CMA Blog

A great read

This September our Art Book Club will be discussing Disarmed: The Story of the Venus de Milo by Gregory Curtis. I’m telling you this now so you’ll have plenty of time to read the book before we all gather to talk about it on Thursday, September 3 at 7:00 PM and Sunday, September, 13 at 2:00 PM. We began the Art Book Club several years ago when we partnered with Thurber House to talk about Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Like many other books, The Da Vinci Code describes all of these wonderful art works, but many of us haven’t actually seen them.


So, four times a year, or once a season, we select a work of either fiction or nonfiction that talks about an artist, a topic specific to the art world, or uses references to art works as part of the story. The Art Book Club is open to anyone who wants to attend. There is a small admission fee, but it is free for members, hint, hint.

We meet in the auditorium for about 45 minutes for a quick presentation, with visuals, about the works discussed in the book and then move to the Bellows Room to discuss the book and eat, snacks are a good thing. When we can, we get the author on the phone to answer questions, which is always a hit with the group.

We have a core group that attends each discussion, and many of them attend in their own groups, sort of a book club within the book club. We have people who come who have read the book from cover-to-cover, some who like the subject but hated the actual book, and others who come just for the presentation.

Disarmed is great story about the discovery of the Venus de Milo in the 1800s. And, although it is nonfiction, the characters are wildly entertaining, and the story illustrates how the art world is the art world is the art world.  Here’s a quick review from Booklist:

“The Venus de Milo receives throngs of admirers every day in the Louvre, her white marble luminescent, her pose enigmatic since no one knows the position her missing arms once took. Every bit as iconic as the Mona Lisa, this powerful Greek statue has elicited far less modern research. This combination of ubiquitousness and invisibility inspired Curtis to take a fresh approach to the deliciously convoluted tale of the stone goddess’ discovery by a French naval ensign on the unlovely Aegean island of Melos in 1820, and all the anxious and nefarious wrangling, debate, and controversy that followed, including the convenient disappearance of an inscribed base that attributed the statue not to one of Greece’s golden age sculptors, as claimed, but rather to a “nobody” working in the civilization’s declining years. His pleasure in his complex subject palpable on every sparkling page, Curtis parses nineteenth-century Europe‘s fervor for all things classical, provides gossipy profiles of amazingly eccentric officials and scholars, and, finally, renews our appreciation for a masterpiece as beautiful as it is mysterious.”

It really is a wonderful read. I hope you’ll join us for the next gathering.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

Nannette Maciejunes

CMA Executive Director

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Posted in Notes from Nannette

One Response to A great read

  1. Jennie McCormick says:

    I really enjoy the art book club and although it somewhat resembles the Jan. 2010 selection about stolen antiquities, I just read a fascinating book that would provoke a marvelous discussion as a future selection. It’s “Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art” by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. If art experts can be deceived by fakes, are museums and collectors overpaying for “name” artists?

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