The Gross Clinic: Consider the alternatives♦
Now that the hubbub surrounding the selling of the Thomas Eakins painting The Gross Clinic has somewhat subsided, I feel compelled to respond not so much to the selling but to the buying of the work.
Sixty-eight million dollars would have purchased a lot of work by living Philadelphia artists— those creative souls on the front line of the struggle to make this city an artistic mecca.
Sixty-eight million dollars would have allowed the creation of an arts and cultural resource center similar to GoggleWorks in Reading, Pa. (see www.goggleworks.org) or The Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria, just outside Washington, D.C. (see www.torpedofactory.org).
Instead, $68 million was spent on a single painting because some folks couldn’t bear the idea of its being somewhere outside its city of origin. Where would we be today with regard to the viewing of practically every piece of art in Philadelphia museums if the keep-it-in-the-city approach was practiced globally? Travel to Málaga, Spain to see a Picasso? To Vinci, Italy to see a Da Vinci?
I don’t believe any single work of art (even one of my own) is worth $68 million. I do, however, believe the living artists of Philadelphia are worth the investment.
January 24, 2007
Editor’s comment: Click here for my response.
Richard Carreño really nails the scammy Jefferson/Christie’s Gross Clinic caper (see “The auctioneer’s song”). But I also deplore the cracker-baiting of Carreño’s sneering at Alice Walton. Noah’s Ark, indeed. Were the millions of Mellon, Rockefeller, or Getty amassed more cleanly than Sam Walton’s? Have no Philly eggheads ever visited Bentonville?
In my Appalachian lit phase, I spent weeks in Arkansas and its adjacent states. Except for their birthright racism, I found those locals more attractive humans than most Ivy snobs. And the presumption that Ozarkies are contemptible slobs ignores the Southern literary renaissance as well as great architects like Sam Mockbee and E. Fay Jones.
One sad side story of the Gross affair is the stupid snobbery of the Philly clerisy. Albert Barnes had them down straight. And they haven’t improved much since.
Patrick D. Hazard
January 5, 2007
I suggest that the same gang that put up the big $$ (Lenfest, Pew, Annenberg) will have it all made "better" if they are allowed to steal the Barnes Foundation gallery art. Now, that’s a bargain! We must vigorously resist the “scam of scams" and voice our horror at the destruction of the Barnes.
Walter Herman, M.D.
January 10, 2007
In his “Gross Clinic post-mortem,” Patrick Hazard neglected to mention that the trustees of Jefferson University did not notify the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts that they were considering selling The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins in order to raise money for their expansion program and would give them first choice to purchase it. Instead the trustees acted in a clandestine fashion, selling the painting and then notifying the local art institutions. That is inexcusable and indicates a severe lack of civic consciousness and scruples.
Anne R. Fabbri
December 27, 2006
I couldn’t agree more with Anne Fabbri’s comment (above). If Jefferson had at first offered to sell the Eakins painting to local Phildelphia art institutions, the public would have been served by having the painting in a more natural venue and Jefferson’s public image would have been damaged far less severely. Jefferson is an excellent hospital but a lousy neighbor.
January 15, 2007
Purdom on Charles Ives
Tom Purdom’s review of the Charles Ives concert was wonderful. It showed the general audience how exciting the music was, and it showed the musically educated the details of the structure of the music. It ended by making both groups of readers want to hear more of Ives’s music.
William L. Clovis
January 27, 2007
Women as conductors (and musicians, too)
Bravo to Tom Purdom on his article about Marin Alsop and JoAnn Falletta. I agree totally about the need for major (and regional) orchestras to look to native talent, and to be color- and gender-blind.
Mary Woodmansee Green
January 24, 2007
Regarding Dan Rottenberg’s notes on the New York Philharmonic (Editor’s Notebook): What aspect of commenting on the cleavage and attire of talented professional musicians isn’t utterly boorish? Yours is a respectable cultural publication, not a juvenile tabloid, and an apology is in order.
January 18, 2007
Dan Rottenberg replies: At a publication devoted to provoking dialogue such as this one, apologies (and demands for apologies) serve no useful purpose. My comments about the New York Philharmonic may strike you as foolish or wrongheaded, but at the very least they provide grounds for discussion, not to mention honest insight into what one audience member (namely, me) was thinking, rightly or wrongly.
Respectable cultural publication? Damn! And here I thought I was joining the honorably American outlaw tradition of Grub Street malcontents saying what the Respectables were too timid to say or (worse, and more plausible) couldn’t see for looking. Please tell me how I can buy back the rights to my slights, so I can publish them on some tacky underground website.
Patrick D. Hazard
January 24, 2007
Shostakovich as opera composer
Re Tom Purdom’s review of the James Conlon concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra—
As someone who has heard Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk performed (it’s in the Met’s repertory), I can certainly recommend it to any local opera company that can handle its formidable vocal and orchestral demands. The same goes for Shostakovich’s other completed opera, The Nose, based on Gogol’s classic story and a splendid example of his modernist style of the ‘20s.
Shostakovich in fact planned a career as an opera composer, and Lady Macbeth was to have been the first of a projected tetralogy on the theme of female emancipation--a Russian Ring. The belated but fiercely negative review of Lady Macbeth in Pravda, supposedly written on Stalin’s orders, not only cancelled Shostakovich’s stage career but nearly Shostakovich as well: He fully expected arrest and deportation during the Great Purges, especially after the trial and execution of his patron, Marshal Tukachevsky.
He escaped this, and did begin an opera based on Dostoevsky’s The Gambler (a text already treated by Prokofiev), but abandoned it after writing about an hour’s worth of excellent music. As for female emancipation, that was soon out of favor in Stalin’s Russia.
Apart from a trivial operetta, Shostakovich never returned to the stage, although he did compose extensively for the voice. I wouldn’t trade the actual symphonies Shostakovich did write for the operas he might (and might not) have composed. But with his dramatic instinct and lyric gifts, he might well have been one of the century’s great operatic composers had he followed his original bent. He kept his hand in with re-orchestrations of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Khovantschina, a marker for what might have been. The miracle, perhaps, is that he was able to write the 20th Century’s most deeply tragic music in the land of sunshine and tractors, and to survive.
January 22, 2007
Metropolitan Opera on movie screens
Thanks for Diana Burgwyn’s article on the HD live Metropolitan Opera screenings. I was at a very full theater in Delaware for I puritani last week (Jan. 6, 2007), and I was amazed at the great audience response and the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
The star of the show was of course Anna Netrebko, who floated above the orchestra with supernatural e
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