Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pipilotti Rist

Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), 2008,
Multichannel audio-video installation, video still

Many readers have contacted me expressing their unfamiliarity with the artist Pipilotti Rist. You can, of course, see her work on the internet but image resolution is poor. The artist's website, offers the best results.

Take a look and explore the links to her gallery, a trailer of one of her films and her old homepage. Rist work is best experienced directly so if she has a show near you, go

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Colorful Awakening

Homo sapiens sapiens, 2005
Audio-video installation, video still

Sometimes an experience out of the ordinary awakens our senses. An example would be an amuse-bouche eaten at the onset of a meal which stimulates the palate and leads to the intensification of taste. Similarly a visual sight or sights can alert the mind to the pleasures of seeing. Such was the case for me.

It was the stimuli of works by an audio-video installation artist and the viewing of an indigenous art show that aroused my sensitivity to colors.

First, a little background. This seemed to be the year for the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist. A major show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters)”, took place from November 2008 through February 2009. From September to December, Rist’s audio-video installations filled the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki, Finland. Then in October, exhibits of her work opened at the Palace of Arts and the Museum of Image and Sound in São Paulo, Brazil.

I have been an admirer of Rist since her exhibit at Art Basil in 1994. She is a complex artist whose work touches on many themes including gender, sensuality, and sex. Yet, it is her heightened use of color that elicits the strongest response.

In an article about Rist, The New York Times Magazine, November 15, 2009, the artist was quoted talking about the yellow of a piece of lemon on the rim of her drinking glass. She explained that if an artist wished to depict that color yellow in film or photography, it would not be the same – it would be less yellow. This is something she does not want to happen in her work – Rist does not want the yellow to appear less so.

Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), 2008,
Multichannel audio-video installation,
Installation view, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Thus, her multimedia installations are filled with intense color-saturated imagery. She tries to capture the “real” color of actual things such as the rich red of a ripe apple or the pure blue of a clear sky. When I emerge into light from the darkness of watching one of her videos, the natural hues of objects appear more vivid, more penetrating. The world seems to have gone from black and white to Technicolor. Her work activates my color awareness.

Featherworks, Beauty and Knowledge Exhibit,
3 October to 29 November 2009,
Caixa Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

A show of indigenous featherwork that took place at the Caixa Cultural São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil had a similar impact. The exhibit, “Beauty and Knowledge”, was organized by the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of the University of São Paulo as part of the museum’s 20th anniversary celebrations. This was a unique opportunity to see some ninety rarely displayed feather and fluff artifacts.

Featherwork, Beauty and Knowledge Exhibit,
3 October to 29 November 2009,
Caixa Cultural São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

The gallery was surprisingly well lit given the light-sensitive material on view and the varied featherworks produced a dazzling spectacle of colors. Again, I was alerted to nature’s intense hues. I thought about the inability of photography, paint, video or film to capture such coloration.

When I left and walked out onto the city streets, the world seemed brighter and more vibrant. My visual palette had once again been stimulated. My responsiveness to colors awakened.

This can happen to you. Continue to look.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Worth a View - A Michelangelo Marble Boy?

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564), Young Archer, c. 1490, marble,
overall (wt confirmed): H. 37 x W. 13 1/4 x D. 14 in., 177lb. (94 x 33.7 x 35.6 cm, 80.2867kg)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York 
Lent by the French State, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs

Go look at the Young Archer, a marble boy, attributed to Michelangelo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On loan from the French Republic, it has received much publicity but underwhelming visits according to my experience and the guard on duty this past Sunday afternoon.

New York University Professor Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt created quite a stir in 1996 when the New York Times announced her discovery of a lost early work by Michelangelo. It was located right here in New York City at the headquarters of the French Cultural Services in a mansion on Fifth Avenue. The statue, identified as a young archer or cupid, stood above a fountain in the building’s entrance hall. Many rushed to see it but the marble sculpture was in a position that made close examination difficult. Later that year, Professor Brandt published her research in the Burlington Magazine (Vol. 138, No. 1123, Oct., 1996, pp. 644-659). From the beginning, many leading scholars were dubious. Controversy continues.

The statue is now installed where it can easily be studied on the first floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Vélez Blanco Patio. I personally began my viewing by looking down from the Patio’s second floor gallery and from this level was impressed with the details of the statue’s curly hair and the elegant lines of what remains of the body. The figure's arms, lower limbs and a vase needed stability are missing. 

Downstairs, on closer inspection, I felt uncomfortable with the ungainly proportions of the figure’s narrow shoulders and long, thin thighs. I thought the youth’s head rather large relative to the small, well-developed torso. Comparisons to Michelangelo’s early work seemed stretched.

I did appreciate the remarkable modeling of the figure’s head, chest, rib cage and back. Also of note is the rendering of the slight bulge of flesh alongside the outer edges of the baldric as it crosses the figure’s chest. This indication of pressure on flesh is particularly apparent around the belt's back fragment.

In front of the work, an identifying label reads “Attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)”. Nearby, explanatory wall panels recount the piece’s history and offer cogent arguments for the attribution.

The jury is still out. For me, the authenticity as a Michelangelo piece is questionable.

Spend time with this work. You may want to form your own opinion.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Matisse and the Antique

Griffin Court, Modern Wing, 2009,
Renzo Piano, Architect
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Matisse looked at and thought about classical art. He created works based on antique precedents. The results were radical. I was particularly struck by this on a recent visit to the Art Institute of Chicago's splendid new Modern Wing.

In a third floor gallery are two Matisse bronze statuettes exhibited in a glass vitrine: Thorn Extractor and Woman Leaning on Her Hands. The Thorn Extractor depicts a figure in a startling version of the Spinario pose, a motif representing a seated youth removing a thorn from the sole of his foot. The term Spinario is from the Italian noun spina meaning thorn. I wrote about the Spinario figure in my last blog, “Andrea Riccio Lamp – New to The Metropolitan Museum of Art”, Monday, September 21, 2009.

Henri Matisse, Thorn Extractor, 1906, bronze,
7 15/16 x 5 ½ x 6 in. (20.3 x 14 x 15.2 cm)
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Matisse’s Thorn Extractor is bent over in concentration. The balance and repose of its ancestors are gone as well as the openness of limbs. Matisse’s Extractor is crunched up and awkward. His muscular left leg is straight, flush against the back support; his right leg is drawn up so that its knee almost reaches his right shoulder. It is a strong, dynamic formation with surface facets that animate the bronze as they catch light.

Henri Matisse, Woman Leaning on Her Hands,1905, bronze,
4 ¾ x 9 ¼ x 6 ¾ in. (12.11 x 25.5 x 17.2 cm)
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Adjacent is the artist’s Woman Leaning on Her Hands. The figure rises from the floor with outstretched arms. Her horizontal extension contrasts with the Thorn Extractor’s essentially vertical axis.

Henri Matisse, The Geranium, autumn 1906, oil on canvas,
39 ½ x 32 1/8 in. (100.3 x 81. 5 cm)
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Henri Matisse, Thorn Extractor,
Detail of
The Geranium

On a nearby wall hangs an early Matisse still-life, The Geranium. Here the painter has included his own sculptures – specifically the two bronze statuettes on view in the glass showcase. The image bursts with light, color and life. Dated 1906, its unconventional nature astonishes.

Installation of works by Henri Matisse, Gallery 391A,
third floor, Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

This is a wonderful gem of museum installation. Matisse’s original sculptural figures are exhibited next to the artist’s painting in which they are portrayed. All three works were created about the same time. The Thorn Extractor is dated the same year as the painting; the Woman Leaning on Her Hands a year earlier.

The Museum acquired the painting in 1932. The statuettes arrived decades later: the Woman in 1992 and the Thorn Extractor in 2008. The Extractor came as a gift from the Ruth Stanton Family Foundation. I’d like to think that some astute person or persons from this Foundation recognized and seized the fortunate opportunity to complete this painting/bronze statuette juxtaposition – a happy circumstance.

Matisse and the Spinario also reminds us that art talks about art as it redefines and builds on the past. You will recognize more of this as your visual vocabulary increases. Continue to look. The enrichment is there for the seeing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Andrea Riccio Lamp - New to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Andrea Briosco, called Riccio, Oil Lamp, ca. 1515-1525,
bronze, 9 5/8 x 8 13/16 x 2 5/8 in.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired an Andrea Riccio (1470-1532) bronze oil lamp that is on display in the Italian Renaissance Bronze Gallery. This is the only surviving Riccio lamp that still has both its lid and legs.

(For more on Riccio, see my blog post on Wednesday, November 26, 2008, “Andrea Riccio at the Frick Collection”.)

The Museum’s new lamp is in the shape of an unrigged sailing vessel. Across its body, cavorting infants form the main frieze which is framed by delicate shells. The lamp rests on slender curving legs whose shapes are echoed by the lid’s handles. On either side of the cover, a playful child sits holding on to the tail of a dolphin-like sea creature. Classical details animate the work as the eye moves from one design element to another. There is movement and rhythm in all manner of decoration. The technique is of the highest quality. This new acquisition joins the other Metropolitan’s Riccio holdings that include the artist’s work, those attributed to his “followers”, “in the manner of” or “workshop of”.

There is a lot more to see in this Italian Renaissance gallery whose objects may be modest in scale but offer much to enjoy. Here are depictions of mythological, secular and religious figures – Venus images as well as saints – inkwells and plaques. The bronzes are small enough to fit nicely on a studio shelf or study desk. Their compact size allows for intimate viewing, examination and comparisons with nearby objects.

Bartolomeo Bellano, David with the Head of Goliath, ca. 1470-80, bronze

Nearby the Riccio display is a case containing a gilt-bronze statuette of David with the Head of Goliath by Bartholomeo Bellano who was a student of Donatello and Riccio’s teacher.

A bronze Spinario statuette from North Italy dated 1500-1520 can be contrasted with the approximate life-size bronze Spinario attributed to Antonello Gagni, Italy (Sicily) 1507-09, on view in the adjoining Vélez Blanco Patio.

Attrib. to Antonello Gagini, Spinario, 1507-09, bronze

The Spinario, a depiction of a boy removing a thorn from his foot, was based on a Greek original and copied by the Romans. Very few Roman bronzes survive but a 1st century Roman bronze Spinario did and was one of the first antique sculptures to be coped by Italian Renaissance artists. I like to find representations of the Spinario motif and think about how the artist individualized the theme. Some, following the Roman antique example, show the youth’s left foot crossed over his right thigh; some depict the opposite. Some are lithe elegant youths; some are solid unpretentious boys. You may find your own favorite image to follow.

Go see the new Riccio and spend time with the Italian Renaissance bronzes. The viewing will reward the eye as well as the mind – just what an artist like Riccio intended.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

Jeff Koons, Michael Jackson and Bubbles, 1988

The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art should be on every art lover’s radar screen. Located in Oslo, Norway, it has a significant collection of contemporary international art and has produced lively, intelligent temporary exhibits. Although the museum’s two present exhibition floors are a delight to view art in, very few, if any, of the extensive permanent holdings can be seen when special exhibits take place. Much needed additional space will be provided by 2012 when the museum moves into two new buildings designed by Renzo Piano that will be located in a sculpture park also designed by Piano.

Damian Hirst, Mother and Child Divided, 1993

The museum’s collection includes works by such artists as Francis Bacon, Damian Hirst, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Bruce Nauman, Shirin Neshat, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, and Cai Guo-Qiang. Some past shows focused on Andy Warhol, Richard Price, Charles Ray, Jeff Wall, and Matthew Barney.

Subodh Gupta, Date by Date, 2008
From the exhibit, "Indian Highway"

Indian Highway”, the current exhibition, highlights Indian contemporary art and is part of a series that the museum organized with London’s Serpentine Gallery. The sequence of shows looks at contemporary art from the twenty-first century’s emerging powers – China, India and the Middle East.

For some reason, most of my art astute friends had never heard of this museum. A pity. My one problem with the Astrup Fearnley is the limited access to its permanent holdings. This should be rectified with the opening of the new buildings.

Anselm Kiefer, Zweistormland/The High Priestess, 1986-1989

On a recent visit to the museum, I was impressed with the "Indian Highway" exhibition but I wanted to see more of the museum’s holdings. The only ones on view were three powerful Anselm Kiefers. Their installation, in one vast asymmetrical gallery, was a knock-out. Why did they remain? Kiefer’s work is too heavy to move.

Put the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art on your must see list.

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Dronningensgate 4, Oslo, Norway

Opening Hours:
Tuesday - Friday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday - 11 am – 7 pm
Saturday - Sunday 12 pm – 5 pm
Monday - closed

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Russian Court comes to Amsterdam

Hermitage Amsterdam
Main Entrance

The impressive inaugural exhibition of the expanded Hermitage Amsterdam, At the Russian Court, Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century, opened June 20th. More than 1,800 objects project the resplendent nineteenth-century Tsarist court in a tour de force of museology. Materials are presented in a meaningful way, well-lit and easy to view. Introductory notes, labels and interactive computer kiosks are comprehensible and instructive. They offer nice tidbits of information that not only educate but entertain. Riches are everywhere - oil paintings, sketches, watercolors, photographs, film cuts, dresses, costumes, uniforms, clerical vestments, furniture, porcelains, jewels, snuff boxes, decorations, fans, hats, gloves, bags, shoes, parasols, menus, ceremonial books, arms, performance programs, toiletry articles, pipes, and more. Spending a day here is quite worthwhile.

So large a show may seem daunting but consider that what is on loan to Amsterdam represents less than 1 percent of the Russian State Hermitage Museum's 3 million possessions. The Hermitage Amsterdam is one of several “satellite” venues established by the Russian Hermitage to allow the public to see more of its enormous collection. Begun five years ago in a smaller residence, the Amsterdam branch now has a home in a handsomely restored seventeenth-century building, ten times the size of its original space. It is much more than a place for temporary exhibits. Besides the usual museum café, restaurant, gift shops, study center and auditorium, it has conference rooms, an extensive secondary school program and the Hermitage for Children, located in the first Hermitage Amsterdam building, with its own gift shop, school, workshops and classes. In addition, the Hermitage Amsterdam offers a schedule of cultural and educational events that include concerts, opera and films.

The initial exhibition is divided into two themes with one focusing on official court life and the other on royal balls, dinners and amusements. The regal eighteenth-century Romanov throne of Paul I dominates the entrance of the court section’s main gallery. Facing the throne, in a long glass showcase, is a jaw-dropping procession of thirty richly dressed mannequins representing courtiers and royalty. The lighting and placement is such that all details of cloth are discernable. We see clearly that male court attire was just as elaborate as the female’s. Portraits of elaborately adorned tsars and tsarinas line this gallery’s walls. Among them the depictions is a 1795 full length portrait of the Grand Duchess Elizaveta Alexeevna by Marie Louise Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun. The Grand Duchess is, as expected, gorgeously gowned and jeweled. The informative label discloses that Elizaveta Alexeevna married the Tsar’s son Alexander, who became Tsar Alexander I, in 1801, when she was fourteen and he was fifteen. We also learn that the French painter became a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts after she fled France during the revolution. Nearby smaller rooms tell the story of St. Petersburg, the imperial palace, the six nineteenth-century tsars, courtly activities, protocol and the relationship between the church and state.

Lauits Tuxen, Wedding of Nicholas II and Grand Princiss Alexandra Fyodorovna at the Grand Church of the Winterpalace, 1895,
oil on canvas, 65.5 x 87.5 cm
State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg

The juxtapositions of works are well done. For example, located in one room is the oil painting, Wedding of Nicholas II and Grand Princess Alexandra Fyodorovna at the Grand Church of the Winterpalace. On an adjacent wall in the same room hangs the actual 1879 icon of Saint-Alexander Nevski, Saint-Titus the miracle worker and Saint-Policarpus the martyr that is depicted in the wedding oil on the church's rear wall. You can look back and forth between the actual icon and its representation in the painting.

Further along are rooms filled with items given to the tsars and tsarinas by foreign and local governments within the Russian Empire. Memorable presents to Tsar Nicholas II are a pair of eighteenth-century Chinese screens of cloisonné, enamel, bronze and gilding, a gift of Chinese Emperor Guangxu and a Russian small, case-enclosed, 1903 Torah presented by the Jewish Community of Libava, Latvia. As if the royals needed more!

François Flameng, Portrait of Princis Zinaida Nikolaevna Yusupova, 1894,
oil on canvas, 147 x 112 cm
State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg

In the large gallery of the exhibit’s ball section, richly embellished gowns fill several centrally placed circular glass cases. About every five minutes, the round cases turn while ballroom dance music is heard. Surprisingly this presentation does not seem frivolous but rather delightful. It elicits smiles. Portraits of the aristocracy hang on the gallery walls overlooking the display cases. Of note is the eye-catching 1894 oil by François Flameng of the super beauty Princess Zinaida Nikolaevna Yusupova whose son murdered Rusputin, the confident of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, in 1916. Two of the princess’s gowns are on view across from her portrait in the center circular case and her elaborate fan of tortoise shell, gold inlay, brilliants, chrysolite, Brussels lace, and rock crystal is exhibited in one of the adjacent smaller galleries. In nearby rooms, you can see the masquerade costume the princess wore to the court’s 1903 Jubilee Ball as well as her photograph wearing this attire.

Nickolai Bodarevski, Portrait of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, 1907,
oil on canvas, 268 x 135 cm
State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg

Concerning the garments on view in the exhibition, the dresses, gowns and costumes of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna, wife of Tsar Nicolas II are particularly appealing. Her style was obviously tasteful, elegant and understated. Did she pick them out herself or had advisors? I suspect they were her choice.

More to be seen are materials relating to the private side of imperial life. There are such items as personal accessories, playing cards, hunting garments, weapons, theatre programs and, among the children’s toys, the miniature working rifles made for Nicholas II as a child.

The show leaves you with the feeling that you have truly visited the nineteenth-century Russian Court. Although those who made the imperial opulent life possible are left out, we know that revolution is just around the corner and we can see the reason why.

In 2010 and 2011, the Hermitage Amsterdam will present the exhibitions Origins of Modern Art. Matisse and Picasso followed by Alexander the Great. The Road to the East. If the present show is any indicator of the quality of things to come, plan to go.

At the Russian Court, Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century
20 June 2009 through 31 January 2010
Hermitage Amsterdam
Amstel 51, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesdays to 8 pm.
Closed on January 1st and December 25th

Monday, June 8, 2009

Street Art

Melbourne, Australia,

Laneway Art

Melena Ryzik points out street art may have more appeal overseas than in the United States, “Where Louis XIV Meets Crash and Blade,” The New York Times, Saturday, May 30, 2009, The Arts section.

I was reminded about this on a recent trip to Melbourne, Australia. The Melbourne City Council had approved street art locations throughout the city that showcase what we American’s call graffiti art. Aerosol and stencil based mural artworks enliven the Melbourne laneways, small city streets, dead ends and narrow alleyways between main thoroughfares. I had visited three designated locations and was delighted with what I found.

Melbourne, Australia,
Laneway Art

I enjoy good graffiti or street art yet do not want to see New York City turn into the graffiti covered mess of the seventies. Possibly we can take a cue from Melbourne by designating or registering some alleyways and streets for a street art permit program. This process enriches Melbourne and could animate New York City as well.

Melbourne, Australia,
Laneway Art

Getting back to the story of Melbourne and graffiti, in late 2003 the city of Melbourne issued a graffiti strategy report and took a civilized approach to graffiti management. They defined illegal graffiti types as (1) tagging that is words or numbers that are the signature of graffiti writers, (2) political or social comment, (3) graffiti art which is illustrations in graffiti style, (4) stenciling – templates sprayed on a wall. Street art was identified as artistic pieces placed in locations that were registered legal sites with street art permits.

Melbourne, Australia,
Laneway Art

With graffiti on my mind, I went to see the art exhibit “Whole In The Wall: 1970 - Now”. I thought much of what I saw should be seen outside. Think about it. Street art is one of the most democratic art forms available. It is free to all and should remain easily accessible. Seeing chunks of walls installed in sterile galleries on sale for six figure sums seems to me like seeing caged animals. It is as if the art screams for the outdoors and space. Perhaps as collectables, these works may be documented in situ and sold in limited multiple editions similar to the way in which performance art projects are preserved and sold.

As for exhibit, there are paintings that cry out for attention. Their cocky boldness, quick rhythms and bright colors look like they are still competing with the noise and activity of city life. Surprisingly, it was the relatively small, unobtrusive photographs in the show that grabbed my attention. I was particularly taken with the work of Jamel Shabaz, Silvio Magaglio, Henry Chaltant and Martha Cooper’s archival ink jet images. All capture well the time of their creation but are more than historical documentation. They attest to the talents of these artists and are right up there in impact with the street art many reproduce.

Jamel Shabaz

Silvio Magaglio
This large exhibit makes clear that the street art produced today for gallery sale is not the same as what was made years ago for the streets. The show also makes you aware of how artists with different nationalities took America’s graffiti movement and turned it into art that somehow manages to impart a particular national flavor. Finally, it attests to the fact that this now global art form is alive and well.

By the way, if you are ever in Melbourne, obtain a list of the current city street art locations from the Melbourne Visitor Centre’s Arts & Culture information brochure or visit and search for street art.

“Whole In The Wall: 1970 - Now”
Thorough June 27, 2009
Former Splashlight Studios
529-235 West 35th Street
Tue-Sat 10:30 am – 6:30 pm, Thu after hours until 10:00 pm, or by appointment

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Only Two More Weeks

Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Special Exhibition
Special Exhibition Space, 1st Floor
Ends May 25, 2009

François Lespingola , Hercules Delivering Prometheus,
Probably Paris, ca. 1675–1700,
Bronze group; 16 3/4 x 23 1/4 x 14 1/8 in.,
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Grünes Gewölb

Approximately 125 of the finest French bronzes from the Renaissance through the reign of Louis XVI are on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art until May 25, 2009. After this date, you will have to travel to California where the exhibit will go on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Right now, take the opportunity to study these superb sculptures. There are portrait busts, monuments and statuettes. The works are arranged chronologically. The installation is well-spaced and allows for close viewing. It is one of those exhibits that seem to have just enough work presented to illuminate but not overwhelm. I wager this will be the only time for decades to see such a survey.

Barthélemy Prieur,
Funerary Genius From the Tomb of Christophe de Thou,
Paris, 1583–85
Bronze statue; 29 15/16 x 42 1/8 x 13 7/8 in.
Paris, Musée du Louvre,

I have several favorites in the show but urge you to spend time here and select your own. Some of the works that caught my attention were the tomb figures after Michelangelo by Barthélemy Prieur (Berzieux, ca. 1536–Paris, 1611); the super hero Heracles Delivering Prometheus by François Lespingola (Joinville, 1644–Paris, 1705); and, the pairing of Martin Van Den Bogaert’s, called Desjardines, (Breda, 1627– Paris, 1694) unfinished bronze statuette of Louis XIV on Horseback from Copenhagen next to an example of the finished work lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The unfinished work still has the uncut sprues, channels that were used to permit the molten alloy into the mold. It also includes the pouring cup through which the thick alloy entered the sprues. The juxtaposition of the finished and unfinished gives quite a lesson in casting methodology.

Also of interest to me was an engraving of the sculptor François Girardon’s (Troyes, 1628-Paris, 1715) gallery of his great sculpture collection – several works depicted in the engraving are on exhibit here.

The show’s catalogue with over 500 pages is a tour de force of scholarship. It is a reference book worth owning.

Remember: only two more weeks. Go now for you will want to make more than one visit before these bronzes leave New York.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Good Move for Gallery Museum 52

Gallery Interior
Museum 52 on East 2nd Street

Museum 52 has temporarily moved to the old Rivington Arms sun-filled space on East 2nd Street. Although small, the gallery allows visitors various vantage points – near, far, to the sides. Works are close enough to their neighbor to interact yet distant enough for concentrated viewing. It’s a comfortable arena for art and an improvement over Museum 52’s previous Rivington Street location which provided an awkward, uninviting, two-level exhibition area. Does space matter? You bet.

For those of you who don’t know, Rivington Arms closed in January, the owners wanting to go their own way. I have fond memories of Rivington Arms’s exhibits both on East 2nd Street as well as in the original Rivington Street gallery. There seemed always to be something interesting and stimulating on view that was enhanced by the intimate locale. I ask myself if a palimpsest of galleries exists for while at the Museum 52 exhibition, I felt the space reflecting its history.

The new show consists of eight works by four artists of merit. All are concerned with questioning the essence of their work’s basic nature and occupying simultaneous contradictory modes.

Stefan Sandner
Acrylic on canvas
39.5 x 39.5 inches

Stefan Sandner’s Untitled, 2008 canvas is both outgoing gestural and minimally contained. Up close, it moves. Further away, it's still. Personal and impersonal co-exist. His other work incorporates words that may or may not have meaning. It is abstract and empathic. Words are a concern for other artists here.

Sarah Braman
Wrong Thing
Wood and paint
48 x 51.5 x 42 inches

Sarah Braman’s sculptural and painterly constructions engage with their manipulation of painted words or implied words and fine use of color. I say “implied words” because of the incorporation of cassette players in one of her three exhibited works. We look at the object for the recording of words that can not be heard.

Ida Ekblad
Odean Sky Uncanny
Oil on canvas
91 x 50 inches

Ida Ekblad stands out with her raw, exciting brushwork and hidden figurative finds. Both her 2009 Triptych, oil on wood, and her Odeon Sky Uncanny, oil on unstretched canvas, have depth, complexity and attraction. Her rich palette adds to the enjoyment.

Joe Bradly
Grease pencil on canvas
50.5 x 40 inches

The only piece by Joe Bradley, Bax, nicely framed by the brick wall separating the gallery’s two exhibition rooms, offers contemplation and associations. His grease pencil marks on canvas both describe and negate meanings.

There is much to hold your attention in this probing show. You leave wanting to see more.

Museum 52
4 East 2nd Street at the Bowery
Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 12 – 6 pm
Exhibition through 23 May 2009

Coming Soon: A Gallery Makes A Good Move

Ida Ekblad
Åpent brev til: # 1,2,3
(Triptych: kjemisk port i muren/einsam flyger dunkel viten/Oseanet flyter i våre årer)
Oil on wood
36 x 25 inches

Friday, April 3, 2009


Amedeo Modigliani
Nu Couché au coussin Bleu
Oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 36 1/4 in. (60.1 x 92.1 cm)

Don’t miss Women, a loan exhibition from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen collection taking place at Sotheby’s. Fifteen paintings, two photographs, one exposed blueprint paper work and two bronzes make up this remarkable show based on the theme of women. There are small groups of supine women with arms raised; women sitting in chairs; women in movement; women standing; women confronting the viewer.

Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of a Young Peasant Girl
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92 x 73 cm)

The paintings are gorgeous and the majority are exhibited without protective glass. The enjoyment is enhanced by the spacious gallery whose walls are painted two shades of gray. Works are so well illuminated the details of brushstrokes and colors take your breath away.

The artists are blue-chip: Pablo Picasso, Pierre Matisse, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning and more. I spent time with three paintings depicting women lounging on their backs and wondered how they appeal – one to bed, one to stare at longingly, one to sink into and caress. Their Matisse bronze sister placed before them invited another response – a dare or challenge? Go to the exhibit and see for yourself.

Women: A Loan Exhibition from the Collection of Steven and Alexandra Cohen
From April 2 through April 14, 2009
Open daily 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Exceptions: Sunday, April 5, 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
and Sunday, April 12, closed
Sotheby’s, 1334 York Avenue at 72nd Street,
New York, 10th Floor

Monday, March 23, 2009

Visiting an Unfamiliar Museum - The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia

NGV International,
Melbourne, Australia

Visiting a museum for the first time invariably presents a wonderful opportunity for exploration and discovery even to a relatively knowledgeable and experienced museum goer. However, given the unfamiliar terrain, it is important to do some preparation in order to make the best use of one’s limited time and derive the most pleasure from experiences that would create enriching memories.

People in Australia, or as we would call the “Down Under”, have their own terminology where the word “gallery” denotes what we would describe as an art museum. The use of “museum” in Australia is commonly associated with places that preserve and display antiquities and historical artifacts such as a Museum of Natural History. Art works, for example paintings, sculpture, prints, photography, are housed in Australian galleries.

On a recent visit to Australia with my husband, I had the opportunity to spend several hours enjoying the art riches of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne, Australia.

I have found it advantageous to start an initial visit to a museum with the Museum's Gift Shop followed by a brief chat with the staff at the Information Desk. The Museum Shop’s display of postcards and publications are good indicators of the gallery’s holdings which the Museum (Gallery) considers important and interesting.

A Museum's Information Desk, in my experience, is generally staffed with people who take pride in the Museum’s collections. They are likely to be very patient and helpful to the visitors in learning about the Museum, its holdings and special exhibits.

There are two parts to the National Gallery of Victoria. These are housed in two separate buildings. The Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia is an excellent repository of Australian art from colonial times to the present and includes both indigenous and non-indigenous artists. The other part, called NGV International, displays international art that includes works from Europe, Asia and America, and covers the entire spectrum from old masters to contemporary painters.

Pierre Bonnard, Siesta, 1900,
oil on canvas, 109.0 x 132.0 cm

© 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

My day began at the NGV International for a personal reason. The Gallery’s collection included a Pierre Bonnard painting, Siesta, that I had seen in New York at The Museum of Modern Art's Bonnard retrospective of 1998. I particularly liked the image and wanted to see again.

The NGV International Information Desk proved helpful as expected. I obtained a map of the Museum and directions to the Bonnard painting. As serendipity would have it, en route to the Bonnard painting, I came across a special exhibition in the Fashion and Textiles Gallery. This is an area that I would not normally visit. However, the exhibit looked appealing. The NGV has an extensive and rare collection of Pierre Cardin’s toiles. I learned that toiles are clothing designs made of inexpensive cotton fabric. These are used as models in the preliminary stages of fashion creation and to ensure that the final garments are manufactured correctly and meet the couture’s exacting standards. The NGV toiles were used by Pierre Cardin in the 1960’s to manufacture clothing for the Australian market. The exhibition compared these construction models to the finished products, which were either actually on view or displayed in fashion photos. The exhibit gave me an insight into the creative process of garment making, transformation and the development of a new aesthetic.

Amedeo Modigliani,
Portrait of the painter Manual Hubert.
1916, oil on canvas, 100.2 x 65.5 cm

Pablo Picasso, Weeping Woman, 1937,
oil on canvas, 55.2 x 46.2 cm

© 2009 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

(L)Nicholas de Staël, Still life, 1953,
oil on canvas, 65.0 x 81.2 cm

© 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

(R)Mark Rothko, No. 27 (Red), 1956,
glue, oil, synthetic polymer paint and resin
on canvas, 209.5 x 125.3 cm
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Bonnard painting was exhibited in the 19th- and mid-20th-century painting and sculpture section. The gallery space was comfortable and well-proportioned for viewing what were primarily small paintings. There was an Amedeo Modigliani male portrait next to a Pablo Picasso Weeping Woman. On another wall, a Bridget Riley op-abstraction in white and grey picked up the tones of the adjacent Amédée Ozenfant still life whose forms and spatial ambiguity related to its Giorgio Morandi neighbor. The objects depicted in the Morandi painting corresponded to those in the Nicholas de Staël still life that followed. The red in the de Staël work matched the hues in neighboring Mark Rothko canvas that in turn connected with a dominant color in a nearby Howard Hodgkin painting. The totality of my observations was stimulating and elicited many thoughts.

Balthus, Nude with cat,
1949, oil on canvas, 65.1 x 80.5 cm
© 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Robert Delaunay, Nude woman reading,
1915, oil on canvas, 86.2 x 72.4

Édouard Manet, The Melon, c. 1880,
oil on canvas, 32.6 x 44.1 cm

Throughout my NGV International exploration, I was struck by a sense of respectful intelligence that characterized the gallery installations. Works were hung in a way that enhanced the enjoyment of viewing. Paintings complemented one another other. I found myself comparing and finding more to see. Baltus’s Nude with cat, hung next to Robert Delaunay’s Nude woman reading. A luscious, sensual Édouard Manet, The Melon, was near a Chardin-like Antoine Vollon, Eggs on a pan, c. 1885-90. Three lovely 19th-century water scenes by Albert Marquet, Maurice de Vlamick, Felix Vallotton shared another wall creating a refuge of tranquillity.

St George Hare, The victory of faith,
c. 1890-91, oil on canvas, 123.3 x 200.0 cm

In another 19th-century painting and sculpture gallery I noticed Briton Rivière’s A Roman Holiday, 1881, hung above St George Hare’s The Victory of Faith. In the Rivière, a dying gladiator makes the sign of the cross in the sand turning the scene into a Christian martyrdom while in the Hare painting, two nude woman, Christian martyrs, lie waiting their sacrifice to the lions. Both works display thinly disguised eroticism. Both painters were new to me.

John Constable, Study of A boat passing a lock,
c. 1823-1826, oil on canvas, 102.2 x 128.0 cm

Works by J. M. W. Turner and John Constable filled another room. I focused on Constable’s specks of white paint that animated his Study of A boat passing a lock. This painting, by the way, was a large study for one of Constable's great paintings depicting the lock near his father’s mill.

Hubert Kovarik, Autumn and Summer,
c. 1910-15, earthenware

For a change of pace, I visited the 18th- and 19th-century collections of European Decorative Arts. There were examples of Wedgwood pottery, Vienna ceramics and Bohemian earthenware. A pair of figures denoting Autumn and Summer by Hubert Kovarik, reminded me of a Jeff Koons.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn,
Two old men disputing, 1628,
oil on panel, 72.4 x 59.7 cm

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn,
Portrait of white-haired man, 1667,
oil on canvas, 109.9 x 92.7 cm

My next sojourn was the Dutch and Flemish masters from the 17th- and 18th-centuries. I looked at two Rembrandts hung side by side: Two old men disputing and Portrait of a white-haired man. This juxtaposition gave viewers the opportunity to contrast a youthful work with one done just two years before the artist’s death. The NGV also has a collection of Rembrandt prints, several of which were on view in the adjoining gallery.

Johann Zoffany, Self-portrait as David with head of Goliath, 1756, oil on canvas, 92.2 x 74.7 cm

I viewed more 17th- and 18th-century paintings in other galleries. These included a Banquet of Cleopatra, 1743-44, by Giambattista Tieopolo and a show-offy self-portrait by Johann Zoffany, Self-Portrait as David with head of Goliath, which was painted by the artist when he was in his early twenties.

Visually tired, I thought a trip to Asia would revive me. I looked at the collection of Indian art which was not very large. Two 2nd century A.D. Bodhisattvas caught my attention with their sensual depiction of supple flesh. I followed this by a quick viewing of some 15th-and 16th-century European polychromed wood sculptures and a panel painting, c. 1431, St. George Slaying the Dragon, attributed to the Florentine master Paolo Uccello.

Louise Bourgeois, Cell (glass spheres and hands),
1990-1993, 219.5 x 218.8 x 220.0 cm

Art (c) Louise Bourgeois/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

On my way out, I walked through the Roman Antiquty area and the 20th-century art galleries where I saw works by Bill Viola, Yayoi Kusama, Thomas Struth, Linda Benglis, Eva Hesse, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgoise and Lee Krasner. Notably, women artists far out numbered males.

My overall impression of the NGV International was quite positive. Although the NGV International had a relatively limited number of objects that may be considered major masterpieces, it nevertheless owned many superior works, some surprises and fine examples of those artists deemed famous.

Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia
Melbourne, Australia

When it comes to art, gallery and museum viewing, I am like an Eveready Energizer Battery advertisement and can keep going. Having fortified myself with freshly brewed Australian coffee, I proceeded to the Ian Potter Center: NGV Australia. Although I know it is not true, I imaged that my so-called fame preceded me. Immediately upon my arrival, I was greeted by a docent in the lobby, who took me on a private tour. It was a bit of a rush but inspiring. Australian indigenous and non-indigenous art is a rich and fascinating adventure. It deserves time and attention and must wait discussion for another time. I don’t recommend doing both parts of the NGV in one day.

You now have a sample of how I go about visiting an unfamiliar museum. My one day whirlwind tour may sound like a daunting experience but think that it could also be exhilarating. Try a visit to an unfamiliar museum. I promise you will have a good time.