Friday, February 17, 2012

Leonardo Da Vinci Live!

Have you ever seen an exhibition without actually being there? Being away from the town and the country altogether? Well, I did. Not alone, we had a full house yesterday night in Utopia -it was the same for London screenings, as I read- where the Leonardo Da Vinci   live broadcast was screened. The most comprehensive Leonardo exhibition in London's National Gallery travelled to many people's living rooms before it opens its doors to the public back in November, and after its finale, it travelled   overseas, as well. A big art event it was; and being so mediated, it gave up on some of its exclusivity in favour of a literary "art for all" doctrine. Works of a Master that never stood side by side till now, were enjoyed by audiences (probably eating pop-corn?), while explained and analysed by experts.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan may be, as they say, the biggest and most sensational exhibition of the century or of all time. The sad thing is -and this is a tearjeker of a story, so you may wanna skip it- that I actually went to London and tried to see the exhibition. I guess I didn't try hard enough; that included queueing from 6a.m. in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, to secure a ticket. Unfortunately, they were not selling tickets online, or for the next day, and if you showed up at a normal time, the show was already sold out for the day. The only possible solution was to buy tickets from the dodgy ticket sellers over the corner for almost a hundred pounds -when the initial price was twenty six. Shame on me, I didn't wake up early enough, neither did I pay the sum, so no exhibition. I did enjoy the catalogue and the other products in the art shop, though. 

But (there is always one of these annoying entities, an naively uncertain "but"), that was not enough. Passing by, but not getting to the real thing left me with a certain disappointment. That's where the live broadcast comes in; it totally saved my life from despair.

Yesterday was the first screening for worldwide audiences, happening simultaneously in different cinemas everywhere. The screen was huge, the presenters, Mariella Frostrup wearing an elegant dress and showing some leg -it was weird how that was interacting with the male artist narrative, or maybe she was trying to look like one of the idealised Leonardo beauties herself- and Tim Marlow, were great, the guests, too. I know that everybody knows more or less Leonardo, his work and his life, but getting condensed expert knowledge, while seeing the artworks during  the 80min. running time was a challenging experience. Especially because it was uttered in so many cool English accents; My concentration was shifting from the sexy English language, to the information per se, then from the awesome paintings, to the entertaining guests -namely the eloquent and expressive Fiona Shaw and composer Nitin Sawnhey, back to the jokes on how "sfumato" rimes with "tomato" and so on, so forth.

Genuinely interesting talk on the interplay between the physical and the spiritual in Leonardo's paintings, his dialogue between light and darkness and all those bi-polar characteristics, were weighted against the oeuvre's resonance in our contemporary era and it brought thoughts on the innovations then and now; on what an artist was and what has become of him. And on all this posthumous fame and idealisation that is, from the one-hand, well-deserved, but on the other hand, maybe unfair. Does anyone stand a chance to become Leonardo in the place of Leonardo ever?

*The experiment/experience was wholesome and satisfactory, but I will go to see The Lady with the Ermine in Krakow, as soon as she flies back. You cannot replicate a museum visit with an entertaining program in the cinemas; my attention was literally spilled all over by the abundance of signifier and signified.

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