Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Week at the Met

By Charles Kessler
Rendering of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new front plaza as envisioned by the Philadelphia design firm OLIN
Holiday visitors to New York will do well to just spend all their art-viewing time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition to sixteen small exhibitions (not a typo!), here’s what's on view now:
  • Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years (until December 31st). I wrote about this show here.
  • Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens (until January 27, 2013).  Some of the most inventive and elaborate 18th Century furniture you’ll ever see — and this was the age of great furniture.
  • Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop (until January 27, 2013). The exhibition traces the history of manipulated photography from the beginning of photography in the 1840s through the early 1990s, when photoshop and other kinds of digital manipulation took over.
  • George Bellows (until February 18, 2013). I saw it at the National Gallery and was surprised at how little I knew of his range and how modern he was.
  • African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde (until April 14, 2013). An exhibition of the African art and artifacts originally owned in the 1910s and 1920s by such New York avant-garde artists and patrons as Alfred Stieglitz, John Quinn, and Walter Arensberg. Unfortunately, displaying a lack of respect, the exhibition is installed in a crammed and makeshift space in the middle of the wide corridor running through the Pre-Columbian and African collections (see photo below), so it's difficult to concentrate on the work. It's a fascinating show, well deserving of a better space; and it comes with an excellent catalog that’s a real bargain at only $10.
And of course the Met’s outstanding Matisse show, In Search of True Painting (until March 17, 2013) — I haven't recovered quite enough to write about it, but I'm getting there. My third visit should do it.

But I do want to write about the Met's Bernini: Sculpting in Clay (until January 6, 2013).
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Head of Saint Jerome, c. 1661, terracotta, 13 13/16 x 11 5/16 x 9 inches (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds, 1937.77).
Bernini probably made several thousand of these terracottas, but since they were thought of as rough drafts for his marble and bronze sculptures, not as works of art of any worth, only 52 of them are known to have survived. A remarkable 39 of these, and 30 related drawings, are in this exhibition. To the contemporary eye, these clay studies are significant works of art in themselves rather than a disposable means to an end, and they are prized for their liveliness, for the personal touch of the artist, and for the raw physicality of the materials.

I haven’t found any edifying reviews of the exhibition, and the Met’s exhibition website, ordinarily a fount of information, is mysteriously sparse. The exhibition catalog, as one would expect, is scholarly, detailed and filled with photos — but it's a pricy $65. There is, however, a nook where you can sit down and comfortably peruse the catalog.

The best free information I found is the Met’s press release, which isn’t easily accessible, but you can find it here.  As for photos, the exhibition site has four instructional videos, but only ONE photo; and taking photos of the exhibition is verboten. But to give you a taste of the work, here are some photos I took from the exhibition catalog with my iPhone, and some images from the invaluable website of Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum (they contributed 15 terracottas to the exhibition).
Detail of the face of Angel with a Crown of Thorns, ca. 1667-68, (Kimball, AP 1987.02b).
Detail, Angel with Crown of Thorns, (Louvre RF2312).
Bernini, Charity with Two Children (detail breast feeding), 1634, terracotta, 41.6 cm high (Musei Vaticani, - 2423).
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Half-Kneeling Angel, c. 1673, terracotta, 11 1/4 x 6 11/16 x 8 1/16 inches (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds, 1937.66).
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Angel Holding the Scourge, c. 1667-1669, terracotta, 11 9/16 x 6 1/8 x 6 5/16 inches (Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds, 1937.68). 

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