Well, made it to Paris, delivered up two granddaughters who have pony ridden for two complete weeks. They are returned to the bosom completely unshowered, takes the boy in a grandfather to see the joy in that. The Pompidou beckons, I have waited a while for this, the painters painter, the intellectual dauber of the age, Cy Twombly.
Where to start,'Steady the Buffs', first thing to say is that he must be the luckiest painter ever to have walked the planet. I knew the story, the legend, the mythology but I had never confronted the work and I was completely unprepared. Not unprepared for the images, I have seen them reproduced many times, I guess I was unprepared for their reality. I recall a photograph I had seen of Twombly, at his ease with his Contessa in his Roman palazzo. Elegance, style, poise, classic American 'intellectual' sucking up his European culture, I thought some of this would nauseatingly resonate in the work. Got that wrong, if only it had. When he moved to Rome he took a little stick from the New York lofters until he explained that his canvasses were now so large he needed palazzo sized rooms to work in. He also needed to be close to the ancient civilisations, their myths and stories that fed into his complex narratives, also the Contessa's brother, his patron Baron Franchetti picked up most of the bills.
The techniques, the media, the styles are many, what they all have in common is a coarseness. Nowhere will you find the kind of sensitivity to material that you find in the work of a master, no sympathy, understanding of the intrinsic merits associated with individual media, this is not even intuitive mark making, it is dishonest to its core. It is a joke, a travesty to talk of this work along side that of Jasper Johns or Rauschenburg. Take a walk through the Modern galleries and you will find a Johns, one of the number series, not a profound piece but a great painting, a little slick but the paint handling is brilliant, I am aware it's a different game but after the pretentious daubs down the corridor this is bliss. Okay, I just don't get Mr. Twombly, perhaps that's my loss, and to be generous I must own up to a grudging admiration for the marketing of Mr. Twombly, it hasn't always been easy. In 1963 his show at the New York Castelli gallery received brutal reviews, and Twombly reclaimed the unsold canvasses, after this a lasting Trump like distrust of the press set in. After his New York show in 1978, the ten paintings inspired by the Iliad were crated up after the exhibition and stayed crated for ten years until 'acquired' by the Philadeiphia Museum in 1989. If you are going to be a player in the millionaire market you have to be represented in the major museums, this boosts reputation and maintains market value, and if they don't buy you then they must acquire you In 1995 Twombly gifted canvasses to MOMA in New York. The Tate acquired three seriously large Twomblys in 2014, a gift ordained in Mr. Twombly's will. Looks neat in the catologues and the Tate pays storage. Sir Nicholas was thrilled, 'In the current climate they must be worth well over 30 million'. Enough said. The lesson Mr. Twombly has for us is, if you want to make it big, make it really big, it's all a question of scale.
AGED AND AWKWARD