Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Fine Art of Connoisseurship

Lately my friends and I had been poring, aghast, over pictures of Donatella Versace, muse of the leathery tan skin, botox, relastyn, silicone, and glisteningly inauthentic platinum gold weaves. Allegedly, the wrinkly cadaverous blonde shown tanning on an unidentified Eurotrash beach was the iconic Italian designer. But no. Close observation of the horror rewarded someone with the certitude that in fact there is a lady that makes the real Donatella look healthy and almost natural. Below, the geniuses at Gawker describe in elegant and painstakingly nuanced terms the differences between these two muses of unnatural aesthetics. In the art history world, one learns about wealthy men who, thanks to their fortunes, travel(ed) widely, saw friends' collections, and studied at posh schools, allowing them to develop a finely tuned ability to distinguish a master's hand, color palette, handling of paint, or composition from that of an inferior interloper. A noted curator at a major museum used to collect shards of ancient Greek pots which he would place in front of hapless students and ask the author, location where it was made, what part of a mythological cycle the shard belonged to, all from one small bit. I envy such skills, which cannot be learned by looking at slides or power-points, let alone fleeting encounters with pictures while jostling for space with the iPhone wielding tourists in art museums world-wide. No, connoisseurship is a dying art. But the folks at Gawker know how to do it.

According to a recovering art historian friend of mine, the above article would merit the Gawker writer with the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize for best scholarly article published in the Art Bulletin magazine. (cue to eye rolls and muffled ironic laughter from my academentia suffering art historian colleagues out there, holla?)

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