Dmitri Gutov

How is it possible to make installations after this.

Excursion around the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Rotterdam (fragments).

The text was recorded on the tape and available to every visitor of the Museum as a project to Manifesta 1. 1996, June 9 - August 19.

Hello. My name is Dmitry Gutov. I am an artist from Moscow. In the following 30 minutes I will be your guide in the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum. My project is made as a work for Manifesta 1, which is currently being held in Rotterdam. We are going to head towards the big round place, then turn to the right, and make our way up the staircase to the hall of the old Netherlands painters.
We will start our excursion from one of the best works in this museum: on the left wall, in the center, there is a canvas by Van Eyik "Three Maries at the tomb".

Van Eyik (1390-1441). Three Maries at the tomb

To tell you the truth, I am interested only in one question: What kind of art is possible today? Or, to be more precise: what does the world look like in the second part of nineties?
Three Maries at the tomb. (fragment)
Let's get closer to this painting and look at the face of the sleeping soldier. Here he is in metal body armor. A slightly puffy face. Puffs under the eyes. The main discovery here lies in the fact that misery is shown very poetically. The character has overslept the greatest event - God's Resurrection.
I think that such point of a view is the only possible nowadays. When a man has become as miserable as ever. He needs the most sublime attitude.
A helmet at his feet is painted fantastically! With the shining of tiny red and blue pebbles.
Three Maries at the tomb. (fragment)
Let's look to the left, at the bottom of the picture. A plant with yellowish flowers. These blades of grass everywhere. This total trust towards the surface of things, their real form. We have crossed the border from which it was possible to criticize the world, to accuse it. Nowadays we can only adore it.

Now I should like to show you one more work in this hall, if you turn, on the opposite wall, to the left of the door. Here is a work of Dirk Bouts "St John". A red figure on a green background. The foot is painted a touch too dry. While painting the grass around the feet, the brushwork was moving too mechanical. This is only the beginning of moving away from van Eiyk. Its unresolved quality led to monotony and stillness, which flourished in the XX th century. Now, at the end of the century they became foreign to our eye.
St John writing the Gospel. (fragment)
But the stones underneath are wonderful. As well as the transparent edge of the water. It is quite a modern piece.

Now we will go to the next hall. The door to the right of St John. We are going through it to the left door. Unfortunately we have no chance to see all the works. And now we enter hall number three. On the right wall you can see a painting by Bosch "Saint Christophorus".
Bosch (1450-1516). St Christopher carrying the Christ Child
The story of a giant, who helped people to cross the river and who once carried the baby Christ on his shoulders. From the distance the picture exudes harmony, but if we come closer we will see that it is full of sad delirium. On the right there is a tree where a fox is hanging by the tail.
St Christopher carrying the Christ Child (fragment)
On the left, a man has thrown his arbaleth and is hanging a bear.
St Christopher carrying the Christ Child (fragment)
Everything is sharp and fresh. The absurdity of what is happening is painted in a manner and technique, discovered for the sake of a different goal. That is the shining of tones and transparency. The technique of oil painting had been developed in order to describe the poetics of the world and not its dissolution. But this separation has been consuming itself during 500 years of self-improvement. The epoch where it was possible to appreciate an artist's work with an exclamation "It's crazy!" is passing in front of our eyes.
Bosch (1450-1516).The pedlar
To the left of "Christophorus" is "Peddler". The composition forms a circle. Its making conforms to the rules of color and compositional harmony. The understanding of the motives behind a person's deeds, the one who has lost his inner calmness. Thousand expressions are floating over his face.
The pedlar (fragment)
But 50 years had passed after van Eyik and then the artist had to pay for all his achievements. The price is the deep pessimism of a moralist, punishing the world for its sins. Such rhetoric were still possible in the works of 1970-s, but it is absolutely unacceptable now. The world is so decayed that there doesn't exist a point of view from which we can see it that way.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1526-1569). The tower of Babel
Now, if we turn to the left there is Breigel's work "Babylon tower" on the central wall. The finest commentary to this work are those pages of Marx's "Capital" where he writes about factories in England in the XVI th century. The main forces in a man are uncovered, his possibilities become enormous but he turns into misery. Breigel finds the ideal distance where we can see the greatness of everything happening and the insignificance of a man.
The tower of Babel (fragment)
Here we see a similarity to Van Eyik in the astonishing attention to small details. It was not necessary for Breigel when he painted natural peasants' life. The price Breigel had to pay for his genius is the allegorical character of the image. Its constant use has turned into vague symbolic and a system of ciphered statements, which were so much loved in the XX th century.
Anonymous (1470-80). Still life with books, water jug and basin
If we turn and come to the glass showcase, we will see a small beautiful still life. Here high poetics are combined with the real images of objects. And that is modern. The epoch of delirium has finished. The sensitive surface of the world is again fresh and it can cheat nobody.
Pieter Aertsen (1507-1575). Christ in the house of Martha andMary
Now we are moving to another hall. To the door on the right. A big canvas is on the wall. This is Peter Aertsen. A picture where we can see the features of decline isn't very interesting now. As well as mannerism or Pre-Rafaelits. It was popular to adore it in the epoch of decline. Now there is no decline as there is nothing to rot. That's why Michelangelo's opinion towards such painting is so close to us. Thus, he said: Only those people like it who doesn't feel any sensitive harmony. Even if it is very pleasant for the eye, there is neither sense, nor symmetry, nor proportions: there is neither choice nor greatness. Here exists neither power, nor beauty. I think it is a very modern point of view.
Bosch (1450-1516). Head of an old woman
And now if we turn and come to the nearest glass stand, we will see a small picture on the right. This is Bosch. The fragment of his work, an old woman's face. Unfortunately we can't come closer because of the glass. A beautiful face, not too ideal but full of natural inner life.

Now we are turning to the right and going to the next, fifth hall, representing Rubens' drafts
.Rubens. Nereid and Triton. 1636
We are going slowly along the right wall. Looking at the works. The main attraction for the collector. The drafts are not spoiled by Rubens' pupils. A genius needs an orgy. The orgy is a kingdom of freedom. Liberation of strong and bright desires. Nowadays again a man is standing in the face of a great situation and a great action. That's why Rubens is so close to him.

Now we are going to another sixth hall. Going through it. Now continue, through the seventh hall with 17-century landscapes. Let's come into the hall 8 to see the genre scenes by Jan Steen.

Jan Steen (1626-1779). The sick woman (fragment)

Let's approach the opposite wall, closer to the second work from the left. Somebody is being operated on the throat here. The world, which is looking at itself with the artist's eyes, sees that it is quite disgusting. It is difficult to stand it even having developed the power of observation. But like a faraway echo of a bright glance of van Eyik, this scene has the touch of an art of painting. Here is its content - soft humor like a weak hope for the better future.

In 300 years, when this hope totally disappears, those swabs will be put into exhibition spaces.

The world is too beautiful for the annihilated person, to pay attention to such miserable things.

Now we will go through hall number nine, passing Claude Lorrene, Charden, Vatto. Let's enter into hall 10, in the corner there is a small work of Gerard Ter Borch "The Spinner".
Gerard Ter Borch (1617-1681). The spinner
Hegel deeply understood those small pictures. He found in them an accurate depiction of banal nature and a reflection of the inner honor of people. Because they had achieved that prosperity themselves. They conquered the earth from the sea, liberated from Spain, achieving religious freedom.

Hollanders paid for their art by smallness, even in the size of their works. But today the world soul doesn't live in this prosaic reality. It exists only in the great. Because nothing else is left.

Now we are going to the 11th hall and just to the left we can see two portraits by Rembrandt. We will approach the right portrait of a boy.
Rembrandt. Titus at his Desk, 1655
Rembrandt is full of the same high and mighty feeling which had been stimulating van Eiyk. But in the 17th century, one had to pay more for the ability to see the world in such way. Hot light is burning the cold part of the palette, all green and blue shades. The impaste is forced, it gets its own history which terminates with the transformation of the picture into an object. But today there is no longer price which could buy you such point of view on life. It could only be presented without any efforts.

Now let's move to the next exit, crossing this big hall and passing through the enfilade. Still-lives, portraits and genre scenes are floating beside us. Go further. We are going to the opposite exit and come to hall 37. We enter into this hall and on the right in the center of the wall we see a small portrait.
Lorenzo Costa (1460-1535). Portrait of Pietro Cenni
Let's come to it as close as possible. The face is of astonishing dignity. It lacks any occasional features. His gaze is calm, not concentrated, and full of human attitude towards life.

That is the understanding of greatness of a human being which, I think, constitute today's life.

That is the way to paint - simply and sublime. How is it possible to make installations after this.

Now we shall turn to the right, and go through the nearest door and into the hall, which we have just passed. Immediately on the right there is a Titian "A Boy in Pink with a Dog".
Titian (1485/90-1576). Boy with dogs in a landskape
He resists trivial characterizations through a variety of painting methods. Titians great discovery was in the expression he attained through the movement of his brush. This non-adherence to strict contours has its own history the extremity of which was the total elimination of image.

Another exemplary work in this hall is in the glass showcase occupying the center. We shall approach it from the left. A portrait of a boy by Veronaise.
How many natural and beautiful emotions he has. A living and thinking creature could be easily insulted - but any insult has its limits. When these limits are surpassed a persons face can again become radiant.

Now we shall go to the right, through the door and into hall 17. There are two dark works to the right of this passage, this is Onoray Dormier.
Onoray Dormier(1808-1879). The Amateurs
To the right is "The Amateurs". The truthful image of the 19th Century was not picturesque and the artist had to struggle with the strong intention of his will. He refuses to represent the faces of these monsters.

We are going to go to hall 19, do not stop. On the left there is Claude Monet who blurred his vision so as not to focus on this misery.
Claude Monet. Fisherman's cabin at Varengevill, 1882

Then we turn to the left to hall 26. We pass Man Ray, Magritte, Dali, DeChirico - an art of a disappearing epoch the language of which is becoming more vague.

Rene Magritte. Le Modele Rouge II, 1937 Salvador Dali. Cou[le with the heads full of clouds. 1936 Man Ray. The enigma of Isidore Ducasse, 1920

Carrying on into hall 26 pass Picabia we go into hall28. Ahead of us there is a picture. A girl is lying. Broken matches. Numerous needles. The boredom and senseless existence of the 1970s. How distant these things are from us.

We pass hall 29 with abstract art and go into hall 30 passing Kandinsky and open the door onto the hall where we can recognize a work by Donald Judd.
Donald Judd. Untitled, 1984
When was it? This idea that nothing exists in the world besides primal elements, all this contrasting of living and mechanical, outer and inner, sense and senseless. Those were the discovered methods to discuss an inexpressive world. But today the world is expressive and these ideas have lost their meaning.

We shall go through the long corridor and again turn to the right. Enter the hall where there are four projections around us by Bruce Nauman call rotating glass walls, Let's approach one of the walls to see the trembling movement. It's not Van Eyke or Veronaise. This is a representation of our world, which cannot be put in a proper form. But it has one big weak point. It is too close to the original. We need some distance (as in Breugel's Tower) to understand the impossibility of the incident of the reality which is one big event in itself. Besides it is very expressive.

Now lets go to the corridor and turn to the right where we shall meet Hans Haacks work. There you will see the storage of the world art. It does not seem to me storage but a drama. With a very clear plot which will never be finished.

Now I shall bid you farewell. Thank you very much for your attention. I am very grateful to all those who gave me a chance to work in the Museum. Among wonderful masterpieces of a human hands and minds.