Can corporate history be art? This question can only be asked if one is not familiar with the fascinating long-term project by the Chinese artist Xiaowen Zhu. Anyone who has experienced Oriental Silk will answer this question with a clear “yes.”
Japanese art was a breath of fresh air to the citizens of 19th-century France, whose country was being overwhelmed with rapid modernization and industrialism. The focus on individual craftsmanship and quality stood in stark contrast with mass production, and the simple utilitarian designs were the antithesis of perceived contrivances in European schools of art. Japanese aesthetics quickly permeated all aspects of popular culture, from fashion to theatre to home decor, and assembling collections of Japanese imports became a common pastime for the wealthy elite. This enthusiastic reception and emulation of Japanese art was called japonisme.
In 1480, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who had conquered Constantinople fewer than three decades earlier, sat for a portrait by the Venetian painter Gentile Bellini. Bellini had been sent to Istanbul to fulfill a request for a “un bon depentor que sapia retrazer”—“a good painter who knows how to paint portraits”. The Sultan apparently wanted his portrait done.
Visitors around the world have traveled to Europe to see the tall spires and stained glass windows of the continent’s Gothic cathedrals: in Cologne, Chartres, Milan, Florence, York and Paris. The trappings of Gothic architecture have become shorthand for “medieval Europe”. Yet in Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe, Diana Darke investigates the Islamic origins of Gothic architecture, tracing its history through pre-Islamic Syria through the Islamic empires to the tall European cathedrals between the 12th and 17th centuries.
Yayoi Kusama and her iconic dots are instantly recognizable the world over, making the 91-year old among the (if not simply the—an article in The Guardian asks “Yayoi Kusama: the world’s favourite artist?”) most famous artists in the world. It’s clear she inspires many: one need only look at the countless collaborations or at #yayoikusama on Instagram. Her life and her art have inspired many a book and Elisa Macellari adds to the growing body with Kusama: The Graphic Novel.
Maung Shwe Yon was a highly acclaimed 19th-century master silversmith from Rangoon. Harry L Tilly, the aforementioned British expert on Burmese art, was effusive in his praise for Maung Shwe Yon. He described one of his pierced bowls as ‘the best example of this kind of work ever produced’ in his 1902 monograph, The Silverwork of Burma.
Just around the corner from Rome’s Pantheon, on the Via di Sant’Ignazio, is the famed Biblioteca Casanatense. Among its precious books and manuscripts is an album of 76 striking watercolours made in Goa around 1540, the work of an anonymous Indian painter for an unknown Portuguese patron.