Monthly Archives: March, 2018

“How Egg Tempera Painters Crack the Mystery of the Perfect Yolk,” By Karen Chernick

“How Egg Tempera Painters Crack the Mystery of the Perfect Yolk”

‘Just in time for Easter and Passover, we’ve hatched a practical guide to the centuries-old egg-based paint.’

By Karen Chernick


What would Easter be without the decorated egg? Powder blue, rose pink, and daffodil-yellow ovals have become synonymous with the springtime holiday, and painting or dyeing the white canvas of egg shells has reputedly been a popular tradition since the Middle Ages. Eggs are also a fixture on Passover Seder plates, symbolizing a sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem.

But there’s also a centuries-old artistic tradition of painting using the eggs themselves. Egg tempera was a ubiquitous technique during the early Italian Renaissance, when it was considered the standard for portable easel paintings. Botticelli, Raphael, and Andrew Wyeth all painted with tempera. Today, the quick-drying medium, which employs a 50/50 blend of egg yolk and color pigment, is mostly in use by a brave few contemporary practitioners (who must not mind the smell of aging eggs in the studio).

These seasoned artists know what to look for in the perfect paint-worthy egg. Some of them, such as Mary Frances Dondelinger, have been known to use hundreds of eggs a month. Others are regulars at particular farmers’ markets, or swear by a specific brand of store-bought eggs. Just in case you’re not able to raise your own hen (which most agree is the very best option), here’s your guide to sourcing the ideal egg, according to six contemporary egg tempera painters.

Sandro Botticelli, “The Birth of Venus,” tempera on canvas (c. 1486, via Wikimedia)

1. Do you want to eat it?

If it doesn’t look appetizing to eat, it probably isn’t — and shouldn’t be used for painting, either. “The best eggs for egg tempera are fresh and healthy,” says Miranda Gray, a New-Mexico based painter. “The eggs that you would most want to eat yourself are the eggs that work best for egg tempera.”

Robin-Lee Hall, a UK-based artist, agrees: she buys the same eggs for her studio and her refrigerator. A loyal customer of a British brand called Burford Browns, Hall says, “They make delicious creamy scrambled egg.”

2. Is it fresh?

The fresher the better, for eggs and most perishable ingredients. But how far do you take that recommendation? “I heard of one painter who caught the eggs before they hit the nest to get the freshest and warmest eggs for painting,” says Mary Frances Dondelinger. Of course, not everyone has a flock of hens at their disposal.

Robin-Lee Hall, “Joy,” egg tempera on gesso panel, 28 x 24 inches (courtesy of the artist)

Beyond the sell-by date on a store-bought egg carton, you can gauge whether an egg is fresh by the strength of the shell, and how easy it is to separate the yolk from the egg white. “If the egg is old or sickly, the membrane between the yellow and white is not strong, the shell is thin and weak, and it is very difficult to separate the egg,” Gray says.

3. What color is the yolk?

It’s worth shelling out the extra money for richer-colored yolks. As a culinary ingredient, yolks are a binder that adds a creamy texture to dishes. In tempera painting, they are the glue that keeps pigment particles together. “The cheapest eggs have the palest yolks,” says Rosemary Antel, a Seattle-based landscape painter. “Pastured hens and organic eggs have yolks that are almost red-orange.” Hall buys Burford Browns because of their “bright rich cadmium orange yolk,” she says. “It needs to be rich and thick.”

4. Free-range from the farmers’ market, or store-bought?

There isn’t a consensus among egg tempera painters on whether farm-fresh eggs make a difference in the final painted product. “I have tried organic versus not, brown eggs and white, and shades between, and found it’s not of any significant difference,” explains Mona Conner, a tempera portrait painter. “It’s just about the freshness.

“For many years I bought store eggs for eating and painting,” says Ella Frazer, a Scottish-born painter now based in Florida. “I am now vegetarian and always buy organic cage-free eggs. I certainly haven’t noticed any change.”

Miranda Gray, “Yoda in Spring,” egg tempera on panel, 5″×7.5″ (courtesy of the artist)

5. Do you have to paint with chicken eggs?

Painters of a different feather may not use chicken eggs at all. According to Antel, Alaska Natives have a tradition of mixing salmon eggs with finely ground rock to create paint.

Among artists drawing from the European tradition, birds have been the egg-hatchers of choice, but chickens don’t have a monopoly on egg tempera. “There is talk of using eggs that have a larger oil content (emu or goose eggs for example) thus producing more brilliant colors,” says Dondelinger. “But when I’m using hundreds of eggs in a month I look for ease of access and I’ve had beautiful results with eggs from the humble chicken.”

Antonio da Fabriano II, “Saint Jerome in His Study,” The Walters Art Museum, tempera and gold leaf on wood panel (c.1450, via Wikimedia)

Featured image: Robin-Lee Hall, “Amber Still Life,” 10×12 inches, egg tempera on gesso panel (courtesy of the artist)


By Karen Chernick, Reprint from Hyperallergic, 30 March 2018, © 2018 Hyperallergic Media Inc.

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” ‘National Geographic’ Turned to a Photo Historian to Help Reckon With Its Colonialist Past. Even He Was Unsettled by What He Found,” By Ben Davis

” ‘National Geographic’ Turned to a Photo Historian to Help Reckon With Its Colonialist Past. Even He Was Unsettled by What He Found”

‘John Edwin Mason, a historian of race and photography, spoke to Ben Davis about examining the famed magazine’s troubled history.’

By Ben Davis


After more than a century of covering the Earth’s manifold splendor and diverse peoples through distinctly Western eyes, leaving it open to charges of colonialism (if not outright racism), National Geographic has now turned its lens on itself.

The magazine’s special April issue is dedicated to examining the subject of race from a variety of angles: theories of the social construction of race, the racial profiling of black motorists, the present-day renaissance of historical black colleges, the mounting tensions triggered by the demographic shifts in the nation, and even Brazilian artist Angelica Dass‘s project “Humanae,” which pairs over 4,000 people from around the world with different Pantone color swatches. Yet National Geographic editor Susan Goldberg’s letter introducing the issue has made the biggest splash, with its blunt admission: “For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It.

Given National Geographic’s status as an icon of mainstream taste and its role in shaping how generations have viewed the world, the magazine’s mea culpa has been something of an event. Over the last week, Goldberg’s letter has gained widespread media attention and been debated across social media–which makes sense, considering that the 130-year-old magazine also claims to be the world’s biggest social media brand, boasting a staggering 350 million followers across various platforms, and thus a huge ability to shape public conversation.

National Geographic’s self-examination chimes with a larger trend of legacy media properties reexamining their historical blind spots, including the New York Times’s recent project of writing obituaries for women overlooked by the Paper of Record in their time. And while the “Race Issue” has not been without criticism–particularly of its cover story, which uses fraternal twins who have different skin colors to make the point that race is a social construct–the sheer amount of attention that the gesture has garnered means that it is likely to inspire more similar gestures.

The research that formed the basis of Goldberg’s letter was done by John Edwin Mason, who teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia, in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. A specialist in both the culture of South Africa and the Civil Rights photographer Gordon Parks, Mason was given the mandate to dig into the National Geographic archive to assess the magazine’s history in anticipation of the April issue.

I spoke with Mason about his research process, the historical context that shaped National Geographic, and how the social movements of the 1960s slowly transformed its coverage–just as, little by little, the social movements of the present seem to be reshaping its coverage today.

Photography historian John Edwin Mason. Image courtesy John Edwin Mason.

Let’s start with the question of why you think this has been such a big deal.

When Susan Goldberg asked me to do this, and told me about this special issue on race, I thought that it was going to get a lot of attention. It has really great people writing for it. I know some of the photographers, and they’re fantastic. And I also knew that these are people who are not going to pull their punches–they’d pull their story before they pull their punches! “This issue is going to make some waves”–that was my thinking.

So I went off and did the research, and the issue was published–and the focus has been entirely on Susan Goldberg’s letter. It’s not on the issue itself, which I think deserves a little more attention than it’s been getting.

And I was surprised. I didn’t reckon with how emotionally invested people are in National Geographic. I think it’s because so many of us, even those of us who grew up African American like myself, experienced this magazine as part of our childhoods. We consumed it pretty uncritically.

National Geographic took me places I’d never been and probably will ever go; it showed me strange things from around the world. I mean, I became a historian of Africa. Did National Geographic play some kind of role in that? Probably. I wanted to go to some of those places I saw in the magazine and meet those people.

Some of that popular investment has to do with the power of its photography, right?

I think it’s more than that. You know, when I was growing up, in the mid- to late-’60s and into the ’70s, the photography was OK–but it got much, much better later. The real allure was what they were showing.

I believe it was the first magazine to go full color.

For sure, the photography always sold the magazine. They were using color very early on, even when it was a very, very expensive process. Before World War II, before Kodachrome, National Geographic was dazzling, like Life only better in terms of the paper stock that they were using and the reproduction of the photographs. And humans are visual. We really, really like to look.

What was the brief that you were given?

It was really open-ended: Go into our archives, find stuff that has to do with the way that the magazine presented race, people of color, Asia, Africa, Latin America, to its readers; then come back and tell Susan Goldberg, the editor, about it.

And, look, I’m a historian. When a private institution like National Geographic says, “Come visit our archives,” that’s the best thing.

But going to their archives was important for the research, because I wanted to see the unpublished photographs. As you know, when a photographer goes off on assignment, he or she is going to come back with many, many more photos than ever get published. Looking at the slides or at the contact sheets or at the work prints can let you get a sense of what the photographer was seeing, what the photographer was not seeing, what the photographer was trying to make happen–because in the age before journalistic or documentary ethics were fully formed, many photographs were staged. You get a sense of how a visual scene was put together.

So I really appreciated the time in the archives. But I couldn’t spend all my time in Washington, DC. I had classes to teach and other writing to do, and so the bulk of the research I did was at the UVA library where, in bound volumes, we have each and every issue of National Geographic since it began publishing in the 1880s.

I couldn’t look at all of that material. So I said, OK, I’m going to poke around in the pre-World War II period–a bit. Poking around is too informal a term. I systematically read select years.

Pictured: Portrait of C.P. Scott (left) and H.E. Gregory. In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in 1916, aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” Image courtesy National Geographic.

You took a sample.

Yes. But I was really most interested in the post-World War II period, for two reasons. The first is that living Americans were shaped by the post-World War II issues, and the second is that the post-World War II era is when America emerges as the dominant world superpower. It is the era of the Civil Rights movement, which was likely to have an impact on the way that the magazine depicted people of color. It’s also the era of decolonization in Africa and Asia.

These factors would have to shape the way that the magazine shows the world–and they did, though not exactly in the ways that I expected.

To the general public, I’d say that the term “National Geographic photography” is already a kind of shorthand for a certain style of popular ethnographic photography. What was it that you found that surprised you?

National Geographic in many ways sets the standard for what I call reportage photography. That’s been increasingly the case since the 1970s, when there was a real uptick in the quality of photography appearing in the magazine. But there was always a general style of National Geographicphotography: National Geographic photography rarely has an edge. National Geographic photography rarely challenges the viewer.

You mean that it doesn’t give readers something that they wouldn’t have already expected from a place?

Things that they wouldn’t have expected in terms of exoticism or strangeness are OK. But things that they would not have expected in a sociological or political sense, not so much.

What I found was an absence that I didn’t expect to be quite so total. I was looking intensively at the period of decolonization. What I saw almost entirely missing was any sense that anti-colonial struggles were building and that nationalist sentiment was growing in Asia and Africa. I saw almost no signs of modern cosmopolitan Africans or the working class or the intellectuals who were driving these movements. I saw few signs of urbanizing Africa. I saw few signs of Africans making connections between each other on the continent or looking to anti-colonial and anti-racist movements across the globe.

Anyone who read National Geographic would have been gobsmacked by the emergence of new nations, and totally unprepared to understand why this was happening. I expected National Geographic to be ambivalent. I didn’t expect National Geographic to ignore these movements almost completely. That really was something of a surprise.

Those struggles were very much a part of the Civil Rights conversation in the US: Martin Luther King going to Africa, speaking about its transformation in his sermon “The Birth of a New Nation.

Even Richard Nixon was present at the birth of Ghana! Foreign policy elites were very concerned about courting these new nations. It was a complicated relationship, because Britain and France, the colonizing nations, were also our allies. Nevertheless, other media showed a strong awareness that these things were happening.

I know Life magazine very, very well, because I’m writing a book about Gordon Parks and I’m writing an article about Life‘s representation of Africa. Life paid a lot of attention. Not all of it good, but also not all of it bad.

I was just reading your essay about Life where you talk about how, in the face of the Cold War and Civil Rights struggles, the magazine’s tone reflected a kind of a compromise.

There was an uncomfortable ambivalence in Life. After all, Life was almost entirely produced by white Americans who had grown up and were comfortable with a very segregated society, and many had their doubts about the fitness of African Americans or African people and Asian people for self-government and self-rule.

On the other hand, Life was also full of people who were uncomfortable with segregation and who did believe that African Americans had gotten a raw deal and that maybe colonization had its problems. There’s a reason why the magazine hired Gordon Parks, right? It didn’t hire two Gordon Parks. He was the one and only African American on the editorial staff for a very long time. But at least he was there.

So Life was deeply ambivalent. With National Geographic, you don’t sense that ambivalence at all.

In fact, you see the enthusiastic embrace of European and American colonialism, because, by the way, we also had colonized the Philippines and Puerto Rico and Hawaii and the entire continental United States. National Geographic was very comfortable with the commonsense notion that the white man by right gets to dominate the globe, that rule by North American and Western European powers simply makes sense. This state of affairs was seen as the natural working out of the laws of human development that placed white people on top, and especially Western Europeans and Americans, who had a responsibility, at best, to lift the Asian or African masses out of darkness and into the light of civilization–because of course those peoples couldn’t do it on their own. They needed help and guidance.

So National Geographic is less ambivalent than Life, but actually less ambivalent in the direction of being more comfortable with colonialism?

Exactly. They embraced the colonialist vision of the world until well after World War II. I think that what’s happening in the ’50s is that they’re plugging their ears and shutting their eyes. They don’t want to know about colonization, and they don’t want to know about nationalist movements, like a child sticking his fingers in his ears and going, “La la la la la.”

“Cards and clay pipes amuse guests in Fairfax House’s 18th-century parlor,” reads the caption in a 1956 article on Virginia history. Although slave labor built homes featured in the article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.” Photograph by Robert F. Sisson and Donald McBain. Image courtesy National Geographic.

Do you see this as a conscious editorial policy or an unconscious bias, or a mix of the two?

It’s a mix. It does make a difference that National Geographic came at a moment when the US was becoming a global power. It starts in the late 19th century, the era of America building an overseas empire. It is also the time when elites in Western Europe and North America divided the world into the white world and the “darker races.” All sorts of foreign relations were racialized; they only cease to be so with the coming of the Cold War.

The people who put out National Geographic were intimately connected to the world of corporate and political elites. National Geographic and its editors courted presidents, vice presidents, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, and were sometimes related to them.

They were also fabulously wealthy. National Geographic‘s longtime editor [Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, editor from 1899-1954] was Alexander Graham Bell’s son-in-law. Graham Bell had made pots and pots of money through his telephone monopoly. Another longtime editor [Melville Bell Grosvenor, editor from 1957-67] was the son of the son-in-law. So it’s almost a family concern for a long time, and they were very wealthy and very elite and very comfortable in those worlds.

Part of the change in National Geographic that begins in the late ’60s early ’70s is due to an editorial change. Although, part of it was also that the Civil Rights movement and decolonization were finally catching up with it.

South African goldminers were “entranced by thundering drums” during “vigorous tribal dances,” a 1962 issue reported. Photograph by Kip Ross. Image courtesy National Geographic.

Susan Goldberg mentions the two stories about South Africa, one from 1977 and one from 1962 in which Apartheid isn’t mentioned at all.

The ’62 article is appalling in so many ways. It sees South Africa only through the eyes of white South Africans; it is not at all critical of Apartheid, notoriously one of the most brutal forms of white supremacy the world has ever known; and it comes more or less right after the Sharpeville Massacre, where 69 people at a peaceful nonviolent protest were shot and killed by the police, and many others were wounded. It comes at a time when the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa is global news. Nelson Mandela’s name is well known. The African National Congress is a well known freedom movement.

I can’t help but keep drawing parallels with Life. Life had a very strong anti-Apartheid article [“South Africa and Its Problem“] that was almost entirely done by Margaret Bourke-White in 1950. Bourke-White was a really good journalist who doesn’t get the credit she deserves. She went to South Africa, and she was horrified, really horrified by what she saw. I’ve read the letters that she wrote after her trip. Flames come off the page. The Lifemagazine photo essay doesn’t have that anger, because the editors didn’t publish the stronger photos, but Bourke-White’s essay is still really intense and it stands up after 50 years. I mean, it says what South Africa was all about: racial oppression and class exploitation. It’s really something, almost neo-Marxist.

Then, after the Sharpeville massacre, Life did two stories. The first one was just about the horror of the event, with really powerful Ian Berry pictures of people fleeing for their lives. A week later they published Peter Magubane’s famous funeral picture of just rows of caskets, with Anglican priests saying prayers over them.

I think this is a really important point: It’s not just that National Geographic reflected the blindnesses and default white view of its time. It was actually behind the times, even relative to its peers.

I’ve listened to interviews with the National Geographic photographers. Some were completely on board with the way that that National Geographicoperated and saw the world, and you’ll hear them describing going out on assignment and looking to take pictures that showed people living a life that might have been lived 500 years ago. They consciously wanted to place their subjects in this timeless unchanging past.

But you’ll hear other interviews with the National Geographic staff photographers who would say, “Man, we hated that shit.” In fact, I heard one recently speaking about that 1962 article. The photographer essentially says that it was shameful, and that the staff at the time was aware. He says, “We were young, we were rebellious, but we were being edited by old white guys”–and, of course, they’re all white guys, but their editors were old men in their 60s.

There was a sense of generational conflict going on, of internal dissent. I tend to talk in sweeping terms about National Geographic‘s corporate culture, but it’s important to say that there was internal dissent.

In fact, if we were looking for the changes in the 1970s, it may be also a generational change. In the ’70s, there was a new editor-in-chief and I’m sure new subordinate editors, and I think that undercurrent of dissent is what begins the process of change.

Did your brief end in the ’70s essentially?

No, I took it up into the 21st century.

And you do see a shifting in the magazine over time?

I mean, it’s gradual, and sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back, like all change. The magazine in the ’70s is not what it was in the ’60s. The same thing can be said about the ’90s and into the present.

Susan’s letter is not the start of something; it’s a culmination of changes that have already happened. It’s making explicit the critique of the magazine, where I think the magazine has been privately or implicitly critiquing itself for some time now.

The challenge for the magazine going forward is: now what do you do?


Featured image: April 2018 issue of National Geographic, a single topic issue on the subject of race. Courtesy of National Geographic.


By Ben Davis, Reprint from Artnet, 21 March 2018, (c) 2018 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

“… A New Show — Paul Klee’s Wartime Paintings Reveals the Beloved Artist’s Dark Side,” By Eileen Kinsella

“The Arrows Mean Death: A New Show of
Paul Klee’s Wartime Paintings Reveals the Beloved Artist’s Dark Side”

‘A show of more than 100 works by Swiss-German Surrealist Paul Klee shows the blood and gore behind his oeuvre.’

By Eileen Kinsella


An exhibition of work by Paul Klee aims to reveal a darker side of the Swiss-German painter. Currently on view at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, “Klee in Wartime” features an array of often fantastical works informed by the artist’s experience during World War I.

“I always thought that the time during the first world war was so important for Klee’s development,” the Swiss museum’s chief curator Fabienne Eggelhôfer told artnet News. “It’s strange because even though he had to go to war, he always found the time to really work and evolve. It’s interesting to see how those two worlds go together.”

In the early 20th century, Klee was already well-established as a member of the avant-garde movement Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider), participating in numerous exhibitions in the years before the war. But the buzzing art scene came to an abrupt halt when conflict broke out in the summer of 1914. Klee’s friends and fellow Blue Rider artists, August Macke and Franz Marc, were killed in action in 1914 and 1916, respectively, and abstract pioneer Wassily Kandinsky temporarily fled back home to Russia.

Paul Klee, Farbige und graphische Winkel (1917). Courtesy Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Klee was drafted into the German army in 1916. Fortunately for him, he was not deployed to the front. Instead, he was posted to airfields far behind the lines where he was responsible for cash administration and painting aircraft with templates in the army’s air corps. Eggelhôfer, who conceived the idea for the Klee show, says she has long been fascinated by the artist’s continued artistic output during this period, as well as his ability “to keep this kind of ironic distance to what was happening during the war.”

The show consists of more than 130 works—including paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, and even hand puppets—rooted in the Expressionist, Cubist, and Surrealist movements for which his oeuvre is known. Almost all are from the museum’s  collection, including an original Kaiser helmet from a Bavarian regiment that was a gift from esteemed Swiss dealer Eberhard Kornfeld. Working with another German institution, the Dreiländermuseum in Loerrach, the Zentrum Paul Klee also obtained loans of materials the artist worked with during his time in uniform.

Paul Klee, Der grosse Kaiser, zum Kampf geruestet (1921). Courtesy Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Eggelhôfer says the periods where Klee was physically separated from his family have proven to be particularly valuable for researchers: “He wrote a lot of postcards and letters to his wife [Bavarian pianist Lily Stumpf]. We know what he’s thinking because he explained to her how his military service was like playacting, with a sense of: ‘I’m just doing what they tell me to do, but I don’t really have anything to do with this.’”

If a sense of detachment offered the artist a kind of mental bunker in wartime, Klee was also extremely inventive during this period. He employed both imagery and materials from his military environment, including linen from airplane wings. “He became very interested in the material because, at the time, it was pretty difficult to get paper, so he began to work more with fabric and use the stencils—numbers and letters that each airplane had—to infuse his work with imagery,” Eggelhöfer says.

Paul Klee, Friedhof (1920). Courtesy Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

Klee’s abstractions also featured weapon-related imagery—such as arrows and exploding zigzags—that the curator says may have been lost on some audiences. The arrows reference “flechettes,” short steel rods with extremely sharp points and fins to facilitate speed. Used by various armies at the time, the brutal weapons—said to be able to easily pierce a steel helmet or human skull—were dropped en masse from planes into the trenches of enemy troops.

In 1917, a year before being discharged, Klee produced a series of works that included what he described as “angular zigzag movements.” The gestures were meant to express the oppression, fear, menace, and destruction wartime populations endured on a mass scale.

The artist’s financial returns may have had a hand in obscuring the true meaning of those symbols. According to background material on the show, Klee “repeatedly addressed the state of war in his works. But he was barely able to sell works like this from 1914 to 1915. This is probably one reason why Klee considered a more abstract pictorial language more appropriate to the expression of contemporary events.”

The approach appears to have paid off—at least in hindsight. Some of Klee’s highest sale prices are for works painted after the war, such as the auction record of $6.8 million paid for Tänzerin (1932), at Christie’s London in June 2011.

As for the works on view in Bern, Eggelhöfer hopes the exhibition will spotlight a deeper, lesser-known side of the artist. “People often think of Klee as a magician of sorts, who created his own sort of mystical dream world,” Eggelhöfer says. “But he was commenting on politics, society and the reality of war and I wanted to present that.”

“Klee in Wartime” is on view at the Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland, through June 3, 2018.


Featured image: Paul Klee, betroffener Ort (1922). Courtesy Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern


By Eileen Kinsella, Reprint from Artnet, 12 March 2018, © 2018 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

“… Mona Lisa May Leave the Louvre… ,” By Henri Neuendorf

“To Combat ‘Cultural Segregation,’ Mona Lisa May Leave the Louvre for the First Time in a Half-Century”

‘The world’s most famous painting hasn’t stepped foot outside the Louvre since 1974.’

By Henri Neuendorf


The Mona Lisa might be packing her bags. Leonardo da Vinci‘s masterwork could leave the Louvre for the first time in 44 years, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen suggested on Thursday.

Speaking to radio station Europe 1, the minister said she was “seriously considering” including the world’s most famous painting in a traveling exhibition of France’s masterpieces, and has held talks with the president of the Louvre in Paris to discuss the idea.

The Mona Lisa has been something of a homebody that last four decades. The last time the iconic portrait went on loan was in 1974 when it went on view in Tokyo and Moscow. Prior to that, Leonardo’s masterpiece traveled to Washington and New York in 1963 and was removed for safekeeping during World War II. Most recently, the Italian city of Florence launched a bid to bring the painting back to Leonardo’s hometown, where the artist is thought to have created the work, but the request was turned down by France’s previous socialist government.

According to the Guardian, France’s current liberal government’s culture policy under Minister Nyssen has taken a markedly different position. Despite the inherent risk of damage and the substantial cost associated with transporting priceless artworks, Nyssen disagrees with keeping France’s national treasures in one place. Instead, she believes in sharing France’s cultural heritage. “My priority is to work against cultural segregation, and a large-scale plan for moving [the works] around is a main way of doing that,” Nyssen said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Mona Lisa would travel outside of France’s borders. But Sylvain Robert, mayor of the Northern French city of Lens, wasted no time in launching a campaign to host the painting at Louvre-Lens, an offshoot of the Paris museum.

In the spirit of France’s new policy of culture sharing, French President Emmanuel Macron has already offered to loan the 1,000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry to Britain. The tapestry, which depicts events of the Norman conquest, will head to the UK in 2022 when the Bayeux Museum is scheduled for renovation.


By Henri Neuendorf, Reprint from Artnet, 2 March 2018, © 2018 Artnet Worldwide Corporation.

“South African Photographer David Goldblatt Honored by Centre Pompidou,” By Elena Martinique

“South African Photographer David Goldblatt Honored by Centre Pompidou”

By Elena Martinique


A key figure in the South African photographic scene and an iconic exponent of politically-committed documentary image-making, David Goldblatt has maintained his distinct and extraordinary tension between subject, territory, politics and representation for forty years. Rejecting the idea of photography being a weapon, he favors a photographic language that is simple, yet intense.

The work of this acclaimed South African photographer will soon be honored at the Center Pompidou in a large-scale retrospective. His first exhibition in France, it will feature over two hundred photographs and a hundred-odd previously unpublished documents, spanning the entire Goldblatt’s output, from lesser-known early works to his most recent photographs.

In addition, there will be a screening of seven short films specially made for the show, featuring Goldblatt providing insights into his works.

Left: David Goldblatt – At a meeting of the Voortrekkers in the suburb of Whitfield, Boksburg. June 1980, 1980 / Right: David Goldblatt – Particulars – Woman With Pierced Ear, 1975

Exploring the Complex History of South Africa

Unrestrictedly exploring his native country through photography since the 1960s, David Goldblatt has scrupulously examined its complex history, including the introduction of Apartheid, its development and demise. Focusing on specific places he knows well, he was able to find the most apposite form to express its complexity, never adopting already-existing photographic solutions.

Guided by his personal story and vision of life, his photographs are characterized by his belief in equality and tolerance and an understanding of people from other cultures and religions. These images reflect the social and political values of the individuals or social groups who build and live in them.

One of his most acclaimed series is Structures, where he explored the life of the small-scale Afrikaner farmers in the wake of Apartheid.

Left: David Goldblatt – On the corner of Commissioner and Eloff Streets, 1979 / Right: David Goldblatt – Shop assistant, Orlando West, 1972, 1972

Exhibition Highlights

Spanning his entire career, the exhibition includes some of his most celebrated bodies of work.

The selection includes series Particulars created in the 1970s that captures the lives of people in South Africa’s gold and platinum mines and in the townships and suburbs of Johannesburg; the series Some Afrikaners Photographed that explore the artist’s relationship with Afrikaners he has met in his father’s clothing shop in Randfontein; the series In Boksburg, where the artist captured everyday scenes in a legally white-only town on the eastern periphery of Johannesburg which was heavily dependent on black labor; the series The Transported of KwaNdebele from 1989 that talks about the workers of an apartheid tribal homeland for blacks, KwaNdebele; among others.

Left: David Goldblatt – Baby in its crib in a rooming house, Soper Road, Hillbrow, Johannesburg. March 1973 / Right: David Goldblatt – An office worker from Tsmeb on holiday, in a rooming house on Abel Road, Hillbrow, March 1973

David Goldblatt at Centre Pompidou

In 1985, the artist explained for De Arte magazine:

I think that photography is a medium that somehow enables me to relate to the world around me and relate the world around me to me.

The exhibition David Goldblatt will be on view at the Center Pompidou in Paris in Gallery 4 on level 1, from February 21st until May 7th, 2018. It is curated by Karolina Ziebinska-Lewandowska, photography department at the Musée national d’art modern. It will be accompanied by a catalog David Goldblatt: Structures of Dominion and Democracy created under the guidance of the exhibition curator.


Slideshow: David Goldblatt – A farmer’s son with his nursemaid, Heimweeberg, Nietverdiend, 1964; Wolwekraal-Marabastad route: In the hope of sleep, amny, after sitting down, cover their faces with cloths or rugs or caps; some try to cushion their heads, 1983; The dethroning of Cecil John Rhodes, after the throwing of human faeces on the statue and the agreement of the University to the demands of students for its removal. The University of Cape Town, 9 April 2015, 2015; The 1000 seat Sanlam Auditorium of the University of Johannesburg, destroyed by arson at 02:00 on 15 May 2016, 2016; Pedestrian bridge over the Cape Town-Johannesburg railway line in the village of Leeu Gamka (population about 2000). Apartheid law required that all public amenities had to be racially segregated. Accordingly, from about 1955, the people of Leeu Gamka crossed this bridge in two streams – “White” and “Non-White”. Since 1992 the apartheid laws and notice boards have gone but the steel divider remains. 30 August 2016, 2016; Marabastad-Waterval route: for most of the people in this bus, the cycle will start again tomorrow at between 2 and 3 am, 1984; Making a coffin for the body of a neighbour’s servant whose family could not afford one, Bootha Plots, Randfontein, 1962; Going to work, Mathysloop, KwaNdebele, 1984, 1984; Willie Bester’s sculpture of Sarah Baartman covered in cloth by students of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement. Main Library, University of Cape Town, 14 May 2016, 2016; Censorship of artworks by the management of the University of Cape Town: at left a drawing by Diane Victor has been covered to hide it; at right, where woodcuts by Cecil Skotnes hung, there are now empty spaces. Crated-over Diane Victor drawing. All images courtesy of Centre Pompidou.


By Elena Martinique, Reprint from Widewalls, 18 February 2018, © 2018 Widewalls.

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