Monday, September 14, 2009

Everything Really Old is New Again!

"Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum"
ISBN No. 978-1-55365-471-1
Vancouver Art Gallery
Douglas & McIntyre

Picture this: you’ve just seen the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit of Vermeer and Rembrandt artwork that corresponds with this book and now you’re standing in the gallery gift shop trying to figure out what to get. Fridge magnets? Greetings cards? Somehow the artwork of this exhibit is too important, too heavy to be summarized by mere trinkets. Simply put there is no grander memento of your visit to the VAG than the artwork itself, which is beautifully re-created in this exhaustive, opulent catalogue of the exhibit (which runs at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 13. 2009).
Given the crowd mentality that gathers and builds around major exhibits at the VAG, those of you who can’t stand other people will benefit exponentially by this book. You can appreciate “Still Life with Flowers on a Marble Tabletop” without having to push your way in to see it. You might have thought it was pretty on the gallery wall but you’ll get so much more out of “The Tailor’s Workshop” without feeling like you’re stuck in the longest line-up in the world to see the tailor. There’s also SO much to see in the exhibit (and so many obscure pieces) that you can’t see everything unless you’re really, really fast and have a photographic memory. No, the book isn’t quite like seeing the art work in person. It’s actually better. For art this momentous only the solitude afforded by the reflective medium of print will do (and if you really, REALLY admire art, then you’ll understand perfectly what I mean).
Even better, in our Photoshop era of adjusting exposures and colours (you know how some posters or greeting cards of famous art are either lighter or darker than the actual artwork?) the pictures in the book are preserved with the gallery curator’s eye for prosperity. There’s no guessing about what the original looks like. And there’s no inane chatter over what the artist intended; each piece in the book is accompanied by an enlightening, academic yet user-friendly essay. All of which means the book lets you visit the exhibit without listening to the unwashed masses (I’m talking about the newspaper critics, of course) hem and haw over chiaroscuro. This book is the final, definitive document, and argument-ender to all queries about the show - and it beautifies any coffee table.