Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

At the National Gallery, Caillebotte’s intersection with greatness

You see it from the moment you enter the exhibition, Gustave Caillebotte’s masterpiece and one of the most famous paintings of the past 150 years. “Paris Street, Rainy Day,” borrowed from the Art Institute of Chicago, is placed at the end of a short enfilade of three galleries, documenting the impressionist painter’s best work, most of it made while he was an urban animal, a wealthy dandy, a self-styled flâneur, an impressionist impresario with the means and the energy to shape a movement. Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

MoMA and the architects of a Latin American design revolution

Critical opinion was pretty much unanimous earlier this spring when New York’s Museum of Modern Art unveiled an ill-considered, badly executed and intellectually trivial exhibition showcasing the career of the Icelandic singer Bjork. This was carnival stuff, empty spectacle, trashy hagiography and, after earlier shows devoted to figures such as Tim Burton and a one-off derivative performance piece in which Tilda Swinton slept in a glass box, yet more proof that MoMA under its longtime director, Glenn Lowry, has lost its way. It is now merely a colonial outpost of the entertainment industry, which levels culture not in the interests of democracy, education or access, but with an unthinking, reflexive animus to anything resistant to commercial exploitation.Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

A new front door opens up an insular enclave at State Department

The U.S. State Department may be the official public face we put to the world, but for years the face it has put to Washington has been an architectural mess. More than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, concrete security barriers still bestrew the east side of 23rd Street NW. Visitors to the diplomatic reception rooms are screened in an ugly modular structure on C Street. There is no clear public entrance to the building, which is composed of an early-1940s stripped-down classical structure that was, in the 1960s, dwarfed by an “addition” in the international modern style. And the entire complex feels like a giant black hole, sucking the life out of what should be a vibrant district, bounded by a major arts center, an urban university and the Mall. Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

A new front door opens up an insular enclave at State Department

The U.S. State Department may be the official public face we put to the world, but for years the face it has put to Washington has been an architectural mess. More than a decade after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, concrete security barriers still bestrew the east side of 23rd Street NW. Visitors to the diplomatic reception rooms are screened in an ugly modular structure on C Street. There is no clear public entrance to the building, which is composed of an early-1940s stripped-down classical structure that was, in the 1960s, dwarfed by an “addition” in the international modern style. And the entire complex feels like a giant black hole, sucking the life out of what should be a vibrant district, bounded by a major arts center, an urban university and the Mall. Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

Season Preview: For a rainy-day plan, Caillebotte at the National Gallery

Summer isn’t for catching up, merely a time for falling behind at a slightly slower rate. And the art world obliges, with a shift in pace from overwhelming to merely frenetic. The National Gallery of Art, which soldiers on with most of its East Building still closed for renovations, opens two significant exhibitions — both likely to be popular draws — just a week past the summer solstice. And on July 1, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopens the main floor of its east wing, after a floor-to-rafters renovation of some of its prime exhibition space. Farther afield, in Philadelphia, there’s an important exhibition devoted to the major Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel opening later this month, which makes a nice way station on the way to New York (where art never stops).Read full article >>




Season Preview: For a rainy-day plan, Caillebotte at the National Gallery

Summer isn’t for catching up, merely a time for falling behind at a slightly slower rate. And the art world obliges, with a shift in pace from overwhelming to merely frenetic. The National Gallery of Art, which soldiers on with most of its East Building still closed for renovations, opens two significant exhibitions — both likely to be popular draws — just a week past the summer solstice. And on July 1, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History reopens the main floor of its east wing, after a floor-to-rafters renovation of some of its prime exhibition space. Farther afield, in Philadelphia, there’s an important exhibition devoted to the major Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel opening later this month, which makes a nice way station on the way to New York (where art never stops).Read full article >>




‘Horace Pippin: The Way I See It’: A self-taught artist’s learned teacher

CHADDS FORD, Pa. — Horace Pippin, a self-taught American artist who died in 1946, is most often encountered one work at a time, here and there, usually in shows devoted to an overview of American or African American art in the 20th century. That often leaves the impression that Pippin was a minor artist, good at some things but unskilled at others. When his work is seen piecemeal, his artistry is easily overshadowed by that of more imposing figures, including Jacob Lawrence and Aaron Douglas, or made to seem merely an exemplar of larger trends in the art world (toward folk subjects, “primitivism” or the naivete of the “outsider” artist).Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

‘Filthy Lucre’ and the complicated relationship between artist and buyer

In 1840, the great British historian Thomas Macaulay predicted that the Roman Catholic Church would outlast all its skeptics and even the city of London, and he used a striking visual image to underscore his point: The Roman Church “may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.” That vision of ruins, made literal in a famous image by Gustave Doré, became something of a cliche in 19th-century writing. Though Macaulay’s New Zealander is mostly forgotten today, the delight in imagining our own world in ruins lingers, in movies that show Washington incinerated by aliens or New York inundated by apocalyptic floods.Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

It’s written all over their faces

The first Hirshhorn Museum exhibition organized under the watch of its recently appointed director, Melissa Chiu, is structured around three turning points in Iranian history. “Shirin Neshat: Facing History” contextualizes the artist’s work around the 1953 ouster of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power and the abortive Green Movement of 2009, which raised and dashed hopes of more democratic, secular-leaning governance. Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized

At the Met, the artistic riches of India’s Deccan Plateau

NEW YORKElihu Yale, the enterprising and corrupt colonial governor who gave a modest bequest and lent his name to Yale College, made much of his wealth trading diamonds from mines on the Deccan Plateau of south-central India. Yale’s name is a fascinating footnote to a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which examines the artistic production of the small but culturally robust sultanates of Deccan India. Yale, who exemplifies the reach of Deccan treasure, becomes one prism through which to see a show that is ultimately an exploration of cultural porosity, full of the material remnants of trade and colonialism, dynastic intrigue, war and religion.Read full article >>




Posted in Uncategorized