Ultimate Guide to Arts and Culture
Everybody’s got it: that lust for the kind of knock-your-socks-off visual effects that have earned Avatar $2.6 billion and counting. Movies like Clash of the Titans and the two-part Harry Potter finale were reworked for the 3-D cash cow, joining Shrek Forever After, Toy Story 3, and Piranha 3-D. (Even the next Bond will reportedly bust out of two dimensions, a prospect that, frankly, leaves us more shaken than stirred.) Not that dazzling technology equals quality films—a clear subtext on Oscar night, when the white-knuckle realism of Best Director Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker triumphed over Avatar’s computer-generated feats of fantasy. As digital technology hurtles ahead, our world is becoming increasingly defined by virtual reality, CGI, and experiences on our multimedia screen devices. And it’s taking culture in all kinds of new directions—from music-making iPhone apps to multimedia e-books and 3-D video games to high-tech opera and dance. You can hardly go to a contemporary theater production these days without seeing some sort of digital projection, but this is what we expect now—this is how we’re wired. As Nicholas Carr argues in his new book, The Shallows, as inveterate multitasking screen users, we’re losing our “depth of comprehension” and an important part of “what gives our thinking and our culture richness.” The danger of sacrificing our humanity to technology was a theme of Bigelow’s 1995 film, Strange Days (cowritten by James Cameron), which portrays a world where virtual reality has become a dangerous narcotic. In 2010, 3-D is our techno drug of choice, and having gotten a taste of its potential, can we ever go back?
All About Yves
Call it a blue crush. The art world, especially the art market, can’t get enough of Yves Klein, the French provocateur best known for paintings and sculptures in his signature International Klein Blue. But the influential artist, whose career was cut short in 1962, when he died of a heart attack at 34, also used pink and gold in his often monochromatic Conceptual-metaphysical works that explored ideas of transmutation and infinite, immaterial realms. At the big winter auctions, Klein (whose prices have exceeded $20 million in recent years) once again headed the top-ten lists. In May at Christie’s, Klein’s nine-foot-wide ANT 93, Le Buffle (“The Buffalo”), from 1960–61, is expected to bring around $10 million. The timing couldn’t be better, as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., will debut the retrospective “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” May 20 through September 12. The first major U.S. show of Klein’s work in nearly 30 years, it moves on to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in October.
Art Takes Center Stage
This year’s crop of Broadway imports from London includes two acclaimed plays, Red and The Pitmen Painters, about artists—a subject that hasn’t always made for great theater. (Remember Lautrec: “22 vapid songs,” with “more déjà vu than ooh la la”? as London critics described it.) A look at the painters who are making it big in the footlights.
The Show: John Logan’s play, directed by Michael Grandage, with Alfred Molina as the painter Mark Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as his assistant, opened at Donmar Warehouse and is now at the John Golden Theatre through June 27.
The Story: In a tale that pits big money against high ethics, the tormented Rothko works on a troubling commission while his employee turns from a puppy to a viper. A high-octane duet that is part ballet, part cockfight.
The Verdict: “Brilliantly acted,” say critics, calling Redmayne (right) “thrilling to watch” and praising Molina’s “totally convincing portrait of the artist as a working visionary.”
The Pitmen Painters
The Show: Billy Elliot author Lee Hall’s latest play transfers, ensemble cast intact, to the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre in September.
The Story: A group of 1930s English miners take a painting class and—improbable but true—become the Ashington Group, a hit with critics and at upper-class tea parties. It’s a story that examines the power of art.
The Verdict: “Full of warm, gritty humor,” wrote one reviewer. The show “asks big questions without ever being patronizing, stupid, [or] boring,” said another, calling the acting “a series of sublime performances.”