Saturday, April 30, 2011


Of course I watched the Royal Wedding! How could I not? Having blogged about William & Catherine's engagement, which took place while I was in England last Fall, naturally I was going to watch it. What can I say: I am an Anglophile. The wedding did bring back memories of when I was a boy drinking early morning tea with Momma and Nana as we watched Charles & Diana get married. Can you believe that was 30 years ago? They would have loved this Royal Wedding as well. Hearing that the Queen had given the couple the titles the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also put a smile on my lips, making me think back to my days of studying at Selwyn College at Cambridge University. It was where I first met my friend CF and we had quite a few adventures. Sure enough, CF wound up texting me during the wedding saying the same thing. Speaking of technology, I was struck also by how the Royals have integrated it into their public lives. The British Monarchy has had its own website for years, but did you know they have a Flickr pool, a Twitter page, a Facebook page, and a YouTube site? It's pretty amazing when you consider they have a reputation for being old fashioned. The picture you see here of the newlyweds is from their Flickr photostream of official wedding photos which William & Katherine selected to be disseminated.

Every Internet-based form of news media has the wedding covered, so I won't bother linking to anything, but I'll make just a few observations. As always, there was a lot of pomp & circumstance, but the Brits have been doing it for so long, and always do it so well, it's simply magical simply to watch. But let's face it, it's all about the fashion. First, her wedding dress was stunning, elegant, and timeless. Like everyone else, I immediately thought of Grace Kelly, and I loved the retro-yet-modern 1950s look the dress had. I had a suspicion there would be a connection to the house of Alexander McQueen (the Met’s exhibition on him opens next week), but I didn’t know it would be designed by Sarah Burton. Second, William looked brilliant in red, and Harry…yum! Why are men always stuck wearing dour tuxedos at weddings? Uniforms aside, a little bit of color can only enhance the look, respecting, of course, that the bride still must outshine. (My friends RL+DG were a model to emulate!) William & Kate’s two kisses on the balcony and the drive-off in the Aston Martin were smart moves on their part. They managed to pull of tradition with modern flair, showing how they are the new monarchy for the 21st century. Third, loved the Queen looking all sassy in that sunshine yellow frock and hat...85 years old too! (Her 60-year Jubilee is coming up in 2012.) Finally, the hats...insane! The Duchess of York (Fergie) mayn't have been invited to the wedding, but her daughters are learning from her about standing out in a crowd. Princess Beatrice's hat looked like a combination of a Rococo wall ornament and a Christmas-giftbox-ribbon. The hats were adventurously fabulous. American women, take note!

With the swelling of the crowds in the London streets and the estimated 2 billion people who watched the wedding worldwide, hopefully the naysayers about the monarchy realize that despite everything there is a tradition of over 1000 years that has been the backbone of the British people and made them who they are today. For sure, the monarchy has to evolve to meet the more Republican (and even Socialist) demands of the people, but nothing happens overnight. The truth is, we need people like the Queen. Part of the mystique that surrounds our world leaders is the assumed glarmorous, magical world in which they live. People want to know that the Queen and the Royals are just like them, but at the same time they also need for them to be distant, removed, even above them in some way, so that they become a model to which one can aspire. An important part of that aspiration is the glam and the pomp & circumstance. People need a little tradition, and some historically-derived bling, in order to help guide them to a higher model of excellence. This doesn't mean the Queen is a god; it means she represents the best of the nation, and the world. Besides, think of the alternative: do the Brits really want their only visual representation of leadership to be David Cameron and his wife? Trust me, Americans know: we had 8 years of George & Laura Bush, and it wasn't pretty.

As an aside, my royal watching actually had begun Thursday evening when I finally watched on DVD The King’s Speech. It’s strange that I hadn’t seen the movie before now, but the timing to watch it worked out well, and of course I loved the film. The climax of the movie, when he gives his wartime radio speech, the way they syncopated it to the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, was a marvelous moment in cinematic history. The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that this actually did happen. Here is his portrait by Meredith Frampton, painted in 1929 when he was still the Duke of York (image: National Portrait Gallery). He was King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Cambridge’s great-grandfather. He had to overcome a major obstacle in order to become a leader, and he did it with the help of a friend who was not of royalty but of the people. It’s something to think about as the present Royals drive off into the sunset on their honeymoon, and a new generation of the monarchy takes us along with them for the ride.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

YCBA Visiting Scholar Award

I'm a regular visitor to the Yale Center for British Art, and I haven't had a chance to report until now on some exciting news about them and me. Stay tuned for that below. Yesterday afternoon I took a train ride up to New Haven, CT with Peter Trippi (editor of Fine Art Connoisseur magazine and co-curator of the recent John William Waterhouse exhibition). We were on our way to the YCBA to hear Elizabeth Prettejohn give the last of a series of public lectures on Victorian art that she had been doing all month. I had hoped to attend more of them, but I was actually in Europe at the time. Regular bklynbiblio readers know that Prettejohn's name makes appearances here from time to time. I admit it: I'm a fan. In her talk she focused on the idea of Giorgione (ca. 1477/8-1510), specifically how his work was an influence on Victorian painters such as Edward Burne-Jones and art critics such as Walter Pater. Almost no works are safely attributed to Giorgione. For instance, the ca. 1509 work above, Le Concert champêtre (Musée du Louvre), was attributed to Giorgione but it is now said to have been by Titian. Even in the 19th-century very few works were definitively attributed to Giorgione. Prettejohn argued that this obfuscation charmed Aesthetic painters into borrowing on his Venetian style so as to create pictures about beauty without subject or moral virtue. The talk was interesting, and there was a wine reception afterwards, with opportunities for networking. I was invited to join a group for dinner as well, which was very generous of them. I always find myself feeling a bit self-conscious interacting with all the bigwigs of Victorian art criticism (including Tim Barringer, Martina Droth, and Jason Rosenfeld), but it was a pleasant evening overall and well worth the trip. By the time I got the train and subway home, it was after 1am.

Now for the news. I've been selected to participate in a 1-week seminar that will be taught by Martina Droth (Head of Research and Curator of Sculpture, YCBA) and Mark Hallett (Prof. of the History of Art, York University) at YCBA this June. The topic of the seminar is "The Artist's Studio in Britain, 1700-1900" and will be of great use to me in my dissertation research on the sculptor John Gibson. But the even BIGGER news is that the YCBA also has awarded me a 1-month Visiting Scholar Award. Much like the fellowship I received to the Henry Moore Institute last year, this award will provide me with housing, a per diem stipend, research facilities, and access to their fantastic collection and all the Yale University Libraries. I'll be there from November to December. I'm really looking forward to it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shakespeare's Diary

Dear Diary: Ye gads! the damn bloody fool Southampton is driving me mad as Ophelia! He be a charming bloke, with delicate folds of curling hair better suited for a woman than a man, and I daresay he has the financial resources needed to stage my plays, but he breaks the straws of my patience with his poking and prodding, wanting to know every last word of my latest play. He's almost as bad as Her Majesty! I expect I'll have to dedicate yet another comedy or poem to him. He likes to have his locks stroked. Back to work... 'Whether 'tis nobler the soul...the spirit?...the mind? suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...'

Okay, so obviously that isn't really a passage from Shakespeare's diary. Such a book probably doesn't exist. However, on Friday I went to The Morgan Library to do some dissertation research, and I took some time to walk through two of their current exhibitions that have nothing to do one another: diaries and Shakespeare. The Morgan Library is a delightful NYC museum, not typically on the tourist's radar. It is a museum with a collection of primarily works on paper: drawings, watercolors, prints, books, manuscripts, sheet music, and so on. It was established by J. P. Morgan when he turned over his father's library and collection to the City. His father was the famous J. Pierpont Morgan, the banker, whose voracious collecting amassed an incredible array of material in all media, many of which went to other institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can go to The Morgan and see his Gilded Age library and other rooms from his home and many paintings from his Renaissance art collection, while also seeing excellent exhibitions on a variety of subjects.

The exhibition The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives brings together works by people as disparate as Charlotte Brontë to Tennessee Williams. The idea of the diary here is broadly defined, from actual bound journals recording the thoughts of the famous and ordinary, to illustrated manuals, study works, calendar journals, religious treatises, etc. The exhibition is interesting conceptually, especially for anyone who is a journal writer (I've been keeping them sporadically for nearly 20 years now!). But the actual installation is a bit dreary and uninteresting, short of seeing the handwriting of these people. For all the hype of connecting diaries to the current world of blogs and social networking as the exhibition claims, it was disappointing that they didn't put a station up that allowed people to leave their own thoughts or contribute to a journal of some sort. The online version of the exhibition, however, is superb. With zoomable digital images and more narrative to learn about individuals and their diaries, it may be worth spending your time visiting that version of the exhibition than going to the museum itself.

In sharp contrast, however, the very focused exhibition The Changing Face of William Shakespeare relates to the scholarship done to authenticate the now-famous Shakespeare portrait, about which I blogged two years ago (see the image above). The exhibition argues that the now-called Cobbe portrait is perhaps the best and earliest representation of Shakespeare himself. This small exhibition of a few oil portraits, prints, books, and manuscripts shows how derivatives of this picture over time help reinforce the belief that this portrait is as close to the most accurate representation of the bard. The show itself is small, but in this case intimacy works well, especially because the actual portrait of Shakespeare is simply beautiful and you feel as if you're in the presence of someone regal. The painting practically glows, and the artist's attention to detail in areas like facial hair truly are best seen in person. The painting make you realize that even if this isn't Shakespeare it was undoubtedly someone perceived as important because of the attention paid to the subject's physical appearance and cultural standing.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges

If you're in London and you want to travel to the Continent, take a Eurostar train. With all the aggravation these days of airline security, traveling by train to Paris or Brussels is a piece of cake. The trip is much easier and it only costs about $100 round trip. You check in about an hour before departure, scan your e-ticket at the entrance, put your bags on the security scanner then pick them up, clear customs/immigration, drink a cup of coffee until they announce your platform, and then you board, put your bags in the rack, and relax in your seat. In less than 2 hours, you're in Paris or Brussels. It really is amazing and well worth doing.

Unfortunately, when SVH and I arrived in Brussels, we were a little disappointed. DE had said to us beforehand "It's not Paris," and now I understood what he meant. Not only is it smaller, but it's lacking the pristine beauty that lies at the heart of Paris. We checked into our hotel and wandered around town. It was noisy, full of screaming youths and gals drinking lots of the ubiquitous Stella Artois beer. Tourists poured into the Grand Place, the main square surrounded by historic buildings decorated in gilt that, upon reflection, still is nothing compared to the Louvre in Paris or even the Piazza di Signoria in Firenze. The more we walked around, we couldn't understand why there was trash everywhere and why there were no flowers. London's parks are already bursting with flowers. There was nothing here. We quickly made the decision to take a guided coach tour the following day to Ghent and Bruges. It turned out to be a fantastic day.

Ghent is about 45 minutes outside of Brussels, with Bruges another hour heading northwest, just near the border of The Netherlands. Both cities are absolutely charming and reflect exactly the atmosphere we thought we'd find in Brussels. Ghent is an old university town from the medieval period, and the architecture is simply delightful. Normally I wouldn't advocate taking guided tours, but this one was relaxing and gave us plenty of free time to wander, which helped. The major highlight for me in Ghent was going to St. Bavo's Cathedral and seeing the large triptych of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, 1432, by Hubert and Jan van Eyck (image: Web Gallery of Art). It's historically important and simply beautiful. The center panel with the representation of God the Father has been a source of inspiration for numerous artists over the centuries. Both Ghent and Bruges have man-made canal systems dating back to the 1400s, and although once used for shipping and commerce, they now serve mostly for tourism. Terraced roofs on facades is classic Flemish-style architecture, so it was lovely to see so many of these beautiful houses of the old guilds lined up one after the other on the canal (see picture at top). Bruges, unlike Ghent, is more of a tourist city. It's obvious that if Brussels is a business center, then Bruges is where people come to relax. Another artistic highlight there was Michelangelo's sculpture of the Madonna of Bruges, which had been brought by its patron to the city in the 1500s.

We were back in Brussels on my birthday, and the more we wandered the more we realized that the beauty of the city is outside the Grand Place area. We found gardens, public sculpture, and exquisite Art Nouveau-style townhouses. We went to the Musée Magritte to see the work of René Magritte, the native Belgian Surrealist. We also took the long walk to Rue Americaine to visit the Musée Horta, one of the earliest Art Nouveau-style homes designed by the architect Victor Horta for himself ca. 1900. Art Nouveau has a tendency to seem outdated when one looks at it in reproductions, but seeing it as an architectural space makes you realize how incredibly modern it was with its exposed ironwork and open floor plan. The Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts had large portions closed for renovations, so I decided I needed to come back and visit that museum on a future visit.

As for food, we definitely indulged. We ate Belgian chocolates from numerous high-end chocolatiers such as Pierre Marcolini (all simply delectable), we had dessert crepes as a birthday indulgence in Brussels, and we had a Belgian waffle with raspberry coulis in Bruges. We ate lunch in a restaurant overlooking the city from the top floor of the Museum of Musical Instruments, a fabulous ca. 1900 Art Nouveau building. We had dinner one night at Falstaff's brasserie, an historic restaurant where I drank Belgian beer and ate moules (mussels) cooked in white wine, with a side order of pommes-frites (fries). I was amazed at how delicious my meal was, as you can see from my picture below. Our trip to Belgium was relaxing and enjoyable. We're glad our initial impression of Brussels changed over the weekend, which goes to show that meandering to nowhere when on holiday sometimes can turn out to bring you some of the most delightful surprises you could ever imagine.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Cherry Trees Return

If you were waiting for my post on Belgium, you will have to wait another day or so. I decided for my first day back in NYC, some more leisure time was in order. After breakfast with RL and a subway ride into the City to run an errand, I made a trip this afternoon to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for Hanami, the Japanese tradition of viewing cherry blossom trees, symbols of rebirth celebrating the return of Spring. Considering the recent tragic events in Japan, it seems even more appropriate this year to remember their cultural tradition. It gives me hope that, not unlike the return of the cherry blossoms, the Japanese people will recover. It was absolutely beautiful today, with the sun shining in a clear blue sky and the weather reaching into the 60s. You will recall that I posted about a similar event two years ago and shared a couple of pictures from when I visited then. It's still early in the season for Hanami so not everything is in bloom, but these pictures show you that it was nevertheless a rewarding experience simply to meander among the blossoms and absorb the joy that is nature. In case you're wondering, the delightful little purple flowers in the one close-up shot are periwinkles and hyacinths.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Modern Sculpture and Aesthetic Beauty

I’m writing this post some 36,966 feet in the air over the Atlantic Ocean, although obviously it is getting posted back on terra firma (Boston Airport, to be precise). SVH and I took a trip to England and Belgium, in part to celebrate my 41st (and next month her 50th) birthdays. We also went to see a few exhibitions that readers will recall were on my "to see" list not too long ago. Upon arriving in London last Tuesday, we dropped our bags off at the Arran House Hotel, where I was given a ground-floor room about the size of Harry Potter’s closet under the staircase. I did have a magical door, however, that opened into a beautiful garden, which helped make the room more appealing.

Despite our jet lag, we headed to the Royal Academy that afternoon to see the Modern British Sculpture exhibition, catching it in its last few days before it closed on April 7th. Even though I’m not a big fan of modern sculpture, I knew there would be works on display dating from the late 1800s and I had heard that the show was more about installations than objects, i.e. how works from the past and present interact with and juxtapose against one another. The first room dealt with the theme of life and death and had at its center a large-scale model after Edwin Lutyens’s ziggurat-like Cenotaph and Jacob Epstein’s Cycle of Life, presented here as reproductions on banners since the actual works are architectural figures. This opening set the stage for the exhibition’s intersection of figurative and abstract works in British sculpture. The second room, "Theft by Finding," had a fantastic installation. Here numerous figurative works were arranged in two rows, with display cases on the walls following the same model, all of which showed sculptures from different cultures positioned near modern works. For instance, a Hindu red sandstone sculpture was positioned beside a female figure by Eric Gill, suggesting how modern sculpture has borrowed on the past, but also implying the irony of British imperialism, how the appropriating of world cultures has influenced its own art. The works themselves were all beautiful, with many ancient figures borrowed from the British Museum, and the ability to move around the statues and view them from many angles near one another was an extraordinarily delightful experience. The number of rooms that followed, alas, did not have this same level of punch and enjoyment, as they focused more on large-scale works and that of specific artists. Victorians Frederic Leighton and Alfred Gilbert had important works shown, and Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore were given a room to themselves, which makes sense, as they represent mid-20th-century British sculpture. Americans such as Carl Andre and Jeff Koons had works in the exhibition, which confused me at times and seemed to change the course of the exhibition’s intent, but other famous names like Anthony Caro were given their due. Damien Hirst’s Let’s Eat Outdoors Today was simply repulsive, with an installation of the detritus of a barbecue invaded by living flies who feed off the remains of meat and other food products. Hirst once again managed to repulse viewers by drawing attention to our quotidian existence and forcing us to encounter the side of our lives that we want to ignore, notably garbage and disease. I still contend (and this is for my friend PR) that Hirst clearly has established himself as an important figure in the history of sculpture, but I still find his work distressing and unappealing.

Fortunately, beauty was on the horizon. The next day, CC joined us and we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum (first for a spot of tea, then) to see The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900. This movement began when painters in London experimented with new ideas that removed any sense of morality from the subject, reflecting instead on sensuality and perceiving the work of art as an object of beauty first, potentially removing subject itself from the work as a result. Some scholars have named the American painter James McNeill Whistler as the first Aesthetic painter, but as Elizabeth Prettejohn’s excellent book Art for Art’s Sake: Aestheticism in Victorian Painting has shown, it was a shared creative sensibility among artists such as Whistler, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Simeon Solomon, Frederic Leighton, Albert Moore, Edward Burne-Jones, and others, all of whom brought their own unique take on beauty to this artistic movement. By the 1870s Aestheticism had entered the arena of the decorative arts as well, and one sees aspects of it in all areas of Victorian cultural living. Considering the V&A is largely a decorative arts and design museum, I was expecting this show to focus on the crafts component of the Aesthetic Movement. However, I was pleased to see an incredible number of paintings, drawings, and prints hanging alongside displays of architectural plans, furniture, textiles, ceramics, and even costumes, demonstrating how the Aesthetic Movement was truly a multidisciplinary cultural trend that impacted all avenues of life. All of the painters mentioned above are on display, although CC and I agree that Solomon isn’t visible enough. Moore, however, is all over this exhibition, and I must say that these pictures are stunning. In most instances, this was the first time I had seen them in person, and doing so makes you reappreciate his work, with classically draped women lounging on sofas while Japanese-inspired fans and flowers surround them. They are truly beautiful works. The installation of Whistler’s three Symphony in White paintings from 1862, 1864, and 1867 (this last one is the one you see above), all hanging beside one another perhaps for the first time, was an absolute delight considering they are all owned by different museums. Sculptures by Leighton, Gilbert, and others make appearances throughout the show as well, which was refreshing. There is an attempt at recreating Rossetti’s bedroom from his house in Chelsea, but this actually was a bizarre installation, for they created peep-hole windows in which to see the bedroom, with no explanation as to why they had done that. Why not just show the bedroom as an installation? The peep-holes simply made it difficult to appreciate what they had done. There are other general concerns about the show. The lighting on some of the paintings made it challenging to see up close, and many of the themed vignettes, such as that on classicism and Japonisme, seemed haphazard in their arrangement. Projections of peacock feathers abound everywhere, which is a lovely touch but seriously distracting after a while. The digital recreation of Whistler’s Peacock Room (permanently installed at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C.) was a valiant attempt to experience an Aesthetic interior space, but the projections themselves were pixellated and not of the highest quality. All in all, the show is wonderful and has many appropriately beautiful things to see. The borderline excessiveness of gilded beauty makes one understand then how by World War I modernism soon stripped out all of this ornamentation and resort to geometric box-like structures and designs, simply out of rebellion for what probably was seen as ostentatious, bourgeois materialism.

The next day the 3 of us took a lovely stroll through Regent’s Park (we had fantastic warm weather the whole trip) and then DE joined us for a visit to Leighton House, which gives you a true sense of how an Aesthetic interior all came together, particularly for a wealthy bachelor artist. The house recently went through a makeover, and it’s exquisite. A token peacock is in the stairwell, but the Arab Hall, with its array of tilework from all over the Middle East, simply shimmers and makes you want to dip your feet in the pool and smoke a hookah. SVH and I left for Brussels the next morning, so stay tuned for more on that part of the trip.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Dying Dyrad (with an update)

Yesterday afternoon, I looked out the back window of my apartment and was thinking that the tree in the yard needed to be trimmed. Imagine how shocked I was this morning when I woke up to one of the most ferocious sounds in existence: that of buzz saws ripping through the air. The beautiful tree was being cut down completely, its branches falling to the ground in a heap of bare spindly limbs. Whenever I see in person a tree being cut down, I swear I feel a lump in my chest, and the same happened this morning. It feels like slaughter to me. Admittedly, I'm being melodramatic, because the tree branches were interfering with the electrical wiring and were simply overgrown, but still it hurts. Thinking back, this extends to a sad childhood memory of when my parents decided to cut down the enormous weeping willow tree in our backyard. It was like losing a friend then, and it's the same even now. I think immediately that a Dryad is dying. Dryads are the spirits of trees in Greek mythology. The image you see here is Evelyn De Morgan's late Victorian painting of The Dryad. When a tree is cut down, the Dryad who lives in it cries aloud and dies along with the tree. It was tradition in ancient cultures that the man with the axe would seek the Dryad's blessing before cutting it down for their need, not unlike the thanking of the spirit of an animal killed for sacrificing itself to sustain humankind. Seeing the tree come down limb by limb I couldn't help but think about the hawk that has visited me and the way the snow has landed on the tree's bare branches creating a beautiful cascading blanket in white. I'm very glad now that I took the pictures that accompany those posts to remember her by. I'll have to look for spring buds on some other tree this year.

UPDATE: I bumped into the landlady's daughter a little while ago and discovered that indeed the tree coming down was not by choice. Apparently one of our neighbors started complaining about it being in their yard. Ah, well, what can you do. Today is a day for surprises though. I just turned the corner of my street, and they're filming a scene for a new horror movie called Hellbenders. I think I just saw actor Clifton Collins, Jr., but I have no idea who he is, so I came home before they yelled at me to get off the set (that happened to me twice when I accidentally walked onto the set of Gossip Girl while it was filming in if I want my cameo appearance to be on that show).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Random Musings 6

The Royal Academy in London has been in existence since 1768, its first President being Sir Joshua Reynolds and including among its famous members J.M.W. Turner and Frederic, Lord Leighton. It has had the cachet of being the leading institution for British art since its foundation, although naturally over its history there have been groups who challenged its principles and teachings, such as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848. In spite this paradigmatic position, to be elected a Royal Academician, one of the 80 "eminent practising artists" active in the United Kingdom, is an incredible honor and says much about your position in the world and history of British art. So you can imagine there was some surprise when news broke that Grayson Perry, the 2003 Turner Prize winner (the first transvestite to win that prestigious award), was elected to the RA. The image you see here shows Perry as his transvestite persona Claire in a gallery beside one of his vases (image: London Evening Standard). I'm a relative newbie to the career of Perry, only having begun following his work last fall when I was in the UK (and I must credit CC with pointing his ceramics out to me and thus leading me on my journey to know more about him). Since then I've been fascinated. His vases are beautiful amphora-like objects, but the images on them reveal very personal childlike sketches that frequently depict graphic scenes on subjects such as war and sexual violence. There's something about the images that make me think of Edward Gorey, but with less wit, more visceral realism. His work has helped reinvigorate an interest in ceramics for many, in part because of the subjectivity that appears on works that historically have been decorative or functional objects. The RA, however, doesn't elect decorative artists, so what is interesting with this story too is that they elected him as a printmaker. I'm less familiar with his prints, but the implication from the article in The Art Newspaper is that his work in printmaking was a veiled attempt to acknowledge his achievements without having to bend the rules of election to the RA. The best bit in the article has to do with Perry himself: "On 22 March he was the guest speaker at the RA Schools annual dinner, and although it was a black tie event, Perry added some colour to the night and came as his usual female altar-ego 'Claire', rather than hire a tired Moss Bros suit."

On this side of the Atlantic in NYC, I've been raving about the Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand photography exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you haven't seen it yet, you've got one week before it closes. Opening this week is Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century exhibition, which promises to be a delightful show. Inspired by Lorenz Eitner's insightful article "The Open Window and the Storm-Tossed Boat: An Essay in the Iconography of Romanticism" published in The Art Bulletin (December 1955), this exhibition showcases a number of jewel-like pictures by mostly German, Austrian, and Danish artists from the early 1800s who were infatuated with photorealistic interiors and views outside their windows.

In non-art news, The New York Times has done another incredible job using Internet technology with its latest interactive tool (thanks to PR for sending this to me). Using census data, "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" allows you to type in a zip code or a city name, and you can see the ethnic/racial population breakdown for neighborhoods, as well as information about incomes, education, and family structures. When I did a search for my own largely Italian-American Brooklyn neighborhood, I wasn't surprised to discover it's 61-66% White, but I was surprised to discover that the Asian population was 11-12%. I was actually more surprised to discover that 3-4% of the population in my neighborhood define themselves as same-sex couples, because I was convinced until now I was the only gay in the village. (Definitely click on that link if you've never seen the hilarious BBC comedy Little Britain.)

The new season of Torchwood is set to premiere on July 8th. While I'm glad that John Barrowman and Eve Myles will be part of it, at least for some of the episodes, I'm still annoyed that it's going to be on Starz Network, which I don't think anyone I know actually gets as part of their cable system. I guess we'll have to wait for the DVD.

Speaking of DVDs, if you didn't catch Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as prison lovers in I Love You Philip Morris during its limited-run release, you absolutely must see it on DVD, which is being released in the US this week. It is a fabulous dark comedy that will make you squirm, jeer, cry, and laugh out loud. Ewan as a naive blond Southern just wanna eat him up!

And, last but certainly not least, remember that April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month, sponsored by the ASPCA. This year is the 145th anniversary of their charter, which was signed here in NYC in 1866. Click here for my past post about the group's history. Go orange and remember We Are Their Voice!