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Letters of note | Featuring Zaha Hadid, Picasso's biographer, a prison warden and many more

Selected correspondence from down the years

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The Art Newspaper

The Art Newspaper

2016

Dear Sirs

The publication, The Art Newspaper, March 2016, was received addressed to inmate Claude Duboc, Register Number 01434-112, confined in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This publication is being returned in accordance with the Bureau of Prisons appropriations act, formerly known as the Ensign Amendment, which states: “None of the funds made available in this Act to the Federal Bureau of Prisons may be used to distribute or make available any commercially published information or material to a prisoner when it is made known to the Federal Office having authority to obligate or expend such funds that such information or material is sexually explicit or features nudity.”

The enclosed publication contains sexually explicit information or material or features nudity and is being returned to you as explained above. If you desire an independent review of this action you may write Sara M Revell, Regional Director, North Central Regional Office, 400 State Avenue, Suite 800, Kansas City, KS 66101, within 20 days of receipt of this letter.

Sincerely, Linda Sanders

Warden, US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Springfield, Missouri 65807

2005

Dear The Art Newspaper

I was rather surprised to read your article in the February issue that I am to design an Islamic Museum in Baghdad. Whilst I would be greatly honoured to do a project in Iraq, to this date I have not been officially approached to do any work there.

Zaha Hadid

London

2002

I just read the section of Adrian Dannatt's New York diary (The Art Newspaper, no.127, July-August 2002, p.27) entitled "The sound of the city". I must tell you that when I was chairman of the Arts Council we installed a hidden sound-piece, as you said, in the noisiest spot in the world. Somehow the Arts Council had been asked to explain this extraordinary sound under Times Square. I took one of my board members, Mrs Richard Rogers, to see if it was still functioning. We arrived in Times Square in the middle of the day, and there were few people around. We two rather well dressed ladies were bending down at intervals with our ears to the ground, trying to hear this cavernous "BONG". In the middle of our search for this sound, a bag lady came along across the street and we tried to enlist her help. We asked if she would mind bending down to see if she could hear "the cavernous BONG". The bag lady looked at us and decided we were both mad as hatters and she fled as fast as she could. I'm delighted that Max Neuhaus's "BONG" is being reinstalled, and thank you for the piece. I'm thrilled to know that the Art Council's work is being perpetuated.

Kitty Carlisle Hart

New York

Dear The Art Newspaper

When, during the Eighties, I was a frequent visitor to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first painting to confront me, in the entrance hall, would be Géricault’s “Polish mounted bugler” (I am not certain of the exact title, but the description fits).

On a recent visit I found no trace of the painting, and I have since been assured by the gallery’s staff that they have no record of the work-either in the collection or on loan. Even Giles Waterfield, the gallery’s former director, denied all knowledge. Since I am more certain that the picture hung there over many years than that I am now awake, this is a plea to other readers who know the gallery to support my claim.

Adam Czerniawski

Monmouth

2000

The Tate Modern is a disappointment. The pictures are fine, the means of identifying them is as appalling as the bridge outside that does not work. Is anyone really pleased that the new museum is attracting a huge audience, most of them not interested in modern art, but as a place to meet, talk and be cool? Moving modern international art to a restored old building could be brilliant. Dividing the art into its subject categories trivialises the artist.

In the 1860s, the French listed Salon prize painting by subject: cows, flowers, landscapes, seascapes, people—and shipped cow pictures to provincial museums.

Now here comes the Tate with such haphazard signing that it is difficult to find the artist and the title of the painting; the labels are off in a corner, or bunched up in a group in small type, frequently hidden by the young people lounging or the older people conversing.

This Tate is a meeting place, not a museum. True, it is the museum’s modern place to educate, but a Cézanne can speak for itself. Does one need a curator, docent, or audio guide to make the case in words for Cézanne’s images? If one is not awed by the painting (it is optional to like or dislike any work of art), all words can do is make the case for cultural correctness or art-historical hierarchies. Art is always seen, not heard.

The Tate’s director and curators are guilty of supplanting the artists with curator-speak. I finally found the wall text for the Cézanne in a corner accompanied by a box, “The big picture”, some historical mumbo-jumbo about the times. I thought at first the Tate was typographically challenged, that this was the biggest type face they could produce, but no: “Please do not touch the pictures” is much bigger, and a quote from Roland Barthes, the French critic, has large and handsome type. Words, not art, are the new Tate’s privileged class.

A suggestion. Why not pretend to be proud of “the big pictures” on the wall by putting on top of the picture, away from the talkers, in very large and visible letters, perhaps in the bright colour of the Barthes quote, “Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906”, with, in the following line, the English and French titles of the picture? That way someone who does not need the curator’s remedial course in art history can immediately take in what the picture is and spend more time looking at it.

Richard Collin

Professor Emeritus of History

University of New Orleans

1999

Would you please be so kind as to clarify for me and many of my colleagues the recently published “Secret list”, “The art trade under the Nazis”?

We are confused!

Should we regard the list as a “Who’s who” of the European art world between 1940-45 or should it be perused with repugnance as a list of names of those who, allegedly, acted as Nazi facilitators of or, worse, collaborators in the selling of looted art.

And finally, should we expect similar lists, from other publications, of those who sold sausages and/or fruit and vegetables during the Occupation?

Thank you in advance.

Srebrenka B Zeskoski

Toronto

Dear Sirs

I must take you up on two points about the article on the Museo Stibbert. First, the new loos are for the public, not for the guards. So far, loos for the guards exist only on paper. A project for the renovation of the museum’s reception facilities, including cloakrooms for the guards, was prepared two years ago. The municipality inserted it in the budget for this year, but recently decided to cut it out. So, I am afraid we shall have to face the increased number of visitors next year with no proper ticket office and no guards’ loo.

Second, we do not go in for weddings. Few weddings in Italy would be interested in a seating accommodation of seventy-two.

Dr Kirsten Aschengreen Piacenti

Director, Museo Stibbert

1997

Rembrandt is haunting me. In the September issue your article about the Rembrandt Research Project brings to notice the same “Portrait of an old man wearing a cap” from the Sidney van den Bergh collection which I sold about twenty-five years ago to a well-known New York collector on the condition that I got the OK from the Rembrandt team.

As the team downgraded the work before publishing their first volume the sale had to be cancelled. Van den Bergh lost almost 80% of the value and I my commission. The independently thinking Alfred Bader was the laughing third party.

Isn’t it a pity that art historians cannot be made responsible for the consequences of their changing views?

History repeats itself: my father had the same experience with two other very early Rembrandts from the Van Aalst collection, “Touch” and “Ear”.

Hans Cramer

The Hague

Dear The Art Newspaper

As always, The Art Newspaper is a great contribution to my life. The article by Mr De Montebello about the importance of art in art museums was very interesting because one assumes that art rules any art museum. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Some years ago I was in a small room in the National Gallery in London trying to absorb one of the great sixteenth-century paintings. Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and saw there was a television set transmitting the tennis at Wimbledon. That made me really furious, so I called the nearest guard and asked him to turn it off.

He replied that he could not do that because the public wanted to see it. But there was no one but me in the room. I argued that people who wanted to see Wimbledon should go to the next bar to watch it, and that television transmissions in an art gallery were as out of place as in an church. The good man objected that the museum was not a church. I insisted that a museum, particularly of the rank of the National Gallery of London, should be treated with the same respect as a church.

Rudolph S Joseph

Santa Barbara, CA

Dear The Art Newspaper

My deepest apologies to Matisse’s grandson, Claude Duthuit, (see The Art Newspaper, No.69, April 1997, p.5) for any offence that I may have caused. In fact, the words to which he understandably objects bear little relation to the relevant passage in my review of Merchant-Ivory’s movie “Surviving Picasso” (New York Review of Books, Vol XLIII, No.17, p.14). For the record this is what I actually wrote: “[Picasso’s] conduct pales if we compare it to Matisse’s failure to come to the assistance of his wife and daughter when the Gestapo arrested them in 1944.” This was based on something that Jacqueline Picasso told me that her husband had told her. I am grateful to Monsieur Duthuit for pointing out that this is inaccurate; that, on the contrary, Matisse suffered great anguish when his wife and daughter were arrested and made very effort to track them down.

John Richardson

1992

As an eighty-five-year-old reader, The Art Newspaper is my lifeline to the art world and the art market. In the June issue there is one item of particular interest to me, and perhaps to other readers too: the Cézanne which sold for $26 million in May.

The Jakob Goldschmidt collection, of which it was once part, was assembled in Berlin mostly during the Twenties, I assume principally by purchases from Paul Cassirer. Jakob Goldschmidt was one of the most prominent bankers in Germany, but the failure of an industrial company drove his Darmstädter und Nationalbank - one of the four big banks - into bankruptcy.

It was the beginning of the economic crisis in Germany that contributed to the spectacular rise of Hitler and his party. Jakob Goldschmidt left Germany and took his collection to the USA. In his NY apartment, not long before the 1958 Sotheby's show, he offered the entire collection for $1 million to another financier who could have bought it but was not interested.

The remarkable feature of the $26 million fetched by a single painting from the Goldschmidt collection is that, as I remember it, that sum is close to the very amount owed to Goldschmidt's bank in the summer of 1931.

Rudolf Joseph

Santa Barbara, CA

1991

Paolo Uccello

Though a splendid fellow

Had an obsession with perspective

That aroused invective

Michael Kelly

1990

I hope other facts in your Art Newspaper are better researched than those given in the piece about life drawing classes at the Royal College of Art. Your correspondent I.B. asserts that for the first time in its 153 years of being, life drawing classes are being held.

This is nonsense. I was a student there from 1936 to 1939 and life drawing was taught in the two fine studios which were then part of the Victoria & Albert Museum. At my previous Art School this subject was taught by a skilled old gentleman who had also been trained at the college. After the war I briefly returned and there was the same plenitude of models and teachers of drawing.

However two cheers for the rediscovery of the subject. I wonder whether some member of the staff has stumbled upon David Hockney’s introduction to the Vogue Book of Fashion Drawing. I quote:

“It is easy to see what happens when people are not taught to draw - in fact it is visible everywhere else too in one way or another, though perhaps harder to see. Certainly it is bound to be reflected in design, in the environment, in the way things are built, in the things we use and are forced to have around us. The serious study of looking, which is what drawing is, affects far more than we might casually think it does”.        

John Ward C.B.E. R.A.

Dear The Art Newspaper

When I received the first issue of The Art Newspaper, I was thrilled. The quality of the format, the aesthetic appearance of the layout, the ink and the print, the paper on which it is printed and its smell—the whole thing was eminently visually, plastically and sensually satisfying.

I found its contents concise, full of substance, fair and open-minded, giving factual reports and, in the measure of the possible, expressing an open stance, though at the same time giving an opinion without distorting the facts to fit the author’s likes or dislikes.

Finally, it is an art newspaper that has answered a basic need and which has more articles than advertisement... My best of luck in the continuation of your mission and my congratulations and gratitude for what you and your staff are about.     

George Ortiz

Art collector

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