Highlights of the Highlights

International art fair “Highlights” in Munich is klein aber fein. It is also very young: established only in 2009 as a joint initiative from several galleries, it still managed to position itself as an important meeting point for true experts in fine and contemporary art. Here one can find icons, ancient Japanese art, contemporary drawings, baroque furniture as well as fine calligraphy from high-end galleries in the region.

I am presenting you my highlights of this year’s Highlights.

Russian malachit vases, Czar workshops in St. Petersburg or Ekaterinenburg, around 1820

Emil Nolde: “Blumen”, around 1930-1935

Ogawa Machiko: “White Vessel with Blue Glass Glaze”, 2009

Corall diamond collier, France, around 1870

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Today is Eid…

… and this beautiful folio comes from the present-day Uzbekistan, Samarkand. It is attributable to the calligrapher ‘Umar Aqta’, who made this to the ruler Timur. It represents a beautiful calligraphy from Timurid period, written in muhaqqaq style and depicting Sura al-Qisas (28: 82-84).

This belongs to the one of most probably largest copies of Qur’an ever produced: each line is almost one meter long and each page over two meters tall. The legend goes that the ruler was quite unimpressed when the calligrapher presented him with a Qur’an copy that could fit under his signet ring; the calligrapher then produced a next copy so large that it was brought to the ruler Timur on a cart.

Folio from the “Qur’an of ‘Umar Aqta'”, late 14th-early 15th Century, the Met

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Naked

Naked before the Camera is a small temporary exhibition given in Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It evolves around the topic of naked human body in photography, bringing the light to this highly disputed motive in art and depicting it from various angles. Therefore, we see the first female naked bodies and acts, done by French impressionist for the purpose of painting them later on, we see the photographs of dead bodies or bodies in motion, used for medicine and scientific scrutiny, as well photographs of rare skin illnesses or muscular build of athletes, again finding its use in medicine and analyzing human anatomy. One may see also varieties in the technique and media how human body is being portrayed; the proximity of camera, the angle, play of light and shadow, so that the body often has an abstract organic form. It becomes apparent that the photographer wants to tell us something with it. The motives are sometimes banal and show the everyday life, but soon they become more personalized. There we see first attempts in feminist photography as well as gay population. It is interesting – just to see this rather obvious image having its evolution in art in so many unexpected directions and applications and being subject here to artistic investigation.

Eadweard Muybridge, “Boys Playing Leap Frog”, 1883-1886

Brassai, “Nude”, 1931-1934

Man Ray, “Arm”, 1935

Franz Roh, “Nude in Tub”, 1922-1925

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Skyscrapers: in and out

I’ve been recently in Chicago – a city with certainly some of the most beautiful high-rise buildings in the world. These buildings have later inspired the cities and architects around North America to compete more creative, more theme oriented and unusual in their next project. Museum of Contemporary Art has organized a fantastic exhibition on skyscrapers, showing them from inside out: what it means not only for citizens as part of the skyline but also for their inhabitants. Moreover, what skyscrapers meant for society, their construction and, sometimes, deconstructions. Last but not least, all those emotions that those skyscrapers involve have been also touched upon and often on display.

 

Roy Ethridge, “Tokyo 2”

What a fantastic shot! Roy Ethridge captured romance of this world by striking the upward rising Tokyo with a sharp ray of light and rainbow in one and focusing not only on metropolitan urbanism of the city but also on its lucky charm of modernity.

 

Peter Wegner, “Buildings Made of Sky, VI”

Another interesting photography: Wegner shows the obvious here with non-obvious means. Long city boulevards, elongated upending buildings and gloomy sunset – he surrealistically ‘creates structures where none seem to exist’.

 

Jan Tichy, “Installation No. 3”

The image here does not do the work its justice: the light projection right on the fragile paper structure is further translated on the wall, so that the installation is a constant play of light and shadow. Reminds a lot on works of Sol LeWitt.

 

Kader Attia, “Untitled (skyline)”

What you see here are refrigerators,  which have been altered by simple mirrors. This work symbolizes ‘a yearning for the glamour of the metropolis’, but also shows how this urbanity can be easily improvised and approximated.

 

Ahmet Ögüt, “Exploded City”

Ahmet Ögüt shows here an imaginary metropolis, comprised of building that have been destroyed in an act of destruction, conflict or war. He shows them in the shape as they used to exist, disregarding the geography and placing them all together (this above is only a table explaining the background). Through this installation, the artist is playing with personal stories and emotions, the meaning of building and their destructions as well as the role of mass media.

 

Jonathan Horowitz, “Recycling Sculpture (World Trade Center Memorial)”

What you see behind Ögür’s model of Vijecnica in Sarajevo (“Exploded City”) is an everchanging sculpture representing World Trade Center towers. Every day the newspapers are placed and the ‘towers’ are rising; once the newspapers fill rectangular forms, they are removed for recycling. In this way, the artist plays with idea of constant change and rise and fall patterns.

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Unexpected!

Art Institute of Chicago is one of these encyclopedic art museums of the world. You have permanent exhibitions that span continents and geographies, centuries and epochs, personalities and schools. I went there the other day expecting a regular museum visit for max. 2 hours or so (so long the concentration keeps, in my case) and left after half a day! I started with newly built part for contemporary art and ended with temporary exhibition on Roy Lichtenstein.

What struck me there were totally unexpected pieces as well as their arrangement. Here are some of personal favourites.

Pablo Picasso, “The Old Guitarist”

Here is an early work from his Blue Period. Not only the monochromatic tones are fascinating here, but also how much psychology and emotions you have in a painting. Picasso wouldn’t be himself if you don’t see another side of the image: what in this perspective seems to be a penniless old musician can also be, if the painting is seen horizontally, a man who is leisurely enjoying his music playing by laying on his side.

 

 

Piet Mondrian, “Farm near Duivendrecht”

Another atypical work: when one says Mondrian, you would think of his abstract and non-representational works. However, they are mainly based on his views on landscapes and when you see this one, representing his native Holland, you also understand why. Flat lines of horizons, vertical drawings for trees and architecture – in the end, not so far away from his cubist experiments.

 

 

Francis Picabia, “Tetes-paysage”

As unexpected as it gets! (Or, in other words, what do you see here?) This is another view of cubism, not the fragmented one, but rather the one that combines many sources of inspiration from classical traditions of Rome and Greece, Renaissance and Neoclassicism. Not only that it is surprising how the profiles and landscapes visually fit together, but there is something in the surrealistic air around it that brings so many interpretations to the painting.

 

 

Rene Magritte, “The Banquet”

Speaking of surrealists, I cannot then forget to bring my all-time-favourite Magritte. This representation is nothing unusual for him, but this image was rather unknown to me from Magritte. The red sun here is really blinding.

 

 

David Hockney, “American Collectors (Fred and Marcia Weisman)”

Also not atypical for Hockney, but I have to mention him here as one of most inventive contemporary artists. What is particularly interesting for this piece is reflection of both characters in totem pole to the right, the sculpture of Henry Moore that the couple possessed: his stiffness and her smile. The coldness between the couple is palpable and stands in direct contradiction with warm Californian light that is surrounding them. (The couple indeed split not so long after the painting has been made.)

 

 

Roberto Matta, “Untitled”

Couple of artists were rather new to me, as Roberto Matta, one of most famous Chilean artists, Wifredo Lam, Cuban painter, or Arshile Gorky, Armenian. To all of them it is common that they have experimented with modernism, surrealism and abstract expressionism, and were strongly influenced with strong art movement in New York.

 

 

Roy Lichtenstein, “Desk Calendar”

Control freak (and project manager) in me absolutely screamed of joy when I saw this one. Yes, very much unexpected and very much me – no unnecessary colors, no explicit messages, just straightforward. I couldn’t help but simply admire it.

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German-Greek summer

A warm and sunny afternoon was well-spent in Glyptothek in company of Greek and Roman statues.

Roman copy of a Greek original, Apollon, 420 BC

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Sarajevo impressions: spikes, mothers and canned beef

I spent recently a beautiful week in Sarajevo. The city was pretty as always (or maybe even prettier): warm, sunny and full of good-mood people. Its artistic articulation took my attention in another area and I have seen rather the opposite.

I have seen the “Spiked” exhibition by young artist Daniel Premec, who is with his 12 aluminum spikes symbolically reflecting on difficulties in Bosnian everyday life but also artistic and cultural one; what all people have to go through in order to stay on the surface.

Daniel Premec, “Spiked”, 2012

I have not seen the photography exhibition “Majke” of two Polish artists, Monika Redzisz i Monika Berežecka, which focused on gender questions, sexual identity, gender equality and stereotypes, feminist ideas, transsexual and intersexual topics. I did see the poster and I found it to be just the right one.

Monika Redzisz i Monika Berežecka, “Matki / Majke”, 2012

… and now a ‘classic’: International Community monument, a over-dimensional canned beef by Nebojsa Seric Shoba, that fed the people of Sarajevo during the war-time. In the meantime, the ‘can’ became one of the favorite landmarks of locals. According to artist, this was a can with “never-confirmed content, expiration date, country of origin, (…) did not have anything better”.

“Monument to the International Community by the grateful citizens of Sarajevo”, 2007

“Monument to the International Community by the grateful citizens of Sarajevo”, 2007

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