Thursday, September 1, 2011

Renaissance Portraits, de Kooning, and Smarty-Pants Cattelan: The Shows New York Will Be Talking About

The hot shows in New York as a cold winter approaches:

De Kooning: A Retrospective, MoMA, opening September 18

The biggest show of the fall, in more ways than one, is the seven-decade retrospective of Abstract Expressionist de Kooning.  He didn’t have a clue about how to live – he spent a lot of time in alcoholic blackout -- but sure knew how to paint.

With more than 200 works – about four times as many as the last museum retrospective, at Washington's National Gallery in 1994 -- this is the first show to occupy MoMA’s entire 6th-floor gallery space, all 17,000 square feet.  It’s put together by peerless MoMA curator emeritus John Elderfield, and the museum is promising “the most comprehensive book on the artist yet.” 

The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, Metropolitan Museum, opening December 21

People are now lining up to see “The Renaissance Portrait” at Berlin’s Bode Museum, and its opening a week ago received worldwide coverage.  For good reason:  The combined heft of the Bode and the Met has secured loans of 15th-century Italian paintings and sculpture from more than 50 institutions.

Met curator Keith Christiansen -- who, by the way, got $1.2 million in compensation for fiscal year 2010 -- described to the AP the challenge of Renaissance artists’ “rediscovery” of portraiture: “The artists who painted independent portraits for the first time confronted the issues of what a portrait is about: Is it about commemoration, is it about celebration of beauty, is it about social position, rulership, identity?”  The results are stunning, as is the curator's compensation.

According to Christiansen's office, the Leonardo "Lady with an Ermine," which is part of the Bode show, will not be coming to New York.  It's traveling to London instead, for the Leonardo extravaganza there.

Ingres at the Morgan, opening September 9, and David, Delacroix, and Revolutionary France: Drawings from the Louvre opening September 23, Morgan Library

The seventeen drawings by Ingres, one of the greatest draftsmen and portraitists of all time, will include his large, jaw-dropping "Odalisque and Slave" (below) and numerous portrait drawings.  The Morgan will also be presenting a whopping 80 drawings on loan from the Louvre by some of the best French artists of the late 18th and 19th centuries.

After that, you can hop up to the Frick and see this staid institution gingerly enter the 20th century with Picasso drawings from 1890-1921 (opening October 4).  Even if you think you’ve seen all the Picasso you can stand, it should be worth the trip – the Frick’s small shows are so intelligently put together, they rarely let you down. 

Infinite Jest:  Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine, Metropolitan Museum, opening September 13

What we need in this age of political and economic absurdity is a big laugh at the expense of those responsible.  The Met may deliver, or at least provide some comic relief, with this show of 164 works on paper – five centuries’ worth -- that mock fat cats, fashion, politics, art, eating and drinking, and powerful people who make life miserable for the rest of us.  Included are works both by geniuses like Leonardo, Goya, Daumier, and Hogarth and by anonymous commentators who were just fed up.  The one loan in this exhibit is a David Levine drawing of Claus Oldenberg’s head as a toilet, with everything else from the Met’s rich storehouse.  

Art of Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia, Metropolitan Museum, opening November 1

After eight long years, the Met’s collection of Islamic art will finally be back on display. Fifteen new galleries with art from a vast geographic territory will be filled with splendor:  ceramics, glass, tilework, textiles, gold jewelry, medieval Qur’ans, illustrated manuscripts from Iran (left), painted miniatures from India, art made for the Ottoman court.  An extra fillip: Artisans from Fez have created a patio modeled on a late medieval Moroccan design, complete with a fountain.   

 Maurizio Cattelan:  All, Guggenheim, opening November 4

Italy’s favorite smarty-pants gets a mid-career retrospective.  Cattelan is probably best-known here for his effigy of Pope John Paul II being felled by a meteor and for his popularity among the vulgar rich -- his bust of Stephanie Seymour cradling her breasts, generally considered pretty mediocre, sold at auction last fall for $2.4 million.  Will seeing 130 of his works explain his appeal or show him up as just annoying?  New Yorkers will have a chance to evaluate the hullabaloo for themselves.

Sherrie Levine: Mayhem, Whitney Museum of American Art, opening November 10

The Whitney’s show offers an opportunity to reexamine one of the original appropriation artists – in 1981 Levine exhibited photographs she had taken of Walker Evans photographs – at a time when artists, photographers, lawyers, and commentators are hypersensitive to the word “copyright.”  Her Evans photos, to which she holds the copyright, are among the works included.

Images, top to bottom:  From MoMA website; from Bode Museum website (Benedetto de Maiano, portrait of Filippo Strozzi); from Morgan Library website; from Metropolitan Museum website (Anonymous, "Top and Tail"); from Metropolitan Museum website; bottom two, pulled from the internet.

Text Copyright 2011 Laura Gilbert