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Paul Gauguin
Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 1897-98, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in "Gauguin, Cézanne, and Matisse: Visions of Arcadia" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art


June 7, 2011

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Last month the brain trust from the Philadelphia Museum of Art -- notably the museum director Timothy Rub, now two years in the job (after heading the Cleveland Museum), and CEO Gail Harrity -- rolled into New York City and feted the town’s ink-stained art press to lunch at the tony Lotos Club (no jeans!) on East 66th Street.

No sooner was an aerial shot of the museum’s well-known Neo-Classical building flashed on the screen -- it sits on a rise in the park-like Eakins Oval -- than a wag suggested to Harrity that the site cried out for a high-rise annex, say 30 or 40 asymmetrical stories designed by Frank Gehry. No such luck, but Gehry is in fact on the job, though he is undertaking the relatively self-effacing task of designing a "virtually invisible" loading dock and art-handling facility (with an $81 million pricetag) on the museum’s Schuylkill River side. Phase two of the job is a renovation of 24,000 square feet of space in the existing building.  

Also on the agenda was a preview of the museum’s forthcoming exhibitions. Some highlights:

* Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus, Aug. 3-Oct. 30, 2011, features about 50 works, including seven late paintings by Rembrandt or his assistants that take the then-unusual step of using a living Jewish model for Jesus.

* Here and Now: Prints, Drawings and Photographs by Ten Philadelphia Artists, Sept. 10, 2011-Dec. 4, 2012, makes a case for the local talent, via works by Astrid Bowlby, Steven and Billy Blaise Dufala, Vincent Feldman, Daniel Heyman, Isaac Tin Wei Lin, Virgil Marti, Joshua Mosley, Serena Perrone, Hannah Price and Mia Rosenthal. The show is organized by print curator Innis Howe Shoemaker.

* Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion, Sept. 17, 2011-April 2012, presents an "all-encompassing environment," designed by Hadid herself, displaying everything from her 2007 Z-Car to some crocodile-patterned plastic shoes made for Lacoste in 2008.

* Tristin Lowe: Under the Influence, October 2011-January 2012, presents Lunacy, a spherical model of the moon measuring over 12 feet in diameter, which was commissioned by the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, where it debuted in 2010.

* Zoe Strauss: Under I-95, Jan. 14-Apr. 22, 2012, presents 150 prints in a mid-career retrospective of the Philadelphia photographer who gained renown for annually exhibiting her photos, for one day during each of the last ten years, on concrete columns under the interstate in South Philadelphia, where visitors could buy signed prints for $5 each.

* Van Gogh Up Close, Feb. 1-May 6, 2012, focuses on the artist’s images of nature -- often portrayed in close-up, or cropped, or with tilted perspective -- via about 45 paintings and almost 90 works in all. The show is organized by curators Joseph J. Rishel and Jennifer Thompson, and mounted in collaboration with the National Gallery of Canada.

* Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse, Visions of Arcadia, June-September 2012, brings together Gauguin’s mural-scaled Where Do We Come From: What Are We? Where Are We Going? from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Cézanne’s The Large Bathers from the Philadelphia Museum; and Matisse’s Bathers by a River from the Art Institute of Chicago. The curator is Joseph J. Rishel.

* Shipwreck: Winslow Homer and the Life Line, September-December 2012, features over 50 works celebrating "modern heroism and the thrill of unexpected intimacy between strangers thrown together by disaster.".

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James Franco and Kalup Linzy
Winslow Homer, The Life Line, 1884, Philadelphia Museum of Art, in "Shipwreck! Winslow Homer and "The Life Line," Fall 2012