The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced the acquisition of a painting by 17th-century French artist Nicolas Poussin. Donated by collectors Jon and Barbara Landau, the work is, according to the museum, "one of only two unanimously accepted works by Poussin executed in oil on copper rather than on canvas." Nicolas Poussin, "Agony in the Garden" (1626–27) oil on copper, 24 1/8 in. x 23 1/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Jon and Barbara Landau in honor of Keith Christiansen. (image courtesy the Met)

In fact, Cullors did not purchase the properties with funds from the BLM Global Network , which reported she had received only a total of $120,000 since the group’s inception in 2013 and nothing after 2019.

She points out that she has had two lucrative book deals, one of which produced a New York Times bestselling memoir in 2018. She signed a production deal with Warner Bros. in 2020 to develop programming “for children, young adults and families.” 

Cullors has another deal with YouTube, does public speaking, operates an art gallery in South L.A. and teaches at Prescott College, a private liberal arts college in Arizona.

“One of the biggest dreams for Black folks is land and home ownership,” Cullors said. “I knew that in order to have a certain level of stability I wanted to own a home and I also wanted people in my life to have access to home ownership. It means that I’ve co-financed homes, and I’ve supported folks to be on the path of home ownership. This isn’t new. Black women are often the primary breadwinners and supporters of our family members and community members.”

Although the first three magisterial volumes of Richardson’s biography supersede any other version of the painter’s life in the years leading up to 1933, this last volume, roughly half the size of the others, can be most usefully read alongside Josep Palau i Fabre’s Picasso 1927–1939: From the Minotaur to Guernica (2011). It, too, was the fourth volume in a study of Picasso’s work and was published after the author’s death. Like Richardson, Palau had been a friend of Picasso’s. His approach tended to be more intuitive and less analytical than Richardson’s. Because, unlike Richardson, he could use color illustrations on every page, his books offer a more concrete, graphic account of Picasso’s progress.

We see more vividly in Palau’s book Picasso’s obsessive engagement with Marie-Thérèse. What is strange is that on the very day that he created his Dream and Lie of Franco, a sort of antifascist cartoon, he also painted, in tender tones, an oval portrait of her. What is strange too is that certain paintings that seem distant from each other in style and texture, such as Marie-Thérèse with Garland of Flowers and Portrait of a Woman with Beret, were actually done on the same day.

Both these paintings dramatize the sitter’s eyes and pale skin, but the first one is all naive suggestion, soft colors, the mild face encased by a single black line from left eye to right ear, while in the second, with a red background and a red beret, her gaze is more worldly and sophisticated, like the painting itself. The two could have been made decades apart or by different artists.

Strip away the diverting celebrity names, and what’s left is just a museum show of a corporate collection. Corporate art collections are not a rare thing — although this format is certainly unusual — but exhibitions of them at major museums are. There are lots of reasons why. For one, outsourcing art selections to company execs usurps the role of museum curators. Curatorial independence vanishes.

Other potential land mines are even greater.

Chief among them: When a corporation contributes funds to a museum that shows its collection, the museum’s exhibition program appears to be for sale. Interscope Records is underwriting a chunk of “Artists Inspired by Music: Interscope Reimagined.” (Neither Interscope nor LACMA spokespersons would divulge the amount.) The specter of pay to play should be a matter of considerable concern — especially for the Board of Supervisors who oversees the county facility.

This is Yanagihara’s principle: If true misery exists, then so might true love. That simple idea, childlike in its brutality, informs all her fiction. Indeed, the author appears unable, or unwilling, to conceive love outside of life support; without suffering, the inherent monstrosity of love — its greed, its destructiveness — cannot be justified. This notion is inchoate in The People in the Trees, which features several characters kept on the brink of death and ends with a rapist’s declaration of love. In A Little Life, it blossoms into the anguished figure of Jude and the saintlike circle of friends who adore him. In Yanagihara’s new novel, To Paradise, which tells three tales of people fleeing one broken utopia for another, the misery principle has become airborne, passing aerosol-like from person to person while retaining its essential purpose — to allow the author to insert herself as a sinister kind of caretaker, poisoning her characters in order to nurse them lovingly back to health.

  • Is the internet overrun with things that demand responses? For Dame magazine, Kate Harding writes:

This is why we humans have a long tradition of teaching literature—in other words, how to read closely and think deeply—instead of just turning our young loose in a library and hoping for the best. Those of us who love books learn as much as we can and pass that accumulated wisdom along to students who mostly do not give a shit. ’Twas ever thus. But along the way, we create a chain of language lovers and nosy parkers that links us—you, me, Birkerts, Didion, Woolf, James, all of us—through time all the way back to Gutenberg; before him to handwritten letters, stone tablets, and the oral tradition; before that to the best crafted series of grunts; all of which makes death seem a little less terrifying, a little less final.

The internet has made the entire world a library with no exits and no supervisors.

  • Laura Spinney of the Guardian writes about “post-theory science” and what that might mean. It asks: does the advent of machine learning mean the classic methodology of “hypothesise, predict and test” has had its day?

Contrast how science is increasingly done today. Facebook’s machine learning tools predict your preferences better than any psychologist. AlphaFold, a program built by DeepMind, has produced the most accurate predictions yet of protein structures based on the amino acids they contain. Both are completely silent on why they work: why you prefer this or that information; why this sequence generates that structure.

You can’t lift a curtain and peer into the mechanism. They offer up no explanation, no set of rules for converting this into that – no theory, in a word. They just work and do so well. We witness the social effects of Facebook’s predictions daily. AlphaFold has yet to make its impact felt, but many are convinced it will change medicine.

Somewhere between Newton and Mark Zuckerberg, theory took a back seat. In 2008, Chris Anderson, the then editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, predicted its demise. So much data had accumulated, he argued, and computers were already so much better than us at finding relationships within it, that our theories were being exposed for what they were – oversimplifications of reality. Soon, the old scientific method – hypothesise, predict, test – would be relegated to the dustbin of history. We’d stop looking for the causes of things and be satisfied with correlations.

YouTube video
YouTube video

Required Reading is published every Thursday afternoon, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

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