Saturday, 5 August 2006

Campin in the Cloisters

On my last couple of days in New York Betsy (who also stayed on for a bit) and I decided to visit The Cloisters, the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Though it is a trek up to 190th St., it was well worth it and had me rueing that uninspiring trip to the Met on Saturday evening. It was frankly pointless to drag everyone across Central Pk with little time after the final session to listen to a guide discuss works with a banality that might be interesting to 'tourists' but to a group of professional medievalists was just not on. Why didn't we go to the Cloisters instead? Why didn't we scrap the Plenary session on Friday morning on Exhibiting Art, and have those three professionals talk about three objects in the Cloisters and the problems confronting curators today? After you get over the fact that the whole place is fake, you realize that The Cloisters is beautiful. It's been constructed in a park and made look like a medieval monastery with a beautiful view out over the Hudson. What you find inside is wonderful. It's very evocative. Particularly noteworthy are the extraordinary Unicorn Tapestries, the Robert Campin Annunciation, detail of which above, and the exquisite Hours of Jeanne d'Evreaux. Do not miss the Cloisters on a visit to NY.

A visit to Twelfth Street Books (11 E 12th St., between 5th Ave./Univ.) proved interesting. It's a wonderful bookshop, full of quality secondhand books across a wide range of subjects. I picked up a copy of Toja's edition of Arnaut Daniel's Canzoni (Sansoni, 1961), and Bruno Nardi's Saggi e note di critica dantesca (Riccardo Ricciardi, 1966). Those were the 'finds'; other acquisitions: Teodolinda Barolini, The Undivine Comedy, Eugene Vance, From Topic to Tale, Donald Howard, The Idea of the Canterbury Tales, and JD Burnley's Guide to Chaucer's Language, all for considerably cheaper that the s/h stall in the conference. Never mind.

During some time eating & drinking in the Coliseum (312 W 58th St, opp. TimeWarner Center) one of the screens had CNN playing continuously. You realize how really deeply in trouble this country is when you watch the news for five minutes. CNN were running a very lengthy report, based on events in the Lebanon, entitled: "Is this the end of the world?" I swear. They had all sorts of nuts, Jews, Catholics, fundamentalist Christians (don't know what religion they are...), Republicans, the usual. This was a serious report. They were seriously asking whether we were witnessing the novissimi. Not on a lifestyle channel, or a religous freaky nut channel, or a pseudo-history channel. CNN. The national news. Ok, I know that decision makers and people who think don't watch CNN, but I'm afraid people who vote do. Oh boy. A real shiver-down-the-spine moment that was.

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