MAD History of Modern Art Jewelry

45 stories about modern art jewelry, such as Greenwich Village designer Arthur Smith

Sleek, modern, space-age, intricate, architectural, political, satirical, and comic – all descriptions of the array of modern-art jewelry selected by the Museum of Arts and Design exhibition, 45 Stories in Jewelry: 1947 to Now, on display on the second floor.

The second-floor space features a tour through modern-art jewelry’s evolution from a craft pioneered by studio artists like Art Scott and Alexander Calder to its current status as a respected and valued sector of today’s international art market.

MAD has shown art jewelry since it was founded in 1956, and its full collection now numbers 930 pieces. After redesigning its art jewelry exhibition area, MAD decided to mount a show to honor the extraordinary scope of its collection and place selected artworks into the broader context of art history.

1966 sterling silver body ornament by Arlene Fisch

Two rings of white cases offer visitors opportunities to peer into each story, see a spectacular or provocative piece, and read about its designer and context.

In every visit to this show, we saw jewelry lovers fully engaged, pouring over every detail of the craftsmanship.

The first case that drew our attention was a Constructivist pin by Margaret De Patta, a passionate California artist became immersed in modernism through her New York art studies in the Twenties, but really hit her stride in the Forties after training with Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. (This spectacular pin is prominently depicted on the museum’s timeline of modern art jewelry.)

John Paul Miller’s 1969 molten gold Armored Polyp

The museum highlights the stories of Forties artists working in studios, like Art Scott, who created body-conscious pieces for the jazz artists and modern dance innovators who visited his Greenwich Village studio.

Another early innovator honored in the exhibition is John Paul Miller, who created stunning gold pieces using ancient, forgotten techniques discovered in his archeological research.

Stories from the Fifties show how an entire generation of American designers was influenced by Danish design, particularly the sleek work of master silversmith Henning Koppel, whose work was featured internationally through the Georg Jensen brand.

Charles Laloma’s 1968 inlaid silver bracelet and 1960 bracelet with inner turquoise inlay

Art works from the Sixties include the way-out sterling body ornament by Arlene Fisch, space-age jewelry by Danish designers Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum, and modernist Hopi jewelry design Charles Laloma, a ground-breaking Native American artist.

Stories in the exhibition from subsequent decades show how designers used their work to tell stories, make clever social comments, turn recycled materials into wearable art, display technical virtuosity, make magic, and create conceptual wonders.

Gésine Hackenberg’s earthenware 2008 Kitchen Necklace

The timeline in the exhibition details how art jewelry grew in popularity, entered museum collections, and began being shown at international art fairs.

Take a look at some of our favorites in the exhibition in our Flickr album and be sure to visit MAD in person.

Meet the 45 Stories committee members, who selected which works in MAD’s collection that embody key developments in the evolution of the art form:

Virtual NYC Museum Events – Stars, Cocktails, and Social Discourse

It’s a packed week with over 35 virtual events planned by New York City museums, featuring evenings with celebrities, conversations about society, the future of museums, and even an escape game. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Scandals recounted in the Tenement Museum’s Tuesday YouTube Live book talk

Tomorrow afternoon (January 12) at 6:30pm, the Fraunces Tavern Museum again collaborates with the Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center to explore the role apples played in food, drink, and the economy of colonial and revolutionary America in the continuing “Tavern Tastings” series.

At 7pm, the Tenement Museum hosts Tyler Anbinder, to talk about his book, Five Points: The 19th Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections, and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum.

Mystical transformation with St. Francis and the Morgan Library on Wednesday

 At 8pm, travel to the mountains of Arizona with the Newark Museum, whose planetarium experts host an evening of stargazing with Steward Observatory’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

On Wednesday (January 13) at 2pm, train fans can take a rare trip deep into the Transit Museum archives.

At 5pm, art fans can travel back to the 15th century with the Frick Collection to explore Bellini’s painting St. Francis in the Desert.

At 6:30pm, the Center for Brooklyn History (formerly Brooklyn Historical Society) hosts a discussion and book talk “The Authoritarian’s Playbook,” which links 20th century history with the events of the last week.

AMNH’s Neil deGrasse Tyson will summarize 2020’s important space news on Wednesday. R. Mickens/© AMNH

At 7pm, you’ll have to choose between three equally compelling events:

  • The astronomical year-in-review with Neil de Grasse Tyson at AMNH
  • A talk with David Byrne and Maira Kalman about their new American Utopia book at the Museum of the City of New York
  • The “standing ovation” meet-up at Poster House featuring an array of posters of the world’s most celebrated theatrical performers and five cocktails to match.

    MCNY hosts collaborators David Byrne and Maira Kalman on Wednesday. Photos: Jody Rogac, Cyndi Stivers

On Thursday (January 14) at noon, visit the Salman Toor painting exhibition at the Whitney, and at 3pm, see (and hear about) nature paintings in the collection of the New-York Historical Society.

At 6pm, enjoy a delicious trip to Naples with the Museum of Food and Drink, and dip into the Poster House archives at 6:30pm. At 7pm, join the escape game at the Newark Museum’s historic Ballantine House.

Brian Clarke’s stained glass panels at MAD

There’s more on Friday and Saturday, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

On Saturday at 2pm, be sure to join MAD to meet acclaimed architectural artist Brian Clarke, whose work is on display for the next month. Don’t pass up this chance to encounter a legend and hear about the entire scope of his incredible international body of work.

And a reminder for Sunday (January 17): at 1pm, take a tour of the incredible costume exhibition at the Metropolitan, About Time: Fashion and Duration. Even if you’re in New York, it’s not easy to snag a ticket to this show, so the virtual visit is the next best thing.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

At MoMA, 1923 Gum department store lightbulb ad by Rodchenko and Mayakovsky’s ad agency

Museum Updates

We visited MoMA this past week for last looks at the Felix Feneon, textile, and Judd exhibitions. The galleries were full of visitors looking at the Parisian posters, African carvings, Seurat and Matisse paintings, Anni’s loom, and Judd’s super-slick sculptures.

As hard as it is to say good-bye to these three terrific shows, we encourage you all to visit the latest at MoMA – Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented.

About Time: Fashion and Duration tour on Sunday

Lots of Russian avant-garde, typography and collage running wild, and branding in the early 20th century that you’ve never seen quite like this.  The extensive exhibition uses many works from the little-seen Berman collection, so you’ll be in for some surprises when you see it.

Although its virtual events are still happening, the Museum of the City of New York has announced a temporarily closure on Fifth Avenue for some emergency construction work.

Online Museum Events – Virtual Trips to the Sixties, the 20th Century Limited, and the Arctic

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

New York City museums are kicking off the first week of the New Year with a look at music and transportation history, far-away places (on Earth and beyond), and artist hang-outs. Find the daily listings for everything on our virtual events page.

Tomorrow afternoon (January 5) there are two fun historical programs: at 4pm, you can take one last look at the New-York Historical Society’s great rock-and-roll extravaganza (which ended yesterday!), Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. If you did not get to see the exhibition, don’t miss this … psychedelic posters, the story of the Fillmore East and West, how Bill’s artists got booked for Woodstock, how The Last Waltz concert happened, and lots of photos of the legendary stars he promoted.

The streamlined 1947 lounge car for the 20th Century Limited.

At 5:30pm, you go back a little further in time. Join New York Transit Museum educator Joe Hartman to hear the incredible story of the legendary 20th Century Limited luxury train that ferried celebrities between New York’s Grand Central and Chicago’s LaSalle Street Station in high style for decades. Learn all about how red-carpet obsessions were born.

On Wednesday (January 6) at 7pm, hang out with a few hundred science geeks at the monthly SciCafe at the American Museum of Natural History. This month’s topic is Arctic Dragonflies with museum curator Jessica Ware, who will explain how these little guys keep from freezing. The Q&A is always fascinating with this group, so stick around for that part of the program, too!

Reproduction of Orozco’s 1930 Prometheus mural at The Whitney

On Thursday, (January 7), delve into great art: at Noon, the Whitney presents a look at the three Mexican muralists – Orozco, Rivera, and Siqueiros – whose passion and techniques inspired a generation of socially conscious artists of the Thirties and Forties. Find out more about their work in the United States and hear how Pollack, Benton, Noguchi, Lawrence, and many others learned at the feet of the masters in this talk about the blockbuster Vida Americana exhibition.

Jesse Wine, 11:10 am / 15.10.1983 / 75 Heath Lane / Chester / United Kingdom / CH3 5SY, 2020, installation view

At 7pm, take a trip to the Sculpture Center to meet Jesse Wine, see highlights of his solo show in Long Island City, and hear about his past work and inspirations.

Many more programs are on the schedule, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule. Many of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

How Textiles Became Modern at MoMA

1977 Águila Beige (Brown Eagle) by Spanish artist Aurèlia Muñoz

Dramatic fiber sculptures welcome visitors at the entry to MoMA’s modern textile history exhibition, Taking a Thread for a Walk, on view on the third floor through January 10.

When the show initially opened back in 2019, visitors were greeted by Magdalena Abakanowicz’s imposing Yellow Abakan textile sculpture; today, it’s the wall-size Red Marca by Aurèlia Muñoz in its place. Inside the main gallery, Aurèlia’s Brown Eagle spreads out to fill the entire corner. But these fiber sculptures are really the finale to the exhibition’s story.

Yarn, prints, and fabric in Vuillard’s 1896 painting of his mother at home

Your journey through 20th century textile art is fleshed out using MoMA’s unparalleled collection of modern paintings, furniture, posters, film, and ephemera. Every time we’ve visited the exhibition, we’ve observed museum goers who are fully engaged, taking in every detail of the big story told by quiet works – how textile craft transitioned from small-time “women’s work” to statements within the big-time worlds of fine arts, commercial furniture, and interior design.

The first thing you hear upon entering is the clacking sound of a working loom. The sound draws you right toward an actual loom. Nearby, there are fourth-century Coptic textile fragments that were the first textiles to enter MoMA’s collection and a delicate sculpture by Ed Rossbach that echoes weaving’s ancient origins.

1952 loom used by Anni Albers in Connecticut

The pristine loom was used by Anni Albers, who revolutionized how American artists began thinking about, making, and innovating with textiles. In a way, Anni’s educational philosophy is the “thread” that connects nearly every other section in the show – teach students to execute the basics but push them to experiment in unconventional ways.

Using fiber and weaving to “learn by doing” extends back to the 1850s and the beliefs of German early-childhood educator Friedrich Froebel, who suggested that parents and teachers use “playthings” – balls of yarn and colorful weaving slats to spur kids’ creativity. His ideas caught on, with toy manufacturers offering commercial creativity kits. MoMA has 1898 versions from Boston in the show.

Vienna: corner of 1905 tablecloth by Josef Hoffman and Berthold Löffler

Around the same time, the British Arts & Crafts movement and rampant industrialization inspired continental innovators to create new schools and interdisciplinary movements that elevated textile design in the design and art-school hierarchy.

MoMA displays a beautiful tablecloth by Hoffman and Loeffler that exemplifies the design direction Hoffman and colleagues took with the Wiener Werkstätte.  Fabric designs by Elena Izcue are nearby, showing how pre-Columbian textiles served as inspiration for artists and students exploring an “American” design direction.

An entire wall is devoted to the ground-breaking work by Anni Albers and others from the textile workshop at the Bauhaus, led by innovator Gunta Stölzl, who encouraged interdisciplinary students to experiment by incorporating unusual materials, proportions, and colors.

Bauhaus Weaving Workshop: 1923-1924 work by Benita Koch-Otte

A short black-and-white film that takes you inside the workshop is projected next to a dramatic large-scale woven modernist statement by Benita Koch-Otte.

The back wall tells the story of 20th-century textile production and commercialization – a Soviet children’s book to explain how cotton is grown and turned into mass-market fabric, and commercial brochures, posters, and catalogues created by graphic artists who founded branding agencies to help European manufacturers market stylish rugs, draperies, and furniture to buyers.

1964 wall hanging woven by Delores Dembus Bitterman, an Albers student at Yale

Like Anni Albers, many design innovators fled Europe in the Thirties, worked as educators in the United States, and influenced the next generation of textile modernists through Cranbrook, the New Bauhaus in Chicago, and Black Mountain College.

MoMA shows plenty of expressive wall-sized works, fabric-covered modern furniture, and textile room dividers used to stunning effect by architects and interior designers in commercial spaces and open-plan homes in the Fifties and Sixties. A Seventies poster promoting furniture by Knoll reminds you that Brazilian and other Latin American designers were fully on board, too.

Stretch fabric: Bruno Manari’s 1964 hanging lamp and Pierre Paulin’s 1967 Tongue chair

Finally, the story comes back to where it began – liberation for textile artists in the Sixties and Seventies, like Sheila Hicks and others, to create large-scale sculptural work.

Walk through the exhibition with MoMA on its website and look at our favorites in our Flickr album.

To get an idea of how one contemporary master thinks about creating with textiles, here is a short video with Sheila Hicks, featuring her Pillar of Inquiry installation last year for MoMA’s reopening:

No Monolith but Judd’s Works at MoMA Deliver the Power

1968 stainless steel and Plexiglass tower (Froehlich Collection)

For anyone lamenting the disappearance of the Monolith and yearning to experience its minimalist magic, walk through MoMA’s Donald Judd retrospective before January 3 to understand how big, gleaming, super-sleek objects create such electrifying force fields.

Initially, journalists speculated that the Utah Monolith was the work of West Coast artist John McCracken. It wasn’t, but Judd was one of McCracken’s art-world heroes – a master who reveled in pure shape, pure color, and (when he wanted to) pure transparency. Judd also built repeating rectangles (seemingly not created by human hands) in remote western landscapes (Marpha, Texas).

On MoMA’s top floor, you’ll encounter wide, open spaces with spare, clean hard-edged objects inhabiting four galleries.

1964 construction of orange pebbled Plexiglass and hot-rolled steel. Private collection.

In the first room, you’ll see cadmium-red shapes from the early Sixties that Judd made in his Soho studio. The idea was to remove any gestures or evidence of craft in the work – just present the pure painted shape.

But to get the perfection he craved, Judd went one step further – engaging industrial fabricators to create large-scale works from his meticulous drawings. Industrial materials like aluminum, iron, and Plexiglass are transformed into magical rectangles, epic towers, and airy channels. See our favorites in our Flickr album.

In each gallery, visitors are invited to circumnavigate and explore the monumental works. One orange box seems to glow; another has a transparent surface that lets you peer inside. An enticing series of blue and silver boxes seem to let you peek through to an entirely different dimension.

1969 “channel” of aluminum and Plexiglass units (Saint Louis Art Museum)

Towers emerge from walls in each room – neat stacks of monumental rectangles, separated by exact amounts of space. It’s quite a sensation to approach one, look up, and feel its commanding presence. One silver tower seems to be emitting yellow light. A copper tower gleams a little from a subtle spotlight.

Judd wanted it this way – no interpretation. Just you and the large, beautiful, perfect form, as this short video demonstrates:

MoMA cautions visitors to remain at least six feet away from each of the works, but most admirers are cautious and reverent, taking it all in and giving everything its space.

Here, curator Ann Temkin talks about Judd’s work and the joy of bringing such a monumental exhibition to New York:

Take a trip through the installation on MoMA’s website here, and hear artists describe their experience of the show here.

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.

Virtual Visits This Week to the Guggenheim, Whitney, and a 19th Century Irish Home

If you can’t do an in-person trip to your favorite museums just yet, why not walk some terrific exhibitions with curators at the Guggenheim, Merchant’s House, Poster House, the Morgan Library, and the Whitney. The links to this program and other museum events are on our virtual events page here.

Chen Zhen’s 1999 Precipitous Parturition installed inside the Guggenheim in 2017

Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Today (November 30) at 5:00pm, visit the Guggenheim for a conversation about art, exhibitions, and installations in the iconic building. The Zoom session will feature works by Hilma af Klint, Felix Gonzales-Torres, and Pipilotti Rist to get the discussion rolling.

At 7:00pm today, join the International Center of Photography to meet photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon, whose book documenting Lower Manhattan’s architectural past was named one of the best art books of the year by The New York Times.

Hear jazz on The Four Seasons guitars by John Monteleone December 1 at the Met

Tomorrow (December 1) at 7:00pm, you will not want to miss the guitar quartet concert from the Metropolitan Museum’s MetLiveArts. It’s going to feature four  acclaimed jazz guitarists playing the spectacular “Four Seasons” set of guitars made by master luthier John Monteleone, which are currently featured in the finale gallery of the Met’s 150th anniversary spectacular, Making the Met, 1870-2020.

Learn about 19th century lighting inside the Merchant’s House Museum on December 2

Of, if you haven’t had enough of feasting, join the Tenement Museum at the same time to hear from Leah Koenig about making holiday treats and her book Little Book of Jewish Sweets.

On Wednesday (December 2) at 6:00pm, take a trip back to the past with Merchant’s House Museum to experience 19th-century domestic lighting and talk about how home lighting has changed in the last 100 years.

Artists Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith discuss contemporary art at NMAI on December 3

Thursday (December 3) events include:

A 6:00pm discussion of contemporary art at the Museum of the American Indian with Kay WalkingStick and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

At 6:30pm, an evening at Poster House that provides an insider’s look at collecting Swiss posters.

Photographers of Brooklyn’s Kamoinge Workshop, honored in the Whitney’s new show

At 7pm, a curator’s tour of the Whitney’s latest exhibition about the photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop in Brooklyn.

On Friday (December 4), get over to the Morgan Library at 12:30pm for a collections tour, and to MAD Museum at 3:00pm for a program on film-title design.

We’re particularly excited about the special free program that the Tenement Museum is hosting next Saturday (December 5) at 1pm with I.NY, a virtual celebration of connection between Ireland and New York, featuring a tour of an Irish family’s home on the Lower East Side in 1860 and a discussion with the University of Limerick’s Professor David Coughlan.

Visit the Moore family home with the Tenement Museum and I.NY on December 5

Many more programs are on the schedule, so register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

Most of the events are free, but it’s always nice to add a thank-you donation.

Museum Updates

Just a reminder that MoMA has just reinstalled its permanent collection in its new building. When the museum re-opened a year ago, the intent was to keep its collection moving, with refreshed galleries several times a year.  Be sure to visit and see what’s new!

 

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.

Virtual Visits with a Fashion Icon and Rock History

Poster Inspiration with Anna Sui at Poster House

There’s no fashion designer more rock-and-roll than Anna Sui, who will be (virtually) at Poster House tonight (October 19) to show posters from the Sixties and Seventies and explain how they’ve inspired her eye-popping, fun, funny, and magical runway looks.  Take a peek at our Flickr album of her retrospective this year at MAD Museum, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

Poster House, New York’s newest museum, has one of the best line-ups of virtual events in the City, so get in on this special “Poster Inspiration” event with Anna tonight at 6:30pm. Tickets are only $5, so chip in a few dollars extra to keep their programming rolling.  This week, Poster house is also hosting “Lippert & Lowry: Fireside Chats” on Instagram (October 21) and a virtual tour of their fantastic poster archive on October 22.

Anna Sui channels Sixties Fillmore psychedelic in her MAD Museum show this year

Continue the rock-and-roll vibe with Thursday’s morning virtual tour of “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” by the New-York Historical Society (October 22). Revisit the legendary Fillmore East and West. Find the links to this and so many other great museum events on our virtual events page here.  Here’s a few:

  • A double header on Agnes Pelton’s show at the Whitney: On October 20, curator Barbara Haskell will answer your questions live, and she’ll be back on October 22 with the panel that had been postponed, “Seeing Agnes Pelton.”
  • On October 20, makers are invited to a panel at the Cooper-Hewitt on to learn how to launch a design project, which is part of National Design Month.
  • On October 23, the Met will host artist Dred Scott speaking about Jacob Lawrence.
  • On October 24, horticulturalists can get an insider’s look at the medieval gardens as the Fall season begins at the Met Cloisters.

    Gardens at the Met Cloisters

There are also more chances to catch the Morgan Library’s virtual tour of the Hockney show, a full line-up of paranormal goings on at the Merchant’s House Museum, and more tours at the Tenement Museum. Take a look and register for as many of the topics and events that you can fit into your schedule.

Most events are free, but an extra thank-you donation helps everyone, big and small.

Reopening Update

Just a reminder to fashion fans that the Met will soon open its much-delayed fashion extravaganza, which should have debuted the first Monday in May.  It’s coming and we’ll keep you posted about a virtual event the Met has planned to give everyone a preview.

Agnes Pelton’s Meditation Chamber at The Whitney

Agnes Pelton’s 1929 Star Gazer, suggesting rebirth in a desert landscape. Private collection.

Have you wanted to enter a light-filled, spiritual place and be transported to another realm? Get a ticket to the Whitney Museum of American Art enter the Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist, on view through November 1.

You’ll experience six decades of abstract paintings whose shapes fly, hover, and float above desert mountains and in deep space – another dimension that feels light, otherworldly, and pure. Take a look at our Flickr album.

She began developing her style in the early years of the 20th century when abstraction, the symbolic meaning of color, and spiritualism were being explored in the New York art world, and she took to heart what she read in Kandinsky’s influential 1910 treatise, On the Spiritual in Art.

1926 Meadowlark’s Song, Winter. Courtesy: Maurine St. Gaudens.

The exhibition opens with a figurative work in the style for which Agnes was first known to the New York art scene –  an ethereal artistic woman inhabiting a dreamy, semi-abstract, soft-colored landscape. Her work earned her inclusion in New York’s landmark 1913 Armory Show – the exhibition that introduced “modernism” to America – in Gallery D alongside other young American artists experimenting with bold color and abstraction.

But the Whitney exhibition (originally mounted by the Phoenix Art Museum) is actually focused on the next phase of Alice’s abstract work, which reflects her embrace of spiritualism, experience with New Mexico’s desert landscapes, and interaction with creative, like-minded thinkers in and around Taos in the Twenties. Although she often accepted commissions for portraits or landscapes throughout her life, she considered the abstract works the core of her artistic journey.

1934 Orbits. Courtesy: Oakland Museum.

Like her contemporary, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes found inspiration in the Southwest desert. However, Agnes had a different artistic approach, using color, natural form, and abstract shapes to lead viewers into another realm of consciousness that exists beyond the natural world.

Agnes’s journals and notebooks are filled with lessons from spiritual teachers and with sketches for paintings with notes on what the different forms and colors mean.

Visitors to the Whitney show move slowly, taking time to digest each canvas and to appreciate the artist’s care and thought. Swooping shapes, illuminated portals, and clusters of abstracted forms take center stage, posing questions, and leading you into another dimension.

1947 Light Center, evoking one’s ability to transform. Private collection.

The center gallery features work done after Agnes moved to her desert home near Palm Springs in the Thirties, where she was transfixed by the quality of desert light.  She loved incorporating water and light into her works – two natural phenomenon that symbolize transformation and change.

The dark walls of the center gallery enhance the glowing nature of her spiritual canvases. Her technique is masterful, with layers of translucent washes applied to give the white ovals nearly a three-dimensional feel, like looking into the void of an Anish Kapoor sculpture, except that Agnes achieves the effect with simply a canvas.

Here’s a talk recorded last year at the Phoenix Art Museum in which Notre Dame professor Erika Doss explains Agnes Pelton’s spirituality and puts her work in the context of the modernist movement:

Reopening News

 The Whitney has just announced that the large outdoor public project on the Hudson waterfront by David Hammons will open this fall.  The other big announcement is that a one-year Biennial postponement will give artists and curators more time to view and prepare work that was put on hold by the shutdown. Read more about upcoming shows here.

At 7:00pm on October 20, Whitney curator Barbara Haskell will take your questions about Agnes in an online “Ask a Curator” event. Check our Virtual Museum Event page for all of the museum’s nearly daily virtual tours, talks, and walks on this and other exhibitions.

If you’re in New York, you can visit the Whitney five days each week, Thursday through Monday, with extended hours every Friday until 9:00pm. All exhibition spaces are open, including the magnificent collection show, which features mini-shows by Jacob Lawrence, Hopper, and Calder. Here’s our previous post about this fantastic exhibition.