ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

FAMSF ancient art curator, Renée Dreyfus, speaks Thursday, June 12, 2014, at the de Young on “Masters of Fire: The Copper Age in the Holy Land”

Renée Dreyfus, FAMSF curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about “Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land,” the exhibition which opens June 28, 2014 at the Legion of Honor.  Curator lectures, which provide insight into exhibition conception and artifacts, are a wonderful way to get the most out of an exhibition.

Renée Dreyfus, FAMSF curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about “Masters of Fire: The Copper Age in the Holy Land,” the exhibition which opens June 28, 2014 at the Legion of Honor. Curator lectures provide insight into exhibition conception and artifacts and are a wonderful way to get the most out of an exhibition. Image: Hedgehog Highlights

Renée Dreyfus, curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land, the exhibition which opens June 28 at the Legion of Honor.   Dreyfus, who always has lots of historical information readily at hand, will speak about artifacts that especially intrigue her and will set the stage for the anitquities that arrive later this month.  If you do go, check the front rows for Colin Bailey, the new FAMSF director (he celebrates one year at the helm this month).  He’s been at the several of the recent talks I’ve attended and it’s a pleasure to see him supporting and motivating museum staff and visiting scholars by engaging with their scholarship.

In 1961, Israeli archaeologists discovered over 400 copper objects wrapped in a straw mat at Naḥal Mishmar (West of the Dead Sea) hidden in a natural crevice that would be called the “Cave of the Treasure.”  One of the greatest hoards of antiquity, these objects were so spectacular that they define an important era in Southern Levantine (modern-day Israel and surrounding lands) history now called the Chalcolithic (copper-stone) or Copper Age (5500–3500 BC).

Masters of Fire is the first comprehensive U.S. exhibition that explores the metallurgical revolution that produced these objects and how this led to significant changes in the technology, ritual, and especially the lifestyles of the Levant.  The exhibition is organized by NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) and the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

“The copper crowns and maces, or standards, found here testify to the amazing technical skill of the ancient smiths and artists who already knew the lost-wax process of casting,” said Renée Dreyfus who will address unknownswhether or not the people who created these objects considered them as arts or ritual objects.  “Of the 80 copper standards found in the Cave of the Treasure, no two are identical, proving that each was cast separately in an individual mold.  This astonishing hoard of 429 remarkable objects also reveals the growth of prestige, status, and social rank.”

Dating to more than a millennium before the pyramids of Egypt were built, the treasures in the Legion of Honor’s upcoming exhibition “Masters of Fire” come from a brief transformative moment.  They were made in the southern Levant, a region known today as Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and their surrounding areas, which was at the forefront of human development from 4500–3600 BC.  Pictured: ritual hoard of copper objects from the Cave of the Treasure, Nahal Mishmar, present-day Israel, Late Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BC). Copper.  Israel Museum, Jerusalem.  Photo: courtesy FAMSF

Copper objects from the Cave of the Treasure, hoard Nahal Mishmar, Late Chalcolithic period, 4500–3600 BC. Copper, lost wax technique. Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Museum. Photo: courtesy FAMSF

“The term “Copper Revolution” has been used by scholars to describe the changes in social organization that occurred at this time,” continued Dreyfus. “Archaeologists have tracked the fragments of ore that were mined in Jordan and traced how they were carried almost one hundred miles into southern Israel to be crushed, repeatedly heated, and carefully smelted into small ingots.  Once the copper was extracted, it was heated again and cast in open molds to make simple tools or weapons.  However, the extraordinary discoveries in the Cave of the Treasure at Nahal Mishmar represent a very different path in metallurgy.  The copper objects found there were made using the complicated lost-wax casting technique.  These works are far more elaborate than any other copper creations known from this period.  Whatever the original source of this hoard—whether a major religious or political center—the intricate scepters, crowns, and other copper objects must have been the accouterments of an elaborate ceremonial display.  The Copper Age is therefore an early example of a society in which the ruling elite could afford prestige objects that were produced as symbols of its power.”

Originally from New York City, Dreyfus is a celebrated curator of ancient art. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in philosophy.  She then went on to Brandeis University to receive her M.A. in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and finished her doctorate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.  She speaks several ancient languages, is very active in the FAMSF’s Ancient Arts Council.  She was recently appointed to the newly formed visiting committee of the J. Paul Getty Museum that appraises the J. Paul Getty Trust  on the museum.  Some of Dreyfus’ publications include: deYoung: Selected Works (2006);  Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series) co-authored with Catharine H. Roehrig, and Cathleen A. Keller (2005); Pergamon: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 2 (1997) co-authored with Ellen Schraudolph; California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1995); The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1994) co-authored with Melissa Leventon.

Details: Talk by Renée Dreyfus is Thursday, June 12, 1 PM at the Koret Auditorium at the de Young Museum.  Tickets are $3 members, $4 non-members. No advance purchase or reservations required.  It is not necessary to have an entry ticket to the de Young to attend the lecture. If you would like to enter the de Young Museum, tickets are $10 adults, $7 seniors, FAMSF members free. Tickets to Modernism from the National Gallery of Art are $24 to $11 for non-members and free for FAMSF members. The exhibition, Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land  is June 28, 2014-January 4, 2105 at the Legion of Honor.

Directions/Parking: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, at John F. Kennedy Drive, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Enter Golden Gate Park (JFK Drive side) at 8th Avenue for 4 hour free street parking.  For direct access to the Music Concourse Parking facility, turn right on Fulton and then left on 10th Avenue.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The remarkable jewels of Bulgari are the de Young starting this weekend—lecture by noted jewelry historian Amanda Triossi this Friday evening

On a break from shooting “Cleopatra,” Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton strolled along Rome’s via dei Condotti to Bulgari.  "Richard was so romantic that he'd use any excuse to give me a piece of jewelry," Taylor wrote. "He'd give me 'It's a beautiful day' presents or 'Let's go for a walk' presents. Over the years I've come to think of these as my 'It's Tuesday, I love you' jewelry."  When they married for the first time— his second, her fifth—he gave her this necklace whose 16 Colombian emeralds weigh in at 60.5 carats.  Bulgari bought the necklace back at the Christies auction in 2011 for $6,130,500.   Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

On a break from shooting “Cleopatra,” Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton strolled along Rome’s via dei Condotti to Bulgari. “Richard was so romantic that he’d use any excuse to give me a piece of jewelry,” Taylor wrote. “He’d give me ‘It’s a beautiful day’ presents or ‘Let’s go for a walk’ presents. Over the years I’ve come to think of these as my ‘It’s Tuesday, I love you’ jewelry.” When they married for the first time— his second, her fifth—he gave her this necklace whose 16 Colombian emeralds weigh in at 60.5 carats. Bulgari bought the necklace back at the Christies auction in 2011 for $6,130,500. Photo: Ron Galella/WireImage

While the renowned jeweler Bulgari is always associated with Italy, Rome in particular, the Bulgari family actually hails from the small Greek village of Kallarrytes in the Pindhos mountains of Epirus, not far from Albania, noted for its silver carvers.  The talented and ambitious silver chaser, Sotirios Bulgari, arrived in Italy in 1881 with roughly 80 cents but, with hard work and ingenuity, soon had a flourishing business.  The very first Bulgari shops, which opened in Rome in the 1880’s, carried fine jewelry and items of personal adornment including necklaces, rings and ornate silver buckles and objects.  It wasn’t until the decades following World War II that the house developed what would come to be known as the “Italian school” of jewelry design, reinterpreting forms derived from Greco-Roman classicism and the Italian Renaissance.  Bulgari became famous for mixing semiprecious stones with diamonds, mounting ancient coins in gold jewelry, and creating easy-to-wear pieces made with unusual color combinations.

The influences and glorious history of the house are presented in The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950-1990, at San Francisco’s de Young Museum opening this Saturday, September 21. The 150 pieces on view will be a revelation to both jewelry and design lovers.  The exhibition takes a decade-by-decade look at Bulgari’s innovations in jewelry design. It includes several pieces from their Elizabeth Taylor collection, heavy on emeralds and diamonds of astounding size and quality, that were reacquired at the famous 2011 Christie’s auction.  One piece, an emerald-and-diamond brooch that also can be worn as a pendant, sold for $6,578,500 — breaking records both for sales price of an emerald and for emerald price per carat ($280,000).

Guest Lecture Friday September 18, 7:15 PM: Amanda Triossi, Jewelry Historian, Author, and curator of the Bulgari Heritage Collection will give a talk and multimedia presentation about Bulgari’s rich legacy.

Triossi knows Bulgari like no one else.  Along with co-author Daniela Mascetti, she wrote the first ever book on the jeweler in 1996—Bulgari (Abbeville, 1996)—and also co-authored the revised version, Bvgari (Abbeville, 2007). I have been pouring over this book for days now—a luscious big art book with hundreds of dazzling pictures and sketches which tells the story of the famous family and traces the progression of the distinctive Bulgari style as well as the distinct architecture of the Bulgari shops all over the world.  She’s also co-authored, with FAMSF curator Martin Chapman, the exhibition catalog, The Art Bulgari: La Dolce Vita and Beyond, 1950-1990 just out for the de Young show.

(Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, Tickets $3, free for members Reservations required.  Click here to make a reservation and purchase tickets.) The auditorium will open at 6:30 pm to ticket holders only.  Does not include museum admission or entry to the special exhibition The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990. Access to special exhibitions and the permanent collection requires additional fees and tickets.

“Tubogas” choker, 1974, two-color gold with Greek silver coins, 27.5 x 7 cm, Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 404 N607. © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Tubogas” choker, 1974, two-color gold with Greek silver coins, 27.5 x 7 cm,
Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 404 N607. © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Details: The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990, opens to the public on Saturday, September 21 at the de Young Museum and closes February 17, 2013.  The exhibition opens to members on Friday, September 20, 2013.  The de Young Museum Adults $20–$22, seniors 65+ $17–$19, students with current ID $16–$18, youths 6–17 $10–$12, members and children 5 and under free. Prices subject to change without notice.is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Tickets: Admission: $20-$22 adults; $17-$19 seniors; $16-$18 college students with ID; $10-$12 youths 6–17. (These prices include general admission.) Members and children 5 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month.  Tickets can be purchased on site and on the de Young’s website: deyoungmuseum.org. Tickets purchased online include a $1 handling charge.

September 17, 2013 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s International Museum Day and admission is FREE Friday, May 16, at the de Young and Legion of Honor

"Girl With a Pearl Earring," Johannes Vermeer, 1665, 44.5 x 39 cm.

“Girl With a Pearl Earring,” Johannes Vermeer, 1665, 44.5 x 39 cm. The de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is the first North American venue for the exhibit “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis.”

A fabulous Friday freebie—in celebration of International Museum Day, visitors to the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor can enjoy free general admission all day on Friday, May 17, 2013.   Doors open at 9:30 a.m.  Tickets to see Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis and Rembrandt’s Century will be only $15 instead of $25.  Both of these shows close on Sunday June 2, so there are just three viewing weekends remaining.

The de Young will also be open 9:30 am-5:15 pm on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27.  Regular admissions fees do apply.

International Museum Day:  Every year since 1977, International Museum Day is held worldwide sometime around May 18. In 2012, 32,000 museums from 129 countries on five continents participated in the event.

Details:  The de Young Museum is located at Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

May 16, 2013 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor | , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally! The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco announces a New Director, Colin Bailey, from the Frick Collection

Colin Bailey, deputy director and chief curator of the Frick Collection in New York, is the new director of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco.  He starts on June 1, 2013.

Colin Bailey, deputy director and chief curator of the Frick Collection in New York, is the new director of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco. He starts on June 1, 2013.

After much anticipation, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF)  named its new director today, filling the position left vacant since the death of John Buchanan 15 months ago.  Colin Bailey, currently associate director and chief curator of the Frick Collection in Manhattan and a noted curator and award-winning author will step into the position on June 1, 2013.  Bailey was selected after an exhaustive year-long international search by a 13-member selection committee of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees.  The announcement was made today at 1 p.m. at the de Young Museum at a highly attended press conference officiated by FAMSF president and board chair Diane B. Wilsey (Dede) with guest speaker San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.  At today’s press conference it was made clear that Bailey will initiate a new mandate “moving beyond the museums’ reputation as a home for blockbuster exhibitions to focus more on its permanent collections.”

Diane B. Wilsey said of Bailey, who did not attend today’s press conference, “we all agree that Colin has the qualities that will elevate the museums to the next level.”  She added that Bailey will keep “the focus on curatorial excellence, art historical relevance, and continued service to our community.”   She also added that John Buchanan had been a lot of “fun to work with” and that that Colin was also “fun.”   

Wilsey’s camaraderie with the late Buchanan was legendary and the two, whom ARThound dubbed “the dynamic duo” were responsible for the coup that brought the celebrated French Impressionism shows to San Francisco in 2010. (Read about that here.)   

Mayor Ed Lee spoke enthusiastically of Bailey’s selection, acknowledging the difficulty of the search process and thanking the Board of Trustees.  In a video shown at the press conference, (watch it below), Bailey said the appointment is “a dream come true,” and his purpose in The City will be “to conserve, to show, to educate.”

Normally, ARThound does not repost news from other websites or journalists but Janos Gereben, emailed me his article for the The Examiner (sfexaminer.com) about today’s appointment of Bailey and his reporting on his salary is excellent.  Janos has written a series of articles leading up to today’s appointment, which can be found at www.sfexaminer.com.  He shared with me that he got Bailey’s earnings at the Frick using old-school reportage—he looked up his tax records which are publicly accessible.  Here then quoting Janos…

FAMSF president and board chair Diane B. Wilsey announcing the appointment of Colin Bailey as the new FAMSF director.  Wilsey has run the FAMSF since the death of John Buchanan 15 months ago.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

FAMSF president and board chair Diane B. Wilsey announcing the appointment of Colin Bailey as the new FAMSF director. Wilsey has run the FAMSF since the death of John Buchanan 15 months ago. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“From a small but world-renowned private institution, Bailey is moving to a San Francisco city government organization, which is responsible for the de Young and California Legion of Honor museums.  He will manage 550 employees, some on The City’s payroll, most paid by the nonprofit Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums (COFAM).  

Frick operates on a $22 million budget, has 330,000 visitors a year, against FAMSF’s 1.6 million visitors and $54 million operating budget.

Compensation, at least on paper, doesn’t reflect those differences in size: Bailey’s salary at the Frick was $235,000 in FY 2011, according to the latest IRS report available. 

His position here is “Director of Museums, City and County of San Francisco Classification 0963, Department Head III,” which has a base salary under $100,000; he is expected to receive additional funding and perks from private sources and COFAM.” 

Today’s press conference was scheduled for noon but began close to 1 p.m. due to late running Board of Trustees meeting, where Bailey was officially approved.  The scuttlebutt among the press, impatient for the show to get on, ran the gamut from speculation about the delay in announcing a new director to criticism of Wilsey’s leadership during the recent period of curator dismissals and staff resignations to the organization’s press relations team which has recently been in flux.  Several FAMSF curators were in attendance and they too seemed to eagerly await the announcement, one acknowledging that things had been “unsettled.”  

At the press conference, Wilsey explained that the board meeting was delayed until today, to give Bailey “the courtesy of talking his own [Frick] board, which he did yesterday.”  This, she said, enabled Bailey “to give proper notice.”   He will start at FAMSF on June 1, 2013.  She did not explain why the trustees’ meeting itself ran late. 

Colin Bailey, the new Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in an introductory video screened at today’s press conference

More about Colin Bailey:  Born in London, Bailey earned his doctorate in art history at Oxford University. He specializes in 18th- and 19th-century French art, was named Chevalier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1994 for his contribution to French culture and was promoted to Officier in 2010. He also held a residency under Henri Loyrette, the former president and director of the Louvre in Paris. He has been chief curator of the Frick since 2000, when he narrowly lost the competition for the museum’s directorship. Previously, he worked at the Getty Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, where he was deputy director and chief curator. He is returning to California 30 years after a fellowship at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.

He has organized more than two dozen exhibitions, including the recent Renoir, Impressionism and Full-Length Painting at the Frick, many of which have represented new scholarship and have been praised for providing keen insights into individual artists. Other exhibitions include Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery; Renoir’s Landscapes, 1865-1883; and Rembrandt and His School: Masterworks from the Frick and Bailey’s many publications include The Loves of the Gods: Mythological Painting from Watteau to David; Masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism: The Annenberg Collection; and Patriotic Taste: Collecting Modern Art in Pre-Revolutionary Paris, the book that won the Mitchell Prize.

Diane B. Wilsey and Colin B. Bailey, the new director of FAMSF, who will start June 1, 2013.  Photo: Bill Zemanek

Diane B. Wilsey and Colin B. Bailey, the new director of FAMSF, who will start June 1, 2013. Photo: Bill Zemanek

Colin Bailey and his partner will be spending the Easter holiday here in the Bay Area, having Easter dinner with Wilsey at her home and finalizing the signing on a spacious apartment that the couple will share with their dog.  Details on the dog to follow…

ARThound’s most recent coverage of the Frick Collection— ARThound in New York: A Dresden goldsmith and court jeweler works his magic and catalogues it in small booklets—“Gold, Jasper and Carnelian” at The Frick Collection through August 19, 2012

March 27, 2013 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Time after Christmas? The de Young’s Paley Collection show closes on Sunday, December 30, 2012—it’s gorgeous, includes many of Modernism’s masterworks, and is doable in 90 minutes

Paul Gauguin, “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892), Oil on burlap, 36 1/4 x 28 3/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Paul Gauguin, “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892), Oil on burlap, 36 1/4 x 28 3/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

William S. Paley’s story is legendary: the determined son of a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant who was in the cigar business, Paley built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from a small radio network into one of the foremost radio and television network operations in the United States.  He married two legendary American beauties—Dorothy Hart Hearst and style icon Barbara ”Babe” Cushing Mortimer and he enthusiastically built one of the 20th century’s greatest private art collections.  It was his first wife Dorothy and her friends, like Averell Harriman, who in the early 1930’s, first introduced him to European Impressionist and post-Impressionist artworks and he was smitten.  Soon, he was avidly courting Matisse and buying the best artworks of pioneering modern masters Cézanne, Gaugin and Picasso.  Upon his death in 1990, Paley’s legendary collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures went to the William S. Paley Foundation which transferred it to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), where it went on display in 1992.  Highlights of that collection are on display through Sunday, December 30, 2012, at the de Young Museum, the exclusive West Coast venue for The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism which opened September 15, 2012.   

The exhibition of over 60 artworks from Paley’s remarkable collection is the perfect post-Christmas excursion.  If you saw the phenomenal “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” at SFMOMA (2011) and liked it, you’ll appreciate this collection too, which also reads like the tops hits of Modernism.  Unlike the Steins who were expats living in bohemian Paris and collecting works directly from avant-garde painters like Matisse and Picasso, Paley’s early collecting was a function of his European travels and he often paid top dollar for works that caught his fancy.  But the tastes of these powerful collectors more than overlapped—Paley actually purchased several paintings that were originally owned by the Steins.  If you think you’re experiencing déjà vu while walking thorugh this show, you may well be.  A few of the Picasso’s were at SFMOMA in 2011 for “The Steins Collect.”   

The exhibition hosted by the de Young includes major works of Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, with significant works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Roualt, and Andre Derain.  Not to be missed masterpieces include Gauguin’s “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892) from the artist’s first visit to Tahiti (first gallery); Degas’ large-scale pastel and charcoal “Two Dancers” (1905) (second gallery); Picasso’s celebrated monumental painting, “Boy Leading a Horse” (1905-1906) (next to last gallery), Derain’s vibrant Fauve painting “Bridge over the Riou” (1906) (final gallery), and Matisse’s “Odalisque with a Tambourine” (1925-26) (next to last gallery).   

Paul Gauguin, “Washerwomen” (1888), Oil on burlap, 29 7/8 x 36 1/4 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Paul Gauguin, “Washerwomen” (1888), Oil on burlap, 29 7/8 x 36 1/4 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

As you enter the Herbst Exhibition galleries, you are hit by the color in these artworks and the tremendous power of color to convey emotional energy.  Gauguin’s large and vibrant “The Seed of the Areoi,” painted during the artist’s first trip to Tahiti in the 1890’s opens the exhibition.   The immensely popular painting retells a Polynesian version of a universal story of creation and Gauguin’s mistress is the model for the queen of the Areoi clan.  Masterful is the only word for its color, from the complementary purple against yellow in its background to the neighboring shades of brown, yellow and red in its foreground.  While Gauguin claimed he found this palette in the natural Tahitian landscape and in villages, scholars point out that no such colors co-existed naturally there at the time.  While pleasing to our modern eyes, his palette would have also been quite shocking to his turn-of-the-century European audience.   

Equally enchanting is a smaller Gauguin gem, “Washerwomen,” which he painted during his two-month stay with Vincent van Gogh at Arles in 1888.  Four women are shown bent over on their knees on a riverbank, lost in the timeless rhythm of scrubbing.  With postures evoking those adopted by figures kneeling in prayer, Gauguin superimposed a symbolic meaning on the tranquil scene that links these women to religious ritual practice and to the larger cycle of life. 

Henri Matisse, “Odalisque with a Tambourine,” Nice, place Charles-Félix, winter 1925–1926, Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Henri Matisse, “Odalisque with a Tambourine,” Nice, place Charles-Félix, winter 1925–1926,
Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 21 7/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

The six Matisses in the exhibition attest to his stature as the legendary colorist and master of red.  From his 1903 “The Musketeer,” which is an early expression of his understanding of how color can be used to block spatial relationships to his bold “Odalisque with a Tambourine” (1924-5), “Woman with a Veil (1927) and “Seated Woman with a vase of Amaryllis (1941), we see his imaginative pairings of natural forms of flowers, fruit, women juxtaposed against the simple geometry of inanimate objects such  tables, walls, floor tiles to create motifs bursting with energy and sensuality and color.  The placement of these spectacular Matisses alongside eight of Picasso’s paintings and drawings acknowledges the great rivalry between the two artists who engaged in a kind of mental chess game all of their adult lives.  Picasso, the younger of the two, was always trying to get Matisse to notice him while Matisse was no doubt jealous of Picasso’s flamboyance and success.  Paley appreciated the genius of both.

Pablo Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse” (1905-6) has been given its own wall in one of the later exhibition galleries.  The painting was originally owned by Gertrude Stein and was at SFMOMA for “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” (2011).  Paley bought it in the 1930’s while he was on a ski trip in Saint-Martiz, Switzerland, after it was carried into the lobby of the Palace Hotel by the famous Swiss art book publisher Albert Skira, who also served as his dealer of sorts.  The painting has been smuggled out of Nazi Germany by the dealer Justin Thannhauser and given to Skira to sell and he went right to the Paley, who immediately fell for it.  This important work from Picasso’s Rose Period (1904-6) marks a point in Picasso’s career when his work was on the brink of ingenuity and, at the same time, steeped in history.  As William Rubin, MoMA’s former Director Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, explains in the catalogue, the work was pivotal in the context of the artist’s oeuvre and within the spectrum of art history as a whole.  Picasso both draws inspiration from his contemporaries and demonstrates his extensive art historical knowledge, even referencing as far back as Ancient Greek sculpture.  Ruben also suggests that boy in the painting, P’tit Louis, acts as the artist’s surrogate and that the work can be read as Picasso himself leading his loyal steed into the future, into the age of Cubism.  

Other Picasso pieces included in the show are “Nude with Joined Hands” (1906) inspired by Picasso’s trip to the Pyrenees village of Gósol with his muse Fernande and “The Architect’s Table” (1912), his highly abstract Analytical Cubist masterpiece. 

Pablo Picasso, “Boy Leading a Horse” (Paris, 1905–1906), Oil on canvas, 86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Pablo Picasso, “Boy Leading a Horse” (Paris, 1905–1906), Oil on canvas, 86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

As an avid grower of old European roses and gardener, I was struck by the paintings of flowers in the exhibition.  Édouard Manet’s “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” is less than 8 inches high but captures what we gardeners live for.  With its creamy impasto of peachy yellow and off white and the softest pink, Manet alludes to the ephemeral beauty and pure delight of the rose in the peak of its bloom.  The placement of the roses on the table away from water which would sustain them mirrors Manet’s own fragility at the time.  His painting was inspired by the numerous bouquets that visitors brought to him in the winter of 1882-83, when he was mortally ill.   

Henri Rousseau’s delightful naïve still-life “Flowers in a Vase” (1901-02) alludes to the vibrancy that flowers can bring to any setting.  While the painting seems freely executed,Rousseau took great care in the arrangement and coloration of the flowers as well as in creating the green that runs through the bouquet’s foliage, the complimentary green wall behind the arrangement and the ornamental spray of green ivy at the bottom of the composition.    

Renoir’s “Strawberries” (circa 1905), featuring freshly-picked bright red strawberries loosely laid out on a creamy linen tablecloth beside a delicately patterned tea cup is poetical.  The appeal of the freshest possible food with no fuss is timeless.     

As for the exhibition’s many sculptures, the small and simply-posed terra cotta nudes of the French Catalan artist Aristide Maillol are exquisite.  Their faces are quite crude, showing no emotion but the compositions in totality convey a myriad of complex feelings.  Maillol took his inspiration from early classical sculptors but imposed his own modern and expressive take on form, creating fluid and rhythmic female portraits.  In contrast to Maillol stands the detailed perfection of Auguste Rodin’s “The Burghers of Calais,” a half-dozen small commemorative portraits meant to depict the varied and complex emotions the six burghers of Calais actually underwent as they offered their lives to save their fellow citizens from King Edward III during the Hundred Year’s War.  

Aristide Maillol, “Seated Woman with Chignon,” 1900, Terracotta on black marble base, 6 7/8 x 4 x 5 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Aristide Maillol, “Seated Woman with Chignon,” 1900, Terracotta on black marble base, 6 7/8 x 4 x 5 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Mid-way through the exhibition is a fascinating series of large-scale color photographs that show many of the paintings showcased in Paley’s 20-plus-room apartment at 825 Fifth Avenue in New York City, where he lived with his second wife, socialite “Babe” Paley.  Their brightly colored and patterned apartment occupied a full floor in one of the most prestigious buildings in Manhattan and was decorated by the renowned Sister Parish and Albert Hadley (or Parish-Hadley), the French firm of Jansen (which assisted with the Kennedy White House), and Billy Baldwin.  Picasso’s “Boy Leading a Horse” was the first thing people saw as they entered the front door and stepped onto the 18th- century parquet floors which perfectly accentuated the natural hues in painting’s lower register.  The foyer was the only room where people remained standing.  In the other rooms, intimacy and comfort were the rule and smaller artworks were gracefully intermingled with furnishings and personal objects.  As William Ruben writes in the catalogue “Paley’s collecting was entirely personal.  He thought of his paintings as the most important elements of a seamless private world…”  (p. ix) 

Catalogue:  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism (revised 2012, 176 pages, $39.95, on sale for $29.88) lets you get acquainted with the artworks that Paley lived with.  The catalogue was originally published in 1992 to accompany an exhibition celebrating MoMA’s acquisition of his extraordinary personal art collection.   This newly-redesigned edition of the book has been released to accompany the collection’s second tour throughout the United States and Canada, which commences at the de Young.   Authored by William Rubin, MoMA’s former Director Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture, and Matthew Armstrong, the catalogue is organized in alphabetical order by artists.  It devotes at least two full pages to each artwork in the collection—a full page photo and at one full page of analysis by Rubin, who worked with Paley as he made his purchases.  

Édouard Manet, “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” (1882-83), Oil on canvas, 7 5/8 inches x 9 1/3 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Édouard Manet, “Two Roses on a Tablecloth,” (1882-83), Oil on canvas, 7 5/8 inches x 9 1/3 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, (MOMA) with which Paley began a long affiliation in 1937.  Serving as trustee, chairman of the Painting and Sculpture Committee, president of the Museum and chairman of the Board, Paley was chairman emeritus from 1985 until his death in October 1990. 

For other ARThound coverage of the Paley and Nureyev exhibitions, click here.

Details:  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism closes Sunday, December 30, 2012.  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Parking:  By entering Golden Gate Park from 8th Avenue (at Fulton Street), you can park for free for 4 hours on the street on John F. Kennedy Drive and have easy access to the museum.  Otherwise, enter on 10th Avenue (at Fulton) and park at the Music Concourse Garage (M-F $4.50/hour and $5/hour on weekends).  Tickets:  $20 Adults; $16 seniors, students with I.D.; $10 youth 6-17; members and children free.  Fee includes access to all museum collections and exhibitions including Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (October 6, 2012 – February 17, 2013).  More information:   (415) 750-3600 or  deyoung.famsf.org.

Exhibition Venues:  September 15-December 30, 2012—de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco;  May 2- September 8, 2013—Portland Museum of Art in Maine; October 10, 2013-January 5, 2014—the Fine Arts Museum of Quebec;  and  2014—the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Related Lecture: “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” Docent Lecture by Rita Dunlay, Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 2:15 p.m., Koret Auditorium, Free to public.  Museum admission is not required.

December 26, 2012 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Nutcracker:” the treasured holiday classic opens Friday, December 8, 2012, at San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet in Helge Tomasson's "Nutcracker," December 7-28, 2012, at War Memorial Opera House.  @ Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet in Helge Tomasson’s “Nutcracker,”December 7-28, 2012 at War Memorial Opera House. @ Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet’s magical production of Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker opens Friday, December 7, 2012, at War Memorial Opera House, and is always a special treat with its distinctive bow to San Francisco.   Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s production is set in San Francisco on Christmas Eve during the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition, an extraordinary world’s fair that transformed San Francisco into a dream-like city of magical domes and pastel-colored buildings.  The ballet opens with a stunning collage of black and white photos from the actual world’s fair, with shots of the Palace of Fine Arts, the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, Chinatown, and the famous “Painted Lady” Victorians of Alamo Square.  It gradually narrows in on 100 painted Victorian windows until landing at the toymaker Drosselmeyer’s window and the mysterious world of magic and wonder contained therein.   The photos on the fireplace wall at the home in Act I are family photos of the founders of San Francisco Ballet, the visionary Christensen Brothers.  And, in the Act I battle scene (between the mice and the gingerbread soldiers), the giant fireplace stands 22 feet tall and 19 feet wide, about the size of two SF cable cars stacked on top of each other.  The gorgeous combination of dance, Tchaikovsky’s romantic music and the beautiful costumes are punctuated by real magic tricks, orchestrated by the production’s own magic consultant, Menlo Park illusionist Marshall Magoon.  He has made sure that Uncle Drosselmeyer, who makes toys change size and come to life, is unforgettable.  Of course, the very best trick up Drosselmeyer’s sleeve is when he commands the Christmas tree to grow and grow and GROW and it does!   Nutcracker is mesmerizing in all respects.  Plan on taking the family, or someone very special, to this delightful holiday classic.

SF Ballet’s very first Sugar Plum on life before spandex:  Gisella Caccialanza Christensen was the prima ballerina who danced the Sugar Plum Fairy role with the San Francisco Ballet when it staged the first complete U.S. performance of the ballet on Christmas Eve, 1944.  Her partner was her brother-in-law, William Christensen, then the company’s director and her husband, Lew Christensen, was serving in the army.  With a $1,000 budget,  Company members helped by standing in long lines to purchase fabric for costumes in 10-yard lengths, as dictated by wartime rationing.  “The production’s  “Onna White helped me make my costume, which was really awful. We made our own tights then too. They weren’t like tights worn today.  We had to sew our stockings onto little pants to make tights and, like old-style tights, they’d bag out and wouldn’t bounce back and cling to your legs. We sewed pennies or nickels to the waistbands so we’d have something to grab onto to yank up the tights. You couldn’t practice plies or anything before a performance or else you’d be standing there with baggy knees when the curtain came up.  The zipper on my costume split while I was dancing in the dress rehearsal of Nutcracker.  I remember William saying to me, ‘Good luck, sis, and don’t breathe!’”  (Quote courtesy of SF Ballet.)  Ms. Christensen, a long-time resident San Bruno, passed in 1998 at the age of 83.

San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson's “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson’s “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

Six Family Performances with gifts & pre-performance Photo Op:  For six performances only, the first 500 children to arrive at War Memorial Opera House will receive a special gift and, at intermission, everyone will enjoy complimentary beverages and sweet treats by Miette, the official bakery of SF Ballet’s Nutcracker.  One hour prior to curtain, Nutcracker characters pose for photos for 30 minutes, so bring your camera.  Lines for entry to War Memorial Opera House and for photos form early, so arrive early.  Photo lines must be stopped 30 minutes prior to curtain so the dancers aren’t late for the performance.  The six family performances will be held on:  Fri, 12/ 7, 7pm; Sun, 12/ 9, 7pm; Tue, 12/11, 7pm; Wed, 12/12, 7pm; Thu, 12/13, 7pm; Fri, 12/14, 2pmHelp SF Ballet win “Battle of the Nutcrackers” on Ovation TV:  You can brush up on San Francisco Ballet’s splendid production by watching this year’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers” on Ovation TV featuring the Company’s 2008 production, with Elizabeth Powell as Clara, on Sunday, December 9 at 3 p.m.  SF Ballet’s production is the only American production to compete in this festive annual ballet extravaganza.  SF Ballet’s production will also broadcast on Mon, Dec 10, 2 pm PST; Mon, Dec 17, 12:30pm PST;  Thu, Dec 20, 10 am PST; Sun, Dec 23, 3pm PST; Tue, Dec 25, 1:30pm PST.

“Battle of the Nutcrackers” is an annual competition on Ovation TV (which plays on Direct TV Channel 274 and other Bay Area service providers as well) and features six Nutcracker productions from around the world:  SF Ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, The Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, and the Australian Ballet.  Viewers are invited to watch the various productions and vote on their favorite on Ovation TV’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers” Facebook page.  The full broadcast schedule is here.

San Francisco Ballet’s Luke Ingham in Tomasson's “Nutcracker.”  Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet’s Luke Ingham in Tomasson’s “Nutcracker.” Photo: © Erik Tomasson)

To vote for SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, click here, then scroll down to SF Ballet, and hit the yellow VOTE button.  You may vote as many times as you want and do not need to enter the sweepstakes contest at the bottom of the page in order to vote.  The Viewers’ Choice will be revealed on Christmas Eve, December 24th at 8:00pmET.  A marathon of all the productions will air all day on Christmas Day, December 25th.Ovation TV runs on Direct TV Channel 274 and other Bay Area service providers as well.  To find Ovation TV in your area, click here to be re-directed to their website where you will enter your zip code

Nutcracker Details:  Nutcracker opens Friday, December 7, 2012 and runs through December 28, 2012.  San Francisco Ballet performs at the historic War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco.  Parking:  Civic Center Garage on McAllister Street between Larkin and Polk or Performing Arts Garage on Grove between Franklin and Gough streets.  Traffic delays are common particularly on 101 Southbound around the Golden Gate Bridge and parking can be time-consuming, so plan adequately.  No late seating:  SF Ballet enforces a strict no late seating policy, meaning that guests will not be seated after the lights have dimmed. Latecomers will be asked to stand until there is a break in the program, and will be seated at the discretion of management.  Tickets: $20 – $305, purchase online here  or through Box Office (415) 865-2000, Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Information:  www.sfballet.org  or (415) 865-2000

Bringing Children:  San Francisco Ballet recommends that children attending Nutcracker be at least 5 years old.  Any child who can sit in his own seat and quietly observe a two-hour performance without questions is welcome.  Booster seats for children are provided free of charge for use on the Orchestra level.  No infants may be brought to a performance.  Parents should take children creating a disturbance during the ballet out of the performance hall. 

Love Ballet?  Don’t miss “Nureyev: A Life in Dance” and the fabulous Degas drawing in “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” both at San Francisco’s de Young Museum now: 

Costume for Rudolf Nureyev in the role of Romeo, Act II, Romeo and Juliet, Opéra national de Paris. 1984. Velvet, silk, silver lamé, metallic lace, and sequins. Collection of CNCS/Opéra national de Paris.  Photograph by Pascal François/CNCS

Costume for Rudolf Nureyev in the role of Romeo, Act II, Romeo and Juliet, Opéra national de Paris. 1984. Velvet, silk, silver lamé, metallic lace, and sequins. Collection of CNCS/Opéra national de Paris. Photograph by Pascal François/CNCS

“You live as long as you dance” was Rudolf Nureyev’s mantra throughout his meteoric rise as an internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer, ballet master, and company director.  In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Nureyev’s death, and his remarkable career and art, the de Young Museum is exhibiting more than 70 costumes from ballets danced by the master from every period of his long career— Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Manfred among them— as well as a selection of photographs, , life-size dance videos, and ephemera that chronicles his illustrious life.  Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance  explores Nureyev’s life in dance and his lifelong obsession with the details of fabric, decoration, and stylistic line.  As a meticulous performer, the Russian ballet master demanded costumes that were not only beautiful, but precisely engineered to suit the physical demands of his dance.  He also loved embellishment and these costumes reflect his highly-refined aesthetic, standing as fantasias of embroidery, jewels, and braid.  Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Danceoffers an intimate view of the man behind the grand gestures, a man, as Mikhail Baryshnikov said, who “… had the charisma and simplicity of a man of the earth, and the inaccessible arrogance of the gods.” 

Organized in collaboration with the Centre national du costume de scène in Moulins, France, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the de Young Museum is the exhibition’s exclusive U.S. venue. 

Great Christmas Gift!   The accompanying catalogue, Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance, presents Nureyev’s extraordinary ballet costumes and career, recalling key dates and performances with more than 200 photographs in color and black-and-white. Bilingual text in English and French. 160 pages. Hardcover $29.95.  Available exclusively in the Museum Stores, or online at shop.famsf.org.

Edgar Degas, “Two Dancers” (1905), Charcoal and pastel on tracing paper, 43 x 32 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Edgar Degas, “Two Dancers” (1905), Charcoal and pastel on tracing paper, 43 x 32 inches, The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of MoMA.

Don’t Miss the Degas!  If you’re at the de Young Museum, don’t miss Edgar Degas’ spectacular charcoal drawing, “Two Dancers” (1905), in the second gallery of their other special exhibition,  The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism  (September 15-December 30, 2012.)  This is a huge graphic work imbued with the very essence of dance—graceful movement.  No one understood and could convey the anatomy of the dancer and movement like Degas who created this as part of a series of preparing dancers.  Nearly half of all Degas’ paintings and pastels are of dancers.  When asked why he drew so many, he replied, ” It is only there that I can discover the movement of the Greeks.” (catalogue p. 36)  The exhibition itself includes of over 60 artworks from William S. Paley’s remarkable collection of 19th and early 20th century art.  Paley bought this Degas drawing in 1935 from the important French dealer Ambroise Vollard and it was rarely exhibited both before and after his purchase.

De Young Details: Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance runs (October 6, 2012 – February 17, 2013).  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Parking: By entering Golden Gate Park from 8th Avenue (at Fulton Street), you can park for free for 4 hours on the street on John F. Kennedy Drive and have easy access to the museum. Otherwise, enter on 10th Avenue (at Fulton) and park at the Music Concourse Garage (M-F $4.50/hour and $5/hour on weekends). Tickets: $20 Adults; $16 seniors, students with I.D.; $10 youth 6-17; members and children free. Fee includes access to all museum collections and exhibitions including The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism which closes Sunday, December 30, 2012.  More information: (415) 750-3600 or deyoung.famsf.org.

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Art, Dance, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Closing Sunday: “REAL TO REAL: Photographs from the Traina Collection,” at the de Young Museum

“Melissa” (2005, Chromogenic print, 50”h x 40”w) by American photographer Alec Soth is on display at the de Young Museum through September 16, 2012, as part of “Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection.” The image was taken at the Flamingo Inn at Niagra Falls, the former honeymoon capital of the world, just after the woman, Melissa, was married. Image courtesy: Traina Collection.

An engaging and controversial show, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection is closing this Sunday, August 16, 2012, at San Francisco’s de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.  Drawn from the impressive holdings of San Francisco native Trevor Traina, a member of the FAMSF Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Board and the son of its President, Diane B. (Dede) Wilsey, the exhibition brings together rare black-and-white vintage prints of classic images by Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand with works in color by artists ranging from Stephen Shore and William Eggleston to Cindy Sherman, Alec Soth and Andreas Gursky.

How the mix of 110 images, produced by some of the pre-eminent artists working in photography from the 1950s has to the present, qualified as a major exhibition at the museum has been a source of controversy.  Some Bay Area art critics have suggested that it was improper protocol to give museum space to someone so closely connected with the internal politics of the museum.

When Fine Arts Museum director John Buchanan passed in December 2011, Mrs. Wilsey stepped up to run things until a suitable new director could be found and six months later her son has a prominent show in the museum.  It might look cozy but, so far, no one has come up with any rules that were violated.  The show, which examines different historical understandings of Realism and its changing definitions over time, was curated jointly by Art Historian Kevin Moore, who served as an advisor to Traina on the collection, and Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Administrative Curator at the Fine Arts Museums Julian Cox.

Photography has not been considered “fine art” until fairly recently by the FAMSF according to Mrs. Wilsey, who spoke at the exhibition’s press conference in June about the history of photography and the museum’s long lack of wall space devoted to the medium.  Now, things have changed and the museum is welcoming photography, with Julian Cox proudly at the helm.  Cox states, “It was Alfred Stieglitz who, a century ago, campaigned in support of photography’s expressive possibilities independent from other visual arts, because he believed the medium to be endowed with what he described as “a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.”

Most of us are moved by photography because it provides us with a myriad of possibilities to understand our lives through the power of images.  The Traina collection includes some well-known icons as well as powerful works by emerging and experimental young photographers.  Notes Cox, “The Traina collection includes many images that sit firmly within the tradition of photography as a craft and a vocation, alongside those made by artists who consider photography as just one medium among others from which they can select to communicate an idea. This use of photography within conceptual art has been at the center of Traina’s most recent activity as a collector, and it brings the exhibition fully into the contemporary moment with new works by artists such as Roe Etheridge, Christopher Williams and Ryan McGinley.

Traina said, “There are often photography shows of one artist or one period. What makes this show special is that it traces an idea — the evolution of the documentary tradition and the maturation of the photographic medium — across almost seven decades. The evolution of color photography and the huge glossy prints that sit next to their pristine black and white antecedents are really fun to see.”

Catalogue: An accompanying 136-page catalogue, Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection (2012, $45) features over 85 plates and includes a foreword and introduction by Curator Julian Cox and an essay by art historian Kevin Moore.

Details:  Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection closes Sunday, September 16, 2012. The de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco.  The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; Fridays (through November 23, 2012) until 8:45 p.m. and is closed Mondays.  For information about museum hours and ticket prices, call (415) 750-3600 or visit www.deyoungmuseum.org .

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bouquets to Art”— Fabulous Flowers at San Francisco’s de Young Museum, through Saturday, March 17, 2012

“Bouquets to Art” is a glorious annual exhibition and fundraiser at San Francisco’s de Young Museum featuring floral arrangements created by leading designers in response to artworks in the museum’s permanent collection. Photo: courtesy FAMSF

As an avid gardener and art lover, I find endless inspiration in the de Young Museum’s annual Bouquets to Art, a five day extravaganza which transforms the museum’s hall and galleries into a fragrant and sensual display of blooming color and creativity.  This year, over 140 of the Bay Area’s most innovative and sought after floral designers have gathered to create a spectacular array of floral arrangements in the museum that respond to artworks in the museum’s permanent collections. Designs range from the stunningly simple to the elaborately complex, making this the museum’s most highly attended event.  In the 28 years since its inception, Bouquets to Art  has drawn over 650,000 visitors and raised nearly $5 million in net proceeds.  Proceeds from Bouquets to Art 2011 were used to fund, in part, Masters of Venice: Renaissance Painters of Passion and Power from the Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna, which was on view at the de Young through February 12, 2012.  Bouquets to Art also features engaging floral demonstrations by noted local, national and international floral designers, and luncheons and afternoon teas catered by McCalls that complement the flower-bedecked galleries and public spaces in the museum.  The event concludes on Saturday, March 17, with a raffle drawing of deluxe prizes that include jewelry, travel packages and other luxury items.

Schedule for the Rest of the Week:

Thursday, March 15: 

10 a.m: Floral Demonstration by Ron Morgan, East Bay floral designer, Koret Auditorium: 10 a.m. Tickets: $35 each; includes general admission to the museum.

9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m: Floral exhibits

Noon:  Take a quiet break over a seated lunch or afternoon tea, catered by  McCalls in the Piazzoni Murals Room. Advance reservations are required as space is limited Lunch service at noon; individual tickets $55.  Tea service at 3 p.m.; individual tickets $35.

6 to 8 p.m:  Museum members only night

Friday, March 16:

9:30 am–8:45 pm: Floral exhibits

Saturday, March 17:

9:30 am–5:15 pm: Floral exhibits, raffle drawing

Visiting the de Young: Address: Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive San Francisco, CA 94118 (See Map)  Hours: Tuesday–Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 am–5:15 pm Friday: 9:30 am–8:45 pm; closed on Monday.

Bouquets to Art 2012 Ticketing

General admission allows access to all floral exhibits and special exhibition galleries. Tickets: $20 adults; $17 seniors; $16 youth 6-17; free children 4 and under & FAMSF members.  General admission tickets may be purchased in advance either online or in person at the museum box office during regular museum hours.  Advance tickets are required for the opening night gala, luncheons, floral demonstrations and afternoon teas. For more information and to order tickets, go to www.bouquetstoart.org.

 

March 15, 2012 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sandra Ericson, creator, Center for Pattern Design, talks about Balenciaga, the de Young exhibition and her “Balenciaga in Depth” seminar this weekend at CCA

Balenciaga's puffy and voluminous evening gown in turquoise silk gauze, summer 1958, epitomizes his ability to sculpt audaciously with fabric. While very modern in its feel, the dress echoes the abstracted influence of a gown depicted in a Goya portrait. Fabric swatch is attached in lower right. Archival House photograph.

In the course of researching the de Young Museum’s amazing Balenciaga and Spain exhibition, I had questions about the precise techniques that made Cristóbal Balenciaga the consummate designer and master sculptor in textiles that he was.   I turned to Sandra Ericson for answers.  Sandra taught fashion design, pattern design, and textile courses at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) for 31 years.  In 2006, after retiring, she established the Center for Pattern Design  (CFPD) in her hometown of St. Helena, CA, as a way to focus on the people in the fashion industry who actually cut the cloth.  At CFPD, Ericson teaches advanced courses in cutting, draping, pattern design and construction and also takes these courses on the road.  She is the turn-to resource for a lot of fashion insiders and museum curators and is a respected authority on French designer Madeleine Vionnet who pioneered draping on the bias, the bias cut and ruled haute couture in the 1930’s, designing sensual gowns for Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Greta Garbo that did marvelous things for their bodies.  What a pleasure to have Sandra explain Balenciaga with an insider’s detail to attention. 

Geneva Anderson:  Does “pattern designer” accurately capture what you do and what your center emphasizes?  

Sandra Ericson: I am a pattern designer and after 31 years of teaching at City College, I established the Center for Pattern Design  in 2006 as a way to bring the focus back to those persons who actually cut the cloth, an important part of the fashion industry.   Before the recession, which brought back a return to value, the fashion industry and the discipline of fashion got very theatrical and celebrity-driven

Francisco de Goya, The Marquessa de Pontejos, c. 1786, Andrew W. Mellon collection. Image: National Gallery of Art.

and concentrated on the designer as the single figure in the fashion company.  Often, the designer did not cut his own work and it really became a situation where the credit did not go to the craft people who did it.  Primary among those craft people are the people who actually understand fabric, the body and who can interpret design and cut a two-dimensional pattern that looks amazing in three dimensions.  I wanted to focus on people who could do that and this requires a special skill set. 

This requires spatial visualization so that you can imagine what something lying flat on the table in an odd shape will look like in three dimensions.  You have to have a good grasp of all the textile characteristics so you know what will happen when you hang the fabric and gravity and body motion come into play. You also need a good sense of anatomy and how the body moves and what makes clothes functional, not just decorative.  When you look around the world for people who can do really that well, there are few.  Balenciaga is one of the most important from the past who we can look to.  When something like the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition comes along, I get excited because I want people to understand what made his clothes terrific–it was his ability to cut and his meticulous attention to detail and construction and, finally, his eye—discerning  how the overall effect is going to been seen and thought about and how it accentuates the wearer.

Geneva Anderson:  Balenciaga is known for the balloon skirt, the baby doll, the sack dress, the 7/8 length bracelet sleeve, his masterful manipulation of the waist, and he’s been called the “king of dissymmetry.”   Explain these.

Balenciaga's dramatic wedding dress of white silk-satin and silk gazar, summer, 1968, shown on the eve of the Paris student riots, is austere in its simplicity. It is meticulously crafted with very few carefully placed seams that run along the bias. The headpiece repeats the lines of a nun's stiff veil and reflects the ever present influence of the church on Balenciaga. Image: courtesy Balenciaga Archive.

Sandra Ericson: All of those are related to a singular skill—the ability to sculpt.  His medium was textiles and he was particularly famous for using textiles that were sculptural in nature, especially silk gazar, a heavy silk with a very springy quality.  He also worked with silk “zagar” but it’s very rare and you can’t find it these days.  When I do the Balenciaga draping class, I will look for something comparable to the gazar for us to work with.   Because we will be draping on the half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high and all the measurement are exactly half of a size ten person, I will be able to go out and find something that will have the qualities that Balenciaga’s fabrics had.  A very heavy satin, duchess satin, (made from silk fibers) is an example—it’s stiffer, fuller, heavier, and has a lot more body than full silk has.  In his coats, he used fabrics that might have been double woven, fabrics that could retain their dimensions even though they were folded or manipulated or gathered.  

Balenciaga was a person who inspired a lot of designers who came after him in the architectural mode–André Courrèges, Ronaldus Shamask.  In the mid-1970′s I actually took a class in architectural design and one of the presenters,  interestingly, enough was a guy named Salvatore, who was Balenciaga’s right hand man and he gave our group several patterns that belonged to Balenciaga but were not out there in circulation.  I kept those and when I do my class, I will be bringing those in. 

I’ve also made several of the pieces myself that he made famous.  He was strong, very architectural but careful –he had a way of doing a coat so that he set the collar on the neckline back a little bit so that if you were a lady who was no longer standing up too straight, you looked as if you had perfect posture in the coat. 

The voluminous silhouette of Balenciaga's "chou" wrap, from winter 1968, is entirely dependent on the stiffness of silk gazar, while the evening dress is done in a more fluid black silk crepe. Photo: Balenciaga Archives, Paris.

I’ve made that coat several times and will be bringing one in.  He had a way of working with a woman’s body so that whatever was a perceived negative about her figure disappeared and you focused on the most wonderful parts.  In the 1950′s you have to remember that people with money were not necessarily young.  Ladies might have thick waists or necks, but the wrist is the last to go.  The 7/8 length (or bracelet) sleeve made the wrist look delicate and drew attention there.  He  also lowered the waist in the back so you had a beautiful curve in the back.

Geneva Anderson:  In terms of construction, these ideas are incorporated right as the fabric as being cut? 

Sandra Ericson:  His clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients, so he knew what needed to be done on a body by body basis.  In terms of the general construction of the pieces, he was ever committed to cutting the cloth in the way that women would be exhibited in the best possible way, cutting off a line just before a beautiful physical curve on the body would take the eye into unflattering proportions. Kind of design by restraint!  Likewise, he would suggest or replace a shape rather than define it as it was on a particular person – again bearing in mind that his clothes were created either for the runway model or specific clients whose proportions he knew.

A lot of his high fashion clothes though were reproduced in one way or another for the mass market and became ready to wear.  I used to send my students down to the Sunset Market in the Sunset district in the City when I teaching over there because the Balenciaga coat would still be going up and down the aisles pushing the grocery cart. It was such  a popular style coat with a small stand-up folded over collar, straight in the back and the sleeves were usually cut in one and looked sort of molded and stopped short of your wrists.  Sometimes, it had fur on the collar.  

Several of Balenciaga's designs contain overt allusions to the matador’s costume—cape, bolero, the bolero’s edging of borlones (pom pom tassels), medias (stockings) and headgear. Legendary Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín (1926-1996) was friendly with Picasso, had a romance with Eva Gardner and was written about by Ernest Hemingway. Here, he wears an ornate bolero with traditional embroidery and sports an anadido or plaited pigtail worn until retirement from the ring and then ceremoniously cut-off. Photo 1960.

Geneva Anderson:  Who was buying and wearing Balenciaga back in the day?

Sandra Ericson: Socialites. The celebrities in that period were mainly people who had social stature and there were film and theatrical people as well.  It was the Babe Paley era, debutants, wives of important men.  They went to Paris for their fittings.  In the Bay Area, they would have had fittings at I Magnin.  When the whole architectural trend waned, and things went to the tight denim of the 1970′s, his influence and that way of working faded and he closed his house in 1968 and he died way too young in 1972.  A lot of designers from that era and this is what happened to Madeleine Vionnet too–  they are exquisite, perfect, in what they do — but they are so finely attuned to a certain way of working that is very difficult to follow fashion.  A lot of them feel philosophically committed to the aesthetic they have been enthralled by and when that no longer is the fashion it is very difficult to change that philosophy and that’s what happened to Vionnet.  Balenciaga was also a very private person, so once he had done it and he saw the way the world was moving in the 1960′s, a lot of factors contributed to the closing of the house.

 

 

Balenciaga's cocktail hat in ivory silk satin, 1953, is a whimsical reference to the añadido or tiny braided pigtail that a matador wears until his retirement. Originally, the bullfighter's own hair was used but the pigtail later became a separate element, a castañeta, that is attached to a flat fabric-covered disc and is placed beneath the montera. Photo: John Rawlings, 1953

Geneva Anderson:  How strong were Basque and Spanish influences on him?

Balenciaga’s winter 1946 bolero in burgundy silk velvet and jet and passementerie embroidery by Bataille deonstrates his engagement with historical styles and with the influence of bullfighting. Collection of Hamish Bowles. Photo by Kenny Komer.

Sandra Ericson: He was from Spain and he, of course, was living in a Catholic country. In those days, before Vatican II which ushered in a new era for the Church, Catholicism was very old-fashioned, formal, and rigid.  The Church vestments were very sculptural, things were done in platinum, and there was an air of solemnity about everything.  There’s the sense of a very heavy structure laid over the religion and the dress code and that a strong influence on Balenciaga, living in a strongly Catholic society.  Fashion designers become translators of their era: they are masters of the zeitgeist who interpret everything that’s going on in an aesthetic way.  And because fashion is for human beings, it becomes almost a complete mirror of the society a designer is living in.

A lot of the pieces in Balenciaga and Spain are definitely ecclesiastical or nationalistic without reservation — a strong indicator of his identity with his culture certainly.  There are two other factors too–one, a presentation of the idea that women could be members of the clergy, or bullfighters, or run a country as royalty.  None of this was even remotely possible in general for women.  The second thing is that it shows he was not beyond co-opting a design concept and using it for his own — maybe evidence of his business pressures. Familiar ideas sell.

Balenciaga’s cocktail dress of rose peau de soie and black lace, winter 1948, suggests a modernized version of the lace dress worn by Dona Tadea Arias in Goya’s 1973-4 portrait at the Prado. It also reflects his conservatism in his expression of femininity which was not highly sexualized. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Mrs. C. H. Russell. Photo by Joe McDonald/FAMSF

Geneva Anderson:  What is the significance of the re-emergence of the House of Balenciaga under the ownership of Gucci and the design influence of Nicholas Ghesquière, who is supposed to be like Balenciaga because he is a self-taught designer.  He’s known for hip interpretations of Balenciaga classics, such as the semi-fitted jacket and the sack dress and is worn by celebrities like Madonna and Sinéad O’Connor.   How do you see transitions like this?

Sandra Ericson:  Anytime somebody buys a house that had a very strong leader, designer and a strong aesthetic, they are doing it primarily for business reasons.   It’s not as if anyone is going to resurrect Balenciaga or copy him and the person who is coming to fill those shoes is going to be who he is in his own time.  He or she can’t be anything else because everybody can only be who they are in their own time.  What the house is hoping is that the brand, the name, will carry enough social cache that it will allow them to be financially successful in a completely different time.  It’s kind of akin to hitchhiking on a name–if it works, that’s great but it’s very difficult for a new designer to come in and interpret another person’s work that is that personal.  So far, they’ve had three designers come to house of Vionnet and it hasn’t clicked.  If the person is good in his own interpretation of his own time, then they’ve got something to work with.  If the talent is short, then that won’t happen because staking it on Balenciaga’s name isn’t enough.

Geneva Anderson:  Tell me more about the “Balenciaga in Depth” event you’ve organized.

Sandra Ericson:  I’m doing a 3 day series of events and it all starts on Friday May 20 with a morning tour of the Balenciaga and Spain exhibition with someone who worked on the exhibition and this followed by an elegant box lunch.  In the evening, there will be a reception at CCA followed by a slide presentation explaining more of the history and chronology of Balenciaga. I will talk about the design issues, pattern, fabric, and construction pattern and an overview.  On Saturday and Sunday, at CCA, there will be a master class in draping where we will do two Balenciaga classics.  We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people

Balenciaga's cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung and black lace with black silk satin ribbons, summer 1966, illustrates his understanding of women as feminine, properly sexy, sugary--bows, ribbon, lace--and fabrics that are about femininity. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Eleanor Christensen de Guigne Collection (Mrs. Christian de Guigne III), gift of Ronna and Eric Hoffman. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

in the class.  Each person will work with a half-scale dress form, which is 36 inches high, and all the measurements are exactly half of a size ten person. I am certainly not planning on duplicating the talent of Balenciaga but I want people to understand how he worked, how to cut cloth the way in a similar way and how to work with similar cloth so that they can begin to embrace fashion design as a more sculptural activity, as a form of art.

We each work on our own dress forms and there is room for 15 people in the class.  Each person will have a half-scale dress form

Center for Pattern Design Details: for further information, contact Sandra Ericson, Director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, California 94574, 707-967-0852

Balenciaga and Spain Details: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.  Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance.  For a complete listing of the numerous special events associated with the exhibition visit its webpage Balenciaga and Spain.

ARThound’s previous coverage of Balenciaga:

What is Balenciaga really all about? St. Helena pattern designer Sandra Ericson is offering a chance to cut, fit and sew two Balenciaga masterpieces this weekend at San Francisco’s CCA (May 17, 2011)

 Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit (March 23, 2011)

 Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011  (March 13, 2011)

May 21, 2011 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Balenciaga really all about? St. Helena pattern designer Sandra Ericson is offering a chance to cut, fit and sew two Balenciaga masterpieces this weekend at San Francisco’s CCA

Sandra Ericson, founder and director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, will teach a seminar this weekend at CCA where participants will each make a half-scale replica of Balenciaga's iconic red coat in taffeta, just like the original.

Has the de Young Museum’s sumptuous Balenciaga and Spain exhibition which runs through July 4, 2011 left you hungering for more detailed information about how Cristóbal Balenciaga actually crafted his exquisite dresses and coats?  For a fabulous indulgence in the core of Balenciaga’s talents, Sandra Ericson, the delightful and very knowledgeable founder of St. Helena’s Center for Pattern Design  has organized four special events, taking place this weekend (May 20-22, 2011) at California College of the Arts that will illuminate the way Balenciaga designed, cut and worked with fabric.  Ericson has 31 years of teaching experience in pattern design and is a respected authority on 1930′s French designer Madeleine Vionnet who pioneered draping on the bias.  If you heard the exhibition’s curator Hamish Bowles interviewed by Michael Krasny on KQED’s forum, on March 22, 2011, (click here) you’ll recall there wasn’t much discussion of the actual techniques Balenciaga used. Ericson has organized the activities so that they build from an informative private walk-through and lecture on Friday to hands-on cutting and draping courses on the weekend.  

Private tour: Balenciaga and Spain at the De Young Museum, May 20, 10 – 11 AM.   A private tour of Balenciaga and Spain at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, guided by a knowledgeable docent and Sandra Ericson. This tour will emphasize the fabrics, cut and construction of the pieces shown.  Afterward, the group will meet for a no-host lunch and a Q & A with Sandra on the patio of the Museum Cafe.

Lecture:  Balenciaga’s Cut and Construction, May 20, 7 – 9 PM.  ($45) Sandra Ericson gives a visual presentation and exploration of how Balenciaga actually worked.  The focus will be on identifying the fabrics (with samples to touch), the cutting and construction techniques for his sculptural masterpieces and the design theory behind the genius of Cristobal Balenciaga. 

Balenciaga's iconic paletot and scarf in putty-colored broadcloth from his Winter 1950 collection. Photographed by Irving Penn for American Vogue. Paletot: A loose outer jacket, cloak, coat

Draping Class:  The Red Coat, May 21, 2011, 9 AM – 5 PM ($159 or $259 for both)  This class will focus upon the Red Coat and will be draped half-scale in taffeta as the original was in full scale.  Half-scale dress forms (with arms) are supplied as is all student fabric.  Class is from 9 AM to 5 PM with breaks and lunch on your own.  You will need to bring basic sewing supplies for this class. 

Details will be provided to all attendees.  Limited to a total of 15 students. (8 students for a single day and 7 students taking both days.)   Experience level: beginning to intermediate.  The designs are not highly fitted nor do they have multiple pieces or unusual fabric effects; they are, however, dramatic and require some fabric familiarity and some sewing experience to understand assembly.  Sandra tries to bring each student along based upon the student’s own starting point, often grouping people together at similar levels for extra instruction during the class.

Draping Class:  The Pleated Paletot May 22, 2011, 9 AM – 5 PM ($159 or $259 for both) This event will focus upon the Paletot jacket, said to be created for Marlene Dietrich, and will be draped half-scale in crepe just as the original was in full scale. Half-scale dress forms (with arms) are supplied as is all student fabric.  Class is from 9 AM to 5 PM with breaks and lunch on your own.  You will need to bring basic sewing supplies for this class. 

Register and buy tickets here (Each event is ticketed separately; the lecture and the classes will be held at California College of the Arts, , 111 8th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107)       

Details CFPD:  for further information, contact Sandra Ericson, Director, Center for Pattern Design, St. Helena, California 94574, 707-967-0852.

Details: Balenciaga and Spain:  Balenciaga and Spain ends July 4, 2011.  The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.   Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance. 

ARThound’s other coverage of Balenciaga:

 Sandra Ericson, creator, Center for Pattern Design, talks about Balenciaga, the de Young exhibition and her “Balenciaga in Depth” seminar this weekend (May 21, 2011)

 Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit (March 23, 2011)

 Bouquets to Art 2011 launches Monday with a Spanish theme to celebrate Balenciaga–at San Francisco’s de Young Museum through March 19, 2011  (March 13, 2011)

May 17, 2011 Posted by | de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 100 other followers