The Raphael Drawing at Christie’s

As those of you interested in such matters surely know by now, Christie’s London sale of Old Masters and 19th Century Art, December 8, will feature the drawing by Raphael excerpted above. Estimated to fetch £12-16, it will easily break the record for most expensive drawing ever, jointly held by pieces from Michelangelo and Leonardo, which both sold £8.1 in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

It is a pretty astonishing estimate, even for one of the greatest masters of Western art, whose work appears under the gavel only extremely rarely. Not being a specialist, I can only wonder what this says about the market these days, but I will say that it’s a beautiful drawing, even if it is not Raphael at his inventive peak. An auxillary cartoon for his 1510-11 fresco of Parnassus in the Vatican Stanze, it probably supplemented the larger, principal cartoon(s) prepared for the fresco (it shows pouncing marks along the contours, demonstrating that it was used for transfer unto the wall). It reflects rather a state of finalised polish of a slightly rote design than the exhilarating phase of invention where his work tends to crackle with brilliance, with the awareness of life beyond the perfection of his best high-finish drawings.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the sale goes, and as usual we can hope it ends up in a collection accessible to the public, even if its price may preclude that. It should in any case be a exciting sale, including as it does also a long out of view (and if you ask me somewhat rebarbative) late Rembrandt and a large John the Evangelist by Domenichino.

Hype: Bunker Associates at CPH:DOX

Next week it’s time for this year’s CPH:DOX — the great international documentary festival held annually in Copenhagen. It’s always worth checking out the programme, and I urge you especially to consider two of the films being screened there, if nothing else because I can vouch for some of the people involved.

Firstly, director Ada Bligaard Søby will see her latest film, Complaints Choir opening there (more info here and here, plus I’ve written a little about her work here). I’ve been following Ada’s work for years now, and it seems only to be getting better with each new film, borne as it is by a distinct auteurial voice and a sensitive approach both to direction and editing.

Also, my pal Klaus Heinecke, has worked as editor on Turf War in No Man’s Land, directed by Suvi Andrea Helminen, which will be screened twice. Klaus usually picks quality projects, and it looks promising to me. The trailer’s posted above.

So check out the festival, and if you’re not in Copenhagen — keep an eye out for international releases of these films.

On the Mickey Mouse Plot

Today’s arrest of two men suspected of planning to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose, and to bomb the newspaper’s headquarters — apparently dubbed the ‘Mickey Mouse plot’ by their peers — all for the publication of those twelve dumb cartoons is a disquieting reminder that the madness continues.

It is also interesting to see how free speech fatigue is creeping in. In contrast to the last time a murder plot against Westergaard was apparently uncovered, in Februrary 2008, the major Danish newspapers have agreed not to republish any of the cartoons. This, naturally, is immediately being framed as a free-speech issue, which I guess is understandable with Yale University Press’ recent academic censorship in mind, but also somewhat tiring.

In February 2008 seemingly everyone in Denmark, including the Metabunker (although we quickly recanted), published the Bomb in the Turban, more as an act of solidarity with the beleaguered cartoonist than as documentation. This happened immediately, before anyone could be sure that there was anything to the plot alleged by PET, the Danish intelligence services (come to think of it, it seems we still cannot be sure to what extent the three men arrested posed a threat to Westergaard, since PET has kept pretty mum about the whole affair). In other words an understandable and to an extent sympathetic, if rash reaction.

The decision not to republish this time around is also understandable, even commendable, and should not be compared with YUP’s shameful decision. The cartoons have already been published ad nauseam and there seems little point in continuing to do so every time the case takes a new, exasperating development. Responsible free speech is also knowing when to speak.

Women in Comics in Cambridge

This past Sunday saw a conference on Women in Comics at Murray Edwards College here in Cambridge. Organised jointly by the college and the particularly strong contingent of comics scholars at the University of Glasgow, it presented a full day’s programming of papers and artists’ talks to go along with an already planned exhibition by organiser and artist Sarah Lightman.

The main draw, certainly, were the artists’ talks. Melinda Gebbie spoke passionately about her career in comics and her work on Lost Girls in particular.

Picks of the Week

“Another gunman in the passenger seat turned and stared at us as he gripped his Kalashnikov rifle. No one spoke. I glanced at the bleak landscape outside — reddish soil and black boulders as far as the eye could see — and feared we would be dead within minutes.”

— David Rohde

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • New York Times. This week’s Pulitzer bid comes from David Rohde, whose five-part account of seven months spent as a hostage of the Taliban is gripping, necessary reading.
  • The latest in cartoon-fed free speech discourse. This seems a pretty solid, trenchant piece on the recent Yale controversy, which reveals interesting details that were previously unknown to me, while this is a rather disturbing notice of recent US legislation in the area that drowned somewhat in the newsfeed din this week. (Thanks Tom, Dirk).
  • Comics criticism. This great piece from Jog on the 70s exploitation flick of Mr. Natural and the Freak Brothers is top notch, and this blast from the past from Gary Groth is definitely worth (re-)reading, while our Danish readers should not miss Benni Bødker’s excellent review of Asterios Polyp.
  • Finally, I found this personal reminiscence from Ernie Colón on recently deceased cartoonist veteran George Tuska very touching.
  • Dave Gibbons til

    Ja, så har de gode folk bag afsløret endnu en udenlandsk gæst til næste års festival (21-23 maj, 2010), og det er ingen ringere end Dave Gibbons, der animerede klassiske 2000AD-strips som “Rogue Trooper” og fik Watchmen helt op at ringe med sine fuldkomment kongeniale tegninger og siden har stået for solide mainstreamtegneserier af forskellige slags. En mand med indsigt og stærkt fortællerinstinkt — det kan kun blive godt!

    Pressemeddelelsen kan læses her. Check dette korte Bunker-indslag om Watchmen, og husk at trekløveret Ware, Clowes og Burns også kommer til festivalen.