TITIAN - THE FESTIVAL

MetamorphosisTitian2012.jpg

This Season: for her pick of the summer exhibitions, Olivia Weinberg goes for a celebration in dance, music and art... 

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, July/August 2012

The National Gallery in London is having a Titian-fest and the Royal Opera House is joining in. So are three youngish British artists, seven choreographers, three composers, 14 poets and a fleet of dancers.

When he died, in 1576, Titian was the most famous artist in the world. He was a master of colour, and while his proportions might look over-generous (thunderous thighs, bulging bottoms), his paintings are Renaissance masterpieces. "Diana and Actaeon" (above), "The Death of Actaeon" and "Diana and Callisto" are three of the best and they lie at the heart of this project. Part of a series of mythological paintings based on Ovid’s "Metamorphoses", they are full of intense drama. Surrounded by bosomy nymphs, Diana and Actaeon exchange a thorny glance before Actaeon is clawed to death by his own hounds.

In response, Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger are creating stage sets and costumes for three new ballets to be performed at Covent Garden. "The artists we have selected are very different," says Minna Moore-Ede, curator of the show. "I wanted at least one painter, and they all needed to think big." She commissioned them two years ago and has been working on the show for five. "We still have an awful lot to do," she says with a nervous giggle. "Nothing is finished." The details have been kept under wraps; and not just for effect. "We will only know when the curtain goes up."

There is a poetry project, too. Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Seamus Heaney et al, chosen by a panel chaired by A.S. Byatt, have produced new work inspired by the paintings. The poems, capped at 25 lines, vary in tone and texture—like the original text. A screening room will show the poets narrating their work, along with snippets from the ballets. Original music for these has been commissioned from three leading composers, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Jonathan Dove and Nico Muhly; the choreographers include Wayne McGregor, who is not afraid to be peculiar. Throw a bit of Titian into the mix, and who knows what to expect.

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 National Gallery, London, July 11th to Sept 23rd

EXHIBITIONS AT A GLANCE

Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910 (National Gallery of Scotland, July 14th to Oct 14th). Europe’s first show dedicated to Symbolist landscape, and worth the wait. Among the big names, look out for two underdogs: Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Albert Edelfelt.

Santiago Calatrava: The Quest For Movement (Hermitage, St Petersburg, June 27th to Sept 30th). The first retrospective of a contemporary architect at the Hermitage and not a bad start. Calatrava’s buildings sing like his name. Spiky UFOs or bulbous pods, they soar into the sky as if they are alive.

Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye (Tate Modern, London, to Oct 14th). After winning the highest price for a work of art at auction (“The Scream”, $119.9m), Munch arrives in a show proving he’s relevant as well as recognisable.

Prom: Photographs by Mary Ellen Mark (Philadelphia Museum of Art, to Oct 28th). In 2006-09, Mark photographed 13 high-school proms using her 20 x 24-inch Polaroid Land camera—one of only five in the world. The results are extraordinary, large-format prints, packed with detail.

Another London (Tate Britain, London, 27th July to Sept 16th). Red buses, bowler hats, pearly kings, pigeons, pubs and punks: 180 classic 20th-century photographs, from some big names: Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Eve Arnold. Not as boring as its title.

Worlds within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran (Smithsonian, Washington, July 28th to Sept 17th). From 1556 to 1657, the great Mughal patron-emperors formed workshops to foster India’s leading artists. Here is a selection of their lavish manuscripts, folios and paintings.

Olivia Weinberg previews exhibitions for Intelligent Life