Until right now, you went to Lens in northern France for second-division football and slag heaps and other fine mining memories. You might also have used it as a base from which to see Great War battlefields. What you didn’t get much of was world-class culture. As you wouldn’t in Wigan, so you didn’t in Lens. The depressed former coal town apparently had problems beyond the reach of Raphael.
Which is precisely why, in a splendid burst of reverse thinking, the place is about to open an art gallery of astounding breadth and brio, containing works from across the history of human creativity. In the year’s major French cultural initiative, the Louvre has broken out of Paris to establish its first provincial base on a disused colliery site hemmed in by miners’ housing estates.
President François Hollande inaugurates the Louvre-Lens next Tuesday. It opens properly to the public on December 12. It is no mean branch office. The €150 million (£121m) building is of deceptive simplicity, a succession of four connected rectangles, and a square, all in aluminium and lots of glass. It has been kept long and low – a single storey – to avoid crushing locals with worthiness. The Japanese architects want the neighbours to come in, not stay stuck outside, awestruck. It could be a big leisure centre – which, in a sense, it is.
Reuters – Top Paris art galleries and the Palace of Versailles have weighed in against an unpopular push to extend wealth tax to art, complaining in a letter to the government that such a move could drive historic collections out of France.
The daily Liberation printed an excerpt from a letter it said was signed by the heads of the Louvre, Versailles, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Centre and others and sent to the culture minister and President Francois Hollande, saying the tax would crush the art world.
“There’s a risk that France will contribute to the disappearance of historic collections that have been passed down through the generations,” Liberation quoted the letter, written on Friday and also signed by several city mayors, as saying.
Spokespeople for the various art galleries could not be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appeared to sound the death knell on Tuesday for the push for art works worth over 50,000 euros $64,700 to be included in assets used to calculate a person’s fortune, saying the Socialist government opposed it.
“Artworks will not be included in the calculation of wealth tax. That’s the government’s position,” he told Europe 1 radio.
Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac cautioned that the proposal was not buried yet.
“We will have a frank discussion with the Socialist group. It is possible for a government to be beaten by its parliamentary majority,” he told France Inter radio.
Currently, only assets like real estate or cash savings count towards wealth tax. Net assets of more than 1.3 million euros are taxed at 0.25 percent on top of income tax, and the rate doubles to 0.5 percent for assets above 3 million euros.
ATLANTA (AP) — Fifty years ago, a group of 106 influential cultural and civic leaders from Atlanta traveled to Europe to visit famous museums and demonstrate the ascendant southern city’s commitment to culture.
The Atlanta area’s population in 1962 had recently hit a million people, but political and business leaders worried the growth wouldn’t continue if the city didn’t improve its museums and venues for theater and music. The city’s cultural development would be altered forever by the trip, but in ways that had to do more with its tragic end.
The group was on its way home June 3 when its chartered Air France plane crashed on takeoff at Orly Field in Paris, killing all but two flight attendants. It had been the worst single plane crash to date.
“The community was just in shock,” said Joe Bankoff, outgoing president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta. “I mean, to lose over 100 people in a moment was just unbelievable. But to lose such a cross section of Atlanta was particularly important.”
On the flight were artists, company leaders, the first woman elected to the city’s school board and other leaders. Among the sites on their packed agenda were the Louvre in Paris, the Coliseum in Rome and London Bridge.
Out of the city’s grief grew a sense that something needed to be done to memorialize them, to improve on its tiny art museum in an old house and struggling art school.
“These people were heads of companies in Atlanta. They were the wives who did a lot of the volunteer work at the art association,” said Susan Lowance, who had traveled with the group but had decided to stay in Europe longer to visit friends.
She believes the development of the arts center is a fitting tribute to her friends.
“These were people who had a stake in what was going to happen, and what happened was wonderful,” Lowance said.
Atlanta is now home to a world-class art museum that has collaborated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Louvre, a Grammy-winning symphony orchestra and other top-notch cultural institutions.
Strange Random Culture Quote:
Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future. – Albert Camus
- The Louvre Mounts a Rare Exhibition of American Paintings (elliottingotham.wordpress.com)
- Plane Veers Off Taxiway in Atlanta (fox2now.com)
The Mona Lisa at the Prado in Madrid was thought to be just another fine copy, with added eyebrows and an odd black background. But curators at Spain’s national art museum yesterday announced a startling discovery: the painting was actually executed by an artist in Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop at the same time as the original.
It is the first known copy of the most famous painting in history, and a discovery that curators believe sheds new light on the creation of the masterpiece.
Deputy conservator, Gabriele Finaldi, said: “It’s as if we were standing in the workshop itself, and at the next easel. You can see that the artist was working step by step with Leonardo. When Leonardo made a change, he made a change.”
The copy sits in a dimly-lit room awaiting the finishing touches of a two-year restoration, during which its true origin was revealed. Curators decided it needed a face lift because it was going on loan to the Louvre in March. Following X-ray and infrared studies, they were surprised to find a landscape hidden beneath the dark paint behind the subject.
Conservators believe the artist could be Francesco Melzi, one of Leonardo’s favourite pupils. “When you look at the copy, you can imagine that this is what the Mona Lisa looked like in the 16th century,” Mr Finaldi continued. “It’s not just the details and the colour use. It has also been protected from light and dirt for centuries. So what you see if a very reliable appearance.”
Strange Random Mona Lisa Quote:
“Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation.” – Will Rogers (American entertainer, famous for his pithy and homespun humour, 1879-1935)
- Mona Lisa copy was painted by Leonardo’s pupil (independent.co.uk)
- Mona Lisa Copy Shocks The Art World (huffingtonpost.com)
- Early Mona Lisa copy unveiled by Spain’s Prado Museum (cbc.ca)
- Mona Lisa Discovery of the Day (geeks.thedailywh.at)
- Earliest copy of Mona Lisa reveals her true looks (vancouversun.com)
- What a Real-Time Copy of the Mona Lisa Reveals About Leonardo (time.com)
- ‘Mona Lisa’ copy done hand in hand with da Vinci (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Painting Sheds New Light on the ‘Mona Lisa’ (npr.org)