was the only one to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886. The museum brings together more than 70 of his works, mostly the lush landscapes for which he was known. The show runs until September 15.

El Prado also has three temporary exhibitions. The headliner is “Captive Beauty: Fra Angelo to Fortuny.” This exhibition brings together almost 300 works characterized by their small size and technical excellence. The point is to demonstrate the ability of some of Europe’s greatest artists to create beauty in a confined space and to highlight works that are often missed hanging next to giant, better-known works. They are arranged chronologically from the 14th to 19th centuries. The show runs until November 10.

Another of El Prado’s exhibitions examines the relationship between two 18th-century artists, Anton Raphael Mengs and José Nicolás de Azara. The two painters traded ideas and collaborated on projects throughout their careers. “Mengs and Azara: Portrait of a Friendship” runs until October 13. “Japanese Prints,” which runs until October 6, showcases items from the museum’s collection from the 17th to 19th centuries.

This year Spain and Japan are celebrating 400 years of friendly relations. In 1613, a group of Japanese emissaries set out to visit Spain. They crossed the Pacific, passed through the Spanish colony of Mexico, and then crossed the Atlantic. After touring Spain they continued on to visit the Pope in Rome before heading back home. The whole trip took seven years. We talk a lot about adventure travel here on Gadling, but nothing in the modern day can measure up to what these early travelers did.

To honor the anniversary, the Museum of Decorative Arts is hosting “Namban,” a fascinating look at the artistic influence these two distant cultures had on one another. One interesting object is a large screen in the Japanese style, yet bearing a Spanish colonial painting of Mexico City. There is as yet no closing date for this exhibition.

If you hurry you can still catch a free exhibition of the work of Swiss surrealist Alberto Giacometti at the Fundación Mapfre. The exhibition includes numerous examples of his famous statues of elongated human figures as well as his lesser-known paintings. This exhibition runs until August 4.

We’re suffering sweltering temperatures here in Madrid right now, so beat the heat and go see some art!

Museum Exhibits Coming To A Movie Theater Near You

Few people can fly half way around the world just to see an art exhibition, and now, thanks to a new documentary series they don’t have to. One company is set to bring culture to the masses by broadcasting major art exhibitions at movie theaters around the globe.

Much like a real trip to a museum, the documentaries walk you through a current or recent exhibit, pausing at important works along the way. A noted historian provides commentary and insight into the significance of the artworks, while interviews with museum curators and a backstage look at the exhibits round out the 90-minute films.The company behind the documentaries, BY Experience, is the same one that brought live concerts from the Met Opera and London’s National Theater to the big screen. Those live screenings proved a huge success, earning the opera and orchestra groups millions of dollars each season. In much the same way, the art galleries involved in the documentaries are set to cash in on the screenings.

The films will focus on an art exhibition limited to one location, giving those who can’t travel to that particular city a chance to view it. The documentaries kick off this week with an exhibit about Edouard Manet from the Royal Academy of Arts in London. A retrospective on Edvard Munch and an exhibit featuring Johannes Vermeer are also slated for later this year.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Martin Beek]

New Art Exhibition Features ‘Banned Booty’ Confiscated From Airport Security Checkpoints

http://www.bannedbooty.com/Ever wonder what happens to the tweezers, sewing scissors and Swiss Army Knives abandoned by hapless travelers at airport security? While most probably ended up in the landfill, some contraband nail clippers have received a second life through a new contemporary art exhibit from California artist Steve Maloney.

The exhibit, called “Banned Booty – Palm Springs Checkpoint,” opens October 18 at the Palm Springs Air Museum in Palm Springs, California. It will feature mixed-media installation pieces created from items, mostly sharp-ended, that were confiscated from carry-on luggage by the Travel Security Administration at the Palm Springs International Airport. The exhibit’s intention is “to ‘continue the conversation’ about present-day air travel,” particularly its relation to everyday lives and the city of Palm Springs, says a press release. According to Maloney:

American travel changed radically after September 11, 2001. The Banned Booty series captures a small aspect of this change. What used to be routine – checking into a flight and passing through the final security check point with no concern for the nail files or scissors stuffed in your bag – was transformed into a drawn-out endeavor.

The exhibit’s opening day will feature guests like Mayor Steve Pougnet, Palm Springs City Councilman Paul Lewin and Shannon Garcia-Hamilton, Federal Security Director for the TSA in Palm Springs, who will gather to participate in that conversation first-hand. For more information, visit BannedBooty.com.

iheart the Roger Smith Hotel: art salon arrives in Manhattan

I would not have been surprised to find the likes of Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau sitting across from me Friday night. Reviving a concept only too scarce since the end of the eighteenth century, the Roger Smith Hotel was host to a dinner that centered on the exchange of ideas and the appreciation of art. The creators themselves were in attendance, flanked by friends, admirers and even the lowly folks who sit on the sidelines and chronicle these affairs. In midtown Manhattan, known for flocks of tourists eager to consume the same eye-candy as the previous wave, it was a rare reprieve from the commodity norm.

The arts are important to the Roger Smith Hotel, evident from the Lexington Avenue sidewalk in front of the property. A look inside THE LAB, home to installation and performance art, shows what can be done with a converted storefront to provide intellectual depth and enrichment in a world characterized by the swift progress of passers by, not unlike the 25CPW studio on the Upper West Side and other non-traditional gallery spaces. As you move farther up the street and turn to the main entrance, the interactive display immediately to your right drives the point home. In fact, it was the reason I was at the hotel in the first place.

The inside wall of the Roger Smith Hotel’s entrance changes regularly based on the whim and fancy of anybody who chooses to walk by. Framed magnetic pop art images from the “iheart” project are stacked on the floor when not stuck to the wall, and staff, guests and just about anyone else can pick them up and rearrange them in an attempt to make a point or express a feeling. It’s fun, hands on and expressive. You become a part of the exhibition.

I encountered the iheart project for the first time at New York’s Affordable Art Fair a couple of weeks ago. Entering the ArtWeLove booth, I was struck immediately by the display, which consumed a generous amount of wall space. After talking for a bit with company founder Laurence Lafforgue, I was hooked, and didn’t hesitate to accept her invitation to the iheart dinner at the Roger Smith. Not knowing what to expect, I showed up early (unusual for me) and grabbed a glass of wine and a cigar at the hotel’s rooftop bar with my friend and fellow blogger Laurie DePrete, who introduced me to the Affordable Art Fair in the first place, effectively making the experience to come possible.

The crip autumn air and accompanying glass of white wine provided the perfect frame of mind for the iheart dinner: it was impossible to avoid clarity, openness and a sense of excitement after viewing the city below with the lubricating effects of the vino, of course.

The room had filled in my absence, and upon first inspection, it was evident that a varied crowd would make for a lively and insightful evening. Salient eccentricity made the artists easy to identify, and clusters of conversation indicated which guests were present in support of the creators. Interestingly, the artists were not holding court in these disparate collections of discourse. Rather, their palpable humility made interpretation the main event, as observations tended to trump explanations. Underscoring this dynamic was a video projected on a screen at the front of the room, showing the variations on the front door display that had already come to life … and departed. Punctuating the conversation were pauses to look up, yielding the knowing looks of some and the expressions of awe by others.

With iheart being the guiding theme of the dinner, it followed naturally that the artists in attendance were responsible for variations on the original, having put their own imprimaturs on this spirited concept. In a sense, it was a vast, asynchronous collaboration, involving unique and divergent perspectives that nonetheless came together into a cohesive whole. An international effort representing three continents, a bevy of accents and broad range of experiences came together seamlessly, demonstrating that a shared mission can translate to a spectacular outcome, even without strict and rigid control.

As the meal was served and the table filled with plates, wine glasses and the spoken word shooting to and fro, with the original conversation groups mixing into new pockets of insight on art and art market issues. It was impossible not to share ideas, even while chomping on the pasta served by the hotel, given the diversity sitting elbow-to-elbow. I was particularly excited to speak with Kosuke Fujitaka, co-founder of NY Art Beat, which has an iPhone app listing in granular detail the city’s many (and perhaps otherwise unknown) art exhibitions.

The evening drew to a close, and I again retired to the rooftop bar to smoke a Guillermo Leon Signature cigar, sip my final glass of wine and watch the staff collect the blankets from the chairs (a nice touch for combating the late-night chill) as they wound down, too. The direct exchange of ideas was ending, though it would doubtless continue through the Roger Smith’s interactive exhibition, the online presence of the iheart project and, of course, the collective and separate efforts of the artists and onlookers.

Doubtless, Diderot and Rousseau would have been proud. If slightly divergent from their experiences, the spirit was certainly present, contrasting wildly with the relative mayhem of the streets 16 floors below. ArtWeLove, iheart and the Roger Smith created an experience nearly absent from today’s social lexicon, reviving the art of thinking for its own sake.

[photos by Laurie DePrete]

Airport contraband featured in Lever House Art Exhibition

Go to Manhattan‘s Lever House, and you may see that lighter – or hand grenade – that was taken from you a JFK airport. Through the end of the year, the free exhibition will consist of photographs taken by Taryn Simon of items seized from passengers and mail packages coming into the United States. She spent five days clicking away at more than 1,000 items.

The exhibition, called “Contraband,” includes everything you’d expect to find at JFK: Cuban cigars, pirated DVDs, bongs and hand grenades. Also, there were animal parts and heroin. You’ll have to decide for yourself what’s strangest, but here are MSNBC’s thoughts:

So what’s the strangest thing in Simon’s new “Contraband” show? Hard to say, but the horse sausage and cow manure tooth powder have to be up at the top of the list.

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[photo by 16 Miles of String via Flickr]