exhibition


Exhibition Review – ‘One Life – The Mask of Lincoln’ – The Faces of Lincoln, as Revealed in Books and a New Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery – NYTimes.com

It’s been a while since I shamelessly plugged anything but I couldn’t resist today. This is a wonderfully positive review that mentions the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition called ONE LIFE: The Mask of Lincoln. It’s a small show but packed with great images of the man. 2009 is the year of Lincoln celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth so there is Lincoln stuff all over the country. Here is a quote from the article:

Two white plaster masks appear next to each other in a display case at the National Portrait Gallery here. One shows a middle-aged face with a firm, grim look — perhaps because the subject had to control his breathing as the sculptor waited for the substance to harden. The plaster eyes are scooped out, but you can glimpse the interior man in the subtle musculature of the jaw, the high cheekbones, the expansive, smooth brow. He is determined, vigorous and (we know) ambitious.

The other mask is of the same man’s face, about five years later. It seems more of a death mask than one taken from life. Those years — between 1860, when this man, Abraham Lincoln, was beginning his campaign for president of the United States, and February 1865, when he was just two months away from being murdered — seem to have carved the flesh from his cheeks, hollowed out the eye sockets more decisively than any sculptor’s thumb, and dug lines and pockets in aging, sallow flesh.

This modest exhibition of 30 images of Lincoln at the Portrait Gallery — “One Life: The Mask of Lincoln” — may turn out to be an understated highlight of Lincoln’s coming bicentennial year, which promises a full harvest of academic conferences, exhibitions, the reopening of Ford’s Theater and scores of new books, many offering revelations from freshly plumbed archives and analyses of figures major and minor. But the juxtaposition of these masks may remain one of the most potent, graphic images of the effects of the crucial years they frame.

If you are in DC (possibly to see the newly re-opened National Museum of American History), please visit the National Portrait Gallery and take in this lovely exhibition.

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Steichen, Sold on The Celebrity Aesthetic – washingtonpost.com

The link is for a review of our recently opened exhibition “Edward Steichen: Portraits” at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a positive review but it seems to have a bit of an edge to it.

“Self-Portrait With Brush and Palette” is a celebrity photograph, an early one, one of the first. If you want to understand the knack of Annie Leibovitz, or the useful affections of Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, or how dress-up self-promotion got so deep into the art world, this 107-year-old image is a place where you might start.

It’s half artwork, half ad.

It’s great exhibition – not too large, not too small, very intimate. Here is the link to the official site for the exhibition:

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Smithsonian Institution Archives

“On 10 August 1846, the United
States Congress passed the legislation (9 Stat. 102) founding the
Smithsonian Institution as an establishment dedicated to the “increase
and diffusion of knowledge,” and President James K. Polk signed it into
law the same day. This legislation was the culmination of over a decade
of debate within the Congress and among the general public over an
unusual bequest. When the English chemist and mineralogist, James
Smithson, died in 1829, he left a will stating that if his nephew and
sole heir died without heirs, his estate should go to the United States
to found in Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution,
an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.

Page 1 of act organizing the Smithsonian InstitutionBy a vote of 26 to 13, the U.S. Senate passes the act organizing the Smithsonian Institution which is signed into law by President James K. Polk. Among its provisions, the Organic Act specifies: a Board of Regents, Chancellor, and Secretary; a “suitable” building with rooms for the “reception and arrangement” of objects of natural history, a chemical laboratory, a library, a gallery of art, and lecture rooms; the transfer to the Institution of all objects of art, natural history, etc., belonging to the United States in Washington; and the deposit in the Smithsonian of one copy of all publications copyrighted under the acts of Congress. The act stipulates that the original legacy of $515,169, plus interest accrued at the rate of 6% on loan to the U.S. Treasury, amounting to $242,129, shall be maintained as a trust fund, and all expenditures and appropriations must come from interest accrued in this fund.

I’m very proud that I work for the Smithsonian Institution. Despite the recent press about the former secretary, Larry Small, I hope the public realizes that the Smithsonian is a great place to visit, to work at and support financially (hint, hint).

Here are a few numbers about the world’s largest museum complex:

Museums 19

Affiliate Museums 144

Research Centers 9

Visitors (2006)
SI Museums 23.2 million
National Zoo 2.6 million
Affiliate museums 20.6 million
Traveling exhibitions 4.5 million
Website visitors 150.0 million

Collections
Objects, artworks and specimens more than 136 million

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I’m in Pittsburgh for the weekend. Instead of just hanging out at my in-laws apartment, we went to re-visit the Andy Warhol museum. Most of the exhibitions had changed since 10 years ago (or was it more?) but one thing has remained – the Silver Clouds.

Silver Clouds room at the Andy Warhol Museum

Next time we get back there, I must ask to see the wig collection.