The sale of the contents of Howard Hodgkin's house is a neither here nor there but when one gets the opportunity to visit not only an artist's studio but his house or apartment as well, then there exists the opportunity to learn so much more. Perhaps this wouldn't have been the case with Hodgkin, but it was. This is an unseemly cash up and the baby is going down with the bathwater.
This is the Musee Bourdelle in Montparnasse. The museum has at it's heart the apartment, studio and workshop of Bourdelle, it's a joy.
I have visited this museum many times, it's a place that resonates for me, I know the problems that beset me also populated the minds of the people who sat around the huge 'refectory' table in the studio. The table was made by Bourdelle's father, run your hand over it's grain and know that Bourdelle did the same, it's connecting, affirming. If you belong to the uber confident, sure, cocksure cutting edge 'art scene' you may well not get this, but there was a deadly virus of doubt that we lucky ones were inoculated with when post figurative angst really kicked off. Bourdelle was famously an assistant to Rodin and he only just recovered from that privilege. When Jack the Lad, I worked in three sculptors studios and it's not the craft you acquire it's the crack, the taste for the coffee, the connection. The craft is now almost redundant, these days you buy it, pop down to Pangolin with a doodle on a tissue and they will translate it into a monumental bronze, a resin or a marble, just sign the cheque, instant artist, brilliant.
Go and soak up the pathos of the Centaure mourant, the Dying Centaur, it's a work of brilliance, but more than anything visit for the table, the drapes, the dust, the stands, get connected.
Intermittent internet, intermittent life, hopefully back on track. Paris calls, specifically the Musee D'art Moderne, the wonderful Palais de Tokyo. The show is Une Amitie Artistique, Derain, Balthus and Giacometti. The main man of the day for me is Balthus. I can't recall the last time I stood in front of a Balthus, and you need to do that, you need to appreciate the paint. Balthus is so much reproduced and in reproduction the imagery suffocates the artistry. Understandable, the images do disturb. In our over sexualised web world you might have expected them to acquire a quaint naughtiness, they haven't and they still set all the bells ringing.
Balthus died in 2001 and shortly after his death the Gagosian Museum in New York held an exhibition, not the show every one was expecting. The exhibition consisted of nearly 2000 Polaroids of a young girl called Anna Wahli, the youngest daughter of Balthus's doctor.The pictures were taken during the last ten years of Balthus's life, they were made as aids to the painting, Balthus had found drawing increasingly difficult in his later years. The exhibition did Balthus no favours, the world had come to admire his highly charged artwork but dragging a vast cache of photographs out into the daylight seemed unnecessarily provocative. Anna Wahli produced a short memoir to accompany the show and that for me justified the whole business. Describing her time with Balthus. Anna opened a channel into his creative world. Between the ages of 8 and 16, every Wednesday afternoon she would pose for him, and afterwards they would watch television together. Anna describes how painstaking Balthus was when arranging the poses, endlessly and minutely adjusting, and this is the key to understanding the sexuality in the art. It is compulsive, obsessive, disordered sexuality.
We are at our ease with the sex in our art, the blinds are up and the windows are wide open, the slick porn images of Jeff Koons, the tatty frayed bits of Lucian Freud, the wonderfully gaudy cocks of Celia Hempton, it's a vast and entertaining spectrum, but Balthus remains apart, he displays little and exposes everything, he has more in common with Marcel than Egon.
AGED AND AWKWARD