“The Weil Conjectures Review: Symbols and Suffering”
Elizabeth Winkler, The Wall Street Journal
Sibling rivalries, fodder for endless rumination since Cain and Abel, rarely present as curious a case study as the relationship between the French thinkers André and Simone Weil. Both astoundingly gifted—there are stories of the two conversing in ancient Greek as children, simply to deter eavesdroppers—the brother–sister pair could hardly have traced out more divergent careers. André, a mathematician, found success early and went on to have a dazzling career in the academy; Simone, according to the biographer Karen Olsson, underwent a torturous struggle in striving to achieve the same lofty heights. “I didn’t mind having no visible successes,” she quotes Weil as writing, “but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides.” An eclectic radical and intellectual itinerant to the last, Simone covered an astonishing amount of ground in her brief career. Her writings would go on to garner effusive praise posthumously, and today her reception far outstrips that of her brother. With a dash of personal memoir thrown in, Olsson follows in her book the seldom-parallel lives and careers of André and Simone, their relentless pursuit of truth, and the wildly varying guises under which genius makes itself manifest.
The modern proliferation of reproduced images often leads us to conceive of paintings, especially renowned ones, as floating swaths or splatterings of color, entirely detached from any material surface. Paint, after all, does not accrete on a computer screen; brushstrokes are usually invisible on a smartphone. One might mistakenly think that these cultural landmarks, once digitized, are sure to last forever. To the rescue comes the playfully titled “Operation Night Watch,” an initiative of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The museum is undertaking a massive research and restoration project on the Rembrandt masterpiece The Night Watch (1642)—with the twist that all the activity will take place in a clear glass box constructed around the piece’s regular gallery location. The restoration process will be otherwise entirely visible to museumgoers, and those who can’t make it all the way to Amsterdam can watch a live stream of the painstaking process at the Rijkmuseum’s website. Seeing trained conservators work so meticulously to preserve a masterpiece reminds us that, yes, the real thing occupies physical space somewhere—a fragile, mercurial, 450-year-old artifact of the human spirit that would probably merit, as most good paintings do, a closer look.
“In a first, Unesco gives Frank Lloyd Wright buildings World Heritage status”
Nancy Kenney, The Art Newspaper
As if his place in the modernist canon were not sufficiently assured, the architect Frank Lloyd Wright had eight of his buildings officially designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites this past week. The selection committee, meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, decided to include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania, and the Unity Temple in Illinois, along with five other buildings, on the list (which now includes over 1,100 locations). Never before had a modern American building received the honor. Now some of Wright’s most iconic works, along with other sites like the old city of Jaipur, India, and churches of the Pskov school in Russia, have joined the ranks of those places officially deemed to be of “outstanding value to humanity.”
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