Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

Further details about 11th Street Bridge Park show why ‘X’ marked the sweet spot

After Wednesday’s announcement that the 11th Street Bridge Park project has been awarded to the design team of OMA and Olin, developers of the urban park gave new details about what the winning architects and landscape designers have in mind. It is easy to see why OMA and Olin impressed the jury and rose above the other three finalists selected earlier this year from more than 80 entrants in a national design competition.

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Review: ‘Degas’ Little Dancer,’ at National Gallery

The best Degas exhibitions take you past the prettiness and straight to the heart of weirdness that makes his work, despite overexposure, always worth further effort. “Degas’ Little Dancer,” a one-room show at the National Gallery of Art, gets straight to the matter, looking under the waxen skin of the artist’s most famous and beloved sculpture and then at a cross section of his fascination with young ballerinas over time. And in almost every one of the 15 works on display, there is something troubling and odd.

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Armenian Orphan Rug to go on display at White House Visitor Center in November

The White House has confirmed that a controversial historical artifact known as the Armenian Orphan Rug will go on display at the newly renovated White House Visitor Center next month. The rug, woven by Armenian orphans in the 1920s and presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, was a gift thanking the United States for its role in assisting Armenians after the mass killings and genocidal relocations at the hands of the crumbling Ottoman Empire a century ago.

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How to view art: Be dead serious about it, but don’t expect too much

1. Take time

The biggest challenge when visiting an art museum is to disengage from our distracted selves. The pervasive, relentless, all-consuming power of time is the enemy. If you are thinking about where you have to be next, what you have left undone, what you could be doing instead of standing in front of art, there is no hope that anything significant will happen. But to disengage from time has become extraordinarily complicated. We are addicted to devices that remind us of the presence of time, cellphones and watches among them, but cameras too, because the camera has become a crutch to memory, and memory is our only defense against the loss of time.

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Toronto’s new Islamic art museum aims to express a non-threatening Islamic identity

TORONTO — The Aga Khan is a smiling man, genial, with twinkling eyes and never less than a faint trace of benign good will turning up the corners of his mouth. He smiled all the way through a speech last month at the opening of the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, especially while alluding to the innate happiness embodied in the branch of Shiite Islam of which he is the spiritual leader, Ismailism: “We are a community that welcomes the smile,” he said.

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In Washington, artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada creates a giant face on the mall

The enormous face emerging on the Mall in Washington is laid out on six acres of open space next to the Reflecting Pool and just west of the National World War II Memorial. Although workers were still constructing the image last week, using dark potting soil on a background of lighter-colored sand, an eye and the nose and chin of a young man were already clearly visible from high in the Washington Monument.

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Phillips Collection’s Neo-Impressionism exhibit captures movement’s escapist mood

Visitors to a 2013 exhibition of French drawings at the National Gallery of Art will likely remember a striking image by Charles Angrand, “The Annunciation to the Shepherds,” which showed two pastoral figures in a field of inky darkness, illuminated only by a thin shaft of light streaming from above. Angrand’s large and dramatic drawing, made in 1894, is a masterpiece of understatement, light and shadow, and now it’s back, along with three other Angrand works, in a Phillips Collection exhibition called “Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: Painting, Poetry, Music.”

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‘Nation to Nation’: Full of the intriguing, often maddening details of history

When the National Museum of the American Indian opened a decade ago this month, the tone, design and scholarship of the exhibitions were unlike anything else in Washington. Disgusted with ham-handed and often condescending treatment from traditional anthropologists, and determined to be the author of their own self-
representation in the nation’s capital, the leaders of the NMAI allowed individual tribes extraordinary input and power over what viewers saw in the museum’s galleries. The results were controversial: It was, in many ways, the ultimate postmodern museum experience, with no central narrative, no omniscient voice and no absolute appeals to the voice of science and history. But from the visitor’s point of view, it was also bewildering.

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In potential new security measures around White House, an unnecessary intrusion

Under no circumstances should the Secret Service be allowed to encroach further on the public space of Washington. Ill-considered, unnecessary and undemocratic security measures have already stolen from the American people the West Terrace of the Capitol, the front doors of the Supreme Court and the free flow of traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue at Lafayette Square. Now there are reports that the Secret Service is considering new security measures around the White House, including bag searches in nearby blocks.

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National Portrait Gallery exhibit features an exploration of Latin self-identity

“Staging the self” is an annoying phrase, and an unfortunate title for an otherwise excellent exhibition devoted to Latino self-representation at the National Portrait Gallery. It makes the thing this exhibition explores — how artists present a sense of themselves to the world — seem more complicated and intellectually sexier than it really is.

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