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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Women in Romania

Yesterday’s visit to the “Equal - Art and Feminism” gave us access to some wonderful paintings from some 20 of Romania’s women artists of the early part of the past century,
1916 is selected as the starting point since that was the date of the formation of the first woman artists' association in Romania - instigated by Olga Grecianu on her return from Brussels. The paintings on display cover the free period until King Carol established  in 1938 what was to be the first of the dictatorships which so disfigured the country for the next 50 years ...
I was well aware of Elena Popa, Cecilia Cuţescu-Storck (see side pic) and Rodica Maniu – the last being a particular favourite. But I had not seen the works of artists such as Olga Grecianu, Nina Arbore, Nadia Bulighin, Maria Ciurdea Steurer, Irina Codreanu, Milita Petraşcu, Merica Râmniceanu, Magdalena Radulescu and Mina Byck Wepper.
I will now add some of these painters to my Introducing the Romanian Realists of the 19th and early 20th Centuries

I assume the exhibition's title is ironic since it would be difficult to argue that this 20 year period of this misogynist Latin country was characterised by respect for women's rights (however much Queen Marie may have made up for her husband's fickleness) A better title might have been that of an important essay of the 1970s - Why have there been no great women artists

Fascinating though the paintings were, they mostly displayed the society women or domestic scenes – hardly signs of liberation. Elena’s Popa’s market scenes were the only exception – with Rodica Maniu (who is reputed to have painted many of husband Sam Mutzner’s works) celebrating Breton peasants at work in the fields with somewhat romanticising colours..
The gallery's walls contain some extended text, presumably to explain the "thinking" behind the selection but it's only in Romanian. What does it take to produce one page in at least English for the foreign visitor? The failure to do that simple thing shows the sheer arrogance of this genre of people....

National galleries in this part of the world suffer from being part of the political spoils system. They are “managed” by their respective Ministries of Culture whose Ministers (having so little else to do) obviously take full advantage of the power of appointment (and sacking) which goes with the job.
I have to admit, however, that the National Gallery apparatniks here do occasionally mount an interesting exhibition – I remember one at the National Gallery a few years back which actually brought together Bulgarian, Greek and Romanian painters (sadly their website has no archives - although it now boasts a lovely virtual tour of each of its rooms) – but it missed the opportunity to challenge the indifference these nations now display to one another…..

I have two other complaints about the management of Bucharest's National Gallery -
- Although a catalogue (172pp) is available, it is entirely (as always) in Romanian  
- They also try to charge 30 euros for taking photographs 

Hardly surprising therefore that Romanian art remains unknown. I have referred before to the greater accessibility in Bulgaria to works of the early 20th century. Romanian "Collectors" - generally the dubious family members of old communists - have successfully squirrelled away most of the Romanian painting tradition in their large houses. 

Artmark is Romania's auction house has become almost the only way to see this work - as it is transferred from one rich owner to another (the prices are ten times more than in Bulgaria!). See for yourself in their glossy catalogues - which can be sent to you on request eg this one from September 

This, of course, makes the task of art curators all the more critical - and raises the larger question of how creatively art curators understand and practice their function – those at The Netherlands came in for some criticism recently for hiring philosophy-populising Alain de Boton to write some provocative tags/slogans….

ps interesting that the renaming of the title of this post seems to have attracted more viewers....I wonder why???? 

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