Italian art in London

One of the best collections of Italian art in the world can be found in an unlikely place: a quiet street in the London borough of Islington.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is housed in an elegant Georgian mansion and boasts a comprehensive collection of Italian Futurist paintings. Futurism was a style born out of the havoc of industrialization and the carnage of World War One. It emphasized the speed and technological advance of modern society.

Typical of this style is Umberto Boccio’s The City Rises, shown here courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This totally blew me away when I saw it at a special Futurist exhibition at the Estorick a few years ago. The people and buildings seem to be swept along by a windstorm of colored motion. It’s currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Other paintings show Futurism’s trading ideas with Cubism, like Gino Severini’s Portrait of Eric Estorick, the museum’s founder. It’s more a study of angles and shading than an actual image of a man.

It’s not all Futurism here and the current exhibition, United Artists of Italy, is a collection of photographs of leading Italian artists. You can also get a taste of Italy at the cafe, where they serve up excellent cappuccinos (hard to find in London) and snacks.

Last Kodachrome photos to be shown in Istanbul

Photography lovers might want to make a trip to Istanbul this summer to be the first in the world to see the last roll of Kodachrome photos on exhibit at the Istanbul Modern museum. As we reported in December, the film was discontinued in 2009 by Kodak due to the rise of digital photography, and the very last roll of film was processed in Kansas at the end of 2010. The last 36-exposure roll was given to National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry in July 2010, who used it to photograph subjects including Robert de Niro, Bollywood stars, Turkish photojournalist Ara Güler and the Rabari tribe of India. McCurry is best known for his iconic portrait “Afghan Girl” which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985, shot on Kodachrome.

The Last Kodachrome Film will run August 2 to September 4 at the Istanbul Modern, located on Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait. The museum also features a collection of modern and contemporary Turkish artists, and will show another photography exhibition from Turkish artist Lale Tara in August along with the work of Steve McCurry.

Photograph by Steve McCurry, courtesy of National Geographic.

Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento opens new extension

The Crocker Art Museum has been showing the people of Sacramento fine art since 1885. Now it’s finished a $100 million extension that’s added 125,000 square feet of exhibition space. Previously the museum only had 40,000 feet. While the elegant Victorian building has been preserved, a large modern extension behind it allows for much more of the museum’s collection to go on display as well as serve for hosting traveling shows.

Members got a sneak peak yesterday and there’s a free day today. Current exhibitions include Tomorrow’s Legacies, showcasing 125 works that will be bequeathed to the museum, a show about Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud, and a collection of Old Master drawings.

The museum is especially noted for its paintings by California’s leading artists, drawings by the Old Masters, and an expanding collection of Asian art.

[Image of old Crocker courtesy user Amadscientist. Image of new Crocker courtesy user ronb76. Both via Wikimedia Commons.]

Swinging new art exhibit comes to Vienna Museum

If you want to see one of Gustav Klimt’s pieces, you’ll need to cross through a world that may make you uncomfortable … and you’ll probably need partner. Haven’t figured it out yet? The Secession, a contemporary art museum in downtown Vienna, has plopped a swingers club between the museum and the Klimt – part of a project by Christoph Buechel, an artist from Switzerland. During the day, you’ll find mattresses, a bar and a whirlpool, as well as photos to make you blush. At night, of course, it becomes Element6, and anything between two among as many partners as you can assemble goes.

The project, which runs until April 18, 2010, is intended to recall the controversial “Beethoven” Frieze by Klimt that was exhibited first in 1902. Though it’s now thought to be one of Klimt’s most important pieces, it was originally considered to be pornographic (I guess the Austrians didn’t “know it when they saw it” back then). This time around, the Austrians aren’t offended. The right-wingers aren’t crazy about it, but the general public doesn’t seem disturbed. Gerald Adler, of the Kent School of Architecture in Britain, tells The Associated Press, “He’s putting it in a place that’s an accepted venue for avant-garde art, so it loses its effect.”

Museum attendance surged in 2009

What did you do instead of travel last year? Well, according to the American Association of Museums, you probably caught an art, science or historical exhibit. Museum attendance shot up last year, according to a survey of 481 of them, with more than 57 percent of them reporting gains in attendance. More than 40 percent sustained “significant increases” of 5 percent to more than 20 percent year-over-year. Science and technology museums were most likely to see the upside.

The reason cited for the change in visitorship shouldn’t surprise you: the recession. With wallets being squeezed mercilessly by the economic climate we’ve endured since the September 2008 financial crisis, fewer people have been going out on the road, even despite the deep discounts being offered by airlines and hotels. More people are staying home – and visiting museums. This is consistent with past recessions, when museum attendance grew.

Yet, not all museums benefitted: 23 were forced to close their doors.