THE SIGNIFICANCE WE ASSIGN A WALL: As I’ve said in previous Roundups, I like a good arts debate. And it appears another one is brewing across the pond.
Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, says a religious painting hanging in London’s National Gallery would be more at home in a church like Westminster Cathedral. The painting in question is The Baptism of Christ (above), a work dating to the 1450s by Piero della Francesca.
But the good bishop isn’t just looking for a cheap way to redecorate. Rather, he believes that the intent of the artist should be considered in relation to the work’s home.
“It is a mistake to treat it as a work of art: it is a work of faith and piety, an expression of the church’s life and a way into prayer,” he said in a discussion of religious art that was reported on by The Times of London. (You can read his full talk here.)
So, in the same way that we talked last week about the intent behind the creation of a work in regard to science photographs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the question arises again — should the artists’ intent be taken into account when considering a work? As this painting was made in the 1450s, there is no doubt that the artist considered it as a devotional object destined for a church. You can argue that if Francesca were alive today, he’d be horrified that his painting was displayed anywhere BUT a church.
But I think in this instance, the archbishop is taking a short-sighted view. Most Christian denominations involve some level of evangelism — how many times have we heard the term “spreading the word of God?” If that painting were hanging in a cathedral, it would be preaching to the choir (literally and figuratively).
Who knows what effect it might have on someone touring the National Gallery? Maybe a formerly religious person sees it and stops to reconsider her faith? Or it’s possible that someone who has never considered himself religious sees the work and is moved by it.
We’ve all had those moments in a museum when reflecting on a piece of art has caused us to reflect on some element of our lives. So all I’m saying is: if you are in the religion business, why limit your ability to make a sale?
THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE: I had lunch with Mike Schoder, owner of the Granada Theater on Wednesday. MIke’s a true champion of local music — you could hear it in his voice as he discussed being happy to be able to hold shows at which maybe only 100 people show up to hear a new act.
And he’s doing something pretty smart with his Web site. Over at granadatheater.com, Mike has an extensive video collection of bands performing in his venue. Whether you missed the show or you want to check out a clip of a band before seeing them, it’s a great resource.
“For every one band that says no to videoing, nine say yes,” he said.
As long as he keeps batting .900, there should be plenty of goodies over there to check out.
Photo courtesy of the National Gallery