April 28, 2014

Art in Rome, Florence and Venice, Italy (+ More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About How Much I Love Art)

Art and I have been in a relationship for as long as I remember. Always. Always always always. I feel like this is an exception rather than a rule with people who are into art. A lot of popular art history bloggers talk about how a college class sparked their interest and they got hooked. Most people I've met had a similar experience or took art history as a requirement because they were in art school and obviously more into creating art. I, on the other hand, am not a creative person whatsoever. I can't even think creatively about where I want to order my dinner from on a Tuesday night. I was president of art club and took all the art classes my high school offered but I was never good and never created "art" in the way you'd think of it. I just did technical pencil drawings of sheets and fruit and things like that. Nothing I created ever made any kind of statement or made you feel anything. I created the kind of art you'd see hanging up in a chain motel - just bland and generic. However, despite my shortcomings as an artist, I was just always into art. My dad was and is into it and I was just raised around it.

It's hard for me to comprehend that people don't "know" themselves and things like that because so much of my identity had always been defined by my appreciation and love for art, ever since I was little. My brain is just more inclined to appreciate and be drawn to artsy things. I don't know if I like art because I think this way or if I think this way because I always loved art. I'm sure I would be entirely different as a human if I didn't basically begin my life appreciating art in the way I did. It boggles my mind when people say they're good at math or enjoy math because it just makes sense (ie there's only one right answer) because math or science has never made sense to me. As early as first, second, third grade. Like, I was in that gifted and talented bullshit and was one of TWO kids in my school who was in gifted class but not in the gifted math class. This was out of at least 50 kids. 96% of those kids were better at math than I was. I had to google that percent out!! My mind does not work that way. Math is gibberish to me. Art is what makes sense. I just get symbolism and things like that pretty automatically. My mind works in that abstract kind of way and not in a logical way. And trust, this is not intended as some kind of humble brag. It sucks because the word revolves around the opposite way of thinking. Like, what's a skill in the real world, balancing a checkbook or analyzing a Whistler? But, as Ke$ha says, we r who we r and there's nothing I can do about it short of marrying some kind of accountant who is very insistent doing anything that falls under the "usual life skills and responsible tasks" umbrella himself.
I was probably going to art exhibits since I was five, at least. Growing up in New Jersey meant there was always easy access to the city but I really only ever went FOR an art show. Never to see the city itself or something. Just there would be a show that I or my dad would have to see and we'd wander around afterwards. Art is the draw of NYC to me, not NYC itself. Like, any apocalyptic style movies where New York City gets destroyed? I feel sick to my stomach because of the possibly of museums being ruined rather than, I don't know, the fake human lives lost. This isn't exclusive to New York. I feel that way about most places. If I had an hour in any city on earth, I would probably go to the city's art museum. Whenever someone mentions traveling to somewhere, even if it's to fucking Detroit or something, I'm always thinking of the art they have there and what I'd like to look at there. I could go to a museum for one thing. I could just wake up one day and feel the need to look at one specific piece in the NGA or another DC museum, hop on a bus, go look at that singular piece for an hour and leave. That's satisfying to me. That's my experience with museums in a nutshell. Most of the time, I don't feel the need to look at every single piece a museum has to offer. I'm just kind of immediately drawn to things and pay special attention to them, even if it means bypassing other things in the process. Events like the Whitney Biennial where people seems like they're playing this game of unsaid chicken with art pieces irritate me to no end. "Who is going to stare at this one piece longer? You're letting it out of your sight before me? I'm going to shoot you a haughty glance because you're simply UNCULTURED by comparison!"

I feel like it might be slightly weird to be as into art as I am. I sometimes feel ashamed because I sort of feel like that art is a lot more casual for most people. That those who know about and appreciate art but that knowledge and appreciation is on a sort of back burner in their minds. That they can recall and reference it and appreciate it but it's not the ONLY thing. Art is the only thing to me. I relate things back to art instead of vice versa. I live and die by it. Art makes me believe in past lives because I feel like I must have loved it for centuries to love it as much as I do right now. Art is my soul mate, most likely. Art is my constant, the Ryan Gosling I would kiss in the rain if my life was a love story like The Notebook. It just worms its way into everything I do. I started this blog as a beauty blog to show nail polish on my fingernails and eyeshadow smeared on my forearms but here I am, talking about art, because this is what art does to my life. I feel like I'm dumping my innermost feelings out on here like it's my 9th grade livejournal and all I'm doing is discussing what art means to me.

I feel that art and art museums as some of the most special things that we as a society have. I don't get offended by book burning or flag burning or any of that but the idea of art being destroyed is uniquely awful in my mind. I think it's awful that so much art is tucked away in private collections. Obviously, I'm green with envy but my eccentric billionaire plan would be to collect all the art I wanted and leave it in some spare home I owned, open free to the public (with security personnel and shit, of course) so that it could be appreciated by any one who wanted to see it. I feel unironically #blessed by the art I've had the opportunity to see in my life. You can't experience art without seeing it in person. I've always felt that way but I feel it TWENTY FOLD after this trip. All art that you've ever seen should be seen in person, IRL, before you form any kind of opinion on it.

Which brings me to the art I saw in Italy which was just so unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I've been very fortunate to live in close proximity to New York and in actual Boston and DC. My eyeballs have seen so much art, more than so many people get to see in their lives because of this. And Italy blew this all out of the water. OUT OF THE WATER. So, without further ado, here are my most favorite art related things I saw while in Italy. I'm trying to narrow it down to ONE thing or ONE museum because to try and include it all would be way too much of a tl;dr situation and I'm be up until 2AM typing it all out.

The Vatican

Aside from the obvious classics, the Vatican had a very cool collection of paintings, sculpture, drawings, multimedia, etc of all periods and genres of artwork. The one unifying theme was religion. Just an unbelievably cool collection and something I definitely never expected to see in the Vatican. The only theme you could really do a collection like this with is religion which was obviously THE biggest theme in art for centuries. The purpose of art for centuries, even. Then, even after all this time, artists are still confronting and portraying religion through art. For hundreds and hundreds of years, just all different kinds of artists from so many different countries and races and backgrounds, all using different mediums and techniques to describe the same thing, their relationship with God and faith. It was endlessly fascinating to see the juxtaposition of modern art vs pre Renaissance stuff and how different it looked even though the driving force and ideas behind the works were the same.

An example of one of the modern pieces on faith.

Also included was one of Francis Bacon's screaming pope paintings of Pope Velasquez (an artist who might just be my favorite ever) which I felt was a pretty radial choice for the Vatican to include in their collection.
This collection is just before the Sistine Chapel so a lot of the guided tours skip right over it. It's really, really worth seeing, though. My dad was really disappointed he missed out on it due to being chauffeured around by the tour guide.

 But, of course, THE REASON to visit the Vatican museums is the Sistine Chapel and the Papal Chambers.

My feet standing in the papal chambers in front of Raphael's School of Athens. Just to document that I stood there, in front of it, in real life. This is something that you have studied e n d l e s s l y if you've studied art history. You have most certainly had this on a quiz or a final or something like that. You've had to reference it somehow in someway. It's so surreal to actually see in person after that. Just something you've looked at over and over and over but now it's in front of you and real instead of on a slide or in a textbook. Cannot believe I was even in the same room as this after so many years of memorizing Aristotle's and Plato's hand movements and Raphael's use of perspective. Art history education staple. DONE AND SEEN.

On that note, I feel like I have a personal relationship with this fresco after a semester long Michelangelo course and a final paper on this work. Literally was just thinking of enlarging tiny sections of this on my computer in Boston to try and suck every last detail out of it on my chair in my corner of my library. I was comparing it to Dante's Inferno and just the amount of time I spent with this work made it feel like I was seeing an old friend. I spent a good 10 minutes just staring at this. I can't believe I've finally seen this shit after 23 years. Michelangelo is probably pissed with me for giving so much of a shit about his paintings rather than sculptures WHATEVER YOU SMELL ANYWAY YOU TALENTED OVER EMOTIONAL IDIOT. Everybody from that time period smells, it's true.

The amount of time you hear "SILENCO, NO PHOTO. NO PHOTO." in here is unreal but whatever, ANARCHY FOR VATICAN CITY. I stayed in the Sistine Chapel for a very, very long time. I sat on a bench so I could kind of lean lay myself down and just stare up at the ceiling. There are barely words, really.

Botticelli, especially Birth of Venus, at the Uffizi
Medieval and Renaissance art can kind of blur together for me. I feel like it does for most people aside from people who really specialize in it. Renaissance art can get kind of monotonous for me when you're only seeing it in print, like while browsing the internet or in a textbook. Botticelli fell victim to that for me. Botticelli always seemed like a standard painter from that time. Dude painted Roman themes but H O L Y S H I T his work in person was so good. I thought Birth of Venus was very overhyped before this, like a Hopper's Nighthawks kind of thing or something where I don't really understand why that particular work is one of art history's standouts. I was so, so wrong. Botticelli is underhyped. It sounds so vague to describe a piece of art as just beautiful but that's what his stuff was. Just cut and dry beautiful and serene. It was really breathtaking and very, very, VERY hard to walk away from.
I have no photos because they're not allowed in the Uffizi but it's not like they could do it justice anyway.
 Botticelli's Primavera

 Botticelli's very famous Birth of Venus

I loaded up on Venus souvenirs in the gift shop but I'm just overall bummed out because it's not the same. I want to just barf over how good it was. I lay in bed thinking "Wow, I saw something truly spectacular today" when I was falling asleep that night.
My Birth of Venus lipstick holder. I was debating getting a pill case which I need a bit more for my purse but obviously I have to have the goddess of beauty on something that holds beauty supplies instead of Allegra. 

My Botticelli mug. I'm kind of put off by the schmatlzy writing on the side (unseen in this photo) but I'll just turn it around on the shelf so no one will ever know aside from me. Not even you, blog audience. Aka 2 people.
I also got a magnet and a postcard. I was just loading my arms up with shit. I was so possessed by Botticelli's work that I had to own everything possible. It was like I was a kid in a Disneyland gift shop. I stopped just short of a poster because a. IT WASN'T EVEN CLOSE TO THE REAL THING HOW COULD I LIVE WITH MYSELF and b. I already have way too many things to hang on my walls. My theoretical gallery wall Pintrest board is a mile long. I can't be spontaneously buying things that captivate me. I need to be saving spare dollars for my actual plans.
This is the kind of art shit that makes me sad because I so genuinely wish people felt passionately aout art and I feel like they could, maybe, if they had the chance to see things in person like that. Like, Botticelli? Not even a blip on my radar before seeing his work in person. Sandro WHO? But just spending some quality time with his work has me stanning for B. I want a biography. I want to see all of his paintings in person. I bought a postcard and a mug and a lipstick holder and a magnet. I have elaborate fantasies about tiling a bathroom wall with The Birth of Venus as a mosiac in a future home. All Botticeli everything.

Your opinion on art or an artist can totally change through exhibitions. The last time I felt this way I was maybe 15 or so and too cool for Van Gogh until I went to an exhibit on his drawings at the Met. It blew me away seeing how much his line work emulated his painting style, as if the ink was textured or something. I loved Van Gogh after that and I love Botticelli after this. It just goes to show you can sit in a class room for hours upon hours and make little flashcards and pour over Google images of paintings and feel like you really know an artist but none of it compares to just taking 20 seconds to stand in front of one of their works and take it in.

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum killed me dead. I originally only wanted to go as a modern art cleanser for a trip that was going to be filled with pre 18th century art. Now, I think this museum is up there with Piazza San Marco in terms of must sees for Venice. It's a gorgeous building on the Grand Canal with a sculpture garden where Peggy Guggenheim is also buried.

 Peggy Guggenheim was the daughter of Benjamin Guggenheim who famously died on the Titanic and the niece of Solomon Guggenheim who is pretty famous for this:

Peggy was a heiress who became an ex-pat in her 20's and was socializing with famous artists and writers in Paris when she was, oh, my age. By her 30's she was opening her own galleries, collecting contemporary art and basically lifting the careers of many artists out of the dirt. Man Ray photographed her. Calder made a headboard for her bed and earrings for her to wear on her body. Ernst married her. Pollock's name is what it is today partially because of her. She collected 40 Ernsts, 10 Picassos and 8 Miros AMONG OTHERS in 7 YEARS.

She later bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on Venice's Grand Canal, filled it with her art collection and just lived among it and basked in her own fabulousness, occasionally allowing other museums to borrow parts of her collection so the public could see them. 30 years she lived like that. 30 YEARS SLEEPING UNDER A CALDER HEADBOARD. Now, her former home is the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and it's pretty much perfect in every way.

Just to review:
  • Her whole job was "socialiate art curator"
  • Like, that was the whole thing she did. Spent money. Went to parties. Bought and lived among fabulous art. Made friends with artists and obtained more art.
  • Socialiate. Art. Curator.
  • 3 husbands, one of whom was MAX ERNST. Sorry, anyone who surpasses a 2 husband mark is a boss bitch. There is no way around it. Amend the Constitution to say so, it's a law.
  • Had so many affairs that writers started claiming she slept with their fictional characters, too. A ton of women are still being treated like property at this point in history but Peggy is like, "Eh, not for me..." and makes so many notches on her bedpost that it was whittled down to a toothpick.
  • Had such a great eye for art that she launched Pollock's career. Arguably one of the most famous artists of all time, an artist that even the average 10 year old can name and recognize, and Peg was pretty much one of the first to recognize his talent and elevate him to the level he's on today.
  • Buried in her art filled garden next to this laundry list of her dogs. Literally about 11 dogs. And the plaque says she's buried with her "beloved babies" or something like that and I was reading along being like, "WOAH, bummer, she had a lot of kids live until only 4, that is FUCKED UP. Wait, why did she name her kid Peacock? ...Dogs."
Like, fuck. FUUUUCK. What a life. What a legacy on top of it all, to have you personal collection on view and envied almost half a century later. I feel so much jealousy towards this deceased woman that it's almost actual hatred. What a bitch. How dare you have a life that sick?

I bought this postcard so I can have a visual reminder of all you can possibly achieve in life because I both hate out of jealousy and completely idolize this woman, now. My eccentric billionaire fantasy is to have a dizzyingly fabulous art collection and live among it before being able to share that kind of artistic wealth (both literal and figurative) with the world. I die.

Among other postcards I got is this Francis Bacon one of a chimpanzee. This postcard about sums up why you need to see art in real life at least once. This painting is so flat and bland and uncomfortably filled with negative space on the postcard. In real life, it was gorgeous and I stared at it forever.

 I had to settle for a postcard version of Peg's Calder headboard because I can't have the real thing. I should just take it above my bed to just make it all the more pathetic.

I also picked up these Man Ray and Duchamp postcards. In an alternate universe where I never want to have a professional job I have Duchamp's similar "Nude Descending a Staircase" tattooed as a half sleeve on my right arm.

Unfortunately, there was no postcard of this beyond incredible Magritte painting which was both my mom's and I's favorite. I'm obsessed with how he toyed with light in this.

So, there you have it. That's my cathartic experience with Italy's art museums and more than you ever possibly wanted to know about how art and I are pretty much soul mates.

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