Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Grateful thanks to the splendid Mick Hartley who has posted this so that I could pinch it:
Tuesday is hereby proclaimed to be Sunday, Wanda Jackson day.
The Palace at Gödöllő looks like this:
It has powerful connections with both Hungarian independence and the establishment of the Dual Monarchy, through Count Andrássy and then the wife of Franz Joseph, Elizabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Hungary, reputedly the most beautiful woman of her time, later assassinated, at the age of sixty-one, in 1898. She was reputedly good and kind and learned Hungarian well before she needed to, and as a result the Hungarians love her.
Yes, but... It's the usual yes, but.. in one way complex, in another way very simple. Take the simple one first.
The sheer extent, opulence, extravagance of the palace is nauseating, especially when you have just seen photographs of the 30s Depression at the Crisis exhibition I talked about two posts ago. It is hard to hold the images together. Half of me says: Burn the thing down! Écrasez l'infâme!. The other half say: Hold it. Wouldn't it be better to leave it as it as, but include a mass of notices saying: Here died the footman, Albert X, or: Here slaved the laundress, Maria Y. Record the existence of all those unrecorded in the grand annals, not depicted in the oil paintings. Let them be present and let that be the rebuke. Not so much of those who are noted and celebrated here, but to the world that produced them. Who cleaned the privy? Who died falling off the scaffolding?
The more complex Yes, but... refers to the other argument, which is to do with the beautiful things of the world. The beautiful things of the world, it says, require wealth and leisure to commission, produce and display. That much admired altarpiece for the private chapel, that ravishing tapestry above the bed, the great classical orders in the portico, the frescoes, the furniture, and that whole range of artefacts from delicate frippery to towering masterpiece. Would we have had them or - let's raise the stakes - the Sistine Chapel ceiling if there were no Sistine Chapel, no Rome money? It is hard to deconstruct Michelangelo's Last Judgment purely as the ideological product of a ruling elite. One might be missing something. What of the great cathedrals? And so on down the Kenneth Clark Civilisation line so fiercely opposed by John Berger.
I don't know the answer to that one, except that that was then. Let's try do things another way now, not just for show, not for the sake of Popular Art. Not Cool Britannia Art. Not Big Business Art (nor Big Ideology Art). It shouldn't be impossible. It should be in the nerves somewhere. And truth to tell, much of the art in the palace at Gödöllő is hideous trash.