Conserving Bagan in a Time of Uncertainty

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Getty Art + Ideas
Conserving Bagan in a Time of Uncertainty
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“Bagan is actually a splendid site. You can imagine in only in this, like, fifty square kilometers, they have more than 3,000 monuments. And then all the monuments have different styles and different architecture.”

The ancient past of Bagan, Myanmar, is still visible today in the more than 3,000 temples, monasteries, and works of art and architecture that remain at the site. Beginning around 1000 CE, Bagan served as the capital city of the Pagan Kingdom. Many of the surviving monuments date from the 11th to 13th centuries. A number of these temples are still used by worshippers and pilgrims today. A 2016 earthquake, which damaged over 400 structures, brought renewed international attention to Bagan and its future.

In February 2020, a team from the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) returned from doing intensive preparatory work with international and local colleagues in Bagan to launch a long-term conservation project there. Soon after, the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 closed borders and halted travel. In February 2021, a coup d’état staged by the Burmese Military plunged the country into further uncertainty.

In this episode, Susan Macdonald, head of Buildings and Sites at the GCI, and Ohnmar Myo, the GCI’s consultant in Myanmar, discuss the history of Bagan, the demands and challenges of conservation there, and their hopes for the future of the site. Myo is a former project officer of the Cultural Unit, UNESCO, and was a principal preparator of the report that confirmed Bagan’s World Heritage Site status in 2019. This conversation was recorded in January 2021, under very different circumstances, but it captures the curiosity, ambitions, optimism, and collaborative spirit that guided the project at that time.

To learn more about the Getty Conservation Institute’s Bagan Conservation Project, visit https://www.getty.edu/conservation/our_projects/field_projects/bagan/index.html

To read more about Bagan, visit http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/bagan-getty-partners-conserve-ancient-site/

Inside LA’s Most Iconic Modernist Home, Case Study House #22

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Getty Art + Ideas
Inside LA’s Most Iconic Modernist Home, Case Study House #22
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“Buck wanted to stand in every room from his house, turn his head, and see every view. Even the bathroom. And so that was kind of what inspired the design of the house.”

Among the most famous photographs of modern architecture is Julius Shulman’s picture of Case Study House #22, also known as the Stahl House after the family that commissioned it. Two girls in white dresses sit inside a glass cube that seems to float atop a cliff over the illuminated grid of Los Angeles at night. Built by a family with a “beer budget and champagne tastes,” the two-bedroom home designed by architect Pierre Koenig changed residential design in LA. While Shulman’s image and others of the building have appeared in countless publications, advertisements, films, and TV shows, the story of how the house came to be and what it was like to live there is less well known.

In this episode, Bruce Stahl and Shari Stahl Gronwald and writer Kim Cross discuss the story of how Case Study House #22 came to be and share personal stories about what it was like to grow up and live in the home, from roller skating across the concrete floors to diving off the roof into the pool. Stahl, Gronwald, and Cross are co-authors of the recent book The Stahl House: Case Study House #22; The Making of a Modernist Icon.

To buy the book The Stahl House: Case Study House #22; The Making of a Modernist Icon, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/the-stahl-house-case-study-house-22-the-making-of-a-modernist-icon

Hans Holbein the Younger’s Captivating Portraits

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Getty Art + Ideas
Hans Holbein the Younger’s Captivating Portraits
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“Holbein was able to combine his ability to create a very believable likeness with these strong design sensibilities, and also an ingenuity, a cleverness, a creativity to create individual portraits of specificity and complexity.”

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543) depicted some of the most important thinkers and politicians of his day in beautiful, highly individualized portraits. In Basel, he socialized with and painted humanists such as Desiderius Erasmus and Bonifacius Amerbach. In London, he captured nobles and high-ranking officials like Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. He even became court painter to King Henry VIII in 1536. Holbein also painted many noblewomen, a somewhat unusual practice at the time, paying particular attention to their style of dress.

In this episode, Getty paintings curator Anne Woollett discusses the exhibition Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance, the first large-scale presentation of Holbein’s work in the United States. Woollett highlights key works in the exhibition, placing them in the context of Holbein’s milieu and career. The exhibition is on view at the Getty Center through January 9, 2022 before traveling to the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, in February 2022.

To buy the book Holbein: Capturing Character, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/holbein-capturing-character-978-1606067475

To explore the exhibition Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance, visit https://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/holbein/index.html

The Trailblazing Career of Spanish Baroque Sculptor Luisa Roldán

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Getty Art + Ideas
The Trailblazing Career of Spanish Baroque Sculptor Luisa Roldán
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“She was not afraid. She wasn’t daunted. I think that’s one of the key differentiators about her and her career.”

Sculptor Luisa Roldán (1652–1706) followed a rare path for women in 17th-century Spain. Like other female artists, she trained and worked in the studio of a male family member, in this case her father. After marrying at 19, she established herself as an independent artist. This set her apart from most other women of her day, who stopped making art when they started families of their own. Roldán, working alongside her husband and brother-in-law, specialized in large painted wooden sculptures, terracotta groups, and reliefs. Overcoming societal limitations, Roldán took risks, worked for the Spanish kings, and was widely recognized as an accomplished artist during her lifetime.   

In this episode, author Catherine Hall-van den Elsen discusses her new book Luisa Roldán, the first in the new Getty Publications series Illuminating Women Artists. Hall-van den Elsen explores Roldán’s personal challenges, career trajectory, and her most penetrating Baroque works, placing them in their historical context.

To buy the book Luisa Roldán, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/luisa-roldan-978-160606732

To learn more about the Getty Museum’s Roldán, visit https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/3441/luisa-roldan-called-la-roldana-spanish-1652-1706/

To hear more about the Getty Museum’s Roldán, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/reflections-maite-alvarez-on-luisa-roldan/

The Recovery and Conservation of a Stolen de Kooning

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The Recovery and Conservation of a Stolen de Kooning
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“We hear the security guards talking to one another on the walkie-talkie, saying that there’s a man on the line saying that he has a stolen painting. And I wish somebody could’ve seen us, because we just stopped our conversation and Jill’s eyes got big, and she said, ‘Oh, my gosh, are we gonna remember this moment for the rest of our lives.’”

On the day after Thanksgiving in 1985, two thieves casually entered the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA). They strolled out minutes later with Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman-Ochre. Without security cameras or solid leads, the trail to find the stolen painting quickly went cold. In 2017, however, the artwork turned up in an unlikely place: a small antique shop in Silver City, New Mexico. After more than 30 years, the work was finally returned to the UAMA, but it was badly damaged, due to the way it was torn from its frame during the heist and how it was subsequently stored and handled. The UAMA turned to the Getty Museum and Conservation Institute to help conserve the painting.

In this episode, UAMA curator of exhibitions Olivia Miller and Getty Museum senior conservator of paintings Ulrich Birkmaier discuss Woman-Ochre’s theft, recovery, and conservation, as well as its place in de Kooning’s oeuvre and the UAMA’s collection. The treatment is still in progress, and the restored artwork is scheduled to be on view at the Getty Center from June 7 to August 28, 2022.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-the-recovery-and-conservation-of-a-stolen-de-kooning/ or http://www.getty.edu/podcasts/

A Century of Change for Latin American Metropolises, 1830–1930

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Getty Art + Ideas
A Century of Change for Latin American Metropolises, 1830–1930
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“The metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental role in defining the history of these countries that we discussed in the book.”

The period between 1830 and 1930 was one of global change, particularly in Latin America. Emerging from Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule at the start of the century, cities from Buenos Aires to Havana faced explosive population growth and rapid modernization, which reshaped the urban landscape and sociopolitical structures. These changes were captured triumphantly in photographs and film, planning maps, and theoretical treatises. However, the poor or disadvantaged were often erased from these records, and were often physically relocated to the outskirts of the urban core, reducing their visibility in cities.

In this episode, Getty Research Institute curators Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato discuss this consequential century of development for Latin American cities. Their research into this topic formed the basis of a 2017–18 exhibition at the GRI titled The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930. The exhibition’s materials, most held in the GRI’s collections, have been expanded in the recent Getty Publications volume The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates, edited by Alonso and Casciato.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-a-century-of-change-for-latin-american-metropolises-1830-1930/ or http://www.getty.edu/podcasts/

To explore the exhibition The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930, visit https://www.getty.edu/research/exhibitions_events/exhibitions/metropolis/index.html

To buy the book The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates, visit, https://shop.getty.edu/products/fluxus-means-change-jean-brown-s-avant-garde-archive-978-1606066621

Fluxus, Change, and the Nature of Art

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Getty Art + Ideas
Fluxus, Change, and the Nature of Art
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“Everything was made of the most familiar objects. It could’ve been taken off a desk or a kitchen counter or something, and put into action. They were inert, but their meaning wasn’t. I thought to myself, this isn’t art; it’s better.”

In the early 1960s, artists from around the world practicing in wide-ranging disciplines—from music to dance, visual art to poetry—began to coalesce in a movement called Fluxus. Fluxus grew out of the absurdity of Dada, Surrealism, and Futurism, drawing inspiration from influential artists like Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. Although the movement ended in 1978 with the death of its founder, George Maciunas, its approach to artmaking continues to inspire artists today.

In this episode, art critic and Fluxus expert Peter Frank discusses the movement’s history and impact, sharing his personal engagement with Fluxus that began during his childhood in New York City. This conversation took place on the occasion of the Getty Research Institute’s exhibition Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive, which is currently on view at the Getty Center through January 2, 2022.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-fluxus-change-and-the-nature-of-art/ or http://www.getty.edu/podcasts/

To explore the exhibition Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive, visit https://www.getty.edu/research/exhibitions_events/exhibitions/fluxus/index.html

To buy the book Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive, visit, https://shop.getty.edu/products/fluxus-means-change-jean-brown-s-avant-garde-archive-978-1606066621

Japanese Calligraphy Albums as/and Fragments

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Getty Art + Ideas
Japanese Calligraphy Albums as/and Fragments
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“To really read into the fragment that you have in front of you and to imagine the rest of what was the whole text is really romantic and an enjoyment of tekagami viewing.”

The rise of tea drinking ceremonies during the Edo period (1615–1868) brought about another new cultural phenomenon: calligraphy albums. Called tekagami, or “mirror of hands,” these albums showcase calligraphy by 8th-century emperors, famed poets, and other illustrious figures from Japan’s past. The calligraphic samples are often fragmentary, containing a few lines of classical poetry, Buddhist sutras, or snippets from personal texts such as diaries and letters. These fragments gain meaning not only from their content and form, but, importantly, from their arrangement on and within the pages of tekagami. In March 2021 the Getty Research Institute gathered together scholars to discuss this unique art form in a colloquium titled “Tekagami as/and Fragments.”

In this episode, the colloquium’s organizers, Akiko Walley, the Maude I. Kerns Associate Professor of Japanese Art at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and Edward Kamens, the Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies at Yale University, discuss the origins of tekagami, its place in Japanese art history, and avenues for future research into this fascinating medium.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-japanese-calligraphy-albums-as-and-fragments/ or http://www.getty.edu/podcasts/

To explore Yale’s Tekagami-jo album, visit https://tenthousandrooms.yale.edu/project/tekagami-jo-shou-jian-tie-project

To explore University of Oregon’s digital exhibition on fragmented calligraphy, visit https://glam.uoregon.edu/s/tekagami-kyogire/page/welcome

Riffing on Rubens in the Spanish Americas

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Getty Art + Ideas
Riffing on Rubens in the Spanish Americas
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“You could easily say ‘I can’t believe Rubens held such sway deep into the 18th century in Latin America as a touchpoint. Wow. That’s profound.’ But that, to me, is much less important than rethinking fundamental categories of picture making.”

One of the biggest influences on art in the Spanish Americas from the 16th through 18th centuries was Peter Paul Rubens. Although the renowned Flemish artist never traveled to the Americas himself, missionaries, merchants, and colonizers flooded the region with prints of his work. These images became the basis for large religious paintings and sculptures, but the resulting works have long been written off as mere copies and have received little critical attention. In his new book Rubens in Repeat: The Logic of the Copy in Colonial Latin America, Aaron M. Hyman explores how artists, particularly in Peru and Mexico, expanded on Rubens’s designs, creating their own inventive compositions. 

In this episode, Hyman discusses his new framework for understanding copies and improvisation in Spanish colonial art. He also explains how studying art in Latin America sheds new light on European works of the period. Hyman is an assistant professor of art history at Johns Hopkins University.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-riffing-on-rubens/ or http://www.getty.edu/podcasts/

To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/rubens-in-repeat-the-logic-of-the-copy-in-colonial-latin-america-978-1606066867

Edmund de Waal’s Letters to Camondo

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Getty Art + Ideas
Edmund de Waal’s Letters to Camondo
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“When you pick an object up, not only do you begin to understand how it was made, it’s facture, the people who made it, but you can also, I think, begin to start to tell the story about the people whose hands it was in.”

Prominent Jewish banker and art collector Moise de Camondo settled in Paris in the 1870s and quickly began amassing the signifiers of wealth around him—a beautiful home, fine furniture, and artistic masterpieces. But after his only son, Nissim, was killed fighting for France in World War I, Moise decided to bequeath his house and its luxurious contents to the state in his son’s honor. The home became a museum, preserving the family’s name alongside the furnishings and art just as he had left them. Sadly, the anti-Semitism raging across Europe deeply impacted the museum and the Camondo family—Moise’s only surviving relatives were murdered at Auschwitz just a few years after the museum opened.

In Letters to Camondo, ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal retraces the story of Moise de Camondo through imaginary letters written to the collector. In this episode, de Waal discusses Camondo’s story, its intersections with de Waal’s own history, and the emotional weight that objects can carry.

For images, transcripts, and more, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/podcast-edmund-de-waals-letters-to-camondo/ or getty.edu/podcasts.

To buy the book, visit https://shop.getty.edu/products/letters-to-camondo.

To listen to the related podcast episode featuring de Waal, visit https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/audio-edmund-de-waal-on-the-white-road/.