Tag Archives: New York

Vacuum packed opera

23 Sep
Image courtesy of Andrew Rudin via Twitter (@groveguys)

Image courtesy of Andrew Rudin via Twitter (@groveguys)

Yesterday Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera wrote for Bloomberg:

Throughout its distinguished 129-year history, the Met has never dedicated a single performance to a political or social cause, no matter how important or just. Our messaging has always been through art.

You can read the rest of his argument for not designating the opening gala for Onegin as an occasion to support LGBT people in light of Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation. While reading it I was overtaken by a sense of misplaced propriety by Mr Gelb and also made me wonder what arts bodies like the Met should stand for.

I don’t think arts organisations can be operating like social zombies…happy to hoover public funding but not keen to fulfill a social function. In the world of North American opera Houses the funders are the gods of the circuit. But what do they buy by giving millions to an opera house…a glitzy gala and access privileges or do they also castrate the ability of the organisation to have ideals and to pursuit them?
An organisation of the global reputation and reach of the Met Opera  has more responsibility than smaller houses to set an example. The world of opera cannot afford to be seen in total removal from the reality. The real world is meant to be reflected in its work, outreach and education is part of it but also it should be brave enough to have moral values and to stand by them regardless of what the fat wallets have to say.

Life is political by definition (Aristotle defined it as being part of the Polis, the ancient Greek word for city. Being a citizen one is a political being) and art reflecting life should ideally have an engagement with what means to be human and to be ready to fight for gross injustice and inequality. The arts have traditionally been a fertile field for shady governments to find a fig leaf to cover their dehumanising policies and use artists as the disseminators of propaganda. In a democratic country like the US it is puzzling to me why Mr Gelb will post an open letter essentially presenting the Met Opera as a sympathetic but crucially inert behemoth. Many will say the anti-gay agenda is only part of Putin’s pursuit of his own people and neighbouring nations, which is understandable. My main protest against the Met is its happiness to be seen as a political blank slate. A company that has nothing to say with its work to a world audience, a brain-dead showbiz establishment with no social nous.

Art and artists have found ingenious ways to protest against oppression over the years. Due to the funding basis of the Met being largely private I can understand Mr Gelb wanting to please them by being seen to skirt controversy. But running a major institution can at times be a testing and political business. I was proud when British art establishments from National Museums to the Royal Opera  House came together to fight the imminent budget cuts by an unsympathetic government and not sit and wait for it to happen with fatalistic abandon. If arts institutions don’t have anything to say about our wider environment and life they become a fossil, perpetuating emptiness and pushing themselves into a niche of irrelevance and deference.

Please do go and sign the petition on here which has reached over 9.116 signatories already.

Tonight’s opening gala for Onegin at the Met Opera and despite the management’s numb reaction. Has the potential to be a watershed moment, I hope a lot of the patrons present will wear the rainbow ribbons to show support for the campaign. What is more worrying is that Valery Gergev who is a close ally of President Putin has not deemed the campaign worthy of a statement in the New York Times or any other publication to date. His silence becoming more of a puzzle as the days go past.

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A good recent example of applying political pressure are those two blog posts on the Royal Opera House website encouraging direct action across the country to make the government take notice:

The Royal Opera House did urge readers of their blog to lobby their MP

A call for support to make the case for the arts

If you fancy supporting the cause on your social media accounts feel free to use the avatar picture below

ribbon avatar

9/11 NYC Memorial

9 Sep

I’m sure we are all inundated with information and memories from the awful events in New York in 2001. This morning the website for the memorial in New York has gone live and is moving beyond description. It puts this tragedy in a new light for me, focusing on the personal drama of the individuals that lost their lives on that day.

Well done to Michael Arad who designed the memorial and Local Projects that created the extremely well designed website/database. It allows us to unfold all those underlying relationships and stories. It is eloquent and timely. After all when we memorialise monumental events what we leave behind is the individual. Not this time.

The memorial website 

Story behind the making of the memorial and the structure of the names inscribed  

2006 interview with Michael Arad in NY Mag

An interesting article on the process and the complex set of requirements the memorial and rebuilt towers had to fulfill

Alexander the great

14 Apr

Was terribly surprised, to find by chance today that the retrospective exhibition is about to open in New York! To say I’ve always have been a huge fan of his ideas and mix of art and fashion would be an understatement. I truly envy the visitors to the Met that will enjoy such beauty…let’s hope it gets a transfer the V&A a place that inspired him greatly.

I’ve already pre-ordered my catalogue as there is such penury of decent literature on his career, this catalogue will be a wonderful tome to have and to flick through for inspiration. Hopefully a worthy tribute to his intellectual curiosity and true pioneering spirit. I unfortunately never had the chance to meet him but will be eternally inspired by a lot of his creations and more importantly his ideas of what fashion can become. In my mind he was the designer that really did not go after the market, he was much closer to an installation artist with a particular love for the darker coves of the human soul. As twee as it sounds a true visual art visionary.

The boring bits:

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

May 4, 2011–July 31, 2011

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, 2nd floor

Here’s the link to the catalogue: http://store.metmuseum.org/met-publications/alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty/invt/80011804/

Here’s the link to the exhibition blog:  http://blog.metmuseum.org/alexandermcqueen/

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