Q & A AMA - Claire Yeon

Patty

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omg Claire, loves your answers!
You said your friends growing up wanted you to do their homework. Did you not have a best friend or someone you shared secrets with?
 

Claire Yeon

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I like your logic.

Renaissance -- If you could collect art from only one master, whom would it be and why?
I had a feeling that you, of all people, might understand. I hope the application of logic works out as well for you as it did for me.

In regards to your actual question: I would sell my soul to possess the complete collection of Johannes Vermeer. I have always valued quality over quantity, and each of Vermeer's surviving works is of exceptional quality. Beyond his ability to capture light and shadow, I particularly admire the way he took ordinary things - a man reading a map, a woman reading a letter, a girl with a pearl earring - and made them extraordinary. Each piece of his is a glimpse into the past not only as it was, but as it was meant to be.

omg Claire, loves your answers!
You said your friends growing up wanted you to do their homework. Did you not have a best friend or someone you shared secrets with?
Not particularly, no. Secrets hardly remain such if they are bandied about. That being said, I had expectations of my "friends" right back. I did their homework, as long as they made sure I was not bothered on my way between classes. It was a fair trade. If a relationship is not mutually beneficial, it is in need of serious reevaluation.
 

Claire Yeon

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I like Vermeer too, but part of me still thinks he's overrated. However, he's Baroque, and I know you're just testing me... so my question still stands on which Renaissance artist you would collect.
Forgive me. The hour is late, and the wine flows freely. Let us then say Leonardo da Vinci. Did ever a man who truly embodied the Renaissance walk among mortals? Few among named figures throughout history are worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as him.
 

Chase

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Forgive me. The hour is late, and the wine flows freely. Let us then say Leonardo da Vinci. Did ever a man who truly embodied the Renaissance walk among mortals? Few among named figures throughout history are worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as him.
Excellent answer. You have a taste for clarity. For me, it's Caravaggio for Baroque and Michelangelo for Renaissance. I think you can see where I stand in terms of the battle between light and dark.

If you could recommend a budding art curator to study from one museum, which would you suggest?
 

Claire Yeon

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Claire, if you could own one sculpture in the world, what would it be?
Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes. The level of detail is exquisite, but beyond that, Donatello truly captured the fact that this was an act of sacrifice as much as one of courage. I do not believe that Donatello thought Judith enjoyed killing Holofernes, as evil as he was, and this carried through in his depiction of her. She acted out of great need, and her willingness to do what was necessary marks her as a heroine of not only exceptional valor, but of single-minded determination, and that is a quality far more rare and dangerous than one might expect. Holofernes sees Judith as meek, unassuming, with nothing to offer besides her beauty, and the trust he places in his view of the world is his undoing. As she cradles his head, and raises her sword, we all see who truly holds the power, and even then it belies our expectations of what power should look like. Her grace, her courage, her wrath, and her strength are at once encouraging and terrifying, and Donatello’s hand brought legend to life.

How did Claire first fall in love with art? Was it a specific piece she saw when she was young?
It was a specific experience: my second grade class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I held only a vague appreciation of art at the time because I thought pictures were pretty and I could look at them for a long time, but it was more than could be said for anyone else in the group. Visiting one of the largest and busiest museums in the world with thirty easily-distracted seven- and eight-year-olds whose appreciation of art was limited to whether or not their box of crayons had a sharpener went about as well as you might expect. I wanted to slow down, read the descriptions, and look at the pretty pictures; my classmates wanted to point and giggle at the naked statues. I eventually fell behind, and wandered into a hall that featured a special display on abstract expressionism, with about two dozen pieces on loan to the museum from private collectors. I was not impressed. These were the sort of paintings a child could do! A Jackson Pollock just inside the exhibit entrance was indiscernible from what my classmate Gavin Lucas did to the floor of the reading corner only a few days earlier, when our teacher had her back turned a little too long and left the cupboard of acrylics open. A museum volunteer was standing next to a large canvas that had two big black rectangles and one small brownish one on a purple background. A plaque beside it said several things I do not remember and two that I do: that the artist was called Mark Rothko, and the piece had been appraised at USD $30 million. Well, of course, I could not believe it, and told the volunteer as much. Rather than dismiss my remarks, she asked if I would like to learn more about Rothko and his techniques. As she pointed things out, and explained how the artist liked to paint many very thin layers of different colors on top of each other, I noticed things about it I would not have seen otherwise: that the bottom rectangle was more blue than black, that this random smudge of reddish-brown in the background was there on purpose and not a slip of the hand, and that if I looked carefully I could see the way the the tones shifted ever so slightly from this side of the picture to that one, because this had reds underneath and that had green. It completely changed my perspective, and I moved along, looking for all the different colors both seen and unseen. It was the most magical hour of my childhood… as well as the approximate amount of time it took for the group to realize I was missing. The entire museum went on lockdown, my parents and the police were called, and I wasn’t allowed to go on another field trip for the rest of elementary school. I regret nothing.

If you could recommend a budding art curator to study from one museum, which would you suggest?
The Met. I admit that I may be unfairly biased toward it because of my wonderful experiences there (see above), but I stand by that answer even after evaluating the other factors one needs to consider in a decision such as this. The Met is a museum that truly understands what many an aspiring curator does not: this is a business. You have to woo donors, acquire new pieces, assure their authenticity, train and manage your staff, stay up-to-date on the movement and market value of art, and, perhaps most importantly, maintain a certain level of prestige while also making art relevant and accessible to the public. It is expensive, time-consuming, physically and emotionally draining, and extremely satisfying. Many museums have excellent art, but few have mastered the art of business as well as the Met.
 

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