ICYMI: The Louvre put its entire collection online

Over 482,000 works are now available for people to view as the pandemic continues to change how we engage with the arts.

The database for the Louvre’s collections consists of entries for more than 480,000 works of art that are part of the national collections and registered in the inventories of the museum’s eight curatorial departments (Near Eastern Antiquities; Egyptian Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Paintings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Sculpture; Prints and Drawings; Medieval, Renaissance and Modern Decorative Arts), those of the History of the Louvre department, or the inventories of the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix, administratively attached to the Louvre since 2004.

The Collections database also includes so-called ‘MNR’ works (Musées Nationaux Récupération, or National Museums Recovery), recovered after WWII, retrieved by the Office des Biens et Intérêts Privés and pending return to the legitimate owners. A list of all MNR works conserved at the Musée du Louvre is available in a dedicated album and may also be consulted in the French Ministry of Culture’s Rose Valland database.

Maro Itoje presented an exhibition on Black histories missing from the UK curriculum

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition earlier this month, Itoje, who was educated at the private boarding school Harrow, says one of the constants in his schooling was “the lack of Black and African history that I was taught”. Moreover, when African history was on the syllabus, it was “a single story or narrative that was told”. He adds: “That story was often depressing, and quite often a saviour/survivor narrative. I want to try and show a fuller picture.”

Good on you, Maro!

(via The Art Newspaper)

Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

Post-war Eastern Europe went through radical change at the hands of communism. Brutalism married up with the harshest sociopolitical conditions and defined many landscapes, particularly in countries like Yugoslavia.

Martino Stierli and Vladimir Kulić examined the nation’s architecture and how it shaped the state when they visited MoMA’s Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 exhibition in 2019.

It was really an important contribution to create some kind of a life space for citizens in Yugoslavia. The end of World War II, there was a moment of destruction and trauma but then was transformed into a great source of energy for the reconstruction of the country. Hundreds of thousands of young people contributed to the construction of new railway lines, highways, dams, factories. The war really had left deep scars that produced an enormous forward-looking utopian vision of a better world. And architecture played a fundamental role.

HOW TO SEE | Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980

Porto's Banco de Materiais brings the azulejos to the yards

Azulejos

If you visit Portugal, you might notice all the blue tiles. They’re called azulejos and they’re a major part of the country’s heritage. They’re used on walls, floors, and ceilings and depict the history and culture of Portugal. But as modernisation takes place, some of that heritage is lost for a wider cosmopolitan feel. That means fewer azulejos and more trendy styles.

Restourism?

The local government in Porto realised this and decided to create a scheme to help local building owners and retain the nation’s cultural history. Banco de Materiais (Bank of Materials) opened in 2010 with a novel idea. It acts as a “museum” of tiles, decoratives stones, and other artefacts, and it’s also a bank – hence the name. Because building materials can cost money, the government give these tiles away for free to be used in consruction in the area. This helps keep costs down for architects and constructors and promotes Portugal at the same time.

Tile theft also to blame

But it’s not just a need for modernisation that has caused the azulejo decline. There was a boom in their use in the 19th century but neglect caused damage to the original tiles and thieves often stole the tiles they could find to sell to private collectors. As well as tile withdrawals, there is also an azulejo amnesty – if you find broken or fallen tiles, you can bring them into the bank.

Tourism is on the up and the restoration project is important to assist the sector. Where certain architects aim for the contemporary, the government want a more classic feel for their buildings. Azul is the colour!

How to reach the Banco de Materiais

The Banco de Materiais is in the Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemão, near the Praça Carlos Alberto. It’s open Monday to Saturday with no admission fee. You can find a map below.

(h/t Atlas Obscura and Portoalities)

New York's Met Museum Publish Over 375,000 Images For Free Use

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Many of the 375,000 images provided by the Met are free for use without any cost or restrictions and come from the late 19th century when photography was in its infancy and back when albumen silver prints were in use. They were the first commercially exploitable method of producing a photographic print on a paper base from a negative and paved the way for photographic materials like celluloid.

Resources like this are really helpful for people without access to places like the Met Museum or the means to reach them in their local areas. Creative Commons was created for purposes like this and it’s great to see the Met taking part.

(via DIY Photography)

Nottingham Contemporary: A Review

Nottingham Contemporary

I’ve been in and around Nottingham for about 17 years. My sister moved in 1995 to attend Nottingham Trent University and I’d visited plenty of times. I lived in Luton at the time so it was the only city I’d regularly visited that wasn’t Bradford – my old hometown – or London. It was my choice of destination for university in 2008. Alas, that didn’t end so well and I left but I returned in 2014 and I’ve been here ever since. My voyage to Nottingham Contemporary was only the second Nottingham landmark I’d visited in my life. I was eager to go.

Where is Nottingham Contemporary?

The building is nestled within the city’s Lace Market, a protected heritage area, formerly the epicentre of the world’s lace industry during the British Empire. The modern cladding is significant in design contrasted with the surrounding architecture but in celebration of the area’s history, the building has been embossed with a lace design. At night, it shines like a beacon; a brutalist monolith bursting with cultural light.

The exhibitions

You’re graced with the gift shop upon entering (more on that later) but for my visit yesterday, there were two exhibitions. The first, FOXP2, was from French artist Marguerite Humeau. Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011 and shows at the Palais de Tokyo, MoMA and the V&A, this was quite an acquisition. FOXP2 was inspired by conversations with zoologists and other biological experts and comprises of two installations. Grunts and primitive murmurs fill the dark corridor leading to Gallery 1. They form the components of a sound installation; “a ‘choir’ of 108 billion voices, re-enacting the moment when the gene – FOXP2 – mutated, allowing our ancestors to develop language”. The longer you stay, the more elaborate and developed the noises become.

Marguerite Humeau - FOXP2
Taken from nottinghamcontemporary.org

Then from the darkness, you become enveloped in a pinkish hue of light. The second installation is what Humeau describes as a  “biological showroom” of elephants. A series of elephant sculptures tell differing takes of life and bio-engineering. I strongly recommended using the guide to gain a better understanding of both installations. Poignant and brooding, FOXP2 leads to questions of existentialism, not only for the planet but for ourselves as human beings.

Gallery 2 features the second exhibition by Nigerian artist, Otobong Nkanga. The gallery also holds two separate installations as part of the exhibit. Taste of a Stone is a microcosm of boulders, pebbles and flora, intended to be used by local artists and visitors to share their experiences. The interactivity of the exhibition diverges from the modern interpretation of the word, retreating to the basic natural world as opposed to the technological.

The second room contains The Encounter That Took a Part of Me, an examination of the Earth around us through its environment and the fruits of its labour. The wall is emblazoned with a mural, starting with a steel framework, gradually decaying with rust before meeting depictions of neural passages and finally cracks in the earth and accompanying bronze canvas. There are also sculptural displays showing the varying examples of environmental change – rust, condensation.

Otobong Nkanga - Taste Of A Stone
Taken by myself

And then there was the gift shop. Usually a superficial part of a museum with its overpriced knick-knacks but this was different. Much different. The selection of books was diverse, from art and architecture to philosophy, music and a wide range of children’s books. There are also postcards and other stationery on offer at affordable prices. I picked up a double pizza cutter in the shape of a 1950s race car (there’s method behind this apparent madness but if you want to know more, ask me on Twitter) and a book of essays on the work of Michael Jackson. The exhibitions had enriched my cultural mind but the gift shop served as a fin parfaite to the experience.

The privilege of a museum visit

When I was about 13, after much nagging, I finally got the chance to visit Legoland in Windsor. I had wanted to go for ages and the visit came as a surprise. We reached the gates and the anticipation was palpable. But I never crossed the threshold. Why? Too expensive. I’m much wiser now when it comes financial reasoning so I completely understand but of course this upset me no end and I sulked for the remainder of the trip. My mother grew impatient with my attitude. Eventually, she snapped and uttered the now-immortal sentence:

“Do you know how privileged you are?”

The short answer to that was “no” but I now understand what she meant. I hadn’t appreciated all the holidays abroad and museum visits in my childhood. Some of my school friends had never been on a plane. Nottingham Contemporary encapsulates the wonder of cultural exploration and growth I took for granted in my younger years. I took my 10 month-old son who seemed less enthused by the exhibitions but he has to start somewhere and he seemed to enjoy the lights at least. I won’t be turning my back on this place.

Recommended reading, links and footnotes

Superheroes In Native American Culture Explored By Exhibit At Arizona Museum

Superheroes In Native American Culture Explored By Exhibit At Arizona Museum

“Super Heroes: Art! Action! Adventure!” gave children the opportunity to become superheroes of their very own, choosing their special powers and their costume. From there, they embarked on “exciting adventures, including an animal companion interactive experience, a Native video game and other adventures along their ‘super’ journey”.

There are many similarities between the Westernised stories of superheroes – from Batman to Wonder Woman – and tales of Native American legends such as Crazy Horse and Sacajawea, but in many cases the multi-cultural origins are lost amongst the rhetoric of fighting for American justice. Exhibits like these open up new worlds of Native American culture. Heroes and heroines aplenty.

The exhibit is now closed but you can find out more about it on The Heard Museum website.