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'Being an art historian now is easier and more productive than it’s ever been' – Art Newspaper

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Many of the tools used by art historians remain unaffected by the coronavirus pandemic
© Simon Abrams

What can self-isolating art historians do in a pandemic? Even the most ardent student of art might struggle to define themselves as an essential worker right now. Nor can we do much other than admire those tackling the virus on the frontline, be it in hospitals or supermarkets, and be immensely grateful to them. I do believe, however, that from an art historical point of view, there is still some good to come of all this.

For the next few months, art historians the world over will be putting their enforced period of seclusion and study to good use. I am already looking forward to all the new research, articles and books that will emerge by the end of the year. The good news is that many of the tools of our trade remain unaffected by the pandemic. To pick just three long-established websites: the Internet Archive allows you to search even the most obscure publication for that tiny nugget of crucial information; the Getty Provenance Index allows you to search almost two million sales records in seconds; and image libraries such as the RKD’s invaluable collection of historic photos of Dutch art are available digitally too.

Indeed, the art historian’s need to work remotely has prompted many publishers and libraries to extend online access. The latest issue of the Burlington Magazine is now free for everyone to read. The digital library JSTOR has increased its free access from six articles a month to one hundred. In some ways, being an art historian now is easier and more productive than it’s ever been. What would have taken previous generations of art historians weeks to discover in multiple libraries and archives, I can find from my desk in rural Scotland in just minutes.

Of course, before I get too carried away, there remains the minor issue of not actually being able to see any art, at least in person. But here the modern art historian can call on another gift not available to their predecessors: the online collection. Many museums have spent the best part of two decades building highly complex databases with not only images but detailed catalogue entries. Some are truly the Rolls-Royces of their kind. In my view, the Royal Collection’s is excellent. Another is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which not only has a detailed online database but also scholarly exhibition catalogues going back to the 1870s.

My favourite online collections are those that have been lovingly compiled by the same individual curators since their creation. Hugo Chapman, the keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum (BM), has been adding information to the BM’s catalogues since 1995. I seem to find myself indebted to him at least once a week as I scour the BM’s excellent database. That said, some museums seem to have missed the invention of the internet altogether; the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp still has no online collection site, even though the museum itself has been shut for renovation since 2011.

Of course, art historians don’t normally have to juggle their work with home schooling, or an even greater degree of financial precarity than they normally face, to say nothing of dodging potentially lethal viruses. But it may be some solace that amid all the anxiety we are able to work in a field filled with beauty and wonder, even if it is only accessible—for now—through a screen.

  • Bendor Grosvenor is an art historian and broadcaster

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PHOTOS: Thousands gather at Vancouver Art Gallery to protest racism – Vernon Morning Star

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A protest against anti-black violence and racism took over the grounds in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday night.

Thousands attended the rally, which Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said was peaceful.

The protest Sunday (May 31) comes after nearly a week of protests in the United States, which were sparked by a Minneapolis police officer seen on video kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died in custody after pleading that he could not breathe. Derek Chauvin was charged with murder Friday, and all four police officers present during Floyd’s death have been fired.

Floyd’s death was the latest in a series of confrontations, assaults and deaths of black Americans. On Feb. 23, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was fatally shot in Georgia while jogging. On March 13, Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed during a nighttime “no-knock warrant” by plainclothes Louisville police officers. On May 25, a woman called the police on Christian Cooper to tell them he was “threatening [her] life” when Cooper asked the woman to put her dog on a leash in New York’s Central Park.

In Canada, protesters also want answers about Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman fell to her death from a 24th-floor apartment when police responded to a 911 call. Korchinski-Paquet’s death is being investigated by the police watchdog.

Jacob Callender-Prasad, the organizer of the event, had called for Sunday rally to be peaceful.

“We do not need to riot in Vancouver, we do not need to destroy our community – that’s not needed here,” Callender-Prasad said in a video posted to the Black Vancouver Instagram page.

“It’s not the same as the United States. We don’t have cops going around causing damage here.”

Callender-Prasad has asked attendees to wear face masks and practice social distancing as COVID-19 precautions remain in effect in B.C. Organizers had expected about 1,000 to 2,000 people

Callender-Prasad said Sunday’s event would include a social media shoutout to U.S. President Donald Trump “to ask him to actually push the governor in Minnesota, to push them to charge those other three officers.”

Callender-Prasad said that although police brutality may be more prevalent south of the border, there are still issues in Canada to address.

“We still have instances in Canada of these unwanted and unfortunate events.”

The Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter said it was not the organizer of the event but stood in solidarity with those protesting.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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Theatre and film are inherently political, say art critics – CBC.ca

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Dictators and autocrats on all sides of the political spectrum have always kept a close eye on what artists do and say. 

Oligarchs know that art is dangerous. Art is subversive and anything that makes people think, or question, is a threat to those who wield power.

Art is political. In a discussion recorded at the Stratford Festival last year, three New York Times journalists discuss the politics of theatre — the relationship between what’s on the stage, and what’s going on in the lives and the world of the people in the audience.

“What makes theatre inherently political is that it’s an art of conversation and it’s an art of being in a room watching people talk to each other and work issues out,” says Scott Heller, theatre editor of the New York Times.

“I think that that’s why, unlike digital forms or other visual art forms, there’s something small p-political about being involved in watching theatre that leads you to think big P- politically … the art of theatre is the art of people negotiating and that immediately leads to larger ways to think about politics.”

Theatre is at its best when it can both reflect back what is happening in the world and also lead the audience to find a common ground in understanding each other and agreeing on common societal values, says Heller.

Representation in film

The history of theatre suggests that this has pretty much always been the case. The very oldest written plays we have come from ancient Greece nd those plays evoke similar experiences to a play written yesterday: we see characters much like ourselves, onstage, working out personal dilemmas and family feuds, while larger social struggles of the times loom in the background.

All of which means that we don’t always need new plays to understand the present we find ourselves in. Old plays frequently give us unnerving insights into ourselves today, and the modern society we live in. Turns out, people haven’t changed much over the millennia — and nor has human society.

The “kissing-cousin” as it were, of theatre is of course film — a similar story-and-audience relationship being played out, but with some quite profound differences.

Cara Buckley covers film for the New York Times — a medium that puts a premium on new production, and on the relevance of what people see to their own lives.

“What happens on that screen is so important for the audience in terms of how they see themselves and how they relate,” Buckley explains.

” I remember…seeing a film with Meryl Streep about the suffragettes, and I’d never seen so many women on screen doing smart political things that I was kind of taken aback.”

[embedded content]

As a woman, Buckley says that experience speaks to the need for representation of different voices which she says is political. She adds the effect on the audience is profound when you see yourself reflected back to you by your own culture.

For both theatre and film, that question of the audience seeing themselves reflected on the stage or screen has become hugely important; in a ‘popular’ art form. The politics demands that the diversity of society needs to be represented in what we see.

“The response theatre had for many years was to try to speak to everyone at once. And that works when you have a big musical of a certain type, but otherwise it doesn’t work,” Jesse Green remarks. 

The co-chief theater critic for The New York Times says theatre now is heading in a different direction, one he adds is a good thing.

“Theatre makers are understanding the power of what the other art forms have done, fractionalising and speaking to smaller groups — whether to encourage them in something they already know or whether to show them something that they thought they knew but actually didn’t.”
 

Guests in this episode:

Cara Buckley is a culture reporter for the New York Times who covers bias and equity issues in Hollywood.  Previously, she worked as the Carpetbagger columnist, covering the campaigns and controversies of the film awards season. She has been a Metro reporter, covered the Iraq war and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues.  Born in Dublin, she grew up in Ireland and Canada, and lives in Brooklyn.

Scott Heller is the theater editor of The New York Times. He joined The Times in 2010 from The Boston Globe, where he had served as arts editor. Mr. Heller, a Brooklyn native, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he also earned an M.A. in American Studies.

Jesse Green is the co-chief theater critic for The New York Times. From 2013 to 2017 he was the theater critic for New York magazine, where he had also been a contributing editor, writing long-form features, since 2008. Articles he has written for these and many other publications have been recognized with nominations and prizes from the National Magazine Awards and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, among others.


* This episode was produced by Philip Coulter. It was recorded in 2019 in Stratford by Melissa Renaud. Special thanks to Ann Swerdfager and Antoni Cimolino.

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N.B. art festival shifts gears to accommodate for physical-distancing – CTV News

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SAINT JOHN —
A popular New Brunswick art festival has shifted its format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

THIRD SHIFT is a contemporary art festival organized by the artist-run Third Space Gallery in Saint John.

“The mandate of the gallery is to transform unused spaces, or to reimagine different spaces in the uptown and beyond, to be an outdoor gallery space,” says Abigail Smith, festival associate.

THIRD SHIFT is in its sixth year and has drawn thousands of people to the city of Saint John.

The festival is usually a one-night only event, however, this year it will run for an entire week to accommodate for physical-distancing.

“The idea is that instead of having one event that happens for a few hours for one night, that if you’re not there you miss it, the idea is with the expansion of the festival, in terms of time and in terms of space, that we’ll prevent gathering that way,” says Katie Buckley, the executive director of Third Space Gallery.

“I think it’s really kind of a staple in the summer calendar in Saint John, so we’re really happy that we’re not cancelled and we’re going ahead in a new way.”

This year’s festival will showcase a series of temporary public art installations, along with digital programming.

“It actually has opened up a lot of possibility of having artists across Canada participate because so much of it is going to be online,” says Smith.

The THIRD SHIFT Festival will take place from August 21 to 28.

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