"De Civitate Angelorum" - a complete reading by author and scholar Donatien Grau

School of Advanced Study

June 4

Join us at Sir John Soane's Museum for a very special complete reading of De Civitate Angelorum, a treatise on the city of Los Angeles written entirely in Latin, by its author, Donatien Grau. Organised in partnership with the Warburg Institute. 6.30pm: Doors open: Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP. The Museum will be open to attendees for viewing. 7.00pm: De Civitate Angelorum: Library-Dining Room, with discussion and questions chaired by Will Gompertz, Director of Sir John Soane's Museum. 8.00pm: Drinks in the South Drawing Room. All tickets £15 (with drinks included). PLACES ARE STRICTLY LIMITED. ADVANCE BOOKING ESSENTIAL. YOUR CONFIRMATION EMAIL SERVES AS YOUR TICKET.

Scribendo de Civitate, incipio rem novam et simul antiquam.

In writing about the city, I am beginning something new but at the same time old.

In 1704, Richard Hogarth, father of the artist William, established a coffee house at St John’s Gate in Clerkenwell where there was one condition: patrons were to converse in Latin alone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this well-meaning enterprise of a keen classicist led to bankruptcy and a spell in the Fleet debtors’ prison (which provided inspiration for a scene in his son’s masterpiece, A Rake’s Progress). For one night only, we recreate the lofty ambitions of Richard Hogarth with a lecture delivered entirely in Latin by curator and writer Donatien Grau. As a small concession, the discussion and question and answer session afterwards will be conducted in English, chaired by  De Civitate Angelorum is based on a simple principle: Los Angeles, where Donatien Grau lived and worked, notably at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Getty Research Institute, was built as the extreme point of the United States of America, before Asia, and therefore as the extreme point of the West. The city’s position, clinging to the edge of North America, was also the reason John Paul Getty built his Getty Villa there, transplanting a replica of Pompeii’s famous Villa dei Papiri into Malibu – which he saw as the American equivalent of Campania. In keeping with this history, Donatien Grau has written a book about Los Angeles entirely in Latin. The text appears in that language alone. The title De Civitate Angelorum (literally On the City of Angels, or On Los Angeles) is inspired by Saint Augustine's De Civitate Dei (The City of God), a masterpiece of Western philosophy thought to have been written around  413–426 AD, some five centuries after the great Roman histories with which it claims a shared lineage. De Civitate Angelorum provides a modern insight by means of an ancient medium, positioning Los Angeles as a city informed by its past.   About the author Donatien Grau is a critic and scholar and is currently Head of Contemporary Programmes at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Prior to this, he was Head of Contemporary Programmes at the Musée d'Orsay from 2018 to 2022. He served as advisor to Azzedine Alaïa for the couturier's not-for-profit exhibition space, the Galerie, from 2014 to 2017, where he spearheaded a wide programme of exhibitions and publications, such as Adonis (2015), Jean Nouvel/Claude Parent (2016), and Richard Wentworth (2017). He curated the inaugural exhibition of the reopening of the Getty Villa, Malibu - Plato in L. A. (2018). He also works as editor-at-large of Purple Fashion Magazine and The Brooklyn Rail, and has published widely on the arts and culture of the Roman Empire, on 19th and 20th literary and art history, as well as on contemporary art and culture. Recent publications include: The Transitory Museum with Emanuele Coccia (2018), Ways of Re-Thinking Literature, with Tom Bishop (2018), After the Crisis, Contemporary States of Photography, with Christoph Wiesner (2019), Taking Time, with Azzedine Alaïa (2020), Living Museums (2020), and Under Discussion. The Encyclopedic Museum (2021). In 2014, Grau was selected amongst the 40 under 40 in Europe by Apollo Magazine. In 2023, Grau became Editor-in-Chief and Artistic Director of the newly-founded Alphabet Magazine. Sir John Soane's Museum is a Grade I listed, 19th-century building. If you require step-free access or extra assistance, please contact us in advance of your booking on admin@soane.org.uk or 020 7405 2107. Image: Skyline of Los Angeles. Original image from Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress collection. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. by Carol M Highsmith is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0