lunes, 12 de noviembre de 2018


 A l’occasion de la commémoration du 150e anniversaire de la Restauration de Meiji, cette exposition mettra en lumière les nombreux bouleversements liés à l’ère Meiji (1868-1912), qui fut une révolution sans précédent pour le Japon comme pour le Monde.

Cette exposition abordera différents aspects de la modernisation du Japon et de l’internationalisation de la production artistique à travers les différentes techniques artistiques. Elle rassemblera, entre autres, des exemples d’orfèvrerie, des cloisonnés, des photographies, des textiles, des peintures, des bronzes, des céramiques afin d’illustrer les mutations opérées dans la société tout entière et dans l’art en particulier. Elle fera découvrir de grands noms de l’art tel Kawanabe Kyosai ou Shibata Zeshin. Les liens entre artistes et créateurs au Japon et en Europe seront également évoqués par des rapprochements entre œuvres japonaises et occidentales contemporaines. Cet événement permettra de montrer la richesse des collections européennes publiques (MNAAG, Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum) ou privées, de découvrir un chapitre de l’histoire des arts trop méconnu et de montrer en quoi le Japon inventa lui aussi un « japonisme ».


Lydia Pyne

 Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

HOUSTON — At the turn of the 17th century, Ferrante Imperato, a well-to-do apothecary from Naples, had a truly impressive collection of natural history curios. From skeletons to seashells to swordfish, Imperato’s collection was a microcosm of how he, and his fellow European curiosi, encountered and catalogued the then-known natural world. When Imperato published a catalogue of his collection in 1599, Dell’Historia Naturale, he included a fold-out, engraved illustration of how he stored everything in floor-to-ceiling cabinets and bookshelves chockfull of books and natural history bric-a-bracs. With an alligator on the ceiling to taxidermied birds on the shelves, Imperato’s collection and its organization quickly came to epitomize Renaissance Europe’s Wunderkammer — cabinet of curiosities — and has for centuries.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has brought Imperato’s 16th-century engraving to life in its Cabinet of Curiosities exhibit. On the second floor of the museum, nestled between the Halls of Texas and African Wildlife, the HMNS has faithfully recreated a Renaissance cabinet of curiosities, right down to the sprightly lyre music plucking away in the background. The exhibit has the ethos and aesthetic of Imperato’s Renaissance cabinet, complete with a school of pufferfish hanging from the ceiling.

Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston exhibit has been a part of the museum for over a decade but is coming to a close in December. As a whole, it’s well worth a visit — few other exhibits, if any, so authentically balance the science, natural history, and aesthetics so inexorably intertwined in Europe’s early cabinets of curiosities.

Historically, cabinets like Imperato’s contained a plethora of objects from the natural world, like gems, corals, and fossils, as well as cultural artifacts from archaeological sites or ethnographic travels. Most cabinets of curiosities also included paintings and antiquities, in addition to maps, globes, and automata. Fundamentally, the purpose of the cabinet of curiosities was to inspire awe and wonder about the natural world and humankind’s place in it. The more exotic or striking the object — the more obscure its provenance — the more cultural cachet it carried for the collector.

Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Cabinet of Curiosities at the HMNS has all of these sorts of curios and more. Turn one way, and you see a row of bovid antlers hanging over a doorway across the room from African pottery. Turn another direction, and elephant tusks frame the fireplace with a mounted rhino head. In Imperato’s engraving, we see that the doors to the cabinets holding his collections are open, inviting us to peer at the objects contained inside. The HMNS also encourages visitors to open cabinets and drawers. (The hordes of school-kids running through the Cabinet of Curiosities weren’t sure whether items could be touched, but plenty of them pointed to African spears and asked their field trip chaperones whether those were like the ones from Black Panther.)

For hundreds of years, cabinets of curiosities have been considered forerunners of encyclopedias and of later museum institutions. But they’re more than just the physical manifestations of how bits and pieces of the natural world found their ways to the elite collectors of Europe. Cabinets of curiosities were the products of their historical context, organized by those who did the collecting — the European elite — and those who were collected. In other words, cabinets of curiosities are not just the physical curios of their collections — they’re the power dynamics of collecting and colonialism that followed the development of natural history for centuries.

“Cabinets collections can be beautiful, certainly, but they also speak to a history of colonial violence: museums aren’t created in a vacuum,” curator and doctoral candidate in history of science, Elaine Ayers, explained to me. Ayers, who is unaffiliated with the HMNS exhibit, points out that, “Displaying puffer fish alongside stuffed alligators evokes a sense of environmental diversity and provokes curiosity, but it also gestures towards the extractive processes by which these taxidermied specimens arrived at their new homes.”

Cabinet of Curiosities at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

While the Cabinet of Curiosities exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a fantastic recreation of a Renaissance phenomenon in natural history, it lacks contextualizing information about what one is seeing, why those curiosities might be part of a cabinet, or any sort of history about the science of natural history. There are no labels, tags, or explanatory schema to walk visitors through their experience or to explain what costs, economic or social, were incurred in procuring these items historically. (There is a short wooden plaque at the beginning of the exhibit that offers a couple of sentences about the history of the creation of cabinets of curiosities.) Although the lack of labeling is, interestingly enough, historically accurate for cabinets of curiosities, not informing visitors of what they’re seeing and why isn’t doing any service to natural history — especially at a time when museums and their visitors are pushing for more transparency about the context of artifacts on display.

“I believe, however, that there is still a necessary place for wonder in museums,” Ayers offers. “I would love to see a display that drew on these captivating early modern aesthetics, but — at the very least — provided audiences with full attribution of the collection and preparation of specimens to the indigenous peoples, women, and middle-class practitioners who exist silently in the halls of museums.”

It’s been over 400 years since Ferrante Imperato published his catalogue. If the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s exhibit is any indication, cabinets and their curiosities continue to inspire audiences with awe and wonder about the natural world.

Cabinet of Curiosities continues at the Houston Museum of Natural Science through December 31.


To Dream Avant-Garde acknowledges the artistic innovators of today — those who push the cultural status quo in their work.
Sarah Rose Sharp

To Dream Avant-Garde at Hammond Harkins, installation view (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — There are at least two schools of thought around notions of the avant-garde. One defines it narrowly as linked to the period of modernism in contemporary art, from the late 19th century into the mid-20th century, while another associates it more broadly by the earmark of vanguardism — that is to say, a tendency to push the cultural status quo. Put another way: one version casts the avant-garde as a fixed canon, to which entry is permanently closed. The other considers it a kind of ongoing party, which any like-minded and counter-cultural artist may join.

As a number of the artists participating in To Dream Avant-Garde, curated by Alteronce Gumby at Hammond Harkins Galleries, are engaged in rather exciting and extremely current practices, we can assume the avant-garde in this case represents the latter view, rather than the former. The show includes work by young guns like Aaron Fowler and Tariku Shiferaw, as well as that of long-established practitioners like Faith Ringgold, who grew up in Harlem on the heels of the Harlem Renaissance — the centennial of which is being celebrated citywide in Columbus this year. To Dream Avant-Garde is Hammond Harkins’s piece of dedicated programming within I, Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100, and unsurprisingly, every featured artist and participant is reflective of the collective flourishing of artists of color in the mainstream, due in part to the influence of that movement.
“As an acknowledgment to those innovators, who were also dreamers of an American identity and country to call their own,” wrote Gumby in his curatorial statement, “the artists in this exhibition display a survey of ideas, intention and materials that invoke the legacy and culture of Harlem.”

Through a series of eclectic choices, Gumby extends his cohort beyond a sense of kinship — which is ultimately a compulsory kind of relationship — into an air of riffing and conversation more characteristic of friendship. From Lucia Hierro’s digital print collages mounted on felt pillow-like canvases that were expressly forbidden from being hung on walls, to a partition by Eric N. Mack, comprised of pegboard panels embellished with rope and acrylic, to a series of hanging blown-glass ornaments containing evocative hand-stitched iconography by Leslie Jimenez, and Tschabalala Self’s loose, figurative study of cans of incense, there is a feel of abstraction on the edges of everyday objects. This kind of culture-bending is, arguably, owed its own chapter within the mapping of the avant-garde, a kind of remaking and customization of Duchampian readymades; a different approach to cultivating the stuff of life to the stuff of art…………….


“Puccini in Love”  surveys mostly well-known love duets from Puccini’s canon. Because the music will be familiar to opera aficionados, the album’s success or failure depends on whether the interpreters can make the familiar fresh. 


 Selecting from over 4 million objects, director Wes Anderson and his partner, illustrator Juman Malouf, have curated a unique, genre- and century-crossing exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.


Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf with Sabine Haag in front of a hall of portraits in Vienna (KHM-Museumsverband/Rafaela Proell)
Larger-than-life personalities

Celebrity curations are nothing new for the Kunsthistorisches Museum. But many of the 400 objects on display in "Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin," curated by director Wes Anderson (center) and illustrator and designer Juman Malouf (l), can be seen for the first time in the museum. Working with museum director Sabine Haag (r), the pair selected objects from 14 collections, including the Old Masters.

"The Spitzmaus Mummy in a Coffin and Other Treasures from the Kunsthistorisches Museum" is a unique title for an exhibition. Then again, this is no ordinary show.

Opening on November 6, 2018, the palatial Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna — which houses one of the world's foremost fine arts collections — features 400 items chosen from its 14 collections of more than 4 million objects. Dating back as early as ancient Egypt and spanning more than 5,000 years, the items were hand-picked by American director Wes Anderson and his partner, the author and illustrator Juman Malouf.

A complimentary aesthetic: Twee

Renowned for producing unusual movies with complex plots, Anderson has gained cult status for cultivating a highly stylized aesthetic — one which fans will nearly instantly recognize. Although Anderson himself has said his films are the product of collaborative efforts with the others on each project — "You cannot end up with the same thing if you change those names and keep mine" — there is a common thread tying Anderson's movies together: the look.

 The Grand Budapest Hotel (picture-alliance/dpa/20th Century Fox/M. Scali)
Colorful, nostalgic, original: Anderson claims to not have a unique aesthetic, yet his art is easily recognizable

While some critics have referred to the aesthetics of Anderson's work in a derogatory way, labeling it as "twee," the author Marc Spitz finds both Anderson and the idea of twee a good thing in contemporary society.

Writing in 2012, shortly after Anderson's film The Royal Tenenbaums was released, Spitz said that the twee "were souls with an almost incapacitating awareness of darkness, death and cruelty, who made the personal choice to focus on essential goodness and sweetness. They kept a tether to childhood and innocence and a tether to adulthood as is required by the politically and socially active."

That aesthetic — and the thread tethering the innocence of childhood with the political and social activism of adulthood — has come through in the curation led by Anderson and Malouf. As has a certain nostalgia, a glance back at the dynasties of bygone eras.

Curation by trial-and-error

From a Qing Dynasty vase to a bugle belonging to the Austrian court wardrobe to an Indonesian actor's mask, the selection of objects cuts across centuries, medium and genre. The selection is a compendium of artifacts tied together in a manner only Anderson and Malouf could create.

Instead of displaying the objects by era or separating them by collection, the artists chose unusual placements — hanging a portrait of a seven-year-old falconer (Emperor Charles V) alongside one of a four-year-old dog owner (Emperor Ferdinand II). Anderson explains their selection process in the accompanying catalog as such, "We do harbor the humble aspiration that the unconventional groupings and arrangement of the works on display may influence the study of art and antiquity in minor, even trivial, but nevertheless detectable ways for many future generations to come."

"True: one of the Kunsthistorisches Museum's most senior curators (educated, of course, at the University of Heidelberg) at first failed to detect some of the, we thought, more blatant connections; and, even after we pointed most of them out, still questions their curatorial validity in, arguably, all instances. But, should our experiment fail on these levels, we are, nevertheless, confident it will, at the very least, serve the purpose of ruling out certain hypotheses, thereby advancing the methods of art history through the scientific process of trial-and-error. (In this case, error.)"

 Pencil sketch of two nude sculptures (Juman Malouf)

Malouf, a writer and illustrator, created sketches of several of the exhibits

An idea inspired by Warhol

One of the museum's curators, Jasper Sharp, worked closely with the guest curators while also allowing them freedom during the selection process. "Their approach was governed from the very beginning by intuition and excitement," Sharp writes in the exhibition catalog.

Noting the historical significance of the museum galleries in which the objects are presented, he writes, "it feels entirely appropriate that the exhibition is being presented within the rooms of the Kunstkammer, in whose origins we can find the very earliest strategies of display, systems of order and organization, and play of relationships between objects."

The idea for the guest curatorship, he goes on to say, was not his own but was inspired instead by Andy Warhol's work across three museums in 1969-1970, which resulted in the exhibition "Raid the Icebox I with Andy Warhol."

Invited by Jean and Dominique de Menil to draw from the collections of the Rhode Island School of Design, Warhol selected items from the museum's storage as an experiment that responded to de Menil's questions: "What would happen if some important contemporary artist were to choose an exhibition from the reserves? If the only organizing principle would be whether or not he liked whatever he saw? Would the result be different from having a storage show chosen by a curator? Or by anyone? If the artist who selected the materials were strong enough, would he impose his personality on the objects? And If he were famous enough, would it not oblige the curious to look?"

The answers Warhol provided both in his selection and in his methods for presentation, Sharp writes, "were provocative and unconventional, assaulting the principles of connoisseurship and established institutional yardsticks for considering the relative value of objects."

While Warhol's answers have continued to inspire museum directors even today, the questions are being posed anew with each guest curatorship.

Whether the twee universe of Wes Anderson and Juman Malouf will oblige the curious to look will be seen in the number of visitors to the Viennese Museum to see the exhibition, which will move to the Fondazione Prada in Milan in October 2019.

domingo, 11 de noviembre de 2018


Richard Tucker Award, spoke with the Met’s Jay Goodwin about singing the title role of Boito’s Mefistofele.

Your Met career goes back to 2003, when you were a winner of the National Council Auditions. But our audiences really started to get to know you with your official Met debut in 2013 as Pistola in Falstaff. Since then, you’ve given nearly 40 performances in important roles. But Mefistofele is different, offering a rare opportunity for the bass to be the star of the show. 

How have you gotten yourself ready?

I actually feel very prepared. The part is a natural fit for my voice—a true bass-baritone part that sits right in my wheelhouse. Also, Robert Carsen’s production is well known, and I’m very familiar with it. So for me, it was just a matter of learning the text and getting it all in my head. I’m definitely ready to go.

How do you get in the right frame of mind to play this character?

Well, he’s the devil, and anytime you get to play the devil, you have a great opportunity to have fun. That’s the key with Boito’s Mefistofele: He’s having a great time. He’s the devil that you root for—or at least I do. For him, it’s not life or death. It’s a wager, a game. So all the way through, up until the very end, he needs to be having fun.

Many people know Boito as the librettist for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff, but fewer know him as a composer. How would you describe his music?

The music is incredible, and he grabs you right at the outset with unbelievable choral music that’s worth the price of admission on its own. Eventually, you get everything from French grand opera to Italian lyricism to Wagnerian influences. And just because it’s called Mefistofele doesn’t mean there isn’t great music for the tenor and the sopranos. The tenor part is gorgeous all the way through—very difficult, but gorgeous. And the opera has some of the most beautiful music for soprano that you’ll ever hear. I really think it deserves a bigger place in the repertoire.

When Mefistofele was last performed at the Met in 2000, Samuel Ramey was at the head of the cast. How does it feel to follow in his footsteps?

Well, to do any role that Sam made famous is a special challenge. I actually had a chance to speak with him about doing this part. He was very encouraging, but said that the costume department would have to add about six inches to the pants because of my height. [Laughs] And by the way, that’s another aspect of this production—the costumes. Mefistofele is basically half-naked the whole time, so that’s been part of my preparation as well.

I was going to ask if you’ve been spending extra time in the gym.

Absolutely. Although a friend suggested that I show up in terrible shape so that nobody could say I got the part because I looked good. [Laughs]

Jay Goodwin is the Met’s Editorial Director.


 16 de noviembre 2018 - 3 de marzo 2019
El color rosa y la amplia familia de rosados, desde el pastel al fucsia, del nácar al frambuesa, son los protagonistas de La vie en rose, una exposición temporal que profundiza en los aspectos técnicos y simbólicos asociados al uso de este color en la cultura occidental, especialmente a través de su uso en la moda.
Las múltiples tonalidades de rosa remiten a los periodos en los que han sido más utilizadas, aquellos en los que las técnicas tintóreas permitieron su aparición o en los que sencillamente se difundieron como moda. Esa misma lectura histórica revela una transformación paulatina de sus significados, que ha adquirido en la cultura contemporánea un gran poder performativo y requiere un análisis desde la perspectiva de género.

La colección del Museo ofrece innumerables ejemplos de utilización del rosa en el textil y la indumentaria desde el siglo XVIII hasta la actualidad, así como amplias muestras de la cultura material española con la misma característica, desde carteles publicitarios a útiles de cocina. A partir de ellas, se ha establecido un discurso expositivo que se completa con piezas custodiadas por otros museos como el Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas o el Museo Arqueológico Nacional, además de colecciones privadas como la de Antoni de Montpalau.
Comisariado: Lucina Llorente y Juan Gutiérrez Coordinación: Ana Muñoz Producción: Museo del Traje Lugar: sala de exposiciones, planta baja
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