DC at Night

DC at Night

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fleeting Structures for Festivals

As the Olympics get underway in London, we will be barraged with continual images of just how the city has spruced itself up for the international athletic extravaganza. Urban cities around the world often find themselves being revitalized and beautified for festivals like the Olympic Games or national holidays.

But the phenomena of the erection of impressive, yet often temporary structures for honorary events isn't restricted to just modern cities.

In early modern Europe, state visits, coronations and royal weddings provided cities with a reason to stage lavish productions. Prior to the invention of the printing press, the temporary structures built for these events were lost forever. But soon after Gutenberg's introduction of hand-press printing festival books describing these celebrations began to appear.

Samples of these early books, printed in Latin, French, and German, were included in the exhibit The Fleeting Structures of Early Modern Europe at the National Gallery. The exhibit was timed to close just as the London Olympics were beginning.

The exhibit, drawing from the rare book collection at the National Gallery of Art Library, was divided into 4 sections. They were:
  • The Triumphal Arch
  • Display of Power
  • Stage and Ampitheater
  • Building Decorations
As was pointed out in the brochure for the exhibit, these events allowed artists and architects to design innovated structures which afforded "the chance to experiment with new ideas or encourage city officials to consider new uses of public space."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
While you can't view the Fleeting Structure show any more, there are still 2 major exhibits now at the National Gallery. First is Joan Miro: The Ladder of Escape. The exhibit of the Spanish painter's works will close on Aug. 12. There is a comprehensive exhibit of works from American painter George Bellows which is running until Oct. 8. We plan to visit both soon. If you like art, you should consider a visit, too.

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