Last week I saw the Leonardi da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery in London even though it had closed three weeks earlier. And I saw it in Champaign!
"Leonardo Live" played the weekend of Feb. 25 at the Art Theater, giving on the big screen an up-close look at the landmark, sold-out exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan."
Well, I expected an up-close look at the art. We got it with some of the paintings and drawings, but not many.
What viewers got instead was verbiage from talking-head Brits. Some of it was insightful and instructive; some of it was not.
"Leonardo Live" was billed as a first-of-its-kind cinema event, similar to the high-def broadcasts of live opera, ballet and other arts performances. A great idea to extend that to the visual arts — but, and this is a big but, even though the high-def images are huge they do not, and I repeat do not,live up to seeing art live.
I also was disappointed, as were others, that the documentary didn’t take a literal walk-through of the exhibition, which brought together the largest number ever of Leonardo’s surviving paintings (The Louvre did not loan "Mona Lisa" to the National Gallery) as well as drawings.
Instead the doc focused on a few of the drawings and paintings. That was interesting, I enjoyed learning about them, but I wanted to see the other drawings and paintings in the exhibition, too.
Jack Ekstrom, with whom I studied painting and life drawing at Parkland College, was even more critical of "Leonardo Live."
"There was too much talking and too much interviewing of people," he said. "I kept thinking it would get better and then they would flash back to the girl in the white dress."
That was Mariella Frostrup, a television journalist who my friend said resembles an American Angie Dickinson. Frostrup hosted the doc along with Tim Marlow, an art historian and director of exhibitions at the White Cube gallery in London.
They did mini-interviews with the curator of the exhibition, a ballet dancer, an actress, and a musician, among others. I would have liked to have heard from more experts and art historians.
Ekstrom said he learned "diddly" from the interviews, that they did not reveal any earth-shaking info to him. Still, the subject matter was good enough to make it somewhat worthwhile to see — if you’re in the arts, he said.
"For anyone not in the arts, it’d be slow cooking," he said.
Sanford Hess, owner/operator of the Art Theater, took a more positive view of "Leonardo Live." He called it wonderful and said it was well-received. Art patrons, he said, liked the combination of information, interviews and images.. The only criticism he heard was that the doc did not show enough of the paintings and drawings.