Newly Arisen


In the latest issue of the Burlington Magazine Artur Rosenauer has published a previously unseen painting of the Risen Christ as an early Titian of around 1511. The painting, measuring 144 x 116,5 cm. was in the Bülow Collection in the nineteenth century until 1929 when it went to Uruguay. It is now in a private collection in Europe. A spectacular find, especially if it is indeed by Titian. It is rare that genuine pictures by such well-described great masters, especially non-portraits, surface.

Venetian Disegno


Totally forgot to post this here in good time. It’s been a little crazy around these parts lately. Anyway, I’m organising this colloquium in Cambridge tomorrow. If you happen to be around, and are interested in the topic (slim chances, I know!), then by all means show up!

Live from the Ping Awards


You may remember me writing about the Ping Awards in this space. But briefly: the Ping Awards are awards given annually to comics in Denmark at an annual gala show. There was an older award of the same name, a reference to one of the great Danish cartoonist Storm P.’s (1882-1949) most famous characters, but the present incarnation was founded in 2012 by the comics website Nummer9 in collaboration with the Danish Comics Council, the international comics festival Copenhagen Comics, and the comics magazine Strip!

Works are nominated in six categories by comics critics from Nummer9 and Strip! and the winners are selected by a jury comprising representatives from each of the founding bodies, as well as a number of independent critics, writers, artists and comics professionals. You can read much more on the Ping website, albeit only in Danish. (Sorry).

Anyway, this year’s Ping Awards were given out at a show at Lille Vega held in conjunction with Copenhagen Comics on 1 June in Lille Vega Copenhagen. It featured appearances from such international luminaries as Jaime Hernandez and Jill Thompson, as well as hilarious acceptance letters from awards winners Chris Ware and David Mazzucchelli. A sampling of the event has now been made available by the Ping team in the video above. Enjoy, and get in touch if you would like to know more about the Ping Awards.

The Week

“When history looks back on this moment, will it view those who opposed intervening as champions of peace? Or, when the textbooks count the dead children, and the international norms broken with impunity, will our descendants puzzle that we took pride in retreating into passivity during this slaughter?”

Nicholas Kristof

The week in review

The absurd theater on whether a coalition of Western countries led by the US will intervene in the Syrian civil war or not, the contorted logic behind the whole chemical weapons rationale, and the sudden, provocative fit of Russian diplomacy have obviously dominated the week’s news. It’s been a fascinating study in the vagaries of international politics around a hot potato issue. But it’s also been depressing. There is no question that the prospect of engaging in another war, no matter how limited said intervention is claimed to be, is daunting and demanding of the utmost caution on the part of decision makers. But we’re talking a genocide here, like the one that’s been happening in Darfur or the one in Rwanda in the nineties — both of which we left to run their course. The argument for select attacks or even better, imposing a no-fly zone, in Syria seems to me a basic, human one.

I find particularly depressing the arguments that we should let the notoriously lame duck UN Security Council or US Congress decide. Or that we can solve the conflict with humanitarian aid or non-violent diplomacy alone. It’s been tried for two years now and hasn’t worked. And in the meantime a hundred thousand people have been killed and millions have had to flee their homes.

I really hope the current decision to pursue a handover by the Assad regime of all chemical weapons bears fruit, but also that it is followed up by aggressive diplomacy to resolve the situation and bring peace to the region. If necessary by the use of force. Witty as Vladimir Putin’s op-ed piece in the New York Times was, fun as it was to see him expose the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, the reality of the war in Syria is so horrible that his high ground-arguments for civilised conflict solution ring hollow if they don’t bring an end to the killings soon.

A certain tendency in hip hop?


Over at RapSpot, I’ve just reviewed Chicago speed rap veteran Twista’s incredibly poor showing in Pumpehuset, Copenhagen this past Saturday (in Danish, unfortunately). A large part of my criticism is the fact that he lip synched almost his entire concert, which ties in with the reservations I recently expressed about the Wacka Flocka show at the same venue. The difference was that Twista for over twenty years has marketed himself as the fastest rapper alive and in this represents the kind of virtuoso technique that one has to be able to deliver on stage as well as in the booth in order to retain artistic credibility, whereas Wacka Flocka has not and does not. Also, Twista’s show was lazy and poorly conceived. A shame, but the real issue seems to me that this kind of approach to performaning live is proliferating in hip hop.

Photo: Klaus Køhl.

Stop the Motor City Sellout


As most of you are no doubt aware, Detroit is bankrupt, and one of the worse ideas the city has for keeping its creditors at bay is selling off the treasures in the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of America’s finest art museums. Deaccessioning masterworks from the collection, or dissolving it entirely, would be a great loss to the public, and to the city: no longer the industrial hub of yesteryear, Detroit needs to redefine itself in order to remain a vibrant city and and an attractive place to live and visit. Focusing on culture and other soft capital doesn’t appear like the worst way to achieve this, and in the DIA the city has an internationally significant cultural institution and a natural node of interest in such an endeavour, it seems to me. Besides, whatever money might be raised from selling off the collection is dwarfed by the city’s debt. It would be like pissing your pants to stay warm.

Anyway, enough pontification. Jeffrey Hamburger from Harvard University has organised an online petition to convince the city of Detroit to leave the DIA alone. I encourage you to sign it, and leave any comments you may have.

(Such petitions can make a difference, however small. Hamburger’s petition to convince the city of Berlin to leave its collection of old masters at the Tiergarten Gemäldegalerie may not have been the deciding factor, but it cannot have had an adverse effect on the recent, happy decision not to move the collection).

Image: The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1566), one of the great works in the DIA.

The Week

The week in review

This week the rap game experienced tremors when Big Sean released the song “Control” online. It featured a verse from the still-young, still gunning Kendrick Lamar on which he not only claimed for himself as many indices of hip hop royalty as he could — ‘Makavelli’s offspring’, the ‘Black Beatle’ or ‘Marley’ and, evidently most galling of all ‘King of New York’, he also named names, placing himself in the august company of the current paragons (Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Andre 3000) and calling out a selection of his contemporaries, warning them that whether they are homies or not, he is trying to make their careers history (or ‘murder’ them, to be exact) in the true, competitive spirit of hip hop. This touched of a frenzy of responses from all over the rap world, with dis tracks coming at Kendrick left and right (and mostly from New York emcees, as one would expect). Several prominent artists reacted positively, stating that Kendrick has made hip hop exciting again by rekindling the focus on lyrics.

This is the kind of verse that’s an immediate jaw-dropper, and not even mainly because of the presumption of naming of names. It’s in the performance. Kendrick here sounds as hungry as he ever has, pouring more aggression into this one verse than his entire, already impressive body of work can muster. We’re hearing a new side of him here. It’s not really about the lyrics, despite what everyone has been saying. Kendrick pushes some easy buttons and simultaneously makes sure not to piss off the establishment too much (why not include Jigga, Nas, et. al. on his hit list while he’s at it? It would be in the spirit). (incidentally, I like that Kanye is nowhere mentioned!). And frankly the rest of the verse is kind of incoherent, lacking in evocative simile and too busy with the name checks. No, what makes this verse of a different order than just about all the responses and most of what one hears in rap at the moment is the conviction he brings to it. It is truly exciting to hear a rapper spit with such passion. The words matter, of course, but only because they are delivered with such fire, such promise. In one verse, Kendrick has done much to dispel the very reasonable fear that he might experience sophomore jinx after his masterful major label debut good kid m.A.A.d city of last year.

XXL and MTV both provide nice overviews of the responses to the verse; Brandon Soderbergh has the best critical take on the song.

  • In other news, you have to read this incredible piece on how Edward Snowden established his contact to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald.
  • Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz on Detroit’s plight and what one might learn from it.