Friday, September 28, 2007

"Wow" Fatigue

During a walk-through Thursday of Artisans and Kings: Selected Treasures from the Louvre at the Denver Art Museum, I finally had to force myself to stop saying "wow." It started to sound so stupid.

Artistically, this exhibit may not be quite up to the level of the Phillips Collection exhibit of a few years back – though the best work here, such as Bernini's Pope Urban VIII, Titian's Woman with Mirror, and Velsquez's The Infanta Margarita, rivals anything ever seen in Denver. It's the craft work that fills it with unanticipated "wow" moments. A king can't commission an artist to produce a masterpiece – but he can commission something that takes a dozen master craftsmen years to produce. Again and again I found myself in a state of slack-jawed amazement, gazing at utilitarian objects of unimaginable opulence: a vase, a platter lid, an andiron. The Bauhaus would have been mortified.

As usual at the DAM, the show is expertly curated, taking you deep into the world of France's final three pre-revolutionary kings. "It's an experience you'd never have at the Louvre," said Melora McDermott-Lewis, the DAM's director of education. In bringing together pieces from five of the Louvre's eight collections, they worked with Louvre curators who'd never worked with each other before.

The show opens October 6 and runs through January 6, 2008. (The Louvre only allows the drawings to be on display for three out of every 39 months. Visit the Denver Art Museum site for more information.


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