09 March 2007

If you're in New York

Today's New York Times has an article about an exhibition at the Met of Catalan art from about 1888 to 1939, called "Barcelona and Modernity." I wish I could see the exhibition, but the article by itself is enjoyable and has a slideshow of some of the artworks on display.

In the article, Michael Kimmelman makes several nice points about Catalans and Barcelona: one is that there are many great Catalan artists that no one has ever heard of outside of Catalonia, and they deserve to be heard of. It reminds me of a talk here in Brussels that we heard a couple of summers ago, on the topic of international Catalan superstars like GaudĂ­, Picasso, and Carreras. Do they make people more aware of who Catalans are, or not? Does it promote Catalan culture if no one is even aware that they are Catalans?

I also enjoyed the description of Barcelona as a city where the great modernist trends were refracted and made into something unique. The sense of turmoil, both in the positive sense of artistic innovation, and in the negative sense of political unrest, is forefronted by Kimmelman. He opens with this quote, from the mayor of Barcelona in 1909:

“In Barcelona there is no need to prepare the revolution, simply because it is always ready. It leans out of the window on the street every day.”

One detail that I would like to adjust is about the famous café, Els Quatre Gats. Kimmelman says that "the 'four cats' in Catalan slang meant 'just a few guys.'" I object to the past tense there, because this is definitely still in use, as in: Was anyone at the show? Quatre gats--barely anyone.

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