Ups and Downs on Art Hill

Article excerpt

IT WAS a very good-news, sad-news, bad-news August for the St. Louis Art Museum.

The good news, from the administration's perspective, is that the Dale Chihuly glass exhibition has been a bang-up success with museum visitors. The show, which originated in Seattle and was installed here with great style by museum curator Cara McCarty, ranks among the more popular special exhibitions on Art Hill. As of last Tuesday, a total of 70,156 visitors passed through the turnstiles.

Also on the exhibition front, the retrospective of the 19-20th-century German painter Lovis Corinth, which comes here in November, received an enthusiastic reception in Berlin, as it had previously in Munich. The Corinth show has been a longtime project of the museum, in collaboration with European museums. St. Louis' share of the the work on the show was accomplished by Barbara Butts, the museum's curator of prints, drawings and photographs. The sad news, from the perspective of the entire arts community in St. Louis, is the resignation of museum curator Jeremy Strick, who goes to Chicago this autumn to be Dittmer Curator of 20th-Century Painting and Sculpture at the Art Institute. The offer of that position would be irresistible for someone like Strick, who has strong interests and expertise in the art of the late 19th century as well as this one. The modern collection in Chicago has strong ties to 19th-century art. If you ask for a greatest hits list from the Art Institute, you'll hear the names of artists such as Claude Monet and Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, all of whom were heirs to the revolution begun by Courbet and continued by Manet. The collection also includes strong examples of American modernism: "Nighthawks," by Edward Hopper, for example, and the picture every red-blooded American can identify, "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. But like many museums, the Art Institute has competition, too, for patrons of 20th century art. Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has a new, controversial building that's getting plenty of attention. Strick, who has shown himself to be comfortable and conversant with everything from Corot to Kiki Smith, should prove himself a valuable cultivator of collectors of modernist works of art. For that reason and a number of others, Strick's resignation is a blow to the Art Museum. …

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