Posts Tagged ‘Art – Museums’

PostHeaderIcon Chicago’s New Art Museum

DeOaul Art Mueseum

DePaul Art Museum

There’s a new museum in town. Yet I’m not sure how many Chicagoans know the good news. The DePaul Art Museum opened last September in a new, three-story structure adjoining the Fullerton CTA stop.

The museum is only new in a technical sense. Since 1998, it has been housed in two large rooms within Richardson Library, unknown to outside passersby. Louise Lincoln, its highly capable director since 1997, has mounted numerous noteworthy exhibitions under serious limitations.

Though art has been present on campus from 1985, it was hidden in the literal sense. What the striking red brick building achieves is a freestanding space for the museum’s art collection (2,000 objects with extensive holdings of Chicago art) with the size (15,000 sq. ft.) and facilities (a new collection study room) befitting a true museum. It also signifies the university’s growing commitment to the arts.

A tip of the hat is warranted for the contextually-rich design by Antunovich Associates, their first museum project.

My earlier post focused on Chicago’s formerly feisty publication, The New Art Examiner, and its dedicated focus on Chicago and the greater Midwest art community. Lincoln and assistant director, Laura Fatemi, opted for an equally strong local focus and provocative theme for their opening show

Re: Chicago opens with a wall text that states, “Chicago rivals—and surpasses—other cities in music, architecture and theater; yet in the visual arts, it has too frequently been seen as a ‘second city’.”  Though many prominent artists, past and present, sport Chicago connections, many left and made their reputations elsewhere.

The exhibit seeks to reframe Chicago as a true artistic center vis-a-vis other centers such as Paris, New York and even Los Angeles. Alongside the Chicago theme, Lincoln chose a novel way to showcase the chosen works: a group-curated show. She polled 43 curators, collectors, critics and scholars to name a favorite Chicago artist. The result is an alternate canon of the famous, the no longer famous and the ought to be famous.

Ivan Albright

Ivan Albright

The show is both a delight to walk through and an entertaining guessing game. New discoveries loom at each hang while one wonders what did James Elkins, Neil Harris, Lew Manilow and James Rondeau choose? For every known artist like Ivan Albright, Karl Wirsum, Dawoud Bey and Richard Hunt, there was the thrill of discovering Manierre Dawson, Art Shay, Macena Barton, Irving Petlin and many more. Most surprising was Franz Schulze’s backward reach into the mid-19th Century for now-forgotten portraitist, George Healy, along with the absence of Ed Paschke, Roger Brown or Jim Nutt.

Manierre Dawson

Manierre Dawson

You’ll want to take home the show’s colorful, attractively-designed catalog to reread not only each curator’s supporting statement but for the scholarly essays buttressing Chicago’s claim for its rightful place in the art world.

Wendy Greenhouse skillfully argues that Chicago’s art tradition has run counter to the prevailing canon throughout history. Its artists have long favored representational or surreal (“cartoonish”) work over an East Coast canon dominated by abstract, expressionistic art.

Karl Wirsum

Karl Wirsum

Lynne Warren champions Chicago’s “extraordinary photographic legacy” and bemoans the near-criminal neglect of such masters as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind and other renowned figures.

If you are an art lover, you owe it to yourself to get to the DePaul Art Museum by March 4 to catch this appealing yet ultimately serious show. The museum’s next exhibition will feature African photographer, Malick Sidibe. It opens March 29.

DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 West Fullerton Avenue. For information on public events and hours, call 773/325-7506 or visit

PostHeaderIcon Museums in the Artists’ Backyard

Ceazzanes Studio

Cezanne's Studio

It’s been almost 50 years since I took an Art History 101 course at Fordham University. I didn’t know it at the time but that experience would shape my lifelong interest in Art ever since.

I still remember the charismatic teacher for that course, Sabine Gova, who would keep me enthralled for nearly 3 hours each Tuesday afternoon while she projected countless slides of art and architectural masterworks and brought them to life. In addition to her knowledge of the paintings and artists that she shared, she also imparted another gift. She taught me how to look.

Every week, with countless images, she would challenge us with a variety of questions: “What do you see?, What is happening in this scene?, “Are the figures properly proportioned?”, “What makes this work a masterpiece?”. Precisely the type of questions I ask myself when I tour museum exhibits today.

Madame Gova, who was French, exposed me to artists such as Giotto,  Leonardo, Albert Durer, Van Gogh, Vermeer, Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Monet and Matisse to cite only ten who remain personal favorites.

Cote D'Azur

Cote D'Azur

I have traveled to museums at home and in Europe and admired the works of those ten and many more. However, this summer I am exploring the very region–Provence and the Cote d’Azur in southern France–where many late 19th and 20th Century artists lived and captured the special quality of light and landscape one finds there.

And many of the towns—Aix-en-Provence, Antibes, Biot, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Le Cannet, Nice, Vence–house museums dedicated solely to the work of the artist who lived and painted there. The museum in Aix features Cezanne’s studio, Antibes honors Picasso (who has museums in Villauris and Paris as well), Biot features Fernand Leger, Cagnes has the home where Renoir spent the final twelve years of his life, Le Cannet was home to Bonnard (an attractive museum housed in a former villa just opened in June), Nice has Matisse and Chagall museums.

It was a special treat to step into the very place—and the upstairs studio—that Renoir called home! Or to roam—and sometimes recognize—the same everyday places that Picasso, Miro, Matisse, Cezanne and Bonnard immortalized in paint. Compared to this living experience, a museum seems a much more sterile, impersonal storehouse.

Matise chapel 2

Matisse Chapel

Two artists—Matisse and Jean-Michel Folon—even created two great works  of architecture. Each has designed beautiful chapels brightly illuminated by stain glass (Matisse) or glowing mosaic tiles (Folon). Matisse’s chapel is in Vence and was done to thank the order of nuns who cared for him during his last years. Folon, following Matisse’s example—designed La Chapelle des Penitents Blancs (White Penitent’s Chapel)—in St. Paul de Vence. He died in 2005 but his friends completed his vision. I had the pleasure of participating in Sunday Mass at the Matisse chapel and am told that Folon’s chapel is used for mass and marriage ceremonies.

Most of the museums are modest in scale except for the Leger and Matisse museums which are large structures. The museums’ holdings vary in quality.  Each has around 50-100 works on display, ranging from paintings to drawings, photographs and archival material. However, nearly all the real treasures produced by these artists are now housed in American and European collections like MoMA, the Art Institute, and the Musee d’Orsay.

Bonnare Museum

Bonnard Museum

The inaugural exhibit at the new Bonnard Museum was drawn from international collections. The American collector who first collected Bonnard, an artist whose ranking has climbed steadily in the past 25 years, was Duncan Phillips (a gem of a house museum in Washington, D.C.). His acquisition is on display as is a beauty from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art which mounted a stunning Bonnard exhibition a few years ago.

An absolute must-see on a journey to this region is France’s only privately-run museum, the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence. It could qualify as an artist museum since its founder, Aime Maeght, was originally a lithographer in Cannes who befriended many of the artists in that region beginning in the 1940s. Maeght went on to become a highly successful art dealer and publisher of art books in Paris.

When one of his sons, Bernard, died at an early age, a grieving Maeght was encouraged by George Braque to build a chapel in his honor on the St. Paul site and to share his personal collection as an artist foundation, an unknown concept in France at that time. Maeght hired noted Spanish architect, Jose-Luis Sert, to design the structure and many of his artist friends contributed works. The Fondation opened in 1964.

fondation-maeght-outsideThe Fondation’s collection consists of Aime and Marguerite original works, donations by their artist friends, many of whom are now internationally-known, ranks as the fifth-largest museum in France, though it receives no state funds and operates as a private foundation.

The building’s main exhibit hall is a knockout. It contains eight significant paintings and sculptures by a 20th Century artistic Who’s Who of Fernand Leger, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Sam Francis, Alberto Giacometti and Wassily Kandinsky.

Miro Labrynthe Garden

Miro Labyrnth Garden

Joan Miro’s mysterious, captivating giant sculptures and playful fountains in his Labyrinth Garden, combined with the lush outdoor setting, is a sight that will remain with me forever. Miro’s genius has never been better displayed.

Many vacationers visit the Cote d’Azur for its endless summer weather, to catch a glimpse of the celebrities and millionaires who live there or to gawk at the rich and famous’ conspicuous trinkets, such as Steven Spielberg’s giant yacht (available for rent at a mere $375,000 a week). For me, the richer payoff is basking in the everyday life of the artistic “backyard” that, a century later, still impacts our world’s cultural legacy.

PostHeaderIcon Hot Heads Over Hot Pots

Ancient Egyptian potsLittle do millennial-old Roman, Greek, Chinese and Egyptian vases, pots, precious jade objects encased in museum vitrines know what trouble they have unleashed in modern times.  For at least the past 25 years, museums, dealers and collectors have found themselves under verbal and legal attack from archeologists and source countries, accused of encouraging looting and illegal trafficking in  ancient treasures. Read the rest of this entry »

PostHeaderIcon Passionate Collector’s Peerless Collection

The year is only six weeks old but, last week, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., opened an exhibition that promises to be a high point of 2010.   From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection. Chicago’s serious collectors, connoisseurs and simply fans of mesmerizing paintings need to make a pilgrimage to Washington before next July 31. But don’t wait until next year to go. You will want to return for a second viewing. Dale’s bequest stipulates that the works can only be seen at the National Gallery.

Chester Dale was a dashing, hard-driving Wall Street financier.  He started on “The Street” as a lowly runner but, through shrewd instincts, amassed a fortune.  He began buying art as a hobby. However, once his wife, Maud, who was trained as an artist, saw that his passion for art was genuine, she took charge and guided the building of their superb collection. Dale purchased the bulk of his collection during a whirlwind period from 1926 to 1932. The Great Depression curtailed his feverish pace.  He made fewer purchases over the next twenty-five years with his final acquisition being Salvador Dali’s “The Last Supper” in 1956.

Dale was courted by dealers and museums.  At various times, he was a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute and the Philadelphia Museum of Art besides the National Gallery. Both Chicago and Philadelphia wooed him in hopes of acquiring his collection. However, at his death in 1962, the entire collection went to the National Gallery.  He chose that institution because his collection would rest in the nation’s museum and add immeasurably to the new museum’s holdings. John Walker, a former director of the National Gallery, assessed its importance saying, “It’s not just the backbone but the whole rib structure of the modern French school.”

The collection consists of 306 works—223 paintings, sculptures and works on paper —of which 81 are on display.  Visitors can take an art history tour of stunning breadth including late 19th to early 20th Century masterworks by Degas, Manet,  Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt,  Redon, Cezanne, Picasso, Braque, Matisse,  Modigliani, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rousseau and Dali.

Kimberly Jones, who curated the show and authored its accompanying catalogue, admits to a few favorites in the show.  They are Manet’s “The Old Musician”, Henri Fantin- Latour’s “Portrait of Sonia” (his niece) and Braque’s still life, “Le Jour”. She says,”It’s been really wonderful for me to learn about what Chester Dale meant for the National Gallery, the nation and the history of collecting in general.”