Recent stories of note:
“679 Paintings. Sculptures. A Sword. The Met Moved Them All.”
James Barron, The New York Times
The years between 1300 and 1800 are, to put it lightly, not insignificant in the history of European art. And yet, for the last five years the largest art museum in America has not had a permanent place to display the art of this epoch: the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1300–1800 European Paintings space has been closed for renovation since 2018. But this coming week, the forty-five galleries will reopen. The works on display—of which there are over seven hundred—will be welcomed by a new set of skylights, repainted walls, and a new layout. No longer will the galleries be grouped by the nationality of the artist; now, the works are organized by mere chronology. Whether this eyebrow-raising decision and its strangely pan-European, anti-nationalist sensibility will augment the experience remains to be seen. Fortunately, Karen Wilkin is on the case: look for her review of the rehang in a forthcoming issue of The New Criterion.
“The Haunting of Russell Kirk”
Matthew Schmitz, First Things
The devil, according to Baudelaire, does not fret over his bad reputation. His public-relations efforts are focused elsewhere: “The loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist!” The declaration argues that evil’s real intent is not to feign the good, but rather to trick humanity into believing such categories and their spiritual counterparts don’t exist in the first place. Russell Kirk echoed this sentiment in his ghost stories. As James Panero has said: “Kirk did not fear ghosts. He feared the death of ghosts and their afterlife myths and tales.” This same spiritualism, Matthew Schmitz shows in First Things, underlies Kirk’s attitudes toward society more generally. A society in which the dead are kept alive in spirit is one that maintains its obligations to those dead, and is therefore one with a far grander scope. We should be so lucky to live in such a haunted house.
“Sotheby’s $306m The Now and Contemporary sales wrap up a mediocre New York auction season”
Carlie Porterfield, The Art Newspaper
Some $500 million has changed hands at Sotheby’s in the past few days, which saw the auction house’s fall sales for modern, contemporary, and “Now” art. Words like “lukewarm,” “middling,” and “mediocre” abound in description of the evenings, in which all three sales just barely managed to sneak into the bottom end of their estimate ranges. But this does not simply spell doom and gloom: if anything, it announces the reemergence of a “collectors’ market,” according to a Sotheby’s executive. Speculators and other potential market inflators have thinned out, for the time being. Maybe. Or maybe this is optimistic spin on the part of an antsy auctioneer sensing choppy waters on the horizon; either way, now is a good time to be in the market for a Chagall.