Saturday, 9 December 2017

TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT: MUSINGS HOLIDAY HIATUS

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

BY: SERENA YPELAAR

Another year gone, another great season of Musings done! It's such a pleasure to be celebrating the end of what was a jam-packed but rewarding term for both the blog and the Master of Museum Studies program in general.

When it comes to celebrating the Musings team's achievements, I'm as giddy as Scrooge on Christmas morning! Source.

This fall season, Musings Contributing Editors published a fantastic array of topics ranging from fun, lighthearted explorations to more grim but necessary discussions in the museum field. If you'd like to catch up on our archive of over 700 articles, Musings has a variety of columns approaching museums from every angle. Here are a few highlights from this past season to start:

Want to get caught up on the latest exhibitions open in the GTA? Exhibition Reviews from Julia and Sadie have you covered, from the ROM's Vikings and Dior exhibitions to the AGO's Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters, to a retrospective on frightening museum experiences and their impact.

Looking for insight on contemporary cultural heritage? Take some time to peruse Jessica's piece on the representation of non-western fashion in museums, Kendra's critical history of blackface in Canadian museums, or Kathleen's post on art and healing.

Of course, the holidays are full of food and fun, so check out Jennifer's post on edible art history at the Portland Art Museum!

For thinking outside the (gift) box: this season Emily, Hannah, and Amy flipped museums on their heads to look at non-traditional museum spaces in our newest column, Beyond Tradition.

Regardless of which holiday(s) you celebrate, all of us at Musings wish you a joyous and safe festive season. Source.
I would like to express how thankful I am for the supportive and open-minded community that is the Faculty of Information. Musings owes its success to the talent of our writers, the support of our students and faculty, and the inquisitive environment that characterizes the MMSt program.

When I write to you next, it'll be 2018 already! I have no doubt that the Musings Contributing Editors will return armed with new content to challenge the norm and expand the ways we look at museums. Until then, thank you for reading, and I hope you have a lovely holiday.

Friday, 8 December 2017

HOW CAN WE REMEMBER ANNIE POOTOOGOOK?

SHE'S MY MUSE

BY: KATHLEEN LEW

Annie Pootoogook, Bringing Home Food, 2003-2004. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
I first discovered the art of Annie Pootoogook in 2015, during an undergraduate Indigenous Art History course at Queen’s University. I was immediately drawn to her honest depictions of life in the North, whether it was watching television, eating with family, exploring her sexuality, or drawing experiences of abuse and addiction. I wrote my course paper on Pootoogook and her contentious place in both understandings of Inuit authenticity, and contemporary art.

Following my initial research, I came across articles about Annie’s life in Ottawa, but felt uncomfortable reading her struggles as headlines. Reporters were intruding on the artist’s personal life, and I was torn about how to interact with her career. When Annie was found dead in the Rideau River in September of 2016, I witnessed how my surrounding community mourned the loss of the artist. This was most visible through a student article in the Queen’s Journal, and statements from the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, who had shown a solo exhibition of Pootoogook in 2011.

Years later, I am still grappling with my admiration and knowledge of Pootoogook’s art. This time, it is in the context of a masters course on Museums and Indigenous Communities at the University of Toronto, and a visit to the first retrospective exhibition of Pootoogook since her death, McMichael Canadian Art Collection's Annie Pootoogook: Cutting Ice, curated by Nancy Campbell.

The same question remains as it did a year ago: How can I remember Annie Pootoogook?

There are many perspectives, including voices from the Kinngait community, Pootoogook’s colleagues in Toronto, art historians, and the press. Remembering is an active process, and like her art, we should honour Pootoogook within her complexities. It is impossible to approach Pootoogook's career just from her drawings, her biography, her womanhood, her place in the Canadian art world, or the larger systemic oppression of Inuit peoples in Canada. We must understand how these approaches intersect. 

Annie Pootoogook, Red Bra, 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
Remembering Poootoogook as a great Canadian artist is one step, but I think there can be more action. We can ask how to remember Pootoogook, and continually improve these methods of remembering. By framing her legacy as a question, we can grapple with the significance of her life and work over time.

So here is my working list, one that will inevitably change. My attempt to answer the question—how can we remember Annie Pootoogook? The following list is what I have learned from Annie, and what I can continue to learn through her art.

1) See beauty and significance in the mundane. 

Annie Pootoogook, Ritz Crackers, 2004. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook drew life in Cape Dorset, showing viewers the simplicity of moments at home, and the significance of everyday objects. It could be ingredients for making Bannock, a box of Ritz crackers, a pair of scissors, or her grandmother’s glasses—all were given importance and care. Pootoogook demonstrates the value of documenting tradition, the present, and how they work together.

“Annie’s work is very different. Annie’s work is, like today and yesterday and…daily happenings, shopping, music, the feast. Sometimes she will draw very hurt feelings from her heart which she’s not afraid to say on paper.” – Jimmy Manning, manager at Kinngait Studios 

2) Create to heal. 

Annie Pootoogook, Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles, 2001-2002, Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook’s drawings of anguish communicate Indigenous realities of addiction, mental illness, and violence. By drawing her memories on paper, Pootoogook could begin to make sense of her experiences from a distance. At the same time, these depictions force viewers to confront the hardships of Inuit communities.

“It seems that I throw that shit out of my mind and start drawing. Well, drawing makes me feel better… better a lot than before.” -Annie Pootoogook

3) Embrace sexuality. 

Annie Pootoogook, Woman at Her Mirror (Playboy Pose), 2003. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook was unafraid to depict the body, using drawing to explore herself and her relationships. Through art, Pootoogook legitimizes female and Indigenous sexuality, challenging the viewer’s discomfort of gender and sexual identities that are considered "other". 

4) Support and celebrate our family, friends, and communities. 

Annie Pootoogook, Pitseolak Drawing with Two Girls on her Bed (detail), 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook’s practice was largely influenced by her family and her community. Pootoogook continually celebrated Pitseolak’s influence in her drawings, signified by her grandmother's black-rimmed glasses. Pootoogook’s career began with support from the Kinngait Studio, an artist community that creates prints for the Inuit art market. Pootoogook used the influence of her ancestors and community to chronicle her own surroundings and experiences.

5) Listen to contemporary Inuit voices. 

Annie Pootoogook, Dr. Phil, 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook challenged assumptions of Kinngait as a pure, untouched North. She demonstrated the presence of Western influence, and the unique hybrid identities of Inuit artists. Nancy Campbell works to include community voices with Cutting Ice, exhibiting artists influenced by Pootoogook, such as Ohotaq Mikkigak, Siassie Kenneally, Shuvinai Ashoona, Itee Pootoogook, and Jutai Toonoo. Supporting contemporary Inuit art provides an awareness of Inuit realities, and further expands conceptions of Canadian art. 

6) Challenge Western art historical categories. 

Annie Pootoogook, Gossip, 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection 

Pootoogook’s drawings are both familiar and foreign, making them difficult to classify within a Western art world. Her mixing of cultures creates instability, as Southern viewers connect with aspects of contemporary life, while simultaneously feeling isolated from Inuit tradition. Pootoogook’s career broke the glass ceiling for Inuit art, insisting that Inuit, female, and contemporary identities can exist simultaneously.

7) Question how we depict Indigenous artists in the media.

How is art world fame constructed, and how does it affect the artists on display? 

Annie Pootoogook, Sobey Award, 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. 
Pootoogook winning the Sobey Art Award in 2006 provided opportunity for the artist’s career, while also profoundly influencing her approach to the art world. The press’ invasive treatment of Pootoogook’s struggles with alcoholism and homelessness leading up to her death demonstrate the importance of representing artists with honesty and dignity.

Who creates fame for artists? For what audience? Where is the distinction between an artist’s work and their personal life?

8) Understand Pootoogook’s death within a larger context of gender-based violence.

Annie Pootoogook, Man Abusing his Partner, 2002. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
While the cause of Pootoogook’s death is unknown, it is important to acknowledge the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Pootoogook’s gender and cultural identity intersect with her experiences of violence. Sexual violence was a reality in Pootoogook’s life and art. Pootoogook’s death is a reminder that communities are continually fighting to stop violence against Indigenous women.

9) Acknowledge colonial violence and work towards reconciliation. 

Annie Pootoogook, Begging for Money, 2006. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
Pootoogook’s drawings of contemporary struggles in Cape Dorset, and her experiences living in Ottawa and Montreal, demonstrate the continual existence of colonial violence. The systemic oppression of Indigenous peoples persists in Canada. Colonial oppression is something that needs to be addressed both locally and nationally. Like Pootoogook's legacy, reconciliation is an active process, as we work towards more equitable relationships.

10) Act with the belief that we can be better.

Annie Pootoogook, Composition (Happy Woman), 2003-2004. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Lew (2017) at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
Pootoogook took many risks throughout her career and embraced opportunities to further her practice. She exhibited work in Toronto, completed the Glenfiddich Residency in Scotland, exhibited at Documenta 12 in Germany, and experimented with individual objects and cinematic scale. Pootoogook did not limit her art-making to Western perceptions of Inuit or contemporary art, and neither should we. There is always more to learn.

I encourage you to visit the McMichael before Cutting Ice closes in February. Confront your own understandings of Annie Pootoogook and contemporary Inuit art. Explore how you will remember Annie, and keep questioning long past when you leave the gallery.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

DUST, RUST, AND ALL THE REST: SPECIAL HOLIDAY EDITION

CONSERVATION TIPS & TRICKS

BY: JULIE DAECHSEL

Surprise! "Dust, Rust, and All the Rest" is back for one last edition. This post is dedicated to the Royal Ontario Museum’s iconic totem poles.

The holidays are nearly upon us, and for some this means hanging out with friends, entertaining visiting family, or relaxing after the marathon known as final term assignments. All three activities can quite nicely be enjoyed at the ROM – and while you’re there, you can wow your guests (or yourself) with some historical and conservationist facts about the famous ROM totem poles.

Like all great stories, this one begins over one hundred years ago when Bill 138 passed on April 16, 1912. This bill officially created the Royal Ontario Museum, yet the University of Toronto, who first proposed a museum in Toronto, had been collecting objects for a museum long before this legislation. The university tasked Charles Trick Currelly, a graduate of Victoria College and self-taught archaeologist, with filling their proposed museum, which he did with unmatched vigor and passion. 

Charles Trick Currelly. Source.
In the spring of 1913, as the administration and management plans for the new museum were being finalized, Currelly was sent out on a lecture tour. By all accounts, Currelly was a tad overenthusiastic and this series was intended to keep him from meddling. In British Columbia, he was intrigued by the craftsmanship of the west coast people. Through Canadian anthropologist Marius Barbeau, Currelly purchased three totem poles for the museum.

It is important to contextualize this purchase as it occurred during the Indian Act, under which the potlatch ban criminalized the creation of Indigenous ceremonial and cultural art. There was a mad rush to acquire (although in some instance “seize” might be more appropriate) Indigenous objects and art. A fourth totem pole was collected by British medical doctor and hobbyist ethnographer Charles Newcombe in the 1920s.

Transporting artifacts is a test of ingenuity and planning. Transporting totem poles, the tallest of which was twenty-four metres, from British Columbia to Toronto is a logistical nightmare. The poles were floated down the Portland Canal to the ocean, then towed to Prince Rupert. The largest pole was cut into three sections while afloat before it could be loaded into a railway car. 

The Portland Canal to Stewart, BC. Source.
All of this work was almost for nothing, as there was no room in the original museum for the totem poles. They could be erected outside the building, but Currelly had been told that they wouldn’t last for more than one hundred years outdoors. What follows is perhaps the greatest example of collections management-obsession ever.

A hundred years sounds like a long time to most. But remember when I said that Currelly was obsessively passionate about his museum? A hundred years wasn’t good enough (especially when people were certain that Indigenous craftsmanship would end). Currelly was so certain that the museum would warrant an expansion in the upcoming years that he decided to preserve and store the totem poles until they had a home inside.

By no means a conservator, really by any standards, Currelly remembered his time at dig sites and the unconventional methods of artifact handling to create a preservation method. He soaked the poles in petroleum until they were completely saturated, then poured gallons of floor wax over them. Finally, they were wrapped in protective bandages and burlap then lain outside the museum until a new wing was built in 1933 with a specially designed area to display the poles (fun fact: this is the Queen’s Park wing with the old entrance the will be reopened). Incredibly, the totem poles were perfectly preserved after more than a decade outside.

Now they sit in the two stairwells off the Rotunda, still preserved after more than one hundred years. But there was a casualty of Currelly’s conservation treatment: the petroleum oil destroyed the original paint decorations. Otherwise, the totem poles are in great condition.

The totem poles in their specially crafted home. Source.
By displaying the totem poles inside, there are fewer conservation dangers: the CCI Notes for indoor totem poles only warns about the wood cracking, as red cedar is a moist wood that splits as the moisture evaporates after logging.

The poles should be dusted infrequently to prevent uneven polishing or abrasion. When dusting is needed, use a vacuum with a long-haired attachment, as Rick Mercer did at the Canadian Museum of History.


This is officially the last Conservation Tips and Tricks post of 2017. Hopefully on your next visit to the ROM you’ll see the totem poles in a new light. Happy Holidays!

Further Reading:

Dickson, Lovat. The Museum Makers: The Story of the Royal Ontario Museum. Canada: The Bryant Press, 1986.

Horrill, Mallory. "81 Years in a Museum". Musings. October 2, 2014.

Kenter, Peter. "Work of indigenous builders lives on in ROM totem poles". Daily Commercial News. July 28, 2016.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

RELEVANCE BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

RESEARCH COLUMN

BY: LANA TRAN

I’m driving a proverbial bus right now, and if you have a moment, take a ride with me.

Now that first semester is nearing its end, it’s time to take your pulse. We all wrote letters of intent before signing up to become the next generation of museum professionals. What was your intent? What was the intention of your intent?

In truth, our submissions are self-promotion tools, demonstrations of our love for the field –what we can do for museums, and what they can do for us. While we extrapolate our intentions to the role of museums in society, many of us smuggle that bit of selfish ambition: the curator with the corner office. Let’s start by curating our Pinterest boards – ethno-bling and hanging showpieces for that dream job.

We still speak about civic engagement as if we are not civilians –What should we teach them? Will they understand? Will it be entertaining? Again, intention comes into play: We speak of idyllic museums, decolonizing museums, new museums. But this is a classroom, and its easy to speak in should be’s.

Take your pulse: are you living outside the classroom? Have you stepped outside the safety of (a written paper, an exhibition assignment, an internship) and tried something completely unrequested, but sorely needed? When a civic issue gives you a twinge, ask yourself what action you can take with the resources at hand. It could be an ad-hoc workshop, a guerilla exhibition, or a collective of students who feel the same way. The license to make mistakes and learn from them has an expiry date –it is much harder to gamble with institutional time and money than your own. Clichés be damned, now is the time to experiment.

Whether the supercilious tone of this article irks you or bores you, we all need to recognize that academia can be just as insular as museums themselves.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

BEYOND PHYSICAL SPACE: VIRTUALLY, A MUSEUM

BEYOND TRADITION

BY: HANNAH MONKMAN

Hi everyone, and welcome to Beyond Tradition's final post of 2017! The New Year will soon be upon us, and we may start looking towards our futures — but what about the future of museums themselves? In our efforts to remain relevant, will museums transform beyond recognition?

A question posed by Twitter user @museweb asks, "When is a museum not a museum?", as they share an article by Sarah Burke discussing the Kremer Museum—a new virtual reality museum created by George and Joël Kremer. (I encourage everyone to go read it here!)

Is a museum still a museum if its walls are made of code instead of brick and mortar? Source.

While museums have used virtual and augmented realities to supplement their physical institutions, this is the first that exists entirely in virtual space.

A constructed virtual reality has many benefits over a physical space. There is no daily maintenance of the architecture or displays, you can make sure the lighting on each painting is perfect without hassle, and you can even create displays with pieces located across the world that might never be able to stand next to each other in a physical exhibition. Visitors are free to explore and interact with the museum without crowds, and the technology allows them to visit from anywhere around the world (although how accessible this truly is should be questioned, since virtual reality hardware is still unaffordable to many).

However, while new technology may seem innovative and exciting, there are a lot of other questions we can—and should—be asking as well.

Source.
Perhaps the most concerning (in my opinion) is absence of social experiences in virtual reality—although a "multiplayer" version is certainly conceivable for the near future, museums are often highly social environments for most visitors. Would they be as interested if they had to "visit" alone, or take turns?

In addition, virtual reality is still primarily seen in the gaming world. Would this cheapen the museum experience, making it more game than museum? Would that even matter? The first visitors were children, who expressed excitement over the experience while relating it to games—would other demographics hold the same eagerness, or would they see it as trivial or "gimmicky"?

While virtual reality has other uses, it's still primarily associated with video games. Could museums break that mold, or end up being associated even more strongly with entertainment over education? Source.

As Joël Kremer asserts, his "goal is to expand the museum experience, not replace it." With this in mind, I think the virtual museum is incredibly exciting and I'm interested to see how it fares. 

But what do you think? Will the museum offer new and exciting alternatives to the traditional museum experience, or will it fall short of visitor expectations?

Monday, 4 December 2017

J'ADORE, CHRISTIAN DIOR: THE EXHIBITION

EXHIBITION REVIEWS

BY: JULIA ZUNGRI

Source.
“The Christian Dior fashions in this exhibition are beautiful,” reads the first sentence of the curatorial statement in the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)’s very own Christian Dior exhibition, which draws from the museum’s permanent collection. First, it is refreshing to read a curatorial statement when first walking into an exhibition space. Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the Senior Curator of Textiles & Costumes at the ROM, tells us the story of what led to this exhibition and the research and collaboration necessary for it to come to fruition.


Curatorial Statement by Alexandra Palmer. Photo courtesy of Julia Zungri.
This is the first time that the ROM’s Christian Dior collection from the postwar decade (1947 to 1957) will be on display, featuring over 100 objects. The ROM's Youtube channel features incredible footage of all of the hard work that went into conserving and preparing these objects for display. Here is a video of behind the scenes footage with the ROM team, courtesy of the ROM: 

 

The exhibition, presented by Holt Renfrew, examines the first decade of designs by Christian Dior. This decade of design is marked by the construction of the successful “New Look:” the “New Look” introduced cuts and designs such as soft shoulders and cinched waists - a challenge to the wartime masculine silhouette. As a result, the exhibition also pays particular attention to the meticulous work that went into these pieces by designers, as seen in the video below, courtesy of the ROM.


 


Panel explaining the success of the "New Look." Photo courtesy of Julia Zungri.

The organization of this exhibition is one of the reasons why it is so successful and enjoyable. I was first presented with two display cases opposite each other: one briefly explaining the fashion of the 19th century, and the other, the inspiration Dior took from 19th century fashion, as well as changes he made. This is a really useful introduction to not only understand what Dior was thinking in the post-WWII period, but also (however brief) to appreciate a timeline of major fashion trends over that century. Additionally, before viewing any pieces, visitors are presented with a legend of what each fashion term that will be used throughout the exhibition means - which was really useful for someone like myself.

Source.
"Decoding Dior" legend, particularly useful for someone who is not well versed in fashion vocabulary. Photo courtesy of Julia Zungri.
The pieces are arranged thematically by Day, late Afternoon to early Evening, and Evening wears. The pieces are contextualized and interpreted in a very creative and user-friendly manner. For example, one of my absolute favourite features of this exhibition is the use of at least two iPads in every theme. The iPads allow visitors to view original sketches and swatches, detailed photos, stories and photos of models and women who wore and owned the pieces, original advertisements, and much more – and they were all related to the pieces actually on display! This is such a clever way to avoid writing too much text but also to contextualize these pieces that merit a closer examination (very fashion-forward, I must say – pun intended). I also had an incredible urge to touch all of the pieces (or why else would I be in this field)?! Having the iPads provide detailed photos settled this urge and curiosity (although I’m still hoping the ROM will one day let me touch one of the dresses).


The above three photos exemplify how the iPads work and what type of information they reveal.
Options are available to zoom in and out of photos and are directly related to pieces on display.
Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.


The iPads were also complemented by archival videos, displayed throughout the space, of women wearing Dior’s pieces and of Christian Dior and designers creating these textiles that are featured in the exhibition (as seen in the video below). These digital applications help the pieces, worn by mannequins in the space, come to life.

 

Another example of where videos play throughout the space. The videos contain footage of the textiles on display either being worn and/or created. Photo and video courtesy of Julia Zungri.




These three photos (above and below) further illustrate how the digital applications used in the space help humanize and tell a story of the pieces. Note that the dress in the photo on the bottom left is being worn by the woman in the photograph on the bottom right. Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.
 




I had the pleasure to visit the exhibition with fellow Musings writer, Kelly Manikoth. I feel I have no choice but to feature her absolute favourite piece from this exhibition, because it is breathtaking:



Give me a moment while I try on my prom dress and just pretend. Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.


My personal favourite! Note the great amount of detail that the iPads provide (right)! Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.

The exhibition also highlights textile industries that flourished alongside Dior, featuring embroidery, fabric, and ribbon samples used in Dior’s pieces.



This in particular is a Staron printed textile register from 1955. This is a page with three Bambou samples. I can just imagine the process of archiving all of this material at the time! Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.
The garments are not the only pieces on display: the exhibition also features perfume, shoes, accessories, and original advertisements by and about Dior.

Now that's what I call a statement necklace. Photo courtesy of Julia Zungri.
The display of the perfumes is also quite clever! Positioned in a display case behind frosted glass designed to replicate a shop window, visitors are subconsciously slightly bending to look through the "shop window."

Photo of Kelly Manikoth 'shopping' for Dior perfume!
Photos courtesy of Julia Zungri.
It was extremely interesting to witness Dior’s world and what he wanted for women through fashion in the post-WWII period. This truly is an exhibition that needs to be seen: the fine details of the pieces, the array of textile samples, and most especially, the enjoyment of using the iPads and watching the videos in this space cannot be sufficiently described in words. I hope my photos and words, though, have done it enough justice and I encourage you to visit.

Until 2018, a more fashionable Julia bids you adieu.

Source.

Friday, 1 December 2017

4 REASONS WHY (I THINK) “SALVATOR MUNDI" IS A FAKE

OBJECT OF THE WEEK

BY: KESANG NANGLU

By now you must have heard about Salvator Mundi, i.e. that painting that last month sold for 450.3 million dollars. Forget about Object of the Week", this is the object of the year.

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi. Source.
The little oil-on-wood panel sold by Christie's is allegedly an authentic Leonardo, and may be one of 15-20 surviving paintings by da Vinci in existence. Note the use of allegedly" and may be" here   art experts and amateur spectators alike are divided over its legitimacy. Admittedly as a member of the latter category, here are some of the reasons why I think the Salvator Mundi is a fake.

1. Provenance

As students of the MMSt program, we're all familiar with how an object's provenance is critical to museum professionals in the process of identification and appraisal. Well, the Salvator Mundi has a messy one. There are hundreds of years unaccounted for, including over a century immediately following the creation of the work in the early 1500s. The painting was likely in the collection of King Charles I and II of England in the 17th and 18th centuries, which for some gives it credibility as an original. However, a second period spanning over a hundred years is lost between then, and the painting's reemergence in the 20th century. It's since been sold for tiny fractions of the recent auction price (as little as $10 thousand just over a decade ago)!

2. Composition

One of the hallmarks of a Leonardo is the use of complex compositional devices, like geometric formations, and S-curves" seen in both bodies and landscapes. Compared to similar works, like John the Baptist and even the Mona Lisa, the posing in Salvator Mundi feels distinctly stiff (Jerry Saltz agrees).

L: John the Baptist (c. 1513-16). Source. R: Mona Lisa (c.1503-05/07). Source.
Christie's has published a timeline of the painting, including an etching by Czech printmaker Wenceslaus Hollar depicting the Mundi in all its stiffness, and including the inscription Leonardo da Vinci painted it". While it certainly looks to be a copy after the Mundi, Hollar himself may have been incorrect in his assumption that the painting he was drawing was in fact made by Leonardo.

3. The “de Ganay" Salvator Mundi

What Christie's didn't include in their timeline was a drawing by Leonardo from the Royal Collection Trust. The drawing articulates some of the drapery details intended for the Mundi, including a fold between Christ's raised arm and the cross of his belt  a detail absent in Christie's Mundi, but present in the de Ganay" Mundi.

Source.
Once thought to be the original version of the Mundi by Leonardo himself (as opposed to a student or follower, there are some 20 versions in all), many experts advocate for the authenticity of the de Ganay Mundi. Clearly modelled with the same intentions as the Christie's Mundi, the de Ganay Mundi is unique in that its provenance places the work in the collection of Anne of Brittany. Though certainly no more royal than King Charles the I, the fact is noteworthy as Anne was the wife of the King of France, Louis XII, who we know was a direct patron to Leonardo.

Christie's has also claimed this connection to Louis XII in their proposed timeline, though the statement is preceded with a possibly" and followed by a most likely" (phrases that come up again and again in their account).

4. Restoration

And then there's this photograph of the Mundi in 1908-1910, pre-restoration.
I mean...
Source.
I'm tempted to leave that point there, but essentially the Christie's Mundi has been subjected to aggressive cleaning throughout its life, and the most recent restoration projects have been liberal in their efforts to fill in the blanks". Even if the surface was once touched by Leonardo, at what point does the deterioration and subsequent re-painting void any connection to the original artist's hand?

Whether or not you believe the Salvator Mundi is a true Leonardo, the news of its sale and the buzz it's generated both within and outside of the art and museum world has been fascinating. Despite the protestations of the doubtful, it's sold for the highest price that a painting has ever fetched at auction (previously, Picasso's Woman of Algiers held the title, which sold for $179.3 mil in 2015).

What do you think?
Real or fake?