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The Shocking Cooper Hewitt

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Many curtain-raisers for and reviews of the newly renovated and reconceived Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum have focused on its use of technology to make the museum interactive, participatory and therefore supposedly of more interest to young generations who are not satisfied with just looking. One recent Saturday, I finally made it to this new incarnation to see for myself. I didn't mind the interactive technology. I liked much of it. Some of it was fun to play with. At one station, I designed a lovely outdoor sculpture. I did not get … [Read more...]

A Giant Step Forward At The Met

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When I visited The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky at the Metropolitan Museum on Saturday afternoon, I was prepared to be delighted--and I was, in more ways than one. The Nelson-Atkins Museum, which co-curated the show with the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, had primed me for how beautiful it was going to be, sending along the catalogue as evidence when the show opened in Kansas City last fall. At the Met, the exhibit lived up to my great expectations. So many of these objects are stunningly beautiful. But from the very first … [Read more...]

The Coke Bottle And The High: Too Close For Comfort?

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The commercialization and entertainmentization of art museums continues. The High Museum in Atlanta just stooped to mounting an exhibit titled The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100.  Atlanta is the birthplace of Coca-Cola and the company is probably a major benefactor of many organizations, including the High, in Atlanta. But still. I could not find, in a fairly quick search, how much money Coke gives to the High. But it may be substantial. Interestingly, the "vice chair-exhibitions" of the High's board of trustees is Michael Keough, … [Read more...]

“Provocative Intervention” In Dulwich’s Galleries

Made in China

The other day, the Dulwich Picture Gallery announced a 2015 program with "an intervention in the Gallery’s permanent collection offering a provocative challenge to the public." And what could that be? Rather provocatively, it's an exhibition called Made in China, and it's described this way in the press release, as ...a unique intervention that questions the significance and value of the ‘original’ work of art. ‘Made in China: A Doug Fishbone Project’ (10 February–26 July 2015), will see one of the paintings in Dulwich’s collection removed … [Read more...]

Walters’ Founding Story: Good, Except…

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I really enjoyed my visit to the Walters Art Museum early this year. However, it is suffering a malady that must be discussed--because it is far from the only museum afflicted by this disease. I went to see From Rye to Raphael: The Walters Story, a new installation that is intended to inform (or remind) people of William and Henry Walters, the father-and-son founders who amassed the original collection. That's a good idea not only because what they bought comprises 70 percent of the collection today but also because 1)  viewing art through … [Read more...]

Picturing Mary: It Could Have Gone Another Way

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Is there a woman who was painted more frequently in all of Western art than Mary? If so, I don't know of her. So many great artists painted her, in many situations, poses, costumes and guises. That was the rich territory the National Museum of Women in the Arts chose to explore in its current exhibition, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea. And although it's not the show I conjured in my mind when I heard the title--a Leonardo side-by-side with a Raphael, a Michelangelo, a Fra Angelico, a Bellini, a Titian, and so on--it's a mind-stretching … [Read more...]

Did Worcester Museum’s “Rethinking” Work? A FollowUp

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More than a year has passed since I visited the Worcester Art Museum and wrote Museum, Remodeled and Rethought for the Wall Street Journal, so I thought I would check in with the director, Matthias Waschek, to see what had happened since then. WAM in many ways might be a model for other art museums, especially those in cities that do not attract many tourists. Brief recap: Waschek had rehung the Old Masters galleries there, medallion-style, to get people to visit the museum (a pitiful 31,435 people had visited the galleries in FY 2011, … [Read more...]

This Art Map Will Startle You

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Which artists would you guess are searched for most often in the U.S.? What if that data were broken down by state, so we could see which artist Georgians are looking for versus which one by New Yorkers? It might be enlightening--nowadays, museums might even use it to choose their exhibitions, given all the emphasis on listening to their communities. Maybe this map which change their minds. Granted, it has one big flaw--it's an infographic of searches on eBay by its customers, who may not be representative of a museum's "community." On the … [Read more...]

NPG Effort Raises Good Question Re: Crowdsourcing

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About six weeks ago--and I missed it--the National Portrait Gallery started a crowd-sourcing initiative called Recognize that pitted three works in the collection against one another and asked the public to choose one. The other day, the Washington Post raised questions about it--appropriately, I think. The whole exercise seemed, my words not the Post's, like a stunt in search of a mission. Let's  begin with the NPG's description: This November, the National Portrait Gallery will unveil a special crowdsourced wall in our galleries, called … [Read more...]

Zurbarán In The News!

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Since 2012, when TEFAF celebrated its 25th anniversary, the Maastricht art fair has been awarding grants toward the conservation of objects held by museums that have attended the fair in that year. The other day, TEFAF announced the 2104 grants: the €50,000 annual amount from the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund will be split between two early paintings by Francisco de Zurbaran. One, St. Serapion (1628) [at right], is owned by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Ct.; the other, Saint Francis of Assisi in Meditation (c. 1630-1635) [below], is in … [Read more...]

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