Yesterday I viewed an exhibit at the Minneapolis Art Institute called The Louvre and The Masterpiece. It was a very interesting and educational exhibit of masterpieces from the Louvre Museum in Paris.
It was not a large show, four small galleries, but there were many pieces in each gallery and the quality of the work was outstanding. The exhibit looks at what makes a masterpiece a masterpiece. The Exhibit started with the origins of the term "masterpiece" as being part of the arts and craft guilds in the 1700's. A particular work was submitted to the guild and judged to be of such quality that the artist-craftsperson was considered a Master in their field. It begins with the concept of craftsmanship; an artwork is so technically accomplished that it is apparent to all who view it, especially other artists-craftspeople.
The exhibit also talks about Taste or Style of the times in which an artwork is created. Some masterpieces have not always been considered masterpieces. Or some were considered masterpieces, fell out of favor, and then were re-discovered at a later date.
The exhibit also talks about fakes: artworks that were thought to be the work of a famous artist from long ago, only to be discovered later to be copies or scams. There were several pieces in the exhibit that were fakes. I thought that was fun to see the fakes and learn why the Louvre curators were fooled, or how they discovered a piece was authentic.
Works that stood out for me were:
- Antoine-Louis Barye's gigantic Lion and Serpent bronze sculpture. Very large dramatic lion with a snake under its paw. The lion is well observed and is full of energy and power.
- a Roman statue of Eros which had lost its wings and arms but they have been restored.
- Johannes Vermeer's The Astronomer. Beautiful painting, exquisite!
- Lorenzo Lotte's (?) Christ Carrying the Cross.
- Leonardo DaVinci's Drapery Study. Unbelievably crisp sense of light.
I highly recommend the exhibit if you want to see some great art, but I also recommend seeing the exhibit to understand a little more about what museums are about and how we come to cherish (as a society or as a world) some works more than others. Well worth the entrance fee of $14.
The Louvre and The Masterpiece will be on display at the Minneapolis Art Institute until January 10, 2010.