Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tycho Brahe and the Island of Hven

Inside the Tycho Brahe Museum on Hven

Arader Galleries, San Francisco recently had the opportunity to attend the International Conference for the History of Cartography held in Copenhagen, Denmark this year. During our trip to Denmark, we traveled to the island of Hven, Sweden to visit the Tycho Brahe Museum and Observatory. Tycho Brahe was a Danish scientist and astronomer who dedicated 20 years to the study of the celestial heavens on Hven. He is best known in history for the astronomical observations which led Kepler to his theories of the Solar system. Hope you enjoy reading about his life below.

Tycho Brahe was born to Danish nobility in 1546 and by the age of 13, he was sent to the University of Copenhagen to study philosophy and rhetorics. A solar eclipse in 1560 awoke his interest in astronomy, and he began reading books on the subject. He attended the universities of Leipzig, Wittenberg, Rostock and Basel to study law, humanities and science. In Leipzig he started astronomical studies without permission, but was soon forgiven after demonstrating successes. He found that old observations were very inaccurate, and started to design methods and instruments for high-precision measurement of positions of celestial bodies.

On November 11th, 1572 he observed a new brilliant star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Brahe's measurements showed that it really was a distant star and not any local phenomena. This was very intriguing at that time, since the sphere of the stars was considered to be divine and perfect. Brahe observed its brightness evolve until it faded away the next year. He reported the event in his book "De stella nova", which made him famous all over Europe.

Because of his scientific observations, Brahe was granted the island of Hven by the Danish King Frederick II in 1574. The site and other sites, which created the basis for financing the research project that he so strongly wished to devote his life to. On Hven he had a library, laboratory and platforms for observations of the skies. He also had assistants who lived with him on the island which were recruited from universities and from his colleagues in Europe that he maintained correspondence with. Brahe entered into multiple-year contracts with them. In these contracts, they committed themselves to assisting Brahe in his scientific work, and not to reveal the results that were achieved to any outside parties. In return, they received food, lodging and clothing. More than 100 assistants are mentioned by name, as being active on Hven, in the observation protocols, letters and other documents from this time. The research was carried out in subjects such as astronomy, chemistry, medicine, horticultural refinement, meteorology and cartography.

We strongly encourage you to visit the Tycho Brahe Museum on the beautiful island of Hven during your future travels to learn more about Brahe’s life and contributions to modern science.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Memphis; Vue des Ruines, Prise du Sud-Est
From Description de l'Egypt

In 1922, Howard Carter opened a tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, unearthing the undiscovered tomb of King Tutankhamen. The furniture, thrones, model boats and figurines, ornate jewelry and game boards, all meant to service a purpose in the afterlife, were found in the tomb as well as the mummy of King Tut himself. These fascinating items are on display at the Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition at the de Young Museum. The exhibition successfully puts these objects in context with the changing political and religious times of King Tut’s lifetime (1333-1324 BC).

Inspired by this fabulous exhibition, Arader Galleries is pleased to present our latest catalog, The Rediscovery of Egypt. The catalog includes views and architectural studies from the landmark publication on Egypt, Description de l’Egypte, as well as maps, ornamental studies and natural history.

The Description de l’Egypte was a publication now considered the foundation work on Egyptology, and had a huge aesthetic impact on art and architecture of 19th century Europe. In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt, in what would become a failed campaign, with the intent to undermine Britain’s access to India and protect French Trade interests. In addition to his soldiers, Napoleon was accompanied by 150 engineers, scientists, mathematicians, naturalists and artists, called the Commission des Sciences et des Arts d’Egypte, whose mission was to explore and record Egypt: its ancient and modern buildings and monuments, its people and customs, its geography, and its flora and fauna. The product of this exhaustive research was the publication of Description de l’Egypte, which includes extraordinary illustrations of Ancient Egyptian temples.

Please call Arader Galleries at 415.788.5115 to request a copy of the Rediscovery of Egypt catalog.

This exhibition is not to be missed!
Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
De Young Museum
June 27, 2009–March 28, 2010

Friday, July 10, 2009

Modernizing Antiquity

Postcard from Aleksandra Mir's Venezia installation

Piranesi's Aranzi d'un Portico coperto...

The Grand Tour is a tradition that affects all modern travelers as it laid the foundation for the tourist industry we know today. Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, young European men of means traveled through Italy in search of art, culture, and the roots of Western civilization. The main purpose and value of the Grand Tour was to experience the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, which translated into commissioning paintings, perfecting secondary languages, and mingling with European nobility. Having recently participated in a modern take on the Grand Tour, studying Renaissance art in Florence and contemporary art in Venice, I would like to share an interesting comparison between the master engraver, Giovanni Piranesi and contemporary Polish artist, Aleksandra Mir.

Aleksandra Mir is one of the artists participating in the 53rd International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, an event that is the closet thing the art world has to the Olympics, where seventy-seven countries present pavilions devoted to artists of their choice. Mir’s installation, Venezia (all places contain all others), was among my favorites at the Biennale and prompted my reflection on the Grand Tour tradition. The piece consisted of a million free postcards, presented in open cardboard boxes. Walking through the vast arsenale (Venice’s massive former shipping yard), filled with the most incredible and outrageous displays of contemporary art, coming across relatively conventional items, such as postcards, I was somewhat tempted to keep walking. However, skepticism is a useful mentality to implore at the biennale and what looks seemingly commonplace is, of course, so much more.

In Mir’s installation, various places characterized by the presence of water were substituted for traditional images of Venice, with the word “Venezia” printed over the appropriated landscapes, effectively disorienting the observer. The artist therefore redefines the essence of tourism, freeing tourists of its stereotyped images while simultaneously challenging paradigms. In a similar way, Giovanni Piranesi disregarded realism to make a statement to the tourists of his day, the grand tourists. Indeed, he took creative liberties in an effort to augment the sense of antiquity in Rome, and even though his views weren’t necessarily realistic, they became the standard images of ancient Rome. Piranesi sold his prints to grand tourists, who brought them back to every corner of Europe, where their awestruck neighbors conceived a desire to see the amazing antiquities in person. Thus the artist not only capitalized on the Grand Tour—he intensified it. Naturally, Mir’s postcards will also be circulated by the public to every part of the world as nonrepresentational mementos, serving as evocations of the Biennale experience.

By printing a million copies, Mir transforms the ephemeral nature of postcards into a powerful medium, transmitting the meaning of the artwork across time and space. Piranesi pioneered this concept—using copperplate prints as a medium, he routinely pulled over 3,000 prints from a single plate, way above the then average of 100 prints. Undoubtedly, Mir hopes that one day one of these postcards will end up on the stall of an antique dealer similar to the way Piranesi’s etchings of Rome hang in antique galleries today. I found Mir’s installation a brilliant piece of contemporary art, categorized by its interesting connection with Piranesi and capacity for long-term resonance. Indeed, Mir, as well as tourists like me, have Piranesi to thank for popularizing the idea of the visual memento, for what are postcards if not the modern day equivalent of the 17th century vedute?