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Saturday, June 2, 2007

Anselm Kiefer en Paris

Art & Design
An Artist Sets Up House(s) at the Grand Palais
Published: May 31, 2007

Samson Thomas/Gamma
"Sonnenschiff," foreground, and behind it a "house" in "Falling Stars," Anselm Kiefer's show at the Grand Palais.

PARIS, May 30 — Anselm Kiefer thinks big.

Looking at Anselm Kiefer Since moving to France in 1993, this German-born artist has turned his 50-acre property in Provence into a sprawling installation, with a former silk factory serving as his studio, and warehouses, greenhouses, towers and tunnels displaying his huge paintings and sculpturing the landscape.

AP Photo/Michel Euler
Visitors walk around "Sun Ship," by the German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, during the inauguration of his exhibition Monumenta 2007 "Falling Stars," at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Now this same penchant for working on a monumental scale has made Mr. Kiefer the ideal artist to inaugurate an annual solo show — called, appropriately, Monumenta — that opened on Wednesday in the cavernous space of the Grand Palais in Paris. It continues through July 8.

Mr. Kiefer, 62, whose specific exhibition is titled "Falling Stars," will be followed next year by Richard Serra, the American sculptor of weighty shapes in sheet metal. Christian Boltanski, the French installation artist who often fills entire rooms with one work of art, has been chosen for 2009.

Michel Euler/Associated Press
A dead palm tree, part of Mr. Kiefer's "Palm Sunday." Each year Monumenta will present new work by a leading living artist in the historic setting of the Grand Palais.

Though the artists have the privilege — and challenge — of presenting their art in a unique setting, the show's organizer, the French government, hopes to be the main beneficiary.

Having recently completed a prolonged $135 million restoration of the Grand Palais — a vast, light-drenched glass and steel palace originally built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition here — the French Culture Ministry has been struggling to find a mission for the space, which is 150 feet wide, 660 feet long and 150 feet tall at its highest point.

Vincent Nguyen/AFP
"Sonnenschiff" (Sun Ship), a 2007 sculpture made of concrete, earth, iron, lead and sunflowers.

At the same time the government has been trying to kick-start public interest in contemporary art for several years now. Last year it sponsored "La Force de l'Art" ("The Strength of Art"), an exhibition of French-based artists at the Grand Palais. But the show was poorly received, not least because the art was overwhelmed by the space.

Monumenta, then, is designed both to show off the Grand Palais and to create a buzz around today's new art.

For Mr. Kiefer it also represents his grand debut in Paris. A soft-spoken and introspective man, he made his name in Germany and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s with large-format paintings and lead sculptures that stirred buried memories of the Holocaust and delved into the myths of Germany's past.

Britons discovered his art through an installation at the Royal Academy of Arts and a show at the White Cube Gallery in London. His work also features in the permanent collection of the Guggenheim Bilbao, in northwestern Spain, which, by coincidence, is holding a survey exhibition of his recent paintings through Sept. 3.

Vincent Nguyen/AFP
A detail from "Palmsonntag" (Palm Sunday), a piece in which Mr. Kiefer revisits the traditional iconography of Christ's entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The paintings include mud and palm fronds soaked in plaster.

But while Mr. Kiefer presented six 30-foot-high paintings in the chapel of the Hôpital de la Salpêtrière in 2000 and held a show at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac here last year, it is only now that the Parisian public is being introduced to the unusual work he has been developing at La Ribaute, his retreat outside Barjac in southern France. While "Falling Stars" includes new paintings, Mr. Kiefer has transferred some of La Ribaute to the Grand Palais by building seven stand-alone houses, or galleries, each some 50 feet high, and bringing three concrete towers that normally stand on his property. This installation has in turn had the desired effect of occupying the palace, both physically and visually.

His show's title is itself a reference to the Grand Palais and its glass roof. "We are beneath the sky, below the firmament," he told reporters.

Yet as much as with his constructions, Mr. Kiefer fills the space with the visual and intellectual force of his art, much of it inspired by literature, notably the poetry of the Romanian Paul Celan and the Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann, the Bible and cabalistic writings. Mr. Kiefer himself has often noted that in his youth he wavered between becoming a writer and a painter.

Vincent Nguyen/AFP
In "House number IV" (Aperiatur Terra), the canvases are dotted with constellations of brightly-colored flowers

No less distinctive are the materials he uses, with sunflowers, branches, pieces of cloth, terra cotta pottery, plaster, dried mud and lead objects often attached to thick layers of paint.

Similarly he creates what he calls books with sheets of lead, some of which he rescued from Cologne Cathedral when its roof was being replaced some years ago.

The show's first house, "Land of Fog," inspired by Bachmann's poem of the same name, presents a single painting that suggests a sacrificial Aztec pyramid. At its foot lies a naked man — "It is me," Mr. Kiefer said — below a large terra cotta heart attached to the painting.

The second house, which takes its name from Celan's poem "The Secret of the Ferns," presents 44 paintings, most of them incorporating pieces of fern partly buried in dried clay. They are accompanied by three concrete bunkers that, exhibition notes explain, represent invincibility and invisibility. (The fern too, according to Northern European myth, proffers invisibility.)

Just one painting occupies the third house, a large oil called "The Milky Way," which evokes the firmament, and the fourth house, "Aperiatur Terra," presents three muddy landscapes. Unusually for Mr. Kiefer, who prefers to work with brown, black and gray paint, these oils include splashes of blue, pink and yellow, suggesting flowers.

Samson Thomas/GAMMA
"Journey to the End of Night," which includes a series of paintings with small ships made of lead, is a tribute to the novel by Louis Ferdinand Celine.

The fifth house, a tribute to Louis-Ferdinand Céline's book "Journey to the End of the Night," is among the most powerful, with 30 paintings of stormy seas to which, in many cases, the artist has attached crudely made lead warships, some of them rusting and close to sinking.

In the sixth house Mr. Kiefer has placed a disturbing bookshelf of lead "pages" interspersed with sheets of glass, some of which have already fallen to the ground and shattered like "Falling Stars," the name of this segment. Finally, in "Palm Sunday," 33 paintings, many including palm leaves, and a fallen palm tree evoke Jesus' entry to Jerusalem.

Standing among the houses are two precarious-looking concrete towers along with a third, "Dashed Hope," which has collapsed and symbolizes Mr. Kiefer's belief that everything is continually changing.

"What interests me is the transformation, not the monument," he explained. "I don't construct ruins, but I feel ruins are moments when things show themselves. A ruin is not a catastrophe. It is the moment when things can start again."

It is through this very process that Mr. Kiefer seemingly finds relief from the pessimism and melancholy that permeate much of his art.

"What you see is despair," he said. " I am completely desperate because I cannot explain why I am here. It's more than mourning, it's despair."

He paused, then added, "But to survive, you build, you create illusions."

Samson Thomas/Gamma
Mr. Kiefer, photographed on May 29 at the opening of "Sternenfall" (Falling Stars).

Anselm Kiefer's "Falling Stars," the first exhibition in the Monumenta series, runs through July 8 at the Grand Palais, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower, Paris; or 33 1 44-13-17-17.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Georges Roualt

Art Review
Georges Rouault
Revisiting Rouault's Stained-Glass World
Published: May 29, 2007

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Georges Rouault's "Fille (Femme aux Cheveux Roux)" (1908)

You wouldn't call it a full-fledged revival, but Georges Rouault is back in our sights. A few months ago some of his work was at the Metropolitan Museum in a show about his wily dealer, Ambroise Vollard. Now a couple of dozen pictures are at Mitchell-Innes & Nash.

At one time Rouault's reputation rivaled Matisse's, and his clowns and prostitutes were as ubiquitously reproduced as Ben Shahn posters. He had retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in 1945 and 1953; when he died in 1958, at 87, the French government organized a state funeral.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Filles (ou, Deux Prostituées)" (1906)

Then he slipped down the memory chute. The French expression "jolie-laide," applied to women whose beauty is of the unconventional sort, applies to Rouault too, which half explains his vanishing. He's an acquired taste.

Clement Greenberg called him middlebrow. That was the other half of the explanation. Greenberg had a point. The lesser works are overripe and formulaic. They're hard to love for generations that have come of age since the 1950s. The art has a sanctimony and sincerity that resonated after the war but came to seem dated in an art world besotted by American Pop and bling.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Three Judges" (1908-9) by Georges Rouault, who started out as a restorer of church windows.

But this gallery show covering his long career invites us to reconsider his virtues. On the heels of the Met exhibition, where he left a vivid impression, its timing is good. Rouault was never chic: he was too moral, too religious, too tender, too popular. But at his best he was touchingly strange, and a model of integrity.

He was born in 1871, a child of the Paris Commune, the son of an artisan who built pianos. His grandfather, a postal worker and art collector, introduced him to pictures by Courbet. He apprenticed as a teenager to glaziers and never denied the obvious connection between the thick black outlines in his paintings and the leaded church windows of medieval stained glass that he helped to restore. Those outlines flattened and broke up his work into fissures and shards of glowing color (deep purples, reds and blues) against a generally gloomy background.

This became his signature mode. The technique was partly a response to Cubism — a strategy for looking abstract, fracturing space and fudging three dimensions, which he never mastered — at the same time that it stressed frontality, gesture and light. You can see in the show, which consists mostly of minor works but has a few very good pictures, the luminosity of his palette and the awkward elegance of his line. He was the classic beefy-handed butcher who's incredibly deft with a knife.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Le Superhomme" (1916)

His own phrase was "outrageous lyricism." With his early, dashing brush marks, he created the appearance of spontaneity — which was partly a lie, since he repeated the same images and emotions over and over — but which gave his work its appearance of raw, expressive energy, akin in fervor to that of German Expressionists like George Grosz or Max Beckmann.

He said he saw his role as "the silent friend of those who labor in the barren field, the ivy of eternal misery climbing the leprous wall behind which rebellious humanity hides its virtues and its vice." His subjects were mostly misfits and vagabonds, and his natural forebears in social commentary were Goya and Daumier. He believed in the impieties of modern art as the most effective language of the day, yet was also deeply spiritual and revered the radical Catholic writer Léon Bloy, who recognized the inherent contradiction in Rouault's position and didn't much like his work.

The best pictures here depict a redheaded nude; a trio of fat, goggle-eyed judges; and a kind of swashbuckler in profile, the paint in that case slathered on as thick as plaster with a palette knife. Elsewhere, scratchy, slashing lines pin down the contours of fleshy prostitutes with grave, swollen faces. Sallow clowns with red noses glower under peaked hats, symbols of humiliation.

There are a few felicitous watercolors — of a Japanese warrior, others of dancers and landscapes — and several static heads, heavily impastoed, centered and silent like Byzantine icons. Rouault could be academic and graceless, and he invented nothing in particular. But a work called "Acrobates XIII," all elastic line and warm color (it was once owned by Matisse) is sheer loveliness, like a jeweled mosaic.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Automobilisle (au Volant)" (1909)

For years people only occasionally saw his work. Vollard made a deal with him, snatching up hundreds of unfinished pictures in 1917, and in return providing financial security and a studio on the top floor of his own house. Rouault illustrated Vollard's sequels to Alfred Jarry's "Ubu" series (there are three related works in the show) and he did other engravings for Vollard's lavish books, in exchange for which Vollard financed "Miserere," Rouault's own great project and masterpiece.

It was a useful arrangement until Vollard died suddenly, in 1939. Rouault found himself locked out by Vollard's heirs, having to sue to get back his own pictures, hundreds of which he still hadn't finished.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Paysage Animé" (1910 and 1919)

He was a perfectionist, a tinkerer and a dreamer. Increasingly he had been working in an obsessive style of thin, layered colors, building dense, encrusted pools of reds and blues — divine, uncanny patches of light emanating as if from inside the images. This devotional process took forever. The swift savagery of earlier work gave way to greater harmony. But this method insured that he never felt truly done with anything.

He won the lawsuit against the Vollard heirs (it became a landmark in artists' property rights), although he failed to recover the paintings they had already cashed in on. Rouault was 77 by then. He knew he could never complete all those pictures. So he burned 315 of them, before the bailiffs of the court, as a matter of principle. He was the master of himself. No one would have control over his work except him.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Printemps" (1914)

The immolation was in keeping with the religious-moral side of his art. He let a potential fortune go up in smoke but spared his honor. The market puts a price tag on art, but its true value has nothing to do with money: that was Rouault's lesson.

It's not a bad one for today.

"Georges Rouault: Judges, Clowns and Whores" continues through June 9 at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 1018 Madison Avenue, at 78th Street; (212) 744-7400 or

Mitchell-Innes & Nash
"Faubourg" (1910-14)

Museo del Vestido. Santiago de Chile.

Love, Money and Clothes
Published: May 24, 2007

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
SHOPPING SPREE Jorge Yarur Bascuñán in front of his new clothing museum in Chile.

WHO is Jorge Yarur Bascuñán and what does he want with Madonna's bra?

And some of the most coveted designs of Paul Poiret, the early-20th-century couturier who is currently the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?

Such curious questions have become a common, and sometimes frustrating, refrain among the world's foremost collectors of couture and historic costume as they have been outbid, outmaneuvered or otherwise undone by the deep pockets of Jorge Yarur, a 46-year-old scion of a wealthy family who is building a world-class fashion museum in Santiago, Chile, from scratch.

"Some of the most glamorous pieces that have come on the market recently have been driven up by Jorge to prices that seemed unreasonable," said Harold Koda, chief curator of the Costume Institute at the Met.

On occasion, he said, Mr. Yarur had outbid what the Met was willing to pay.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
Holdings include a 1967 Yves Saint Laurent minidress.

And Margot Fonteyn's tutu?

Mr. Yarur's Museo de la Moda, set inside his family's elaborately reconditioned 1962 Modernist glass mansion, has become an unexpected player in a growing field of international museums now investing in fashion collections.

Over the last decade, the privately funded museum, opening to the public on May 29, has acquired more than 8,000 garments. They represent an eclectic, if not encyclopedic, range of work from the exquisitely rare (1860's Charles Frederick Worth; 1930's Vionnet) to the deliciously campy (Nolan Miller's wardrobe for Joan Collins on "Dynasty"). In the process, Mr. Yarur's exuberance has sometimes driven prices for rare examples of 20th-century couture to levels at which institutional players say they cannot compete.

Pamela Parmal, the fashion curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, one of several American institutions that have expanded their fashion collections in recent years, has also noted Mr. Yarur's arrival on the curatorial stage with detectable envy.

Gill Allen/Associated Press
Also in the collection is Madonna's bra.

"Our Chilean friend has had a real impact on the market," Ms. Parmal said. "He has a very good eye, and he only goes for the best. And he does what he has to do to acquire it."

Mr. Yarur, in a telephone interview, said that he had not intended to create such a stir and that some of his earliest acquisitions, may have seemed extreme, reflecting a lack of experience. After the deaths of his parents in the '90s, Mr. Yarur, an only son, was inspired, he said, to transform the familial home into a museum. He enlisted experts to build a state-of-the-art storage facility and a reference center containing 15,000 fashion publications and sketches underneath the house. An indoor swimming pool was remade into a two-story room for exhibitions; the garage became a coffee shop. "Emotionally, I felt like I didn't want to live there, but I didn't want to sell it either," he said. "I kept all of my parents' things."

Andrew Bolton, a Costume Institute curator, toured the museum last week and described it as a poetic experience, citing the conversion of Mr. Yarur's father's bedroom, "which shows an enormous ball gown by Galliano from Dior's autumn/winter 2002 haute couture collection splayed out on the bed, like a drunken, but very elegant socialite." Mr. Bolton said he found himself coveting many pieces, including a sublime Balenciaga pink silk-taffeta gown from the late '50s.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
WARDROBE At El Museo de la Moda, styles from the 1930s.

Ignacio Pérez Cotapos, the director of ED, a Chilean decorating magazine, and once a classmate of Mr. Yarur, whom he called by his nickname, Toto, said that Mr. Yarur's family left him an enormous fortune and that when he had started sorting their clothing, he was inspired to build upon that with acquisitions. Mr. Bolton of the Met said he was touched by Mr. Yarur's obvious devotion to his mother, Raquel Bascuñán Cugnoni, whose image, with remarkable physical similarities to Rita Hayworth, is shown at the museum in galleries and videos.

"Not unlike Dior, Jorge's mother was the catalyst for his love of fashion," Mr. Bolton said. "She's the museum's muse."

That a private investor could have such an effect on the valuation of fashion memorabilia has been a surprising development for curators accustomed to dealing with a subject once ranked in the backwaters of museum hierarchy. There is no question that fashion's popularity as a form of historic narrative — and its ability to draw crowds to museums — has helped change that perception. The Met's willingness to display an increasing number of fashion shows outside the traditional confines of its basement-level costume galleries reflects this. So does its teeth in making recent acquisitions.

Likewise, other institutions are now competing for important works of fashion, including the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and new museums dedicated to fashion in Berlin and Antwerp, Belgium. Corporate entities, as well, recognize the importance of documenting the history of their own franchises — all resulting in a frenzied market for historic fashion. Some examples:

  • At a Christie's auction in London in December, the house of Givenchy paid $811,800 for a little black dress created by Hubert de Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
  • The Victoria & Albert in London bought a rare 1954 Christian Dior ensemble known as the Zemire for about $5,100 at an auction in Paris last year; it will be the centerpiece of its "Golden Age of Couture" exhibition planned for September.
  • The Museum of Arts & Design in New York is expected to announce today that it has received a $2 million grant from the Tiffany & Company Foundation to establish a permanent gallery for contemporary jewelry in its new home on Columbus Circle.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
Minidresses from the 1960s.

The Costume Institute's Poiret exhibition, meanwhile, was predicated on its purchase at a May 2005 auction in Paris of 20 pieces of the once-lost wardrobe of Denise Poiret, the designer's wife and muse, spending an estimated $581,000, not including the auctioneer's commissions. (The Met would not confirm its budget, but an estimate can be deduced by comparing the Poiret catalog with auction sale prices that are publicly available.) Among its purchases was a 1911 coat made with a woodblock-printed fabric designed by Raoul Dufy, for which the Met paid more than $90,000. In the early '80s, the Fashion Institute of Technologybought one of the most important Poiret designs, a sorbet-colored gown, for $6,000.

The sale of the nearly 600 Poiret designs, considered by curators as a seminal event because of their provenance, totaled $2.4 million. This included record prices for a couture garment at auction ($168,500 for a 1914 ivory silk coat) and for shoes ($52,370 for a pair made for Denise Poiret in 1924 by Perugia), both Costume Institute purchases. Several French museums also bought multiple pieces, but one of the most competitive bidders, according to the curators, was Mr. Yarur of Chile, whose purchases included a 1913 dinner jacket for $60,830.

Louis Webre, the vice president for marketing and media at Doyle New York, said Mr. Yarur has outbid any number of institutional collectors for works sold through that auction house as well, but he would not disclose specific purchases other than to note that Mr. Yarur was "among the most discerning of our clients in terms of quality."

Some prices, however, can be gleaned by comparing Mr. Yarur's holdings to auction results that are public record. From the Margot Fonteyn sale at Christie's, Mr. Yarur paid $94,800 for the tutu Leslie Hurry designed for a performance of "Swan Lake." In 2001, he paid $21,150 for one of the conical bras Jean Paul Gaultier designed for Madonna's "Blonde Ambition" tour.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
The collection includes clothing and images of Jorge Yarur's relatives (top right), who inspired his love of couture.

It was Mr. Yarur's grandfather Juan Yarur Lolas who established a string of textile companies and cotton mills in South America and in 1937 founded the BCI Bank in Santiago, which is now one of the country's largest and remains in the control of his descendants.

"It is an extraordinary combination of a lot of money with the best standards of quality," Mr. Pérez said of his friend. "He is very refined and a perfectionist. He has done everything with extreme care and quality."

Institutions that don't have that kind of money have had to be more creative in building collections and public support. The Fine Arts in Boston, for example, was able to add some remarkable contemporary couture to its holdings as a result of its fall show on that season's Paris collections — Azzedine Alaïa and Christian Lacroix made gifts of several pieces in the show.

Later this year, Ms. Parmal is planning an exhibition that places shoes throughout the museum as they relate to various periods — Miu Miu rococo-inspired wedges with 18th-century furniture; athletic shoes from the Red Sox and Celtics next to ancient Greek pottery painted with sports motifs.

Lorenzo Moscia/archivolatino/Redux
There is also a basement reference library for books and fashion publications.

Historic costume has not yet experienced the inflation that has spurred other parts of the art market, Mr. Koda said, but the Poiret auction made one thing abundantly clear.

"It's not only one entity, in Chile, that has made this change," he said. "A number of institutions have built up a war chest for important acquisitions. In the field, you have this incredible energy focused on dress, and this sounds crass, but in a way, it's really enlivened the marketplace."

Additional reporting by Pascale Bonnefoy in Santiago, Chile.

Pilar de la civilización occidental

Dublin Journal
Irish Classic Is Still a Hit.
(in Calfskin, Not Paperback)

Published: May 28, 2007

Ross McDonnell for The New York Times
An enlarged image of a page of the Book of Kells at an exhibit at Trinity College in Dublin.

DUBLIN, May 27 — For a manuscript written 1,200 years ago and revered as a wonder of the Western world practically ever since, little is known about the Book of Kells and its splendidly illustrated Gospels in Latin. But the book may be about to surrender a few of its many secrets.

Experts at Trinity College in Dublin, where the Book of Kells has resided for the past 346 years, are allowing a two-year laser analysis of the treasure, which is one of Ireland's great tourist draws.

The 21st-century laser technology being used, Raman spectroscopy, encourages hopes among those with a romantic view for an ecclesiastical intrigue like "The Da Vinci Code" or "The Name of the Rose."

But the precise subjects are more mundane. The laser will study the chemicals and composition of the book, its pigments, inks and pages of fine vellum. Experts estimate that 185 calves would have been needed to create the vellum on which the art and scriptures were reproduced.

Pending the laser analysis, experts assume that expensive materials for some of the blue pigments came from the gemstone lapis lazuli, mined in northeast Afghanistan. Yellow pigments are believed to have been made from arsenic sulfide and, bizarrely, reddish Kermes pigments from the dried pregnant bodies of a genus of Mediterranean insect, suggesting extraordinary trade routes for the ninth century.

Some techniques will help to analyze the pigments made from vegetable matter; others will be used to examine the inks.

"A lot of what we have done before has been based on anecdotal reports of the materials that were used," said Robin Adams, the librarian of Trinity College, who hopes the exacting dot-by-dot analysis by laser will unlock secrets and help his staff preserve the book. "Essentially the laser bounces back, and you get a spectrum. That spectrum tells you whether this pigment is lead, copper or whatever. We haven't got the reports yet, but we very much expect it to tell us new information about what the monks used."

Mr. Adams hopes that Trinity's manuscript research will answer some of his own questions about the book: "I would like to find out whether this work can tell us its relationship with other manuscripts. Is the material used in Kells the same as might be used in England or France? It could tell us a bit about the movement of materials around the monastic houses. We would love to find out how these monastic houses worked as communities, and whether the techniques were the same. Or whether they developed techniques because of the raw materials they had at hand. That would tell us new information about the times."

For a religious work, the book has a rather exciting history, but its hazier aspects are unlikely to be discovered by a laser. It was created around the year 800 to honor the achievements two centuries before of Columb, also known as Colm Cille. He was an Irish nobleman who in Ireland and Scotland founded one of the world's earliest Christian monastic traditions dedicated to learning and devotion.

Irish legend relates that Colm Cille, after losing a bitter legal ruling over his right to make copies of books, went into exile on Iona, the Scottish isle where the Book of Kells is thought to have been written.

But Dutch or Norse Viking raiders landed in 806, and Irish monks evidently removed the book for safekeeping. Eventually it made its way to the Kells in County Meath, a monastery outside Dublin.

There it survived new waves of raids, including one by bandits who made off with the book in 1007, according to contemporary chronicles. It was recovered two months later, under dirt, stripped of its gold covering.

Keystone/Getty Images The ancient manuscript itself in 1961.

The book stayed in Kells until Cromwell's wars in the 17th century. A senior Protestant clergyman, Henry Jones, who had served as a quartermaster general for the invading army, is said to have "donated" the book to Trinity College sometime after 1661.

With the original binding lost, the book was split over the years into four volumes. Two are now on display in "Turning Darkness Into Light," an exhibit at Trinity College, while the others are being analyzed.

The enduring mystery about whether the book was written on Iona, Kells or at another Colm Cille monastic site will likely endure. Maybe only a testing of the DNA of the vellum would reveal the age and source of the calfskins used at that time and reveal the place of the book's manufacture. Mr. Adams would like to know if such an analysis could unlock that secret.

"I have always wondered whether a technique could tell us where the cattle were and where they came from," Mr. Adams said. "Did the skins move around — was there a trade in the skins or were they produced locally? That would add to our knowledge. But that is what we are doing in applying these new techniques."

There is no doubt about the book's appeal in the present day: it attracts more than 550,000 visitors annually, vying with the Guinness Brewery tour up the road in central Dublin as Ireland's most popular site.

Its popularity leads to crowds during the summer, and there are plans to expand its display area in the college library building, which dates from 1732. It has yet to be decided whether the book will need to be removed during any building work.

Other academics vouch for the book's world importance. "It is one of the most precious books on the planet," said Terry Dolan, professor of English at University College Dublin. But Professor Dolan said the book had another secret that technology would not reveal.

"Little is documented about how the book came to be removed from Kells in the first place and how it ended up in Trinity," he said. "There is yet another fascinating mystery story there."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Verano de Amor" San Francisco 1967

Art Review
'Summer of Love'
Through Rose-Colored Granny Glasses
Published: May 25, 2007

Martin Sharp
Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era opened Friday at the Whitney Museum of American Art. "Explosion (Jimi Hendrix), 1967."

Tear gas, pot and patchouli were the scents of the 1960s. You can almost detect the last two, spicy and pungent, wafting through "Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era" at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Albert Alotta
A still from the film "Peacemeal" (1967).

But tear gas, with its weird-sweet burn, is missing in a show that remembers a lot, but forgets much more, about what was happening 40 years ago, when America was losing its mind to save, some would say, its soul.

Panton Design, Basel/Vitra Design Museum
"Phantasy Landscape Visiona II (View 3)" in wood, foam rubber and woolen fabric. "

The so-called Summer of Love was a local event with national repercussions. Word spread that a "Human Be-In" would convene at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in January 1967. Young people from across the country poured into the city, and by the summer they had filled the hippie neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury and were crashing in parks and streets.

The party went off as planned, and you can revisit it at the Whitney in Jerry Abrams's "Be-In, 1967," a funny, hopped-up film with a jamming soundtrack by Blue Cheer. The news media were all over the photogenic counterculture, with its jangly music, exotic drugs and outlandish mores. This was the Flower Power instant, and it was over in a flash. But for many people it is what the '60s were all about. The Whitney show, which is great fun and half-baked history, will not persuade them otherwise.

Collection of Wolfgang's Vault
A psychedelic Victorian house in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The decade was the furthest thing from laid back. It was wired, confused and confusing, with constant clashes around race, class, gender and politics, idealism and ideology. That's why, for anyone who wasn't around then, the period is all but impossible to know. And for anyone who was around, it's hard to describe without sounding either nostalgic or bitter.

Music still gives the best sense of it all. Say you were a middle-class American white kid in 1964. What were you listening to? Jan and Dean, the Shangri-Las. Surfers and bikers. Then you and some friends see the Beatles on their first American tour. They're so new: four skinny, pale, dandyish guys with femme haircuts singing "Love me do." The girls in the audience scream. The boys cheer. Ringo shakes his mop and the boys scream too. Hysteria. It's a high.

Collection of Wolfgang's Vault
A poster by Bonnie MacLean, "Bill Graham Presents the Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band, Richie Havens."

Four years later the Beatles are in India, and you're in college, at a concert, smoking grass and this truly unusual woman named Janis is swinging her hair across the stage. She's commanding you to take a little piece of her heart. She's white but sounds black, and she's reckless, eyes closed, right at the edge of the stage. She'll fall! Does she care? Outside there's a war, and the world feels weird, but not in here, tonight.

Then you're tripping, and Jimi Hendrix is up there on some other stage with this tremendous light show cued to the pulse of the cosmos exploding behind him. No flowers now. No mellow. He strangles the national anthem, then ignites his guitar. Someone behind or beside you whispers: Detroit is on fire. A Buddhist monk torched himself in Saigon. People are making draft-card bonfires. Flames are spilling out of the music, spreading off the stage and into life. You don't know where acid stops and reality starts.

The Whitney show has a fair amount of music, most of it emanating from recreated light shows. One flashes out at you when you step off the third-floor elevator, a projection of seething, bubbling color, like primordial ooze on the boil or a brain being fried. The original design was by the Joshua Light Show, one of many light teams hired by concert halls or clubs, even by individual bands; Jefferson Airplane had a team of its own.

Light shows were an intriguing medium, organic but programmed, like Abstract Expressionism done by machine. They had a passive-aggressive energy of so much 1960s art and music. Like the wrong drug at the wrong time, they could make you crazy. But basically they were for pleasure, for entertainment. Timothy Leary, among others, pontificated about how we should change the world by changing our heads. But as drugs became widely available, the activist dimension of getting high faded. Tripping was something you did on Saturday night.

Collection of Wolfgang's Vault
Gene Anthony's 1967 photograph, "Hippies on the Corner of Haight and Ashbury."

Most of the art in the show — mass-produced posters, broadsides, book covers, magazine graphics, record album jackets — also comes under the entertainment category. It wasn't made to be framed and revered. It was stuff people bought cheap, and lived with for a while, and that museums rarely show.

It makes sense that the predominating '60s pop aesthetic was distilled from art and artists distained by High Modernism: decorative styles like Jugendstil and Art Nouveau; decadent artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha; riffs from Victorian fairy-tale illustration or Saturday morning TV. Kitsch, in other words, but hallucinated kitsch.

Timothy Leary's album cover for "L.S.D."

The result was a crisp but sensuous look, intricate and curvy, easy to see but hard to read and adaptable to any context or use, from the covers of potboiler novels ("Sin Street Hippie") to architecture (the visionary drawings of the Archigram collective) to home design (Verner Panton's rainbow-colored sit-in foam-rubber environment of undulating curves).

"Summer of Love" is stuck on the style, or rather stuck on the effort to make one style the whole '60s story. It pushes hard, covering wall after Whitney wall with posters for concerts at rock emporiums like the Fillmore West and East, or British clubs like UFO and the Fifth Dimension. (The show has a substantial British section; it was organized by Christoph Grunenberg, director of the exhibition's originating museum, the Tate Liverpool.)

But the net effect is less to reveal a depth and variety of creativity than to demonstrate that the main function of alternative art was advertising, that the counterculture started as a commercial venture, which soon became a new mainstream and ended up an Austin Powers joke.

Possibly this view represents the show's critical edge, but if so, it is sharpened at the expense of accuracy. To many people who came of age between 1963 to 1972 political intensity was the defining feature of the period and its most interesting art. It never let up.

In 1965 antiwar protests started — 25,000 students marched on Washington that year — and they grew larger and more frequent. By 1967, more than 400,000 troops have been sent to Vietnam. Che Guevara was killed that year; the Black Panthers had formed the year before. In 1968 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. Racial uprisings spread across the country. The Democratic convention brought the war home to the Chicago streets. In 1969: university takeovers, Altamont. In 1970: Jimi dead. Janis dead. Cambodia. Kent State.

You will learn almost nothing about any of this from the show. Or about the gay liberation movement. Or about the gathering women's movement, although militant feminism makes total sense given the relentless sexism of psychedelic art, in which all women are young, nude, available "chicks," and very rarely artists.

Nor would you have any inkling that, for Americans at least, pop culture during these years meant black culture. Apart from Hendrix's presence, the show is overwhelmingly white. Aretha Franklin's first big hits — "Respect," "Chain of Fools" and "Natural Woman" — were all 1967. You won't find her here. Nor will you find Marvin, or Smokey, or Otis, or Fontella or Ray. Again, take one style for the whole picture, you leave most of the picture out.

Hints of what's missing come through in a handful of works, most of them added by Henriette Huldisch, an assistant curator at the Whitney in charge of the New York installation. They include one of Robert Rauschenberg'snews-collages that compresses images of racism, war and the conquest of space into an everything-is-connected time capsule.

Ronald L. Haeberle's much-reproduced print of the My Lai massacre is here, with its two-phrase overlay of text: "Q: And babies? A: And babies." The outstanding addition, though, is from the Whitney's permanent collection, a blistering 1967 painting by Peter Saul. Titled "Saigon," it's a flame-red, half-abstract, bad-trip vision of mass sexual violation.

© Klarwein Estate
A 2004 recreation of Abdul Mati Klarwein's "Views of Aleph Sanctuary, (View 2)."

So, we discover in 40-year retrospect, love was never all you needed; in the 1960s, in fact, it was barely there. "Summer of Love" doesn't feel like a particularly loving show, and the '60s, as seen through its lens, isn't a loving time, unless by love you mean sex, which was plentiful, as it tends to be in youth movements.

But altruism, selflessness? Young people are by definition narcissistic, all clammy ego. They want what they want. There is no past that matters; the future isn't yet real. Some might say — I would say — that American culture in general is like this, though not all of it. And if the kids in "Summer of Love" are stoned on self-adoration, there were also an extraordinary number of young people during the Vietnam era who engaged in sustained acts of social generosity. And they made art.

I mention this in light of the Flower Power revivalism of the past few years, in contemporary art and elsewhere. Psychedelia and collectivity are back (and already on their way out again). But the revival is highly edited; a surface scraping; artificial, like a bottled fragrance. No one these days is thinking, "Turn on, drop out." Everyone is thinking, "How can I get into the game?"

The Whitney show, maybe without intending to, suggests that this was always true, and makes such an attitude seem inevitable and comprehensible. So, let's have another '60s show, an incomprehensible one, messier, stylistically hybrid, filled with different countercultures, and with many kinds of music and art, a show that makes the "Summer of Love" what it really was: a brief interlude in a decade-long winter of creative discontent.

"Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era" remains at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, through Sept. 16.