Monday, November 13, 2023

Art Institute hopes to broaden its scope


     This has been a good year for me and major museums.
     One glorious day at the Prado in Madrid, including half an hour gazing at Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” which I’d previously only seen as a square inch detail in textbooks. In reality, it’s 12 feet across and almost seven feet high. Then in September, a day at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Four, count ’em, four Vermeers.
     Despite inhaling all this high-octane artwork, it’s always good to come back to Chicago to the Art Institute, a world class institution by any measure. My wife and I are members, which means we can stroll in anytime we like and wander around. And I do, literally if I have an hour to kill and am in the vicinity.
     So I’m trucking into the American wing not long ago, and I notice this little niche, with room for five paintings. Something new.
     “Folk Art and Belonging” announces a sign. The text explains that folk art — also called “vernacular art” — is a wide range of creative endeavors, from handmade jugs to embroidered samplers to amateur portraiture.
     “Museums often present vernacular traditions as separate from the larger histories of art,” it says. “Embracing a more expansive vision of the arts, we are rethinking this approach. ... We likewise plan to reintegrate such artwork throughout the galleries downstairs as part of a major reinstallation in the coming years.”
     Golly. What does THAT mean? “Let’s put a potholder next to this Rembrandt”? Seeking clarity, I emailed the Art Institute and, since they can ... um, how to say this nicely? ... take a while to find their ass with both hands, I also reached out to the Cleveland Museum of Art, as a control.
     Cleveland leapt from the blocks.
     “In the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Strategic Plan, we prioritized diversifying the collection to include more important works by historically underrepresented artists including BIPOC and women artists,” said deputy director and chief curator Heather Lemonedes Brown. “By expanding the scope of our world-class collection, we help all audiences see themselves, as well as discover the culture of others in our galleries.”

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14 comments:

  1. If you happen to find yourself in Baltimore, check out The American Museum of Visionary Art. Very much like Intuit, but much larger.

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  2. Awoke to the newest Woke Word of the Day...BIPOC: “Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” Pronounced “bye-pock.” Is it an acronym, and therefore always in caps? Retired copy editors and proofreaders wanna know. This is a new term I didn't know about...until now. But my well-read wife says it's not such a new thing. Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. S.

    The Cleveland Museum of Art has been emphasizing BIPOC artists in a major way for some time now. Almost to the point of pushing old European white guys aside. The CMA is an amazing place. A world-class repository of fine art and folk art and so much more. Best of all, it's so...um...uh...well-endowed...that it's still FREE. When I still lived in Chicago, I knew several people that went to Cleveland just for the art museum...and, when possible, a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra, whose palatial home is right across the street..and is definitely not free.

    We visit the CMA often. Special exhibitions, live music, outdoor festivals, and more. The crosstown highway that took twenty years, from discussion to ribbon-cutting, now allows us to travel from the West Side to the University Circle area in just twenty minutes. A lot of whiny critics bitch about it. They piss and moan that it cuts through a poverty-stricken area, has forced out some residents, and only serves suburban elitists and medical professionals at the nearby Cleveland Clinic. I am neither of those. I ignore their noise, and just enjoy the ride.

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    1. Not at all "new," and yes, all caps. Black, Indigenous, People of Color. It's meant to be inclusive but not every ethnicity it is meant to include embraces or sees themselves in it.

      https://www.macfound.org/press/perspectives/bipoc-lgbtq-power-limitations-umbrella-terms

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    2. Wikipedia has it coined in 2013 and common, on Twitter, by 2020. That's recent enough to count as "new" in my book.

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  3. Interesting SunTimes edit on the AIC’s agility in getting responses back to you. I liked the original better. AIC’s current top leadership has no vision beyond fundraising and it’s starting to show. It’s scandalous that they’re still closed two days a week this long after the pandemic.

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    1. That wasn't the Sun-Times edit, it was mine. I try not to tax their forbearance unnecessarily, did a search, saw the phrase had never appeared in the paper before, and so probably wasn't going to start with me. So I self-edited here.

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    2. I still liked the original better.

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    3. I was there last Mon and Tues and did a bit of homework to find it closed several days and was surprised at that. Would've been disappointed but...there were lots of disappointed ones not able to get to "the Bean". Fun for us to see the "Holiday" tree going up after reading about the family that donated it as well.

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  4. The A.E. Backus Museum and Gallery in Fort Pierce Florida features BIPOC artists called the Highwaymen due to the fact that they would paint and sell their art roadside and door to door years ago.

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  5. The Milwaukee Art Museum has outstanding folk art. I believe that their collection includes a donation of significant scope given in the 1950s.

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    1. And the building itself is stunning-gull wings opening to the lake-worth a visit to see that-architect was Calvatrata-if I spelled his name correctly-also did that walkway at the AIC

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    2. That would be Santiago Calatrava, and it's worth visiting his website (Calatrava.com, of course) to see the eye-popping cover photo there. I gave up on architecture back in college because I couldn't dream up anything like THAT.

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  6. I too preferred the way you originally described the Art Institutes delay in responding.
    I love the place and añ.also a member.
    Live two blocks away and sometimes just break from work to wander down there. I once despised " modern" art, preferring Impresdionism and Expressionism till- voila- they added a " modern" wing and my wanderings there with earphones have caused me to spend more time at the Pompidou when in Paris and to discover and fall deeplynin love with the tiny Dali Museum in Montmarte and the Picasso museum housed in an o
    ld fortress in Antibes!
    Soon I will visit the new Picasso portraiture exhibit here.
    Thanks for teaching me another new " woke" acronym, and something new about the AIC.

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