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GLENN LONEY'S MUSEUM NOTES
CONTENTS, September 15, 2002
Kassel's Documenta XI
Caricature of Glenn Loney
by Sam Norkin.
 Holy King Heinrich's 1000th Anniversary in Bamberg
 Jews in Salzburg
 Meidner Artworks in London's New Jewish Museum
 Guggenheim Features Viola Videos and "Moving Pictures"
 Poussin, Claude & Contemporaries at Frick
 Victorian Nudes at Brooklyn Museum
 Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party" Back at BMA
 Cooper Union Dead Dean's "Sanctuaries"
 "Riverrun" on Holland Tunnel Ventilator
 Whitney/Philip Morris' "Illusion of the First Time"
 MoMA QNS Shows
 Dahesh: Academic Transformations
 New Dahesh Museum on Madison
 Lüpertz' Semiramis Suite at Knoedler
 "Gesture" at Neuhoff Gallery
 Stolen Titian Found in Carry-Bag
 Kafka & Prague at Jewish Museum
 Last Days of Penn Station at Museum of the City
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Copyright © 2002 Glenn Loney.
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Works by Louise Bourgeois were prominent in Documenta XI
In Historic Kassel—
DOCUMENTA XI:[Closing 15 September 2002] By the time this notice gets posted on the website, Documenta 11, the immense German survey of worldwide cutting-edge innovations in painting, sculpture, photography, videography, and installations will have closed. Not to worry!
Like the Whitney Biennale
Only Much Much Bigger!
You can see cutting-edge innovative artworks of many of the same celebrities of Post-Modernist Modern Art in major museums of Europe and North America. Some of the same culprits featured recently in the Whitney's Biennale were on view in Kassel.
And their works—and modern masterpieces of their colleagues—are periodically to be seen at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Guggenheim!
Plus: there is an immense catalogue of Documenta 11/Platform 5. Even the Kurzführer or Short Guide to the multitude of objects, images, videos, and environments on view in Kassel weighs almost a pound!
It should be noted that Platform 5—the actual exhibitions in Kassel—was preceded by four other platforms. Platform 1 in Vienna: Democracy Unrealized; Platform 2 in New Delhi: Experiments with Truth; Platform 3 in Santa Lucia: Créolité and Creolization; and Platform 4 in Lagos, Nigeria: Under Siege: Four African Cities.
This past summer—in addition to the major exhibition-venues in the historic Museum Fridericianum the Orangerie/Karlsaue, the documenta-Halle, and the old Hauptbahnhof/Central Station/Kulturbahnhof—a huge building in the Binding Beer Brewery complex was also crammed with chambers filled with photographs and black-boxes with long waiting-lines for avant-garde videographies.
In case you never heard of Kassel's premier beer, the motto is: Dir und Mir Mit Binding Bier! They must be brewing the stuff elsewhere, as the main building was over-run with video-shows and long suites of photographs.
Some of these video-artists are now on view at the Guggenheim in its new show, Moving Pictures. The range of offerings, however, runs all the way from brilliant to amateurish: "Look! I'm making a video of my foot!"
Some of the usual-suspect photographers were on display. Bernd and Hilla Becher—noted for their black-and-white images of old German Watertowers—also showed massed black and white photos of heavily patterned medieval Fachwerk houses, with their distinctive structural timbering, filled with white plaster over mud and bricks. Also: the photos of the American South by William Eggleston
And what self-respecting retrospective of recent avant-garde art-achievements would be complete without at least one piece or installation by Louise Bourgeois—Cell XVIII (Portrait) —or a film by Steve McQueen—Five Easy Pieces.
The expansive exhibition in Platform 5's many venues was curated by the Nigerian-born Okwui Enwezor as Artistic Director. He is certainly to be commended for his inclusion of artists around the world, some of whom are not well known in Western Europe or the Americas.
Wonderful to see the haunting images in the satiric film of South African William Kentridge—also represented at the Guggenheim—but where were the unusual and unsettling installations of Barbara Horn. She didn't make the cut this time. Or Katharina Frisch and her giant rats?
Old names on hand included Glenn Ligon and Jonas Mekas. Among newer names: Gabriel Orozco, Shirin Neshat, Amar Kanwar, and 'Muyiwa Osifuye.
There are still plenty of catalogues and brochures on hand. For more information and materials: FAX: +49-561-707170. Or: firstname.lastname@example.org Or: www.documenta.de
In Historic Bamberg—
KAISER HEINRICH II[Closing 20 October 2002] The modern democratic concept of the Separation of Church and State has put many contemporary Heads of State out of the running in the Sainthood Sweepstakes. As most of the outstanding 20th century leaders—even if they were baptized Christians—had to be a bit bloody-minded to survive and serve their nations, sainthood did not seem an option, in any case.
Saint Winston Churchill or St. Woodrow Wilson seem unlikely candidates. Even though some miracles in statecraft and world history can be attributed to them.
Even almost a century before, Our Martyr President wasn't remotely under consideration to be beatified and venerated as St. Abe Lincoln. He saved the Union and Freed the Slaves. But what real Miracles are credited to him today? He wasn't even a Roman Catholic. Probably not even a Protestant—a Deist, if anything.
In the Age of Faith, however, it was certainly possible for a great king to be made a saint. There are Scotland's King, St. David and France's King, St. Louis, for instance. And Hungary had not only a Saint-King in St. Stephen, but also some beatific Queens: Sts. Elizabeth and Margaret!
But one of the most interesting Saint-Kings was the Saxon who unified Germany, King Heinrich II. Even more impressive: his pious consort, Queen Kunigunde, was also beatified.
But it was not his piety or pacificism that enabled Heinrich—earlier the Duke of Bavaria—to weld a nation from various principalities and dukedoms. He fought the Good [bloody] Fight to do it.
In the Year of Their Lord 1002, Heinrich and Kunigunde were crowned King and Queen of Germany. The imperial titles of Kaiser and Kaiserin—Emperor and Empress—followed.
And after their much-mourned deaths, so did sainthood.
This was not something that Just Happened because of their good deeds and kindly life-style alone. As a pillar of his statecraft—and a solid foundation of his crown and kingdom—Heinrich was careful to court the Church and its leaders.
He restored ruined churches, founded chapels, established monastic foundations, and essentially created the great Cathedral of Bamberg and its powerful Archbishopric.
The 1000th Anniversary of the coronations of Heinrich and Kunigunde is being celebrated this year in Imperial Bamberg with a handsome and wide-ranging exhibition. Not only are the lives and deeds of the imperial pair examined—with objects, apparel, documents, and books relating to them.
But the times in which they lived, moved, and had their being are in effect also recreated. The major installation of the four-part exhibition is designed as a walk-through. Large graphics, illuminated panels, videos, inter-active computer programs recreate the world of Heinrich and Kunigunde—both secular and spiritual.
Considering the masses of people—including whole families with children—who are coming to see this presentation, the show's curators were very wise to use so many large-scale reproductions of objects, wood-cuts, manuscripts, and other testimonies of the times.
These are much easier to see and comprehend than if one were trying to squeeze in close to an alarm-rigged glass case to squint at a portrait miniature or an imperial ring. And, as one walks through this densely-packed show—which is structured in twists and turns, so a lot of life and history can be covered in the renaissance building which houses it—Heinrich and Kunigunde do seem to come to life.
However, the beautifully illuminated books and manuscripts in the Bamberg Cathedral Library—which are also of this bygone era—are much more difficult to examine, given low light-levels and the crowds.
An evocation of an early medieval farmhouse and barn-yard—complete with live sheep—in the Cathedral Square was a good idea for restless children. But somehow the thatched wood-timbered farmhouse had caught fire, leaving only blackened beams.
But the sheep were still on hand, so the kids had a petting-zoo, complete with burned-out ruins. Such as might have been left smoking after Kaiser Heinrich led his army through a duchy that didn't want to be part of a Greater Germany.
Most impressive of all, of course, is the great Cathedral of Bamberg. Before the raised medieval Choir is an immense marble tomb, with scenes from the Imperial Lives. Inside it rest the remains of Kaiser Heinrich and Kunigunde.
But without their heads!
Their saintly skulls can be seen in a crystal case in a chapel at the other end of the great cathedral-church. These, of course, are Holy Relics, not only to be venerated, but also implored for miraculous cures.
This beheading—which occurred centuries ago—may seem a bit strange to those who are not familiar with the Cults of Saints and the Powers of Holy Relics.
But only a week before I was able to photograph these skulls in Bamberg, I had the great good fortune to photograph the skulls of St. Cosmas & St. Damien in Munich. They rest inside a jeweled golden casket-shrine, unseen all year except on their feast-day when the shrine is opened.
As the officiating priests chanted, seriously ill and handicapped faithful crowded round to touch the crystal of the inner shrine. But you cannot touch the actual skulls of either St. Heinrich & St. Kunigunde or St. Cosmas & St. Damien.
Of lesser importance spiritually—but far more interesting culturally—is the Cathedral's priceless sculpture of the Bamberger Reiter, or Knight. This pristine medieval artwork of a knight astride his noble steed is generally regarded as one of Germany's two great sculptures surviving from the Middle Ages.
The other is the statue of Königin Ute, in the great Cathedral of Naumburg, in the former East Germany. My old Art History Professor, Dr. Oskar Hagen, so admired them both that he named his daughter, the actress/teacher Uta Hagen, after Queen Ute.
If or when you come to Germany, Bavaria, and Franconia, you may have missed the Thousand Year Anniversary Exhibition. But the treasures of the Cathedral and its Library will still be on view.
As well as the baroque Archbishop's Palace. And the Residenz, where Otto, King of the Hellenes and his queen lived, after they were sent home from Greece. Otto was a Bavarian Wittelsbach prince, hardly a Greek. But—when the Greeks won their freedom from centuries of Ottoman Turkish domination—they had no surviving royal line.
Otto got the nod, but it didn't work out. He was replaced by the Danish Glucksbergs—from whom Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort of Queen Elizabeth, is descended.
Every year, the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte—House of Bavarian History—stages a major exhibition in one of the Free State's many ancient cities or towns. This is good for getting adults—and especially school-children—to learn more about their land and its past.
But it is also very good for Tourism. That may be why a colleague in Berlin scoffed at my insistence on going to Bamberg to see this great show: "Henry was a very minor king in German history. And Bamberg is a very minor city. It's just those Bavarians trying to make something out of nothing. And pull in the tourists!"
Oh well, those patronizing Berliners… They think they know it—and have seen it—all!
In Historic Salzburg—
JEWS IN SALZBURG--Poster for survey of Jewish History, Culture, and Fortune under anti-semitism. Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2002.
Juden in Salzburg/[Closing 12 January 2003] Many North Americans know Salzburg only as the City of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Or they have heard of its annual summer Salzburg Festival.
Jews in Salzburg:
History, Culture, Fate
Thousands and thousands of Americans who have come to Salzburg since World War II—whether to witness the lavish opera productions in its Grosses Festspielhaus or just to see the Salzburg Marionettes—know it as a charming mixture of medieval and baroque architecture.
Some, of course, have taken the tour to the Salt Mines—from which the ancient city of the Prince-Archbishops—gained its riches and its name. But, being both worldly rulers and spiritual potentates, Salzburg's Archbishops and Cardinals also had to consider their Jewish Problem.
Curiously enough, however, the purchase of the vast salt reserves of the Valley of Gastein for the Archbishopric of Salzburg was financed by Jewish money-lenders. The Princes of the Church often borrowed money from the Jews to finance their building-projects and other ventures.
Christians, of course, were forbidden to loan money for interest. Jews could do this, but they could not own or farm land, as Christians could.
Unfortunately for the survival of the Jewish Community in Medieval Salzburg, however, in 1215, Pope Innocent III—who was anything but innocent or compassionate—forbade Jews to continue this practice.
And who was going to loan money with No Security and No Interest? Certainly not Christians…
This Papal Bull was the beginning of intensive Anti-Semitism in Salzburg and neighboring Hallein, where even today you can visit the Salt Mines. But you won't find a large Jewish Community.
In the Middle Ages—as in most of Christian Europe—decent God-fearing Salzburgers denounced their Jews as Christ-Killers, Ritual-Murderers, Drinkers of Christian Blood, and Poisoners of Fountains.
Salzburg Jews never lived in a ghetto. But in and around the Judengasse—which you can visit today—they lived a life apart from their Christian neighbors.
After 1215, pogroms—growing out of the Christian suspicions and gossip about heinous Jewish crimes—occurred from time to time. Until, in the 15th century, the last Jew was expelled from Salzburg.
[In this context, it is worth noting that—on the orders of a later Pope—all Protestants were forced to flee Salzburg in the early 18th century. Some came to Savannah in Georgia. The only people who made them welcome were the Jewish Community—which still has the oldest synagogue in America. The only way the "Salzburg Protestants" could thank their kind hosts was to offer to convert them to Christianity.]
Charming, historic, baroque Old Salzburg—with its great Cathedral and many, many churches and monasteries—remained Judenrein, or Cleansed of Jews, until the late 19th century and the short-lived rise of Liberalism in Vienna.
Albert Pollack—one of the first Jews to serve in the Austro-Hungarian Emperor's Army in this era—was officially the first Jew to reside in Salzburg in 369 years! And very proud he was to be accepted, on any terms.
Soon, however, with the industrial advances and new prosperity of Austria's Gründerzeit, Austrian Jews were also prospering and finding a place for themselves in Vienna, Linz, Graz, and even Salzburg.
In fact, Viennese Jews loved to come to Salzburg—as Americans do now—for the summer, the strudel, and even to wear the local costumes such as Dirndls and Lederhosen.
Salzburg merchants and hotel-keepers were willing to accept their money, but not them.
Even as Jewish soldiers were fighting and dying for Country and Kaiser in World War I, Salzburg's Jews were denounced as cowards. Even those families with sons on the Western Front! And they were blamed for the post-war misery, hunger, and economic collapse.
The medieval Anti-Semitism had not died out. It had only died down.
Anyone who has seen The Sound of Music has some idea of how ferocious and intolerant Salzburgers and the Austrian Nazis were to the Von Trapp Family—who were, after all, not Jews but pious Roman Catholics. Indeed, the new Baroness Von Trapp had just given up her religious novitiate to mother the baron's children.
What many who have seen the film do not realize is that the beautiful baroque castle/palace in which Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer lived was seized from its Jewish owner when Germany annexed Austria in 1938.
The rightful owner of Schloss Leopoldskron—which is today a conference center with special affinities for American projects—was the celebrated international theatre director and producer, Max Reinhardt. This theatre-genius was forced to flee with his family to New York, where his career rapidly went into eclipse.
The fact that the interesting new exhibition, The Jews in Salzburg, has only been mounted in 2002—almost sixty years after the defeat of Austria in World War II—may suggest something unspoken about Salzburg and its Jews.
Either the community is still in Deep Denial of all that happened to its Jews—especially from 1938 to 1945—or there is still a lurking undercurrent of Anti-Semitism. Spend some time in this area—and neighboring Bavaria—and you may come to believe that both are true.
This arresting exhibition in Salzburg's premier museum of history and art—the Museum Carolino Augusteum—covers the Past, from the beginnings. And it concludes in the Present, with video interviews with Jews who survived by fleeing Europe or staying alive in the Death Mills.
These very moving audio-visual moments are projected on a heap of white suitcases, suggesting the sudden flight of those Jews who were able to get visas, leave everything behind them, and escape to England and America.
Many photos and graphics are used to tell this sad story, because there aren't many artifacts or ritual objects which survived the Nazi Pogroms.
In addition to use of the arts in the celebration of Jewish Holidays and family occasions, Jewish contributions to Culture—to Salzburg and to the World—are saluted. Max Reinhardt's famous Jedermann production, and his founding of the Salzburg Festival—from which the city still lives—are prominently featured.
This handsomely designed show will run through the New Year. So you can still see it.
Last December, I was in Salzburg for holiday music and festivities. In the great baroque Cathedral, they held a benefit concert for New York Firemen and Police of the 9/11 disaster. Banners advertising the concert were stretched across many of the city's picturesquely narrow streets. Also in the Judengasse…
For catalogues of the exhibition or information: FAX: +43-662-62-0808-0. Or: email@example.com Or: www.smca.at
In Historic London—
LUDWIG & ELSE MEIDNER--Portraits of German Jewish artists-in-exile. Photo: ©Glenn Loney/2002.
At the New Jewish Museum:
Ludwig & Else MeidnerConsidering the importance and influence native and emigrant Jews have had in London—and, by extension, in Great Britain—it is surprising that it has taken this long for a Jewish Museum to be created.
Consider the immense political and social contributions of Prime Minister Disraeli—who was also a novelist of some fame. Not to overlook the benefactions and economic influence of the Rothschild Family. Then there's Sir Isaiah Berlin—the list goes on and on…
But the new London Jewish Museum of Art is actually a very modest venue. It is the simple white-chambered two-story premises of the Ben Uri Gallery. This is located in a street of shops in St. John's Wood, a largely Jewish neighborhood.
Its chastely clinical walls are currently hung with some very impressive canvases and sketches by the German artist duo, Ludwig and Else Meidner. They had to flee Hitler and the Nazis, settling in London—where their lives and their painting underwent some traumatic changes.
Eventually, Ludwig Meidner returned to Germany, living in a home for aged Jews in Frankfurt. Else—even though she had by no means succeeded as a painter in England—refused to go back to Germany. They parted amicably.
Indeed, one of the great joys of this show—in addition to the adroit display of their quite different styles and subjects—are the wall-texts with extracts from their letters and diaries. Not only do you meet dedicated artists—wrestling with their skills and subjects—but also richly human and humane beings, trying to survive amidst chaos and doom.
The handsome catalogue of this show reproduces many of these moving quotes and observations, as well as outstanding examples of the artworks of both Else and Ludwig.
This publication was prepared by the Jewish Museum of the City of Frankfurt—where the Meidner Archive is now preserved. But many Jewish museums, galleries, archives, and private collectors contributed to the exhibition.
More information and catalogues may be obtained from the London Jewish Museum of Art, 108A Boundary Road, St. John's Wood, London NW8 ORH. FAX: +44-020-7604-3992. Or: firstname.lastname@example.org Or: www.benuri.com
In Historic Old New York City—
At the Guggenheim Museum—
Bill Viola: Going Forth By Day[Closing 12 January 2003] Previously, I've not been much moved nor impressed by the video-pieces of Bill Viola, shown at the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and elsewhere across the nation and in Europe. No question that he has arrived. And that cutting-edge curators think a great deal of his video-imagination.
Plus: MOVING PICTURES
In fact, his epic new installation at the Guggenheim was commissioned in Germany by the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin/Unter den Linden. Now installed in the 7th floor gallery of the Fifth Avenue Guggenheim Annex, it proves to be most impressive indeed.
Its title is taken from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as the five Viola videographies on view—in 35-minute loops—celebrate the liberation of the spirit from the body, as well as regeneration and community. Behind viewers, as they enter the dark chamber, is a flaming moving image of a body in roiling red liquid. This is titled "Fire Birth."
Facing the spectators on the opposite end of the long room is a severe white neo-classic facade with a door and two windows. Cataracts of white water are gushing from the three apertures. This is "The Deluge."
This was, of course, filmed long before the disastrous floods which have recently devastated Dresden and Salzburg. But these rushing torrents look very much like the German TV late-night news videos of the thunderous waters which destroyed centuries-old buildings on the Elbe and the Danube.
All along the left-hand wall, an almost endless procession of ordinary people are walking through the woods. "The Path" is the name of this High Definition Video.
On the opposite wall are two video-tales. One—"The Voyage"—shows the final departure of an old man, lying on a bed in his tiny house atop a hill, which looks down on a ship taking him and his long-departed wife on a final journey.
The other video shows some rescue workers trying to drag the waters for bodies. As they fall asleep, overcome with fatigue, a white-clad man rises mysteriously out of the waters and ascends into the heavens. This segment is called "First Light."
These works are mysterious, magical, mythical. They do encourage viewers to ponder the cycles of Birth, Life, Death, and Regeneration. The production-values involved in creating these moving images are obviously on a very professional level. Almost commercial, which is of course the worst thing you can say about Video-Art.
But this is only one installation at the Guggenheim. And it is confined to what some critics of the Gwathmy-Siegel addition to the Frank Lloyd Wright Rotunda have been pleased to refer to as the Water-Closet Behind the Toilet-Bowl. They still hate the Annex, with its oddly elongated narrow chambers. Not very good for exhibitions in general, but admirable for Bill Viola's five videos.
The other and really major fall show at the Guggenheim is Moving Pictures. This amazing selection of photographs, films, videos, and other images makes good use of the upward—or downward, depending on your viewing-direction—spiraling exhibition walls.
Slanted at a constantly curving convex angle as these walls are—with picture-display surfaces that are not exact verticals—they have never been good for hanging paintings. They do work well with sculptures, of course.
But for Moving Pictures, some sections of this spiraling ramp have been ingeniously closed-off to create mini-motion-picture theatres. The way in which these chambers have been designed—and sound--and-light-proofed—is in itself a small piece of architectural artwork.
Here are some of the same artists on view in Kassel at Documenta XI: Gabriel Orozco, William Kentridge, Steve McQueen. Also on display are works by Andreas Gursky—who recently had an immense show of his immense photo-images at MoMA—and Matthew Barney.
Unlike some of the show's videos—which delight in elemental repetition and amateurism—Barney's cinematic sequences in the Cremaster Cycle are highly finished professional films. Here, however, these are celebrated in stills, CDs, and props only.
Barney won the Hugo Boss Award at the Guggenheim several seasons ago. And he has done very well in extending a testicular muscle into five parts. A Testes Testimony!
Among the living in this retrospective show is at least one of the dead: Robert Mapplethorpe. But the show's primary focus is on developments over the past decade, as photography and the moving-image have become absorbed into the Mandarin World of Contemporary Art Curatorship.
Nan Goldin is here. So is Robert Smithson. Hiroshi Sugimoto. Sam Taylor-Wood. Nam June Paik. Vito Acconci. Marina Abramovic. And most of the images selected to represent their work are highly professional in finish, ingenious in focus and concept, and often insidiously provocative, when not downright troubling.
At the Frick Collection—
FROM BURNING TROY TO DISTANT ITALY--Claude Lorrain's drawing of
Aeneas landing on his new home. Photo: Courtesy of Frick Collection/École des Beaux-Arts Paris.
Poussin, Claude and Their World[Closing 1 December 2002] It's worth noting that two of the pillars of what would become known as the French School—Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain—studied and worked long in Italy.
Thus, the sketches and paintings of Poussin often are enriched with classical architecture—at that time largely in ruins—and focusing on religious or historical subjects, rendered in a powerful vital manner.
The current show at the Frick features over seventy drawings by Poussin, Lorrain, and such immediate precursors and contemporaries as Simon Vouet, Charles Le Brun, Eustache Le Sueur, Sébastian Bourdon, and Noël Coypel.
Sketches by some thirty 17th century French artists are on display, in fact. Never have so many priceless sheets been loaned for overseas viewing by their owner, Paris's famed École des Beaux-Arts. It is the oldest art-school in the world, incidentally.
Some of these elegant drawings have never been shown outside France. A few newly acquired treasures haven't even been shown in Paris yet!
Among the more notable images: Poussin's Salome Receiving the Head of John the Baptist and The Judgment of Solomon. Lorrain's most powerful sketch is The Disembarcation of Aeneas and His Companions in Latium. Oddly, the title is almost longer than the sketch is large.
Charles Le Brun's Winged Female Figure with Raised Arms is also impressive.
I looked for—but did not find—a Poussin sketch for his mysterious allegorical painting, Et in Arcadia Ego.
Impressive and haunting in its own pictorial terms alone, it is also believed by some occultists to be a concealed triangulation pointing toward a stone mountain in Southwestern France which may conceal the bones of Jesus Christ, whose widow St. Mary Magdalene came here with their children after the Crucifixion.
These Religious-Conspiracy Theorists believe that Poussin was an Illuminatus, possibly an initiate in the Priory of Sion, pledged to safeguard the descendants of the Royal Blood/Holy Blood.
If you want to know more about such bizarre ideas, read the book of the same name…
At the Brooklyn Museum of Art—
EXPOSED: The Victorian Nude
[Closing 5 January 2003] Hilton Kramer—long ago premier art critic for the New York Times—has warned readers of the New York Observer away from the new London Import at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
SNAKE ON MY SHOULDER--Harmonia & Cadmus in Brooklyn with other Victorian Nudes. Photo: Courtesy of Tate Gallery/DeMorgan Foundation.
This interesting thematic show was assembled by the Tate Museum to examine the various strategies Victorian artists used to present female—and some male—nudes to a supposedly decent and censorious public.
What obviously irritates Kramer is not the idea of nudes in painting as such. Though he does suggest that the BMA has again imported a British show which may attract audiences for what used to be called "The Wrong Reasons."
No, Kramer is annoyed that many of the paintings and sketches are—in his own censorious view—Kitsch! Some certainly are, and New York's art critic, Mark Stevens, even notes such inclusions as relevant to the theme of the exhibition.
EXPOSED: The Victorian Nude is not about fine painting or about famous Victorian painters. In any case, Kramer doesn't think the Victorian Period produced many of any quality, not to say genius.
What the Tate—in both its London venues—and its counterparts, MoMA in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, are currently interested in presenting are themed exhibitions. Shows which use artworks to illuminate a social, political or historical context.
This is perfectly valid, and it is often for the general public—if not for art-critics—a much more interesting way to appreciate and understand the arts in relation to the people, the places, and the times for whom they may have been created.
If not as inspired as their French counterparts, certainly some of the English painters on view in Brooklyn were accomplished artists in terms of rendering the human form without clothing.
I have always admired the neo-classic visions of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, but these are anathema to Kramer. Sir Lawrence had a special gift for presenting Grecian and Roman girls and young men in the full bloom of youth. Surrounded by sunlit terraces and fluted columns, there was not even a hint of prurient interest in the naked body.
Other Victorian painters were not so restrained. A large canvas now on view in Brooklyn—which looks like a cinematic vision of the blood-thirsty crowds in the Coliseum—has a group of nude young women tied tightly to posts, waiting for the lions to maul and devour them.
Their various poses obviously have been chosen to show their bodies to maximum effect. For Victorian lovers of bondage, their bodies in restraint must have been a real covert thrill.
But these Victorian viewers were still piously and justifiably able to deplore the savagery of the Pagan Romans in making martyrs of these pretty young Christians. The painting offered a Great Moral Lesson about Christian Sacrifice.
To make sure no one would miss the religio/historical point of the painting—and to free it from any hint of sexual titillation—it was titled: Faithful Unto Death: "Christianes ad Leones!"
When I peered at the wall-text, I was astonished to discover that the painter's name was Herbert Schmalz. I wonder what his middle-initials might have been: Herbert S-M. Schmalz? His overwrought epic canvas could give Schmaltz a bad name…
Curiously, long before 9/11, Schmalz had painted a group of Arab Terrorists leaning over the first rank of Coliseum seating. They were staring intently at the nubile maidens who were preparing to die.
There are a few Edwardian nudes on view. As well as a copy of American Hiram Powers' famous 19th century marble statue, The Greek Slave.
The Tate has prepared a wonderfully illustrated catalogue of the exhibition. But it covers far more than is actually on display. The whole range of nude images—including photography, illustrations, and early films—is surveyed. Not just painting, sculpture, and drawing.
Exposed: The Victorian Nude in hardcover costs $45, with paperback copies pegged at $35.
Judy Chicago's THE DINNER PARTY
[Closing 9 February 2003] When I first saw Judy Chicago's Women's Issues sculpture/installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art many years ago, I was almost too embarrassed to look closely at Judy's ceramic dinner-plates, marshaled along the open-triangle banquet-table she had created.
WHAT'S THIS ON MY PLATE?--Judy Chicago sets places for Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Blackwell at her "Dinner Party." Photo: Courtesy of Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Although I had had no training in gynecology, I did recognize the female vulva as the centerpiece of each colorful plate. They were, of course, differenced—with the female genitals manipulated into forms which suggested the lives & careers of some notable—and some legendary—Women In History.
Over the years, I'd read that Judy Chicago was having problems trying to find a home—even storage—for The Dinner Party. Now at last, the party and its plates have come back to the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Where it supposedly will be on view for generations to come. At least that's the promise of Arnold Lehman, director of the BMA, who insists that it's "…as relevant today as when it was first created in the 1970s."
Dr. Elizabeth A. Sackler—who has made this gift possible—is even more adamant. Not only does she foresee "…ongoing visual joy and intellectual opportunities for all who come to visit." But she has an even larger vision of the artwork's importance: "It is a monumental work that I feel certain shall anchor its place in history, awaken our sensibilities to the past, and inspire possibilities for the future."
Trying to keep my mind free of impure thoughts about actual vaginas, I studied the various plates anew. They are certainly colorful and indeed remarkable in conception—is that a pun?—and execution.
DINNER HOSTESS JUDY CHICAGO--Creator of famed "Dinner Party" installation now at Brooklyn Museum. Photo: ©Donald Woodman/2002.
What is most interesting about them—and the table-settings Ms. Chicago has devised to frame them—is in fact the intellectual opportunities they provide as one tries to relate the vulvas on the platters to the passions and achievements of such diverse women as Hildegard of Bingen, Susan B. Anthony, Hatshepsut, Sacajawea, Virginia Woolf, Empress Theodora, Hypatia, Artemisia Gentileschi. and Eleanor of Acquitane. You may remember the last lady from that play, The Lion in Winter? Her Angevin husband, King Henry II [Robert Preston on Broadway], kept her in prison for years!
And from her royal womb, she bore him Richard the Lionhearted, the cowardly, usurping King John, and the scheming Geoffrey. This doesn't really show on her dinner-plate, however.
Judy Chicago was a charming presence at the BMA press-preview. Neither she nor her plates have aged. I was going to remind her of what I'd said years ago at SFMoMA: "If you change just one vowel in the title, it would be THE DONNER PARTY!"
They had quite a different kind of food. But—amidst the general acclamation of the preserved artwork—I kept mum.
You heard the one about the cannibal who was very self-serving? Or the cannibal who passed his brother in the forest? Sorry, but looking at women's private parts raised to the level of High Art is unsettling.
At the Whitney—
SANCTUARIES: Last Works of John Hejduk[Closing 5 January 2003] Theoretical architect John Hejduk for 25 years was Dean of the Chanin School of Architecture at Cooper Union—where he earlier had studied. Before his deanship, however, he had actually functioned as a practical architect.
But he was—like Peter Eisenmann and Daniel Liebeskind—almost more interested in breaking with conventional architectural styles by dreaming of fantasy buildings which would be most difficult to construct. If a client could be found to fund them…
In recent years, Hans Hollein and Frank Ghery have been able to see their own architectural fantasies made manifest in steel, glass, and stone. But the often mysterious architecture-inspired drawings of John Hejduk are not likely to be constructed ever.
Instead—borrowed from the Hejduk Archive in Montreal and the Houston Menil Collection—they are made manifest at the Whitney this fall. The late artist/architect referred to some of his fantasies as Masques.
There are four architectural models and 110 small works on paper in the current show. And two immense architectural sculptures, 20 feet high, which will be shown in the Whitney's Sculpture Court, which is that concrete pit on Madison Avenue below Marcel Breuer's moated entrance to his own architectural fantasy.
Curator Michael Hays says of Hejduk's late drawings: "They present a reduction of form and an intensity of emotion beyond which architecture cannot go."
Apparently, Hejduk in essence viewed architecture as a place of Sanctuary. That excludes, of course, the Twin Towers. His own drawings, notes Hays, also explore falls from grace, itinerancy, and passage & transformation.
Well, if you cannot build them, then at least exhibit them. These sketches are certainly fascinating. But imagined and executed by a nobody, they would simply be judged crazy doodling.
Not at the Whitney—
At the Holland Tunnel Ventilation Building:[Closing 4 October 2002] Did you know that the Holland Tunnel Ventilation Building is the largest structure on the lower Manhattan waterfront?
RIVERRUN—Open-Air Screenings on the Hudson
Last spring, it was used as a projection screen for a river-related film by Marie José Burki: Time After, Time Along, The River. Seen by some 114,000 New Yorkers, it was judged so successful as a community enhancement—as a Public Arts Project—that it has inspired a much more ambitious successor.
This is Riverrun, created by Minetta Brook, in collaboration with the Whitney Museum. No, Minetta Brook is not an underground stream, running under the Minetta Lane Theatre.
Minetta Brook is, in fact, an arts organization which sponsors innovative public arts projects. Its director, Diane Shamash, and Whitney curator, Chrissie Iles—after screening many candidates—have chosen five disparate films which all relate in some way to the Hudson or other rivers. Or just to New York.
Richard Serra's Railroad Turnbridge focuses on one of these—on the Willamette River in Oregon. A long way off from Manhattan. It is in black-and-white and shows the bridge opening and closing.
But this basically boring artfilm has a larger curatorial purpose: It "…demonstrates the presence of the railroad as a major transportation corridor along American river-fronts." Just Think Of That!
Had Joe Schmoe pointed his camera at a railroad turnbridge in Wichita Falls, you wouldn't be seeing it projected on a Manhattan Ventilation Tunnel. After all, he's NOT Richard Serra.
You have certainly heard of the late John Lennon and his multi-faceted artist-widow? Well, the ever resourceful Yoko pointed her camera at a building under construction. She took one photo per day for a whole year.
These images she has made into a 20-minute film, so you can see the building growing! This filmic artwork is titled Erection. Yoko may be trying for a sly pun there…
Peter Hutton's Study of a River actually shows the real Hudson River.
The four chosen films will be projected every night from 8 to 10 pm. If you want to see the program whole, arrive either at 8 or 9 pm. The immense structural screen is located by Pier 34, at the junction of Canal and West Streets.
At the Whitney Philip Morris—
Haluk Akakçe: Illusion of the First Time[Closing 10 January 2003] Smoking may be hazardous for your health, but in the instance of Philip Morris, it has been very good for the Arts! In its gallery across from Grand Central Station—where commuters often congregate to puff on a ciggie in the portico—there is an on-going program of mini-exhibitions mounted by the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Haluk Akakçe's new installation will be comprised of illusional wall-paintings, abstract video projections, and dimensional sound elements. As a curator noted: " Akakçe's body of work suggests a paradoxical future that intertwines seemingly familiar narratives with the blurred notion of technical reality."
Elements of Art Deco, Islamic Architecture, Sci-Fi, and comic-book romances are to be found in his unusual images. Beyond the World of Blade-Runner…
And if you find it too baffling, you can always have a smoke! Call for Philip Morris!
At MoMA QNS—[Info Call: 212-7089400] On 21 May, the West 53rd Street home of the Museum of Modern Art closed, And it will remain that way as the construction of the "enhanced facility," designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, goes forward. The new/old MoMA will re-open in 2005.
Currently, MoMA is bravely pursuing its mission way out in Long Island City in the former Swingline Stapler factory. This is MoMA QNS, and it is easy to reach from midtown Manhattan on the No. 7 subway/elevated line. Times Square and Grand Central are good places to board. The new facilities are only one subway-stop from Manhattan!
In the flurry of the move, my address seems to have been dropped from the press-list, as I have received no press-releases since early June. As I am leaving for Zimbabwe shortly after I file this column, it is impossible for me to take the train and see the exhibits noted below. So call the listed number for more details!
I made the call and learned that admissions will be half-price for a few weeks, while new exhibition installations are completed. But they have the permanent collection on view, a museum shop, and a cafe, of course.
To Be Looked At: Selections From[Info Call: 212-7089400] This is a selection from the best of the museum's permanent collection, usually on view in the old galleries. Among the iconic masterpieces on view: Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
The Painting & Sculpture Collection
Note: Admirers of Starry Night and Sunflowers may want to fly off to London to see the new Van Gogh drama at Wyndham's in the West End. It is titled Vincent in Brixton. And it is largely based on letters he wrote home to brother Theo and his family.
Did you know that Van Gogh could speak good English, lived in London two different times, and worked for an international art-dealer? And that he was a fanatic Dutch Reformed Fundamentalist? Even before he became certifiably insane…
A Walk Through Astoria[Info Call: 212-7089400] Swiss film-maker Rudy Burckhardt assembled two albums of photos he made of Queens in the early years of World War II. They have never been published or shown to the public before. One suite of photos is An Afternoon in Astoria. The other is titled: A Walk through Astoria and Other Places in Queens.
And Other Places in QNS
At the [Temporary] Dahesh Museum—
ACADEMIC ART MEETS MODERN TECHNOLOGY--Dagnan-Bouvert's "Wedding at the Photographer," featured in new Dahesh show. Photo: ©École des Beaux-Arts/Lyon.
Against the Modern: Dagnan-Bouveret/[Closing 8 December 2002] If you have never heard of the French painter Pascal-Adolphe-Jean Dagnan-Bouvert, it's not just because he had such a long, long name.
Transformation of the Academic Tradition
He was one of the last of a dying breed: French Academic Painters. He studied with one of the greats, Jean-Léon Gérome.
But, as his career extended into the first quarter of the 20th century—he died in 1929—he was already in effect riding a dead horse. French Impressionism swept the Academic Tradition away. French Cubism and German Expressionism gave the straggling Academic survivors the coup de grâce, so to speak.
Nonetheless, Dagnan-Bouvert tried to preserve what he believed to be the best of his master's tradition. While, at the same time, seeking to transform it into a more modern visual language, with more contemporary inspirations and effects. But not abandoning its attention to detail and finish in his paintings.
To this end, he began to adapt photographic images into his paintings. In effect, he can be considered a precursor of photo-realism.
He was attracted to the French countryside and genre scenes. But he also tried religious subjects when Symbolism began to make its mark in literature and art.
Dagnan-Bouvert may be all but forgotten today, but at the height of his career, he enjoyed both critical and commercial success. Even if he was figuratively swimming—or "brushing"—against the art-tide.
Many of his works now on view are on loan from private collections—another reason he's not so well-known. But major paintings and drawings have also been loaned by French museums and galleries, such as the École des Beaux-Arts. Loans are also from the Hermitage, the Pushkin, Boston Fine Arts, the Corcoran, and the Chrysler Museum.
Among the works on display are family portraits, historical sketches, and paintings such as Hamlet and the Gravediggers, Gypsy Camp, Pardon in Brittany, and Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus.
The last scene is not a canvas, but is painted on a wood panel. It's on loan from the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh—in Henry Clay Frick's great Victorian mansion, in fact.
The current provenance of the artworks on display—from very major museums—make it clear that Dagnan-Bouvert was much admired in his own time. And is now unjustly forgotten. This exhibition—at the National Academy of Design on upper Fifth Avenue—may help to change that oversight.
Former Madison Avenue IBM GallerySince 1995, the Dahesh Museum has mounted over a score of interesting shows related to Academic Art and Salon Painting & Sculpture of the 19th century.
To Be Dahesh Museum's New Home!
What was perhaps even more impressive to those who saw these exhibitions in the small second-floor museum-space on Fifth Avenue in midtown was the way in which curators were able to select outstanding examples of such art small enough—yet also powerful enough—to make this intimate space vibrant with romantic/realist visions of another time and place.
This kind of painting and sculpture—often featuring religious, historical, or allegorical/moral subjects—has long been out of favor at major European and North American museums.
So the Dahesh provided a special showcase for artists who were either in storage or hung in corridors of major museums.
In its ongoing search for larger, more attractive galleries, the Dahesh had made a bid for the former Huntington Hartford Gallery on Columbus Circle. An Edward Durrell Stone mock-Venetian structure, it had long been neglected and was often excoriated by architecture critics. Only a handful of Preservationists saw its value.
In the event, political considerations gave the property to other bidders.
This is probably a blessing. The building's conformation to a narrow curved plot on the southern arc of Columbus Circle meant that its several floors of galleries were oddly shaped and constricted. Certainly not conducive to showing large-scale academic paintings—which also could not be displayed in the Fifth Avenue venue.
Fortunately, the former IBM Gallery of Science and Art has become available. This is centrally located: at 580 Madison Ave and 57th Street.
In the heyday of the distinguished IBM shows, the spacious below-grade Concourse Galleries were usually full of people, whether the show dealt with Leonardo Da Vinci's Machines or American Folk Art.
With the great glass atrium above it, the gallery was a noontime centerpiece of social and cultural activity. It should soon become so again.
In the meantime, as noted above, the Dahesh's fall show is on view at the National Academy of Design on upper Fifth Avenue, across the street from the Guggenheim.
At Knoedler & Company—
INSPIRED BY BABYLON'S HANGING GARDENS--An image from Markus Lüpertz' Semiramis suite. Photo: Courtesy of Knoedler & Co.
Markus Lüpertz' SEMIRAMIS[Closing 16 November 2002] The splashy swaths of color which dominate the canvases of Markus Lüpertz now on view at Knoedler are supposed to evoke the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, supposedly created by Queen Semiramis.
According to Knoedler's press-release: "The effusions of his floral color and painterly gesture have rich antecedents in Monet's late floating gardens."
No way, José! Unless it's only the richness of the Monet antecedents that is under discussion. I couldn't believe the rough, slapdash—even ugly—quality of the small suite of 15 paintings and some watercolors on display.
But this is Knoedler's second Lüpertz show!
If you have never heard of this painter, sculptor, and art-professor—14 years as Head of the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, no less!—you need to know that he is often bracketed with such Modern German Greats as Anselm Kiefer, Sigmar Polke, Joseph Beuys, and Gerhard Richter, who just had an immense and immensely overblown retro-spective at MoMA.
Lüpertz is also ranked with the appalling Jörg Immendorff, whose favorite art-images are monkeys. Immendorff not so long ago filled a Salzburg Festival theatre stage with walls covered with multiple cartoonish male genital organs, as men in monkey-suits pushed a wooden airplane around the area.
This was another cutting-edge Salzburg staging: Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. If Stravinsky had been alive, he would have died…
Lüpertz doesn't seem to have taken to stage-design just yet. But he has, of course, shown at major European museums and galleries. And he has even had a monograph written on his works.
Go see for yourself… You could even buy one?
At the Neuhoff Gallery—
THE GESTURE: Movement in Painting & Sculpture[Closing 19 October 2002] With origins in the bold vital black-ink brush-strokes of Chinese calligraphy, Gesture or Action Painting has a global history. Linked to Existentialism after World War II in Europe, it has always been about time—and space.
Contemporary works which evoke meaning in time and space are now on view at the Neuhoff Gallery. The new show, curated by Robert C. Morgan, includes modern Asian artists such as Fung Ming-Chip, Wenda Gu, Path Soong and Jungwook Grace Rim. All are inheritors of ancient calligraphic traditions, but they have developed their gesture genres and vocabularies in different ways. How about brushstrokes in ink made from human hair?
Better known names in the show are Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline, Mark di Suvero, Robert Motherwell, Gabriela Machado, and Cy Twombly.
London Evening Standard Art-Theft Report—
Titian "Carry-Out" Recovered by Bus-Stop!The big art-news in London in early September was not the gaudy explosion of paintings by Les Fauves at the Royal Gallery, shown several season ago in Paris at the Musée de l'Art Moderne.
No. It was the quiet recovery of Lord Bath's famous Titian, The Flight into Egypt. It had been stolen from his Longleat estate in 1995. It apparently had disappeared without a trace. Or a request for ransom.
But the thief or thieves obviously couldn't unload the canvas. It was—like the very well known Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington, stolen in 1961—too hot to handle.
The Longleat Titian was left in a plastic carry-out bag beside a Richmond bus-stop. Where it was collected by Charles Hill, a former Scotland Yard detective.
Hill now specializes in such retrievals through go-betweens in the London Underworld. And in advising leading British Museums and galleries about security measures needed to protect their often priceless collections.
David Rowan, of the London Evening Standard, accompanied Hill to various London museums, where he was shown how easy it would have been to make off with immensely valuable artworks and artifacts.
Rowan called this his "£350,000 art-world heist." And he reported Hill's misgivings about security in the Dickens House Museum and Sir John Soanes Museum—which is crammed with a lifetime of magpie-like art-and-object collecting. Sir John specified that nothing was to be changed in the house-museum after his death.
Hill pointed out to Rowan that the Goya Wellington had been stolen from the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square by a man who simply stayed in the Gent's Loo until the museum had closed. He then cut the famous canvas from its frame, rolled it up, and crawled out through the lavatory window!
Some thefts are never reported because that would increase insurance premiums for smaller museums which can hardly afford what they now pay. Such collections are also at risk because they cannot afford the guards or security devices which might protect their holdings.
But, as Charles Hill told David Rowan: "…it's rare for a masterpiece to be taken—normally the criminals go for something they can run with."
If you are one of those wealthy American CEOs who has Monets, Picassos, and Van Goghs in your Park Avenue Penthouse, you would do well to lend them to the Met—with a promised death-bed bequest.
If they are not well-known canvases, they will be much easier to fence. But if thousands of Met visitors have seen your Matisse or Courbet, it is unlikely to turn up on a table in the West 26th Street Flea Market.
Be well advised…
OPENED/LISTED/NOT YET SEEN—At the Jewish Museum—
THE CITY OF K: Franz Kafka and Prague[Closing 5 January 2003] This multi-media exhibition was created in Barcelona, where the mad Catalans have been making a reputation for themselves as dazzling innovators in all of the arts, including those of performance.
Photographs, manuscripts, and books relating to Kafka and Prague have been used in the design of a series of walk-through environments. The first seven of the dozen installations evoke Kafka's life in this great medieval city, from childhood through battles with tuberculosis. This segment is called: Kafka in Prague: Existential Space.
The remaining five sections invoke Prague as it figures metaphorically in Kafka's fictions. It is titled: Prague in Kafka: Imaginary Topography.
One Manhattan critic was more impressed with the concept & design of this show than with its actual content. He likened it to the Kafka Fun Park.
All the more reason to check it out before its closure.
At the Museum of the City of New York—
The Last Days of Penn Station:[Closing 6 October 2002] The film of Aaron Rose's photos of the demolition of the monumental Pennsylvania Station remained in cold-storage for 30 years before it was developed and prints made from the negatives.
Photographs by Aaron Rose
Not only the destruction of this great building—with its immense central atrium—was chronicled by Rose. But also many of the architectural and decorative details that were smashed in the rush to construct the present nondescript structural horror which stands on Penn Station's site.
For some years, noble marble eagles, corinthian capitals, and shattered fluted columns could still be seen in landfill dumps in New Jersey. And even carted away, if you could find a way to lift some of the extremely heavy fragments. Two of the displaced eagles are now in front of Penn Station's replacement.
The Day the World Changed:[Closing 19 January 2003] These often potent images may offer adults a better understanding of children's reactions to the destruction of the Twin Towers and its aftermath. This show has been created with the collaboration of the NYU Child Study Center. And there is an accompanying book of the images, published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. [The tragedy of 9/11 has proved a media & publishing gold-mine.]
Children's Art of 9/11
The City Resilient:[Closing 3 November 2002] Joel Meyrowitz was allowed special access to Ground Zero to document the destruction wrought by 9/11 and make a photographic record of the clearing of the vast site. Seventy of the photos—all of which will be preserved in the Museum's special 9/11 Archive—are on view. [Loney]
Photographs by Joel Meyrowitz
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