Commentary

Art & Antiques

Few items posted on the exposed surfaces of my lowly tenement qualify as either "art" or "antique." Sure, there are bawdy refrigerator magnets, photos of college-era bacchanalia and mundane/absurd newspaper clippings ("A homeless man's death was attributed to the heat wave, although officials said that alcoholism may have played a role"). But bona fide art? Not unless you derive aesthetic delight from big, honkin' TV sets. Which I do.

Thus my romp through the summer issue of Art & Antiques is destined to be yet another in the ongoing series of smart-guy-affects-lowbrow-facade-for-the-sake-of-"humor" stories that have appeared in this space. Let me commence, then, with a hearty "duhhhh" and a curt declaration that the newly redesigned Art & Antiques sure is purty.

Really, it is. Color explodes off most every sirloin-thick page, with nearly every reproduction afforded plenty of space. The artful (sorry, weak choice of adjective there) "Objects of Desire," for instance, makes a lounge chair look like something out of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and a series of plates appear way too pristine to ever accommodate a microwave burrito.

"Art & Design" presents highly detailed close-ups of multijeweled baubles, while the "Artists Under the Influence" juxtapositions help readers connect the dots between the featured artist-type person and his/her muse. In every case, few details escape the reader's eye; paging through the magazine is as visually pleasing an experience as one could hope for.

Of course, if you stop to actually read the text that accompanies the pix, you might have a somewhat different reaction. Though Art & Antiques is capable of short bursts of editorial inspiration -- notably the meticulously reported "Art & Artifice" piece on the LAPD's art-theft unit -- the mag's tone mostly varies between snootiness and unabashed fawning. One blurb reads, "The items also carried a powerful provenance as part of the estate of Nicholas Ruwe... Ruwe and his wife were known for their stylish dinner parties, as will the buyers of these plates." Ah, but what if a well-heeled vulgarian like Paul Allen snaps them off the market? Boo-yah.

"Update" occupies itself with semi-newsy bits about collection sales, art crimes ("you put chocolate in my peanut butter!") and Victorian daguerreotypes -- a term which will soon be added to my silly-word collection, right alongside "flibbertigibbet" and "rococo." The issue also wastes time in the, um, rococo NYC apartment of some design gal, which contains more miniature lion sculptures than are permitted by local zoning ordinances.

The "Emerging Artist" piece on contemporary jeweler Sara Amos belies its lack of sophistication with headers like "most influential people" and "biggest break." Similarly, the mass profile of 14 "Living Legends" in dealing/collecting/curating circles offers few illuminating details. On the other hand, I wish I could get somebody to say something like "[without Larry] the glass world would be a far less interesting place" about me. Hey, a guy can dream.

I wish more of Art & Antiques were like the piece on a contemporary re-creation of a "Great Bible," upon which its creators have only employed materials from medieval times. In this story alone does the issue pay close attention to the artistic process -- which, in many cases, is as compelling as the final product.

Ultimately, though, who really cares about the words in Art & Antiques? Though I'm consistently impressed by CurtCo's ultra-luxe style of presentation (also on display in Robb Report and Worth), it isn't as if anybody's reading those publications for their editorial gravitas. We're there to check out the high-priced toys and goodies... and, after seeing the price tags, to be reminded to ask our bosses for a richly deserved raise, if not a generous per-diem and some kind of exotic-pet allowance.

So proudly toss Art & Antiques onto your living-room coffee table, in much the same spirit that you'd plop down one of those "A Day in the Life of America" photo collections. You won't regret having it there.

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