Thomas Crow

View of “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013,” 2013, Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina, Venice. Foreground, from left: Gary B. Kuehn, Untitled, 1968; Gary B. Kuehn, Untitled (Wedge Piece), 1968; Walter De Maria, Art by Telephone, 1967; Alan Saret, Zinc Fire, 1968; Aldo Walker, Kleines Kreuz no.128 (Small Cross no.128), 1969; Reiner Ruthenbeck, Aschenhaufen III (Ash Heap III), 1968; Richard Tuttle, Canvas Dark Blue, 1967. Background, from left: Bill Bollinger, Pipe Piece, 1968; Eva Hesse, Augment, 1968; Reiner Ruthenbeck, Möbel I (Furniture I), 1968. Photo: Kate Lacey. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

THE 2013 VENICE BIENNALE set the scene for two capital lessons in the history of art. In order of historical time, the first took place at the Palazzo Ducale, amid the usual hordes visiting the chambers of state, in an exhibition devoted to Édouard Manet. The show itself (“Manet: Return to Venice”) may have been no landmark, but it made real the most often repeated slide comparison in the teaching of art history: Side by side, in unprecedented juxtaposition, were Manet’s Olympia from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and Titian’s Venus of Urbino from the Uffizi in Florence.

This was a meeting that the painter himself had only imagined, his key visit to Florence having taken place in 1857, six years in advance of his fashioning the quintessential modern-life homage to the very exemplar of the Renaissance nude. Was the concreteness of the pairing thus misplaced? Probably. Did it matter?

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