September 24, 2014 | To understand the significance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's installation of Thomas Hart Benton's ten-panel America Today so many decades after it was created for the New School for Social Research in 1930 and 1931, you need to know a little about the school in those heady days. Founded in 1919, by the 1930s the New School had become the very definition of educational optimism, internationalism, and all things progressive. Its faculty included Franz Boas (anthropology), Sandor Ferenczi (psychoanalysis), Berenice Abbott (photography), Martha Graham (dance), Aaron Copland (music), and eventually W.E.B. Dubois (African-American history) among other luminous makers and doers. For its new building on West Twelfth Street it hired the Vienna-born architect Joseph Urban and commissioned murals by both José Clemente Orozco and Thomas Hart Benton. Those were the days.
Benton's ten muscular hymns to American greatness were inspired by sketches he made during his travels around t…» More
September 24, 2014 | Beeville, Texas, is not on everyone's bucket list, but a visit to the Beeville Art Museum this fall will provide a fascinating look at life in the lone star state in the last half of the nineteenth century. Made in Texas: Art, Life and Culture, 1845-1900 brings together Texas-made art and objects that reflect the lives of Texans from the state's admittance to the United States to the discovery of oil at Spindletop and the devastation of Galveston during the hurricane of 1900. Some think the history of Texas is all about cowboys, Native Americans, freedom fighters, and Texas Rangers, but the items on display in Made in Texas reflect the lives of other Texans too-immigrants, former slaves, students, parents and children, silversmiths and furniture makers, painters, and potters. The show is organized by the Beeville Art Museum in collaboration with the Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and is drawn mainly from the private collections of William J. Hill (s…» More
May 9, 2014 | Visitors approaching the grand front entrance of Norfolk, Virginia's Chrysler Museum of Art on its reopening on May 10 could be forgiven for not realizing that a major transformation has taken place. So seamlessly have the flanking wings been enlarged and the gardens in front of them so surreptitiously moved forward that it is only when inside that the impact of the seventeen-month renovation and expansion becomes evident. In its new spaces and reconfigured galleries the museum presents a fresh look at its collections, with its longstanding strengths in glass and European and American painting and sculpture as well as newer areas, such as contemporary art.
Within a broadly chronological progression of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts the curators have created several provocative "interventions": in a gallery devoted to seventeenth-century Italian art, a 1954 Robert Richenburg Pieta so abstract that it takes some looking to discern the image of the dead Chri…» More
May 6, 2014 | The subtitle of the Met's Charles James exhibition, "Beyond Fashion," is suitably vague, hinting at an exalted realm where even the most extravagant fashion superlatives will be inadequate. Then, too, the phrase is meant to suggest that what lies beyond fashion must inevitably be art. Certainly James's designs have been so described almost from his first decade as a couturier in the 1930s: "Charles James is...the world's best and only dressmaker who has raised it from an applied art form to a pure art form," no less a personage than Cristóbal Balenciaga declared in a compliment that has become more or less routine.
Evening dress in black silk-rayon velvet, red silk satin, brown silk faille, and black silk crepe by James, 1946. © Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Arturo and Paul Peratto-Ramos.
The Met will display some seventy-five of the master's designs, all instantly recognizable for their dramati…» More
April 24, 2014 | We asked exhibitors at the Philadelphia Antiques Show to highlight one exceptional object in their booths and describe it as they might to an interested collector. Here are the things they chose, along with some of their comments.
Nothing evokes spring and the promise of summer like butterflies flitting around the garden. From ancient times to the present, bejeweled figural jewelry of insects and birds has amused and intrigued us, and every major jeweler from around the world has delighted their clients with whimsical jewels of the flitting, creeping, and crawling. Our "garden" at the Philadelphia Antiques Show will include a selection of butterflies, bees, birds, and snakes-as well as flowers.
The paintings of fashionably dressed and elegantly posed women at leisure by Irving Ramsey Wiles (1861-1948) were as popular during his lifetime as they are today. These "esprit portraits," as Charles H. Caffin wrote in 1907, combined the tec…» 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