Art in London

I spent a week in London looking at art, revisiting old friends and discovering some new. The Felix Vallotton show at the Royal Academy – coming to the Met later this fall – was a revelation. With only 50 paintings and an approximately equal number of prints, it covered  the Swiss artist’s career coherently and completely. […]

Museum Exhibitions ’18

Over May and June of this year I’ve had occasion to visit a half-dozen special exhibitions, from the spectacular to the routine to the overstuffed. Far and away the best, and perhaps the best I’ve ever seen, was “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” designed by Robert Wilson. Each gallery was theatrically lit, with […]

Arabian Sights

Ten Highlights of Our Trip to Arabia. 1. Museum of Islamic Art (Qatar). Everything I hoped it would be: the ‘essence’ of Islamic architecture filtered through the geometric modernism of I.M. Pei. Wonderfully sited with a breathtaking interior: minimal yet full. Each object was given its own space and spotlight; everything seemed important, except maybe […]

Spanish Art

Reflections on visiting the Prado and more: Merely by painting The Spinners, Vulcan’s Forge and Las Meninas, Velazquez earned his place at or near the top of Western Europe’s great artists. His royal portraits are honored next, but it’s hard to say how they would have made his reputation today – especially given the unattractive […]


We saw two new modern-art museums this summer: the Broad in Los Angeles and SFMOMA in San Francisco. Both feature spectacular buildings and predictable art; both are worth the trip. The Broad, for obvious reasons, is much the smaller: it houses one couple’s collection; whereas SFMOMA has history and a whole, very rich, city supporting […]

Vienna, with the MIA

Vienna – Top Ten Arts Experiences 1. St. Stephen’s Cathedral 2. Otto Wagner, Steinhof Church The yin and yang of Viennese architecture, one from the 15th century, the other a landmark of “Vienna 1900,” both exemplify gesamtkunstwerk, complete decorative ensembles. 3. Vermeer, The Art of Painting In the richness of the Kunsthistorisches, this one painting […]

Chinese Paintings at LACMA

Of all the marvelous Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections currently visiting LACMA, courtesy of curator Stephen Little, three ink works from perhaps the 13th century not only caught my attention, they rewarded revisits and made me think I could look at them for days on end. That, I suppose, is one goal of a Zen […]

New York, May ’14

On successive days I saw similarly provocative shows, at the Guggenheim and the Museum of the City of New York. Neither contained great art; both raised questions about the role of art in society. Futurism was the kind of exhaustive, indeed definitive, survey in which the Guggenheim excels. Full of loans from Italy, it showed […]

The Gloomy Gardner

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston has a lot in common with the Barnes, now in Philadelphia. Both are private, idiosyncratic collections amassed early in the 20th century by a single individual, and both are, or have been, severely constricted by the founder’s deed of gift. The collections, of course, differ: Barnes was into […]

Balthus at the Met

Once again I was so annoyed by the wall labels of a Met show that I had trouble appreciating the art. This time the show, apparently conceived and titled for marketing purposes, was called “Balthus Cats and Girls” – thus, appealing to the Met’s two main audiences: men and women. The first shortcoming of the […]