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Tag: Rodin’s Thinker

Public Art

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Rome    Fountain of the Four Rivers     Bernini

When it comes to public art you would be hard pressed to beat Bernini’s masterpiece The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona…….well maybe the Trevi Fountain in the same city. Public art or art in public spaces is freed from the confines of the gallery and adorns our cities like jewels in a crown or at the very least gigantic garden gnomes decorating our  financial and cultural institutions. As I am in the middle of planning our next escape I was going through some old photos and came up with a theme. Here are a few examples taken from some our travels over the years.

 

Bilbao

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Bilbao    Spider     Louise Bourgeois

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Bilbao   Puppy   Jeff Koons

 

 

Washington DC

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Washington  Typewriter Eraser Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen

 

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Washington   Brushstroke  Roy Lichtenstein

If you ever find yourself in Washington and are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend the food-court at the National Museum of the American Indian (unfortunate name but really good food).

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Washington    Monumental Head Giacometti     Balzac Rodin

 

 

Chicago

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Chicago    Flamingo    Calder

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Chicago    Untitled     Picasso

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Chicago  Four Seasons  Chagall

Between the architecture and all the public art in Chicago you don’t even have to step foot inside an art gallery to see some of the biggest names in Art History. I would say, right up there with Bernini’s fountain would have to be Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate referred to as ‘the Bean’ by locals. I’ve never seen an artwork have such universal appeal. Both young and old are drawn to it. The minute you see it you automatically start walking towards it. It is like a magnet.

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Chicago    Cloudgate   Anish Kapoor

 

Cleveland

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Cleveland    The Thinker     Rodin

Not all public art has it easy. Cleveland’s Thinker had a bomb placed under it. Read more here Slashed, Smashed and Blowed up: Blowed up Real Good. There’s tons more I didn’t include, but I recommend the next time you’re out and about take a look around you might be surprised what you encounter.

 

 

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Slashed, Smashed and Blowed-Up: Blowed-Up Real Good

Cleveland Thinker

In the dead of the night on March 24th 1970; one of Art history’s most iconic ambassador’s was rocked from its pedestal. Someone had placed a bomb at the feet of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, forever mangling the great work. It kind of makes you wonder, exactly what was the point of that? What did Rodin do to anyone? Was his work causing too many people to stop and contemplate life and all its intricacies? Can’t have that, better blow it up- blow it up real good. The popular theory for this particular crime was it was done in protest of the war in Vietnam, possibly by members of the Weather Underground. No one was ever charged. The reasons why people attack great works of art are as varied and complex as the works themselves.

A combo photo shows a detail view of the damaged Michelangelo's Pieta and it after restoration works at the Vatican

Michelangelo’s Pieta after being attacked

One theory is that (in Italy anyway) they may have an ailment known as Stendhal Syndrome or ‘Tourist’s Disease’; where people become so overwhelmed in the presence of great art  they can go temporarily mad. The immediate experience of being surrounded by such beauty is too much to handle for some viewers. Art can have a profound effect and cause people to do erratic things but most people don’t walk around carrying bombs or the odd geologist’s hammer. These are obviously preordained acts of violence. On May 21st 1972 an Australian geologist named Laszlo Toth jumped a barrier in St. Peter’s cathedral in Rome and left Michelangelo’s Pieta missing an arm and the tip of the Virgin Mary’s nose along with other damaging blows. He was immediately apprehended and ended up spending two years in a hospital before being deported. He was never officially charged with a crime. The act itself was greeted with a myriad of reactions ranging from horror to applause. Art restorers masterfully put the Virgin back together again and most tourists are none the wiser.

Velasquez's Rokeby Venus after it was slashed with a meat clever

Velasquez’s Rokeby Venus after it was slashed with a meat clever

Restorers had their hands full after Mary Richardson a radical suffragette walked into the National Gallery in London on March 10th 1914 with a meat clever and left 7 large slashes in the Velasquez. The local media of the time treated it like an attempted homicide. Richardson wanted to protest the arrest of a fellow suffragette along with make a critical comment on the male gaze regarding the sexualization of women in western art. Richardson spent 6 months in jail.

A restorer looks at the damage of the Nightwatch

The museum director looks at the damage of the Nightwatch

William de Rijk had no great agenda when on September 14th 1975 he attacked Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Nightwatch with a kitchen knife. Apparently he had been denied entry the day before because he had arrived after museum hours. This sounds like a case of extreme museum rage, that and the logic of a mentally unwell individual. Along with Mr. Toth, he mentioned God as a mitigating factor to his actions.

The reasons why people attack art can range anywhere from mental breakdowns to political protests to plain old attention seeking. In recent years we’ve had people graffiti on Picassos, vomit on Mondrians and smash Ai Wei Weis for nothing more than a ‘look at me’ moment. The worst part about those indiscretions are the perpetrators are trying to label the vandalism as art.  Any half baked idea will always produce the poorest of results and if you’re that desperate for attention, use instagram and twitter like everybody else.