On Tour

Famous paintings travel around the world, like rockstars and football players

If you’re in Milan in early January, you’ll be in time to see two paintings by Georges de la Tour on show at Palazzo Marino (Piazza della Scala). The last day of the show is 8 January. These two lovely paintings, the Adoration of the Shepherds and St. Joseph the carpenter, date to the early 1600s, by a painter who probably saw work by Caravaggio when on a trip to Italy and developed his own technique in accordance with Italy’s master of realistic scenes painted with a dark background. De la Tour particularly liked candlelight, and the sort of luminous glow that it creates from behind a hand. The show is free of charge, and comprises explanatory panels describing the paintings, the artist and his technique. (Open 9.30-19.30, stays open until 22.30 on Thurs and Sat; open on 25 Dec 2011 and 1 Jan 2012).

St. Joseph the carpenter

St. Joseph the carpenter

This is a show that is part of an interesting cooperation between the Municipality of Milan and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. It is the fourth in the series, in which just one painting is delivered to Milan by the Louvre for free exhibition in the City Hall (previous exhibits include a small Titian and Leonardo’s St. John the Baptist). All over the world, paintings have become rather like pop stars, travelling the world for temporary exhibitions dedicated to a single artist or a period of art history. It has become a lucrative source of income for museums for whom finance is become increasingly difficult to find. For example, in 2006, the Louvre loaned 1,300 works, which generated income used for borrowing works from other museums, purchasing, and general administration.

Throughout January and up until February, you can see a Cézanne show at Palazzo Reale in Milan, with about forty works from various international museums, such as Musée d’Orsay, the Orangerie and Petit Palace, and others from Aix-en-Provence, Helsinki, London, Washington, Norfolk (USA), St. Petersburg and others. It provides an overview of the life and career of the painter who was not really understood during his lifetime but had a massive effect on later artists, in particular the masters of Cubism and Surrealism.

From 24 January at the Triennale, there is a show on a more abstract theme, “Pelle di donna,” or “women’s skin,” with the subtitle “Identity and beauty in art and science.” Sponsored by Boots (manufacturers of beauty creams), the show will present a selection of artworks by artists such as Balla, Duchamp, Fontana Lichtenstein, Piero Manzoni, Man Ray, Odilon Redon, Toulouse-Lautrec and Andy Warhol. As many painters over the centuries have focused on the human figure, the concept of an exhibition on the skin is interesting, particularly today when the quest for eternal youth has become a massive earner in international industry. The show will include an installation in which the same woman is made-up according to the style of different periods, from the 1920s up until the present. Tattoos will be included, and the final hall is an interactive scientific laboratory in which all female visitors can have their own photo taken, which will become part of the installation, illustrating an absolutely contemporary idea of “skin-deep” beauty. Many pieces of scientific apparatus and period photos will be on show, lent by the Boots historical archives in Nottingham.

At the Museo Diocesano, there is an exhibition on goldwork in Milan during the age of the Visconti and Sforza families, and so the period from 1300 to 1500. At that time, the city was famous for its gold jewellery, and the pieces made in Milan can now be found in private collections and museums all over the world. This show was made possible by loans from the Louvre and other collections in Nice, Madrid, Essen and Washington, and some of the pieces have never previously left their home museum. Some of them have never actually been exhibited before, because of their sensitivity to light or their extreme delicacy.

All in all, these events increase the cultural attraction of a city, providing visitors and residents the chance to see artworks that they would otherwise only ever see in photos. The business aspects of the process and sponsorship are an essential part of the system. And, differently to food products, it’s probably more eco-friendly to bring a few pictures together in a museum so that they can be seen by thousands of people rather than flying all those people around the globe!

Henry Neuteboom

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