Arts Articles

Money Talks

Art Review: Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland, in Washington, D.C.
2:04 PM, Oct 30, 2015

It’s tempting, when writing about modern art, to devote more attention than is useful to the kinds of market forces that bestow, say, Jeff Koons ’s totalitarian visions or Damien Hirst’s intellectual posturing with the imprimatur of respectability.

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Another Op’nin, Another Show

But is anyone noticing?
Aug 24, 2015

Right now, in New York, the big news is the Broadway opening of a musical biography of Alexander Hamilton told in hip-hop. Such a deliberately anachronistic retelling of American history is automatic grounds for deep skepticism. And yet the chorus of raves for Hamilton—which extend from Barack Obama to the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout, and even to Brian Anderson, the brilliant editor of the conservative Manhattan Institute’s City Journal—has generated a kind of cultural excitement that itself seems anachronistic.

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Museum With a View

Thoughts on the new Whitney.
2:45 PM, Jun 03, 2015

Renzo Piano is too good an architect for his new Whitney Museum, in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, to be a total failure. The interior is, in general, quite good and surely a vast improvement over Marcel Breuer’s nuclear bunker on Madison Avenue, which housed the museum for half-a-century. And even aspects of the exterior of Piano’s building, taken piecemeal, are quite dexterously done. But seen from the outside and taken as a whole, the new Whitney is somewhat awful. 

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The Constitution According to Cuomo

May 18, 2015

It's been a full week since The Scrapbook inveighed against the assault on free speech, so we have a new parade of horribles to shake our head at. The precipitating event this time was the killing of two armed assailants at an event in Garland, Texas, that was displaying Muhammad cartoons. It should go without saying that free speech means supporting the right of people you don’t like to say things you don’t like.

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Only Yesterday

Thomas Hart Benton’s masterwork finds a home at the Met
Feb 09, 2015

Are we allowed, in 2015, to like Thomas Hart Benton? And if so, are we allowed to admit in public that we like him? 

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Obama to Grammy Awards: Don't Abuse Women

10:34 PM, Feb 08, 2015

President Obama offered this taped public service announcement at the Grammy Awards:

Artists help shape American culture, Obama said in the taped remarks, which is why "together we can change our culture for the better by ending violence against women and girls. "

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B&A Podcast: La Luce, the NFL, and Good-Bye -- Again

The B&A Podcast is hosted by Philip Terzian.
9:05 AM, Oct 12, 2014

THE WEEKLY STANDARD Books & Arts Podcast with Philip Terzian, on the October 13th Issue's Books and Arts section.

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National Mall to Get a Facelift

12:36 PM, Sep 15, 2014

Years after the National Mall was torn up and blocked off to re-grow grass as part of the stimulus package, the bulldozers are back to clear a ten by six acre parcel, located adjacent to the reflection pool, between the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial.

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Feds to Spend $500,000 for New Art at Customs and Border Protection Facility in San Diego

7:34 AM, Sep 08, 2014

The "busiest land port of entry in the Western Hemisphere" is getting an upgrade, and according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), about a half a million dollars worth of new artwork will be part of the package.

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Florentine Frustration

The loneliness of the long-distance art lover
Sep 08, 2014

I live in Connecticut, and I don’t travel much outside of the Northeast corridor. But through a few strokes of luck, and some happy happenstance, I’ve been in Florence five times in the last seven years.

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National Gallery of Art Requests Nuclear Weapons

This is just a test.
11:14 AM, Aug 06, 2014

Yesterday, the National Gallery of Art put out a solicitation for nuclear ordnance, giving interested parties until the end of October to respond to the solicitati

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The Art of the Deal

Detroit’s restructuring proposal.
Apr 21, 2014

From the moment Detroit filed for bankruptcy last summer, comparisons to the 2009 Chrysler and General Motors bailouts have abounded. Most highlight the differences, noting that the federal government is unlikely to pump billions of dollars into Detroit. But although the differences are real, the restructuring plan that Detroit has recently proposed suggests that the city’s bankruptcy may have more in common with the car bailouts than anyone imagined. Unfortunately, it’s the abuses of the latter that could be replicated—and even extended—if Detroit’s plan is upheld in its current form.

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A Brush with Fame

Apr 21, 2014

When it became known last year that George W. Bush had taken up painting, The Scrapbook took note of the fact, commenting on a couple of random examples that they were “better than you would expect, show imagination, and are certainly evidence of Bush’s well-developed sense of humor. .  .  . The paintings—in their awkward simplicity, bright colors, and irregular perspective—strike The Scrapbook as delightful. We would like to see more.”

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State Department Insures Artwork for $200M

12:42 PM, Feb 24, 2014


The Art in Embassies program of the U.S. State Department just turned 50 last year, but its growth in the last decade has been particularly dramatic if the insured value of the artwork is any indication. Although Art in Embassies purchases original works, such as the $1 million sculpture for the new U.S. Embassy in London, much of the artwork on display at various State Department installations throughout the world is in fact borrowed.  In 2002, the State Department maintained a $20 million policy for artwork.  By 2010, it had grown to $65 million.  This year, the agency is looking to renew its current level of coverage, informing interested providers that "[i]nsurance must cover all items in any location in a Department of State facility abroad up to a value of $200,000,000."  Last year, the $200 million policy cost the government $86,932.

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Anti-Intellectual Obama

The president takes an unwarranted shot at art history.
12:22 PM, Jan 31, 2014

President Obama traveled to Wisconsin yesterday and engaged in a tasteless bit of anti-intellectualism.

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Heroic by Nature

Émile Zola and the literary representation of art.
Jan 20, 2014

If this painting isn’t iconic, the term should be banished from the vocabulary of art. Forget, for a moment, Mona Lisa’s smile and the Sistine Creator transmitting the spark of life to Adam. Set aside what was to come, including Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). They, obviously, have their claims.

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State Department Buys Million Dollar Granite Sculpture from Irish-Born Artist

10:52 AM, Dec 03, 2013

At the end of September, the federal government's fiscal year was drawing to a close, the threat of a shut down was increasing, and the State Department was shopping for art.  Four contracts were awarded in the last two weeks of September, including $1,000,000 for a granite sculpture by Irish-born artist Sean Scully to be installed at the new U.S. Embassy in London.  Notice of the awards was posted Sunday afternoon of Thanksgiving weekend on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

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Pentagon Signs $31K Contract for Oil Portrait of Leon Panetta

9:09 AM, Jul 22, 2013

Washington D.C. is big on tradition, and one of those traditions involves official portraits of top government officials.  The Defense Department just awarded a $31,200 contract (frame included) to Portraits, Inc. for an official portrait of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta:

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Smooth Draft

The work-in-progress of an American master.
Jul 22, 2013

In some locales, wrote Albert Camus in The Plague, beautiful days are only experienced in the winter. But this is easily belied by the magnificent Edward Hopper exhibition on display at the Whitney Museum this summer. Beyond a showcase of artistic beauty, it is a much-deserved homage to an American master who is occasionally overshadowed by New York museums’ infatuation with European painters. That Hopper was born and bred in New York merely compounds this ironic injustice.

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Commerce and Art

The disdain is largely one-sided.
Jul 01, 2013

John Kinsella, a highly regarded Australian poet who teaches at Cambridge, was quoted not long ago in the Times Literary Supplement as saying that he has “not sold his soul to market fetishization.” Kinsella means that he doesn’t want even to think about making a profit from his writing. But Kinsella is also doing what comes naturally for most poets and many literary essayists: He is expressing a disdain for the commercial world. To think about selling books is tantamount to worshipping Mammon.

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You Don't Have to be Jewish ... to Read Mosaic

8:05 AM, Jun 03, 2013

The website Jewish Ideas Daily has been, for quite some while, a star of the web, featuring interesting original material as well as links to other worthwhile writing embodying a lively, serious, and committed approach to Jewish issues and ideas. Today, Jewish Ideas Daily has re-launched as Mosaic.

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Broke? Nah, Just Badly Bent

3:02 PM, May 25, 2013

Detroit is so close to insolvency that there is talk in the city of selling off some of the Detroit Institute of the Arts' treasures, including works by Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.  

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Scorsese on Film

The director delivers the 2013 Jefferson Lecture.
12:30 PM, Apr 02, 2013

Last night at the Kennedy Center concert hall, Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese delivered the 2013 National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture. He spoke of the importance of preserving film and lamented the studios' fixation with box office grosses. The end of celluloid saddened him, but he reminded us that there were exciting new developments in film technology we shouldn't overlook. But mostly Scorsese focused on protecting the old movies—90 percent of silent films are now gone. It's an important subject, don't get me wrong, but couldn't he have talked about Goodfellas or Casino a little bit? I mean, c'mon!

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Man With a Line

The gimlet eye of Saul Steinberg.
Mar 11, 2013

At a celebration at UCLA of the career of Eugen Weber, the Romanian-born historian of France, I made the mistake of describing Eugen as an exile. In his response to the tributes paid him, Eugen corrected me, remarking that he had never considered himself an exile. “From the moment I attained consciousness,” he said, “I wanted to leave Romania. The place is a dump.” 

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HuffPost Compares Bush's Paintings to Hitler's

3:41 PM, Feb 08, 2013

The illegal hacking of email addresses of George W. Bush's family members has revealed paintings that appear to be the work of the former president himself.

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10:05 AM, Jan 16, 2013

I predicted on Fox News Sunday on December 30 that the Metropolitan Opera's production of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda would be the entertainment event of the year.

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From RGIII to Joyce DiDonato

10:24 AM, Dec 31, 2012

I'm as thrilled as every other red-blooded Washington-area resident by the Redskins' victory yesterday. Yes, I did "predict" a Cowboys victory on Fox News Sunday. But that was, as I said on the show, a prediction contrary to my hopes, and of course was really made in order to avert the evil eye (or, as I put it on the panel in a way more suitable for public consumption, because I err on the side of pessimism). So, Go 'Skins! And no more predictions.

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Art of the Possible

Surprising lessons to be learned in popular culture.
Dec 31, 2012

Instead of disparaging all popular culture as a “vast wasteland” of cultural and moral decay, conservative critics should tease out those elements that reinforce conservative values in the arts. Russell Kirk used to lament the falling-off in depictions of normative behavior; but whereas Kirk focused his derision on literary and other public figures

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Postmodern Cézanne

This is what happens when politics distorts art.
Dec 17, 2012



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Monochrome Picasso

Weaving the Master’s spell without color.
Dec 10, 2012



It may be hard to believe that one of the more underrated New York art exhibits of recent times is a current Picasso show at the Guggenheim, but such is the case. “Picasso Black and White” is not only one of the best Picasso exhibitions to visit New York; it is one of the better exhibitions of any artist to visit New York in the past few years. 

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