Gallery Random

People sometimes complain about important artworks “disappearing into private collections.” And one can certainly see why: privately owned artworks are typically off-limits to anyone but their owners and their immediate circle of friends, family and associates. That’s when they bother to hang them, of course; the really valuable ones might end up in a bank vault somewhere, their value as aesthetic objects, or objects of meaning, subsumed by their sheer investment value.

However, a parallel phenomenon is not exactly unknown in public collections. While you don’t hear as much about works “disappearing into public collections,” it does happen a lot. For whatever reason, a lot of the works in public collections never get publicly shown, or if they do,  very, very rarely. The reasons are probably various, and I’ll freely admit I’m speculating a bit here, but my sense is that one of the main reasons is that many of them don’t quite fit the curatorial vision for the shows that do get mounted. Perhaps the works are so out of fashion they never seem to come up as fodder for a retrospective, or possibly there are better examples in the collection of whatever historical moment they exemplify. Continue reading

What’ s up with Bouguereau?


For a long time – since the rise of the Impressionists, in fact – the conventional view of the 19th century French painter and Academicien extraordinaire William-Adolphe Bouguereau is that his work, for all its technical brillance, was turgid, sentimental, and cloying.

It wasn’t always that way. In his own time many saw him as the best painter ever, and even now he has supporters. In recent years, Bouguereau has been championed rather vociferously at the Art Renewal Center, who see the eclipse of his reputation in the years following the 19th century as the result of a rather widespread conspiracy of an “enormous network of powerful and influential art dealers.” To which I’d probably reply something along the lines of “never attribute to conspiracy what can be attributed to fashion”, but whatever. My purpose here isn’t to go head to head with the still smallish minority who actually like Bouguereau. I actually think it’s OK that not everybody shares my taste in everything. (In case you’re wondering, I side with the “turgid and cloying” faction).

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