I don’t want to go too deeply into this matter. However, there is very little good art that isn’t informed by historic works—in some fashion. Any expert will tell you: What makes for “collectible” art that holds or increases in value is that which defines a decade. Great art tells the story of a time and the way people were living. Aha—the evolution of the term “art history.” This week of Art and Italy on Collectista seems like a perfect time to address how the Masters influence some of our favorite contemporary artists. Here are a few arguably obvious examples. They are good starters for getting your head wrapped around history repeating itself in great art.
JOHN CURRIN AND RENAISSANCE ITALIAN ART
John Currin himself walked me through his last exhibit at Gagosian in Beverly Hills. It is hard to believe that such a skilled painter is as laid-back and cool as this dude, who happens to be married to artist Rachel Feinstein. The two of them had me in stitches as they shared tales of their courtship and engagement. That is neither here nor there, but I felt the need to put it out there. The real point here is, Currin is clearly inspired by Italian Renaissance masters. The imagery, texture, and color are undeniable.
KEHINDE WILEY AND BYZANTINE ART
Kehinde Wiley has become a modern master of sorts with the way he combines images of contemporary African-American figures with Byzantine and rococo references. He uses portraiture to explore issues of race, gender, and politics. His works are relatable, with his subjects often wearing popular street clothes and sneakers. Kehinde very intentionally channels old masters paintings and replaces the aristocrats with everyday people.
JEFF KOONS AND HELLENISTIC SCULPTURE
The first time my nanny returned from a play date at “Mr. Koons’s” Manhattan apartment, she exclaimed, “You wouldn’t believe the art. It’s the important old stuff they have in the museums.” Yes, Jeff Koons collects old masters. Hence, it wasn’t a surprise when he had his “Antiquities” show in New York a few years ago. The toys and balloons are always fun, but this homage to the masters was a welcome change of pace.
JAUME PLENSA AND BRANCUSI
Jaume Plensa is a Spanish sculptor who has wonderful public installations around the globe. His head sculptures come in many shapes and sizes. Whether it’s Chloe, Echo, or any other friends, each and every one evoke the same elegance as an old Brancusi sculpture. It is like they have a fourth dimension. His work has an energy and presence that you must feel in person to understand. Perhaps a good excuse for a jaunt to Chicago or Venice?