Entries tagged with “museums”.

We spent the morning yesterday at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The focus was on the two exhibitions of photography that are scheduled to close this weekend, we visited a few more, actually all had photography as their only or principal means of expression.


(video source ScottishParl)


World Press Photo http://www.worldpressphoto.org/ is a foundation that supports high quality photo-journalism and documentary photography. It organizes each year a contest where the best photos published in the press are being gathered and get recognition through prizes which are probably the most important in photo-journalism. The exhibitions with the best photographs of the year are organized world-wide.


source http://horiwood.com/category/bibi-aisha/


The show in Tel Aviv presented exhibition 2011 – the winners and their works can be seen at http://www.worldpressphoto.org/winners/2011. The photography of the year was the portrait of the young Afghan woman Bibi Aisha disfigured as a punishment by the Taliban for fleeing he husband’s house after being subjected to a forced marriage, photo taken by the South African Jodi Bieber for the cover of TIME Magazine. An interview with the photographer can be read at http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/35454-world-press-photo-2011-in-edinburgh-jodi-bieber-interview/.


source http://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/article/35454-world-press-photo-2011-in-edinburgh-jodi-bieber-interview/


I was impressed by the striking picture which got the first prize in the Nature category, took by Thomas Peschak a contributing photographer to National Geographic representing a Cape gannet landing during the nesting season.


source http://www.pragmatiko.it/tag/ivo-saglietti/


The majority of the photos in the exhibition present a distressing view of a world full of violence, conflicts, natural catastrophies than men are unable to cope with, or made worse by human. I have chosen to show here a less graphic picture (there are pleny of those, you can see them on the Web site) by extremely expressive taken by the Italian photographer Ivo Saglietti which gethers the attention of the viewer on human grief.


source Shmuel Lesched


The World Press 2011 exhibition is joined in the same pavilion by the Israeli replica Local Testimony 2011 (see also http://www.edutmekomit.co.il/en/2011-exhibition/gallery.aspx) which shows the best journalism and documentary photos taken in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The reality shown here is complex and violent, full of conflicts and oddities. Have a look on the Web site! I have chosen a photo by  Lior  Patel whose Web page can be accessed at http://www.liorpt.com/. It shows a character and tells a story which I believe is so significant for the place where we live. The man in the photo is Shmuel Lesched, he is a Holocaust survivor aged 100, who callks himself Der MusikClown, making a precarious living on the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv.


source http://www.israeldailypicture.com/2011/12/yemenite-jews-american-colony.html


A Yemenite Portrait is another exhibition which opened recently, telling a different type of story. It gathers photographs (some of striking quality and expressiveness) and documentary material from the history of the Yemenite Jews, telling the story of a community which started to return to the land of Israel at the end of the 19th century, but also of the relation with the more majority (then) Jewish community of immigrants from Europe who were also the photographers who took most of the pictures.

More information and reviews of the exhibition can be found at




source http://www.eretzmuseum.org.il/e/170/


Aproximately in the same period were taken most of the photos in the exhibition named Images from the Land of the Bible The photographers where the Christian inhabitants of the American Colony, the photos where taken between 1898 and 1935, and many of them ended  in the US Library of Congress as one of the latest photographers took them to the US at the end of the 30s. The technique is colored printings of the originally black-and-white photos, and they present a different angle then the pictures taken by the Jewish inhabitants of the same period which focused on the life of the Jewish settlers working and fighting to turn the Zionist dream into reality. The American Colony photographers took mostly pictures of the Arab inhabitants, with an idealistic view that projected their way of life against the Biblical landscape. As the Yemenite portraits exhibit this was another variant of the Orientalistic approach.


source http://www.eretzmuseum.org.il/e/126/


The last exhibition we saw yesterday was ATA – Factory, Fashion and Dream which introduces the visitors into the history of one of the factories that marked the industrial development of Jewish Palestine and later Israel in the first decades of its existence. Founded by the Czech Jewish family Moller in the 30s, ATA was in its half century of existence a model of Zionist entrepreneurship, of early Israel development, capitalist accumulation and work conflicts, symbol of local and international fashion. By the mid 80s the realities of the fast progressing modern industry pushed ATA as the whole textile industry in crisis. I remember (this was in our first years in Israel) the protests, the dismay, the way it ended. One of the Israeli legends.

Connecting art and factories and relating art with the working classes may seem like communist ideals, but here is one big ‘capitalist’ industrial corporation that invested in art and the results are more visible and beneficial. French car-maker Renault started in 1967 a project of forging links with some of the top artists of the time and sponsoring their work for almost two decades. The result is a valuable art collection with a specific identity, reflecting at the same time its moment in the history of the art in the second half of the 20th century, as well as the relation with the industry visible in at least part of the works without being a mandated component. For the last few years parts of the collection have travelled to different places around the world and a section of it was exposed at the Museum of Israeli Art in Ramat Gan (sorry, the Web site is only in Hebrew). It’s quite an unusual kind of exhibition for this museum which focuses almost exclusively on Israeli artists, but the exception was worth being made, and the overall idea of the show works even better because the museum building itself is a former industrial structure in what was once the periphery of Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, now on the outskirts of one of the most active business area of central Israel.


source http://www.renault.com/en/passionsport/la-collection-d-art-renault/pages/les-artistes-jean-dubuffet.aspx


Many interesting artists are present in the Renault art collection and most of them had works in the exhibition in Ramat Gan. Juan Miro whose collaboration with Renault did not last long had one but significant painting here. Three of the fantastic machineries of  Jean Tinguely were exposed.  Jean Dubuffet had several of his panels made of industrial materials in three colors (red, blue and black) present here, above is a photo of one of them named Fisto la filoche. Victor Vasarely who also re-designed the logo of the company in the 70s is present with a number of works that seem precursors of computer graphics, I could just wonder what he would have done with the technology available nowadays.


source http://www.robert-doisneau.com/fr/portfolio/automobiles-renault.htm


A separate section of the exhibition is dedicated to Robert Doisneau, one of the greatest French photographers and photojournalists (author of the famous Le baiser de l’hotel de ville). The origin of his works here are different that the rest of the collection. Doisneau started his career in 1934 at the age of 22 as an advertising photographer for Renault, and between 1934 and 1939 took many pictures reflecting the life, the work and the people who worked in the Renault factories. From this period dates Ouvriere de Renault which already reflects the empathy and the focus on human feelings that will be characteristics for many of his later and more famous works.



(video source renault)


For a more complete information about the collection, here is a short film about the history of the collection and the relation with the company.


I spent last week a few days in Bilbao, my first time in this city. It was a business trip, and I had only a few hours to spare which I tried to use at best in order to get at least a taste of what is an interesting and beautiful city in an area of Europe which is certainly worth a longer trip and a vacation, to know and enjoy it. I hope to be back some day.

The first meeting with the city is with the airport designed by the famous Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava. It’s a doubled wing like structure, quite impressive seen for distance, less in the interior.

The city is a real playground of some of the world’s most famous architects. Since the 1980s the Basque Country is governed by an autonomous government which embarked in ambitious plans that changed the region and the city of Bilbao from a rusty industrial town to a vibrant European point of attraction for hi-tech and business, for art and international events. Here is the hotel where I stayed, the Melia (former Sheraton) designed by Mexican architect Ricardo Leggorreta.

From the hotel room I could see what is one of the characteristics of the city – the melding of old and new construction, the careful urban design and the insertion of modern art (especially sculptures) in one integral vision.

The next morning was Sunday and I used a few hours before the start of the convention to walk the area and reach the landmark of the city – the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The area was a former harbor terrain, by the river which is actually an estuary bringing ships from the Atlantic, an area which in the 70s had fallen in decay. It was redesigned and brought back in the circuit of the city life. The most recent Master Plan which gave the whole environment its look of today belongs to the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid and was started in 2004. In the picture you can see one of the example of the renovation and recovery of the past periods in the history and architecture of Bilbao with the Universidad Literaria de Deusto, built in 1886-1887, the largest building in the 19th century Bilbao, designed by an architect with remarkable classic works in Madrid – Francisco de Cubas.

The newest addition is the Torre Iberdrolla 165 meters, a 41 stores office building designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli.

Near-by the less daring by yet very interesting Biblioteca de la Universidad de Deusto – Rafael Moneo Vales, with slightly irregular lines, combining roundness and angles.

And then, I turned the river bend and I saw – one of these buildings I read so much about, I expected to see and visit for many years – Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao. It is impressing and I loved it, with the external titanium cover absorbing and reflecting light and colors from the sky and the city and integrating its folded surfaces into the landscape around.

I walked around it – one of the best views can be taken from the nearby bridge with the proenade on the water guarded by the out-of-this-world sculpture ‘Maman’ by Louis Bourgeois.

Huge and yet sweet and familiar Jeff Koon’s ‘Puppy’ guards the entrance to the museum.

source http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guggenheim_Museum_interior,_Bilbao,_July_2010_%2804%29.JPG

The space inside reminds to some extent the spiral structure of the Guggenheim in Manhattan. The feeling that the museum building is as much an object of art and an objective of the architect as the works of art that are being hosted by the museum cannot be escaped.


One of the permanent installments is Richard Serra’s ‘The Matter of Time’ - a series of labyrinths, walls and passages, made of the rusty iron materials that made the ships in the docks that formerly occupied the place where the museum is now located.

Balthus - 'The Street' - source http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es/secciones/programacion_artistica/nombre_exposicion_imagenes.php?idioma=en&id_exposicion=138#activas

Two temporary exhibitions were open last Sunday. The one I spent most of the time (and which was closing that day) was ‘Chaos and Classicism: art in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, 1918-1936′, which started with a selection of Otto Dix’s sketches from the battlefields or representing the human aftermath of the First World War and ends with monumental Fascist dedicated to Mussolini or the preferred paintings hanging in one of Adolf Hitler’s offices. It was a very intriguing review of the other facet of the art between the two world wars, the one that opposed the innovation of the avangarde (although some of the surrealist and cubist artists also played with the concept).

(video source efeinternational)

The second, still open is ‘The Luminous Interval: The D. Daskalopoulous Collection’ - mix of large scale installments of contemporary art, of various tastes and trends – so I liked some more, some less.

Mona Hatoum’s ‘Current Disturbance’ which I had seen last year at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was one of the works exposed – actually the first one just near the entrance as I entered the museum.

The audio-guide is very informative and included in the ticket price.

THE Euskalduna Conference Centre and Concert Hall designed by architects Federico Soriano and Dolores Palacios on the site of the former Euskalduna Shipyard was the building that hosted the W3C standard meeting which I came for in Bilbao.

I had little time for the rest of the week. One evening I went out for a short walk to the center of the city and I took a few photos. here is how the city looks, combining churches and classical 19th century buildings with modern additions.

Another visual element are the metro entries named by the locals forestitos. In 1988 the city opened a bid for the design of the metro stations which was won by British architect Norman Foster.

The last day I used a couple of free hours to visit the Museum of Fine Arts located in the Dona Casilda Park – another combination of an old building with modern extensions, with a work by Serra in front of it. The permanent collection offers a solid path through the history of the local and European art.

source http://www.museobilbao.com/in/exposiciones/matta-1911-2011-164

I had much too little time for the two temporary exhibitions in the museum. One was dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Chilean artist Roberto Matta – creator of monumental art, inventor of imaginary words worth exploring.

(video source LookingForArsMundi)

The second belongs to local artist Daniel Tamayo.

Continui seria notelor de calatorie ale prietenilor mei care au ajuns in locuri la care eu deocamdata doar visez sa ajung cu insemnarile de calatorie (ea le numeste ‘note personale’) ale Marianei Gott-Shmilovitch care in aprilie a facut o calatorie in Sankt Peterburg si Moscova, calatorie la care noi din diverse motive nu ne-am putut alatura. Merita de ‘rasfoit’ si albumul de fotografii de la Picassa, pe blog am preluat doar cateva dintre fotografii.


Aceste randuri nu se vor nici ghid turistic si nici reportaj. Le-as defini ‘impresii’, daca nu as fi citit diferite  texte descrise impropriu ca ‘impresii de calatorie’, care constituiau efectiv doar o (suplimentara?) documentatie despre locurile vizitate. Randurile de mai jos (si cele ce vor urma) sunt doar niste note personale scrise in fuga, nici macar nu indraznesc sa le numesc ‘Note de calatorie’. Caci sunt de fapt simple note de ‘senzatii’…

In noaptea in care am facut cunostinta cu Sankt Peterburg (in ruseste fara ‘s’, ca nu e ‘al lui Petru’, ni s-a explicat, ci orasul Sfantul Petru) n-am vazut, recunosc, din goana autocarului de la aeroport spre hotel, orasul denumit si ‘Venetia Nordului’. Am vazut doar strazi largi, cladiri impunatoare, unele statui (Lenin-ul obisnuit cu mana intinsa si sapcuta-i in mana… nu citisem oare ca toate statuile lui au fost daramate?) si blocuri ‘comuniste’… Si noapte. Mult intuneric.
La lumina (innourat-cenusie) a primei zile de plimbare prin oras, m-am indragostit. Iar. Si fara a stabili o ordine de prioritati in lista oraselor pe care le iubesc, St.Peterburg ocupa un loc de frunte.

Un ‘nu stiu ce’, atmosfera, canalele ‘venetiene’, istoria care tasneste din orice colt, spectacolul de folclor, Neva, catedralele, Petru I si Caterina II-a (cei Mari) si… Ermitajul si ’Lacul lebedelor’ in aceeasi zi, ultima zi a sejurului meu acolo, acea zi pe care n-o pot uita!

Cine poate rezista unei asemenea combinatii?

Dar sa le iau pe rand, iar cine are timp (si chef) poate rasfoi cele peste 200 de poze din albumul al carui link e atasat la sfarsitul textului * (asta dupa ce am redus mai mult de jumatate din fotografiile facute aproape fara discernamant in cele trei zile petrecute in acest oras), poze ce vor sa determine privitorii sa calatoreasca parca cu noi, pas cu pas.
Pe rand, deci… in ordinea cronologica a vizitei mele, caci nu vreau sa concurez Wikipedia, iar informatii despre populatie, economie, istoria orasului le veti gasi in mod foarte satisfacator la http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Petersburg , cel putin.

Inainte de toate, insa, nu pot sa nu amintesc si eu ca orasul (‘Leningrad’ il numesc aproape toti locuitorii cu care s-a intamplat sa vorbesc, de altfel regiunea din care face parte se numeste si astazi Leningrad) este asezat in delta raului Neva, include cateva insule (hotelul nostru era situat pe cea mai mare dintre ele, insula Vasilievski) si are parte, dupa cum se stie, de cateva luni (mai, iunie, iulie) de ‘nopti albe’, fiind situat langa Cercul Polar de nord. In aprilie nu au fost nopti albe, dar seara, la orele 21 era inca amurg, turul monumentelor luminate noaptea noi facandu-l de-abia dupa orele 22-23.

Fortareata “Petru si Paul” cu care am inceput vizita, dupa hoinareala pe unul dintre malurile Nevei admirand imaginile orasului impozant, nu impresioneaza in mod deosebit la prima vedere.

A fost  construita in scop de aparare, dar a fost folosita ca inchisoare politica inca de pe vremea tzarilor, iar cladirile colorate (galben si roz puternic), stradutele si piata mi-au amintit de castelul din Praga. Insa biserica ‘Petru si Paul’, din centrul fortaretei, schimba total atmosfera sobra. Nu mare, dar bogata in ornamente, nu impunatoare dar adapostind mormintele lui Petru cel Mare, al Caterinei I, sotia sa, al fiicei Elisabeth, al nepotului (de la alta fiica) Petru III si al sotiei sale, celebra Caterina II-a (cea Mare), constituie o bucatica de istorie, descoperita prin povestirile competentului nostru ghid. De altfel, din diferite locuri, din diferite puncte de vedere, ghidul s-a reintors, iar si iar, la dinastia tzarilor, astfel incat era imposibil sa nu retii interesantele informatii.

De la istoria lui Petru cel Mare (care construise orasul timp de vreo 10 ani la inceputul secolului 18 si in timpul acestei constructii au murit 100.000 oameni, da, o suta de mii!) am trecut brusc, facand o mica paranteza, la perioada revolutiei din 1917, vizitand apoi crucisatorul Aurora, ancorat pe Neva si inconjurat de zeci de dughene de ‘amintiri’, care mai de care specifice primului razboi mondial sau revolutiei bolsevice. Lovitura de tun de pe acest vas mi-o aminteam ca simbolica, dar inghesuiala zecilor de turisti care urca la bord m-a oprit s-o fac si eu, multumindu-ma cu fotografii  ale vasului (pe fondul modernei cladiri pe care se lafaia uriasa firma Samsung).

Si iar, Neva si sloiurile de gheata plutind, podurile (9 dintre ele se ridica noaptea, dupa ora 1, pentru a permite vaselor sa treaca, prilej de interes pentru turisti), bulevardul central Nevsky Prospekt si apoi celelalte trei catedrale (partial muzee) principale, inafara de ‘Petru si Paul’ : Biserica Mantuitorului insangerat (Church of the Savior on blood – singura cu turlele in stil pe care il cunoastem ca rusesc, caci Petru I interzisese construirea turlelor in forma de ‘ceapa’ – pur si simplu o splendoare…), catedrala Kazan, copiata dupa Basilica St.Petru din Vatican si cea mai mare, catedrala St. Isaac, cu una din cele mai mari cupole din lume, cea care se vede din orice punct de pe malul Nevei, a carei constructie a durat 40 de ani.

Si in tot acest timp, povestiri, informatii, istorie si arta – care daca ar fi fost numai pe jumatate atat de amanuntite, ar fi satisfacut un exigent turist – totul impletit cu umor (si ferma pastrare a disciplinei grupului), din partea ghidului nostru israelian.

Finalul primei zile in St. Peterburg l-a constituit bogatul spectacol de folclor pe care l-am vizionat la palatul Nikolae. Am fost primiti pe maiestuoasa scara de catre actori in costume de epoca si poate doar pozele sa redea bogatia culorilor, frumusetea costumelor, dar sigur nu pot reda muzica si talentul dansatorilor.

Satul tzarilor, Tsarskoye Selo, facand parte acum din orasul Puskin, din suburbiile St. Peterburg, a constituit tinta celei de-a doua zile a excursiei. Vizita la Peterhof, care fusese in program, a fost anulata, deoarece celebrele sale fantani, care constituiau principala atractie a palatului de vara a lui Petru I, nu functionau… Palatul baroc al Caterinei a II-a, insa, un adevarat Versailles, a compensat pe deplin. Nu numai bogatele si luxoasele incaperi ale palatului insusi, ci parcul imens, pavilioanele raspandite in diferite colturi ale sale, lacul… Superb. Placuta senzatie de a te plimba ‘cu Caterina’ de mana ore in sir…

Pe drumul de intoarcere spre hotel, ne-am oprit la Sinagoga de pe strada Lermontov din St. Peterburg, impresionanta prin arhitectura sa cu influente maure, construita la sfarsitul secolului 19. Desi erau prezenti cativa reprezentanti ai comunitatii evreiesti, ni s-a permis (si noua, femeilor) sa intram si sa fotografiem.

Turul monumentelor luminate noaptea nu m-a impresionat in aceeasi masura. Dar am vazut astfel si Catedrala Smolnai si Institutul cu acelasi nume, care o inconjoara, institut care a fost prima scoala pentru femei din Rusia. Aici isi stabilise Lenin sediul cartierului sau general in timpul revolutiei din 1917.

A treia si ultima zi a scurtei mele vizite in St. Peterburg a constituit culmea excursiei in Rusia, am intuit-o inca de pe atunci. O zi insorita, St. Peterburgul venetian, hoinareli pe stradute si  prin piete de fructe si legume, dispozitie personala excelenta si Ermitaj, in sfarsit Ermitaj! Palatul de iarna (de care am omis sa pomenesc, admirat cu o zi inainte doar pe dinafara, din impresionanta sa piata), Micul Ermitaj si Noul Ermitaj alcatuiesc complexul actual, in stiluri arhitectonice diferite.

Cum as putea povesti cate ceva din cele vazute? Sa relatez despre Leonardo, despre Rafael, Tizian? Despre impresionantele sali si bogatele colectii? Despre orele in sir petrecute acolo, despre din ce in ce mai putinele perechi care am ramas in preajma ghidului, netinand seama de oboseala, pana cand, in camerele rezervate impresionistilor, pana si ghidul ne-a lasat sa colindam singuri? (Pe-acolo reusisem sa ‘fur’ o fotografie cu ‘Eterna primavara’ a lui Rodin, potrivita cu cea din sufletul meu in acele momente…). Senzatii, spuneam. Senzatie de satisfactie? Putin spus. Nu, efectiv nu am cuvinte.

Si pe cand credeam ca nimic nu poate intrece acea senzatie, in aceeasi seara am vazut baletul ‘Lacul lebedelor’, cu una din trupele baletului Kirov, la Ermitaj Theatre. Sa nu declar aceasta zi ca fiind culmea excursiei, chiar daca spectacolul nu a avut loc la celebrul teatru Mariinsky, cum credeam, si pe care-l vazuseram in acea dupa-amiaza, doar pe dinafara ???
Chiar daca a fost ziua in care am facut cele mai putine fotografii.

Am mai omis in relatarea mea cateva palate, biserici si cladiri publice (Bursa, ca un impozant templu grecesc, Universitatea de stat de pe insula Vasilievski, Amiralitatea, statuia ecvestra a lui Petru cel Mare din piata Senatului) despre care ni s-a povestit, le-am vazut si le-am fotografiat si sunt sigura ca nici senzatiile mele nu le-am putut impartasi pe deplin, dar cat pot abuza de rabdarea cui a avut timpul si poate placerea de a citi pana aici?

Am parasit St. Peterburg in (foarte) zorii celei de-a patra zile in Rusia, plecand spre Moscova, unde asteptam intalnirea cu alte doua importante perioade din monumentala istorie a Rusiei (inafara de perioada tzarilor si a revolutiei bolsevice despre care St. Peterburg ne impartasise cu larghete) : Napoleon pe de o parte si al doilea razboi mondial si urmarile sale, pe de alta.

Moscova mea… va urma.

* https://picasaweb.google.com/mshmilovitch/RusiaApril2011StPeterburg#

May 1st was a beautiful day in Amsterdam this year. I had a few free hours at the beginning of a short but busy business trip and as in many cases I looked for opportunities to visit art museums and galleries. With the city waking up after the Dutch national day which is celebrated each year on April 30 with a big party in the streets, and with the Rijksmuseum in eternal renovation the best choice seemed to be the ‘Picasso in Paris’ show at the  Van Gogh Museum.

(video source atVanGoghMuseum)

The exhibition is realized in collaboration with the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and marks with paintings, photographs and documents the first seven years spent by Picasso in Paris, since his first arrival here in 1900 until 1907. His first stay in Paris lasted only a few months, he was 19 and spoke no word of French. He spent most of his time in museums absorbing the art of the masters as well as of the Impressionist and contemporary artists. A short stay in Barcelona was followed by the return to Paris and the suicide of his good friend Carles Casagemas in 1901. This was the start of the darker mood ‘Blue’ period. It was also a time of social integration, with Picasso befriending Max Jacob, becoming a regular of the cabarets in Montmartre, and settling his studio in the dilapidated building of Bateau Lavoir.

source http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/

With the change in mood came also the diversification of style and themes. The Montmartre typology and clowns entered his universe, to remain here for the next seventy years of his artistic career.

source online.wsj.com

By 1907 the first big step of his artistic evolution was completed. In the last works in the exhibition we can see Picasso starting to experiment with the decomposition of forms and the geometrical patterns that will become the building blocks of the cubist revolution. In an ideal world of arts this exhibition should have ended with the painting that symbolizes the birth of modern art – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Unfortunately the Van Gogh Museum could not get it from MoMA, but we can imagine it in a virtual last room in our imagination.

I then spent another couple of hours in the museum, visiting together with one of my American colleagues the Van Gogh collection. The museum underwent a serious renovation since I first visited it around 1994, and although the structure of the Van Gogh collection is basically the same (his decade of creation divided in periods according to the place and years, works of art that surrounded him in his time), the exhibition space and visiting conditions are much more better than the ones I remembered. The museum which was surprisingly crowded for an out-of-season afternoon is a mandatory visit for any Van Gogh fan. Out in the still sunny daylight I photographed some trees with Van Gogh yellow colored flowers.

source http://www.chagall.nl/

On the way back to the hotel we walked Spiegelgracht which seems to be a street of art galleries and old books shops. Our attention was drawn by the Wuyt Gallery at number 32 of the street, which gathers and sells certified graphic art by Mark Chagall.

source http://www.chagall.nl/

Especially beautiful are the lithographic designs of the windows representing the 12 tribes of Israel that can be found in the Synagogue at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Watch some of the series in the Web site of the gallery at http://www.chagall.nl/.

source http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/romania

One last exhibition I will mention will open however only in a few weeks. The name of the exhibition is  From Dada to Surrealism: Jewish Avant-Garde Artists from Romania, 1910-1938 and is hosted by the Jewish Historical Museum (which is located close to the hotel I have stayed at in Amsterdam). The exhibition will do hopefully a long waited reparation reminding that Romania was one of the important centers of the artistic avant-garde in the period between the two world wars, and that many of its most renowned artists (Tzara, Janco, Brauner, Maxy) were Jewish, and that they were fighting not only to promote their art but also to express their identities in the complex and in many instances hostile environment of the period. The exhibition will also open in December at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, until them some details can be found at  http://www.jhm.nl/current/exhibitions/romania.

Din recentul nostru periplu bucurestean nu puteau sa lipseasca vizitele in muzee si salile de expozitii. Din pacate am ratat la milimetru doua expozitii care s-au inchis exact in ziua sosirii noastre. Si totusi am reusit sa vedem cateva lucruri interesante chiar si in aceasta saptamana inainte de Paste, cand unele dintre spatiile de expunere se pregateau de vacanta sau de schimbarea expozitiilor.

sursa http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/

Descoperirea numarul unu a acestei vizite a fost fara indoiala Muzeul National Cotroceni institutie despre a carei existenta nu stiam mai nimic si cred ca ar trebui sa fiu cam rusinat din acest motiv. Spatiul de pe Dealul Cotrocenilor pe care in copilarie il cunosteam ca Palatul Pionierilor devenise inaccesibil majoritatii romanilor dupa cutremurul din 1977 cand Ceausescu a hotarit renovarea sa pentru a deveni rezidenta oficiala pentru oaspetii presedintelui. In cursul renovarii au fost recuperate si renovate cea mai mare parte a incaperilor noului palat construit in 1895 pentru a servi ca resedinta a printului mostenitor si viitorului rege Ferdinand, dar au fost si distruse urme mai vechi ale cladirilor din zona si in special biserica Cotroceni cu hramul Adormirii Maicii Domnului (reconstruita dupa 1990). Arhitectura palatului completeaza si complementeaza seria de palate construite de casa regala a Romaniei din care fac parte si Pelesul si Pelisorul din Sinaia. Pentru a vedea o parte din incaperile palatului puteti sa alegeti ‘Tur Virtual’ la http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/.

sursa http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/expo_prezent/elenacuza.html

In pretul de baza al biletului intra si vizitarea expozitiei istorice dedicata doamnei Elena Cuza, cea dintai Prima Doamna a Romaniei.

sursa http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/expo_prezent/iser.html

Expozitiile de arta (cu plata suplimentara) sunt cele care ne-au atras in mod deosebit atentia. Superba este retrospectiva Iosif Iser care sub titlul modest ‘Univers cromatic Iosif Iser’ aduna creatii ale artistului din muzeele de arta centrale si regionale din tara. Expozitia acopera toate etapele importante ale creatiei artistului si temele principale ale picturii sale. Un catalog excelent insoteste expozitia care ar merita un spatiu mai central chiar si la Muzeul National de Arta, sau macar mai multa publicitate.

sursa http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/expo_prezent/elenacuza.html

‘Theodor Aman pictor si gravor’ este o alta expozitie de pictura care merita sa fie vizitata. Cum muzeul Aman din spatele Bibliotecii Centrale Universitare este inchis de mai multi ani (renovarea pare terminata, cel putin la exterior dar …) vizitarea acestei expozitii este probabil singura alternativa de a vedea reunite cele mai importante opere ale unuia dintre pictorii romani nationali impreuna cu lucrari mai putin cunoscute, care lumineaza perioade si aspecte mai putin cunoscute ale creatiei sale. Cunoastem cu totii tablourile aproape ‘oficiale’ ale lui Tudor Vladimirescu sau scena Unirii sau portrete cum este cel al lui Ioan Heliade-Radulescu. Ceea ce poate mai putini stiu este ca Aman a creat si multe peisaje si portrete de mici dimensiuni, a cunoscut si a fost influentat si de academismul francez dar si de inceputurile impresionismului, si tocmai aceste lucrari mai putin cunoscute mie, dar radiind frumusete si expresivitate mi-au placut cel mai mult. Si aceasta expozitie are un catalog excelent. Expozitiile Iser si Aman sunt deschise pana la sfarsitul lui mai.

sursa http://www.muzeulcotroceni.ro/expo_prezent/pallady.html

Tripticul expozitiilor de arta este completat de o expozitie a lucrarilor lui Theodor Pallady din colectia Muzeului de Arta din Craiova, cu glosse pe tema ‘boieriei’ sale – noblete de spita si de atitudine. Cu toate ca sunt in expozitie cateva lucrari remarcabile expozitia pare (poate si in comparatie cu celelalte doua) mai ‘subtire’.

sursa http://www.mnar.arts.ro/Home

La Muzeul National de Arta al Romaniei singura expozitie care atrage atentia este cea intitulata ‘Marianne, muza a creatorilor’. Este o combinatie interesanta care porneste de la costumele create de creatorii de moda si costume Alfred Choubrac şi Minon pentru filmele franceze de la inceputul secolului trecut care aveau ca personaj principal pe Marianne – simbolul feminin al Frantei, al valorilor si al frumusetii galice. In completarea litografiilor de epoca sunt aduse creatii ale unui sir de designeri si creatori de moda francezi si romani care dezvolta si ei subiectul Marianne si creaza cate o rochie sau costum in interpretarea proprie a fiecaruia.

Palatul Shutzu

Un alt muzeu redescoperit in aceasta vizita a fost Muzeul Municipiului Bucuresti. Il vizitasem poate ca elev, dar il uitasem in timp si acum multumita colegilor de liste internetice l-am redescoperit.

Palatul Shutzu - scarile interioare

Splendida cladire care il adaposteste este Palatul Shutzu din piata Universitatii construit de arhitectii vienezi Johann Veit si Conrad Schwinck in 1833-1844 si cu interioarele proiectate de sculptorul si decoratorul Karl Storck pe la 1862. De atunci dateaza holul de intrare, elegantele scari interioare si ceasul propectat sa fie vazut de la intrare in oglinda, de fapt mergand invers sensului acelor de ceasornic obisnuite.

ceasul in oglinda

In secolul 20 cladirea si-a schimbat de mai multe ori destinatia. In timpul primului razboi mondial a fost sediul guvernatorului german al Bucurestilor sub ocupatie, pentru ca in perioada interbelica sa gazduiasca pentru o vreme sediul Primariei. Dupa ce a mai fost sediu de banca si al CEC, din 1959 a devenit muzeu.

Mihaela Stan - icoana

Radu Dinca - icoana in fereastra

In holul de la intrare am putut vizita o frumoasa expozitie de icoane – dovada ca aceasta forma de arta plastica traditionala, dintre cele mai vechi practicate pe teritoriul Romaniei este continuata astazi, in atmosfera de libertate si de renastere religioasa de dupa 1990. Sunt foarte multe lucrari frumoase ale unor artisti ale caror nume din pacate mie nu imi spun prea multe, si care lucreaza in tehnici diferite, de la pictura traditionala pe lemn, gravura in metal, pictura pe sticla, sau tehnici mixte si compozitii mai sofisticate.

biblia lui Serban Cantacuzino in sala de istorie a secolelor 17-18

biroul primarului Capitalei

strazi si numere

Este interesanta si merita un ragaz de vizitare si expozitia permanenta a muzeului. Salile sunt putin cam aglomerate si tehnicile de expunere cam desuete, dar multe dintre exponate, fotografii, documente sunt interesante pentru cei interesati de istoria Bucurestilor sau de istorie in general.

sursa http://www.mnir.ro/ro/ExpozitiiTemporare/FotoExpozitieTemporara.aspx?IDObiect=910

Muzeul National de Istorie al Romaniei se afla intr-o permanenta renovare. Cred ca nu a fost ocazie cand am ajuns aici in ultimul deceniu sa nu gasesc cel putin o parte din muzeu inchisa si colectiile principale macar in parte inaccesibile. Stiind acest lucru am dedicat doar vreo ora vizitarii expozitiei temporare ’70/80 – Tineretea noastra’ – o expozitie documentara care prezinta metodele de recrutare a informatorilor si modul in care era supravegheata de catre Securitate viata cetatenilor Romaniei si in special a tinerilor in vremea comunismului. Recomand vizitarea expozitiei si celor care au trait epoca si celor care au avut sansa de a se naste destul de tarziu pentru a nu cunoaste ce inseamna cu adevarat o dictatura.

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - stairway to heaven

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - inger

Relu si Marijana Bitulescu - eva

Sunt multe galerii noi in Bucuresti, dar doua dintre ele situate pe bulevardul Magheru au existat si pe vremea cand locuiam in oras si continua sa fie active si reprezentative. La galeria Simeza expun pana la sfarsitul acestei saptamani artistii de origine din Craiova Relu si Marijana Bitulescu. Am fost atras initial de numele expozitiei - ‘Stairways to Heaven’ – titlul piesei celei mai indragite din repertoriul lui Led Zeppelin, si am parasit galeria dupa ce am cunoscut arta unei perechi de artisti care mi-au placut. O parte din lucrarile lor din aceasta expozitie se ocupa de teme inspirate din Biblie, de relatia dintre personajele principale si simbolistica religioasa in dialog cu materia si modul de exprimare al artistilor. Sunt lucrari interesante, incitante, niciuna dintre ele aproape nu lasa observatorul indiferent, invitand la meditatie si dialog.

Georgeta Grabobschi - Dans - sursa http://www.galeria-orizont.ro/includes/showpic.php?picid=3751

La galeria Orizont expune Georgeta Grabovschi – pictorita interesanta ale caror jocuri geometrice de forma si culoare mi-au atras atentia, in ciuda modului cam neglijent de expunere (lucrarile pictoritei nu sunt grupate, ci expuse fara o delimitare clara pe registrul superior al peretilor galeriei).

sursa http://artofpetry.blogspot.com/2010/09/atelierul-de-caricatura-horatiu-malaele.html

Atelierul de Caricatura

Inchei cu semnalarea unui spatiu de expunere al lucrarilor caricaturistilor bucuresteni creat si patronat de Horatiu Malaele pe strada Smardan, in inima a ceea ce a devenit in ultimii ani zona cea mai fierbinte de divertisment al Bucurestilor. Deschis in toamna trecuta ‘Atelierul de Caricatura’ prezinta un aspect care mie imi era necunoscut al artistului complex care este Malaele si din nou trebuie sa multumesc bunilor prieteni bucuresteni care mi-au revelat si acest detaliu. Despre Malaele si alte fatete ale creatiei sale sper sa gasesc ragaz sa scriu mai in detaliu in curand.

Liliana and me spent the Saturday morning at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which at this time of the year is very much worth a visit gathering several very interesting exhibitions.

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11762

David LaChapelle is quite well known to the Israeli audiences a documentary on Channel 8 recently presented some of his works. The fashion photographer, film director, and most than everything master provocateur comes to Israel with a very consistent collection of works from the last few years and a few works created especially for this show titled in a sober manner Postmodern Pop Photography. Some of the recurrent themes of LaChapelle are present here – the dialog with the commercial and consumerist world where he made himself a name and started his career, the relation between the famous (Michael Jackson, Courtney Love), reality and myth, the decomposition and amplification of the symbols of values of the society (in the dollars and shekels works), Jesus and his relation to the modern world, and the apocalyptic landscapes of a world after catastrophe be it the devastating storms he knew as a kid in North Carolina, or the deluge. The careful screening of his works which sometimes may be as complicated or more complex than a full feature film are presented in documentaries screened in a side room. Some of the works in the show can be seen at http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11762

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11639

The works in Lena Liv’s Cathedrals for the Masses exhibition use the same media – photography – and also deal with some kind of myths, of a different type however. The Leningrad-born photographer went back to the capital of her country of origin to catch in a series of big size triptychs the stations in the metro in Moscow, arguably the most beautiful in the world. Built during the Stalinist era, the Moscow metro stations can be looked at as symbols of another type of worshiping of the temporary new gods invented by the Soviet regime. I’ve never been to Moscow or Russia, and the feeling when seeing these photos is ambiguous. Hard to detach them from the story and history, yet they do have a beauty of themselves and a quality which seems to improve in time. The cathedral metaphor does not seem completely out of context. The sentiments that they inspire are strong, and I did not have to go farther then one of the museum keepers whom I asked for directions and who told me a few words about the exhibitions in a tone that I cannot describe other that piousness. Watch also http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11639

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11867

I have discovered Avigdor Arikha a few years ago when I visited the exhibition he opened at the British Museum where he had donated one hundred of his figurative works. If his life and work will ever be described in an opera it will be composed by one tragic prologue and two acts, quite different in style one from the other. Arikha was born in Bucovina, and as a child he was deported to Transnistria, as were most of the Jews in Bucovina. He watched his father die, and was saved by the Red Cross who had discovered the drawings he made in the deportation. Arrived in Israel he studied art, traveled and settled in Paris, and worked in two radically different periods and style – one abstract and one figurative. The current exhibition is composed of a series of self-portraits and illustrations he made to a book of Agnon in the 50s. While the portraits are interesting as gathered in a multifaceted comment about his self, physical evolution and decay of flesh while keeping the spirit, is the the series of illustrations that I liked more, as they spread for a period of a few years of artistic research and evolution, when Arikha was refining his abstract style and vision. Some examples from the exhibition can be seen at http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11867

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11472

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11472

Two artists belonging to the same generation but coming from different backgrounds are gathered in a an interesting dialog in the exhibition Meeting Points: Ronit Agassi, Gary Goldstein. Ronit is born in a kibbutz in Israel, Gary in Tennessee. Ronit works with materials that generate a monochromatic effect asking for attention and effort to decipher shapes and messages. Gary starts from graphical techniques and pop art effects from comics. Both led the viewer to a feeling of uneasiness, as the usage of familiar cultural symbols are in the works of both artists slightly out of context, as none of them seems to be very sure or vary happy in expressing his identity, though they do use the ideograms of the worlds where they were born and raised. More examples at http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11472

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11707

Larry Abramson: Paintings 1975-2010 is a comprehensive retrospective of the Israeli artist born in South Africa in 1954. Works from different periods of his life and creation witness and exploring and investigating spirit who integrates well minimalistic techniques of abstract art and melds part of them into a strong and explicit politic message. Recurring symbols like the crescent and direct messages like in the group of works dedicated to the erased identity of a Palestinian village are some of the elements that stay in the memory of the viewer after visiting the exhibition. See some of the works at http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11707

source http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11659

The last exhibition we visited yesterday was Yadid Rubin: Plowed color. Here is a completely different type of artist. Born in 1938 Rubin lives and works in Kibutz Givat Haim Yichud. Starting from the landscape that surrounds him, Rubin avoids programatically any ideology in his work, being much more interested in color, texture, materials the work of art is composed from, and the effects he can create by playing and combining them. The effect is fabulous, I have seldom seen in the works of other Israeli painters such an interest and even love to work with color, from the fauvist nuances of his debuts to the maxi-pointillist effects of his latest works. The Chelouch gallery contributed to the exhibition, and a few more pieces can be admired at http://www.tamuseum.com/exhibition-images/11659

I love visiting art museums and I love to do it in places which are not necessarily on the beaten track of the art circuit. Of course, the big museums of the world have their fascination, complexity and completeness, but as there are big cathedrals and small churches there are also the bigger and the smaller museums, and the feeling of spirituality for the art lover as for the religious person can be reached whatever the dimensions of the building and of the institution.

Bonnefantenmuseum - the exterior

Actually the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht is not a small institution. In a country and in a geographical area with big art museums and brilliant schools of painting from the Reanaissance until the contemporary times, the museum in Maastricht was founded in 1884 and hosted by the bons enfants (‘good children’) monastery which gives it the name. Today’s building was designed by the Italian architect Aldo Rossi, and it’s original exterior shape reminding somehow an astronomical observatory became one of the landmarks of the landscape of the city on the Maas. Three levels host a collection of fine arts that combines various styles and time periods, from the medieval religious art to contemporary art.

Bonnefantenmuseum - the interior

One of the things that makes Bonnefantenmuseum different is the refuse to present its permanent collection in a chronological order as well as the absence of the categorization of art in epochs and styles that usually guide and lead the visiting experience in the majority of the other museums. The collections of modern art and old masters, medieval and contemporary objects are mixed and as a visitor you exit from one hall and you enter another representing a totally different epoch and style, permanently jumping in time ahead and back. Each new hall represents a surprise, a different epoch, a new experience that allows you to relate to the objects without necessary following the usual didactic path. It’s an Augenspiel (play of the eyes) – concept inspired by a quote from Elias Canetti’s memoirs.

Here are a few pieces I loved most, and I will follow the same technique as in the exhibition, not presenting them in any particular order.

Census at Bethlehem

Census at Bethlehem belongs to the atelier of Pieter Brueghel the Younger, and dates from the beginning of the 17th century. It is believed to belong to the a large extent to the master himself, and inspired by a well known work of the painter’s father. Bethlehem is represented in the tradition of the Flemish masters, as a typical Flemish village in winter.

Rene Daniels - Painting on the Flag

Rene Daniels is a Dutch contemporary painter born in 1950, and he has one full hall of works in the museum. Painting on a Flag was painted during his stay in New York. It is a dialog with the flags paintings of American artists like Jasper Johns (the Dutch and the American flags have the same colors), but also an interesting work by itself with several layers of painting the older one still visible and a game of perspective that catches the eyes.

Two Pharisees

Woodcarving of religious statues is an art well developed in the area, and the Two Pharisees from an Antwerp atelier in the 16th century are a good example.

Saint Catherine of Siena

The 15th century representation of Saint Catherine of Siena belongs to Sano di Pietro, one of the outstanding pieces in the room dedicated to the works of the early Renaissance.

Anselm Kiefer - Le Dormeur du Val

Jumping into contemporaneity we can see one outstanding work of the German artist Anselm Kiefer. Kiefer is one of the most interesting artists in Germany today, dealing with the painful issues of the recent history of Germany including the war and the Holocaust, in a very expressive and daring style.

Head of Saint John the Baptist

English religious art in alabaster has a room of itself with several outstanding pieces among which the allegoric Head of Saint John the Baptist. The unusual style of these pieces are very much worth the attention, I knew very little about the style and the period (15th century) when Nottingham was exporting such works in all the Western Europe.


Altarpieces combining painting ans sculpture are a genre that florished in the Flemish area around the year 1500. It cannot missed from any serious collection of all Flemish art – here is one piece created in Antwerp arounf 1518.

Sandra Vasquez de la Horra - drawing

Bonnefantenmuseum also hosted two temporary exhibitions. The first included drawings of the Chilean artist Sandra Vasquez de la Horra – combining a fantastic and macabre vision of the world with strongly opinionated political messages.

Sandra Vasquez de la Horra - La Zorpa Manca

Many of her drawings are grouped, and make sense as a whole as well as individual works. They call to close examination and reflection – unfortunately I had too little time and I need to get back some time in the future to look more carefully to the work of the artist.

Pierre Kemp - Fourrures

The second exhibition belongs to the Pierre Kemp, a local of Maastricht, who is also known as one of the finest Dutch poets of the 20th century. The exhibition here comes maybe as a surprise for part of the Dutch audiences, but for the less advised non-Dutch viewer Kemp is certainly an accomplished and mature artist.

Pierre Kemp - Concerns

His Fourrures dated 1929 are sophisticated with erotic hints. Concerns from 1941 resonate with the anxiety of the continent plunged in the horror of war. Both are works of a mature artists, synchronized with the issues and atmosphere of his times, with the artistic trends and techniques of the first half of the past century.

inside the Museum of Art in Ein Harod

The closing of the Brown collection exhibition at the Museum of Art in Ein Harod left me as many art lovers in Israel with a taste of more. Two new exhibitions opened a couple of weeks ago in the same space, and we were the lucky visitors in a quiet Sunday morning. Visiting the museum during the week (Sundays are workdays in Israel) has the advantage of silence and avoids the weekend crowds, with the disadvantage of missing the guided tours. The current exhibitions have no audioguides, so as visitors we were on our own.

Albert Rubin - Temple Mount

The room near the entrance hosts early works by Albert Rubin. It is part of a series of exhibition in which the museum helps recovering lesser-known Jewish and Israeli painters which left their mark on the history of Israeli art. Born in Bulgaria in 1887, Rupin’s career was marked by the three years that he spent in Palestine as a student of the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem (to become later the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design). Discovered by Boris Schatz, the founder of the school and admitted among its first 30 students, Rubin painted in this period of formation mostly portraits, landscapes and paintings of Biblical inspiration.

Shlomo Nerisky - Spanish Jew in Jerusalem

Albert Rubin - Portrait of a Yemenite

Although it is not great art, Rubin’s paintings catch an interesting moment in the beginnings of the renewal of Jewish art in Palestine before Israel was founded. It also allows an interesting glimpse to the landscape and people of the area in the last decade of the Ottoman rule. For example, here are placed one near another a portrait of Rubin and a photograph from the exhibition ‘Orientalists’ at the Tel Hai Photography museum which I visited a few months ago.

Alleyways in the Old City

The Jerusalem landscapes have also a primary atmosphere and a charm of rediscovery. See for example the group of paintings in the alleys of the Old City, a few years before history, armies and tourists came along together and made these places some of the most crowded and most emotional locations on Earth.

More information and the full catalog of the exhibition is available at http://www.museumeinharod.org.il/english/exhibitions/2010/albert_rubin/

Yechiel Krize - Safed, 1940

The second and most import exhibition of the moment includes again works from the Brown collection, this time focusing on the Abstract period of Yechiel Krize (1909 – 1968). Among the few early paintings of the artists I remarked the landscape of Safed, painted at the time when many other Jewish painters of the time (Menachem Shemi especially) dealt with the same subject. The quest for a new language and the road that led the painter to abstract art is already visible.

Gouache, 1955-1958

By the 1950s the artist had already taken the definite turn to abstraction, melting and recomposing the elements of landscape or light or other sources of inspiration into a new form of expression which had little similarities with works of other Israeli painters of the time, but was in dialog and synchronicity with the modern art of the time, especially American abstract artists.

Closeness, 1958-59

Gouache and oil painting on wood were the two preferred techniques of the period.

the 'white period' room in the exhibition

painting from the 'white period' - early 60s

The ‘white period’ in the early 60s is maybe the most coherent and expressive period of his creation. The Browns seem to have also appreciated Krize’s work of that time, as the period is well represented in the exhibition, with a full dedicated room.

Late Gouaches, 1963-1966

Late Abstract, 1964

The last years of his life brought to Yechiel Krize a better recognition in Israel, with two major exhibitions of his works being organized in the 1960s, and a major retrospective in 1970, following his death. His searches seem to have never stopped, leading him to permanent experiments in form and colors, as well as the crystallization of a powerful and recognizable style.

Painting, 1960-62

An extensive article about Krize and the exhibition in Ein Harod can be read at http://www.haaretz.com/magazine/friday-supplement/he-didn-t-paint-flowers-1.300972.

The Web site of the Museum of Art in Ein Harod is accessible at http://www.museumeinharod.org.il/english/. The museum is open all days of the week.

I love to visit art museums. Big ones and small ones. Famous and anonymous. In the big metropolis of the world or in remote places. Visiting an art museum (at least 0ne) is an almost mandatory part of a trip, of my exploration of a new place. When I am in a lesser known museum I look for the local artists, I try to learn as much as I can about the history of the institution, and about the role of art in the life of the place.

The National Museum of Fine Arts

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Valletta is located not far from the gate of the city, in a beautiful baroque palace located on South Street. It is one of the oldest mansions of the city, built in 1571. During the years of the British rule it hosted the Admiralty House and Winston Churchill is said to have been its guest.  It became home of the most important art institution in Malta in 1974.

(video by PhoeniciaHotel)

The Museum of Valletta was founded in 1903, and its fine arts section became the National Museum of Fine Arts and moved in the location on South Street in 1974. It was the dream and deed Vincenzo Bonello who built the collection and led the fine arts section for much of the century. Unfortunately he did not live to see it in the beautiful home today. A short film about the man and the museum he created is available on YouTube.

inside the museum

The collection of the museum is strong in works that are inspired by Caravaggio, although no work of the master who spent two years in Malta (1607 to 1609) can be found here. We can however see works of Guido Reni or Mattia Preti -  the latest with an impressive gathering of Bible inspired art which can be seen at http://www.maltaart.com/pretismall/html/list_of_works.html

Maltese Prie-Dieu

Before getting to the paintings that seemed to be more interesting although out of the beaten path here is a beautiful piece of religious furniture from the 17th century, called a ‘prie-Dieu’ – you can imagine the knight or the noble man or lady kneeling in prayer and keeping his Bible (and maybe other artifacts) in its drawers.

the crystal sword

Two beautiful pieces of arms that could never be used in war are exposed at the first floor of the museum, near the superb spiral staircase. These are a sword and a dagger made of crystal, with exquisite ornaments that were a present by king Philip the 5th of Spain to the Knights of St. John, in sign of the special relation of friendship and protection between the kingdom of Spain and the island of the knights.

Le Valentin - Judith and Holofornes

One of the most caravaggian works in the museum belongs to Valentin de Boulogne (Le Valentin) is ‘Judith and Holofornes’ which matches the painting of Caravaggio which I had seen in Rome a few days earlier at the retrospective at Quirinale.

Jusepe de Ribera - St. Francis of Paola

Jusepe de Ribera also known as Lo Spagnoletto is also considered a disciple of Caravaggio. I like his style sometimes called ‘Tenebrist’ and works who seem to me to be a balancing act between the darkness of the Inquisition-haunted Spain he came from and the ideals of Renaissance of the Italy he lived and created much of his life. The portrait of St. Francis of Paola that can be found in the museum in Valletta is fascinating.

Venetian School - Flowers in a Vase

I am no big fan of floral arrangements paintings, but this painting from a 18th century Venetian school master drew my attention.

Louis Ducros - View of the Great Harbor

Local landscapes take a deserved place in the collection. Above is a painting of the Great Harbour of Valletta as painted by the Swiss Louis Ducros at the beginning of the 20th century.

Eugenio Maccagnani - Leah

Out of the more recent collection of art here is a piece by Italian sculptor Eugenio Maccagnani from the beginning of the 20th century.