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2013-04-27 - Mystical Nativity Sandro Botticelli National Gallery London
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Recap: ArtWatch International’s Fourth Annual James Beck Memorial Lecture

Ruth Osborne
2013-04-27 - Mystical Nativity Sandro Botticelli National Gallery London

The focus of Professor Freedberg’s lecture was The Mystical Nativity (ca 1500–1501) by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, in the National Gallery in London.

This past Wednesday, April 24th, ArtWatch was proud to present the fourth annual James Beck Memorial Lecture.

Each year ArtWatch holds this event to commemorate the scholarly career and the principled stand of its founder, Professor James Beck. The lectures, organized by Michael Daley, the director of ArtWatch UK, provide a platform for distinguished art world speakers in our New York and London campaigning centers.

Those who were able to attend heard both the lecture by David Freedberg, entitled “Morality and Movement in Renaissance Art” and the speech by Don Reynolds, delivered upon receipt of the 2012 Frank Mason Prize.

Michael Daley of ArtWatch UK, writes of the connection between Beck and the teatro at the Italian Academy: “It was in this hall on Sept 19th 2007 that Columbia University Art History Department conducted a memorial service in honour of Professor James Beck, who had died on May 26th that year,” and goes on to say that, “We in ArtWatch International decided that there were two ways of best honouring his memory and his campaigning. The first was quite simply by continuing to campaign as an organisation against those who (for whatever motives) injure art. . . The second step that we took to honor James Beck was the inauguration of these annual lectures by scholars of distinction on topics of their choice in recognition of his own contributions.”

Within this tradition, David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, and Director of The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, delivered a compelling lecture on the topic of movement in Renaissance art – its implications for both art and cultural historians cannot be overstated. His talk was extremely rich in analytical and contextual insights. As one audience member put it: “Freedberg didn’t play it down for anyone. Everyone was treated as though they were his scholarly equals.” In this way, we were provided with a rare experience, one that left us with much to process and consider in the days to come.

The Frank Mason Prize, awarded at the beginning of the evening, was also a momentous occasion. Of Frank Mason, Jim Beck’s esteemed colleague, Michael Daley states that he had “led marches of protesting students and artists from the New York Art Students League to the Metropolitan Museum of Art against the picture restorations therein. Frank had helped found a small international organisation to fight on behalf of the world’s artistic patrimony and was one the first campaigners against the Sistine Chapel restorations which began in 1980. When Frank died on June 16, 2009, ArtWatch International decided to honour his formative role in our campaigns with a modest annual prize to others who were making a contribution to protecting art.”

Professor James Beck, founder of ArtWatch.

Professor James Beck, founder of ArtWatch.

Donald Martin Reynolds, PhD, to whom we awarded the 2012 prize for his groundbreaking 1984 book “The architecture of New York City” and for his symposium series in honor of the renowned art historian Rudolf Wittkower, now in its 23rd year, delivered what was certainly one of the most eloquent, heartfelt speeches in honor of James Beck. It is hard to imagine a more kind and sincere tribute to the memory of our late founder.

We also wanted to pass along our appreciation for the wonderful staff of the Italian Academy for their guidance and assistance in the weeks prior to the event and on the night of. We hope to have future opportunities to collaborate with this highly professional and dedicated institution.

If you were unable to attend, or if you desire to have a record of the evening, we will be publishing transcripts of the talks in our next journal publication, and we hope to also have a recording of the lecture available for our website.

Lastly, ArtWatch International extends its sincere gratitude to our speakers and guests for making this one of our most successful events in recent years. We hope to see you again soon.

2013-04-02 - James Beck

ArtWatch International Presents the 2013 James Beck Memorial Lecture and Reception

Einav Zamir

2013-04-02 - James Beck

ArtWatch International Inc. is pleased to announce our fourth annual James Beck Memorial Lecture.

Each year ArtWatch holds an annual James Beck Memorial Lecture and reception to commemorate the scholarly career and the principled stand of its founder, Professor James Beck. The lectures, organized by Michael Daley, the director of ArtWatch UK, provide a platform for distinguished art world speakers in our New York and London campaigning centers.

The 2013 James Beck Memorial Lecture and Reception, N.Y.

Speaker:

David Freedberg, Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art,Columbia University, and Director, The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University

Title:

“Morality and Movement in Renaissance Art”

Date:  

6pm-8pm (with reception), April 24th

Venue:

The Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027

RSVP: ArtWatchNYC@gmail.com

2004-12-09 Michelangelo Medici tombs San Lorenzo

Honoring Agnese Parronchi

“On the evening of December 8th, 2004, ArtWatch International presented its annual Frank Mason Prize to Agnese Parronchi, the Italian restorer. She resigned from the project to restore Michelangelo’s David rather than carry out the cleaning in a manner demanded by the authorities at the Accademia, which she considered injurious to the 500-year-old sculpture. Previous winners of the prestigious award include art historian Sir Ernst Gombrich, critic Alexander Eliot, and restorer Leonetto Tintori.

The citation was read by Professor James Beck of Columbia University, Founder and President of ArtWatch:

Agnese Parronchi is a rare example of a conflation of two worlds, that of the creative artist, as a sculptor, and that of a respectful conservator of the art she loves. Trained in Florence, for centuries the territory where art flourished, she graduated from the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of Italy’s two national restoration institutes, having specialized in the treatment of sculpture. Over the past twenty years, Agnese Parronchi has been entrusted with some of the finest marble sculpture located in Tuscany — Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance, and among her accomplishments have been the base of the Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and a classical group, both in the Loggia dei Lanzi. She is world-renowned as an expert on the work of Michelangelo, employing her understanding of the artist to treat several of his earliest works, including the Madonna of the Stairs and the Battle of the Centaurs, both located in the Casa Buonarroti, significantly in Michelangelo’s house.

The result of her cleaning of the sculpture of the Medici Tombs in San Lorenzo is a triumph of restraint, patience and respect for the intention of the creator and for the intervention of time.

 

2004-12-09 Michelangelo Medici tombs San LorenzoWhen the Superintendent of Art in Florence assigned her to treat Michelangelo’s David, an awesome project on every level, those who might have wished that the Gigante be left alone were satisfied that there would be no danger to the integrity of the statue posed by Agnese Parronchi. It would be the crowning jewel of her life’s work, which would give her the kind of world recognition she had earned. When the Florentine officials wanted to impose upon her a very vigorous treatment which included the use of solvents, she did the impossible. She resigned, refusing to carrying out a cleaning which she considered too severe.

If there is any meaning to ArtWatch’s mission and the prerequisites of the Frank Mason Prize, it is precisely the preservation of the dignity of art, and Agnese’s actions are exemplary. At great personal sacrifice, she chose to maintain her standards rather than participate in an activity which she believed to be harmful to one of the greatest icons of western culture.

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Letter to the Mayor of Florence: Michelangelo’s “Victory”

In an open letter to the Mayor of Florence, ArtWatch is calling for an immediate halt to the restoration of Michelangelo’s statue group known as “Victory”.

James Beck June 22, 1998

Dear Honorable Mr. Mayor,

On behalf of ArtWatch International, Inc. and its affiliate in Italy, ArtWatch Italia, I am asking at this time for an immediate halt to the projected restoration of Michelangelo’s sculpture group known as Victory, presently in Palazzo Vecchio in the Salone dei Cinquecento. In our opinion the matter is most urgent because scaffolding have already been constructed around the sculpture, making it ready for the intervention.

ArtWatch, a watchdog organization with nearly 1000 associates worldwide, has taken a stand against drastic and/or unnecessary treatments of our artistic treasures. Activity on the Victory should be halted until information about the projected intervention is made public. Among the points that require full disclosure are:

  1. an explanation of the assumed need for such an intervention or treatment at all;
  2. the goals for the intervention and what is hoped to be attained;
  3. the proposed methodology of the intervention, i.e. what techniques are planned, for example, with the restores use scalpels, mico-sand blasters, lasers, chemicals?

Once the data is made available ArtWatch also calls upon the Mayor to organize an open public debate, preferable in the Salone dei Cinquecento, in which international experts on Michelangelo, specialists devoted to Renaissance sculpture and Italian Renaissance art in general, specialists on marble restoration, as well as all interested parties may participate. ArtWatch believes that, as in the field of medicine, second and third opinions are essential before a restoration is undertaken. In fact, sometimes the most effective cure has been to leave the patient alone. ArtWatch makes these requests on the basis of the operative assumption that works of art of the caliber of Michelangelo’s Victory do not, strictly speaking, belong to the city of Florence, nor, to the government of Italy, but ultimately belong to the entire world, and that the city and state officials in charge are guardians whose role it is to preserve the objects in their trust for future generations. To take any action in relative secrecy is effectively a violation of that trust.

Thanking you for attention to this matter, I am Sincerely Yours,

(signed James Beck)

1997-06-03 Leonardo da Vinco Andrea del Verrochio Baptism of Christ Uffizi

For Immediate Release: Andrea del Verrocchio’s “Baptism of Christ” to be Restored at the Uffizi

ArtWatch International has learned that Andrea del Verrocchio’s most famous painting, the Baptism of Christ, a panel created for the church of San Salvi in Florence around 1475, has been removed from the wall of the Uffizi.

One of the most prized masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, it was executed by Andrea Verrocchio in collaboration with the young Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the head of one of the angels and probably landscape elements. Another who collaborated on the same painting was Botticelli.

The head of the angel represents the first independent statement in painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Therefore, the Baptism is of prime importance historically as well as aesthetically, being an early indication of the new style which was to emerge during the opening years of the sixteenth century and has been called the High Renaissance, that is, the style practiced by Titian and Michelangelo.

This precious object has come down to us in rather good condition, considering the passage of 500 years, and previous restorations, not always of the most gentle nature.

1997-06-03 Leonardo da Vinco Andrea del Verrochio Baptism of Christ Uffizi

ArtWatch’s worst fears have now been confirmed: the work is in the restoration laboratories of the Uffizi and work is about to begin. Given the complexity, delicacy, and the historical and artistic importance of the work, and in particular its absolute rarity since there are only a handful of works by Leonardo, ArtWatch is extremely concerned about any intervention that goes beyond normal maintenance.

ArtWatch urges that all the pertinent data concerning the state of the work, its condition, and the planned treatment be made public immediately. The Uffizi and its Restoration Department should describe precisely the need for a drastic intervention, the goals it hopes to obtain, the methods of cleaning and restoration that is planned, and the results of all qualitative and quantitative analyses. We believe that second and third opinions should be solicited from independent, disinterested parties.

For the moment ArtWatch is calling for an immediate halt to the restoration of the painting until the secrecy is lifted and information is made available concerning the need as well as a clear statement of goals of the intervention.