• Washington, D.C.’s Renovated Freer/Sackler Galleries Unveiled

    Amy Henderson

    Detail, The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room for the Alice S. Kandell Collection Photograph: 2010. Objects: Tibet, Chine, and Mongolia, 13th-20th century Mixed media. Gifts and promised gifts from the Alice S. Kandell Collection

    The Freer Gallery of Art was the first Smithsonian museum to showcase art. It opened in 1923 to house the Asian collections of Detroit industrialist Charles Lang Freer, and in 1987 it was joined on the National Mall by its sibling museum, the Sackler Gallery. Closed the past eighteen months for renovation, their re-opening on October 14-15th was headlined as “Where Asia Meets America”—two galleries, one destination. (F/S press release, 10/11/17) (more…)

  • New York’s Friedman Theater ‘Prince of Broadway’: Lightly Skimming Legendary 7-Decade Career

    Edward Rubin

    Michael Xavier (center) and Cast in Company. All photos (unless noted): Matthew Murphy © 2017

    One might think after winning a record 21 Tony Awards for producing or directing (and sometimes both simultaneously) many of Broadway’s most popular and critically acclaimed musicals of the past 70 years, that the return of Hal Prince to The Great White Way with his latest venture, Prince of Broadway, would have been a shoo-in.

    The show is unabashedly a compendium of popular songs culled from his greatest hits like West Side Story (1957), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Cabaret (1966), Company (1970), Follies (1971), Sweeney Todd (1979), Evita (1979) and The Phantom of the Opera (1986), – the last still up and running after 30 years and the longest running musical in history.

    But a shoo-in? Not so! (more…)

  • Washington D.C.’s Hillwood Museum, ‘SPECTACULAR’: A Jewel of a Show

    Amy Henderson

    Ruby and Diamond Hummingbird Brooch. All photos by Square Moose, courtesy of Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens (2017)

    Hillwood Museum’s new exhibition stopped me in my tracks. It had me at the title wall, which proclaimed Spectacular with elegant clarity. Would this exhibition live up to its title?

    Nestled in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park, Hillwood was the last residence of Post Cereal heir and General Foods founder Marjorie Merriweather Post. When she died in 1973, she endowed her mansion, collections, and gardens to “future generations,” and Hillwood opened as a public institution in 1977. In addition to her comprehensive collections of Russian imperial art and 18th-century French decorative arts, Mrs. Post created one of the most extraordinary private jewelry collections in the world. Hillwood’s exhibition Spectacular now provides a showcase for the iconic “grand pieces” she acquired over a 50-year period. (more…)

  • Stratford Festival of Canada with the Bard’s ‘Timon of Athens’

    Herbert Simpson

    Joseph Ziegler as Timon, and cast in Timon of Athens

    Timon of Athens has not been a popular Shakespeare classic: in fact, it has not been revived so often as most of his others. Its horrors are more melodramatic than tragic; and its comic elements are more bizarre satire than familiar foolishness. There’s a self-indulgent quality to Simon’s obvious pleasure in the abject worship he receives for his generosity when giving away his treasures to his grateful followers that undercuts our admiration. Then, as he loses his fortune and must ask for help from those he’d lavished gifts upon, we can smirk at their ingratitude and hypocrisy but are not filled with sympathy for the smug and vengeful Simon. Lord Bountiful becomes vengeful victim, and Shakespeare’s drama starts to resemble Moliere’s later The Misanthrope. (more…)

  • Silent Opera Over Venice: Richard Humann’s Augmented Reality at Venice Biennale

    Jesse Strauch

    The connection between the potential of augmented reality (AR), and art is a simple one to make—sometimes it only takes a ‘T.’ Yet as Richard Humann settles back into his Brooklyn studio after his nine-hour return flight, he can’t help but smile knowing he’s onto something considerably more complex.

    Left: Richard Humann, The Dogs of War (2017), Augmented Reality, variable dimensions

    “I don’t remember leaving it this way,” Richard says, setting down his laptop bag, “It’s remarkable how much mess it takes to get artists to their exhibitions.” However, this mess brought more than Richard Humann to the sun soaked waterways of Venice, it likewise brought “Ascension”, the first AR installation to premier during the Venice Biennale, in conjunction with the European Cultural Center and the GAA Foundation. (more…)

  • Now at Beers London: ‘Concrete Forest/Paintings of Kim Dorland’

    Emese Krunak-Hajagos

    Bay Blanket 3, 2014, oil and acrylic on linen over wood panel, 72×96″. All images courtesy of Angell Gallery, Toronto, Canada

    The artist, Kim Dorland caught my attention with his painting, Bay Blanket #3, in his 2014 exhibition at Toronto’s Angell Gallery. In this work, a young woman—the artist’s wife Lori—kneels on a bed in front of a wall covered with family paraphernalia, holding a Bay blanket to cover her nakedness. Her face and arms are created from thick paint that the artist has partly removed, so it looks cratered. There are heavy patches of paint on the blanket as well as the images on the wall. It is very physical, very energetic, and you can see the movements of the artist’s hand throughout as he layered and manipulated the paint. Somehow it is still able to capture that intimate moment, as the figure hugs her body and looks out from her surroundings. The multi-coloured, striped ‘Bay’ blanket is emblematic of the Canadian North and the other walls are bare, as a cabin might be. (more…)

  • Choreography as Portrayal: Dana Tai Soon Burgess at Washington’s National Portrait Gallery

    Amy Henderson

     

    Gobsmacked by an age enthralled with the immediate, “tradition” has lost its footing. Institutions built as permanent bulwarks of common purpose have been fissured by an appetite for what is happening in the moment:  NOW is desirable because it is instantly accessible and gratifying. Yesterday is not on the social media radar, and building old walls higher won’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It is the age of Elon Musk’s Tesla, not Henry Ford’s Model T.

    Left: Choreographer, Dana Tai Soon Burgess, has been appointed the Smithsonian’s first choreographer in residence.

    (more…)

  • Two Cheers for the Revolution: Telling Difficult Stories at Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution

    Avi Y. Decter

    This exterior view of MOAR is about as inviting as its stolid massing gets. The architecture conceals rather than reveals the building’s subject. All photos courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution.

    The United States was birthed in resistance, rebellion, and war. The story of the American Revolution, repeated, refined, and simplified over many generations, has become an iconic element of our national fable: our patriot “ancestors” resisted the tyranny of the greatest empire of its day, preserved American liberties, and established a novel kind of egalitarian republic. The catch-phrases of “the times that try men’s souls”–“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” “all men are created equal,” and “the consent of the governed”–still resonate in our political and cultural discourse. And yet the story of the Revolution is complex and messy, full of sharp elbows and glaring contradictions, including the persistence of slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, tensions within the states, among the states, and between state and federal governments, and a tendency to advantage our elites over our masses.  If ever there was a difficult, challenging story to tell, it is the story of our Revolution and its impact on subsequent generations, right up to the contemporary moment. In a sense, the story of the American Revolution, which is also the story of our first civil war, has always been contested and fraught. (more…)

  • Canada’s Stratford Festival’s ‘Guys and Dolls’: A Production Knockout

    Herbert Simpson

    Evan Buliung (centre) as Sky Masterson with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. All photos: Cylla von Tiedemann.

    Director/choreographer Donna Feore seems to have solidified Canada’s Stratford Festival’s standing as not only the largest and finest classical repertory theater in this hemisphere but also Canada’s greatest musical theater. This season’s superb Guys and Dolls may not be the astoundingly perfect production that her 2013 recreation of Fiddler on the Roof became, nor so daring a restaging as her A Chorus Line last season, but it may be more pleasing than either, and is certainly the all-around best version I’ve seen to date (and that includes the Broadway original). Following and completing the late Brian Macdonald’s transformation of Stratford’s masterful Shakespearean repertory artists into first-rate, Broadway-level singers and dancers, also, Feore has now demonstrated a repertory of Stratford musicals worthy of filming, touring, or reproducing worldwide. (more…)

  • Ai Weiwei: ‘Trace’ at Washington’s Hirshhorn

    Amy Henderson

    Ai Weiwei is a riveting artistic presence who raises hackles and hell wherever he can.  Born in Beijing in 1957, he studied at the Beijing Film Academy before moving to the United States in 1981. He soaked up the colorful life of New York’s East village, and when he returned to China in 1993 he became a major and disruptive figure in the contemporary art scene there. Ai relished antagonizing the repressive Chinese authorities, and the government in turn targeted his political activism, ultimately arresting him 2011. He was imprisoned for three months and forbidden to leave China until 2015. (more…)