- Has anyone actually leased Poveglia (Europe/the World’s scariest island)? Yes. Early last summer, Poveglia – the beautiful Venetian isle turned plague quarantine – turned insane asylum – turned abandoned food for horror movies – was to be auctioned off on a 99 year lease by the Italian government, in hope that some real estate tycoon would swoop it up and turn it into a resort. I never heard much of a follow-up on the matter; and now I read that Poveglia was auctioned off for 513,000 pounds. The isle stands less than 20 acres; and the buyer, Luigi Brugnaro, would be expected to pay 16.25 million pounds to restore the old asylum buildings. Also, rumor has it that the soil is 50% human ashes, and that fishermen avoid the island because there is a high likelihood of netting human bones. Being the home of plague pits and lobotomies, and the death of 150,000 people, it does sound like a little piece of heaven; but surely superstition shouldn’t get in the way of such things. It’s only a little creepy, but also ridiculously attractive – and a real bargain, as a matter of fact.
- Is there really an Egon Schiele exhibit underway? Yes. Although I am a bit of a traditionalist, I can’t deny that I am swept away by Egon Schiele, who was, after all, born in 1890 (and succumbed to the Spanish influenza, together with his pregnant wife, at the young age of 28). Schiele’s exhibition is taking place at Richard Nagy and there is no entrance fee – so no excuse not to go, either. It covers sketches that deviate from his normal depictions of human form, and stands until the 5th of December. Chop chop. Other than that, I might point out that there is Moroni at the Royal Academy of Arts, Rembrandt (as we’ve briefly discussed before) at the National Gallery, and Turner at the Tate. You know what to do.
- What have you learned this autumn? That finding a nice flat in London wounds the soul, but isn’t impossible. That eating too much takeaway is bad for you (but oh so delicious). That I really need an iphone (sorry, Samsung). That dressing gowns are crucial to ones existence and that one cannot get up in the morning, unless immediately stepping into a dressing gown. That a dressing gown also works as a parka. That as a journalist, one must rather defy court and be jailed/pay a fine than disclose a source. That the gym is a nice place. That old friends are gold. That curry is gold. That ebay is gold (but we already knew that). That referendums are a waste of time (but that doesn’t stop politicians from throwing them all over the place).
Bizarre as it may strike you, I happen to be one of those people with favorite galleries and museums; I genuinely cannot help myself. It’s a madness. Of course, saying that the Louvre or the Louisiana or the Tate Modern is your absolute favorite ever doesn’t count. You’ve gotta go out of your way, you’ve gotta find that one place you swear could be your home, your corner of the world. And I’ve found it; I found it at the age of seventeen, I believe, on a history of art trip to Madrid.
The Museo Sorolla is, to me, that one magical place. Of course, I have other favorites; the Musée Rodin in Paris, which I had the great advantage of growing up next-door to, is one of them; Liljevalchs, another. But Museo Sorolla is both a great gallery and my dream home, merged in one. You basically just need to see the garden, the detail, the bright walls and all the different rooms, the Spanish somberness mixed with Moorish patterns in every color you could possibly imagine. Truly enchanting stuff. The house itself, which is the former residence of painter Joaquín Sorolla (1863-1923) contains most of the artist’s work hung up seemingly randomly in chambers reminding you of a partially depleted antique market. The paintings are striking in their own right; waves of color, light and foam, creating portraits of sea and summer, youth and garments blown in healthy gusts of sea-breeze. It is difficult to find work that conveys a similar feeling of freedom and movement; seas tremble, the coats of animals glisten in the sun, children laugh and run across dunes. Sails shake and waves crash, and there’s a joie de vivre to everything the man depicts, from ox to crumpling veil.
You get a strong feeling that these paintings belong at home, or maybe in a sun-lit beach house outside Valencia, the places most of Sorolla’s paintings depict; not in the Petit Palais, the Prado, or anywhere else. Just like the painter felt confined by the regulated practice of portrait painting, his work would feel confined in the presence of tamer, quieter work. There is no shade of politics, no malice there; Sorolla was, in his lifetime, embraced by his surroundings, financially adept, and showed a greater interest and compassion for his direct community (he was an orphan, which could potentially explain this interest). Most of his work was donated to the public by his widow, Clotilde, whom he continuously portrayed.
Considering I’m lazy and ill this wonderfully ordinary Tuesday evening, this is about to be a bit of a random one. But do not fret! I have a way of rambling my way toward better things. Tomorrow I’m shockingly going to roll out of bed, hit the gym, and then (hopefully) at some point attend the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery. I am super excited about this, and you should be, too. It’s kind of a big deal.
I will then (hopefully) also write a long, semi-educational Rembrandt post that will mainly consist of swooning and mourning the death of real painting, so please prepare yourselves. It’s not like his late work is a bundle of fun (he eventually became rather poor and rather sad); I’m expecting some remarkably gloomy self portraits, the frequently criticised slapdash style of his late career, and lots and lots of feelings.
Other than that, I did a small dose of amorphous pondering on what I’d like for Christmas (strictly material), and my top four options are as follows:
- A town membership for the London Riding Cub
- This pink Swedish castle that just went up on the market
- A subscription to The Spectator (long overdue)
- An antique dressing table. Because why the hell not.
Donations (in transfer/check/cash/solid gold/property) are very, very welcome..