Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

A setback for D.C. arts and culture, years in the making

They had already decided on a Saturday night in mid-September, and they had a tentative program: an evening of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Daniel Schnyder, a Swiss composer and saxophonist whose music crosses just about every definable stylistic boundary, from jazz to world music to opera. It was going to be a “hard-hat concert,” performed in the raw, crumbling space of the 1869 Franklin School. It would showcase the possibilities of the historic structure and generate support for the renovation of the historic building.Read full article >>



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Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s killing of D.C. cultural project shows only money matters

Not much good, culturally, came of the last mayor of the District, and now the new one is off to a dismal start. Little more than a month into her administration, Muriel Bowser has abruptly canceled one of the most promising cultural projects to take root in the District in decades, tearing up an agreement two years in the making with the Institute of Contemporary Expression.Read full article >>



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Art review: ‘Man Ray — Human Equations: A Journey From Mathematics to Shakespeare’

In the mid-1930s, the American expat photographer, painter and surrealist Man Ray was introduced by his friend Max Ernst to a curious collection of dust-covered objects at an elite school for higher mathematics in Paris. Made of plaster, wood, wire, paper and other materials, they were three-dimensional models of complex trigonometric equations. To Man Ray, they had an appealing weirdness, suggesting biomorphic and human forms, curious saddles and declivities, bulging cones and at least one shape distinctly like an amply proportioned human posterior.Read full article >>



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The National Gallery’s great feast: What was gobbled from the Corcoran

It’s still too soon for people mourning the loss of the Corcoran as an independent, local arts institution to celebrate the absorption of its magnificent art collection into the National Gallery of Art. At this point, it feels like passing the old mom-and-pop diner on the corner, now boarded up, empty inside, with a “coming soon” sign announcing the latest trendy restaurant. Of course it won’t be the same. The atmosphere is gone, the old crowd dispersed, but the food will certainly be better, more up-to-date, and there’ll be a real wine list!Read full article >>

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Piero di Cosimo, a misunderstood master, at the National Gallery of Art

In the fourth and most dramatic room of the National Gallery of Art’s captivating Piero di Cosimo retrospective, the walls are devoted to paintings in the round, a form known as a tondo. Some of these are on a grand scale, and one of them, borrowed from the Toledo Museum of Art, is in exceptional condition. The Virgin Mary looms large in “The Adoration of the Child,” resplendent in a brilliant red dress and sumptuous blue cloak. Her hands are held closely together, but the fingers don’t quite touch, a gesture that captures something between the otherworldliness of prayer and the tangible, maternal desire to reach out and caress her sleeping child. Beneath the two figures tadpoles swim in a dark but limpid pool.Read full article >>



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Season preview: At last, Piero di Cosimo gets a retrospective — and it’s in D.C.

Piero di Cosimo remains an enigma, and likely always will. The Renaissance master traveled once to Rome, but otherwise lived his entire life in Florence, where he was highly regarded, especially for his decorative floats, or cars, designed for the celebration of Carnival. What we know of him comes mainly from the work itself — often deliciously idiosyncratic and full of odd and intriguing details — and from fewer than a dozen pages devoted to him in Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” Read full article >>



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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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