New Realities for the Art Museum
Wayne, Kenneth, New Criterion
The past few years have seen significant changes in the museum field, with some developments that will mark the field for decades to come. One interesting, and very. effective, development has been the noticeable increase in double-barreled exhibitions: "Matisse Picasso" (MOMA Tate, Pompidou, 2002-2003; curated by John Elderfield, Kirk Varnedoe, John Golding, Elizabeth Cowling, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, and Anne Baldassari); "Van Gogh-Gauguin: the Studio of the South" (Art Institute of Chicago, 2001-2002; curated by Douglas Druick); "Manet-Velazquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting" (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Reunion des Musees Nationaux/ Musee d'Orsay, 2003; curated by Gary Tinterow and Genevieve Lacambre); and "Schoenberg, Kandinsky and the Blue Rider" (Jewish Museum, New York, 2003; curated by Esther da Costa Meyer and Fred Wasserman).
Traditionally, museum exhibitions have been monographic, based on a single artist or a single movement. One reason for the popularity of the monographic approach is that it is the simplest, most straightforward, and most direct way of presenting material to a public which is often unfamiliar with the images being seen. On occasion, exhibitions will focus on a single artist within a certain time or place, perhaps joined by fellow artists (e.g., the Art Institute's current "Manet and the Sea" the Boston MFA'S "Gauguin in Tahiti" 2004, or my own "Modigliani and the Artists of Montparnasse" of this past year).
While the two-pronged approach sounded a bit academic at first--like sitting in an art history lecture and looking at slide comparisons--it has proven to be remarkably successful. The visual images carry the thesis better than words ever could. (A cynic would say that it is an attempt to get two flashy names into the title and therefore double one's chances of attracting visitors to the show.) The Matisse-Picasso show, for example, was so brilliant, and conveyed so well the point of the show--that Matisse and Picasso had an undeniably powerful lifelong artistic dialogue--that one almost wonders why we have all spent so much time thinking and talking about Picasso-Braque. The idea for the exhibition came from Picasso himself: "You have got to be able to picture side …
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Publication information: Article title: New Realities for the Art Museum. Contributors: Wayne, Kenneth - Author. Magazine title: New Criterion. Volume: 22. Issue: 4 Publication date: December 2003. Page number: 47+. © 1999 Foundation for Cultural Review. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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