Recent stories of note:
“How Velázquez’s ‘Rokeby Venus’ became a symbol of public pride—and political protest”
Louis Jebb, The Art Newspaper
In a banner week for climate protestors around the world, activists blocked an ambulance from reaching a hospital in London, interrupted a speech by Jerome Powell, and smashed the glass panel protecting Velázquez’s Toilet of Venus (1647–51). (All this comes just a couple of weeks after another protestor was gracefully tackled by a French nun near Avignon). Fortunately, Velázquez’s goddess of beauty did not sustain any permanent damage, though she has been temporarily removed from the gallery. This is not the first time the deity has come under attack, as Louis Jebb points out in The Art Newspaper. In fact, this week’s attack was relatively mundane in comparison to that of the suffragette Mary Richardson, who in 1906 took a meat cleaver to the canvas eight times; fortunately, this year’s protestors both ran out of steam after just a few thwacks of their hammers.
“Can’t art ever just be happy?”
Barendina Smedley, The Critic
“To create art means to be crazy alone forever,” said Charles Bukowski. The statement reflects a common refrain about artists, that they must somehow be miserable to create real art. It would follow that this misery finds its way into the art itself. But this is, like much of what Bukowski said, bunk. Art history teems with cheery artworks and personalities that disprove the necessity of such gloom, as does the painter John Craxton (1922–2009). The writer Barendina Smedley recounts Craxton’s playful life and work, and shows that much of the criticism surrounding him is due to nothing more than anti-happiness bias on the part of his detractors. Here is an artist unmoved by the bitter and ironic winds that blew about his generation.
For those keeping score at home, Artforum has now published its fourth statement in almost as many weeks responding to the war in Gaza. The first letter, released October 19 and signed by the magazine’s editors, was a triumph of terrorist apologia, accusing Israel of violating international law while conveniently failing to note Hamas’s murder of more than a thousand citizens and the kidnapping of over two hundred. The second letter, penned by three art collectors and published October 20, pointed out the glaring omissions and prejudice of the first letter. A third statement came on October 26 from the magazine’s publishers, disavowing the first statement. Then, the magazine’s editor-in-chief was fired for his support of the first letter. This triggered a mass resignation on the part of many junior and senior editors, as well as dozens of contributors—all of them apparently upset that running interference for a terrorist organization is a firable offense in America. This week, the fourth statement was published, reaffirming the magazine’s commitment to “political expression” and “independence.” For more on the controversy and an intelligent contextualization of the issue, look to Julia Friedman’s latest dispatch, “How artists resist.”