Recent links of note:

“80 Years in the Making, Diego Rivera’s ‘City of the Arts’ Opens in Mexico City”
Tessa Solomon, ARTnews

The Mexican painter Diego Rivera is perhaps best known for his massive frescoes, such as the Detroit Industry murals (1932–33) at the Detroit Institute of Art and The History of Mexico (1929–35) at the National Palace in Mexico City. One of his most ambitious projects, however, has only just come to fruition. After purchasing a plot of land in Coyoacán, a suburb of Mexico City, in 1941, Rivera began to sketch plans for a “City of the Arts,” which would bring together “the school and academy artist with the potter, with the weaver, with the basketmaker, with the stonemason, with everything that is a pure and high expression of the people of Mexico,” as he wrote in a manifesto later in the decade. After Rivera’s death in 1957, the architect Juan O’Gorman and Ruth Rivera Martín, Diego’s daughter, built Anahuacalli Museum, a structure based on the Aztec pyramids of Tenochtitlán, to house pieces from the artist’s large collection of pre-Hispanic art. The museum has just been expanded into a thirteen-building complex—encompassing 64,600 square feet of galleries, gardens, and performance spaces—fulfilling Rivera’s vision for a “City of the Arts” eighty years after its conception.

“Swimming in the Sahara”
Matthew Chalmers, History Today

Fans of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient (or Anthony Minghella’s film adaptation) will be familiar with the Sahara’s “Cave of Swimmers” in the far west of Egypt. Discovered in 1933 by László Almásy, a Hungarian explorer and the novel’s title character, the cave contains delicate ocher paintings of human figures stretched out on their stomachs, conceivably swimming. Almásy took the paintings as evidence that the Sahara had once contained lakes, a radical theory at the time. Today most researchers agree that the Sahara was a fertile savannah before it began to dry out between 8,000 and 4,500 years ago, which would explain the presence of these and other examples of Sahara rock art, such as the 10,000-year-old Dabous Giraffes in Niger. Writing in History Today, the Egyptologist Matthew Chalmers weighs different theories about why the land began to dry out and explores references to aquatic netherworlds in ancient Egyptian literature.

“Purcell’s King Arthur”
David Vickers, Gramophone

In this year’s Awards issue of Gramophone, David Vickers compares thirteen recordings of the semi-opera King Arthur (1691) by Henry Purcell and John Dryden. When Charles II reopened theaters in 1660, which had been closed since the start of the English Civil War, a new type of performance emerged called “dramatick opera,” a spoken play containing musical interludes. After the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, Dryden, a Catholic convert, was dismissed from his court post as Poet Laureate for refusing to swear allegiance to the Protestant monarchs William III and Mary II. Dryden soon turned to the theater, where he found a musical match in the younger Purcell. Dryden’s King Arthur, an updated version of a poem he had abandoned in 1684, is a tale that does away with Excalibur and the Round Table and instead includes pagan sacrifice, a Saxon sorcerer, and a pair of alluring sirens—excellent fodder for Purcell’s musical imagination. As Purcell did not publish the music in his own lifetime, artists today must navigate critical editions based on contradicting versions made by copyists in the late 1690s. Vickers’s recording of choice is one made in 2019 by the conductor Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players for Signum Records.

Podcast:

“Music for a While #53: Songs and memories.”Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.

Dispatch:

“Hogarth the European?” by Jo Lawson-Tancred.On “Hogarth and Europe” at Tate Britain.

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