Art & Money

Painting, An Impromptu Respite

Painting is meant to be seen, not talked about. Painters are drawn to things, not concepts or doctrines. What counts is what is front of them, the very thing itself—whether an object or a vista—not an idea about the thing. For a painter, the only ideas that count are pictorial ones. Matters of fact are primary. These include the material facts of paint, the cookery of getting it right, manipulation of brushes and color chords—all physical, earth-bound matters. Fairfield Porter was blunt: “An art that finds ideas more real than things is attractive to the unemployed intellectual.” Continue Reading
Cardinal Ravasi's Embrace Of Art And Fashion

Cardinal Ravasi’s embrace of art and fashion, the two dominant enthusiasms of secular culture, conveys a this-wordly moralism more theatrical than moral. Of all modern substitutes for religion, art is the most esteemed. It veils contemporary materialism in the language of transcendent values. The cardinal wasted no time embracing the peculiar nature of the high-stakes art world. Pope Francis was installed in March, 2013. Two months later Ravasi announced the Vatican’s first foray into the Venice Biennale. Beginning with a modest prehistory in 1893, the Biennale has evolved into the ultimate bazaar. Continue Reading
Half a Cloak

Today is Veterans Day. It is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, patron of soldiers. Martin is my patron saint as well. Back in second grade, when we were asked to pick a saint’s name for Confirmation, I chose Martin. There followed a brief flurry of canonical concern. Was it suitable for a girl to take a male saint’s name? Could she do it? Should she? I was not trying to create a nuisance. It was only that I took seriously the purpose of this new name. Continue Reading
Garden Court

Decadence was brought about by the easy way of producing works and laziness in doing it, by the surfeit of fine art and the love of the bizarre. —Voltaire, The Princess of Babylon (1748)
  Voltaire’s linkage of decadence to an overabundance of fine art earns consideration, perhaps now more than ever. Art stuffs pile up around us; and we live, increasingly, with an overemphasis on—even reverence for—aesthetics that is less a sign of refinement than a malaise. It is an unhealthy condition, all the more precarious for exalting aesthetics, a strutting Enlightenment product, up, up into the embrace of theology. Continue Reading
Museum Theology

Glancing quickly, I misinterpreted the opening lines of a recent bulletin from Sandro Magister’s Chiesa . My eye fell on a reference to the Venice Biennale and, at the same time, on a thumbnail image of a contemporary chapel. At once devotional and festive, it looked to be a lovely ensemble. My immediate impression was that the Vatican pavilion would contain a model chapel, a beautifully designed invitation to prayer—a challenge—addressed to the international art crowd. I was ready to recant all my misgivings about Cardinal Ravasi’s foray into the belly of the casino: I take it all back! Continue Reading