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!

 

Virtual NYC Museum Events about Women and Tiffany, Tenements, and Lace

Dragonfly Lamp (1900-1910), by Clara Driscoll of Tiffany’s Women’s Glass Cutting Department (Cooper-Hewitt)

With Thanksgiving festivities this week, the list of virtual live events happening at NYC museums is a bit shorter. Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Some of the highlights we think you’ll enjoy:

Have you heard the story about the women of Tiffany & Co, who were so integral to the success of the design lab in the early 20th century? If not, you owe it to yourself to join the Queens Museum today (November 23) at 12pm to hear the talk by the Queens Public Library on Women at the Tiffany Studios in Queens.

Gather the family around tomorrow (November 24) at 5pm for a special live event at the Tenement Museum. Meet Victoria Confino, a 14-year-old girl living on the Lower East Side in 1916. Hear about her story of immigration in 1913 and take a tour of her apartment on Orchard Street – all based on the story of the actual young woman who grew up there.

Actress portraying Victoria Confino in her Orchard Street apartment

If you using the weekend to catch up on hand-craft projects, be sure to take advantage of this special behind-the-scenes tour of the lace collection in the textile department of the Met on Saturday (November 28) at 10am. Their collection spans centuries, and it’s a rare chance to poke through all the drawers with one of the curators. (If you want to see what we’re talking about, check out our Flickr album on a past Met exhibition on Fashion and Virtue that featured this amazing collection.)

1910-15 lace evening pouch by Callot Soeurs (The Met)

Check out this week’s schedule and 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

 This week, we got in to see the Met’s fashion exhibition About Time: Fashion and Duration, which was delayed for months by the citywide museum shut down. Fortunately, it gave Andrew Bolton time to tweak the display, which presents a mesmerizing, time-shifting look at the past and present of fashion. If you want to see this, be sure to get to the Met before 11:30am, since tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Plan to spend your day inside the museum, since your ticket may not grant you access until late in the afternoon.

#ICPConcerned – what photographers were seeing around the world in March 2020

There are two must-see exhibitions at the new Essex Street home of the International Center of Photography. If you are in New York, go down ASAP to experience Tyler Mitchell’s installation, I Can Make You Feel Good, and to look through the global response to #ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis. The walls of images from around the world is a time-warp experience that is no less affecting than the more elaborate, theatrical About Time galleries at The Met.

We also attended the press briefing at The Whitney this week on its new photography retrospective, originally mounted by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond – Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop, which looks back at the work of its 14 founding members back in the Sixties at the birth of the Black arts movement in New York. Go see it.

Politics and rage all laid out in cartoony form in Peter Saul’s retrospective at New Museum

Congratulations are also in order to the New Museum of its two hit shows – Peter Saul’s first-ever NYC retrospective Crime and Punishment (two floors of off-the-charts social and political commentary) and Jordan Casteel’s first solo museum exhibition in NYC Within Reach, filled with her masterful uptown portraits. Visitors linger in the galleries in an effort to digest the rich experience.

And if you are binge-watching The Crown, we’ll again plug the Brooklyn Museum virtual exhibition with Netflix, where you can examine all the fashion up close in virtual reality.

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 NYC Museum Events Far Away and Right At Home

Enhanced image of Pluto’s ice plains from NASA’s New Horizons. Courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

If you’ve wanted to get far, far away but reckon you’re going not going anywhere for Thanksgiving, New York museums are offering some exciting virtual trips as well as comforting at-home activities:

Do you want to get away? Is Pluto far enough? At 7pm on Wednesday (November 18), join the astro-visualization crew at the Hayden Planetarium for a close-up look (using genuine images from the New Horizons spacecraft) to explore glaciers, mountains, and dunes on the little planet. Just a $15 ticket for a trip you won’t get anywhere else.

Behind the scenes with New York’s most celebrated dim sum restaurant with Poster House Nov 19

If staying near the kitchen is more your thing, this week offers a few different options for cooking and looking:

Want to visit New York to enjoy that amazing dim sum? Here’s your chance to do it virtually.  At 6pm on November 19, step into the world of Chinese cuisine at Poster House with the program, Stories & Recipes From Nom Wah. Get inside one of New York City’s oldest dim sum houses as part of the museum’s programming in honor of its exhibition The Sleeping Giant: Posters and The Chinese Economy.

On November 19 at 8pm, the Old Stone House and Brooklyn Brainery are offering an evening on the history of pies, including pumpkin pie, meat pies and baked “coffins.”

History of pies event on Nov 19, hosted by Brooklyn’s Old Stone House

Maybe you just want to look at kitchens and not cook.  On Tuesday (November 17) at 3:30pm, the Tenement Museum is offering a tour of a 1930s working-class family apartment. Or at 6pm, you can join Merchant’s House Museum to walk with an historian through New York City’s only intact nineteenth-century family home (much more upscale!). Tenement Museum is also offering tours into other eras (1910 and 1870) later in the week. Check out the listing.

Roseanne Cash performs with Met Live Arts Nov 17 in a tribute to the eye of the collector

Find the links to these and other museum events on our virtual events page here. Other highlights of the coming week:

Beautiful music from singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash from Met Live Arts tomorrow (November 17) at 7pm in honor of the Met’s exhibition (and gift) Photography’s Last Century. Hear the music and poetry reading streamed live free on the Met’s Facebook and YouTube channels (no advance registration).

Young Hamilton featured on Nov 19 at Fraunces Tavern Museum  (Image: NYPL collection)

Ham fans can get their fix at his old hang-out, Fraunces Tavern on Thursday November 19, with a 6pm program, Hamilton: Man, Myth, Musical…Mensch. The talk will feature facts about his early life and a fun fact-check on the musical.

Or (same date and time), join young New York muralists to hear their reactions Whitney’s blockbuster exhibition, Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art, 1925–1945. See how the past influences their approach.

Take a look and 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

One of Salman Toor’s narratives at The Whitney

This week, we attended the Whitney’s virtual press conference on Salman Toor’s new exhibition. To get a preview and meet the artist himself, check out his conversation at 6pm tonight (November 16) with another New York/South Asian artist, Chitra Ganesh.

It’s good to see that our Revolutionary friends at Fraunces Tavern Museum are now re-opened in Lower Manhattan. They are hosting several Evacuation Day (outdoors) walking tours and upcoming virtual events depicting how the General said good-bye in the Long Room nine days after the British fled New York.

Cooper-Hewitt hosts Nov 17 working group on transforming museums

Are you a museum professional interested in the future of the visitor experience? Tomorrow (November 17) at 3:00pm, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt is convening a virtual working interactive event for you – Discussions on Transforming the Museum Experience. Small groups will convene to generate ideas and tools (to be published), led by an impressive roster of international museum representatives.

If you’re a student, thinking about going into museum studies, check out the same-day college-night get-together at Poster House at 6:30pm.

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.

Jacob Lawrence’s Modern Lens on American History

The Battle of Bennington, painted in 1954 – …again the rebels rushed furiously on our men. – a Hessian soldier

Nearly 65 years ago, a young WWII veteran immersed himself in history books up in Harlem and envisioned a modern way to bring key episodes of early American history to life on canvas.  Today, visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art are pouring over his 60-panel series – reassembled for the first time in decades – in the remarkable exhibition, Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle, on view through November 1.

Known for his enormous body of work chronicling the African-American experience, Lawrence’s American history series is largely unknown. That’s why attending the show and working your way around the room to learn about each episode is such a revelation.  Which episodes did he pick? How did he use modern, angular style to depict the struggle for independence and economic progress?

Sacagawea and her brother reunite

His series “Struggle: From the History of the American People” brings forgotten pieces of history to life and depicts many from a new angle – Patrick Henry’s rousing revolutionary rhetoric, regional skirmishes against mercenaries, the enlisted man’s view of the perilous Delaware River crossing, and treasonous whispers that risked undermining the Continentals.

Inspired by the Mexican muralists, WPA storytellers, and the city around him, Lawrence chose dynamic composition, symbolic colors, and an everyday person’s experience of historic events to create an intriguing, historic, and emotional narrative. Take a look at some of our favorites in the exhibition on Flickr.

1940s American history book opened to map of Lewis & Clark’s 1804-1806 expedition

Inside the gallery, the Met presents two of the books that Lawrence consulted as he planned the series as well as his funding proposal to produce a much more expansive work from the American Revolution through World War I. The notes on display show that Lawrence had the parts of history that could tell the full American story all thought out. Unfortunately, the series wasn’t funded.

The panels on view are hung in the order they were presented at Charles Allan’s gallery in 1956-1957, beginning with the lead-up to the American Revolution. Lawrence tells the story his way through conflicts, close-ups, and long shots, working in stories of Black combatants and women, like Margaret Corbin who manned the guns at Fort Washington.

1956 painting of the Battle of Lake Erie – if we fall, let us fall like men, and expire together in one common struggle – Henry Clay, 1813

Many of the events he depicts from the early 1800s have largely been forgotten –impressment of sailors by the British, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the destruction of Washington D.C., and the Battle of New Orleans. The series ends with epic undertakings by everyday Americans – the building of the Erie Canal and the westward migration to the Ohio and beyond. It makes you want to learn more.

If you are in New York, be sure to see this important show in person; otherwise, take a look through this series in the Met’s website. Click on each image to read the backstory of Lawrence’s take on that slice of American history and the quotes he selected for each work. Go on a visual journey with an American modernist master here.

Listen in to this recent program produced by the Met in association with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – the same library where Lawrence did his research in the 1950s.

Listen as the Schomburg’s director Kevin Young, arts curator Tami Lawson, and the Getty’s associate curator LeRonn P. Brooks discuss Jacob Lawrence, his scholarship, the WPA, Harlem, and the milieu from which his art emerged. Hear how a genius was made:

Other major works by Jacob Lawrence are on view at the Whitney Museum – he is a featured New York artist in Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art and his War Series, created after he returned from serving in the Coast Guard in World War II, has its own special gallery inside the collections show on the seventh floor.

 

Tenement Museum Opens Window via Virtual Visits

Kitchen on the Tenement Museum’s virtual tour of the Moore family residence

We’re happy to see that the Tenement Museum, one of NYC’s most beloved cultural centers, is not only offering in-person neighborhood walks again, but hosting virtual tours of the cramped quarters where our European immigrant ancestors first gained a foothold in America. This week, there is an opportunity (October 15) for everyone to climb those narrow stairs on Orchard Street, see the neighborhood (October 17), and help sustain the museum.

Check out everything that’s happening in NYC museums online on our virtual events page here.

And speaking of small history museums, we also want to mention the virtual events being programmed at the Merchant’s House Museum, which continues to persevere despite the massive construction project happening on the other side of its 1830s walls. Check out their pre-Halloween programming this week and throughout the month, and see what it’s like inside the place deemed Manhattan’s “most haunted” house.

Disco reigns supreme at Brooklyn Museum’s Studio 54: Night Magic

On our list this week, we also want to draw your attention to:

  • The Fashion Institute of Technology and Museum at Eldridge Street’s presentation on Berlin’s fashion industry in the 1920s (October 13)
  • The Morgan Library’s discussion of European blockbooks in “Print-on-Demand in the 15th Century” (October 15)
  • The Brooklyn Museum’s program with three Studio 54-era disco divas, who talk about how their music shaped the era ($10 on October 15)
  • The Bard Graduate Center’s presentation on Eileen Grey and architectural drawings (October 17)

For Tiffany fans on October 13, the New-York Historical Society will show off its spectacular collection. If you’ve never seen the upstairs Tiffany gallery at NYHS and heard the stories behind the lamps, do not miss this.

Last week, the Whitney had to postpone its Agnes Pelton panel, but curator Barbara Haskell will be answering questions on October 20 in a virtual event.

Take a look and 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.

Reopening Update

Poster featured at El Museo del Barrio graphic arts exhibition, Taller Boricua: A Political Print Shop in New York

The Bard Graduate Center Gallery had just opened its much-anticipated exhibition on Eileen Grey when the pandemic forced its closure. We’re happy to let New Yorkers know that BGC is opening up the doors to the in-person exhibition for two weeks, October 13-28. Reserve your timed tickets now.

We also checked out the newly reopened El Museo del Barrio to see the graphic arts exhibition on Taller Boricua, which presents over 200 works by artists at this historic print shop. There were plenty of visitors yesterday pouring over the works produced by activist Puerto Rican artists over the last 50 years. The museum at 104th and Fifth is open Saturday and Sunday.

Welcome back to the Museum Mile!

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.

NYC Museum Virtual Events on Hockney, Pelton, and Design

David Hockney, Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003. © David Hockney. Photography by Richard Schmidt. Courtesy: The Morgan

This week has a full line-up of (mostly free) programs featuring new exhibitions and topical issues from the art world and beyond. See the list of everything you can participate in on our virtual events page.

We welcome the reopening of the Morgan Library with this week’s most-talked-about exhibition on David Hockney’s portrait drawings from the National Gallery in London. This week’s virtual schedule gives you two opportunities (October 6 and 9) to take a virtual tour, but get the free tickets now since they are going fast!

This week on October 8, you’ll also get an opportunity to learn more from the Whitney about Agnes Pelton and her transcendentalist work from the curator herself, Barbara Haskell. Although the show originated in Phoenix and went to Santa Fe before its New York stop, the Whitney’s given over an entire floor to for you to enjoy the tranquility, spiritualism, and meditative power of Ms. Pelton’s works. Although Ms. Pelton participated in the historic 1913 Amory Show, she’s had zero recognition until now.

Agnes Pelton, Day, 1935. Courtesy: Phoenix Art Museum

Although the Cooper-Hewitt still hasn’t opened its doors, you’ll have an opportunity to celebrate the National Design Awards and National Design Month on line. This week features a virtual salon on October 8, but their website has a full roster of design, education, and maker events, too.

We also want to draw your attention to:

  • New-York Historical Society’s evening with Carl Bernstein and Maggie Haberman ($20 on October 8)
  • A live encore presentation from the New York Transit Museum on the cultural history of the 20th Century Limited (free on October 9)
  • October’s Sci Café from AMNH on hive minds and politics (free on October 8)

For Hamilton fans on October 8, Fraunces Tavern Museum will host an author who will dig up all the dirt between General Washington and his nemesis, General Charles Lee.

Last week, we joined ETHEL on the Met’s balcony on Friday night (a weekly digital event), and really enjoyed the digital effects that were added to a beautiful performance. We also dropped into the Brooklyn Book Fair courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Take a look and 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.

Reopening Update

Dancing dress by Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, as shown in Studio 54: Night Magic

It was great to be back at the Brooklyn Museum this week, where the community was enjoying the sunshine on the front plaza while waiting for timed ticket entry to the fantastic exhibition, Studio 54: Night Magic.  If you plan to go, budget enough time, because the time-capsule exhibition is massive.

For budget and safety reasons, only two floors of the museum are open, but that did not stop any of the art-seekers from checking out many of the special shows, study center, and permanent American gallery works. The first floor features an installation filled with amazing, inspiring photographs by a ground-breaking Parisian artist. Wow! Do not miss JR: Chronicles or Studio 54!!

Welcome back, Brooklyn!!