The agora was the central square in the Greek polis, the setting for political meetings, markets, cults, public entertainment, and civic commemoration. The root meaning of the word is political, derived from the verb agoreuein, to speak in assembly. As a designated space the agora is likely to be as old as the Greek polis, for even the small populations of very early settlements required a central meeting place. The first references occur in epic poetry, where the word denotes an urban space held in common and frequented by male citizens (Odyssey 2.6–257). In its physical form this Homeric agora consisted of a level area brought to life by human activity, and when buildings were added to the agora in later times, the free space continued to be essential. In Homer’s description of the scenes on the shield of Achilles, a city’s elders decide a dispute in the agora while sitting on stones that are arranged in a circle around the two contesting parties (Iliad 18.497–508). The poetic image of a circular political gathering place probably reflects the real existence of such spaces, for several round meeting places of later date have come to light (Metapontum, Paestum, Acragas). Yet even in Homeric times the agora was a multivalent gathering place, not just a political center. In the Odyssey, Homer locates the agora of Scheria , the imaginary polis of the Phaeacians, at the harbor where it would have been a center of maritime commerce, and the same space is also the setting for athletic contests (Odyssey 8.1–198).
VERSAILLES, France— Takashi Murakami’s show at Versailles has drawn worldwide attention for its juxtaposition of the Japanese artist’s manga-influenced work with the Gallic splendor of the Old Regime French kings, but next year the Château will not give over its gleaming halls to contemporary art. Instead, the series of shows by living artists — inaugurated by Versailles president Jean-Jacques Aillagon in 2008 with a Jeff Koons exhibition — will take place in the palace’s gardens.
The naked image of a dwarf who starred at the Medici court in the Florentine Renaissance, has been revealed after nearly three centuries of oblivion, Italian art experts announced last week at a press conference in Florence.
Known as the Portrait of Dwarf Morgante, the painting, a two-sided canvas which portrays a court jester, was made before 1553 by mannerist painter Agnolo di Cosimo, better known as Bronzino (1503-1572).
Long considered to be obscene, the full frontal view of the naked dwarf was painted over in the 18th century.
PARIS— It’s certainly appropriate that French artist Mathieu Mercier won the prestigious Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2003, since he has always shown a special interest in the ground-breaking conceptual artist. Now Mercier has found a novel way to pay tribute to one of Duchamp’s most famous works, the “Boîte-en-valise,” by making it more accessible, so that it can really be enjoyed in the playful spirit in which it was created. He’s turned the work into a pop-up book, which will be published by Anabet on October 22.
PARIS—The Russian government has officially refused to allow abstract canvases by artist Avdei Ter-Oganyan to appear in an upcoming exhibition at the Louvre, objecting in particular to a painting that they say advocates the assassination of prime minister Vladimir Putin. In response, several other Russian artists included in the show, which has been planned as part of a diplomatic France-Russia Year, will boycott the exhibition out of solidarity with Ter-Oganyan, according to the Agence France-Presse.
Alfred Hamilton Barr, Jr. (January 28, 1902 – August 15, 1981), known as Alfred H. Barr, Jr., was an art historian and the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
American art historian and administrator who played an enormously important and controversial role in establishing an intellectual and institutional framework for the study and appreciation of modern art. He was born in Detroit, the son of a Presbyterian minister, and studied art and archaeology at Princeton University, graduating in 1922 and taking an MA degree the following year. After several months travelling in Europe, he returned to the USA and taught art history in several leading institutions including Wellesley College, where he taught the first course at an American college devoted solely to 20th-century art. In 1929 he was appointed director of the newly founded Museum of Modern Art.
An abstract expressionist, he made his mark with large black-and-white paintings featuring architectonic forms constructed from broad, slashing lines. Swaths of black paint, sometimes applied with a housepainter’s brush, are held in tension with intervening white areas, also vigorously brushed, so that his compositions avoid figure-ground relationships in favor of a flat surface. Decentralized compositions suggest space continuing beyond the edge of the canvas, creating with very different means the effect of boundlessness seen also in Jackson Pollock‘s all-over paintings. The bleakness and raw power of Kline’s paintings suggest the eastern Pennsylvania industrial landscape that framed his early life. A number of titles alluding to the region confirm the emotional and visual power it held for him. Born in Wilkes-Barre, Franz Rowe Kline was educated after his father’s death in 1917 at Philadelphia’s Girard College, a residential free school for orphan boys. From 1925 he lived with his remarried mother in Lehighton until 1931, when he began four years of study at Boston University, followed in 1937–38 by additional training in London. Upon his return he settled permanently in New York. Through most of the 1940s he painted representational works, mostly figure studies and landscapes, which generally feature simplified massing of forms and distinct value contrasts. Stimulated by the early development of abstract expressionism and particularly by his friendship with Willem de Kooning, in the late 1940s Kline pushed his images toward abstraction. While viewing slides of his own sketches, he suddenly grasped the abstract potential of greatly magnified line. Introduced to the public in 1950 at his first New York gallery show, his signature style won Kline a distinctive place among the best known action painters.
In 1556 Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–89), patron of Bembo and Vasari, commissioned Giacomo Vignola to build a villa at Caprarola, 55 kilometres (35 miles) north of Rome; the building was erected on the foundations of an earlier villa begun by Antonio Sangallo the Younger. The villa was finished in 1583, and is widely considered to be the finest in Italy. Villa Farnese is built on the scale of a palace, and so is sometimes called Palazzo Farnese; it is sometimes confused with the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, which was built by Sangallo for an earlier Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (later Pope Paul III).
Painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, and theater artist. His declared intention to “act” in the “gap” between art and life, as he put it in 1959, succinctly characterized his contribution to art history. In the 1950s he broadened abstract expressionism to include non-art elements. His recognition of the aesthetic potential of ordinary objects stimulated the development of pop art, while his interest in incorporating in the art object signs of its own making opened the way for process art. Other aspects of his work resonated in minimal, conceptual, and performance art. However, his multifarious and inclusive approach always remained beyond the reach of any single art movement. He also facilitated the use of photography as an unremarked component of fine art and fostered acceptance of hybrid genres of all sorts. Over time, he increasingly became a sort of reporter, witnessing and assembling representations of the newsworthy events and ordinary minutiae of his time. As a generator of ideas, he numbered among indispensable figures of late twentieth-century art.