Art in The Week That Was

A selection of creative current affairs and events which have hit the headlines in the last week…

1.  Art History & Archaeology:

Viking ‘Valkyrie’ burial of a female high-ranking warrior. Previously thought to be a male skeleton due to no known female precedent, DNA testing and grave goods interpretation have yielded confirmation of the body’s gender and profession.

Much has been happening in the world of archaeology recently.  A Viking Warrior tomb in the Swedish settlement ‘Birka’, originally discovered in 1889, has since yielded a scientifically-confirmed body of a female ‘Valkyrie’, or high-ranking officer.  ‘This is the first formal and genetic confirmation of a female Viking warrior,’ said Professor Mattias Jakobsson at Uppsala University’s Department of Organismal Biology.  Due to the grave goods buried alongside her (horses, a board game and various weapons), and using symbolic attribution deciphering techniques applied successfully to other Viking burials, her status as a respected, decorated and prolific warrior has been officially proclaimed.  This is the first discovery of its kind – no other female warrior grave has knowingly been unearthed.

Another Viking site was discovered in Denmark this week on a farm.  Metal detector hobbyists and archaeologists dug over 3 pounds of gold from a field, including necklaces, torcs and other precious finds.  Lars Grundvad of Denmark’s Sønderskov Museum commented that whoever buried the treasure must have been ‘filthy rich’ due to the artefacts being cast in gold rather than the more usual silver.  This, says Grundvad, and the particular style of the jewellery, would likely connect the hoard to Viking King Harald Bluetooth.  Viking nobility were known to bestow generous gifts on local tribe chieftains in order to cement trading and political alliances.  The most likely beneficiary would have been Ravnunge-Tue – who was one of Bluetooth’s contemporaries.  According to dates on the hoard’s coins, the cache would have been buried before 970 AD.

Meanwhile, Egyptian archaeologists have uncovered a 3,000-year-old tomb in Luxor.  The grave was found to contain the body of a goldsmith, surrounded by mummies, jewellery and statues dating back to Egypt’s 18th dynasty New Kingdom era — about the 15th century BC.  The goldsmith’s name was recorded as Amenemhat, and he was buried with his wife and 1 of his sons.

Presenters Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould from BBC1’s ‘Fake or Fortune’ airing on Sunday evenings.

BBC1’s current series of popular art programme ‘Fake or Fortune’ has again yielded a newly-recognised piece by a master artist.  The Wildenstein Institute, Paris, confirmed that an A4 pencil sketch of a crouching woman was indeed by 19th-Century French painter Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin.  Passed through a series of owners (including the Churchill family) for nearly 100 years, the drawing is believed to have been a prelude to Gauguin’s ‘Nafea Faa Ipoipo’, or ‘When Will You Marry?’, – the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.  Achieving $300million, it was purchased in 2015 by the Qatari royal family.  The ‘Crouching Woman’ sketch’s current owner, overwhelmed by the outcome, said she would look to sell the piece and ‘do some good’ with the funds raised.  The show’s art valuer/presenter Philip Mould estimated the drawing to be worth upwards of £200,000.  Fiona Bruce, ‘Fake or Fortune’s’ main presenter commented that it was a ‘rare and precious discovery’, adding: ‘I’m so thrilled we were able to prove it right.’.

2.  Contemporary Art:-

‘Kikito’ by ‘JR’ – a mural erected at the US/Mexican border to prompt discussion on the topic of immigration. A Border Patrol passes infront of the 65-foot image in Tecate, California.

Inhabitants around the Mexican/US Border have been surprised to find a large-scale art installation placed there this week.  The portrait of a giant toddler was sited there by a French artist known as ‘JR’.  Created to question the wisdom and efficacy of the border wall, the toddler (aka ‘Kikito’) looks like he could easily crawl over the barrier, making a mockery of current US anti-Mexican immigration control.  Standing at nearly 65 feet tall, the image has prompted a positive reaction from both sides of the border.  From waving at people on the other side, to stopping the car to take pictures, ‘Kikito’ is creating enthused discussion on the subject of immigration.  One viewer from the US side said ‘It’s larger than life.  It just draws attention to the whole issue in a positive way.’.

3.  Art Outdoors:-

‘The Crystal Cloud’ by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot. Part of the Garden of the Giant outdoor art exhibition at Swarovski Kristallwelten in Austria.

Swarovski ‘Kristallwelten’ in Wattens, Austria, was recommended as an outdoor art experience worth visiting.  Opened in 1995 to mark the company’s centennial, multi-media artist Andre Heller designed an attraction to showcase crystal in all its forms.  Since then, over 13 million visitors have stood in awe of this ‘unique and magical place’.  In 2015, the attraction was expanded to feature a garden exhibition space.  The Garden of the Giant contains both ancient and contemporary art: a place where crystal becomes a holistic experience.  19 artists from Emil Berliner (musician) to Kwangho Lee (artist/designer); Matta Wagnest (concept artist/musician) to Fredrikson Stallard (British avant-garde design) have created conceptual installations using Swarovski crystals as their inspiration, to grace the one-off landscape.  Including a sparkling Crystal Cloud, Mirror Pool, and a multiple-level playtower, the 7.5 hectares of tourist attraction represent a venue where you can ‘experience beauty, inspiration and energy, care, and esthetics – and legends’.

4.  Fashion:-

Kaia Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s daughter) is a new light in the fashion world, having gained critical acclaim for walking numerous shows at NYFW’17.

The fashion world has come alive in time for the Autumn.  Fashion weeks in both New York and Paris have been much-tweeted, especially due to Kaia Gerber’s (previous Supermodel Cindy Crawford’s daughter with husband Rande Gerber) first outing as a catwalk model at NYFW17.  Walking for Raf Simons’ sophomore collection for Calvin Klein, the teen model gained critical acclaim alongside also-new teen Mason Grammer (daughter of Kelsey and Camille Grammer).

Both fashion weeks highlighted floral textiles and feminine lines with Marchesa, Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta picking up on the trend.  The floral theme was continued via an outdoor, large-scale, art installation by the Lewis Miller Designer team in collaboration with Farrow & Ball, and Kate Spade threw a flower-packed garden party to celebrate her collection.

In the UK, Saturday evening was dominated by the return of Strictly Come Dancing to television screens.  Featuring the usual plethora of deftly-hewn dancewear, the ‘Class of Strictly 2017’ were matched up with their professional partners to begin their high-intensity training sessions.  Pairs to watch include Aston Merrygold (JLS) and Janette Manrara; Alexandra Burke (singer) and Gorka Marquez; and Gemma Atkinson (actress) and Alijaž Škorjanec.


[Credits:  Feature photo – ‘When Will You Marry?’ by Paul Gauguin, c. 1892;;;;;;;;;;;;;]




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