March 31, 2015 | The divide between “pure” art (painting and sculpture mostly) and functional art (lighting, ceramics, furniture, and so much else) comes and goes in history depending on who has the power to enforce its shaky distinctions. Just now the contemporary art market tilts toward the healthy side of the issue: a table by Urs Fischer, for instance, is a work of art that functions as a table. No questions asked.
It was not always so, and I like to think that the rising appreciation of the arts and crafts movement did more than its share to reunite artist and craftsman in our eyes. But it took a while. When I happened upon Robert Judson Clark’s exhibition of American arts and crafts objects in 1972 at Princeton University it was a surprise and a revelation. Abstract expressionism and pop art were art. Craft was not. A certain sniffiness about the latter lingered in the decades to come. We are long past that point now, as you will see in Rachel Delphia’s superb article on a private collec…» More
March 16, 2015 | Recent noteworthy publications that are a pleasure to read and a delight to behold
French Art Deco by Jared Goss (Metropolitan Museum of Art, distr. Yale University Press). 280 pp., color and b/w illus.
As an artistic term, art deco is one of the most misunderstood. “Art Deco is commonly referred to as a ‘style,’ a designation that suggests specific shared characteristics,” observes scholar and former Metropolitan Museum of Art associate curator Jared Goss. “The diversity of expression, however, precludes conceptual unity. More accurate, perhaps, would be ‘movement’ or ‘idiom.’” Goss is by no means the first author to wade into the deco fray, but his focus lends his book distinction. Taking his cue from the Met installation Masterpieces of Art Deco, which he organized, and which was on view from August 2009 through January 2011, he has addressed the subject from the viewpoint of the French works and designers represented in the museum’s own collection.
France is essentially …» More
March 16, 2015 | Based as we are in New York, the staff of The Magazine ANTIQUES has a fond if not proprietary tendency to look upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art, especially its American Wing, as our “local” museum. So when we heard the news that the redoubtable Morrison H. Heckscher was retiring after forty-eight years, thirteen of them as head of the American Wing, we were especially curious about who could possibly fill his shoes.
Like so many others, we are delighted to see that Sylvia L. Yount has gamely stepped right into them. Yount, who comes to the Met after seven years as the chief curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (where her work was “transformative” says VMFA director Alex Nyerges), is particularly admired for her collegial approach. Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum, who went to graduate school in art history with her, notes Yount’s “collaborative skills, respect for the past, and the ability to find the right path of innovation”—talents that she has al…» More
February 24, 2015 | This short list of notable acquisitions began with a request to decorative arts curators in major American museums to choose and discuss a favorite recent gift or purchase.
Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Strawberries and Ostrich Egg Cup has come to the Seattle Art Museum from the estate of Ruth J. Nutt, well known to collectors of American silver for the surpassing collection she built and lent generously over the years to many public institutions, and especially to SAM. It was surely the silver-mounted ostrich egg cup in Peale’s exquisite still life that drew Ruth and her husband, Roy, to the painting. Eventually she acquired a similar Federal period cup, by John McMullin of Philadelphia, which is also now in SAM’s collection.
Painted in June 1814—in strawberry season—the canvas is the product of an artistic personality who seems to have felt a greater affinity for objects than people. It seems possible to read this arrangement of objects—an ostrich egg from Africa, a Chi…» More
February 9, 2015 | It would probably surprise Samuel F. B. Morse, and not pleasantly, that future generations know him for his invention of Morse code and his services to telegraphy, rather than for those paintings, produced over six decades, that were the serious business of his life. Despite a strict Protestant upbringing, Morse (1791-1872) spent three years in Europe under the tutelage of the painter and general intellectual Washington Allston, where he deepened his understanding of the art of painting. He returned to Europe nearly 20 years later and while there, he conceived one of his largest works, Gallery of the Louvre (1831-33), which will soon go on view at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens before continuing on to eight other American venues in a tour that will last into early 2018.
Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872), Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33), oil on canvas, 73 1/2 x 108 in. Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago.
Six feet by nine feet, this del…» More
[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi» View All