Tiepolo in Motion at the Kimbell

Posted in catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on September 29, 2009

Director Philip Haas (Angels & Insects, Blood Oranges, and Up at the Villa) partnered with the Kimbell for the current series of installations. From the Kimbell’s website:

Butchers, Dragons, Gods, & Skeletons: Film Installations by Philip Haas Inspired by the Works in the Collection

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, 18 July – 25 October 2009


"Butchers, Dragons, Gods & Skeletons: Film Installations by Philip Haas" with an essay by A. S. Byatt, $24.95

Commissioned by the Kimbell, Philip Haas’s film installations interpret and elaborate upon selected works in the Museum’s permanent collection:

  • Douris, Red-Figure Cup Showing the Death of Pentheus (exterior) and a Maenad (interior), ca. 480 BCE
  • Arhat Taming the Dragon, Yuan dynasty, early fourteenth century
  • Annibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop, 1580s
  • Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Apollo and the Continents, ca. 1739
  • James Ensor, Skeletons Warming Themselves, 1889.

Though based on deep research into the original artists and cultures, Haas’s films are poetic and sensuous in approach rather than factual like a documentary. Between seven and twenty minutes in length and running continuously, they are projected on screens of various unconventional formats and configurations. All are accompanied by original music, and several appear in elaborate architectural and sculptural sets, further immersing the viewer in the experience. The installations complement a full display of the Kimbell’s permanent collection, each occupying a space near the work to which it relates.

apollo-and-the-continentstiepolo-mercuryGiovanni Battista Tiepolo’s Apollo and the Continents is probably a sketch for a large fresco ceiling at the Palazzo Clerici in Milan; the ceiling was commissioned by Antonio Giorgio Clerici to celebrate his impending marriage. In the most elaborate and technically challenging of his installations, Haas combines filmed images projected on both walls and ceiling with real architectural elements, responding in his own terms to the spectacular, playful illusionism of a Tiepolo ceiling: “My intention has been to create the film installation as if it were designed and directed by Tiepolo himself, translating painterly trompe-l’oeil into cinematic visual effect.” On one of the walls we see Tiepolo with a young assistant in the studio. Occasionally he looks across to other walls, where models are posing for him.

tiepolo-mandolin-playerThe models are played by the actresses Anna Walton — as a reclining Venus — and Rachael Stirling. Above, we see classical figure groups come to life as Tiepolo has visions, piece by piece, of a grand ceiling decoration in splendidly theatrical style. It is an assembly of the divinely beautiful, the strong, and the statuesque: Venus and Mars, Jupiter and Hebe, Juno, Ceres, river gods, and a host of numerous personages from classical myth and allegory. Finally Apollo the sun god appears, hovering in the center of the whole, breathtaking ensemble that has come together over our heads. Meanwhile Tiepolo has been working on a portrait of a betrothed couple. The climax of the piece is an apotheosis in which, through the power of the artist’s imagination, the couple become classical figures themselves and ascend into the heavens.

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The Butcher’s Shop appeared at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 2008.

A six-minute video clip with Malcolm Warner and Philip Haas summarizing the project is available via YouTube (posted by WRR101FM). It supplies a useful sense of the project, though it, unfortunately, doesn’t address the Tiepolo installation.

N.B. — One of the models for Apollo and the Continents, the actor Rachael Stirling — perhaps best known for her role in Tipping the Velvet — holds, incidentally, a B.A. in art history from the University of Edinburgh. Proof of the utility of the major for undergraduates? Comments are especially welcome from anyone who’s seen the installation at the Kimbell.

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