Hi There, Saddle; Mind if I Climb Back In?

January in Norfolk is a cruel business: the skies are heavy with the grayest of rain, the wind howls and scratches around my office window and the river slaps listlessly against our banks like a sludge of lead.

Womp womp.

The good news? We’re Back! It’s a new year! Colin’s trying to grow a beard! No matter the weather, the energy in the Curatorial office is crackling and we’re bent over our proverbial workbench, ready to carve a big ol’ slice out of 2011.

January is a time of writing, research and planning. As the days grow steadily (barely) warmer and the light lasts incrementally longer, I’ve been quietly writing grants and making wish lists for the galleries. Oh, what dreams are in store for this Arts and Crafts mansion by the sea!

But before I get breathlessly ahead of myself, I wanted to share some of the various museum-related articles and videos I’ve been enjoying of late. January is such a time of rest and renewal: I love the chance to catch up on what’s happening in the global museum world. Mind if I make some recommendations for you, dear readers?

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If you missed it during its [very] limited theatrical release, Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary film directed by street artist Banksy, is available for free online. Click here to watch it on hulu.com. I cannot recommend it enough — although I should say that it is rated R, so perhaps not for the children. The film gives you a front row seat to the birth of the street art movement. Whether it is a hoax or not (it is called a Banksy “event,” after all) is for you to decide. Here is the trailer:

Read more about the film here.

Read the New Yorker’s review of the film here.

See what the New York Times has to say about everything here.

The Academy must not think it a hoax, because the film was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. Read about that here.

Banksy’s work on Park Street in Bristol, England.This image via wikipedia under a Creative Commons license

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I was fortunate enough to see Sally Mann’s exhibit at the VMFA before it closed this week. Did you see it, too? Oh, I could wax elegiac about Sally Mann — I admire her so. Seriously: she uses a 100-year old bellows camera and wet plate collodion glass negatives. If you didn’t get a chance to see the exhibit I can heartily recommend the accompanying book. But more importantly: you must see the documentary about her life entitled What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. Get thee to your local independent video store/Netflix queue and order it straightaway!

If you (like a few people I could mention) don’t believe that photography is an art form, I strongly suggest watching the documentary, if only to observe her process. What I find most compelling, though, is her spirit. She quite simply lives to take pictures and that singular desire drives the entire documentary.

I’ve heard that people choose to be curators because they cannot be artists. In my case, I would say that is absolutely right, but with one caveat: I chose to be a curator because I am enthralled by artists.  I cannot imagine what kind of chaos is wrought on your spirit by that incessant impulse to create. I am fascinated by Mann because she embodies an artist’s drive yet seems to strike a balance between chaos and peace. Her photos bear witness to that impressive balance.

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This controversy is burning up the Registrars listserv:

A man posing as a Jesuit priest keeps trying to donate forged art to museums. Read his story here.

And a short followup here. [Forgers shop at Home Depot!]

I’m still not sure what to think of this story. The registrar community seems divided: some believe him to be the lowest of crooks and want him behind bars, while others are decrying the swift hand of the law and begging for compassion. The whole business just makes me a little sad. What do you think?

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Not quite museum related, but definitely historic house related:

If you are a fan of both English country houses (yes) and PBS Masterpiece Theatre (double yes), you MUST tune in for Downton Abbey. If you missed the first three episodes you can watch them online here. The series is filmed at Highclere Castle, one of the stateliest Victorian castles ever constructed. I particularly love watching the characters flit around Capability Brown‘s landscape. If you liked Upstairs, Downstairs or just about anything starring Maggie Smith, you will L-O-V-E Downton Abbey. Cross my heart.

Highclere Castle in Newbury, England. Not bad, eh?

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That’s all for today, my dears. I hope January is treating you nicely in your corner of the world. Let me know what you think of any or none of the above, and happy new year!

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