Cultural Amnesia in Berlin


I’ve already mentioned it in passing here on the blog and on Twitter, but this is sufficiently important to warrant its own post. There are currently plans to refurbish the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin to the tune of a government grant of €10 million to make space for the Pietzsch Collection, a large and significant collection of modern art donated in 2010 to the German National Galleries, under the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage.

This will mean that the works currently occupying that space — one of the world’s finest collections of old master paintings have to be relocated. A collection that includes major works by many of the greatest painters of European history, from Dürer, Cranach, Roger van der Weyden and Bruegel, Masaccio, Filippo Lippi , Botticelli, and Bellini, to Titian, Raphael, and Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer, to name but a few. Apparently, the current plan is to hang a selection of them in the galleries of the Bode Museum on the centrally placed Museumsinsel, while the rest will have to go into storage until at least 2018, when a new museum for the pictures is scheduled to open.

This is a terrible idea.

The Week

The week in review

Look! Stengade 30, the by now legendary Copenhagen club, locus of Rubadub Sundays for the past decade, has new facade decoration. Executed by SOFLES, it’s perhaps somewhat tacky, but certainly spectacular, fitting the club well. Imagine it nightlit in a haze. Flix courtesy of Frederik Høyer-Christensen, full set here.

  • Robert Fisk on the destruction of Syrian treasures. Unsurprisingly, but also predictably, the cultural heritage of Syria is being destroyed in the current civil war. Fisk has been reporting on such events since the war in Bosnia, and he does it better than anyone.
  • Alyssa Rosenberg on the recent, symbolic passing of the torch in Doonesbury, otherwise known as still-the-greatest-current comic strip. Rosenberg gets it, Tim O’Neil at The Comics Journal doesn’t (scroll down a bit), although his critique is worth reading, if nothing else because it presents a dissenting, younger-generation view.
  • Perry Anderson on India. Another magisterial historical review from Anderson, this time on India’s constitution and policies of containment and conflict for the past sixty years, particularly as pertains to the North. A great primer.
  • Notes on the Passing of Chris Marker

    Last week saw the passing of filmmaker Chris Marker. I’m not that familiar with his work, unfortunately, but what I have seen I found touching on a kind of “pure cinema” level, where the elements of film come together to create something unique to the medium, achieving the kind of lyrical no so che that happens way too rarely in cinema. Very different, to be sure, but similar to the best moments of Andrei Tarkovsky’s work.

    The Week

    The week in review

    James Holmes who killed 12 people and wounded 58 last Friday at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado was quickly christened the ‘Batman Killer’ in Danish media. Just one of those shortcuts the tabloids trade in, I suppose — it’s far from clear whether the gunman chose what movie to shoot up because of its content and it is, of course, a moot question to ask of such a tragedy.

    If anything, one might ask the whether it makes any sense at all that 100-round drums for full automatics can still be ordered on the internet, no questions asked. Or why this statistic, which speaks volumes as to the causality between gun ownership and gun fatality, remains acceptable for Americans.

    For somebody familiar with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan’s comics sources, it seemed at least a little bit poignant that Frank Miller anticipated the Aurora massacre in the seminal Dark Knight Returns (1986). Appearing in a sequence detailing Batman-inspired vigilantism, it is to Miller’s credit that he here mocks the media’s tendency to jump to conclusions about the causality between fictional and actual crime, while clearly acknowledging that it exists.

    Links:

  • Petition to prevent the substitution of old master paintings with modern ones at the Berlin Gemäldegalerie. These plans for a radical reorganisation of the Berlin galleries would spoil one of the world’s best galleries and be a sad concession to the popular preference for modern art. Surely some other solution can be found? Please consider signing.
  • William Noel of the Walters Art Gallery on why sharing digital images of their collections online is good business and just the right thing to do for museums. It remains an uphill battle, but it seems things are changing re: museums hoarding the IP they’ve been given to share with the public.
  • New issues of academic journals on comics. Recently published, the first issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art is worth a look. As is the newest issue of ImageText.
  • Journalism Light in Jerusalem

    By Johan F. Krarup

    So much has been said about Israel and Palestine — the most hyped conflict in the World — that I started reading Guy Delisle’s new travelogue, Jerusalem : Chronicles from the Holy City, with some trepidation. Would Delisle’s trademark quotidian, low-key journalism work in Jerusalem, the Gordian knot of Middle East conflict? Would his often lively and entertaining, but just as often predictable and chit-chatty approach offer a interesting perspective on the subject? Surprisingly, the answer is YES!

    Guy Delisle reported in comics form from various points of interest around the world. Lately, this has been thanks to his wife who works as a coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. Delisle follows her as a dependent, taking care of the kids and ensuring that family life runs smoothly while his wife is a work. He takes this opportunity to work in his sketchbook as often as possible. He has previously done a book on Burma (2007) in this way, while his two books prior to that, Shenzen (2000) and Pyongyang (2003), were the result of his own travels liaising on international animation projects. The present book, however, works his position as the empathetic family man to significantly greater effect, creating what is without a doubt his best comic so far.