Far, far down in the rankings of significant ways the Covid-19 pandemic upended the world are the myriad cancellations of cultural events that had been planned for 2020. Talks, tours, book signings, and the like could be and have been rescheduled, of course, but the calendar can’t be manipulated and so anniversary celebrations slated to take place last year were either muted or abandoned. Both the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston turned 150 years old in 2020, but almost all of the hoopla organized to mark their anniversaries was scrapped. (Thus denying those of us in the chattering classes an opportunity to trot out the word “sesquicentennial.”)
Still, other places, large and small, have made do. The vaccine rollout came too late to allow the American Folk Art Museum in New York to observe its sixtieth birthday this year in robust style, so they simply moved the keystone exhibition in their commemoration to next January: Multitudes—the name was inspired by a line in Leaves of Grass—will serve to show off the tremendous breadth of the museum’s collection. Our friends at Nathan Liverant and Son were set to celebrate their one-hundredth birthday in 2020. But those fun-loving folks took the delay in stride, and the champagne still sits on ice (figuratively speaking) at the beautiful Liverant shop in Colchester, Connecticut, awaiting the right moment for a party.
Anniversaries are much on our minds here at ANTIQUES. We have an important one of our own approaching. Next year marks the centennial of the magazine’s founding in 1922. As some have joked, we’ll be an antique ourselves (though no one, least of all here, takes that one-hundred-year definition of the term seriously). Even now, the embers of the coronavirus pandemic continue to burst into flame in spots around the country, but if luck holds and good sense and a cooperative spirit prevail, we look forward to an extended celebration of that milestone.
Recently I enjoyed my second tour of Edgewater, the magnificent early-nineteenth-century neoclassical estate on the banks of the Hudson River built by members of the Livingston family and later modified by the great architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The pages of a magazine can indeed transport you to another place, but nothing compares to being there. At Edgewater, you breathe in the history standing among the art and furniture in the famed red salon, or walking on the lawn beneath the towering locust trees, gazing out at the wide waters of the river.
As well, I am often privileged to tour museum exhibitions in the company of the show’s curator, who can offer the kind of special insights into artworks that you just don’t get from an audio guide, or even a volunteer docent (bless them). I have known what it is like to visit, say, the American Folk Art Museum outside of regular hours and commune quietly with a painting like Ammi Phillips’s beloved portrait of the little girl in a red dress with her cat and puppy—the veritable Mona Lisa for folk art lovers—and not have to jostle for a glimpse of it in a crowd of people ten deep.
Those are the kinds of experiences we hope to share with our readers as part of our centennial celebration—through special visits to historic houses and gardens, both public and private, and small-group tours of museum collections with a curator or another scholar. That, and much more. Fingers crossed.