Virtual NYC Museum Events – Contemporary Crafts, William Blake, Lost Cities, and Tiffany Lamps

2018 furniture by Christopher Kurtz

With so many stuck inside during the deep freeze, why not tune into an ever-growing list of great virtual NYC museum events this week – meet curators that keep their finger on the pulse of great contemporary design, see works by William Blake and hear musical interpretations, find out why four civilizations were lost to history, and hear about the woman behind iconic Tiffany lamps.

There’s so much more coming out of our museums right now, so check the week’s listings on our virtual events page. Some highlights:

Glenn Adamson at MAD this week. Photo © Monacelli Press

Today (February 15) at 6pm and Wednesday (February 17) at 2pm, reserve a seat (virtually) at MAD Museum to hear Glenn Adamson speak about his downtown gallery exhibition at R & Company that showcases masterpieces of modern design and how it was inspired by the historic 1969 exhibition that introduced crafts as fine art in America. It’s a great chance to see what’s new in the context of art history.

On Wednesday (February 17) at 3pm, take a trip to the Morgan Library to see books and prints by visionary William Blake and new classical compositions inspired by it in Exuberance is Beauty: William Blake, the Viol, and the Book.

James M. Mannas Jr.’s 1964 No Way Out, Harlem, NYC

At 7pm, meet James M. Mannas Jr., one of the celebrated artists of the Whitney’s acclaimed exhibition, Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. He and the panel will screen and discuss King is Dead, a documentary he shot in Harlem about the reactions of people in his community to the 1968 assassination. His photographs of this are unforgettable, so don’t miss this chance to learn more about how he captured a moment of historic importance.

Calling all archaeology and history fans! At 8pm, join a discussion with journalist Annalee Newitz at the New York Public Library on her book, Four Lost Cities. She’ll fill you in on the rise and fall of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, Pompeii, Angkor Wat, and the mysterious Cahokia in our own Midwest – a deep dive into the lessons to be learned about urban life.

Designed by Clara Driscoll, the head of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department

On Thursday (February 18), do you know about Clara Driscoll, the woman behind the Tiffany lamps?  If not, join the New-York Historical Society’s history happy hour at 6pm to find out one of the most amazing stories showcased in their stunning galleries of Tiffany lamps.

Do you want to ride a subway car deep into the ocean to see what’s there?  Did you even know that old MTA subway cars are providing homes for sea life off the coast of South Carolina? Join the New York Transit Museum on Wednesday at 6:30pm to hear about what it took to turn the cars into an artificial ocean reef.

Some museums are doubling up on programs this week, so if you’re looking to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, Fraunces Tavern is offering two opportunities – Wednesday at 7pm with the Morris-Jumel Mansion to hear about New York’s impact on him and Thursday at 6:30pm on his “final battle” to build a capital city.

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

Museum Updates

Fragonard is moving to Madison Avenue as part of Frick Madison.

This week, the Frick Collection announced March 18 as its official opening on Madison at the Breuer. While Mr. Frick’s Fifth Avenue mansion is being refreshed and renovations happen, the curators are reinstalling their classics in the former Whitney Museum building (and former Met Breuer) for the next two years. Here’s the news about what’s planned. Tickets on sale this week.

There were long lines of members at the opening preview for the Met’s new show, Goya’s Graphic Imagination. If you want to get a peek inside, join the virtual opening online this Thursday (February 18) at 7pm.

Tameca Cole’s collage at MoMA PS1’s Marking Time: The Age of Mass Incarceration

Despite the weather, MoMA PS1 had a steady stream of visitors to see the acclaimed show presenting works by incarcerated artists, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration. It’s a major show that The New York Times cited as one of the best of the year.  If you want to meet one of the artists, join MoMA PS1 on Thursday (February 18) at Noon in their program, “Chosen Family: Marking Time.”

MoMA PS1 is open five days a week, and its expanded book store is now so large that you should think of it as a destination all on its own. (And in case you were wondering…as of this weekend, the corner diner is open and serving inside.)

MoMA Drawings Show How to Reboot

Detail of Chryssa’s 1959 Drawing for Stock Page

How do you start over when life is disrupted, everything is rearranged, and the world seems upside down? How do artists respond? A quiet show at MoMA lays out the answers in 80 works in its post-WWII exploration, Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury, on view through June 5.

Drawn from the museum’s archive of works on paper, the show illuminates the ways artists were seeking new means of expression following the traumatic years of the world war – turning to contemplative traditions of Asian culture, channeling under-the-surface emotions through abstraction, embracing chance in the process, and trying processes that no one had tried before.

Kline’s 1952 ink and oil drawing on cut-and-pasted paper

Visitors always seem to be taking the time to study each work and consider the ways each artist responded during a time of profound disruption, change, and promise. The works in the show, from across disciplines and continents, provide a contemplative window into the expressive ideas germinating between 1948 and 1961.

One of the first stories told by the beautiful, light abstract washes in the first gallery focuses on calligraphy-based experiments by post-war Japanese artists and their American counterparts. You’ll encounter beautiful, spiritual work by avant-garde Japanese artists that pay tribute to their culture’s calligraphic tradition.

Osawa Gakyu’s 1953 The Deep Pool, featured in MoMA’s 1954 avant-garde Japanese calligraphy show

In occupied Japan, students were prohibited practicing traditional calligraphy, so the surviving artists, such as Osawa Gakyu, took it underground, producing 100% abstract work inspired by the brushwork and style of the ancient tradition. Since New York artists were gaining global attention with their spiritual and expressive abstraction, the Japanese artists wondered if putting a modern spin on traditional techniques could gain them an international audience.

1956 ink and watercolor made by Pierre Alechinsky during his trip to Japan

They formed groups like Bokujinkai (People of the Ink) and began publishing a journal, Bokubi (Beauty of Ink). They found an eager international readership among forward-looking European and American artists who felt it was the right time to incorporate cross-cultural influences into their art.

In 1954, MoMA showcased avant-garde Japanese calligraphy in a special exhibition that brought wider recognition to the reinvention happening overseas.

1957 drawing by Kenzo Okada, done seven years after his move to The Village

Some artists, like France’s Pierre Alechinsky, were up front in his enthusiasm for avant-garde calligraphy and traveled to Japan to study. Others, like Franz Kline, eagerly absorbed exciting techniques from the new movement, but kept his enthusiasm quiet to avoid stirring up still-simmering anti-Japanese sentiments. Chryssa simply applied calligraphic strokes to the grid-like columns of newspaper stock listings.

MoMA also shows that influences were a two-way street, citing Kenzo Okada, who ultimately decided to move from Tokyo to Greenwich Village in 1950, give up realist painting, immerse himself in the AE scene, and set up a long, successful career in America. The show features one of his acclaimed abstract works.

1957 oil on paper by inspired abstractionist Joan Mitchell

The show also features works on paper by emerging abstractionists known for their hard-edge style, such as Ellsworth Kelly, Latin American modernist Willys de Castro, and Hungarian artist Vera Molnar.

In the latter half of the show, there’s an emphasis on joyous marks, color and process – a trio of crayon scribble drawings by Cy Twombly, gestural drawings (like mini-paintings) by Jackson Pollack and Joan Mitchell, and intense pastels by Beaufort Delaney. There are lots of examples of how visual artists used humble, small-scale materials to channel complex feelings onto a page. Often the results look just as epic as their big canvases elsewhere in the museum.

1953-54 Tomb by Sari Dienes, a gravestone rubbing with a flag

The process section of the exhibition features music notations by chance-master John Cage, but also showcases highly engaging work by artists who aren’t as well known today. Sari Dienes loomed large in the downtown experimental (Black Mountain/Fluxus) art scene of the Fifties and Sixties, and the presence of her large gravestone rubbing with flag explains directly why Rauchenberg and Johns felt they had learned from a master in their found-object forays through Lower Manhattan.

Experimental processes abound in the final gallery, evidence that artists everywhere were searching for new means of expression, letting chance take its course, and trying to usher in a new era of art making. Otto Piene’s dramatic drawing looks like he made tire track across the paper, but he actually created it by holding his paper over a candle flame and letting the soot make the marks.

Otto Piene’s 1959 drawing made by holding paper above a candle flame and letting the soot make its mark

Otto’s also the artist that founded Dusseldorf’s Zero group in 1958, stating “Zero is the incommensurable zone in which the old state turns into the new.”

Thanks to curator Samantha Friedman for taking his inspiration and creating such a satisfying, revealing show that’s perfect for making the transition from 2020 to 2021.

See our favorite works on our Flickr album and walk through the show with the curator here.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Harlem Heavyweights, Design Disrupters, Rap History, and Gulla Cooking

Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC talks with Kevin Burke at MCNY

Despite the massive nor’easter moving through New York, we’re assuming that the virtual NYC museum events are happening as planned – an opportunity get behind the scenes of New York’s hottest photography show, visit a West Coast design archive, meet a Rock legend, and dive into historic Southern cuisine.

Check the daily listings on our virtual events page to for these events and details on many, many others.

The Kamoinge workshop show at The Whitney. Meet the artists this week.

We want to alert you all to the upcoming opportunities that the Whitney is offering to showcase the photographers and work featured in Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop. On Wednesday (February 3) at 7pm, you can meet the Kamoinge artists live and hear them talk about how Harlem influenced their work. On Friday (February 5) at 3pm, see which artists used “the body” for inspiration and which contemporary photographers take on similar themes.

Two tours of the Morgan’s David Hockey show this week.

Also, just a reminder that there are two opportunities to walk through the Morgan Library’s David Hockney life-drawing show – on Wednesday, February 3 at 3pm and on Thursday, February 5 at 12:30pm.

Here’s how the rest of this week will shape up, with just a few suggestions (see the entire list here):

On Tuesday (February 2) at 4pm, take a trip to California with the Poster House to hear Letterform Archive’s Stephen Coles talk about (and show examples of) what happens when graphic designers break the rules of what typically constitutes good design.

Close-up of Swiss grid at Poster House. What happens when designers ignore it?

At 7pm at the Museum of the City of New York in the Your Hometown series, meet Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darryl McDaniels of Run-DMC who will talk about growing up in Queens during the Sixties and Seventies and how the lessons learned contributed to becoming a rap icon atop the music industry.

On Wednesday (February 3), you can join two programs that take you inside museum collections and exhibitions to ask questions about how indigenous cultures and artists are represented, and what is changing.  At 6pm at Bard Graduate Center, hear about “Indigenous Arts in Transition” from two Native American curators in Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Boy’s hide shirt made by female Crow artist in 1870-1900 displayed at the Met in 2017

At 7pm, join the SciCafe crowd for a talk and Q&A on “Museums and Race” at the American Museum of Natural History that has a long (and current) history of grappling with these issues. Anthropologist Monique Scott will focus on African objects in the collection in New York and other museums around the world.

At 8pm, join the Museum of Food and Drink (collaborating with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) for a fun dive into regional cooking in “Sustaining Gullah Geechee Cooking across Land and Sea.” You’ll hear a fascinating migration story told through food and learn how to make crab fried rice.

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

Museum Updates

Toxic Titan program at the AMNH Hayden Planetarium last week was a hit

We dropped in on fun virtual events last week at the AMNH, Fraunces Tavern Museum, and the NYPL’s discussion with Amber Ruffin, and couldn’t have enjoyed them more!

The Toxic Titan show with the Hayden Planetarium crew had nearly 400 viewers from around the world!  Congratulations to the virtual team, who even un-muted everyone to give the crazy-good speaker a live round of virtual applause!

Get to the Guggenheim by February 14!!

Before the storm hit, we were able to visit the Guggenheim to see Countryside, the Future, the spectacular show by AMO/Rem Koolhaas. Although the curators say you can either breeze through or read through it slowly, the crowds were definitely making the most of their time and digesting everything – the history of our obsession with country and leisure, the ways 20th-century leadership tried to reshape vast swaths of their countries, and the efforts going on today to reimagine non-urban environments in Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic, and everywhere.  It’s a must-see. Two more weeks.

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Women with a Message, Pop Shop History, and Toxic Titan

Gloria Steinem and Julie Taymor at Asia Society on Monday

So many virtual NYC museum events are happening online this week – an opportunity to meet amazing women, bring organization to your life, attend a premiere at The Met, and get the inside story on Saturn’s moon, Titan. Check the daily listings on our virtual events page to for these events and details on many, many others.

Today (January 25), at 6:30pm, you can join an exciting event at Asia Society – a conversation with Gloria Steinem and director Julie Taymor, followed by a panel of visionary activists discussing how visionary women are serving as agents of change as people in our world grows more interdependent.

Tuesday talk at Japan House

Is it time to pare down? Purge stuff? Feel more organized? On Tuesday (January 26), at 6pm, join Japan House to hear Fumio Sasaki talk about how to live a more ordered, fulfilling life – all included as part of the theme of his new book, Habit-Making: A Minimalist’s Tips for a Better Life.

At 7pm, enjoy The Met will debut a music and film collaboration on the life of Armenian-American abstract painter Arshile Gorky, who immigrated with his family in the early 20th century and influenced a generation of abstract expressionists. Watch the digital premiere of They Will Take My Island.

Curious about why Manhattan has such a big park in the center of the island?

Wednesday history of Central Park (NYHS)

On Wednesday (January 27), at 3pm, hear the New-York Historical Society talk about the origins of Central Park. You’ll get to see what’s in the NYHS archive, view the plans for its design, see construction photos, and learn about the shocking removal of Seneca Village, a thriving African-American community.

At 6pm, you can learn about more recent history with the Brooklyn Museum. Amy Raffel will talk about her latest book on the legendary Keith Haring, how he created New York’s most popular memes, and what he sold in his famed downtown retail experiment, the Pop Shop.

Composite infrared image of Titan from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (University of Arizona/University of Idaho/NASA/JPL)

At 7pm, join planetary scientists at the Haden Planetarium at AMNH to examine Titan, Saturn’s large but toxic moon. Understand the questions scientists are trying to answer, and whether Earthlings have lessons to learn from their solar-system neighbor.

Love gardening?  Why is that? On Thursday (January 28), spend the morning at the New York Botanical Garden with UK psychiatrist-gardener Sue Stewart-Smith, who will share insights revealed in her book, The Well-Gardened Mind – how people’s minds and gardens interact.

Gardens at the New York Botanical Garden

Get a perspective that you’ve never had before from people you’ve never met – participants in a ground-breaking filmmaking workshop. At 6:30pm on Thursday night, go behind the scenes at MoMA P.S.1 to meet the organizers of the workshop and watch films made by imprisoned artists in “Pens to Pictures” – a media showcase that accompanies P.S. 1’s art exhibition, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration that critics at The New York Times said was one of 2020’s best.

At 8pm, join the New York Public Library to hear Amber Ruffin, one of the funniest women in late-night TV, and her sister Lacey Lamar compare notes on hilarious and harrowing experiences with racism in New York City and Nebraska – all drawn from their new bestseller, You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey

Yes, it’s serious, but it’s also really, really funny.  Amber’s first African-American woman to write for a late-night network show, and if you’ve seen her with Seth Myers, you know what we’re talking about. Don’t miss this!

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

Mexican Muralists and The Whitney Rewrite Art History

1932 Zapatistas by Alfredo Ramos Martínez. Courtesy: San Francisco Museum of Art

When you enter the Whitney Museum exhibition, you’re surrounded by tropical settings, Oaxacan beauties, lush floral compositions, and the romance of Mexico. But a few steps beyond, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945  delivers epic struggles, monumental murals, revolutionary fervor, inspirational triumphs, and heroic views of everyday people.

It’s the most important art exhibition currently on view in New York, on view through January 31, because it shows how three acclaimed, radical Mexican artists – Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros – influenced a generation of artists in the United States with their commitments to public works, no-holds-barred graphic depiction of social injustices, and masterful, innovative techniques.

Diego Rivera’s 1931 fresco The Uprising – everyday people showing heroism in extraordinary times. Private collection

Take a tour through the show on the Whitney exhibition site, listen to the audio guide, and see some of our favorite works here.

The paintings, photos, and films in the first gallery celebrate a romantic vision of Mexico’s native heritage alongside works evoking poignant, sometimes violent moments in the country’s recent revolution. It’s a rich experience, with modernist photos by Modotti, evocative footage by Eisenstein, and riveting works by Khalo, Rivera, and Alfredo Ramos Martínez.

Orozco’s 1930 mythic mural Prometheus for Pomona College, California

But just beyond, you’ll glimpse galleries that promise deeper stories of emotional, turbulent, modernist angst. A half-scale reproduction of Orozco’s mythic Prometheus mural occupies an alcove, surrounded by works by artists he inspired –Jacob Lawrence’s pictorial history of African-American northern migration in 1910-1940 and Jackson Pollack’s early Thirties paintings that channel Orozco’s depiction of writhing life forces.

Take a look at The Whitney’s introduction to Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros, which shows life in Mexico at the time they developed their distinctive styles, gained international acclaim, and came to the United States:

Another startling Pollack reveal lies in the Siqueiros gallery that tells the story of the experimental workshop that the Mexican master ran in New York, where New York artist were encouraged to experiment with airbrushes, stencils, and paint splatters.

Pollack’s 1937 airbrushed litho Landscape with Steer – influenced by his workshop with Siqueiros. Courtesy: MoMA

Siqueiros was big on pushing the boundaries and using modern materials to create truly revolutionary work. Pollack’s experiments are here, along with the revelation that workshop participants were encouraged to lay unstretched canvas down on the floor and work from above. Sound familiar?

The magic of this exhibition is the side-by-side mounting that allows visitors to ponder the many ways that young Depression-era US artists took so many of the lessons of the Mexican muralists to heart.

Detail of 1939-1940 Charles White Progress of the American Negro: Great American Negroes. Courtesy: Howard University

The exhibition goes on to chronicle artists who were inspired to tell epic stories of the American frontier and forgotten African-American success stories. In one room alone, you can pivot and take in expansive, monumental paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Aaron Douglas, and Charles White.

Another section of the show looks at Diego Rivera’s fascination with American industrialization and assembly-line workers, including a wall-size video of Rivera’s 1932 mural of Detroit’s Ford assembly line. The adjacent gallery shows his influence through WPA-funded works by Ben Shahn, Phillip Evergood, Thelma Johnson Streat, Marion Greenwood, and others. Gears, machines, heroic workers, and strivers in an industrial age.

Reproduction of Rivera’s 1934 mural Man, Controller of the Universe, originally created for Rockefeller Center

A “wow factor” at the far end of the gallery is the reproduction of the infamous Rivera mural commission for Rockefeller Center that was destroyed due to Rivera’s refusal to take out Communist references. You experience the uproar it caused by reading original newspaper clippings and magazine articles. When his work was destroyed, Mexico City’s Palace of Fine Arts invited him to recreate it. That’s the reproduction at the Whitney, giving everyone a chance to experience a piece of lost New York art.

Many exhibition visitors miss one of the most satisfying components of the show – a three-channel video of the murals done by a host of painters (under Rivera’s direction) in a market in Mexico City. Walk to the right corner of the big Rivera mural and step inside the Abelardo L. Rodriguez Market to see murals created by Ramón Alva Guadarrama, Marion and Grace Greenwood, Noguchi, and others:

Folk Art Museum Tells 85 American Stories

Eliza Gordon, as she arrived in 1833 for her first job at a New Hampshire textile mill

When you enter the exhibition American Perspectives: Stories from the American Folk Art Museum Collection, on view at Lincoln Square through January 3, you may experience a nostalgic feeling seeing images of early Americans, spectacularly pieced quilts, and finely carved wooden relics of bygone eras.

But the purpose in bringing all of these small masterpieces together is to present the in-depth stories behind the creators and subjects, which adds a completely different, lively layer to the journey through the three galleries – tales of itinerant portrait painters, stagecoaches along America’s first turnpikes, independent women surviving husbands and adventures in the Wild West, and back-country singing masters making their own teaching tools from roots and berries.

1790 love letter drawn by Christian Strenge, a former Hessian mercenary who settled in Pennsylvania

The stories make each work come alive, taking you back to the founding of America, looking at how people moved around in the Nation’s early years, made social-justice and political statements through their art, and used their artistic skills to transform their lives. 

The first section of the show has several works with early German immigrants, many of whom came to America as Hessian mercenaries fighting for the British and stayed as citizens, using their artistic skills to pen intricate love letters and embellish important documents.

Portraits come alive as you see the fresh face of a 20-year-old mill worker (Eliza Gordon) who just arrived to take on her first independent job after leaving the family farm, portraits of new arrivals from the East Coast (the Bosworth siblings) who were starting new lives in up-and-coming Illinois, or a wife (Mrs. Bentley) committed to abolition who ran a famous spa in upstate New York in the early 1800s.

1983 Freedom quilt by Jessie B. Telfair of Parrott, Georgia

It’s not always easy to tell just from looking when works were made, and many come from the 20th century, often from a period later in the artist’s life – the drawing made by a Romanian immigrant (Ionel Talpazan) who used his art to work out his experience with a UFO as a child, the artist (Jessie B. Telfair) who made quilts in the Eighties to channel her feelings about being punished for registering to vote in Georgia in the Sixties, and a painter (Lorenzo Scott) whose portraits cast Atlanta beauties as Renaissance royalty whose style impressed him when he hung out at the Met in the years he lived in New York.

1918 Coney Island carousel horse by Charles Carmel and 1965 Workers’ Holiday by Ralph Fasanella

In the stories told about artworks involving far-away destinations, we learn that sea captain portraits were used as substitutes for husbands gone for years at a time, that many 18th-century students learned geography by copying intricate maps of exotic animal habitats, and that overhead rail was the magical mechanism that brought working-class people to the over-the-top fantasy destination of Coney Island.  

The curators point out that the grand 1888 Grover Cleveland quilt was created by a woman who was a passionate political supporter. The quilt was her way of casting a vote for her favorite candidate, even though she did not yet have the right to vote. She even used the red-bandana campaign swag as the center!

Next to this, there’s a masterful “quilt” made out of wood by New Orleans artist Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, an Afro-Creole artist living in Treme.

Detail of 2014 wood “quilt” by Katrina survivor Jean-Marcel St. Jacques, Mother Sister May Have Sat in That Chair When She Lived in This House Before Me

The spectacular wall-sized work is pieced together from pieces of furniture that he salvaged from his home following his neighborhood’s devastation by Hurricane Katrina. Some of it pre-dated his residency, so the assemblage contains layers and layers of local history.

The final gallery contains works by people who used art to transform their lives ­– one of the thousands of abstract drawings made each night in West Virginia by Eugene Andolsek to relieve his workplace stress, and a large tiger with a personality carved and painted by Felipe Benito Archuleta, who was out of work in the Sixties and began carving animals to sell in Santa Fe.

1977 Tigere by Felipe Benito Archuleta

His whimsical creations not only led to a wildly lucrative art career, but jump-started an entirely new direction for the New Mexico art market.

These tales are only a few of the 85 told by this exhibition.  Download all the stories here, and enjoy some of our favorite works of art in our Flickr album.

Exhibition curator Stacy C. Hollander provides a virtual tour and shares some of her favorite stories about early-American artists and 19th-century travelers in this video below.

Stacy provides lots of background on Eliza Gordon and what her work was like in the textile industry. The video also tells the incredible story of Emma Rebecca Cummins (maker of the crazy-quilt trousseau robe), who was married four times, lived in five Eastern and frontier states (also Canada!), and worked as one of the first female Western Union telegraphers out West.

Enjoy getting to know the backstories of some of the incredible artists among the 85 featured in this tribute to American working artists, activists, and visionaries:

Genius Artist Reinterprets Brooklyn’s Native American Archives

Moccasins at the feet of 1904 Dying Indian sculpture by Charles Cary Rumsey. On Gibson’s mural, a study for Rumsey’s Manhattan Bridge buffalo-hunt frieze.

The Brooklyn Museum invited a MacArthur genius to dig through its vast Native American collection and archives, use it alongside his own thought-provoking contemporary art work, and take visitors minds for a spin. The colorful, creative, memorable results are on display across three galleries in Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire Is Applied to a Stone It Cracks, on view through January 10. Take a look in our Flickr album.

Gibson, a big thinker whose heritage is Choctaw/Cherokee, does work that challenges people to think differently about Native Americans today and to question the assumptions about their “disappearance” from the national dialogue. Flying above art-world silos, he works at large and small scales, employs colleagues who are experts in beadwork and mural making, and shows art-gallery works as well as more conceptual projects.

Custom 19th and early 20th-century moccasins from the Brooklyn Museum collection.

His Brooklyn show begins by presenting a monumental 1904 “Dying Indian” bronze by Victorian-era classical artist, Charles Cary Rumsey, and an array of moccasins from the museum’s collections made by unknown tribal artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

To the right, there’s a giant stained-glass work that says, “Whose World Is This? It’s Yours It’s Mine.” To the left, there’s a colorful gallery packed with Gibson’s contemporary art work, and historic beaded, painted, and pieced items made by tribal artists.

Scores of museum visitors who exited Brooklyn’s Studio 54 show were captivated by Gibson’s dynamic installation, entered, and explored.

Gibson’s stained-glass Whose World Is This? It’s Yours It’s Mine. Private collection.

Below the massive statue, Gibson wants us to witness how carefully Native American makers created and customized footwear for specific practical purposes and ceremonial occasions for specific individuals. Unfortunately, the beautiful beadwork and deft, custom designs by tribal craftsmen are unattributed – a contrast to the society artist’s imposing vision of Native Americans who are sad, vanquished, and gone.

To change the statue’s narrative, Gibson asked contemporary Pawnee/Cree artist John Little Sun Murie to design moccasins for the figure atop Rumsey’s horse, so the rider is now presented as an individual member of an historic tribe – not just a generalized stereotype. Listen as Jeffrey talks about moccasins:

To drive home the point that Victorian-era artists and anthropologists incorrectly generalized and romanticized Native Americans, Gibson adds two other small bronzes and a study for Rumsey’s buffalo-hunting frieze made to embellish the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge. (Just ignore the fact that the Lenape didn’t hunt buffalo on our shores!) His beaded works say it all – “I Don’t Belong to You” and “You Don’t Belong to Me.”

Gibson’s 2018, Tribes File Suit to Protect Bears Ears.

In the second gallery, Gibson shows his own recent creations with those bought on early 20th-century expeditions and added to Brooklyn’s ethnographic collection.

Gibson’s bright, geometric murals – which complement the museum’s vintage geometric-patterned tiled floors – provide a joyful backdrop for a brightly colored Seminole jacket, beaded hats, and other art. Gibson’s new paintings, sculptures, and patchwork garments use beads, colors, and messages on fabric – contemporary statements that hearken to the creativity and innovation of these unattributed artists. Take a look:

Ba:lawahdiwa, Zuni’s governor, and his family in 1890

The final gallery presents other artifacts and art that Gibson curated from museum’s vast Native American holdings, expedition records, and archives, and contrasts them with some of Gibson’s recent photography.

A large case displays a range of commercial, ancient, and ceremonial pots, expedition photographs, and drawings of Pueblo life made by expedition artists over 100 years ago. In one instance, Gibson reunites several photos of a Zuni family, normally stored apart from one another the museum’s archives.

Gibson relishes showing how Native American artists still thrive today and how over the centuries they have adapted their materials and creativity for both commercial art-markets and their own expressive purposes.

Gibson’s 2019 photo Regan De Loggans. Courtesy: Gibson & Sikkema Jenkins

For example, he features a photograph of a young early 20th-century Navajo weaver, creating traditional Indian” rugs for a trading post with new, more colorful materials that Mr. Hubbell supplied. Gibson also unearthed a tourist map on where to find different California tribes and buy their wares – a direct rebuke to the concept that all these people “vanished.”

Best of all, Gibson also features several gorgeous recent photographs, including tribal artist-activists.

Visit Jeffery’s studio in this video produced for the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Hear him talk about his evolution, his creative process, and his team up in Hudson:

150 Years of Splendor at The Met

Entrance with Noguchi’s 1945 Kouros and Rodin’s controversial 1876 sculpture

The Met has pulled out all the stops on its 150th birthday show, Making the Met, 1870-2020, on view at Fifth Avenue through January 3 – incredible installation, intriguing stories, and a phenomenal digital showcase. So even if you can’t come to New York to see it in person, the Met website has it all!

The exhibition tells the story of the Met over the last 150 years – from its first incarnation in a house on 14th Street to its ever-expanding footprint in Central Park – shows the incredible art that benefactors donated, and relays the stories of the men and women who made it happen.

Head of a Hindu god, Bhairava, made by 16th c. Nepalese artists 

Walking into the dramatic exhibition entrance, you’re surrounded by figures from different eras and cultures – a little girl from 5th century Greece holding two doves, a gilded mask of a Hindu god beautifully crafted by Nepalese masters of the 16th century, and Avedon’s 1957 portrait of a pensive Marilyn Monroe.

At the press opening, senior researcher associate Laura Corey explained that these were chosen to encourage visitors to think about the people behind the Met – collectors, curators, artists, restoration experts, and other staff. According to Laura, the African power figure from the Republic of Congo was one of the first artworks chosen for the welcome gallery.  He’s looking right across to Marilyn, and they are sharing a similar expression and mood.

1906 photo of The Great Hall 

At Noguchi’s Kouros sculpture, you can look left or right down a “street” lined with arches – portals that beckon you to step into different chapters of the Museum’s history. Each arch proclaims the decade and the theme. In between, there are huge slideshows from the museum’s past ­– how the Great Hall used to look, ladies in turn-of-the-century hats taking their art appreciation classes, Fifties moms and kids looking at art.

We’ve included our favorite artworks in our Flickr album, but the Met has produced a spectacular multimedia walk-through (posted on Google Arts & Culture), where you can experience all ten stories through photos, films, and links to blogs. Definitely watch the silent 1928 “Behind the Scenes” film showing museum shops, painters, gilders, and photographers at work. No surprise that the museum was into multimedia way back then!

Houdon’s 1778 bust of Franklin and reflection of Manet’s Young Lady in 1866

Through the first arch titled “The Founding” (the 1870s), you pass a huge Cypriot head (the first director was into archaeology) and the first paintings donated by the founding trustees. Houdon’s spectacular Ben Franklin gazes quietly (and slyly) at Manet’s Young Lady in 1866 – the first contemporary painting in the Met’s collection. It depicts a life-size, modern gal in her dressing gown – an image that shocked early visitors to the Met’s classical galleries! Of course, Ben looks on approvingly.

Next, you’ll see a 15th-century Turkish turban helmet and 17th-century Japanese armor. The story here is that the Met green-lighted Bashford Dean, a zoologist and world traveler working at the AMNH, to begin the arms and armor collection. Other curators began collecting works on paper, textiles, lace, wallpaper, musical instruments, and contemporary designs. In the Twenties, curators headed straight to the UK to scoop up samples from Morris & Company.

1479-1458 B.C. statue of Hatshepsut, and Cleopatra’s Needle (1450 B.C.) in Central Park

Around the corner is a tribute to the deep-pocketed donors like Morgan and B. Altman, who gave the Met lots of upscale, princely treasures ­– paintings by Vermeer and Ingres, fancy furniture, and tapestries. A treasure trove gifted by generous benefactors fills a wall – pistols for kings, cosmetic cases for Egyptians, bedazzled tablewear, and Middle Eastern glass.

Back into the main “street,” you’re right next to an imposing, reconstructed sculpture of Egypt’s female pharaoh Hatshepsut with a stunning view of Central Park’s Egyptian obelisk through the window.

These lead to the stories of how the Met collected art via excavations of archaeological sites – the Kharga Oasis (1908), Egypt (1880-1931) with Wah’s tomb stuff, Nimrud (Iraq), and along an ancient trade route (1934). The intrepid Bashford Dean enters the story again – excavating a Crusader castle, but only bringing back “dismal finds,” such as Crusader lamps, melted chain mail, and shards of stained glass, and (our favorite!) a projectile from a Crusades-era catapult (1250).

1864 A Gorge in the Mountains by Sanford Robinson Gifford

Apparently, it took a lot for a fancy museum to turn its attention from Europe to collecting art from the Western Hemisphere, but wealthy patrons had the goods. The American room features Sargent’s best-dressed “Madame X” and an enormous 1830 honeycomb quilt by Elizabeth Clarkson, the first quilt to enter the Met’s collection in 1923. There’s also a gorgeous Catskill Mountain landscape by Sanford Robinson Gifford, once owned by AMNH’s long-serving president, Mr. Jessup.

A gallery packed with work by Degas, Monet, Cassatt, Cezanne, and their Japanese masters tells the story of the Havemeyers, the Met patrons who lavished the museum with Tiffany glass (likely picked out by Mr. Tiffany himself), impressionist masters (picked out by Ms. Cassatt herself), and much more.

I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold (1928) by Demuth

At the midpoint of the exhibition, you learn that Stieglitz had a rough time trying to convince the Met to honor contemporary photography. The Met also refused Ms. Whitney’s collection in 1929. Gertrude’s response was to start her own museum, which joined MoMA (which debuted in 1929) in celebrating modernism. The Met finally did accept modern works through Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1949 gift, and proudly displays a Demuth and Kandinsky in the show.

The Monuments Men story looms large, with Met curators playing a major role in discovering and returning art looted during World War II. There’s a 1945 model of an Army helmet prototype designed by the Met’s armor expert, hand-crafted in solid aluminum.

1965 Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian dress and 1966 Balenciaga coat

The largest gallery in the show tells the story of how the Met beefed up its collections and expanded gallery space during what it calls “The Centennial Era” – Islamic art, fashion, Asian and African art, and modern art from the 20th century.

The final story about the Museum’s current focus ­– adding works by artists and from regions that are underrepresented in its collections – is represented by a large El Anatsui piece, an embellished Tibetan saddle, a wall of art guitars, a large Faith Ringgold story quilt, and other intriguing works.

The museum’s done a tremendous job online telling all the stories via its digital primer.  Click here to hear in-depth stories on the Met’s audio guide with Steve Martin, check out this video with his narration, get the backstory on every artwork in the show, and definitely visit the multimedia walk-through .

And check out this exhibition video showing how the museum’s architecture evolved to house these growing collections. In the 1880s, Olmstead and Vaux assigned a spot in Central Park for the Met. It’s interesting that one of the initial designs (which no one liked) was not scheduled for completion until 1990!! It’s a microcosm of 150 years of architecture and history.

The Man Who Revolutionized US Rock

Bonnie McLean poster for Fillmore Auditorium July 1967. Courtesy: Bahr Gallery

It’s a trip back to the birth of Sixties youth culture, guitar virtuosos, the Fillmore, and multimedia extravaganzas in the New-York Historical Society exhibition, Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution, on display through January 3.

The show, originally organized by LA’s Skirball Cultural Center, tells the story of the man who created the Fillmore, catapulted legendary bands to fame, grew concert audiences to stadium size, and gave back to society by organizing once-in-a-lifetime benefit concerts televised throughout the world.

Photos, show posters, videos, rock and soul music, and even a wall from the legendary Joshua Light Show bring the story of Bill Graham to life.

Bill Graham in 1968 Fillmore Auditorium office. Gene Anthony photo in Graham collection

Graham’s life was saved by Kindertransport during World War II – a dramatic story told inside the entry to the exhibition. He was adopted and grew up in the Bronx, moved to San Francisco, and had the right skills in the right place at the right time to bring bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Hendrix, and Big Brother and the Holding Company to a larger audience.

In preparing the exhibition, the curators did original research into Graham’s early life and pulled artifacts, paraphernalia, and stories related to each decade of his concert-promotion career – leasing the Fillmore Auditorium in a largely African-American neighborhood, creating events that interspersed rock-and-roll acts with poets and new-age philosophers, securing larger venues in the Bay Area, opening the Fillmore East in 1968 in New York inside a former Yiddish vaudeville house on Second Avenue.

Joshua Light Show backs 1968 Mothers of Invention at Fillmore East. Courtesy: Joshua White

The show has plenty of the Fillmore’s promotional posters, and pays tribute to the artists who created them, such as Wes Wilson and Graham’s wife, Bonnie McLean. The curators also provide a few side-by-side displays of the original ink drawings for the psychedelic broadsides with the full-color printed versions. See some of our favorites in our Flickr album.

Despite the legendary status of the Graham’s two Fillmore stages, they only lasted until 1971. Although they were highly profitable, the writing was on the wall – the demand (particularly after Woodstock) to see the Stones, The Who, Santana, and other frenzy-inducing performers was too big to be satisfied inside the constraints of traditional theaters.

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Paige in 1977 and 1985 Metallica fans. Photos: Michael Zagaris and Ken Friedman

Through it all, Graham managed some stars, like Santana; created festivals featuring bands like Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, the Eagles in the Seventies; organized Dylan’s historic 1974 tour; and produced The Last Waltz for The Band’s farewell.

The exhibition lets visitors savor these memories and moments through behind-the-scenes stories about Bill’s relationships with the artists, who often said yes to Bill’s ideas because they knew he was a perfectionist who would deliver his promises, understood what made fans happy, and always saw the epic, historic perspective behind that moment in culture.

1986 Live Aid T-shirt with Ken Regan’s photo of US benefit stars. Graham and Regan collections

The exhibition puts special focus on Bill’s willingness to tackle the monumental challenges of producing nationally televised benefit concerts, such as Live Aid, and taking tours and bands to places in the world that had never seen super-sized rock events before – Moscow’s 1987 concert for peace and the 1988 five-continent tour for Amnesty International with Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Sting to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Watch the trailer for the show:

If you’re in NYC, go over to hear the music and see the show before it closes January 3.  If not, take this “Curator Confidential” walk through the exhibition with the people behind the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, who talk about the life of Bill Graham and the history they lived with him – a Zoom session produced by NYHS last August while the museum was still closed.

Anarchist Revolutionizes Modern Art at MoMA

1890 pointillist portrait of Fénéon by Paul Signac

He wasn’t an artist, but MoMA has given him a show that has everything – joyous post-Impressionist canvases, Moulin Rouge posters, color wheels, African masterworks, Italian futurists, street riots, manifestos, explosions, and mug shots. 

Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde – From Signac to Matisse and Beyond, an exhibition on view through January 2, will introduce you to a writer, critic, anarchist, and dealer living in turn-of-the-century Paris who championed Seurat, gave Matisse his start, coined the term neo-Impressionism, and went to jail for a few months after he was accused of setting off a bomb in a restaurant frequented by government big shots.

1891 painting by Paul Signac, Setting Sun, Sardine Fishing, Adagio, Opus 221

This gorgeous show was inspired by Signac’s pointillist portrait of Fénéon, which features swirling color wheels referencing their shared passion for Japanese design, pattern, and the science behind art. Books and ephemera by influential color theorists are displayed nearby, but it’s hard to keep your attention there when paintings by so many modernist masters are vying for your attention around every turn.

1894 Bonnard poster for the avant-garde journal Fénéon edited

Fénéon used his critical bullhorn to turn many artists into household names. Think Seurat and Signac, two of Fénéon’s early favorites. The first gallery is full of their beautiful seascapes and figurative work. Read the curator’s essay about the artists he promoted, and see our favorites in our Flickr album.

The curators let us know that these peaceful images and exuberant dance-hall posters were made at a time of serious social unrest and profound economic hardship for working-class Parisians by interspersing Fénéon politics-charged writings and socially conscious works by Vallottin and Pissarro.  Disruptive protests, nightlife, zines, and art all went hand-in-hand during the 1890s.

1905-1906 painting by Matisse Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

Fénéon spent several years as the editor-in-chief of a leading avant-garde journal, orchestrating contributors such as Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vallotton, and collecting their work along the way.  So, it came as quite a shock to everyone when the independent critic announced that he was taking a full-time job with a prestigious but conservative gallery in Paris.

Entering the second gallery of the exhibition, you see immediately how Fénéon used his notoriety and avant-garde chops to build up a contemporary art business and lure old-line clients into taking a chance on something new and modern.  He signed contracts with artists he had long championed, and gave an up-and-comer named Henri Matisse his first show in 1910.

Late 19th-c mask by a Guro artist from Cote d’Ivoire with 1920 Bonnard. Private collection; Musee d’Orsay.

It’s exciting to see a room full Matisse’s early work (including three that were in that initial show) and work by other artists that Fénéon both collected and sold, including a wall full of ethereal Seurat drawings.

Like many others in the avant-garde, Fénéon was a passionate collector of art from Africa and Oceana, and it’s thrilling to see so much of his original collection – now scattered throughout the world – reassembled inside MoMA.

Fénéon hated colonialism and railed against calling this portion of his collection “primitive art.” He lamented that the names of the artists who created such dynamic, inventive work were unknown and disliked having such evocative pieces relegated to ethnographic museums. 

19th-c cap by Tin Dama artist from Papua New Guinea (Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac) and Balla’s 1910-1911 futurist work.

He hoped that one day “art from faraway places” could take its place in the art pantheon right up there with works in the Louvre.

It’s satisfying to examine dramatic, powerful sculptures and masks from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, and Democratic Republic of the Congo against the backdrop of Modigliani, Matisse, and Italian Futurist paintings.

The worlds of ancient mythic power, modernism, and emotive color seem to be spending their time at MoMA having an active conversation – just the way Fénéon would have wanted.

Enjoy MoMA’s fast-pace introduction to this revolutionary modernist:

And now meet MoMA director Glenn Lowry and Starr Figura, curator of the exhibition, who show works from the exhibition and discuss why they mounted this show:

If you can’t get to MoMA, listen to the audio guide here, and enjoy the “colors”  playlist that MoMA designed.