A New Exhibition of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Art Spanning 200 Years in Spain

Big American museums, Holland Cotter argues, tend to present devotional art “purely in aesthetic terms,” with little or no attempt to explain the spiritual, political, or ideological meaning they held for their original audiences. This is not the case, however, for the Met Cloisters’ exhibit on the religious art of Spain at the start of the 11th century, which also reflects the often-peaceful exchanges of culture among three major religions:

Politics, and specifically geopolitics, is the underlying subject of Spain 1000-1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith at the Cloisters. The show is a classic Met product. Its 40-plus objects—sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, most from the museum’s holdings—are top-shelf items, distinguished by outstanding rarity, beauty, or both. And in their Cloisters setting, the element of faith is writ large.

The show is installed in the museum’s Fuentidueña Chapel Gallery, a space defined by a full-scale architectural work, the complete apse of the 12th-century church of San Martín from the town of Fuentidueña in central northern Spain. The apse was transported, stone by stone, to the Cloisters in the late 1940s as a long-term loan from the Spanish government. With its high, clean Romanesque lines, and a fresco of the Virgin and Child (from a different church) spanning its dome, it’s a charismatic backdrop for a presentation of art from an era in which three religions shared highly contested terrain. . . .

The notion of three major faith-based cultures interacting peaceably and productively has an attractively utopian spin. And the art in the Met show, with its hybrid beauties, to some degree backs it up.

In a manuscript painting at the Cloisters, a 10th-century Christian monk named Maius makes the Heavenly Jerusalem look a lot like the Great Mosque of Cordoba. A 14th-century Hebrew Bible shimmers with Islamic interlace patterns. Islamic textiles, some with Arabic inscriptions, were used to wrap the relics of Christian saints. A sapphire embedded in a spectacular silver frame surrounding an ivory crucifix is inscribed with four of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Art, Islam, Jewish art, Medieval Spain

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism