This week: Richard Strauss, the Medici House & more.
The Family Medici: The Hidden History of the Medici Dynasty, by Mary Hollingsworth (Pegasus Books): Though the Medicis were likely the wealthiest family in Europe for a period during the fifteenth century, their name rings familiar to us today not so much for the House’s economic control over trade and banking in Renaissance Italy but for its legendary political and artistic influence. With such memorable self-applied epithets as “the Magnificent” (Lorenzo), “the Gouty” (Piero), “the Unfortunate” (Piero II), and “the Moor” (Alessandro), among others, the family was undoubtedly cognizant of the legacy it left. In her new book The Family Medici: The Hidden History of the Medici Dynasty, Mary Hollingsworth embarks on the project of parsing out the indecorous facts of their centuries-long control over Florence (and Europe) from the propaganda they so eagerly endeavored to produce. Though at times unnecessarily class-conscious, the book takes on an endlessly interesting subject that is worth revisiting. The text is accompanied by bountiful color plates of Medici financed artistic wonders, as well as family lineages at the start of each chapter that provide firm ground for the reader amid an otherwise confusing sea of similarly named characters. —AS
The Spring/Break Art Show at 4 Times Square (March 7–12): Founded in 2009, the Spring/Break Art Show has grown into the premier fair of the alternative art scene. It has also quickly become the most lively attraction of New York’s “Armory Week.” By using alternative space, provided for free, Spring/Break attracts a wide range of artists and curators who work outside of the gallery system. Entry is determined by an increasingly competitive open call for independent exhibitors. From the scruffy warren of the St. Patrick’s Old School onto the even scruffier digs of the former James A. Farley Post Office, Spring/Break now returns with its distinctly DIY aesthetic to the former editorial offices of Condé Nast at 4 Times Square. This year’s show, called “Stranger Comes to Town,” includes curators ranging from Adam Parker Smith to Dustin Yellin to Anthony Haden-Guest. Norte Maar, the Brooklyn-based art non-profit, will be a first-time exhibitor with a show featuring the artists Kanad Chakrabarti, Oliver Evans, Sarah Pettitt, Robert Raphael, Robert Rivers, Shaan Syed, and Audra Wolowiec. —JP
Richard Strauss’s Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera (through March 23): Since returning to the Metropolitan Opera’s stage in 2013 with a searing performance in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Christine Goerke has quickly emerged as one of the company’s leading stars. A captivating actress with a powerful soprano and dark timbre, she routinely gives commanding performances in intense dramatic roles. Already lined up as Brünnhilde in a Ring cycle next season, this month she stars in a run of Elektra, an unsettling adaptation of Sophocles’ immortal tragedy of the same name, and the first opera in Richard Strauss’s fruitful collaboration with Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Patrice Chéreau’s bleak production returns with Michael Schuster as Klytämnestra, Jay Hunter Morris as Aegisth, Elza van den Heever as Chrysothemis, and Mikhail Petrenko as Orest. With incoming music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting, this should be a highlight of the spring season.—ECS
“Power and Grace: Ecumenical Rubens,” at the Morgan Library (March 7): No—this isn’t a revisionist attempt to suggest Peter Paul Rubens’s religious malleability. Rather, in this case, ecumenical refers to Rubens’s “extraordinary stylistic range and his engagement with the work of his predecessors and his contemporaries.” From the ceiling of London’s Banqueting House, where he glorified the ill-fated Stuarts, to his sumptuous portraits, Rubens worked in a variety of styles, modes, and media—with characteristic acuity in all. David Freedberg, the Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art at Columbia, will lecture Wednesday at the Morgan on both Rubens’s myriad artistic talents and his lesser-known diplomatic career. The lecture coincides with the Morgan’s current exhibition: “Power and Grace: Drawings by Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens,” on through April 29. —BR
From the archive:“Abstraction in America: the first generation” by Hilton Kramer (October 1999). On Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove.
From the current issue: “The case of Henry Green” by Dominic Green. On the literary career of the English novelist Henry Green.