What’s Up With The Guggenheim?
By Al Doyle
The Guggenheim Museum, Frank Lloyd Wrights’ famed building on museum mile is covered in scaffolding, construction scrims, monitors and sensors during its renovation slated for completion by the end of 2007. While this renovation may disappoint many first-time visitors to the museum, others may be intrigued by the ‘art brut’ textures and stains of the exposed concrete.
In spite of the exterior shrouds, the interior of the temple of modernism remains as radiant as ever; made even more so by the current exhibit, El Greco to Picasso. This exhibit is a treasure trove of masterpieces, made more interesting by juxtapositions and fabulously incongruous pairings of old and new, borrowed and blue.
This exhibit places Picasso firmly in the Spanish tradition. The idea that the ultra modern Picasso is foremost a Spaniard, with roots that run deep through the painterly tradition of El Greco and Velasquez is a revelation. The standard-issue account of the Cubist’s fascination with Cezanne and Chardin forms the art-historical prism that this exhibit explodes. While it’s true that Picasso spent the bulk of his life in , his heritage, initial training and intrinsic mysticism and superstition hark back to the starkness vision of Zurbaran.
The Old Masters shine brightly in this show; the lustrous handling of light and shade by Velasquez and his heirs trump the modernists on their own turf. Even in Wrights’ Rotunda, which is not particularly conducive to quiet contemplation of spiritual and meditative solemnity of a painting by Zurbaran, such works impress with a conviction and honest toil that is in short supply this side of the Counter-Reformation.Another inspired pairing of the El Greco to Picasso exhibit is that of Murillo (Hallmark Greeting card Virgin Mothers) with the ultimate fraud of Dali. Salvador Dali’s spell has faded considerably since the height of the counter-cultural cult of personality and drug-addled fascination with hallucinatory imagery. Yet, Salvador Dali aka Avida Dollars is also rooted in the Spanish tradition: his unique mix of sex, sin and religion invoke and indict the Roman Catholic tradition.
This is a banner year for Picasso in New York City. Following the Whitney’s Picasso and American Art extravaganza, the Guggenheim show whets the appetite for the upcoming Barcelona and Modernity: Gaudi to Dali exhibit set to open on March 7th at the Metropolitan Museum. Viva Picasso!
Highlights the pairing of Dali with Murillo.
The Metropolitan Museum
The Cleveland Museum
The Barcelona exhibit was organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in association with the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, in Barcelona.
A podcast about the renovation.
Art in NYC blog by Al Doyle, Studio 827
Podcast on the exterior renovation of the Guggenheim Museum.