Although I live in Baltimore, getting down to D.C. to see exhibits doesn't happen often enough. It took Book Expo America (BEA) to get me out of the studio. BEA is the biggest event in publishing, unless you're an author; the e-mail from an editor accepting your first manuscript would be the bigger event.
If you're a first-time author this is a very intimidating experience. There are 1,200 exhibitors, all the major publishers, and literally thousands of titles to preview this fall. What if you had a signing and no one came? That didn’t happen, but this guy was signing books with a brush and ink, a very nice touch. Here we had an actress signing her new knitting book.
Novels, memoirs, historical, travel, lots of “chick lit”; a free T-shirt with every signed book; and lots of art books are here for their coming-out party. One of my favorite art personalities, Sister Wendy Beckett, is finally back with a book: I'm a total fan. Publishers, editors, literary agents, publicists, of course, the authors, and thousands of book buyers were in attendance. The book business is alive and well.
With that said, the possible future of publishing is also here; several on-line, do-it-yourself options were demonstrating the potential of self-publishing. So how will you be buying your books in the future? On-line downloads, Amazon, independents, large chain, or Starbucks? Google also has a presence, as they should since they’ll eventually own the rights to everything, maybe. For now, the publishing industry is still fairly independent. There will be big changes in the near future, with digitizing and spoken word formats. For now paper still rules; while we still have trees.
I did manage to see some art with a quick cruise through the National Gallery. Although Dada is done and crated for Paris, there are still a few exhibits to see. A permanent exhibit of Small French Paintings from the collection, on the ground floor of the East Building, is loaded with small gems by Corot, Vuillard, Bonnard, and others. Did I mention this is free?
Also in the East Building is a Charles Sheeler exhibit, Across Media, exploring the importance of photography to his painting. I didn't realize how closely he worked between the two mediums. But with his precise, often emotionless style of painting it makes sense. Sheeler's fascination with industry and his collaboration with the photographer Paul Strand surely reinforced that bond.
Currently in the West Building are two amazing drawing collections, on view at the same time. One is Master Drawings from the Woodner Collections and Poetry of Light: Venetian Drawings from the National Gallery of Art; that's a long title fitting for such a large show.
Combined there are at least 200 drawings on view, 134 in the Venetian exhibit alone; a drawing fix for the die-hard lover of draftsmanship. The Woodner Collection includes artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo, Albrecht Dürer, Raphael, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Goya, Ingres, Degas, Picasso. This was a private collection! Since works on paper are so fragile, they are seldom on display for long periods: it's a rare treat.
The Venetian exhibit is strongest for me in the earlier work by Mantegna, Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto; OMG, these guys could draw! Beautiful pen and wash work and -- yes, of course -- masterful, sensitive use of chalk. Who does this today? Now I don't mean to get picky, but the central portion of this exhibit loses some of the excitement; although a few pieces from Tiepolo and Piranesi will get you through to the 19th century and views of Venice by Sargent (couldn't find them online). That was a pleasant surprise ending.