It’s been forever since I did one of these. Such is the half dormant life of this blog. But anyway, the itch is still occasionally there so here we go.
The above video was made a few months ago to coincide with the opening of the Sansovino Frames exhibition at the National Gallery. We had just successfully acquired the beautiful Venetian (non-Sansovino) frame which now adorns Titian’s Allegory of Prudence, partly through crowdfunding, and which features in the clip. I think it encapsulates well some of the very real pleasures of working with great artworks: the fact that details count; the kind of holistic thinking the works demand of you when you plan their display; and not least the passion and expertise that they demand. I appear for a brief moment and contribute nothing, but do watch the video for the insight it gives into our framing department and the great work Peter Schade and his staff do there.
OK, here are some links:
London Art Week. I haven’t yet really done the rounds, but I did have a chance to look at this drawing attributed to Sebastiano del Piombo. I’m unsure about the attribution, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. And while we’re talking Sebastiano, there’s what I do believe is bona fide painting by him in Christie’s day sale.
Mikkel Sommer. A rising star on the Danish comics scene. He hasn’t yet delivered a work really delivering on his great talent, but if he keeps dropping gems like this brilliant GIF he’ll keep at least this reader watching him.
Roskilde 2015. No, I’m not there this year, sadly, but if you read Danish, you can follow the coverage of the hip hop at the festival by my homies at Rapspot here. Prominent in the line-up was El-P and Killer Mike’s by now ubiquitous-in-hipsterdom-but-no-less-awesome-for-that project Run the Jewels. They surely killed it, if their performance last weekend at Glastonbury is anything to go by.
Passing the mantle: Thomas Thorhauge and Stine Spedsbjerg at the Danish Comics Council general assembly in March
It happened a few weeks ago, but I figured I should still note it here: we have a new chairman, or rather chairwoman, of the Danish Comics Council. Elected at the general assembly on 18 March, Stine Spedsbjerg succeeds my pal Thomas Thorhauge who had decided to step down. Stine is a successful online cartoon diarist and earns her keep in advertising. She’s enormously enterprising and resourceful — I can’t think of a better person to take over.
The Danish Comics Council was founded in 2009. I was part of the founding group along with a diverse group of comics professionals, and have sat on the board since. Considering that we have had no funding apart from the annual fee paid by members, it’s been a productive five years: we’ve had a hand in the establishment of a state-approved cartoonist’s programme (BA, ‘graphic storytelling’) at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark — the first of its kind in Denmark; we’ve managed to place the semi-private Comics Museum archive with a state-recognized institution, the Storm P. Museum in Copenhagen, which secures it for the future in terms of preservation, collection, expansion, research and facilitation; we’ve created an comics award, the Ping, given annually to cartoonists in a number of categories; we’ve undertaken annual registration of all comics published in Denmark, published annually in a small compendium; we’ve arranged two conferences at the University of Copenhagen, one of which helped stimulate the establishment of the Nordic Network for Comics Research (NNCORE): we’ve partnered with the ambitious Danish comics biennial Copenhagen Comics; we’ve brought comics to wide audiences through live cartooning and other activities; and quite a lot more.
While Thomas takes a well-deserved breather (though remaining at the Council’s board), there is plenty for Stine to get up to. The Comics Council is still essentially an unfunded organisation and other affiliated groups such as Copenhagen Comics will also depend on more steady sources of funding to survive — the hope is eventually to secure larger, ongoing partnerships with possible patrons, as well as with the Danish State to help secure an institutional infrastructure for Danish comics in the future. And I know Stine also has ambitions for preaching the comics gospel to a much wider audience than is currently the case.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and it will probably be a while yet before I do another one. Much happening in terms of relocating more permanently to London, so… but I just felt the itch to post something here wishing you all (those of you still reading this rather stagnant page) a happy new year. Over the holiday I rekindled my interest in the civil rights movement and black liberation in the US by reading Manning Marable’s fantastic, and controversial, biography of Malcolm X, A Life of Reinvention. Presenting by far the most nuanced view of this complex figure so far, it does more to make him human, real, in the reader’s eye than just about anything else I’ve read. My one quibble is that by being so scrupulous about presenting the details of his life, warts and all, it tends to lose sight of what made him, this leader who achieved very little in terms of concrete political results, such a crucial figure in modern American history. It lacks sufficient exegesis on his words and thoughts, despite an excellent closing chapter that aims to provide perspective. But don’t let that deter if you have any interest in American history or the civil rights movement. It’s a great book.
With that, I figured I’d post the above video of Malcolm X speaking in Oxford (close to home for me now, that’s why, I guess!) in 1964, five or six months after having broken with the Nation of Islam. It’s a remarkable encapsulation of the fluctuating state of his thought at that moment, starting with a forceful statement of principle — the nature of American racism, the use of violence — entirely consistent with his earlier, more confrontational rhetoric, passes through a Barry Goldwater quote as well — poignantly — as one from Hamlet, to an approchement to the civil rights movement and embrace of the vote as a potential game changer for black Americans. And he ends on a universalist, revolutionary call for action. There are greater moments to be found in his many speeches and interviews (the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University is a good place to start learning more), but I love the eclecticism and coherence of this clip.
For those that missed it, Barton Gellman of the Washington Postinterviewed Edward Snowden at some length last week. The paper also provided a disturbing perspective on the development of quantum computers and what it may mean for universal surveillance.
For Danish readers, this piece on how Green Growth has become a global buzzword over the last ten years , loosening the purse strings of corporations as well as government worldwide, is worth checking out. The same goes for Rune Lykkeberg’s piece on how the centre-left seems to have taken back the microphone in the Danish discourse on moral values.
It’s been a month already, and it’s been the blast. This is my new workplace — I’m doing my best to be steward to a mind-blowing collection of Italian paintings, with some really big shoes to fill. (Wish me luck). It’s still a little unreal, not the least because I’m still segueing between Copenhagen and London, moving only in January. In between at the National.
One of the great painters of his generation, in Denmark and internationally, Kurt Trampedach died a few days ago at age 70. When he was good, he painted the human condition as lonely and traumatic, but ever inquisitive and seeking. He was a close friend of my father’s, so his images came to mark my childhood, as did his voice and occasional alert presence. My best memories of him are from a childhood summer vacation spent in his mountainside home in the Basque Country, and seeing him ecstatic, wielding a huge wine glass filled with Schweppes Bitter Lemon, at the reception for the retrospective exhibition my father organized of his work at Sophienholm, Lyngby in 2001. He was talking his head off, hugging friends and strangers, high on life and art.
Once again, the Danish comics grassroots are banding together to create a large area devoted to comics at the Copenhagen Book Fair, Bogforum. The Danish Comics Council is teaming up with a number of other organisations to bring to the guests lots of comics goodness, including live drawing, interviews, workshops and much more. I’m not yet sure I will be able to attend myself, but I may drop in, and if I do I expect to see you there!
More info (in Danish) here and here. And Malene Hald has an overview of everything comics related (including stuff taking place outside the comics area) at the fair.
Images from the comics area at last year’s Bogforum, including a pap of internationally acclaimed director Bille August reading comics.
Here in the United States we are experts in the knowledge that editorial cartooning is a dying art. In other areas of the world, however, it is an art that people die for.
– Dr. Robert Russell
The week in review
The execution, earlier this year, of cartoonist Akram Raslan is another reminder of the untenable situation in Syria, of the kind we who are especially attuned to cartooning notice. As if we needed it. It is great that the deal to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons so far seems to be going ahead (though, what about the chemical weapons in Egypt and Iran?), and good to see that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this week. But I fail to see how the Assad regime can be regarded as anything but illegitimate by now. I realize the complexity of the situation in the region, how delicate affecting regime change would be, and the power vacuum any removal of the current despot in charge would cause, but how can one seriously contemplate having dealings with these mass murderers in the future? How will the region ever be more stable if they remain in charge? After a while, fear of change just becomes cynicism.
I really shouldn’t be giving it any attention, but the new “Leonardo” find this week is symptomatic of a rising trend toward sensationalist PR stunts in the art world, where often dubious pieces are trotted out as genuine works by one of the great masters. Another example is the recent, silly attempt to upgrade a Velasquez copy at Kingston Lacy. The press clearly laps it up, but in the long run it has to be a problem for anybody taking seriously the study and facilitation of knowledge of art, as well as to the market. And it clearly makes one wary even of more serious proposals, such as that of the new, possible Titian I wrote about the other day.
Speaking of new finds, the sensationalist rollout of the fantastic Van Gogh discovery by the Van Gogh Museum last month is scrutinised and found wanting by Gary Schwartz.
And speaking of Nobel Prizes, the one for literature of course went to Alice Munro, whom I suppose is deserving and all, but when is the committee finally going to give it to Bob Dylan? Bill Wyman made the by now long stated case once again before the prize was announced.
Pusha T’s new album My Name is My Name, seems poised as contender for album of the year if the singles are anything to go by. The Kendrick Lamar-featured “Nosestalgia” is hot, and “Pain”, released this week is Fyah! Also, check David Drake’s pre-release analysis here.
If you read Danish, Louise B. Olsen’s smart and elegant essay on Krazy Kat is a nice way to celebrate the centenary of that greatest of comic strips.
Oh, and this article on how the city of London has become an international tax haven for real estate speculators is just a depressing peek into the workings of global capitalism, not the least to somebody like yours truly who will soon be moving to that city.