Night Music: Eleanor Rigby

May 16, 2020

Early Urbanism

May 16, 2020

For those interested in the earliest histories of urbanism, new discoveries in Scotland require a whole new focus.

Archaeologists have discovered that perhaps as many as 4,000 people in 800 huts were living on a single hill at Tap O’North village between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD.

“Their discovery means that the area, which today is a quiet village home to just a few hundred people, once had a hilltop settlement that at its height may have rivalled the largest known post-Roman settlements in Europe … the huge fort dated to the fifth to sixth centuries AD and that it was occupied at the same time as the elite complex in the valley at Barflat farm. Dating shows that settlement on the hill extended as far back to the third century, but both hut platforms excavated also had fifth to sixth century AD phases…

At 16.75 hectares, it is “bigger than anything we know from early medieval Britain – the previous biggest known fort in early medieval Scotland is Burghead at around five and a half hectares and in England famous post-Roman sites such as Cadbury Castle is seven hectares and Tintagel around five hectares.

“The Tap O’ Noth discovery shakes the narrative of this whole time period. If each of the huts we identified had four or five people living in them then that means there was a population of upwards of 4,000 people living on the hill. That’s verging on urban in scale and in a Pictish context we have nothing else that compares to this.”


Back2Basics Sounds Like A Tory Trap

May 16, 2020

There is a petition circulating right now called Back2Basics. It seeks to cut back on the services provided by the City of Vancouver with the express aim of relieving home owners of any additional burdens placed on property tax.

It seeks to use the covid-19 crisis as the cover for what is, in reality, a major Tory-like austerity rollback. And we all know from bitter experience gained across so many jurisdictions, that the only people who suffer during such an austerity squeeze are the poorest and most vulnerable.  Their services are the first to be cut in austerity and — should the crisis ever be declared over — their services are always the last to be restored.

We should not be cutting services during a major crisis. In fact, progressive economists will say that now is the time we should be spending more. Governments need to step in when needs are greatest, and step back when good times are here.

The promoters of the petition will not remind you that Vancouver already pays the lowest property tax in North America based on tax per $1,000 value. Their petition does nothing but attempt to guarantee that unsustainable position into the future.

The petition says: “The city must stop pushing their out of control spending onto tax payers.”  We do have out of control spending but it is not because we are spending too much, but rather that we are spending so unwisely.

The failure of the Stewart administration in this crisis has been a failure to prioritize spending where it can do most good. Steered by City staff inherited from the woe-begotten Vision Vancouver years of build for greed and headlines not for genuine need, Vancouver city’s budget is top-heavy on administration and “world class” projects, and sorely lacking in a vision for the most needy half of the population. And any advantage extra staff may have provided is completely lost in the ridiculous byzantine world of delays in development approvals for local projects.

The best thing John Horgan in Victoria could do for the City right now is to free them up to move parts of the huge and unwieldy capital budgets into operations. Put those capital projects on hold for the time being, and plough money into services on the ground where they are most needed. Keeping transit free beyond the virus crisis would be helpful, too:  if we can afford Site C, we can afford free transit!

Grandview 16th May 1920

May 16, 2020

<i?Sun, 19200516, p.43

All previous Grandview 1920 clippings

The Art Business Evolves

May 16, 2020

When last I wrote about the art market, in November, it was buoyant and looking forward. Since then, of course, the world crashed to a halt; museums, galleries, artists, and auction houses have been shuttered like the rest of us.  Some old fortunes were lost, and some new ones found. How that has affected the upper end of the world art market is about to  be revealed, as Christie’s leads the way to a possible new future.

On 10th July,

“[u]sing streaming technology, ONE will be the first auction of its kind, taking place in consecutive sessions in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. Alex Rotter, chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, says of ONE that, ‘with our virtual and physical worlds rapidly merging, we felt it was vital we meet this new reality with an innovative platform.’

Offering a range of exceptional 20th-century works, it will be staged by a leading auctioneer in each location (starting in Hong Kong) for a live and an online audience simultaneously. The new format aims to create a cutting-edge, adaptable, highly engaging platform for bidders around the globe, while also capturing the drama and excitement of a gala sale.

We’ll see if that is possible with the technology.  What is for certain is that they have laid on a masterpiece as their main lot: Version F of Picasso’s Les femmes d’Anger series.  Version O sold at auction for $179 million in 2017.

“Each of Picasso’s 15 canvases is a marvel of invention. What makes Version ‘F’ stand out is the way it marks a bridge between the first phase of the series (of regular-sized canvases) and the second, final phase (featuring much larger works).  Version ‘F’ is the culminating picture of the first phase, both brilliantly coloured and spatially ingenious, a composition so fully resolved that Picasso now felt ready to tackle bigger canvases. His palette is scorching, comprised principally of saturated red and gold tones. The airy white passages found in his previous versions of Les femmes d’Alger  are gone, replaced by a dense, expressive weave of Matissean pattern and colour. More than any other painting in the series, it conveys the hothouse atmosphere of a harem.”

This isn’t one of my favourite Picasso’s, but then again I was never going to be laying down $200 million to own it even if I loved it. But it is certain to attract a lot of interest and indirectly assist the rest of the Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary, as well as Design, lots.

Most of the really rich buyers phone it in anyway, through their agents, so going online should not be too much of a novelty.  It will be an interesting experiment.