Art of Indigenous Fashion at IAIA

How do Native American designers transform traditional beading, ancient symbols, social commentary, and tribal embroidery into contemporary fashion? 

Answers are on display in the exhibition, Art of Indigenous Fashion at Santa Fe’s IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MoCNA) through January 8. It’s a fitting exhibition that opened in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWIA) Indigenous Fashion show.

Take a look at our favorite pieces in our Flickr gallery.

2015 Jamie Okuma wool dress with shells. Courtesy: National Museum of the American Indian
2022 Recon Watchmen costumes by Virgil Otiz (Cochiti Pueblo). Courtesy: the artist.

The show puts the work of 2022 Native American Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz front and center, with three imposing Recon Watchmen costumes. No, it’s not runway fashion. But these futuristic sci-fi ensembles from the year 2180 are made for a film where protectors travel back in time to help the New Mexico pueblos successfully fight their opressors in the Revolt of 1680.

Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) combines film, fabric, headresses, and history to tell the story of a real-life Native revolution that Pueblo kids never learned in their New Mexican history classes. Look close at the awesome printed silk cloaks, lamé “armor”, and dramatic sculpted masks of these dramatic Native superheroes.

Next, you see how Native artists combined art and fashion from the mid-20th century until now.

Several historic pieces are by the godfather of Native American contemporary fashion (and early leader of IAIA), Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), who had a successful contemporary line in Scottsdale in the 1940s and1950s.

The clothes in this exhibition feature buttons and clasps made by Charles Loloma, a Hopi innovator in contemporary Native jewelry, who also had a shop in Scottsdale and joined New at IAIA in the Sixties. Lucky that collectors saved these gems for us.

1950s and 1960s ensembles by Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee). Private collection.
2016 ribbon dress by Jamie Okuma ((Luiseño/Shoshone/Bannock)) and 2018 silk dress by Orlando Dugi (Dine’). Courtesy: the artist; IAIA

The rest of the work in the exhibition represents the 2000s, primarily three types – ensembles taking a luxurious haute-couture approach, wearable social commentary, and sly conceptual art-as-fashion installations.

The 2000 embroidered, appliqued wool “Chilkat” cape by Pamela Baker (Tlingit/Haida) is regal enough to wear at any black-tie affair.

The same for Orlando Dugi’s (Dine’) 2018 feathered and beaded evening dress with a subtle golden eagle and touches of sparkling corn pollen. Dugi is a self-taught couturier, who meticulously applies each bead and feather himself.

Two dramatic red-carpet dresses by Lesley Hampton (Anishinaabe) that have appeared at recent Emmy and Golden Globe Award events are reminders of the inroads being made by Native Americans artists in the entertainment sector.

Among the most dramatic social-commentary work, Canadian design team Decontie & Brown (Penobscott Nation) has two attention-grabbers – a “wedding dress” offering the wearer protective spikes from unwanted advances and radiating power-feathers, and the “I Am A Reflection…” mirrored man’s coat. Absorbed in the kaleidoscope of the coat’s reflected light, viewers contemplate Decontie & Brown’s message as they marvel at the visual magic.

Decontie & Brown’s 2017 Armored Beauty wedding dress and 2021 upcycled I Am a Reflection…Mirror Coat. Courtesy: the artists
2018 It’s in Our DNA, It’s Who We Are ensemble by Anita Fields reflecting tribe’s past and present. Courtesy: Minneapolis Museum of Art

The elegant embroidered cashmere shift by Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dena/Cree) has delicate somber black wings fluttering across the back. But these are paired with a front shouting the savage message of 20th-century Indian boarding school government policy. Beautiful but chilling.

Anita Fields (Osage) is represented by a suspended fashion installation in the center of main gallery – a wildly oversized embroidered top hat and wedding coat titled “It’s In Our DNA, It’s Who We Are.” Intertwined strands are emblazoned on the front; images of the unfortunate treaty her tribe signed in 1808 line the inside.

Outside the main gallery, MoCNA has invited Mohawk multimedia artist Skawennati to create a digital mural and installation of her “Activist Avatars,” cyber-protesters modeling a virtual clothing line. Multiple screens of social-justice protesters in power-to-the-people cammo and calico march toward viewers in the MoCNA screening room to an energetic Native hip-hop track.

Skawennati’s (Mohawk) 2022 Calico and Camouflage: Assemble! multichannel video installation.

Many of the artists represented in this show – Patricia Michaels, Jason Baerg, Jamie Okuna, Sho Sho Esquiro, and others – were featured in this year’s Indigenous Fashion show. Watch the 2022 SWIA Fashion Designers runway videos here.

2019 silk and leather Sunset Dress by Jason Baerg (Cree Métis), symbolizing dynamic optimism and referencing trees, sky, and earth. Courtesy: the artist.

Fashion Manifestos by Carla Fernández

What does “slow” fashion look like? A revolutionary Mexican haute couture designer shows how it’s done in Carla Fernandez Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto, on display at the Denver Art Museum through October 16.

As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw. 

As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.

Carla Fernández 2014 jacket collaboration with Juanez Lopez Santis (San Juan Chamula, Chiapas) over digital-printed silk top and leggings.
2003 wool poncho – a Carla Fernández collaboration San Juan Chamula (Chiapas) artisans ­– over a 2009 pantsuit. From the collection of photographer/model Luisa Sáenz

Why not use these indigenous “haute couture” techniques for a high-fashion collection? Why not create a mix-and-match aesthetic using traditional, geometric shapes? Why not credit the artists?

As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.

Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.

With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.

In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.

The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.

2021 hand-painted coverall and digital-printed jumper and coat with Leonardo Linares (Mexico City); embroidered jumper with Antonia Vasquez (San Pedro Chenalhó, Chiapas).

Fiesta masks, leather caballero fretwork, whimsical basket-purses, and fuzzy handmade pom-poms provide home-grown Mexican flair to the cinched, draped, easy ensembles.

Take a look through our Flickr album, and enjoy this video of the installation at Denver Art Museum:

Every section of the exhibition demonstrates her commitment to stimulating innovation and creativity among indigenous makers.

Inspired by decorative fretwork on rodeo apparel, a 2022 wool poncho and pants done in collaboration with calado master Fidel Martínez (Chimalhuacán, State of Mexico).

As of 2022, Carla’s collaborated with more than 164 artisans in 39 communities in 15 Mexican states, with more to come. The show presents a map and identifies all of her collaborators.

To see and hear more about Carla’s collaborative process, watch the Denver Art Museum’s 2019 seminar on culture, cultural appropriation, and fashion in this YouTube video.

And join in on Carla’s beautiful, expressive fashion revolution by checking out her current and past collections on her website.

Dior Brings Opulent Extravagance to Brooklyn

With lights dancing across dozens of floral dresses and sequined classical gowns in an over-the-top Beaux-Arts setting, visitors to the Brooklyn Museum generally stand speechless in awe of the extravagance before them in, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, closing February 20.

It takes a minimum of two hours to travel through the galleries, and much more time to absorb the wonders of this must-see fashion exhibition, drawn largely from the Dior archives in Paris.

Take a look at some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Haute couture in Brooklyn’s Beaux Arts court. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Nevelson’s 1956 sculpture and 1952 Dior dinner dress. Courtesy: Dior.

The exhibition begins in a traditional gallery format, showcasing Dior’s epic haute couture works of the Forties and Fifties.

Print and film media document Dior’s ecstatic reception in America, including custom client fittings and retail showings in New York and San Francisco.

Some of the most spectacular evening and cocktail looks are paired with modern sculpture by Nevelson and design by Eames from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection.

Turning the corner into the photography gallery, visitors encounter the full spectrum of photographers who have documented Dior couture from the Forties until today.

Visitors are ecstatic when they see the dress next to the Avedon photo that is one of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century – Dovima modeling Dior’s spectacularly sinuous black-and-white gown, caressing massive, animated elephants that surround her.

After Dior’s untimely death, a succession of fashion superstars led the creative side of the house. The show pays tribute to YSL, Bohan, Ferré, Galliano, and Simons with dramatic installations showing their inspirations from French film noir, modern art, opera, and art history. 

1955 haute couture, worn by Dovima for Avedon. Courtesy: Dior.

The garments are over-the-top, highly embellished, and smartly paired with Egyptian and Gilded Age works from the museum’s extensive permanent collection.

John Galliano haute couture for Christian Dior, inspired by ancient Egypt, the Belle Epoque, and other historical references. From the Dior Legacy gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
Three 2020 ensembles by Maria Grazia Chiuri against Judy Chicago banners. Courtesy: Dior

There’s a special installation reserved for Dior’s current artistic director, Marie Grazie Chiuri, who has long used her platform in the fashion world to ask probing questions about culture, society, and women.

In this gallery, her dramatic haute couture work is surrounded by shimmering banners that she commissioned from Judy Chicago, whose epic The Dinner Party is the centerpiece of Brooklyn’s feminist art center.

A major set of galleries evokes the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles – a source of inspiration for Mr. Dior.

The curators use the space to show off Dior’s Miss Dior perfume product displays and pairings of old and more recent haute couture inspired by 18th century glamour of the French court. If the exhibition ended right there, you’d be satisfied.

Haute couture from House of Dior: John Galiano’s 2000 dress in embroidered antique satin and Christian Dior’s 1952 satin cocktail ensemble. In the 18th-century gallery. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.

But there’s much more – a gallery segmented by color to show off fashions, accessories, shoes, and miniatures; and an Instagram-ready all-white infinity room with dozens of white toilles made by the Dior ateliers from the designer’s sketches.

It’s another unforgettable gallery experience that pays proper tribute to the teams of behind-the-scenes experts who bring these fashion visions to life. 

Although the gallery of celebrity Dior looks is the final stop in the show, it almost feels like an after-thought compared to the magical displays of the Beaux-Arts Court.

Wall of 2007-2020 toiles for haute couture dresses, jackets and coats.

Haute couture is everywhere – clustered in the center, surrounding you on all sides, and artfully displayed on two-story-high walls and balconies.  One area features floral gowns, another shimmering gold ensembles, and another mysterious, dramatic black drama.

Haute couture dresses inspired by the divining arts surrounded by dresses inspired by nature, flowers, and gardens. Courtesy: Dior heritage collection.
2010 haute couture hand-painted embroidered evening dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior.

The show is a breathtaking array of light, sound, and visual riches – possibly the greatest feast for the fashion eye since the McQueen show at the Met.  Thanks to Dior for letting us see these amazing works from the archive, and to Brooklyn for giving us such an unforgettable fashion experience in its 125-year-old court.

Next up for Brooklyn’s galleries: a tribute to Virgil Abloh, opening July 1.

Gilded Age Treasure Hunt at The Met

Once you navigate the twists and turns of one of the furthest reaches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American Wing (past the Versailles panorama and past the Rockefeller room), you’ll come to a treasure trove of Gilded Age interior design – Aesthetic Splendors: Highlights from the Gift of Barrie and Deedee Wigmore, on view through April 18.

What did rich people in the 1880s and 1890s want? The exhibition will show you.

1880s Herter Brothers cabinet, Britcher landscape, and reproduction wallpaper evoke the Wigmore’s home

You’ll find lush landscapes by second-generation Hudson River painters and first-generation romantic painters of the American West, elaborate furniture and decorative pieces embellished with tributes to Asian style, and bedazzled masterpieces from the Tiffany workshops.

Sanford Gifford’s 1879 An Indian Summer Day in Claverack Creek

The curators pay tribute to these avid Aesthetic Movement collectors by framing these promised gifts with reproduction period wallpaper and fixtures, and it’s hard to decide where to look first.

The approach to this marvelous exhibition gives modern gallery-goers an experience of what Gilded Age interior designers had in mind – cramming foyers and drawing rooms with lush paintings, flashy techno brass furniture, Japanese-style ceramics, art pottery, and fringed upholstered seats decorated with Arts & Crafts tiles that throwback to mythical times.

The mix of styles and techniques – some old and some new – reflect a time when consumption of luxury goods ran wild with the ascension of New York City as the trading and shipping capital of the world.  Many of the pieces reflect new machine-made technology mixed in with a bit of medieval nostalgia via the British Arts and Crafts movement.

Look closely at all these showstoppers in our Flickr album.

Detail of 1880 Modern Gothic cabinet by Kimbel and Cabus with tile by Minton & Co.

Although the exhibition is slightly hidden away, the landscapes appearing throughout the show provide windows to lush valleys of the Rockies (thank you, Mr. Bierstadt!), autumn colors of the Catskills, and spectacular, tranquil shorelines on Maine’s rocky coast.  All are either in their original fancy frames or reproductions from the era.

Alfred Thompson Bricher’s 1899 Low Tide, Hetherington’s Cove, Grand Manan in Maine

Most of the works are oil paintings, but (in case you didn’t know) New York was also the epicenter of the movement to make watercolor paintings the equal of any fine salon work.  The curators have included work by the masterful William Trost Williams, so you can enjoy a side-by-side comparison of the techniques he used to give those oil painters a run for their money. Every time we’ve visited this show, visitors simply stand transfixed, drinking in the saturated, tranquil views of the faraway.

The ceramics, cloisonné tabletops, andirons, and many large-scale pieces reflect the period’s mania for anything with a hint of Japanese or Chinese style – delicate birds flitting through bamboo and fierce dragons swirling in magical space. Designers for the upper classes were captivated by images from kimonos, scrolls, screens, and ceramics from the East and made sure that custom commissioned pieces were on trend.

Bradley & Hubbard’s 1895 phoenix andirons
Sapphire encircled by grapevines on 1910 gold and platinum Tiffany necklace

The mesmerizing beacon within the show is the spectacular array of Tiffany necklaces in the center – dramatic opals and sapphires, often encircled by intricate grapevines in gold or another nod to nature-by-design. The effect of these beauties side by side is magical, and you can imagine a Gilded Age beauty making an entrance with one of these dazzlers.

The Met just announced that its September 2022 Costume Institute exhibition would be displayed in the period rooms of the American Wing, so we’ll see if Mr. Bolton and his team deploy any period finery in the more-is-more 19th-century area.

Read more about pieces in this fantastic donation on the MetCollects blog and flip through close-ups of some the featured works.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Broadway, Brooklyn, Karma, Kusama, and McQueen

New York museums are offering a full calendar of virtual events this week, including trips to Broadway history, hipster restaurants of the world, Buddhist virtual reality, and tributes to artistic genius. Take a look at the list here! Here are just a few highlights:

2002 Broadway revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song

Do you miss Broadway? Learn about some little-known secrets behind hit shows today, Monday (April 12) at 5:30pm. It’s a rare chance to meet the president of the Rogers & Hammerstein Organization, Ted Chapin, who will be giving a behind-the-scenes look at the Great White Way in his program, From Follies to Flower Drum Song and Beyond. It’s the premiere of a conversation recorded last Fall with Broadway World’s Richard Ridge, courtesy of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

Did this global restaurant trend actually start in Brooklyn? Find out with MOFAD and the creators of Global Brooklyn: Designing Food Experiences in World Cities.

Love restaurants? Especially ones with slightly nostalgic post-industrial interiors decorated with that hand-crafted look? At 7pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink to meet the authors who explored how the Brooklyn aesthetic for How a Restaurant Aesthetic Became a Global Phenomenon. Learn how restaurants around the world adopted the style, and find out if this brand of hip actually started in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday (April 14) at 6pm, join the architecture crowd at the Skyscraper Museum to hear Mark Sarkisian, the structural and seismic engineer who is a partner at SOM in San Francisco. Mark designed one of Shanghai’s first supertalls back in 1999. His talk Pivot to China: How Jin Mao Portended Future Supertalls will explain how this tower’s innovations influenced the generation of supertall skyscrapers that followed.

Shanghai’s Jin Mao tower, 1999
Berman Collection poster part of the Youth Style talk at Poster House.

On Wednesday (April 14) at 6:30pm, take a journey back to early modernist Europe at Poster House, who will be hosting A Tale of Three Cities: Youth Style in Berlin, Munich, & Vienna with the Kaller Research Institute. The evening will focus on how young designers made their mark on design from 1895 to 1910. You’ll see works from the Merrill C. Berman Collection (the collection featured at MoMA in Engineer Agitator Constructor), and works from the Poster House’s current Julius Klinger exhibition.

Also at 6:30pm – an opportunity to understand your karma. Join the Rubin Museum of Art for The Game of Life: An Interactive Virtual Experience. A contemplative psychotherapist will guide participants through a virtual Buddhist Wheel of Life to finding liberation from negative habits and patterns. The virtual game takes you throughout the different floors of the museum, and provides twists and turns. There are “Hell” and “God” Zoom rooms, but the payoff is higher awareness of one’s state of mind.

The Rubin’s reimagined Wheel of Life by eight graphic artists.
Kusama at New York Botanical Garden

On Thursday (April 15) at 11am, it’s what all of New York has been waiting for! Mika Yoshitake, the curator of New York Botanical Garden’s KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature will provide a look at how Kusama’s blockbuster installation reflects nature, the earth, the microscopic, and the cosmos. Cosmic Nature: Embracing the Unknown will present Mike’s insights about Kusama’s artistic language and her unrelenting, lifelong journey into new territory.

McQueen models backstage, as photographed by Richard Fairer

Want to go backstage at a McQueen show? At 6pm you can. Join Vogue photographer Robert Fairer at Museum at FIT for a live Q&A about his new book, Alexander McQueen: Unseen. Experience memorable moments of fashion’s greatest, most outrageous showman and see what a genius at work backstage before the show.

There’s a lot more happening this week, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

When Advertising was Revolutionary

Abstraction was being invented, monarchies were falling, wars were raging, and modern 20th century artists decided to turn advertising on its head, too. Artists left studios in droves and began making posters, brochures, billboards, traveling agit-prop theater wagons, and new-fangled telecommunications towers.

1-11 Engineers Agitators Reconstructors at MoMA
Modernist Russian billboards and works from Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s 1923-1925 Advertising-Constructor agency

That’s just the first gallery of Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, on view at MoMA through April 10 – a show that investigates how artists change their focus to meet the moment of social, technical, commercial, and political change.

The focus is the period between WWI and WWII, when the avant-garde began mixing it up to bring about a whole new world for consumers, city planners, publishers, and the proletariat. Take a look at our favorite works in our Flickr album.

The first gallery provides a broad view of how other avant-garde abstractionists first inspired by Malevich’s Suprematism experimented now used pure, kinetic shapes to dance across children’s books, pavilions, costumes, and posters in the earliest days after the Russian Revolution.

El Lissitzky’s 1922 book About Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions

The 300 works in the show are principally works on paper, collected by and donated to MoMA by Merrill Berman – a treasure trove that includes particularly rare and unique items that the curators use to tell quite a story.

A 1922 costume design by Popova, inspired by workers’ uniforms

One entire wall is dedicated to Ms. Popova, where you can stroll by paintings, covers for sheet music, and prints – all the ways she applied her genius. Another long wall displays dynamic work by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky, whose Advertising-Constructor agency mixed poetry and innovative, angled constructivist style to sell chocolate and other consumer products.

Mixed-media plays a major role in the exhibition, with several galleries showing how European artists embraced collage and photomontage both in their personal studio work and in graphic designs that shook up the look of mass market publications, industrial marketing, postcards, and political posters.

Dynamic photo montage 1928 postcards by Gustav Klutsis to promote the All-Union Spartaklada Sporting Event

Another section of the show provides an introduction to innovative Polish, Hungarian, and Dutch indie zines shared, collected, and treasured by cutting-edge writers and designers excited by possibilities of the early 20th century.

Creative European magazines published in the late Twenties

Angled, geometric, and loaded with innovative typography, these rare magazines share the space with paintings by Mondrian, sculpture by Moholy-Nagy, and other geometric shape-shifters.

1924 photo of Henryk Berlewi and his exhibition at a Warsaw Austro-Daimler showroom with works from his Mechano Facture series, inspired by industrial technology

Women are prominently showcased in every gallery of the exhibition, including the massive wall of Soviet posters by female designers whose images celebrate the contributions of women to the industrial workforce.

1931 poster by Natalia Pinus acknowledging female farmers and other collective workers

Visionary drawings, watercolors, and poster posters are around every corner – and most are never-before-seen surprises. Before WWII brought it all to an end, the curators show the modern innovations that these creatives had in mind – new architecture, advertising constructions, and modern furniture fairs.

Walter Dexel’s 1928 design combines an airshaft, ad kiosk, and telephone booth. Herbert Bayer’s design for an electrified ad tower for an electricity company, done when he was just a student at the Bauhaus. Willi Baumeister’s 1927 poster that directly declares interior designs of the past are over.

Elena Semenova’s 1926 design sketch for a Russian worker’s lounge looks like a precursor to WeWork.

1927 poster by Willi Baumeister promoting a modern furniture exhibition in Stuttgart
Vision for model communal space: Elena Semenova’s 1926 design watercolor for a Russian worker’s club lounge

Enjoy this special program with Ellen Lupton and curator Jodi Hauptman in a fascinating discussion about work by several revolutionary designers and how so many intermingled careers in graphic and fine arts during tumultuous times:

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Berlin Neon, Japanese Rap, Master Photographers, and Alice Neel

Commercial neon in Berlin under discussion at Poster House Monday

This week, NYC museums are offering more than 40 on-line events (mostly free) that will take you to Berlin in the Twenties, the music scene in Tokyo, studios of acclaimed photographers, and an opening at the Met.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

Tonight (Monday, March 22) at 6:30pm, join Poster House and photographer Thomas Rinaldi for Interwar Neon: Commercial Illumination in Weimar-Era Germany to look back on the electric art that flourished alongside the freewheeling nightlife scene for a brief time between the wars.

Dawoud Bey’s Birmingham series at the New Museum.

On Tuesday (March 23) at 4pm, join the New Museum to meet Dawoud Bey, a photography legend (and MacArthur genius) whose moving 2012 tribute, The Birmingham Project, is featured in the acclaimed exhibition, Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America

At 7pm, join Japan Society for 333 Contemporaries – Looking for the Next Global Rap Star in Japan, the kickoff to its new on-line series which talks about how US rap music adopted and adapted by the next generation of Japanese artists.

Parlor of the Merchant’s House Museum, New York’s only intact 19th c. home

On Wednesday (March 24) at 6pm, if Monday’s session got you curious, Join the Merchant’s House for 19th Century Domestic Lighting: 100 Years of Change. It will be an in-depth look at the technology behind the historic home’s lighting fixtures from 1835 forward, a time when candles and oil lamps gave way to electric lighting.

Anthony Barboza’s 1972 Kamoinge Workshop portrait of Ming Smith

At 7pm, meet Kamoinge Workshop photographer Ming Smith in a live online event, discussing the publication of her recent Aperture monograph and the influence of music upon her work. Ming’s work features prominently in the current exhibition at The Whitney, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. She is the first African-American female photographer to have her work enter MoMA’s collection.

On Thursday (March 25) at 6pm, get your fashion fix at the Museum at FIT with a special program, From Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz and Black Glamour. The pre-recorded program will feature vintage performer Dandy Wellington, a deep-dive into the influence of jazz on 1920s menswear, and a live Q&A with FIT during the YouTube stream.

Alice Neel’s 1978 portrait Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian

At 7pm, join the Met for the online opening of its new exhibition, Alice Neel: People Come First, which features over 100 works by this beloved New York artist, considered one of America’s greatest 20th century portrait painters. You’ll find out all about how an artist who labored for decades in relative obscurity was drawn to document political movements, people, styles, and community in paint.

At 8pm, join MoMA for Virtual Views: Alexander Calder, a Live Q&A in honor if its new exhibition about Calder, MoMA’s founding, and modernism. The event will feature conversation with the artist’s grandson, who leads the Calder Foundation.

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Update

1539 box for crossbow bolts made for the Bavarian duke. Value = 6 cows

We’re glad to report that the Met has extended its exhibition on the value of Renaissance art through the end of the 2021!  See it on the way to the Lehman Wing and the Dutch masters exhibition, and read about it (and the cows) in our February post The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth.

 

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Broadway Memories, Irish History, French Culinary Getaway, and Black Rock

Joe Allen’s West 46th Street Broadway institution on Restaurant Row.

This week, NYC museums are offering 45 on-line events (mostly free) on Broadway, St. Patrick’s Day-inspired programs, music, and artist talks…even magic!  See the full list on our virtual events page.

Have you ever wanted to spend time at a Broadway hang-out with all the show people?  Today (March 15) at 5:30pm, drop in on a 2016 interview with the late Joe Allen, whose Restaurant Row spot provided a home since for decades of Broadway stars, fans, actors, dancers, and producers. Hits, flops, feuds, gossip, deals, and more each night at the bar. The New York Public Library of Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is showing this video for the first time to commemorate a true Broadway original.

Meet MoFAD Tuesday to explore the diverse flavors of Marseilles.

On Tuesday (March 16) at 6pm, travel to abroad with the Museum of Food and Drink in A Taste of Marseille: A Virtual Tour and Tasting with Culinary Backstreets. Enjoy a guided tour of Marseille’s diverse neighborhoods and foods. It’s too late to order the ingredients from MoFAD, but you can still be a fly on the wall for the food prep, and enjoy early evening apéro and Provençal snacks.

Irish servants’ quarters at Merchant’s House.

At 7pm, learn about the women of rock in a special performance and panel at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the Women’s Jazz Festival 2021. Enjoy Black Women in Rock & Roll and meet author Maureen Mahon, DJ Lynnée Denise, and Amythyst Kiah for performances and conversation.

On St. Patrick’s Day (Wednesday) at 6pm, see what working life was like for the first generation of young Irish women to make New York City their home. The Merchant’s House Museum takes you on a virtual historic home tour, In the Footsteps of Bridget Murphy, emphasizing what it took for servants to keep an 18th century townhouse humming and the lady of the house happy.

Installation view of 2015 painting by Kerry James Marshall at New Museum

At 8pm, enjoy a mix of Irish history with a little magic in a special program at the New-York Historical Society – Celtic Magic: Exploring Irish History through Grand Illusion. Illusionists Daniel GreenWolf and Bella GreenWolf will take you on an entertaining, surprising journey from the ancient Celts to Irish immigrants

On Thursday at 4pm, the New Museum continues its series of conversations with artists featured in its exhibition, Grief and Grievance. This week, do not miss acclaimed artist Kerry James Marshall in conversation with New Museum artistic director Massimiliano Gioni.

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Calder’s 1934 sculpture A Universe at MoMA

This week, we were able to do a quick spin around MoMA’s new exhibition, Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. The new show had a steady flow of visitors, with everyone loving it!  People were taking selfies with the larger sculptures and standing mesmerized by the Snow Flurries mobile dancing with its shadow.

We’re also looking forward this week to the Whitney’s preview of the Julie Mehretu retrospective, opening March 25, and the Met’s opening of the Alice Neel retrospective, opening March 22.

Weekly Virtual Museum Events – Jim Dine, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Frida Khalo and New Artists

Jim Dine talking drawings online at The Morgan on Wednesday

This week, NYC museums are offering 35 on-line events (mostly free) on design, art, history, architecture, fashion, and performance.  See the full list on our virtual events page.

But we want to alert you to several events in connection with some of the brand-new exhibitions in town:

On Wednesday (March 10) at Noon, the Morgan Library is sitting down with Jim Dine to talk about classical and contemporary drawing. The program is being held in association with the Morgan’s new exhibition, Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection. Register here for the on-line session (free, but limited seats). Jim will be talking about his own work that’s in the show and how his commitment to drawing relates to work by other artists included, such as Rubens, Ingres, Picasso, and Matisse.

Niki de Saint Phalle arrives at MoMA PS1. Interior view of Empress, Tarot Garden, Italy

On Thursday (March 11) at 1pm, join MoMA PS1 for the launch of the catalogue for its newest exhibition, Niki de Saint Phalle: Structures for Life. Although Niki’s work was everywhere in the latter part of the 20th century, this exhibition marks her first New York retrospective. Curators, admirers, and artists come together at this panel to discuss the exhibition and her daring, provocative installations, ideas, and work.

At 2pm, the Cooper-Hewitt will host another conversation in honor of Willi Smith’s passion for making art outside of the dressmaking atelier – Art, Fashion, Performance: Seeing Through Creative Collaboration.

1939 portrait of Frida by Nickolas Muray. © Nickolas Muray Archives

At 6pm, the Museum at FIT is debuting a pre-recorded video with the curator of the acclaimed exhibitions in Brooklyn in 2019 on Frida Khalo’s style and art. Fashion curators from FIT will be running a live Q&A during the YouTube premiere of Curating Frida Kahlo: Fashion & Prosthetics.

On Friday (March 12) at 6pm, join the curators at El Museo del Barrio for an on-line tour of their important, new show on emerging artists – Estamos bien – La Trienal 20/21. The pandemic delayed the in-gallery opening of this important survey of new art, so El Museo put the work on line, and is just now welcoming in-person visits to its Fifth Avenue home. Check it out and see what’s new.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s story in Grief and Grievance at the New Museum

At 7pm, join the New Museum to meet with another incredible artist participating in Grief and Grievance, the exhibition that has all of New York buzzing. LaToya Ruby Frazier, who has a compelling, wall-sized autobiographical work in the show, will be talking with Margot Norton – a discussion that you shouldn’t miss.

And in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, the Tenement Museum will be hosting a special on-line tour of the Moore family’s flat on Saturday (March 13) at 7pm and on Sunday (March 14) at 4pm.  Next week, too!

There’s a lot more happening, so check the complete schedule. Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

KAWS: WHAT PARTY © KAWS. Photo: Michael Biondo

New York has some exciting new shows coming on line right now! Last week, the Brooklyn Museum opened its big art-commerce-culture exhibition, KAWS: What Party, to celebrate 25 years of audacious work by Brooklyn’s own Brian Donnelly.

On March 11, Japan Society finally reopens its exhibition space with When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan. In honor of the earthquake’s tenth anniversary, the exhibition is a tribute to the resilient spirit of Japanese architecture and craftsmanship.

On March 14, MoMA opens Alexander Calder: Modern from the Start. We saw the workmen putting on the finishing touches on the third floor when we swung by MoMA this week to check out the other new show in the design galleries – Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.

The Met Asks What the Renaissance Thought It Was Worth

1608 chalice by Otto Meier, Germany. Value = 255 cows.

What kind of art and collectables were Northern Europeans buying in the 16th century? How much were they paying?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art answers that question in a highly creative way in its exhibition, Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance, on view through January 2022.

The gallery is filled with a wide range of beautiful objects made in the Renaissance – ceramic containers, cups made from natural shells, bejeweled chalices, gorgeous drinking glasses, fancy sporting boxes, and portable desktop personal shrines. At a distance of 400 years, museums and modern viewers regard them as priceless treasures.

1530-1535 glass painted by Dirck Vellert, Flanders. Value = 12 cows

But the Met curators wondered how much these items cost in their day. How rare were these items in the collection? How much did collectors value them? And how did Renaissance makers market them?

The curators dug into assessments of royal holdings, craft guild price lists, and estate inventories. But understanding pricing was complicated because each price list used different regional European currencies (gilders, shillings, florins, and so forth). Then a light bulb went off.

Across Europe, the price of a cow was stabilized at 175 grams of silver. So, the cost of every item in the show is shown in cows!

15th c. British or French pilgrims’ badge with Saint Leonard. Value = ½ cow

It’s fun to view the museum’s treasures from this perspective – how many cows was each piece of art worth? Take a look at our Flickr album, which shows some of our favorite treasures from low to high value.

Two of the least expensive items in the show are the ceramic jug used for a silly drinking game (value = 1/8 cow) and the sought-after pilgrim pins that you could pin to your hat to show that you had actually made and completed your pilgrimage across Europe (value = ½ cow). The mass-produced traveler pins seem a little pricey, but probably not compared to the cost of the trip itself. In any case, the pin was probably the only piece of art owned by the lower classes.

Nobleman’s multi-game board made in 16th c. Spain. Value = 14 cows

Wealthy patrons were attracted to over-the-top virtuoso pieces made from high-priced materials – elaborate traveling game board sets with exotic inlays (14 cows) and silver utilitarian art pieces (10 cows). Commissioning a work from a well-known goldsmith, glass painter, or locksmith drove up the price, especially if you wanted upscale materials.

If you ordered something in solid silver, you could melt it down in a pinch if you needed the cash.

Just like the latest smart device, collectors went wild over buying the latest technological marvel, like automaton clocks (21 cows) or rare natural wonders.  Unusual natural materials and virtuosity really drove up the price. Coconut-shell cups with silver (11 cows) or ruby-eyed rock-crystal carved birds (275 cows), anyone?

1602 nautilus shell cup, Netherlands. Value = 18 cows.

High-end collectors created cabinets to store their “curiosities” and reveled in showing guests how their advanced mechanical wonders worked or talking about where in the world the unusual materials were sourced.

With economies booming, the merchant and the middle classes desperately wanted to emulate the upper classes, so over the course of the 16th century, demand for fabulous objects only grew. Some makers began using molds to decorate or replicate sculptures to create attractive, but less expensive works for middle-market buyers, such as decorative molded German stoneware (1/2 to ¾ cow).

Some cities began hosting annual art markets, drawing buyers from across Europe. Guilds enhanced distribution by setting up trading posts for their wares in key market towns.

1580 rock crystal bird ruby eyes, Nuremburg. Value = 275 cows

Different from today’s art market that sees paintings at auction in the millions, classical paintings during the Renaissance were relatively inexpensive (5 cows).  Works that emanated and reflected “divine light” were highly prized – painted glass (12 cows), alabaster sculptures (40 cows), and bejeweled chalices (255 cows). And tapestries, which took forever to make, were considered the ultimate luxury.

To capitalized on the demand, the design/art stars of the day worked across media, elevating value of less expensive works by putting their highly prized monograms on prints and ceramics as well as high-end masterpieces, channeling their inner Andy Warhol.

Take a look at all of the wonders in the show on our Flickr album and on the Met website, were you can click on each work and then click to see where it falls on the museum’s incredible, feature-rich Timeline of Art History.