Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

Exhibit highlights architecture as product of its environment

“Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation,” at the National Building Museum, is obligatory for anyone who cares about architecture and museums. The exhibition, which opened Saturday, not only surveys the work of the Danish design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, it is also designed by the firm itself. BIG, as the company is known, is the same firm hired by the Smithsonian to remake its campus near the Castle on the Mall. Read full article >>



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Art review: ‘Architectural Image, 1920-1950’

It’s curious that today, with many cities thriving once again and young people flocking to urban enclaves, “the city” doesn’t conjure much in the visual imagination. The mental image of urban life is relatively anodyne, a warmly lit habitat for consumption and social bustle, but without much of an architectural profile. After decades of neglect and misguided planning, we now focus on streetscapes, walkable neighborhoods and architecture that is well-behaved, neighborly, frugal and environmentally sensitive, without much thought to the aesthetic drama of the built environment.Read full article >>



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‘200 Years of African American Art’ at Philadelphia Museum of Art

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Museum of Art says that its purchase of Henry Ossawa Tanner’s 1898 “Annunciation” was the first piece by an African American artist to be acquired by a major American museum. Tanner’s dramatic painting, in which a slightly disheveled and fretful Mary cowers before an angelic apparition, is one of the key works in the museum’s “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art.”Read full article >>



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Harvard’s three-in-one ‘teaching museum’ offers other art institutions much to learn

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — One might think that all art museums are in the business of teaching, but the “teaching museum” is a particular sub-category of the form, and for the most part limited to academic campuses. A teaching museum self-consciously and forthrightly embraces the idea that everyone should know something about art and that knowledge of art is fundamental to knowledge of the world. And there may be a subtle nuance in the word “teaching” as opposed to “education.” Most museums have education departments, but a teaching museum conceives of the process more actively, led by authoritative experts who are comfortable with the structural inequities of the student-teacher dynamic.Read full article >>



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‘Picturing Mary’: Filled with highlights but flawed in its omissions

“Picturing Mary” is the most ambitious exhibition mounted by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in years, and given its subject — images of the Virgin Mary — it is likely to be one of its most popular as well. It opens in the middle of the Christmas season, when the subject of Mary is particularly resonant, and it includes more than 60 works, some of them by the most celebrated artists of the Renaissance and baroque eras, including Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio and Dürer. If this show, which opens Friday, doesn’t fill the museum’s galleries with throngs of visitors, nothing will.Read full article >>



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Bartholomeus Spranger’s wild, weird and voluptuous art at the Met

The court of Rudolf II, the Habsburg king and Holy Roman emperor for more than 35 years, was rich in intellectual and artistic exotica. Astronomers and astrologers flocked there, as did serious scholars and silver-tongued hacks. The emperor, who never married but was widely renowned as a libertine, was deeply interested in alchemy, too, and in the catalogue to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that interest is posited as fundamental to understanding the wild, weird and voluptuous art characteristic of his reign.Read full article >>



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An art loan from Bill Cosby draws the Smithsonian into a national debate

Bill Cosby’s interview with an Associated Press reporter, filmed Nov. 6 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, shows power and privilege in operation. After reporter Brett Zongker asked the comedian about allegations that he had raped or sexually abused women, Cosby suggested that such questions were irresponsible. He and his wife had chosen to sit down with the AP, he said, because they thought the AP was a reputable news organization and would not dig into those unpleasant accusations.

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An art loan from Bill Cosby draws the Smithsonian into a national debate

Bill Cosby’s interview with an Associated Press reporter, filmed Nov. 6 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, shows power and privilege in operation. After reporter Brett Zongker asked the comedian about allegations that he had raped or sexually abused women, Cosby suggested that such questions were irresponsible. He and his wife had chosen to sit down with the AP, he said, because they thought the AP was a reputable news organization and wouldn’t dig into those unpleasant accusations.

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Sturtevant retrospective at MoMA is double trouble indeed

NEW YORK — The Museum of Modern Art is calling its survey show devoted to Elaine Sturtevant “Double Trouble,” which is a clever way to avoid a complicated semantic problem. Beginning in 1964 and for much of her career, Sturtevant made “replicas” of the work of other artists, appropriating stencils from Andy Warhol to produce convincing knockoffs of his silk screens and meticulously reproducing the target paintings of Jasper Johns, the geometries of Frank Stella and the cartoon Benday dots of Roy Lichtenstein.

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