OUR COLUMNIST MIKE GIVES HIS OPINION ABOUT THE NEW YORK TIMES’ REVIEW OF ANTONIO CANOVAS’ SHOW AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART:
‘I am going out on a limb here, but I think this also touches on another aspect of the nature of Art History and the Art Market. Artists are presented in a simplified manner that is digestible (and hence more easily marketable), which does not take into account aspects of personal growth, personal angst (Canova was nearing his end and probably knew it), and the complex and often contradictory nature of the human psyche.
Apparently these works do not conform to what is know as “Antonio Canova” for the quoted reviewer Ken Johnson. Canova’s earlier works were for commission, but these were much more personal. It seems he was going back to his own visual roots to achieve a clarity of expression for his own personal purposes, and therefore, for an art historian or Art Marketeer, they seem out of place, out of step. I suggest they may be a window into Canova’s mind and visual artistic values. It’s not often that artists of his time made works that were for personal expression (i.e. freed from the constraints of commission).
The problem I have had with Art History and the Art Market have always been this search for a single-minded conformity for the artist. X is about Y. Being an artist myself, I have accepted that X is often about Y, A, D, and S, with a bit of Q thrown in for good measure.
Canova and Canova’s body of sculpture are not a neat package (look at any other artist’s work and this will be evident, regardless of how any “expert” may want to package it otherwise).
This seemingly contradictory complexity is where the beauty lies. This is where the humanity exists.
Instead of packaging simplicity, I would rather see an exploration into the paradoxes and cultural and historic specificities, such as Rodrigo has attempted to lay out.
Always a pleasure to read the reviews. I rarely write about art, but this blog has certainly sparked my interest and raised my dander.’