Renaissance Faire

Mike & Leo’s Excellent
New York City Adventure

Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are having a moment at the Big Apple: a massive Met show of drawings of the former is enchanting crowds, and a work attributed to the latter just broke records at an auction yesterday. Not bad for the two Renaissance superstars who’ve been dead for five centuries.
Michelangelo’s Divine Draftsman and Designer brings to the city the largest number of drafts ever assembled for a show. And suspicions about Salvator Mundi, a newly-discovered 1500 painting of da Vinci, didn’t prevent it from reaching a staggering $450 million at an equally crowded Christie’s session.
New Yorkers have it good and don’t even know it. Don’t quote us on that, but an unscientific survey could show that museum attendance by residents is declining, as ‘voluntary’ entry fees went up. But we can always count on our lovely tourists to gladly pick up the slack.
And until they ban cellphones at these places, they’ll keep on increasingly becoming madhouses, with selfie-takers colliding with each other in the rush to impress their social media followers. Sadly, despite ever so eager to be seen as hip, many miss out on the very experience of being in the presence of a work of art, glaring at their faces.
No wonder curators bend backwards to fashion and the culture of celebrities, hoping they’ll attract a fresh crowd of art-seekers, despite having centuries of appreciation to prove the worth of their wares. In the end, the famous also take their own annoying selfies, strictly to post them on Web accounts. And walk away, ushered by handlers.

SKETCH COLLECTION OF A TITAN
The reinvigorating quality of a master such as Michelangelo, born 543 years ago next March, is that every new sighting of his works turns out another revelation. These Metropolitan Museum of Art drawings trace back the pictorial genius at the core of his innate creative verve.
Every small draft, whether it found or not its way to the splendor at the ceiling of the Vatican’s Capela Sistina, started as a subtle dialog, a tenuous answer to whatever turmoil he already had in mind, about fulfilling his task. To completely realize them, he’d need a few lifetimes.
But mankind is grateful of what he managed to accomplish in just one. Despite having to hide at times from the politics of his age, or persevere even when the other gargantuan contemporary of his had but contempt about his art, he’d live to almost 90, as if in a mission to give us all an eternal name.

THE REACH OF AN UNIVERSAL MAN
Leonardo took 67 years to explore and leave his imprint on almost as many disciplines of human knowledge, some that he discovered, others, that he redefined. Considering all his accomplishments as an inventor and artist, is astonishing that, among all, he’s known as (more)
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F for Fading

Thieves, Forgers & Mad Mothers:
The Age of Disappearing Masterpieces

‘Do you think I should confess? To what? Committing masterpieces?’ says Elmyr de Hory on ‘F for Fake,’ Orson Welles’ meditation on the relevance of art in a world that seems no longer moved by it. A world where de Hory thrived as its biggest forger.
We thought about that this week, when experts said that the mother of a thief of a collection of masterpieces has likely burned the irreplaceable works to protect her son. And that Amazon ‘reviewers’ seem to care as much about art as they do about a banana slicer.
Suddenly, Picasso’s quote, about art being a lie that enables us to realize the truth, sheds as much insight about the artistic craft, as it does about our disturbingly self-deluded drive to constantly interfere and ‘improve’ reality, so the outcome serves us a little bit better.
Picasso’s Tete d´Arlequin, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge, and Gauguin’s Femme Devant Une Fenetre Ouverte Dite la Fiancee are among the paintings now believed to be lost forever. They join a copious list of works of art that got stolen, destroyed, or simply misplaced by a long string of idiots.
Of course, there are reproductions of most of the known ones, but heaven knows how many others we never got to admire and count as some of our species’ greatest achievements. Chances are that, even if mankind were to start all over again, from the very beginning, it’s unlike that the ones lost would be recreated.
Perhaps it’s all the ugly by-product of pricing the inestimable, and an overinflated art market that allows them to either become toys of the super rich, or vulnerable to the security vagaries of decrepit museums. And then there is another world, the one de Hory ruled in his time.
A world that makes the FBI a curator. Caveat Emptor (Let the Buyers Beware), a current New York show of anonymous forgeries confiscated by the bureau, is a novelty and a triumph of sorts. The ‘Chagalls,’ Continue reading

Bunga-Bunga Mogul

Prison Sentence Is Unlikely
to Set the Sun on Berlusconi

An Italian court has sentenced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to a four-year prison term. But a long appeal process has just started and, if the flamboyant billionaire can help it, he may not spend a day in jail. After all, he’s beaten the rap a couple of times before.
The 76-year old owner of a media empire and a major soccer team, who was forced out of office last November, has been known as much for his frequent sex scandals as for his failure to prevent Italy from sinking under the weight of Europe’s debt crisis that started in 2009.
Despite being in and out of the government for 20 years, Berlusconi’s center-right political coalition has done little, once in power, to limit Italy’s economic instability, which seem to pervade it at regular intervals. But it’s clear that he’s increased enormously his personal wealth through the connections his position allowed.
Of all world leaders of the early 2000s, a particularly uninspiring bunch, Berlusconi managed to be the most visible, both for his political gaffes and for his ostentatious lifestyle. Propped up by his personal fortune, though, he’s arguably one of the few who still stands a chance for a political comeback.
That is, if he overcomes the latest tax evasion charges, which originated from a far from sensational set of circumstances. Along with seven other defendants, he’s accused of purchasing rights to broadcast U.S. movies on TV networks belonging to his Mediaset company, through shady offshore deals done to avoid paying taxes.
In the past, Berlusconi’s has shown an uncanny ability to skip convictions and prison sentences, for false bookkeeping, corruption, or sex with minors, all the while keeping a high profile as an international playboy. It’s possible that this time Italians have finally had enough with his stunts.
It’s possible but, as we said, unlikely. In the meantime, we’re republishing a post we wrote two years ago, about a particularly revealing episode made of equal parts of money, crassness, culture and cult of personality. It goes a long way to illustrate the way this short-temper buffoon goes about his business. Enjoy it.
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A Gift to Mars, King Tut’s
Loss & Iran’s Penis Cemetery

Italian billionaire Silvio Berlusconi is not the only politician, or rich person, who believes the world’s his playground. But you gotta give it to him: he’s astonishingly oblivious to the horror that usually greets his decisions, mostly guided by the pursuit of fun, candy and more power. As for us, we just happen to be camping around, mostly annoying the hell out of him. (*)
So when the 1800-year old classical Roman statue of Venus and Mars was loaned to his office, Berlusconi immediately made plans to fix it.
As it turned out, the likeness of the ruler of war had its penis chipped off circa 175 C.E., and the goddess of love was missing a hand too. Continue reading

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Berlusconi’s Gift to Mars, King
Tut’s Loss & Iran’s Penis Cemetery

Italian billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not the only politician, or rich person, who believes the world is his playground. But you’ve got to give it to him: he’s astonishingly oblivious to the horror that usually greets his decisions, mostly guided by the pursuit of fun, candy and more power. As for us, we just happen to be camping around, mostly annoying the hell out of him.
So when the 1800-year old classical Roman statue of Venus and Mars was loaned to his office, Berlusconi immediately made plans to fix it.
As it turned out, the likeness of the ruler of war had his penis chipped off circa 175 C.E., and the goddess of love was missing a hand too. Never mind that it’s been exhibited that way at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome for years.
The other day, the work was completed and delivered to his door, and Berlusconi was beside himself. After all, a man known Continue reading