Museum Exhibitions

Donatello at MOBIA

Sculpture in the Age of Donatello, the new exhibit of never-to-be-shown-in-the-U.S.-again Renaissance masterpieces, now at the Museum of Biblical Art near Columbus Circle [Editor’s Note: MOBIA is defunct as of 2016], would probably have been better if it were about sculpture in the age of Donatella– i.e. the 80s. Yes, the works by Donatello and his contemporaries, made especially for the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore or Florence Cathedral, are beautifully crafted and enticing. But at the same time, the reason to go to the exhibit is not for the wondrous quality of the sculptures displayed, but for the opportunity. The chance to see pieces that have never left, and will never again leave, their place in Florence is once-in-a-lifetime. It doesn’t matter that maybe Donatello hasn’t achieved the same level of life from within his sculptures (they don’t yet seem to breathe) as say, Bernini, because the pieces are lovely just the same. Lovely, meaning that they’re nice to look at, but not meaning that they are in any way more compelling than the next thing. As with all art, their power is subjective. Go and see if Donatello speaks to you. Bonus: check out the film next door that gives you an inside tour of the Cathedral the sculptures call home.

Cooper Hewitt Craze

Hate boring museums where all you do is wander from gallery to gallery in search of something that speaks to you or catches your eye? Sick of Van Gogh and Rembrandt, done with Léger and Miro?

I’m not. But in case any of you mentally said yes (at your private disclosure) to these questions, then I have an answer for you whenever your grandmother, parent, or pal feels the need to haul you off to some New York art institution for a day of culture: suggest visiting the Cooper Hewitt. Fresh (and, despite it’s location off Fifth, Park Avenue-style relaxed looking; think oxygen peel masquerading as a trip to St. Barth’s) from a facelift that took up a good chunk of the past decade, the Smithsonian CH Design Museum is back and better than ever. Inside the wood paneled mansion are multiple galleries and exhibitions filled with funky new technology and interactive features that let you craft anything from tables, lamps, and chairs to hats and wallpaper in a wide array of materials as long as you wait long enough for your turn at the smart-tables situated throughout the building. (more…)

The Past World of Italian Futurism

Visiting the Italian Futurism 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe exhibit at the Guggenheim was a very different experience for me then attending, say, a retrospective or a gallery show. It is not unusual for exhibits that have works from specific eras to seem like a history lesson, but in the case of this exhibit, the amount of information was overwhelming. I would say it would take a while to summarize the many plaques detailing the politics and themes and theories of the Italian Futurists, but to keep it minimal, the show focuses on how before, during, and after World War I, Italian artists struggled to convey their ideologies and manifestos through art. The exhibition opens by giving you a sense of what all of these theories and beliefs are; to tell you the truth, I didn’t find the whole thing too original as it read like the Humanism section of a European history textbook; conversations about the need to glorify man, etc. date back all the way to the Greeks, much less to the Renaissance, after all. Much of the beginning part of the show consisted of pamphlets and advertisements and prints, mostly in Italian, that I found distracting from the artwork itself. The fascinating element of Italian Futurism was primarily being able to looking at the evolution of this style of painting overtime.  (more…)

Jeff Koons, Luxury Brand

Play-Doh (1994–2014). From the Bill Bell Collection, courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Copyright Jeff Koons 2014.

I have invited menswear blogger David Isle to write a guest post on the Jeff Koons show at the Whitney. If you have heard of just one menswear blogger, it probably isn’t him. But you can find his blog here and follow him on Twitter here. Enjoy! 

I read recently that some vanishingly small percentage of Americans could name a living painter. Like any educated coast-dweller, I launched into the well-practiced scoff I reserve for the American public’s many feats of stupidity, such as the 18 percent of Americans who believe the sun revolves around the earth, the 43 percent of Americans who believe in creationism, or the 47 percent of American voters who chose Romney in 2012. Just as I was about to decry the lack of funding for art programs in schools, I realized that I couldn’t name a living painter either. Unless you count my ex-girlfriend, who for a brief time tried selling some paintings on e-Bay under a fake name and art degree. (She gave up after a run of single-digit hammer prices. I am still disappointed that the Internet failed to recognize her genius, and diligently cherish the few pieces of her work I have, which will surely be priceless someday). So that should give you some idea of how unqualified I am to judge the works of an actual living artist such as Jeff Koons, whom I have now heard of, having seen his retrospective at the Whitney museum earlier this month.


Alibis, Decoded

This week I attended a party sponsored by art blogazine Hyperallergic and MoMA PopRally in celebration of the new Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The purpose of the event was to enhance viewers’ understanding of the exhibit by bringing in five guests who would “illuminate aspects of the German artist’s complex body of work through the lens of their respective areas of expertise,” according to the PopRally description. The five experts were a cultural historian, a hallucinogen expert, a conservator, a magician, and a palm reader. Each of them were quite thoughtfully placed in rooms where the artworks correlated to their individual fields and lectured or performed in intervals so that as one wandered through the exhibit, one could see Polke’s work through the experts’ eyes. This was not my personal reality.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a fourteen year old who showed up at this happening with my mother to get a feel for the nightlife-tied art scene and to see the exhibit. As it was a party, I was expecting the open bar, but I wasn’t expecting the 500 other people that came along with it. While I often attend friends’ parties, this had a different vibe that was totally new for me, and the novelty factor definitely contributed to my overall experience. Moreover, so did the crowd. (more…)

Swooning at the Brooklyn Museum

Video is from the Brooklyn Museum’s YouTube Channel. Depicts Swoon talking about her work.

Like Ai WeiWei, Swoon is another magical artist whose new installation at the Brooklyn Museum, entitled Submerged Motherlands, transported me to another world. There were fabric pieces swirling upwards into an ethereal papery tree, with whimsical illustrations and intricate-paper cuts embellishing her sculptural works and adorning every corner of the museum’s gallery. There is no other way for me to explain the mystical properties of Swoon’s art, other than to suggest watching the short film linked to this post or visiting Submerged Motherlands yourself.

Ai WeiWei at the Brooklyn Museum

Video is from the Brooklyn Museum’s YouTube Channel. Depicts a team of art handlers and studio assistants putting 700 bicycles together to create his site-specific installation Stacked (2014).

The title of Ai WeiWei’s new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum is According to What?, which suits the show and the artist himself perfectly because WeiWei and his work are known for their controversy, for constantly pushing the boundaries of what it means to be an artist and an activist in China, a state that, as WeiWei contends, continues to oppress and lie to its people and to its visionaries in every sphere of society. There are several important things to know about WeiWei that are critical to appreciating his art. The first thing is that he has risen to prominence because we are now in the digital age; his mission to improve the life of the Chinese and convey his message of hope through art has flourished because he uses social media to constantly connect to the outside world.

Studying Surface to Structure: Folded Forms

Surface to Structure is an “innovative” origami exhibition held at the Cooper Union. The exhibition comprises works by international artists who challenge the traditional Japanese art of folding origami by manipulating the paper to create unexpected patterns and shapes. The pieces were grouped by the curators into various categories, e.g. origami-inspired fashion and tessellation-inspired origami. An aspect of Surface to Structure that I enjoyed was that it invited me to figure out the precise techniques the artists used in developing their work. One piece was particularly interesting: Stacked Pleats, created in a collaboration between a photographer, Christine Dalenta, and Benjamin Parker, an origami craftsman. Parker made the origami component, and Dalenta took the negative of that and deconstructed it using special photography paper. The outcome was an image of something like an x-ray of a ribcage, and that was juxtaposed against the original origami piece by Parker in the exhibit.

Slightly disappointing, though, was the similarity in the use of paper in this show to that in 2009’s exceptional Slash: Paper Under the Knife survey at the Museum of Art and Design. The exhibits paralleled each other closely; both sets of contributors to each exhibit maneuvered the material for out-of-the-box experimentation. Excluding Stacked Pleats and some of the tessellation pieces, Surface to Structure was weak in terms of being truly groundbreaking; there was much left to be desired and, juxtaposed against what’s been done before, it felt stale.

Charles James at the Met: An Exercise in Precision, Taste, and Sensuality

Charles James with Model (1948) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive. Copyright Condé Nast 2014.

Charles James is considered the long-forgotten beacon of American couture, a hero to the affluent heiresses (think earlier Auntie Mame types) that characterized the century, though a niche population, at best. Although moody, perverted, and deeply narcissistic, James was a true genius and innovator, creating dresses that way preceded in style what are considered the ‘fresh’ fashions of today’s Roland Mouret and Narciso Rodriguez runway collections. His new Costume Institute exhibition, entitled Charles James: Beyond Fashion, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art gives James’ his deserved recognition and for us, a window into his world.  (more…)