I CAME ACROSS A DALI …

 

I was traveling in the Maritimes a few weeks ago and was told that the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton had a huge Salvador DaliSantiago el Grande. We were early for our next appointment and had 30 minutes to spare so we jumped in to look around. It is spectacular, consuming the entry wall (perspective on size in the below photo), magnificent in scope and of course – rife with religious symbols and figures that makes you wonder what he was thinking …. breathtaking.

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A quick tour around the museum led to a host of art treasures dating back hundreds of years and of course got me wondering as to how this all came about, which is quite a story starting with Lord Beaverbrook – Max Aitken. Small town Canadian (Maple, Ontario, Canada), who came under the mentorship of a wealthy east coast family, moving into banking, then the monopolization of cement (as per Wikipedia), then off to England where he became a member of parliament, made a fortune on Rolls Royce, built a newspaper empire, was Knighted, became a Baron, played a key roll in World War I, grew even wealthier, worked with his friend Winston Churchill during World War II:

During the Second World War, his friend Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, appointed Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply. Under Beaverbrook, fighter and bomber production increased so much so that Churchill declared: "His personal force and genius made this Aitken’s finest hour".

After the war he went on to become a huge benefactor of New Brunswick and the UK, was loved and despised in England (“David Low quotes H.G. Wells as saying of Beaverbrook: "If ever Max ever gets to Heaven, he won’t last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course”), mentioned in a song by the Kinks (The Kinks recorded "Mr. Churchill Says" for their 1969 album Arthur, which contains the lines: "Mr. Beaverbrook says: ‘We’ve gotta save our tin/And all the garden gates and empty cans are gonna make us win…’.") and of course, started this gallery.

A life well lived. The gallery also has a very interesting history on it’s own, specifically where the UK based Beaverbrook family heirs tried to take back a wide range of the art. You can read the account here and judge the motives on your own, but with 2 of the paintings being worth $25M, it makes for interesting reading,

You never know what you will happen upon when traveling if you keep your eyes open.

I DON’T KNOW WHO TO CHEER FOR?

 

We had an eventful family weekend. We went to our first Toronto FC match against New York on Saturday night and it was an exciting game, although it was my second time that weekend where I did not know who to root for. I did not know Toronto’s color, until I asked the gentleman next to me (Toronto FC home colors are Red). How they play in 8 degree weather in shorts and a light shirt is beyond me, it was freezing. Even more surprising was the fact that at half time they watered the grass, making for a cold slide …. But very entertaining and in a heartbreaking last minute goal (That was just amazing to watch), New York tied it.

As I mentioned, this was my 2nd time over the weekend where I didn’t know who to cheer for. The first was on Friday night at the London musical Chess, playing in downtown Toronto. In reading about the play, I was expecting a dramatic – East versus West – cold war type scenario where the chess match symbolizes the struggle of the US versus the USSR. One could get that from this synopsis:

Two of the world’s greatest chess masters battle it out at the world chess championships but their greatest contest is for the love of one woman. Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, the American and the Russian fight to win the heart of Florence Vassy in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War all set to an explosive score by the composers of Mamma Mia and the lyricist of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

The costumes were fantastic. The performers were very talented, as they acted the part of chess piece while often playing an instrument. The music was well executed. But as the first half ended, I was left wondering, who do I cheer for? The plot is a little more complex than what is suggested above and incredibly odd, my synopsis (spoiler alert):

  • American and USSR chess players face off for World Champion title surrounded by the intrigue of East versus West.
  • American pulls temper tantrum, introducing the USSR player to the American’s coach and girlfriend.
  • American girlfriend and USSR chess player hit it off. He defects after winning with girlfriend.

Which is the point where they lose me as there is this minor element that is not really mentioned (I happened to read it in the synopsis); he defects with the girl but in doing so abandons his wife and children behind the iron curtain. While he is doing it, the focus is on their blossoming relationship and he clearly isn’t torn about abandoning his family.

Queue second act (Insert me scratching my head and wondering – so should I be rooting for the dead beat who just abandoned his family, for the woman who stole him or for the American chess player who clearly has abandonment and anger issues?):

  • Ex-USSR chess player goes to Bangkok to defend his title against another USSR chess player.
  • Insert intrigue of his wife showing up and trying to get him to come back to the USSR, while the USSR villain tries to blackmail him into losing in exchange for the return of his American girlfriend’s dad who has been a political prisoner in Hungary for 20+ years – unbeknownst to the American girlfriend – and to ensure his captive family is protected. (Perhaps the writer was watching ‘Days of our Lives’ when penning this – the only thing missing is an evil twin brother who shows up unexpectedly after going missing in a fishing accident 20 years ago)

At this point, I accidentally laughed out loud at a serious part as it was getting ridiculous and I am still left wondering, who am I supposed to be pulling for? It gets worse:

  • ex-USSR chess player anguishes over his decision. What to do? Lose the match? Win the match? Save the family he abandoned and save his girlfriend’s dad but lose the match? At which point the American offers some advice that was probably meant to be a ‘rise above it all’ inspirational moment (but left me laughing out loud) –  “%^&@!!*  it – win it for the game of Chess”.
  • He decides to win it but return to Russia, saying good-bye to his American girlfriend and walking hand in hand into the sunset with his wife, singing something ridiculous about how there can be a happy ending … I was going to cheer for the Russian wife, but seeing her taking him back really made me wonder.

The whole thing left me perplexed. And then it dawned on me …. I realized that this has two people from ABBA involved in it and it all makes sense! Great costumes, some fun music but completely lacking in real depth. My suggestion, avoid if you can.

INSIDE THE MNAC

 

Inside the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya are a range of pieces dating back to the 1300’s. As I travelled through the galleries it became clear that early Spanish art was heavily influenced by the Christian religion in the same way that Italian museums are gallery after gallery of saints, church officials and Christian scenes. Of the religious works, two stood out for me. The first being this piece titled ‘Crist cami del Golgota’.

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It wasn’t the overall picture that caught my eye but this specific image. I found it haunting.

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The next is one that I cannot find on the web but simply found very odd. Titled ‘Nen Jesus triomfant’, a sculpture of a baby Jesus standing on a skull by Lluis Bonifas I Masson. I could find very little on the artist and nothing on the piece. Art is about the viewer interpreting the piece, but I would love to ask what he was thinking. I found it quite disturbing, I could see a dead serpent but a human skull?

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One other piece that struck me odd was ‘Nina Cosint’. Is it just me or is poor Nina to be forever remembered as the girl with the gigantic man hands?

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In the last gallery we came across more contemporary but, as one of the few English plaques stated, ‘not that unique’ pieces geared towards pleasing the general audience of the time. Personally, I found many rich in color and spectacular. Below are a few photos that I will use as desktop backgrounds.

The first from 1805, ‘Gerro amb flors’. A camera fails to capture how rich this painting is.

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A gallery was filled with these landscapes, each with striking deep colors and a style that was clearly ‘de rigueur’ during the late 1800’s in Spain. Perhaps I am just a sucker for a striking sky.

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The gallery also contained the famous 15m long canvas depicting The battle of Tetuan from the Spanish-Moroccan war. The scale of the piece was impressive.

The last notable was a small coin section tucked away at the top of the gallery. Moving from 200BC to contemporary times, it documents the evolution of coins and forgery. These were from the BC era.

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A nice way to spend a few hours.

A PHOTO FROM 375 PHOTOS

 

We were at the one-of-a-kind craft show a few weeks ago and came across the photography of Christos J. Palios. He renders large panoramic photos from hundreds of photos, bending and twisting. They are beautiful. It is amazing what an artist can do with a camera and a computer.

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You can view his portfolio of photos here.

We are not really the ‘art buying’ type, but these are so unique and we were debating .. photos from our trips or a piece of art in the family room? Ours is in transit, it will look great. Feel free to guess which … (smile).

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