A fair few years ago, I think it was back in 2007/8, I took myself and a couple of friends to the RHS Orchid Show and, wanting to make a whole day of it, someone suggested we do the exhibition of Aztec art that was on at the time in the afternoon.
Liking Aztec design, I agreed, and after the Orchid Show and lunch, we all trooped off to whatever museum or arthouse it was - I think it might have been the Royal Academy. Wherever it was, we presented an interesting problem for the cloakroom attendants, who had to figure out what to do with not just our coats, but with the carriers bags of orchid plants we all had!
Inside, it was very crowded, very warm, and most of the art and sculpture was as expected, beautiful and strange.
And then I made the acquaintance of this gentleman:
Mictlantecuhtli, god of the underworld. Lord Death, an important figure in Aliette de Bodard's excellent series of historical/fantasy novels, which I read much later. A huge clay figure, sculpted with impressive attention to detail and anatomy (of which, of course, the Aztecs had a very detailed knowledge), thousands of years ago by people who didn't even have the wheel, and utterly absorbing.
I must have spent nearly 20 minutes just gazing at this one piece along. Truly, the 2D image doesn't do him justice...
I suppose I must lack the refined sensibilities of the Samizdata folks, or Philip Hensher, who took some time out from whinging about gay issues to hold his nose and proclaim a similar exhibition to be akin to a display of Hitler's daubings.
Yes, the Aztecs were 'bloodthirsty' and 'cruel' by 21st century standards (though I wonder how they'd view germ warfare and the atom bomb?) but art and creativity should stand alone and above such squeamishness and revisionism.
Next month: Rousseau