Author Archives: Sally Grant

Celebrating the Life of Dario Fo: “Contra Jogulatores Obloquentes”

Sally Grant   New York

Dario Fo died last Thursday, 13 October, at the age of 90. Rather than fumbling to find the right words to honour this great anarchic jester, we thought we’d let the masterful teller of yarns do it for us by linking to his acceptance speech for the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature. In “Contra Jogulatores Obloquentes” (“Against Jesters Who Defame and Insult”) Fo records his debt to earlier clowns and storytellers, particularly the actor-playwrights Ruzzante and Molière. Fo’s description of these men and the fear their art evoked could well describe his own theatrical skills and how he, along with his wife and frequent co-performer Franca Rame, were received by the political establishment:

“Above all, they were despised for bringing onto the stage the everyday life, joys and desperation of the common people; the hypocrisy and the arrogance of the high and mighty; and the incessant injustice. And their major, unforgivable fault was this: in telling these things, they made people laugh. Laughter does not please the mighty.”

But it pleases, and emboldens, the not-so-mighty. For those gifts, and as you take your last bow, Jester Fo, we give a standing ovation.

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Italian Art and Politics in the New York Press

Sally Grant   New York

Aside from the news a few days ago that two stolen Van Gogh paintings were recovered near Naples, the New York press has covered Italy’s art and political worlds in a number of recent articles. After Virginia Raggi became the first female mayor of Rome earlier this year, Katie Parla reported on women’s status in the city in “There’s Never Been a Better Time to be a Woman in Rome” for New York Magazine. Though she notes that there are still plenty of sexist obstacles to overcome, the article emphasises a new optimism in Rome, where women are influencing city life in ever-increasing ways. Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, Rachel Donadio wrote of the tricky manoeuvring called for when art and politics collide in her account of the bureaucratic obstacles faced by—another first—the new, non-Italian, director of the Uffizi.

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Enfilade, Venetian Painting, Remembering David Rosand

Sally Grant   New York

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Here is an item from a recent issue of the newsletter Enfilade that will interest ACIS readers (Enfilade is edited by the tireless and ineffably charming Craig Hanson who keeps everyone in eighteenth-century studies, especially art and architecture, informed about what is going on in the way of exhibitions, conferences and publications). It signals the opening this week of a Venetian painting exhibition, In Light of Venice: Venetian Painting in Honor of David Rosand, at the Otto Naumann Gallery, New York, which lasts until 12 February 2016. The title recalls the distinguished art historian of Renaissance Venice who died in 2014 and in whose honour a new Italian professorship is to be established at Columbia University. Some of the profits from the exhibition will be donated to the David Rosand Tribute Fund at the university to support the position.

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Venetian Old Master Drawings, and a Contemporary Response, at the Ashmolean, Oxford

Sally Grant   New York

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Head of a Youth, Ashmolean Museum

Giovanni Battista Piazzetta (1682-1754), Head of a Youth © Ashmolean Museum

A major early-modern Venetian drawing exhibition has opened at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Focusing on works from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Titian to Canaletto: Drawing in Venice should be a visual delight. Considering other recent exhibitions on this subject in Venice, LA, and New York (both in 2012 and 2013-14, as reviewed here), however, the museum’s emphasis on its “ground breaking” attention to the role drawing played for Venetian artists is perhaps a tad overstated. Nevertheless, when it comes to the art of Venice, the more shows the merrier.

This is particularly the case when exhibitions bring to view drawings that are often sequestered in archives away from the public’s gaze. Each opportunity to look closely at such works brings with it the chance of new understanding of aspects of art and humanity. And unlike the previously mentioned exhibitions, where the works were all drawn from US collections, the Ashmolean is displaying its own drawings alongside loans from the Uffizi in Florence and Oxford’s Christ Church. This will create the UK’s first prominent exhibition devoted to the drawings of the Venetian Old Masters.

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Rizzoli Bookstore Reopens in NYC

Sally Grant   New York

The old Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th St, NYC Photo credit: Rizzoli Bookstore

The old Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th St, NYC
© Rizzoli Bookstore

Book – and bookshop – lovers of the world rejoice! After closing the doors of its beloved 57th Street store last year, Rizzoli New York opened a new flagship in the NoMad district of Manhattan last Monday. While this location, in the nineteenth-century St. James Building at 1133 Broadway, may not be able to replace the now-lost historic charm of its predecessor, with its famed vaulted ceilings (the building has since been demolished to make way for a luxury development – who’d have thought it?), for an independent bookstore to re-open these days is an event to be celebrated.

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Bartolomeo Cristofori, pianoforte man

Sally Grant   New York

Image: Google

Image: Google

For those who may have missed it, on Monday Google celebrated the 360th birthday of Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731) of Padua, with a doodle dedicated to the relatively unknown, at least outside of musical circles, inventor of the pianoforte. By including a scale that changes the volume from piano to forte, the doodler, Leon Hong, has playfully captured the innovative nature of Cristofori’s invention. Watching the instrument maker become more animated as the volume rises is a particularly delightful touch. Perhaps it also signifies the glee that Cristofori feels for at last being celebrated in such a global and prominent way for his creation of a musical instrument that has impacted human culture so profoundly. The Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York owns one of only three surviving pianos by Cristofori. The other two are at the Museo Strumenti Musicali in Rome and at Leipzig University’s Musikinstrumenten-Museum.

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Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini at Eataly NYC

Sally Grant   New York

Carlo Petrini signing copies of his new book at Eataly, NYC.

Carlo Petrini signing copies of his new book at Eataly, NYC.

Recently I attended a talk by Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, at the NYC branch of the Italian gastronomic chain Eataly. Appropriately enough on Earth Day, he was there to discuss the release of his new book Loving the Earth: Dialogues on the Future of our Planet. Petrini gave an impassioned talk (in Italian, accompanied by an English translator) on his philosophy of food culture and the impact agriculture has on the health of the world. The book is a record of conversations between Petrini and people who he feels are important in this debate, such as Massimo Montanari and Dario Fo in Italy, and Wendell Berry in America, among others from around the globe.

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