I approached this book cautiously. Here are a museum director and an art critic sharing their pensées – how self-regarding is that? In fact, we meet two very agreeable companions who sweep us up on a magic carpet to drop in on great works of art. We never know quite where we are going to land.
Who are our cicerones? Martin Gayford is an exceptionally well-informed and readable art critic, while Philippe de Montebello is God: director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York for thirty-one years (beaten only by Irina Antonova, director of the Pushkin for fifty-two). Gayford plays Boswell to Montebello’s Johnson, so we hear more from the latter. ‘Philippe and I had embarked on a joint project: to meet in various places as opportunities presented themselves in the course of our travels. Our idea was to make a book that was neither art history nor art criticism but an experiment in shared appreciation.’ Rendez-vous with Art ends up as a kind of very superior road movie.
Montebello tells us of his first love when he was fifteen, who was actually a woman in a book. His father had given him a copy of Malraux’s Les Voix du silence and he fell in love with the haunting statue of Uta in Naumburg Cathedral. It is difficult not