This week: Lutyens, Luisa Miller & more from the world of culture.
Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century, by Georgina Adam (Lund Humphries): Georgina Adam’s new book, Dark Side of the Boom, is not a particularly light read, nor is it a happy one. Adam has set for herself the task of chronicling the inner machinations of the art market’s richest echelon, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is rife with corrupt, quasi-criminal, and anti-creative impulses. The author is an incisive investigative journalist with an extensive background in the art market as both a regular contributor to the Financial Times and a former editor of The Art Newspaper. Focusing primarily on collectors, dealers, and the auction houses, Adam refrains from commenting on the sector of the art market that has been perhaps the most influential in generating a pretense of symbolic value for charlatans as vapid as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, or Damien Hirst—the unscrupulous academics and critics who have embraced today’s Dadaist, Pop, and identity-driven art that is so easily reproduced and commoditized. But despite this omission, her impartial look into the economics of the most expensive art in the country will serve as a welcome introduction to some of the issues plaguing our nation’s (and world’s) cultural health. —AS
“The Rockies and the Alps: Bierstadt, Calame, and the Romance of the Mountains” at the Newark Museum, New Jersey (through August 19, 2018): With “Thomas Cole: Atlantic Crossings” now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and “Picturesque and Sublime: Thomas Cole’s Trans-Atlantic Inheritance” opening next month at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York, this must be the season for cross-border considerations of nineteenth-century landscape. Drawing on its own lofty holdings as well as some two dozen lenders here and abroad, “The Rockies and the Alps,” now at the Newark Museum, presents a broad survey of mountain landscape by focusing on two of its best painters: Alexandre Calame (1810–64), the leader of the Swiss alpine school of painting, and Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), the German-born painter of the American West. The exhibition, curated by City University’s Katherine Manthorne and the Newark Museum’s own Tricia Laughlin Bloom, and accompanied by a catalogue published by Giles, makes a compelling case for the “romance of the mountains.”—JP
Verdi’s Luisa Miller at the Metropolitan Opera (through April 21): Giuseppe Verdi is such a staple of the operatic repertoire that a “Verdi rarity” might seem like a contradiction in terms, but there are a few gems in his catalogue that don’t often play on major stages. Les vêpres siciliennes springs to mind. So does Luisa Miller, which is in the middle of a revival at the Metropolitan Opera, with two performances this week. With Sonya Yoncheva in the title role and Piotr Beczała as Rodolfo, there’s plenty of star power to draw in curious listeners, but one particular name stands out: Plácido Domingo adds yet another role to his storied Met career, appearing as the elder Miller, Luisa’s father. His tour of the Verdi baritone rep has had its highs and lows, but he has found his greatest successes as weary father-figures such as La traviata’s Giorgio Germont; Miller père will hopefully offer a similar opportunity. Bertrand de Billy conducts.—ECS
“The Country Houses of Sir Edwin Lutyens,” with Charles Hind at the General Society Library (April 19): Consider this: Le Corbusier’s Tsentrosoyuz, in Moscow—what Hannes Meyer (the second director of the Bauhaus) rightly decried as “an orgy of glass and concrete”—is roughly contemporaneous (ca. 1928) with Edwin Lutyens’s Midland Bank, Manchester’s Portland stone beauty. How different—how much better—would the twentieth century have looked if Lutyens’s historicizing vision had won out over Corbusier’s dehumanizing, totalitarian brutalism? Despite Lutyens’s prolific career in England and his triumph in planning New Delhi, he is still too little known in America. Those interested in learning more about the great Edwardian architect’s domestic work are in luck, as Charles Hind, the Chief Curator and H. J. Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects, visits our shores in just over two weeks for a talk on Lutyens’s country houses. Hinds will draw on RIBA’s sweeping picture archive to elucidate Lutyens’s genius, from Castle Drogo to Greywalls, to many lesser-known houses in between. For a remembrance of one of Lutyens’s greatest chroniclers, Gavin Stamp, see Clive Aslet’s obituary from our March issue. —BR
From the archive:“Seurat’s ‘Sunday’ painting” by Hilton Kramer (September 2004). On “Seurat and the Making of ‘La Grande Jatte’” at the Art Institute of Chicago.
From the current issue: “Arms & the age” by Peter Filkins. On David Ferry’s new translation of The Aeneid.
From the Editors:“Culture of Denial” by James Panero (City Journal). On D. J. Jaffe’s harrowing account of the half-century-long breakdown of America’s treatment of the mentally ill