For some time now, many museums have been reinstalling their permanent collections in new ways, moving away from a chronological progression to more thematic placements. Supposedly, thematic hangings are easier for visitors to understand — at least that’s the usual explanation for them.
Judith H. Dobrzynski's Real Clear Arts
Funny thing about collecting: Most of the time, collectors simply grow, rarely shrinking, and they need more space. Case in point: Dallas collectors Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, who are boosting their exhibition space. They and another couple, Amy and Vernon Faulconer, are opening a building to show their collections called The Warehouse. It’s 18,000 sq. ft. and is a joint venture with another couple, Amy and Vernon Faulconer. It’s opening with an exhibition titled Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The Warehouse will also sometimes borrow works from other private collections and museums, too. (Hat tip to The Art Newspaper.)
That’s not the real title of the exhibition that is now on view at Winterthur. Martin Bruckner, the guest curator of ”Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience,” talks rather about the “social life” of maps. But the exhibit is kind of a coming out for the Winterthur collection — a few of the items in the show have been on view, but it was mostly the maps on ceramics or paintings, that were tucked into the permanent collections rooms. The big paper maps have been tucked away in the library or decorative arts collections.
On Wednesday, I attended the American Federation of Arts’s panel titled “Art Museum Blockbusters: Myths, Facts, and Their Future.” But I don’t want to talk about blockbusters here, at least not today. I’m going to zero in on some comments made by one of the panelists, Aaron Betsky, director (for now) of the Cincinnati Art Museum (none of them are related to blockbusters, as the session wandered away from its original purpose at various times).
Gestures are important, and here’s one that deserves notice. Within hours of the bombing at the Boston Marathon last month, Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum,* reached out to Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, offering his support and backing that up with the suggestion that the Met lend a few paintings to the MFA as a special show. As a result, the MFA will put the three — chosen by Campbell and Met curators — on display during its “community weekend” over the three-day Memorial Day celebration. They’ll remain on view there until July 7, nicely taking in the July 4th celebration as well.
The Spring Show at the Park Avenue Armory, held last week, is a new event in the art calendar. This is its third edition, as fair organizers like to term their annual events. It is a mixed offering — mixed in the goods on offer (paintings, furniture, silver, jewelry, flags, artifacts, etc. etc.), mixed in quality, mixed in the geographical home of the dealers, and so on. At the opening preview reception, though, I found plenty of things to enjoy and admire, as well as some that were easy to bypass.
Having written about the exhibition of John Singer Sargent’s watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum before it opened, I was curious to see it in the flesh. I went over the weekend, and am happy to say that it lives up to expectations. One surprise — the color of the walls behind the artworks, which was melon, verging on orange. But not the neon orange the Brooklyn Museum has used in its American art galleries. Rather, it’s a soft orange that you might find in a posh apartment on Park Ave. You can get a sense of it in my picture, at left.
In Frankfurt this summer, the Städel Museum is presenting ”a major survey on the lifework of the famous painter and graphic artist.” Running from July 3 to Sept. 29, it will show an artist “once celebrated by the public and art critics alike as the ‘greatest German master’.”
As long as I can remember, I’ve been troubled by what I have here called “the male gap,” the fact that art seems to be much more appreciated by women than men. At least it’s women who go to museums more frequently. I don’t think that’s because of museum hours anymore — though it used to be. Most women now work, and museums have more night hours. But women still outnumber men at art museums — museum directors tell me that, and even government statistics, weak as they are on arts numbers, bear that out.
The controversy over the Miami Art Museum, which traded its name for $35 million to Jorge Perez in 2011, had died down. Trustees who quit over the decision and outside opponents (including me) had no choice but to grin and bear it: the $220 million project proceeded despite complaints that the Perez gift was not large enough in the whole context of the building. Nor were questions about the quality of the art he was giving as part of the gift ever answered.