ARTYFACTS: Baroque for english consumption - V&A

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baroque for english consumption - V&A

I love baroque architecture. It allows me to escape my Calvinist past, and that was its point. As a counter-reformation movement it has all the exuberance of rebellion. I love those little baroque churches in Rome that adorn almost every street and piazza. Enter the Gesu and you receive this huge Catholic slap in the face that makes you face up to your protestant pettiness. That's the baroque I love, not the  cabinets, clocks and crockery that this exhibition largely features.

For me the baroque is architecture first, the rest follows. That's not what the exhibitors want you to believe, but they mistake effects for causes. In fact, it loses it's effectiveness when scaled down. In the end it becomes an auctioneer's showroom with one example of every of baroque object the curator could think of, rather than it's real heart. This is so V&A. It's the Antiques Roadshow, not a wild orgy of joy. Of course, the English never really took to the baroque, They toyed with it in some of their more out of the way country houses and Wren had to cheat it into St Pauls. England, in the end never really capitulated to the reformation, nor counter-reformation. They emrely collected some bits and pieces from both.

I'd also have included its apotheosis, Rococo and ended on a blast, the firework explosion which ended baroque movement in an orgy of excess. But the V&A is far too conservative for that!


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