Arthur Devis, Sir Joshua Vanneck and His Family, 1752, oil on canvas, 146 × 142 cm
(Pittsburgh: Frick Art & Historical Center, 1984.24)
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Now on view at The Frick Pittsburgh:
The Frick Collects: From Rubens to Monet
Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, 29 October 2016 — 14 May 2017
Take a look at the Frick in a new way in this exhibition, which, for the first time tells the story of the Frick through its collection. From Henry Clay Frick’s early purchases, to his daughter Helen’s collecting interests, through to the acquisitions that have been made by the museum in recent years, visitors will see and learn about the enduring legacy of the Frick family as art collectors. Objects will be brought together to tell a unified story—a story that doesn’t stop with Henry Clay Frick’s early purchases for Clayton, but continues, looking at both Henry and Helen as the collectors who have shaped the Frick Art & Historical Center’s holdings.
The earliest acquisitions in the collection date to Henry Clay Frick’s bachelor days. Before his marriage (and for the first months after his marriage) he lived in downtown Pittsburgh at the fashionable Monongahela House. He bought his first paintings and decorative objects for his rooms there: an elaborate rococo revival clock and candelabra set purchased through Tiffany’s, an ebonized cabinet, and his first documented painting purchase, a landscape by local artist George Hetzel.
When they moved into Clayton, Henry Clay Frick and his wife furnished it as many young couples do—most of the purchases were new, fashionable and of the period. Frick had met his wife, Adelaide Howard Childs (1859–1931) in February 1881. Adelaide was the sixth daughter of the wealthy Pittsburgh Childs family, who were manufacturers and importers of shoes and boots. For young couples during America’s Gilded Age like the Fricks, art collecting was not simply a way to exercise taste and create a suitable environment—although these were important considerations. More subtly the right objects gave their owner a sense of history and pedigree. Collecting was a personal pleasure and an indicator of status, discernment and good taste.
The rise in American collecting of this period also coincided with the establishment of the first museums in the country, including the Wadsworth Athenaeum of Hartford, Connecticut in 1842, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1870, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1872, and in 1896, Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Institute. As the century progressed, forming collections and bequeathing them to the public became one way to put wealth and the accumulation of a collection to public service.
It was Helen Clay Frick’s vision that led to the restoration of Clayton as a house museum. The Frick Art Museum, which was opened to the public in 1970 just a block south of Clayton, was built primarily for the collection she developed, rather than the one she inherited. Helen even had the family cars and carriages carefully preserved and brought back to Pittsburgh from the family’s Massachusetts summer estate.
The Frick Art Museum opened in 1970 with its main galleries devoted to Helen’s greatest interests: early Italian Renaissance paintings and eighteenth-century French fine and decorative art. Since Helen’s death in 1984, the collection has continued to develop—through generous donations and acquisitions that reflect the same quality as that evinced by the founding collection. Through the foresight of Helen Clay Frick who valued Pittsburgh, and who understood that her youth at Clayton was one of unique privilege—not simply financially, but aesthetically—these collections are the heart of the experience at the Frick Pittsburgh.
The Frick Collects is accompanied by a new, fully-illustrated guide to the collection published by Scala, specialists in working with museums to produce beautiful publications. The publication is generously underwritten by The Richard C. von Hess Foundation.
Robin Nicholson, Sarah Hall, and Dawn Reid Brean, The Frick Pittsburgh: A Guide to the Collection (New York: Scala, 2016), 120 pages, ISBN: 9781785510717, $15.
The collections at The Frick Pittsburgh are the combined legacy of famed art collector and industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his daughter Helen. Two essays tell the story of Frick’s early collecting and his daughter’s interest in continuing his mission to purchase great art and make it publicly accessible. The book also provides a photographic tour of Clayton, the Frick family’s historic Pittsburgh home, which is now a house museum.
Collection highlights presented include fabulous examples of early Renaissance Italian painting, eighteenth-century French painting, furniture, and decorative arts, spectacular Chinese porcelains, and masterpieces by artists like Rubens, Guardi, Boucher, Gainsborough, Fragonard, Millet, and Monet. The entirety of the Frick’s collections—spanning the thirteenth century to the present—are displayed at The Frick Art Museum, Clayton, and the Car and Carriage Museum—all located on the Frick’s five-plus acres of landscaped grounds.
Robin Nicholson has been Director of The Frick Pittsburgh since 2014. Sarah J. Hall began working at The Frick Pittsburgh in 1994 and has been Director of Curatorial Affairs since 2007. Dawn Reid Brean joined the Frick as Associate Curator of Decorative Arts in 2015.
Winckelmann turns 300 next December 9th. In anticipation of the event, the National Archaeological Museum presents this exhibition:
Winckelmann, Florence, and the Etruscans: The Father of Archeology in Tuscany
Winckelmann, Firenze e gli Etruschi: Il padre dell’archeologia in Toscana
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence, 26 May 2016 — 30 January 2017
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), the Prussian art scholar who was superintendent of antiquities of Rome, had a purpose behind his stay in Florence: to broaden knowledge of the Etruscan civilization. From 1758 to 1759, Winckelmann lived in Florence, where he hoped to complete his work. Ahead of the three hundredth anniversary of his birth—and while waiting to celebrate more widely with a conference in 2017—the Archaeological Museum of Florence presents the exhibition Winckelmann, Firenze e gli Etruschi (Winckelmann, Florence and the Etruscans), from May 26 to January 30, 2017.
Winckelmann’s studies of classical works, particularly his Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (The History of Art in Antiquity) of 1764, promoted the aesthetics of neoclassicism and created a sensibility and a taste that influenced all of late eighteenth-century Europe; furthermore, the Winckelmann methodological approach provides the basis of modern art history. The exhibition, installed on the ground floor of Florence’s Archaeological Museum, consists of three sections. The first addresses the study of antiquities and private collecting in mid-eighteenth-century Florence. The second section is more specific to Winckelmann’s Florentine studies, including his cataloguing of Baron von Stosch’s collection of gems, of which casts are on exhibit. Finally, the third section shows the cultural legacy that Winckelmann left to the Grand Ducal city and the whole of Europe, with the neoclassical style born from this man’s notes and publications.
Visitors are welcomed to the exhibition by the large, late-Etruscan bronze sculpture of The Orator (Aulus Metellus). It must be remembered, however, that in Winckelmann’s opinion, Etruscan art was not at the level of Greek art because of the Etruscans’ inability to detach themselves from their passions. After visiting this exhibit, visitors can continue on to the Museum to admire other masterpieces of Etruscan art, including the Chimera and the Idolino.
Barbara Arbeid, Stefano Bruni, Mario Iozzo, eds., Winckelmann, Firenze e gli Etruschi: Il padre dell’archeologia in Toscana / Winckelmann, Florenz und die Etrusker: Der Vater der Archäologie in der Toskana (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2016), 347 pages, ISBN: 978 8846745187 (Italian) / ISBN: 978 8846745194 (German), 28€.
Forthcoming from Brepols:
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny / Eloisa Dodero and Adriano Aymonino, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture, 1500–1900, revised and extended edition (Turnhout: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2016), 400 pages, ISBN: 978-1909400252, $130.
Taste and the Antique offers a comprehensive and accessible overview of the reception and afterlife of the most famous ancient statues discovered in Rome and Italy from the Renaissance to the close of the nineteenth century. Before Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, sculptures like the Laocoön, the Apollo Belvedere, or the Medici Venus set the taste of artists, connoisseurs, and the educated elites of the West for almost five centuries. Reproduced in every possible media for gardens and palaces throughout Europe, celebrated by poets and writers from Marino and Byron to Proust and Dickens, they served as sources of inspiration for artists as diverse as Michelangelo, Rubens, and Turner.
Originally published in 1981, Taste and the Antique was hailed by Ernst Gombrich as a thought-provoking work that met a “long-felt want.” Reprinted five times since with minor alterations, Haskell and Penny’s book has become a classic of art history that is still used as the standard reference by scholars and anyone interested in the reception of the classical tradition. This new edition offers a complete revision of the original text to incorporate updates and new information on the single statues and their context in the light of research undertaken in the field over the past three decades.
The exhibition is one of several held to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of King Charles III of Spain:
Charles III and the Dissemination of Antiquity / Carlos III y la difusión de la antigüedad
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, 15 December 2016 — 18 March 2017
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, 15 December 2016 — 18 March 2017
Academia de San Carlos, Mexico City, 15 December 2016 — 18 March 2017
Curated by José María Luzón Nogué, Valeria Sampaolo, Elizabeth
Fuentes Rojas, and María del Carmen Alonso Rodríguez
The exhibition uses virtual reality and 3D technology to enable it to be viewed simultaneously from three different venues in Naples, Mexico City, and Madrid. With the aid of the most advanced digital technology, it shows the highly significant role played by Charles III (1716–1788) in disseminating the heritage of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae, as it was he who, as king of Naples, gave orders for the excavations at one of the most important historic sites ever discovered.
The dissemination of the archaeological finds at Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabiae is explained in three rooms in three different museums in three different countries: Italy, Spain, and Mexico. All three rooms are equipped with a similar installation and share the same purpose: to underline the role played by Charles III in making known antiquities in the eighteenth century. These rooms are interconnected in real time by means of live streaming and use virtual reality, augmented reality and 360-degree photos, which make it possible for people visiting one of the museums to fully appreciate the extent of the work carried out three hundred years ago using other means.
Owing to its unique characteristics, the exhibition relies on the technical support of several companies specialised in virtual recreation and 3D images. It employs cutting-edge technology and aims to be the first step towards designing a model for virtual exhibitions that establish interconnections between museums and their collections in different countries.
The main group of antiquities, which had been discovered by the time Charles III departed for Spain in 1759, came from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, though other antiquities had been found at Pompeii and the villas of the former Stabiae. They were initially used to adorn Portici Palace and to establish the Herculaneum Museum there.
The bronzes and paintings of Herculaneum were disseminated under the auspices of the king through Le antichità di Ercolano Esposte, a publication on which excellent eighteenth-century illustrators and engravers worked. The king made gifts of this work to scholars of the period, artists, members of the nobility and European universities that requested it. The copper-plates and their prints make up an interesting chapter in the history of archaeological documentation and its role in disseminating new discoveries.
Back in Spain, Charles III asked Bernardo Tanucci, Secretary of State of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, to send him plaster copies of the antiquities he liked so much. These plaster copies were installed in the Buen Retiro Palace until 1776, when, at the request of the instructors at the Royal Academy of the Three Noble Arts, the king agreed to donate them so that they could be used to train architects, sculptors and painters. The collection of casts sent from Naples remains in the academy to this day and is of great historical and documentary interest.
Later, when King Charles III founded the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico, a selection of casts from the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid was sent there in 1780, including copies of the casts from Naples. The busts from the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum and a few others from Pompeii and Stabiae thus crossed the Atlantic to be used as models by the students of the Academy of San Carlos.
The exhibition is one of several held to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of King Charles III of Spain:
Carlos III: Majestad y Ornato en los Escenarios del Rey Ilustrado
Palacio Real de Madrid, 6 December 2016 — 31 March 2017
Curated by María Pilar Benito García, Javier Jordán de Urríes, and José Luis Sancho Gaspar
El próximo 6 de diciembre, en el Palacio Real de Madrid, se abre al público la exposición Carlos III. Majestad y Ornato en los Escenarios del Rey Ilustrado, con la que se conmemora del tercer centenario de este monarca y que permanecerá abierta hasta el 31 de marzo de 2017.
Soberano ilustrado y, como tal, mecenas de las artes, el monarca constituye el referente más indiscutible en la fértil relación que han mantenido la Corona y la Cultura en España durante la Edad Moderna. Su gobierno, además de las grandes obras públicas que promovió, supuso la intervención estatal en aspectos estéticos a una escala amplia y variada. Pero sin duda donde con más claridad se perciben tales innovaciones es en el propio entorno del monarca, en el arte cortesano creado bajo su directo mecenazgo, y que pone en valor esta exposición.
Estas obras artísticas, que servían para la vida cotidiana del rey y su familia, estaban pensadas tanto para fines funcionales, como ornamentales y representativos: su calidad, su magnificencia y suntuosidad, su tono cosmopolita constituían toda una declaración de poder. Expresaban no sólo la majestad del rey, sino la de la vasta monarquía simbolizaba en su persona. En sus palacios –tanto el de Madrid como el de los cuatro sitios reales donde la corte pasaba cada estación del año- se expresaba esta alianza entre el poder y la ilustración mediante todas las bellas artes: la pintura con figuras como Giambattista Tiepolo, el ya mencionado Mengs y todos sus discípulos españoles, entre ellos el incipiente genio de Francisco de Goya; las artes decorativas merced a las Reales Fábricas de tapices, de porcelana y piedras duras, de cristales y de relojes, y a los talleres dirigidos por diseñadores como Mattia Gasparini.
Reconocibles aún en los palacios, pero en gran medida dispersas debido a la misma evolución de la vida cortesana y a los avatares históricos, las obras ornamentales creadas para expresar la magnificencia de Carlos III constituyen uno de los tesoros culturales de España. Patrimonio Nacional plantea aquí una nueva lectura de esta página esencial en el acervo estético español, presentando obras emblemáticas y programas decorativos que no podían verse de forma conjunta desde el siglo XVIII, así como otras obras no mostradas al público en los últimos años o procedentes de colecciones extranjeras de difícil acceso. Asimismo, será la primera vez que se muestre el Retrato de Carlos III, pintado por Mengs y regalado por el monarca al rey Federico V de Dinamarca, que nunca se ha expuesto en España.
Los comisarios de esta exposición son Dña. María Pilar Benito García, D. Javier Jordán de Urríes y D. José Luis Sancho Gaspar.
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The catalogue is available from ArtBooks.com:
Pilar Benito Garcia, et al., Carlos III: Majestad y Ornato en los Escenarios del Rey Ilustrado (Madrid: El Viso, 2016), 392 pages, ISBN: 9788471205216, $62.
To commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of King Charles III (1716–1788), Patrimonio Nacional (National Heritage) has organised a show especially focused on studying the courtly art created under his direct patronage at Madrid’s Palacio Real. The catalogue assembles the complete renovation of all of the Royal Sites promoted by Charles III. The works that adorned the Royal Chamber, the mural paintings that decorated the archs of the royal palaces, as well as the most delicate works elaborated by the royal ateliers of workwood, bronze, and embroidery can be admired.
Scheduled for February release from The Getty:
Noémie Étienne, The Restoration of Paintings in Paris, 1750–1815: Practice, Discourse, Materiality (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2017), 384 pages, ISBN: 978-1606065167, $70.
The decades following the 1973 publication of Alessandro Conti’s Storia del Restauro have seen considerable scholarly interest in the development of restoration in France in the second half of the eighteenth century. A number of technical treatises and biographies of restorers have offered insight into restoration practice. The Restoration of Paintings in Paris, 1750–1815, however, is the first book to situate this work within the broader historical and philosophical contexts of the time. Drawing on previously unpublished primary material from archives in Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Venice, Noemie Etienne combines art history with anthropology and sociology to survey the waning decades of the Ancien Régime and early post- Revolution France. Initial chapters present the diversity of restoration practice, encompassing not only royal institutions and the Louvre museum but also private art dealers, artists, and craftsmen, and examine questions of trade secrecy and the changing role of the restorer. Following chapters address the influence of restoration and exhibition on the aesthetic understanding of paintings as material objects. The book closes with a discussion of the institutional and political uses of restoration, along with an art historical consideration of such key concepts as authenticity, originality, and stability of artworks, emphasizing the multilayered dimension of paintings by such important artists as Titian and Raphael. There is also a useful dictionary of the main restorers active in France between 1750 and 1815.
Noémie Étienne is currently a fellow at the Getty Research Institute. Beginning in September 2016 she will be a Swiss National Science Foundation Professor of Art History at the University of Bern.
Giles Waterfield’s book The People’s Galleries: Art Museums and Exhibitions in Britain, 1800–1914 (New Haven: Yale University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre, 2015), is the winner of the 2016 William MB Berger Prize for Art History. Alex Kidson’s catalogue raisonné of George Romney’s paintings was included on the ‘short list’. The ‘long list’ of 45 books includes 20 titles relevant for eighteenth-century studies. From The British Art Journal:
• Adriano Aymonino and Anne Varick Lauder, Drawn From the Antique: Artists and the Classical Ideal (London: Sir John Soane’s Museum, 2015), 231 pages, ISBN: 978-0-957339897, £35.
• Christopher Baker, Duncan Bull, William Hauptman, Neil Jeffares, Aileen Ribeiro, MaryAnne Stevens, Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702–1789) (London: The Royal Academy of Arts and National Gallery of Scotland, 2015), 232 pages, ISBN: 978-1910350201, £27.
• Layla Bloom, Nicholas Grindle, et al., George Morland: Art, Traffic and Society in Late Eighteenth-Century England (Leeds: The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, 2015), 99 pages, ISBN: 978-1874331544, £12.
• Oliver Bradbury, Sir John Soane’s Influence on Architecture from 1791: A Continuing Legacy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), 480 pages, ISBN: 978-1472409102, £95.
• Mary Clark, The Dublin Civic Portrait Collection: Patronage, Politics and Patriotism, 1603–2013 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-1846825842, £35.
• Tim Clayton and Sheila O’Connell, Bonaparte and the British: Prints and Propaganda in the Age of Napoleon (London: British Museum Press, 2015), 224 pages, ISBN: 978-0714126937, £25.
• Joan Coutu, Then and Now: Collecting and Classicism in Eighteenth-Century England (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015), 336 pages, ISBN: 978-0773545434, £72.
• Lucy Davies and Mark Hallett, Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint (London: Paul Holberton Publishing for The Wallace Collection, 2015), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-0900785757, £30.
• Loyd Grossman, Benjamin West and the Struggle To Be Modern (London: Merrell Publishers, 2015), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1858946412, £35.
• E. Geoffrey Hancock, Nick Pearce, and Mungo Campbell, eds., William Hunter’s World: The Art and Science of Eighteenth-Century Collecting (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), 424 pages, ISBN: 978-1409447740, £80.
• Simon Swynfen Jervis and Dudley Dodd, Roman Splendour / English Arcadia: The English Taste for Pietre Dure and the Sixtus Cabinet at Stourhead (London: Philip Wilson Publishing, 2015), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-1781300244, £45.
• Alex Kidson, George Romney: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings (New Haven: Yale University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2015), 960 pages, ISBN: 978-0300209693, £180.
• William Laffan and Christopher Monkhouse, with the assistance of Leslie Fitzpatrick, Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840 (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Art Institute of Chicago, 2015), ISBN: 978-0300210606, £30.
• Stephen Lloyd, ed., Art, Animals and Politics: Knowsley and the Earls of Derby (Unicorn Press, 2015), 822 pages, ISBN: 978-1910065, £60.
• Arthur MacGregor, ed., The Cobbe Cabinet of Curiosities: An Anglo-Irish Country House Museum (New Haven: Yale University Press for The Paul Mellon Centre, 2015), 495 pages, ISBN: 978-0300204353, £75.
• John Richard Moores, Representations of France in English Satirical Prints, 1740–1832 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer, 2015), 280 pages, ISBN: 978-0230545328, £60.
• Steven Parissien, ed., Celebrating Britain: Canaletto, Hogarth and Patriotism (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015), 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1907372780, £25.
• Alison Smith, David Blayney Brown, Carol Jacobi, Artist and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past (London: Tate, 2015), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-1849763431, £40.
• David Solkin, Art in Britain, 1660–1815 (New Haven: Yale University Press / Pelican History of Art, 2015), 378 pages, ISBN: 978-0300215564, £55.
• Sheila White and Philip Sheail, eds and trans., Lord Fordwich’s Grand Tour, 1756–60 (Hertford: Hertfordshire Record Publications, 2015), 401 pages, ISBN: 978-0956511140, £22.
Press release (1 December 2016) from The Burlington Magazine:
Michael Hall has been appointed Editor of The Burlington Magazine, it was announced today. He will take up his new position on 2 May 2017. He succeeds Frances Spalding C.B.E., who left in August 2016. Michael Hall was editor of Apollo from 2004 to 2010, during which time he oversaw the editorial transformation of the magazine. A former architectural editor and deputy editor of Country Life, he is an art historian who is known in particular for his work on the Gothic revival. His book George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America was awarded the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion by the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for the best book of architectural history published in 2014. Since leaving Apollo he has been a freelance author and editor, writing, among other books, Treasures of the Portland Collection, published in March this year to accompany the opening of a new gallery for the collection at Welbeck Abbey. He is currently working on a history of the Royal Collection, due be published in December 2017. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he is chair of trustees of the Emery Walker Trust, which opens to the public Walker’s Arts and Crafts house in Hammersmith. He is also a trustee of the Marc Fitch Fund and the William Morris Society.
Michael Hall said: “The Burlington Magazine is one of the art world’s most revered institutions, with a reputation that is second to none for publishing new research. I greatly admire its empirical, object-based outlook, which is bracingly based on facts rather than theory, and much enjoy its sharp and wide-ranging reviews. I’m looking forward to working with its distinguished trustees and highly experienced editorial and commercial team to enhance and develop its content, both in print and online, in a way that will reach out to new audiences while preserving the Burlington’s impressive traditions.”
Timothy Llewellyn, O.B.E., Chairman of the Trustees of the Burlington Magazine Foundation said: “The Board of The Burlington Magazine is pleased to appoint Michael Hall as its editor. He is a distinguished scholar, an award-winning author and a very experienced editor of both printed and digital publications. We look forward to welcoming Michael to the role in May 2017. We believe he will help The Burlington enhance its position within the international art history community, especially with a new generation of art historians.”
The Burlington Magazine is the world’s leading monthly publication in the English language devoted to the fine and decorative arts. It publishes concise, well-written articles based on original research, presenting new works, art-historical discoveries and fresh interpretations. Founded in 1903 by a group of art historians and connoisseurs that included Roger Fry, Bernard Berenson, and Herbert Horne, The Burlington Magazine has appeared monthly without interruption ever since. Its aim is to cover all aspects of the fine and decorative arts, to combine rigorous scholarship with critical insight, and to treat the art of the present with the same seriousness as the art of the past. With recent innovative developments such as its highly acclaimed online index, contemporary art writing prize and informative website, the Burlington faces an exciting future.
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Jack Malvern in his article, “Editor Quits Oldest Art Magazine after Brush with Staff,” The Times (7 October 2016) suggests conflicts between Hall’s predecessor, Frances Spalding, and the magazine’s staff became too difficult, in part, over questions of innovation.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, Wind Sculpture VII (detail), 2016, steel armature with hand-painted fiberglass resin cast and gold leaf (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, purchased with funds from Amelia Quist-Ogunlesi and Adebayo Ogunlesi and the Sakana Foundation, 2016-11-1).
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The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced the acquisition and permanent installation of sculpture Wind Sculpture VII by celebrated contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare MBE. Wind Sculpture VII made its Smithsonian debut Saturday, December 3; it has been installed in front of the National Museum of African Art.
Part of a series of seven individually designed sculptures, Wind Sculpture VII is the first artwork installed permanently in front of the museum. Constructed from fiberglass, this unique, gold-leaf version of Shonibare’s Wind Sculptures series evokes the sails of ships that have crossed the Atlantic and other oceans, connecting nations through the exchange of ideas, products, and people. In its form, it captures histories that can be inspiring or brutal but always complex. It suggests that the opening of the seas led not only to the slave trade and colonization but also to the dynamic contributions of Africans and African heritage worldwide. Using yellow, blue, rose, and gold, Shonibare celebrates the African men, women, and children who have shaped the United States, Great Britain, and other nations of today and for the future.
“The museum is proud to present this stunning and monumental public sculpture at the museum,” said Karen Milbourne, curator and project lead. “This work of art will transform the façade of our museum and pay tribute to the connections between Africa and America. The patterns emblazoned on this sculpture replicate so-called ‘African print cloth,’ which are in fact based on Indonesian batiks manufactured in the Netherlands and United Kingdom and then exported to West Africa where they have become synonymous with African identity. Shonibare draws on this entangled history to direct attention to the global connections that unite individuals and communities worldwide. Africa’s global connections and the vision of its artists are the focus of this national museum; this sculpture will inspire visitors and spark conversation.”
Facts about Wind Sculpture VII:
• The work weighs 899 pounds
• It took seven people one month to paint and gild the sculpture
• The structure is 20 feet tall and 10 feet, 6 inches wide
• Only about a 7-inch-diameter point of the sculpture touches the ground
Throughout the past decade, Shonibare has become well known for his exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism within the context of globalization. Working in painting, sculpture, photography, film, and performance, Shonibare’s work examines race, class, and the construction of cultural identity. Through sharp political commentary of the interrelationships between Africa and Europe’s economic and political histories and wry citations of Western art history and literature, Shonibare questions the validity of contemporary cultural and national identities.
Shonibare was born in the United Kingdom in 1962 and moved to Lagos, Nigeria, at the age of 3. He returned to London to receive his MFA from Goldsmiths College, a part of the ‘Young British Artists’ generation. He gained notoriety on the international stage via his commission for Okwui Enwezor’s Documenta 10 and was a Turner Prize nominee in 2004. In 2005 he was awarded the decoration of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a title that he officially added on his professional name. His works were featured in the 52nd Venice Biennale and a major mid-career survey toured 2008–09. In 2011, the artist’s sculpture Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle was selected for Trafalgar Square’s prestigious commission series. Shonibare’s works are included in many prestigious public collections spanning the globe. He currently lives and works in London’s East End.
Yinka Shonibare MBE, still from Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004, high-definition digital video, 32 minutes
(Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York)
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Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Works of Africa
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 20 December 2015 — 2 January 2017
Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C., 18 May 2016 — 2 January 2017
Our hearts beat to the rhythms of biological time and continents drift in geological time, while we set our watches to the precision of naval time. Time may seem easy to measure, but it can be challenging to understand. The six African artists featured in Senses of Time explore how time is experienced—and produced—by the body. Bodies stand, climb, dance, and dissolve in seven works of video and film—or ‘time-based’—art. Characters and the actions they depict repeat, resist, and reverse the expectation that time must move relentlessly forward. Senses of Time invites viewers to consider tensions between personal and political time, ritual and technological time, bodily and mechanical time. Through pacing, sequencing, looping, layering, and mirroring, diverse perceptions of time are embodied and expressed.
History repeats itself as Yinka Shonibare MBE’s European ballroom dancers in sumptuous African-print fabric gowns dramatize the absurdities of political violence, while Sammy Baloji choreographs a haunting exploration of memory and forgetting in the ruins of postcolonial deindustrialization. Sue Williamson sensitively highlights the generational gaps wrought by time, while Berni Searle addresses genealogical time in one work as ancestral family portraits are tossed by the winds and focuses on the slippages and fragility of time and personal identity in another. Moataz Nasr’s work treads upon identities distorted by the march of time as Theo Eshetu draws us into a captivating kaleidoscopic space where past, present, and future converge.
Senses of Time was co-organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.
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Yinka Shonibare MBE, excerpt from Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball), 2004, high-definition digital video, 32 minutes (Courtesy the artist and James Cohan Gallery, New York). As noted by the NMAfA: “In Un Ballo in Maschera, Yinka Shonibare MBE interweaves and subverts the geographies and temporal assumptions that shape narratives of tradition and modernity. The artist draws on Giuseppe Verdi’s 1859 opera of the same name about the 18th-century Swedish king Gustav III, who was assassinated at a masked ball while his countrymen fought a war far from home. In Shonibare’s rendition, the event is an allegory for political hubris—with the artist specifically thinking of the Iraq war—and a playful attempt to reveal that the Western world has its traditions, too. . .”