Quelle Folie

Is Manet’s “Bar at the Folies-Bergere” the work of a genius or an ailing fool?

Unveiled at the Getty last week in its first appearance on the West Coast, Manet’s celebrated painting uses a sense of perspective that is best understood after several shots of absinthe.

Getty curators explained the latest scientific theories on the canvas, while myself and other reporters at the press preview shook our heads with the skepticism that marks our breed.

Frankly, it just doesn’t make sense.

Assistant curator Scott Allen wrote a compelling article in a brochure accompanying the exhibit, which includes recent photographic recreations of the barmaid and the mirror behind her, and charts showing that the seeming impossible perspective is based on sound logic. Most fascinating is that the man in the upper right is actually not looking at our central barmaid, as the reflection in the mirror suggests, but at presumably another barmaid out of frame, making for a clever illusion that the two are actually interacting.

On my way out I had a hearty guffaw at Tim Hawkinson’s “Uberorgan,” a massive contraption straight out of Dr. Seuss. Every hour it moans for five minutes, much to the irritation of museum staff.

“There are offices upstairs,” said a Getty employee. “They say it sounds like whales mating.”

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