Friday, September 21, 2007

The Met Rules!

I haven't been able to get up there since the Greek and Roman galleries re-opened (it's so-o-o- far north!), but, if the reviews are anything to judge by, the must-see exhibitions in New York museums at the moment are at the Met. As if they didn't merely want to out-class their competition as much as encourage them to convert to night clubs, the Met's curators have put together two seemingly life-altering shows.

If you've been reading here long, you know I don't much go in for advertising museum exhibitions, but in this case I'm so impressed by the reviews and concepts, not to mention exquisite timing of these shows, that, at the risk of ensuring my own near-future visit will be so packed I won't be able to see anything, I want to highlight these curatorial accomplishments.

First is The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is not only causing local critics to dream up new superlatives, but has inspired a huge "how to visit"
article by Holland Cotter in today's New York Times (including this wonderful online interactive graphic [kudos to Mr. Cotter and the Times for harnessing the power of the web so brilliantly!]). What most impresses me about the concept here is how they've combined their obviously world-class collection with an interestingly educational installation idea (works are installed in the order in which the Met acquired them, providing insights into how such a collection is built). From the Met's web site:
The Metropolitan Museum is home to the finest collection of Dutch art outside of Europe--including 20 works by Rembrandt himself--and all 228 of these masterpieces are displayed together for the first time in this major special exhibition. The exhibition, which coincides with the publication of the first catalogue of the collection, celebrates Rembrandt's 400th birthday. On view is a rich array of works dating mostly between 1600 and 1700--landscapes, genre pictures, still lifes, marine views, portraiture, and historical and biblical paintings--by Rembrandt and other celebrated Dutch masters such as Frans Hals, Johannes Vermeer, Gerard ter Borch, Pieter de Hooch, Jacob van Ruisdael, and Aelbert Cuyp. Broadly outlining how the collection was formed, the exhibition reflects the taste for Dutch art in America and among New York's great collectors of the past two centuries.
The other must-see exhibition received one of the most enthusiastic reviews I've read by New York Times critic Roberta Smith in a long time. According to the Met's website, the Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection is the "only extant collection of Abstract Expressionist works gathered at the time of their creation." Even more interestingly, IMO, is the fact that Ms. Newman was a painter herself and put her eye as such to work in selecting these works. I'll let Roberta give you a sense of the collection that created and what Ms. Smith calls a "spine-tingling exhibition":
The consistently high quality of Mrs. Newman’s selections is thrilling. Many communicate a forceful self-sufficiency, as if they were the only works by their particular makers that we ever need to see. It is not hard to imagine them being looked at and loved, providing daily sustenance. [...]

The signal work of the Newman gift is arguably de Kooning’s “Attic” from 1949 [seen above], which has hung at the Met since it was formally given in 1982 in honor of Mrs. Newman’s son, Glenn David Steinberg. This work is what connoisseurs sometimes call “beyond category.” It seems to encompass the artist’s entire career as well as his era. Its shuffling planes of white — defined by whiplashing, curving or arabesque lines of black — are clearly in competition with Pollock’s drip technique, but the painting also reaches back to de Kooning’s Cubist roots and forward to his slouchy paintings of women, and even the broad cursive ribbonlike strokes of his late works.
You're still reading??? Go!

These shows won't last forever...

The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008
Organized by Walter Liedtke, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of European Paintings

Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
September 18, 2007–February 3, 2008
Organized by Gary Tinterow; Nan Rosenthal, Special Consultant; and Lisa M. Messinger, Associate Curator, all of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Molly Stevens said...

Can someone clarify something:

On Sunday, Cotter had this critique of the show's organization:

"How to package it? For the earlier show the Met stuck to linear chronology: early to late. For “The Age of Rembrandt” it has come up with a theme, and a perfect one for our time: money.

The work has been sorted not by artists or dates, but by the names and dates of the collectors who bought and gave the paintings to the museum. In this arrangement the history of Dutch “Golden Age” art begins in the American Gilded Age of the late 19th century, when the Met first opened its doors."

Today, he states the show is simply organized by date.

As if he were recanting that critique? Pressure?

9/21/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

very interesting question, Molly!

9/21/2007 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger prettylady said...

Hey, did you mention Neo Rauch awhile back? The Rauch exhibition may not change anyone's life, but it illustrates a few things about consciousness that I've been telling people and telling them...

9/21/2007 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Regardless of whatever virtues they may have as curated shows (I haven't seen either), both of these assemblies are perfect reflections of our new robber baron age: They are clearly more about people with money collecting art than about the art itself.

9/21/2007 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I think the article was saying it was a turkey of a show about the golden goose.

Turducken of a sorts - its fall after all and Romans love a good roast...coin of the realm!

Ever been to a Carnegie library? Too tired after working the looms all day?

9/22/2007 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

"The Dutch Golden Age was golden partly thanks to colonialism. Holland was still a significant maritime power"

You read that the way I do?

GOlden showers bring may flowers.

Tulip mania. Looookitup. Do they teach that in the WHitney program or is it pretty much kristeva and shit?

9/22/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Speaking of money, the first impression I got while visiting The Age Of Rembrandt was "Wow... The Met doesn't have the money anymore to do great exhibits, so they present their own collection as exhibits...Hmmm....".


Rembrandt bored the hell out of me, by the way. And I think I saw the Vermeer way too much already.

I was mostly fascinated by oddities and second names: Hals (those silly smiles: are they laughing at me?), De Hooch, Borch, D'Hontecoeter, Goyen, etc..


For the type of general public that this exhibit will attract, not one will learn much about Dutch painting in this exhibit. Its title should have been "The Age Of The Met: Chronology Of The Expanse Of An American Museum As Seen Through Its Dutch Collection". And Trump should have sponsored it, giving free books.


It's a disaster of a curatorial program. Only in New York could you expect things to turn that superficial.

I laughed walking out the museum.


Cedric Caspesyan

9/23/2007 11:03:00 AM  

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