Two local artists are nearly finished creating a mural on the side of a shipping container in a Stratford restaurant’s parking lot as part of an initiative by the Stratford City Centre BIA and the regional tourism organization to bring more public art to the city.
An enigmatic painting from Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli will go on auction next year and art watchers will be seeing if it fetches more than its eye-watering $80 million US estimate, despite the pandemic.
Botticelli’s 15th-century portrait of a nobleman in Young Man Holding a Roundel is the highlight of Sotheby’s Masters Week sale series in New York in January.
“Just the sheer beauty of this has been a joy,” said Christopher Apostle, who has for more than three decades handled the Old Master Drawings sale and is now head of the division. “I can’t think of a Botticelli like this that’s been on the open international market.”
Opportunities to acquire a Botticelli — the artist behind such masterpieces as Primavera and The Birth of Venus — are very rare.
“The fact that there are 12 known portraits by Botticelli puts it in an elite type of situation,” said Apostle. “These are the most personal things he produced, in a way. It’s just something he’s doing with one individual.”
The auction house believes it could get over $100 million. The last painting to achieve that level at auction was Claude Monet’s Meules at Sotheby’s New York in 2019, going for $110 million.
Painting last acquired in 1982
If it reaches those dizzying heights, it would represent a windfall for the present owner. The painting was last acquired at auction in 1982 for the equivalent of just over $1 million today.
Apostle doesn’t believe the global pandemic will depress interest in the work. “We’ve seen even during this time period that people are hungry for art, hungry for masterpieces, always.”
The painting — believed to have been executed in the late 1470s or early 1480s — actually represents two art works. Botticelli painted the noble sitter but the roundel — a circular disc used as a symbol — depicts a saint, and is an original 14th-century work attributed to the Sienese painter Bartolomeo Bulgarini.
Who the young man depicted has been lost to history as well as why he holds the roundel. Some scholars believe he is associated with the ruling House of Medici or another powerful family in Florence.
Apostle says some things can be inferred: The young man’s hair is long and fashionable for the time. His tunic is buttoned up and restrained, dressed in a republican way.
“There’s a rectitude to this picture and a lack of arrogance while still being very confident, that I think exemplifies that attitude that these republicans in Florence felt about themselves,” he said. “Also, by presenting this medallion, he’s just making sure we’re aware he’s a cultivated person.”
In the past 50 years, the painting has spent extended periods on loan at the National Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Revival House mural part of local push for more public-art projects in Stratford – The Beacon Herald
Over the past few weeks, those who have passed by the rear parking lot at Revival House in Stratford may have noticed a colourful, new addition to the normally drab space.
At the far east side of the lot, Stratford artists Claire Scott and Amparo Villalobos have been painting a colourful and striking mural on the side of a large shipping container as part of a public-art initiative launched this year by the Stratford City Centre BIA and RTO4, the regional tourism organization for Waterloo and surrounding region.
“For a number of years, we’ve been looking at different walls, speaking with different owners of buildings, and just trying to convince them in general to be able to secure a wall for a mural, which is a little bit more difficult than you would imagine,” said Rebecca Scott, general manager of the Stratford City Centre BIA.
“We’re in this premier art town, and we don’t have a ton of public art going on.”
In January, the BIA partnered with RTO4 to embark on one of these mural projects. Though they had a Toronto artist lined up, the project was pushed to the side as the BIA focused its effort and budget on pandemic responses and recovery efforts.
But the project wasn’t forgotten and, by the time summer began to wind down, Rebecca Scott approached Revival House restaurant owner Rob Wigan about having some local artists paint a mural on a shipping container sitting in the restaurant’s back parking lot.
“We didn’t think we were going to be able to do a mural this year, and then toward the end of the summer we started to look at some of the objectives we had throughout the year and we tried to start the ball rolling again after a big pause,” Rebecca Scott said.
Without the time to secure permission and permits to do a mural on the side of a building, the Revival House shipping container seemed to be the perfect way to bring some colour to the city and start business owners and local artists thinking about where and how additional murals could be painted in the years to come.
For the Revival House Mural, Claire Scott and Villalobos were asked to design something that fit the title, #LoveWins – one that Rebecca Scott and the BIA felt was fitting in a year when every member of the community has come together to support one another through the pandemic.
“The phrase #LoveWins is pretty self-explanatory,” Villalobos said Friday, alongside Claire Scott, as the pair took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to get the mural as close to complete as possible. “We’ve tried to incorporate the idea of freedom and a combination of all the things we feel are attractive about Stratford and things that correspond with the experiences we’ve had over the years in Stratford.”
Though the artists submitted a basic design to the BIA depicting what they intended to paint, they said they were given a lot of freedom to explore their creativity and almost improvise the piece as they worked.
The result of that improvisational art is a symphony of colour and imagery, both recognizable and abstract, that immediately draws the eyes of passersby.
“We’re really just building upon layers and feeling the moment. … It’s kind of this reflection to inspire artists to keep doing what they’re doing and symbolizing the appreciation for the spaces that we do have,” Claire Scott said.
Both the BIA and the artists hope this mural and those to come will help transform more of Stratford’s outdoor spaces into places where locals and visitors can congregate – once it’s safe to do so – to enjoy live events and music.
Claire Scott and Villalobos expect they will complete their mural by the end of this weekend. Those who pass by and like what they see are encouraged to snap a photo of the mural and share it on Instagram with #LoveWins.
Anthony Kiendl sets a new course at the Vancouver Art Gallery – Vancouver Sun
Article content continued
“(Plug In was) definitely internationally known in contemporary art but probably not with everyday people in suburban Winnipeg,” he said.
“They wanted to grow and take that next step.”
Kiendl realized the best way for Plug In to do that was to approach the University of Winnipeg and create a joint venture partnership.
“That’s what gave us the gasoline and critical mass to make the project happen,” he said.
In a four-year capital campaign, Kiendl raised $4 million as Plug In’s share for the $15 million building at 460 Portage Avenue, across from Hudson’s Bay and next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Plug In’s attendance increased ten-fold.
In Regina, he took over as CEO and executive director of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 2014. The gallery began to struggle financially when it was hit with major funding cuts, including $100,000 from an annual grant on its $2 million operating budget.
One area he targeted was free admission. When the MacKenzie started charging $10 for adults it was offset by several measures to ensure community access such as free admission for anyone under 17 and free days covered by a corporate donor.
The public voted with their feet: attendance over three years increased by almost 40 per cent. With the addition of a café, earned revenue jumped by 247 per cent.
“It is kind of sad but I did come to believe if something has a value attached to it, people value it,” he said.
“If it’s free, I think at a certain level, people are thinking, ‘Maybe it’s not that good.’”
Bruce Springsteen and the Art of Aging Well – The Atlantic
I recently saw a photo of Lyndon B. Johnson in the first year of his presidency. He looked like a classic old guy—wrinkled, mature, in the late season of life. It was a shock to learn that he was only 55 at the time, roughly the same age as Chris Rock is now. He left the presidency, broken, and beaten, at 60, the same age as, say, Colin Firth is now.
Something has happened to aging. Whether because of better diet or health care or something else, a 73-year-old in 2020 looks like a 53-year-old in 1935. The speaker of the House is 80 and going strong. The presidential candidates are 77 and 74. Even our rock stars are getting up there. Bob Dylan produced a remarkable album this year at 79. Bruce Springsteen released an album today at 71. “Active aging” is now a decades-long phase of life. As the nation becomes a gerontocracy, it’s worth pondering: What do people gain when they age, and what do they lose? What does successful aging look like?
President Donald Trump is a prime example of an unsuccessful older person—one who still lusts for external validation, who doesn’t know who he is, who knows no peace. Nearly two millennia ago, the Roman statesman Cicero offered a more robust vision of what elders should do and be: “It’s not by strength or speed or swiftness of body that great deeds are done,” he wrote, “but by wisdom, character and sober judgment. These qualities are not lacking in old age but in fact grow as time passes.”
Springsteen is the world champion of aging well—physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. His new album and film, Letter to You, are performances about growing older and death, topics that would have seemed unlikely for rock when it was born as a rebellion for anyone over 30. Letter to You is rich in lessons for those who want to know what successful aging looks like. Far from being sad or lachrymose, it’s both youthful—loud and hard-charging—and serene and wise. It’s a step forward from his Broadway show that debuted three years ago and his memoir, released four years ago. Now he’s not only telling the story of his life, but asking, in the face of death, about life’s meaning, and savoring life in the current moment.
It’s the happiest Springsteen album maybe in decades. “When I listen to it, there’s more joy than dread,” Springsteen told me. “Dread is an emotion that all of us have become very familiar with. The record is a little bit of an antidote to that.” The album generates the feeling you get when you meet a certain sort of older person—one who knows the story of her life, who sees herself whole, and who now approaches the world with an earned emotional security and gratitude.
The album, and the film that recorded the making of the album (I recommend watching the film first), was occasioned by a death. From 1965 to 1968, when rock was in its moment of explosive growth and creativity, Springsteen was in a band called the Castiles. Two years ago, Springsteen found himself at the bedside of a member of that band, George Theiss, as he died of cancer. After his passing, Springsteen realized that he is the sole remaining survivor from that band—the “Last Man Standing,” as he puts it in one of the songs on the new album.
The experience created an emotional vortex and the music poured out of him. “The actual mechanics of songwriting is only understandable up to a certain point,” Springsteen told me, “and it’s frustrating because it’s at that point that it begins to matter. Creativity is an act of magic rising up from your subconscious. It feels wonderful every time it happens, and I’ve learned to live with the anxiety of it not happening over long periods of time.”
On the album, Springsteen goes back in time to those mid-’60s years when he, Theiss, and the Castiles would play in the union halls, hullabaloo clubs, and bowling alleys around Freehold, New Jersey. He goes further back, to his childhood, and reminisces about the trains that used to rumble through town; the pennies he’d put on the tracks; and when he first became familiar with death as a boy, going to the funerals of his extended clan, walking up semi-terrified and kneeling before the casket and then walking back home with a sense of trembling accomplishment.
“Memory is many things,” the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister has written. “It is a call to resolve in us what simply will not go away.” Springsteen has made a career, and built a global fan base, out of going back and back, to Freehold and Asbury Park, and digging, digging, digging to understand the people he grew up around and who made him, for good and ill, the man he became. “The artists who hold our attention,” he told me, “have something eating away at them, and they never quite define it, but it’s always there.”
Even in his 70s, Springsteen still has drive. What drives him no longer feels like ambition, he said, that craving for success, recognition, and making your place in the world. It feels more elemental, like the drive for water, food, or sex. He talks about this in the movie: “After all this time, I still feel the burning need to communicate. It’s there when I wake every morning. It walks alongside of me throughout the day … Over the past 50 years, it has never ceased. Is it loneliness, hunger, ego, ambition, desire, a need to be felt and heard, recognized, all of the above? All I know, it is one of the most consistent impulses of my life.”
With the Castiles, he not only learned how to do his job but also found his mode of emotional communication and a spiritual awareness. He found his vocation, and his vehicle for becoming himself. A lot of the music on this album is about music, the making of it and the listening to it, the power that it has. The songs “House of A Thousand Guitars” and “Power of Prayer” are about those moments when music launches you out of normal life and toward transcendence. For a nonreligious guy, Springsteen is the most religious guy on the planet; his religion is musical deliverance.
Like every successful mature person, Springsteen oozes gratitude—especially for relationships. The film is largely about the camaraderie of the E Street Band, men and women who have been playing together off and on for 45 years and who have honed their skills and developed a shorthand for communicating. We watch them discussing and arguing over how to put each song together, then savor the end result. The band sounds fantastic, especially the powerful drumming of Max Weinberg.
The film intersperses clips of Springsteen recording and performing with the same guys four decades ago, when they were young and lithe, and today, when they’re a bit grizzled. “We weren’t immune from the vicissitudes. We had the same ups and downs as most rock bands,” Springsteen told me. “It’s like a marriage. The ups and downs have deepened us. The band is as close now as it’s ever been. We had to suffer.”
Letter to You is a sincere and vulnerable album. It conveys Springsteen’s appreciation for the conversation he’s had with his audience, and his appreciation for the dead and the debts we owe them. The core of the album comprises three songs about how the dead live on in us and in the ensuing generations. “It’s just your ghost / Moving through the night / Your spirit filled with light / I need, need you by my side / Your love and I’m alive,” Springsteen sings in “Ghosts,” the best track on the album.
“When you’re young, you believe the world changes faster than it does. It does change, but it’s slow,” Springsteen told me. “You learn to accept the world on its terms without giving up the belief that you can change the world. That’s a successful adulthood—the maturation of your thought process and very soul to the point where you understand the limits of life, without giving up on its possibilities.”
Attaining that perspective is the core of successful maturity. Carrying the losses gently. Learning to live with the inner conflicts, such as alternating confidence and insecurity. Getting out of your own way, savoring life and not trying to conquer it, shedding the self-righteousness that sometimes accompanies youth, and giving other people a break. The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, as they used to say.
That perspective is evident in the movie’s “bright sadness,” to use a term from the Franciscan monk Richard Rohr. Directed by Thom Zimny, the film cuts again and again to overhead shots of snow-covered forests—Old Man Winter coming. But inside the studio, everything is warm and full of music. The dreams of Springsteen and his band came true times a thousand; they have good reason to be content in old age. But studies show that most people do get happier as they age. They focus more on life’s pleasures than its threats.
As you watch the film, you may think of not only personal maturity but also national maturity. America has always fancied itself as wild and innocent; youth, Oscar Wilde observed, is the country’s oldest tradition. After the past 20 years, and especially after the presidency of Donald Trump, we’ve become jaded, and look askance at our former presumption of innocence. But, taking a cue from Springsteen, maybe we can achieve a more mature national perspective in the years post-Trump.
“Joe Biden is like one of the fathers in the neighborhood I grew up with as a kid,” Springsteen told me. “They were firemen and policemen, and there was an innate decency to most of them that he carries naturally with him. It’s very American.”
Approaching 80, Biden is pretty old. Seventy-seven is probably not the ideal age to start such a grueling job as president of the United States. But making the most of the not-ideal is what maturity teaches. The urge to give something to future generations rises up in people over 65, and a style of leadership informed by that urge may be exactly what American needs right now. Today, being 77 doesn’t have to be a time of wrapping things up; it’s just the moment you’re in, still moving to something better. Maybe this can be America—not in decline, but moving with maturity to a new strength.
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