Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

Exhibit review: In Virginia, a Rodin show changes how we see the sculptor

RICHMOND — Most people who make even occasional visits to an art museum probably feel they know Auguste Rodin fairly well, for his work is everywhere. Even modest regional museums may have a bronze cast of one of the iconic statues, and new casts are still being made, and sold, by the Musee Rodin in Paris. Indeed, the museum funded its recent renovation of the Hotel Biron, Rodin’s Paris studio, through the sale of new original bronze casts. Read full article >>

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Art review: ‘Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts’

The center of the world moves from East to West in a fascinating new exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. “Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts” begins with the age of Akbar, the great 16th-century Mughal emperor who fashioned a rich, multicultural, religiously tolerant state in what is now India, Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. It then moves on to the waning days of the Safavid empire in Persia, and ends up at the Bosphorus in the Ottoman Empire of the 18th century. Read full article >>

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Newly scrubbed Renwick Gallery opens Friday

The newly renovated Renwick Gallery is determined to convince you that it is an exemplary 21st century addition to the Smithsonian franchise. Its Second Empire exterior has new signage, and the grand staircase is now dressed up with a red runner that eschews straight edges for funky curves. The inaugural exhibition is called “Wonder” and goes for the maximum sensory effect, with each gallery devoted to a single art work or installation. Several of these works are, by design, almost too large for the spaces they occupy, and thus invert the usual hierarchy of art and architecture: The building doesn’t play host to art, but has been occupied or invaded by it. The old brick-and-sandstone lady that sits catty-corner to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue is now nicely scrubbed and full to the bursting.Read full article >>

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Kay WalkingStick, painting her heritage

One hopes there was a long and complicated discussion about the placement of the first painting that greets visitors at the entrance of the Kay WalkingStick exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian. The curators have chosen a recent painting, from 2011 — a large-scaled, sun-drenched Western landscape, with a colorful overlay of Navajo textile design superimposed on one side of its long, horizontal format.Read full article >>

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The use and abuse of the feminine in Hirshhorn’s ‘Marvelous Objects’

At one point in the Hirshhorn’s new exhibition “Marvelous Objects: Surrealist Sculpture From Paris to New York,” the wall text shifts into the feminine third person, displacing the standard, masculine pronoun. “A viewer peering into the box will see her own reflection,” a curator writes of a particularly delicious miniature world by Joseph Cornell. It’s a welcome break with the usual grammatical protocol, and especially apt given the fraught role women play in the history of this vibrant movement, which emerged shortly after World War I.Read full article >>

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Wild gardens that grew out from Washington

Washington doesn’t export a lot of aesthetic ideas, and the exceptions only prove the rule. Yes, the city can lay claim to the Washington Color School, more than a half-century ago, but that always feels a bit like the region’s claim to culinary fame, the crab cake: predictable, ubiquitous and uninspiring. But what has become known as the “New American Garden” did indeed take root in Washington before going viral, and its larger impact is so pervasive that it almost goes unnoticed.Read full article >>

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A unique chance to figure what the future of museums looks like

About a decade ago, as the American Alliance of Museums was approaching its 100th anniversary, its board did something a lot of boards do: It held brainstorming sessions to come up with new ideas for the next century. Among them was to create something inside the organization that would be focused on envisioning the museum of the 21st century. And then they did what boards that like to brainstorm about the future so often do: They devoted no new resources to their bold new idea.Read full article >>

Behind the scenes at an exhibition

Museums are economic engines,” reads a fact sheet published by the American Alliance of Museums. And there follows a staggering list of statistics: Museums employ more than 400,000 Americans and directly contribute $21 billion to the economy every year. “Arts and cultural production constitute 4.32% of the entire U.S. economy, a $698 billion industry, more than construction ($586.7 billion) or transportation and warehousing ($464 billion),” continues the well-intentioned list of talking points.Read full article >>

One last look at Switzerland’s $300 million view

In 1967, a fatal crash in Nicosia, Cyprus, led to the collapse of an airline company and financial distress for its major shareholder, a Swiss businessman whose father had amassed an important collection of 20th-century art. Peter Staechelin, son of the collector, Rudolf Staechelin, was forced to sell works by Monet, Cézanne, van Gogh and Alfred Sisley, and was about to offload two major Picassos as well.Read full article >>

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Fred Sandback, creating lines and defying boundaries at the Glenstone

The word minimalism, often applied, doesn’t really fit the work of artist Fred Sandback. His sculptures, mere outlines of basic geometric forms made with acrylic yarn, are materially as minimal as anything made in the past half century. They are rough-edged, without the smoothness and polish of other minimalist artists. Nor are they neatly self-contained objects, and no curator will ever take out the Windex to keep them buffed to a high shine.Read full article >>

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