Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘sculpture

Richard Serra, “Sequence”

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SFMOMA, Cantor Arts Center, LACMA

This week, SFMOMA released additional renderings of its eminent expansion including new views of the interior.  Snohetta (the chic, Norwegian architects) and SFMOMA haven’t been apologetic or really skirted the issue about plans to basically gut the entire existing building, keeping only Mario Botta’s  postmodern façade.  Climbing SFMOMA’s imposing stairs is literally my first memory of being in a museum.  As a kid, I tried to recreate the alternating bands of polished and flame-finished black granite of these stairs with a set of sleek dominoes on my living room floor.   A friend and I lamented the demise of Botta’s staircase the last time we visited SFMOMA and we brainstormed potential artist projects that might utilize the soon-to-be-dismantled stairs.  (The SFMOMA expansion is going to be LEED Certified so maybe some of the black stone will be reclaimed.)

Sequence at SFMOMA of the future.

“Sequence” at SFMOMA of the future.

Alas, the released images show all of this will be eliminated in the expansion, sacrificed for the sake of greater street presence and improved openness to pedestrian traffic flow.  (The $555 million expansion will also double the current amount of gallery space, so there is that.)  New public space includes a multi-storied, glass-fronted gallery open to Howard Street.  In the renderings, this gallery space is filled with a massive Richard Serra corten-steel sculpture.  This isn’t just a filler “scalie” artwork; Serra’s Sequence (2006) will be installed in the new space when the Snohetta expansion opens in 2016.  Sequence is part of the Fisher collection, the donors who generous donated many buckets of ducats for the expansion, and who are kinda-sorta donating their incomparable trove of contemporary art to the museum.

Sequence on Howard Street.

“Sequence” on Howard Street.

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Cult Statue of a Goddess (aka Aidone Aphrodite, aka Venus of Morgantina)

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Restitution Issue: J. Paul Getty Museum

Sure LA is hot right now with contemporary art, but some of its older holdings are getting a lot of press.  I’ve decided to take a minor tangent from exhibition critique and do a series of posts on issues of restitution in major LA institutions.  Some of these issues have been resolved, some are still being disputed, and some aren’t even creating waves (at the moment at least).

Now you see her, now you see something else.

At the end of 2010, a small party was held at the Getty Villa in Malibu.  This event wasn’t exactly a celebration; it was a farewell party.  The Getty finally had to say goodbye to the now infamous Cult Statue of a Goddess.  The larger-than-life-sized acrolithic sculpture had dominated the “Gods and Goddesses” room of the Getty Villa as long as I can remember.  Even though I knew she’d be gone by the time I got back to LA, I still wasn’t prepared to miss her so much.  In her place the Getty has placed the Mazarin Venus, a smaller and less-clothed sculpture.  While she is pretty, she doesn’t anchor the room quite like Cult Statue of a Goddess did.  This may just be my biased opinion, but the Mazarin Venus just isn’t as demanding a presence.  This will probably be a temporary issue; according to an LA Times piece: “Karol Wight, the Getty’s chief antiquities curator, said Zeus will be promoted to top star of the “Gods and Goddesses” gallery where the cult statue holds sway. Plans call for reconfiguring the room.”

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Beauty and Power: Renaissance & Baroque Sculpture from the Peter Marino Collection

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Huntington Library

One of my goals for the New Year is to write blog posts in a timelier manner; like attempt to write about shows before they close.  That being said, I have one more post on an LA exhibition that has already closed.  Opps.

Christopher Knight was critical of the show, mostly because it’s a collector’s show.  Regardless of the quality, or significance of the works in the show (the Huntington proclaimed the collection is, “one of the finest private collections of French and Italian bronze sculptures”), the education that supplemented the show justified it completely in my mind.  The Huntington’s decision to host this traveling show fits its own collections and programming.  Several Huntington bronzes and a whole room of books from the library supplemented the show.

Let’s talk about this.

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I Went to Confirm What I Already Feared

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Field Museum

Let’s teach kids about the circle of life!

I felt the need to be a responsible journalist blogger and actually check this place out.  I’m not going to bash a museum for using sponsors (check previous post), but the Field Museum has struck me as a strange place since I came to Chicago.  As a natural history museum I’m unsure as to why they organize pay to have exhibitions about  pirates, mythical creatures, and Jacky O.  The mission of the Field Museum (courtesy of the Field’s website):

The Field Museum is an educational institution concerned with the diversity and relationships in nature and among cultures. It provides collection-based research and learning for greater public understanding and appreciation of the world in which we live. Its collections, public learning programs, and research are inseparably linked to serve a diverse public of varied ages, backgrounds and knowledge.”

Nowhere in this mission statement is the word exhibition mentioned; so why does the Field pay so much for these questionable shows?  One argument is that it gets people in the door and that the museum benefits financially from admissions from these shows.  But when admission fees don’t even cover the cost of the crap plastic unicorn, I begin to question the Field, and whether it is actually upholding its mission.

Gold is not free.

The pricey cost of admission was a major factor for why I chose to go on a Free Day.  Museums in Chicago are required by law to have offer 52 free days (12 of which are sponsored by Target), so I decided to take advantage of what the Field is required by law to do.  It’s hard as hell to figure out when these days are because the Field (shockingly) does not advertise them, but I finally found the free days on their webpage.  Also, general admission is free on these days; so don’t expect to be seeing pirates, dragons, or Gold, for free.  If you want to see the special exhibitions you have to pay.

So I didn’t get to see Gold (I kept saying “GOLD!” very dramatically all day long), but there are literally acres of other things to see in the Field Museum, and not just rocks and stuffed animals, although there is a lot of that too.

Holiday decorations—I was surprised they hadn’t put a Santa hat on Sue.

The first thing I saw was Sue.  She’s a T.Rex and she has a twitter.  The Field Museum paid major buckets of ducats to get her, and has since made a pretty penny off of her, from tours to insane merchandise (there is HelloKitty Sue merch). Sue is effing huge, and overshadows the adjacent warring African bull elephant tableau.

It’s hard to know where to begin in the Field, but my friends and I started with the Egyptian tomb which led into the Hall of African Mammals.  The Field museum rationalized this organization because, “Did you know, Egypt is in Africa?” For real there is a text panel that says this.  The rooms of stuffed animals were fun, I love stuffed animals.  Yes, this is a musty natural history museum tradition, but it’s also well loved.  The Field has also put showrooms full of couches all over the place, so if you get tired you can take a load off and watch the baby orangutans play, it’s almost like TV!—except they don’t move.   It’s not all fun and games though, there are some disturbing things happening with the stuffed animals.

This panda is dead, he is stuffed, and he had a name.

For example, there is this taxidermied panda, and we all know how I feel about pandas…and this panda has a name, Sue Lin. I didn’t like that this panda had a name, didn’t like that the label told the story of Sue Lin’s life in a zoo, then Sue Lin died, then Sue Lin was stuffed and put on display in the Field.  Call me crazy, but this is just too personal.

There is also some less disturbing stuff, like the short-beaked echidna.  There are these text panels around the museum that offer facts about the history of the museum, and one of them informed me that the display of Australian marsupials contains some of the original animals from the World’s Columbian Exhibition. The short-beaked echidna has an acquisition number 3. How cool is that!

Entrance to the less-civilized world of Pre-Columbian civilizations

I like to compare how displays of the same kinds of objects from Pre-Columbian cultures are displayed in natural history museums, compared to how they are presented in fine art museums.  LA’s Natural History Museum has a Visible Vault which contains the leftovers of the collection LACMA took when it succeeded.  The Visible Vault couldn’t be more different from LACMA’s Jorge Pardo designed display.  The Field’s Pre-Columbian display is massive and overwhelming, but has several elements that really shine. Like a video that explains through a fictionalized culture the pillars of civilization (faith, military, and money).   The entrance to this display is overly dramatic though; you enter through a curving hallway full of projections of a swamp and with audio of claps of thunder.  How does this mediation preface the information that follows?

OMG Shoes!

Back outside in the main hallway is a floor to ceiling display of shoes, just shoes.  The idea is to show that there are some things that unite all people across all of time.  One of the fundamental elements of the human condition is apparently stylish footwear.  From ancient Egyptian sandals, to Eskimo snow shoes, to ugly bridesmaid heels, to gogo boots, people love them their shoes.

There is a lot to see at the Field, so I can’t really cover it all in one post.  I didn’t even get to cover the Grainger Hall of Gems, the Hall of Jade, the rooms full of American Indian costumes, or the spooky high-ceilinged halls full of Alaskan totem poles.  There are also a lot more things to criticize believe me, but those too probably need another post.

“Research” scrutinizing the temporary exhibition halls.

One last fun thing for this post: There are two drastically different sets of sculptures in the Field.  The first set is actually part of the architecture of the museum.  In the main hall, up above on the second story, in each of the four corners, is a personification.  These four women, called the “Silent Guardians” were commissioned by the museum in 1915, from the artist Henry Hering.  The one pictured above holds a magnifying glass and represents Research.  The other silent guardians represent Record, Dissemination of Knowledge, and Science.  These four ladies are supposed to be representative of the museum’s mission…oh the mission again.

Can you find this sculpture’s erogenous zones?

The other set of sculptures aren’t a bunch of white broads in flowing togas.  The other series of sculptures are bronze ethnographic (read racist) depictions of “primitive peoples” created by Malvina Hoffman.  There is no sign explaining the original purpose of these works, nor anything apologetic. The only sign accompanying these horrid bronzes reads as follows: “Look all you want, but please don’t touch this sculpture.”  A brief glance at the sculptures reveals people don’t give a shit about these signs and are rubbing them a lot.  The bronzes have a dark patina, except in certain places were excessive touching has worn down to reveal the metallic layers beneath.  The sculpture of a female pygmy from Madagascar has clearly been getting a lot of action; her nipples are practically blinding they’ve been rubbed so much.

– H.I.

P.S. Did you know that a group of porcupine is called a PRICKLE of porcupine?—See, this blog can actually be educational sometimes.

This guy also inspired my current haircut.

Richard Hawkins – Third Mind

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Art Institute of Chicago

Gay desire isn’t just about pretty boys.

We haven’t posted in forever; we’re going to make it up to you with a gay show! Everyone is slapping the National Portrait Gallery’s ass for being oh-so-brave for tackling the controversial topic of gay desire in American art. Because no one has dared go gay lately.  Oh wait, yes they have, here, here, and here.  And that’s just at one museum East Coasters.  Museums in the middle of the country have gone gay too; here in Chicago, Richard Hawkins – Third Mind is currently on view at the Art Institute.

This is what we gleaned from the intro walltext:   The Andy Warhol Foundation awarded a grant for this show, which is a not-so-unobvious clue that this show is going to be gay gay gay.  Third Mind, is Hawkins’s first museum survey, but NOT A RETROSPECTIVE, he’s a mid-career artist and isn’t going anywhere so let’s make that clear.   According to the text, the subtitle (Third Mind) “serves as a testament to the duplicity and ambiguity that characterizes his work,” but is probably more a play on this.  I don’t know if Hawkins work is as duplicitous and ambiguous as the curators are claiming; to me it’s not that unclear…more on that later.  Also the organization of the show is addressed:

Due to the decidedly circuitous nature of Hawkins’s art, linear chronology alone is an insufficient mode of presentation. Thus, this exhibition is laid out in a sequence of ‘rooms’ made up of visual and thematic comparisons that provide just one of many possible bases for comprehending and appreciating the complexities of Hawkins’s practice within the larger historical context provided by the encyclopedic setting of the Art Institute.

What a revelation!—Not. I love it when museums explain themselves, but here there doesn’t really seem to be anything to explain; the curators grouped works from various series of Hawkins work together, aaaand done.

From this first grouping of works (a collage series from 2000) two things are very clear: one, Hawkins excels in collages (paintings not so much, and sculptures sometimes). Two, the majority of people who love to buy Hawkins are from New York, Miami (not a shocker), LA (not shocking), and also Chicago, since apparently someone has been on a spending spree on behalf of the Art Institute.

Bottom - Urbis-Paganus-IV.9.1, (2009)

The next series of collages is funny as hell, and pretty gay.  The series combines various cutouts of Greek and Roman sculptures with texts praising this or that dick or ass of the sculptures.  Hawkins has no problem pointing out which Greek derriere he prefers most; his sassy comments on men’s physiques are the definition of being a bitchy gay.  Take that National Portrait Gallery with your “codified” signs of homosexual desire.

Zombies are the new vampires – Disembodies Zombie Head(s) (1997)

In the next room are several more series.  The Hawkins work I knew previously is the Disembodied Zombie Heads series.  Look here’s one from a MOCA show, how considerate of MOCA to lend it.  And if one Disembodied Zombie Head weren’t enough, and if three Disembodied Zombie Heads weren’t enough (the Hammer loaned not one, but two), the Art Institute has gathered six total (the other three come from LA too).  I think six Disembodied Zombie Heads is just overkill (but zombies are hot in Hollywood right now).

Some newly acquired Hawkins sculptures.

Several sculptures are scattered earlier on in the show, but the last room is mostly devoted to them.  House of Mad Professor (2008) from the Hammer, Crepuscule #1 & #3(1994), Dilapidarian Tower, (2010) and some other haunted houses litter the space.  The sculptures are engaging, mostly because they have elements of Hawkins’s collage practice in them.  And don’t forget, this show continues in Gallery 291…

If you want to see some of Hawkins’s paintings you have to go to the other side of the Modern Wing, up a flight of stairs, and navigate to the correct room.  It seems like the curators were trying to hide Hawkins paintings, and personally I think it’s because these paintings aren’t Hawkins’s best work. Organizing the exhibition with this divide only makes this fact more obvious to me.   (Apparently they do sell; they’re still listed on Hawkins’s LA gallery’s website.)   Had the curators chosen only 10 butt sculpture collages, and only three zombie heads, maybe there would have been room to put Hawkins’s paintings in with the rest of the show.

Customized of Readymade (2005) & Burberry Schoolgirl (2005) - In gallery 291 for a reason?

The many similar examples from the same collage series are excessive and unneeded; the effect makes this seem more like a gallery show and less like a thoughtfully curated museum exhibition.  Proof of this is in the pictures.  The below installation shots aren’t from the Art Institute, but from several recent gallery shows.  This is pretty much what the show at the Art Institute looks like.

Installation shots, but of what?

Maybe the curators wanted to show how widely Hawkins is collected, or maybe they wanted to showcase the shopping spree someone has been on. Many of the works in the show are labeled as newly acquired for the museum, proving that museums are active in the contemporary art market world (although perhaps only as recipients of works that a donor chooses to acquire).  Speaking of donors, let’s take a look at the lenders, there are a lot of them, and most of them are from New York, Miami and LA:

Craig Robins – Miami developer (and CE’mO) who loves artistic projects
Blake Byrne – Former-MOCA-board-member-‘mo
Kourosh Larizadeh & Luis Pardo – donate to ‘MOCA in LA
Goetz Collection – Munich, collection of Ingvild Goetz, who is a lady (exception to the trend)
John Morace & Tom Kennedy – New York ‘mos who sponsor a lot of shows
David Campbell – I hope this is the right old guy
Greene Naftali Gallery – Hawkins’s New York Gallery
Paul Chan – New York artist, also represented by Greene Naftali
Robert Lade & Richard Telles – LA ‘mos(?) and one half of Hawkins’s LA gallery, Richard Telles
Jim Isermann – LA artist, also represented by Richard Telles Gallery…
Tiffany Tuttle & Richard Lidinsky – Un-goggle-able couple
Dennis Cooper – LA, writer-of-Closer-‘mo
Barry Sloane – Big-shot LA realtor, who’s sold a Frank Lloyd Wright
Peter Norton – Gold-shitting heterosexual, of the Peter Norton Family foundation, and Norton Antivirus
And some Private Collection(s) in Chicago

So a bunch of ‘mo are buying Hawkins work, which isn’t surprising since the work is very generous (saturated even) with homosexual desire.  Let’s talk about desire:  When I was taking notes on my blackberry, I overheard a gallery walkthrough in progress.  A young museum educator talking with some silver-haired ladies, and I thought, wow this must be awkward.  But she handled it amazing well.  She recounted how she had given a tour to a highschool group and asked them to consider the idea of desire, how it is what you want and sometimes what you can’t have, and to question what is keeping you from having it.  Sources confirm that Hawkins is not dealing with unfulfilled desires.  After covering the subject matter of Greek and Roman sculptures, Hawkins began to focus on images on Asian boys.  Hawkins does indeed have a little Asian manfriend, so to his desires seem more fulfilled than un, mostly because little Asian men love him back.

Hope this post was as good for you as it was for me.  Why are the gay posts the best posts?

– H.I.

P.S. To my LA readers, Third Mind is headed to Los Angeles (shock of all shocks) after it closes in Chicago, so head over to the Hammer in February.

Urbis Paganus III (2009)– So many things you love all in one artwork Keith.

Dennis Hopper: Double Standard

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Museum of Contemporary Art

Title work, a visual pun

It’s been a long while since we (yes, the royal we) posted about a MOCA exhibition, which is sad since it was the museum that was closest to where I used to live in LA.  A lot has happened since Collection: the First 30 Years opened not so long ago.  MOCA is under new management, Jeffery Deitch from New York.  Changes are afoot, and Deitch wasted no time organizing new exhibitions. The show is curated by (non-MOCA employee) Julian Schnabel, who like Hopper, is also a director slash artist.  The show is, of course, Dennis Hopper: Double Standard.  The show was being organized while the famous director/actor/artist? was still alive, but sadly Hopper passed before the show opened in the beginning of July.  The show is presented at the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo.

You enter the space down a flight of stairs and immediately see the ass of a large colorful sculpture of a man in a sombrero.  This retrospective is not organized chronologically which I actually don’t mind in the slightest, the groupings are thematic or organized by medium.  There is a combination of large-scale sculptures, photographs and other media in the first room—an introduction to all the kinds of media that Hopper dabbled in.  As previously mentioned, the first thing you see is the ass of Salsa Man (2000) a massive pop sculpture of a mustachioed man holding a tray.  You have to walk around the man to see him frontally which is the kind of curation that demands movement.

Salsa Man’s big ass.

This movement gets visitors to the wall text, which is actually chalk full of information, but is still all the info provided for the whole show. Some things at MOCA will never change.  Other than thanking the sponsors (duh the Broad Foundation, which doesn’t own any Hopper works), the intro walltext also gives a concise rundown on the works in the show.  It explains Hopper’s interest in AbEx, how all but one of his AbEx paintings were destroyed in a fire, which begs to question: Where is this one painting MOCA?  It also explains the gap in Hopper’s artistic production from the end of the 60s until ’81.

Salsa Man is paired with a sculpture on the same scale Mobile Man (2000), both face out away from the rest of the exhibition towards the large garage doors of the gallery space.  This seemed odd to me, until I looked at photos from the opening reception where the garage door was open and people entered the exhibition that way.  This enforces speculations about the purpose(s) of this show, is it really to promote this artist?—Or to be attendance booster? And what kinds of people (Hollywood types) is Deitch trying to get involved with MOCA? Regardless the garage space in interesting considering its similarity to Hopper’s mixed-use home/workshop space out in Venice.

Can I get away with the word “Bomb” on my blog?

The second room is dominated by Bomb Drop (1967/68/2000); I have no idea what the slash in the date is for (maybe it is a recreated piece) thanks for the explanation MOCA.  The piece is very reminiscent of that Oldenberg Swiss Army Knife Boat (that wonderful prop).  This is pretty much characteristic of Hopper’s work, it was obviously inspired by other artists, many of whom he was besties with.  This room seems to be devoted to Hopper’s dabbling (yes I’m going to use this word multiple times) with Pop Art.  A Coca Cola Sign (1962) hangs in this gallery.  It is labeled as a “found object,” which begs to question the authorship of the piece, did Hopper even consider this one of his works, or was it something he had in his house that he hung on one of his walls?

I’m not sure you’re telling me this is art MOCA.

The next two rooms, and my favorites, were all about photographs.  The curators used the whole length of the walls and hung works on high and on low (much more stimulating than hanging them all in a row at the standard level).  The photographs were clustered into themes: Pop Images, Civil Rights, Spain and Bullfighting (very Manet), Celebrity Friends, Artist Friends…Instead of having labels on the wall visitors were provided with laminated cards attached to a ring (kinda cheap) with all the info listed there.  It was a fun game (for a while) to focus on one photo and attempting to find its label on the laminated sheets.

Hopper’s sexy celebrity friend, Paul Newman.

The most telling clumping of photos was the ones of Hopper’s celebrity artist friends.  Present were: Larry Bell, Bill Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Allan Kaprow, Craig Kauffman, Ed Kienholz, Claes Oldenberg, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.  (Notice a lot of big LA names—who’s looking forward to PST?—I am!)  This wall of famous artist friends is very telling about the kinds of people Hopper surrounded himself with, and makes a lot of sense when examining his artistic practices.

Big paintings?

Following the two photography rooms, was a room with three humungous paintings.  All of them were blown up versions of photographs from the previous room.  The title work Double Standard (2009) was accompanied by Biker Couple (2000) from a ’61 photograph, and Rope (2003).  I wonder if Double Standard was commissioned specifically for this show, it’s unclear how these works were executed, and whether Hopper actually painted them himself, or if they were just printed on huge canvases.  No collection or other notation is mentioned on the labels for these works.

At the back of the gallery is a dark theater with seating where there is a selection of movie clips called “Excerpts on Freedom” edited by Julian Schnabel.  It features clips from movies Hopper either acted in or directed: Easy Rider, The American Dreamer, Out of the Blue, Apocalypse Now, Giant, The American Friend, True Romance (damn that’s a lot of imdb links).  This theater acts as a kind of footnote: oh yeah and Hopper was an actor and director.  But wait, that’s what he is actually most known for, you’re trying to convince me he was an artist remember MOCA.

Warhol hiding behind a flower.

Another wing of the exhibition features additional large scale photorealistic paintings.  Henry Geldzahler (2009) form the Met, and Lichtenstein (2000) no collection mentioned hang with Warhol with Flower (2004) from a ’63 photograph in the other room.

The exhibition as a whole was much better than expected, I thought that the curators might attempt to deemphasize Hopper’s influences (his artist friends) and promote Hopper as more original then he really was.  The show is very honest; the writing is on the wall: in the form of Hopper’s portraits of his famous artist friends.

And now for your delight I present a complete waste of money spent shooting and editing a girl flipping through the Hopper exhibition catalogue.  Really? Really!  Is this necessary for any reason MOCA?

Thumbing Through Hopper from MOCA on Vimeo.

– H.I.

Oh and in case you missed it, MOCA has a blog. Who knew.  The curiously titled The Curve looks like it is fairly old, but didn’t go public until fairly recently. And look they do posts just of installation shots (I’m sure a lot of work went into crafting this post).  Now you don’t even need to go see the exhibition.

Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention

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Getty Center

I know that this exhibition is already over, but I still think it is worth posting about because it had so many elements involved with the exhibition design.

Somebody save that baby!

The exhibition was located on the terrace level of the west pavilion of the Getty Center. I entered the space by walking down the stairway from the level above, which allowed me a great view of the behemoth horse by Nina Akamu.  The work was a wall mural of a photo of Il Cavallo, which stands in the Parco dell’Ippodromo in Milan.  The contemporary sculpture was inspired by the sketches of Da Vinci, for an unrealized equestrian monument designed for Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan.  This unrealized sculpture was a big focus of the show, and this photo adhered to the entry wall helped to cultivate the theme of monumentality in Renaissance sculpture. Even though there were few sculptures (and none by Da Vinci) in the show.  The Da Vinci work in this show is made up of sketches, many from the Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

There were some very significant loan pieces, which is what the Getty does best; the reason to go see a show at the Getty is their ability to negotiate such loans.  (See for example French Bronzes, Bernini, or the display of Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.) A major lender in to this exhibition was the Museo Del Opera Del Duomo in Florence.  The very Tuscan, sand-colored rooms of the exhibition are divided into several themes.

He’s been cleaned up since this picture was taken.

Donatello and Da Vinci: This room was a kind of prologue to the show.  One big room, with only one big work: Donatello’s Bearded Prophet.  The huge bronze statue was illuminated by a single window in an upper corner of room.  The starkness of the room highlighted the monumental borrowed work and allowed a visitor to circumvent the entire work, which you wouldn’t have been able to in its original setting—on the campanile of the Duomo.  The wall text explains how Donatello enlarged certain parts of the sculpture because of the perspective of it being seen on high: like the hands and the saint’s head.  This was a technique that was evidently adopted by Da Vinci.

Lots of sketches; thanks QE2!

Da Vinci and the Florentine Tradition: Because this show prominently featured works on loan I was not allowed to take any photographs, and the Getty has a very diligent and dedicated army of gallery guards who promptly tell you to put that camera away, this is why I have no images from this room.  Let me describe it instead:  the second room had an assemblage of pedestals with framed sketches set on top of them.  The Da Vinci sketches looked precariously set on top of the pedestals, as if they would topple over if you bumped into one, which seemed unavoidable in the crowded forest of pedestals.  Wall text contextualized Da Vinci into the Florentine tradition, with its emphasis on disegno—the “masculine style” which the Tuscans thought far superior to the feminine, Venetian style of colorito.

If only my handwriting were this nice, or this legible.

In between the room that focused on Da Vinci’s equestrian monuments and other projects, and the next was a corridor that could have been left empty and unremarkable.  But no, the Getty exhibition designers weren’t going to waste a perfectly good wall.  In this wall way, like beautiful antique wallpaper, was enlarged images of Da Vinci’s handwriting.  I asked a gallery guard permission and was given the okay to photograph.

and a painting…so where’s the sculpture

In the next room, which was almost tucked away, Da Vinci’s St. Jerome (on loan from the Vatican!) was displayed.  The unfinished panel painting was the first work by Da Vinci in the show that wasn’t a sketch, not a sculpture, but still not a sketch.  What this painting was doing in a show about sculpture was rationalized by the curators in that the figure of Jerome was painted in a very sculptural way…I might be oversimplifying, but that’s all the average visitor is going to understand anyway.

Gotcha!

The final rooms were devoted to Giovan Francesco Rustici, an artist I had never heard of before this exhibition.  Apparently he was friends and colleagues with Da Vinci.  Because there are very few confidently attributed Da Vinci sculptures, and those probably are never allowed to move, the Getty provides this analogue (aka replacement) for the lack of Da Vinci sculptures.  Once again there were a lot of loan works, the most glorious of which were the three Rustici sculptures that made up the sculptural group John the Baptist Preaching to a Pharisee and a Levite, also from the Museo Del Opera Del Duomo.

And a non-blurry version taken in the High Museum.

Again the large works (meant to be seen on the exterior of a public building) were given plenty of room to stretch their large bronze limbs, and basked in plenty of natural sunlight.  The natural light helped to contextualize the works in their original location.  The works were amazing, and would be on their own, even if you ignore the Da vinci-Rustici relationship so hyped in this exhibition.  It really undermined Rustici’s talent as an individual artist, but at the same time exposed me to Rustici for the first time.

The unavoidable gift shop, at the Getty they have their own chain.

After exiting the exhibition, myself and all the visitors were forced into the adjacent retail space.  Yes the Getty has a very large bookstore, but they also set up specialty boutique shops as it were for special exhibitions. It was like strategic planning in a mall, but I did almost buy a street banner from the exhibition.

– H.I.