the ARTistry of ARThistory occasionally done ARTfully

The Robber Baron’s Age of Rembrandts

Posted by gninja on November 8, 2007

Good commentary from the Guardian. According to Richard B Woodward:

What is unseemly about The Age of Rembrandt is the jingling sound of money audible throughout and the subliminal appeals for more of it to replenish the museum’s coffers. The title of the show is a misnomer and a ruse. The curators aren’t examining the Dutch society that allowed Rembrandt and his contemporaries to flourish but rather celebrating the New York society that could afford to buy their work.


(A portrait of JP Morgan. Not done by Rembrandt. That would be impossible. Or prescient.)

By and large I had the same response when I saw the exhibition. But, unlike Woodward, I took not so much issue with the title of the show (though I do agree with him), but instead with the lack of curatorial presence in the show. Rather than just group the paintings on the walls according to their donors, why not make some kind of effort at addressing what their art-purchases (and donations) say about these prominent families? It would do a great service to the public to strive less towards curatorial transparency–at least in this case. Include photographs of these families next to their works, and show what else they collected. Even if only through photographs. Juxtapose a formal portrait of Morgan with one done by Rembrandt. How were these families modeling themselves. There really a whole slew of ways this show could have been handled that could have satisfied both the museum’s desire to honor (and solicit more) donors, as well as the museum-goer’s desire for a an exhibition that is intellectually engaging.

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