A group of celebrities converged on the Crowne Plaza Hotel along the Ventura waterfront this week, but they weren’t celebrities in the Hollywood sense.
Names like Roger Scruton and Odd Nerdrum might not ring a bell to people unfamiliar with the representational art world. But to organizers and attendees at the Representational Art Conference 2014, hearing talks by British philosopher Scruton and Norwegian painter Nerdrum in person was like being in the presence of rock stars.
“It’s like David Bowie’s here. It’s fantastic,” said California Lutheran University professor Michael Pearce, referring to Nerdrum, whom he described as the greatest living representational painter of the 21st century.
Pearce, who served as co-chairman of the event with fellow professor Michael Adams, likened Scruton to the art-world equivalent of U2 frontman Bono.
Scruton is the author of the controversial 2009 book “Beauty,” which explored what makes an object beautiful, and host of the BBC Two television show “Why Beauty Matters.”
“I was sitting down to dinner with him last night, sitting with David Bowie on one side and Bono on the other. Mike and I, we were giggling like schoolboys,” Pearce said. “It’s a fantasy, the whole thing. It’s amazing.”
More than 350 people from around the world attended the conference, which included art demonstrations, panel discussions, off-site excursions to area museums and presentations ranging from the healing power of portrait sitting to self-portraits in age Facebook.
Speakers and participants included artists, scholars, collectors and curators from across the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The event, sponsored by CLU, is in its second year and is the only international academic conference on representational art in the world, Pearce said. It began Sunday evening and ran through Wednesday.
“We realized that there was a profound lack of venue for academic discussion of what was happening in representational art, in spite of the fact that there was so much really excellent representational art being done,” Pearce said. “It’s a unique event. As an academic conference there’s nothing else like it.”