Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
Philadelphia is a jewel box of unique and spectacular, even life-enhancing attractions, a trove of national treasures of history, heritage, culture that glitters particularly during the holidays. The holiday splendor is eye-catching and warms the heart, but any visitor still has to make time to experience first-hand at least some of these iconic places. I manage to bookend my holiday merrymaking with a mix of art (Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Magic Gardens) with history (Independence Hall) with heritage (National Museum of American Jewish History) with science and enlightenment (Philly is the hometown of one of our most enlightened inventors, Ben Franklin, and so I end this visit with the Franklin Institute.
We spare no time once we drop our luggage
at The Roost East Market, park the car in the garage, but grab an Uber to race
over to The Barnes Foundation. The Barnes Collection is one of the world’s
greatest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist
paintings, with especially rich holdings in Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, and
Picasso. Assembled by Dr. Albert C. Barnes between 1912 and 1951, the
collection also includes important examples of African art, Native American
pottery and jewelry, Pennsylvania German furniture, American avant-garde
painting, and wrought-iron metalwork. In fact, we are told, Dr. Barnes has the
greatest collection of Renoir anywhere – 181 of them acquired by Dr. Barnes
between 1921 and 1942 that you actually see (as opposed to museums that keep
most of their collections in storage). Plus 69 by Paul Cézanne; 59 by Henri Matisse; 46 by Pablo Picasso;
21 by Chaim Soutine; 18 by Henri Rousseau and the list goes on and on, as
you walk from gallery to gallery to gallery.
The building complex is new, but the
gallery rooms re-create the rooms and how Dr. Barnes displayed his art,
intentionally juxtaposing masterworks by Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse and
Pablo Picasso next to ordinary household objects – a door hinge, a spatula, a
yarn spinner; a French medieval sculpture displayed with a Navajo textile;
African folk art with Modigliani and Cubists. Dr. Barnes called these dense
groupings of objects from different cultures, time periods and media his
“ensembles.” He meticulously crafted the ensembles to draw out visual similarities
– even the source of inspiration. He meant them as teaching tools, essential to
the educational program Dr. Barnes developed in the 1920s.
“He believed you could
as likely learn about how to do surgery wandering through a hospital as art
wandering through a gallery – you have to be taught how to see, what to look
for,” a docent explains. “He wanted people to appreciate how culture influences
art.” She adds, “He wasn’t an artist himself.” In fact, she relates, 10 years
ago, Central High School (Dr. Barnes grew up in a working class family in
Philadelphia), came across his school books. “He got A’s in everything but
At the Barnes, you experience these
masterworks in the most intimate manner, as if visiting a home (albeit a
mansion). We are exceptionally lucky to visit when the museum is not at all
crowded (actually we are there until closing) – I even get to have some of the
art completely to myself. It is very comfortable to view – many of the rooms
(and they seem to go on forever, one after another) are small and there is
seating in each one, with guides to the artwork at hand. But you should try to
take a docent tour. At one point, the docent pulls up a photo of Henry
Matisse, sitting on the very bench and gazing at his own painting in that very
In every room, you are astonished to see art that is amazingly familiar – because they are so famous: Georges Seurat’s “Models” (the basis for “Sunday in the Park with George”); Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Postman”; Paul Cezanne’s “The Card Players”; Edouard Manet “Laundry”; Pablo Picasso “Acrobat and Young Harlequin”, and a plethora of Renoirs – so many, you get a sugar high. Every gallery takes your breath away, and for that moment, the art, the masterpiece, is yours.
And then there are the surprises – the art and artists you “meet” for
the first time. I fall in love with a Van Gogh country scene I have never seen
There is a wonderful painting of Dr. Albert Barnes (1872-1951) by
Giorgio de Chirico (1926), which makes you wonder more about who he was to have
assembled such an astonishing collection. Dr. Barnes was born and raised in
working-class Philadelphia, earned a medical degree from the University of
Pennsylvania and went on to study chemistry in Germany. After starting his own
business and making a fortune in pharmaceuticals, he began collecting art.
“Dr. Barnes believed that art had the power to improve minds and
transform lives,” the notes read. “In 1922, he established the Barnes
Foundation as a school for learning how to see and appreciate art. He had a
gallery built in Merion, a suburb of Philadelphia, to house his growing
collection. He held classes in the gallery so that students could learn
directly from the artworks.”
In 2012, the collection was moved to Philadelphia, to a building
designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architecture. The collection gallery
replicates the original gallery building in Merion.
From here, we go to a family gathering at the mega-popular Zahav Restaurant (the Uber driver can’t believe we are getting in there since lines are usually around the block), an award-winning restaurant which elevates Israeli cuisine to gourmet status. The small plates menu is designed for diners to sample the variety of cultural influences on Israeli cuisine, from Eastern Europe to North Africa, from Persia to the Mediterranean. “Creamy, nutty hummuses, sizzling skewers of meat grilled over hardwood charcoal, and laffa breadar, the soul of Zahav, baked to order in a wood-fired Taboon.” (237 Saint James Place, 215-625-8800, zahavrestaurant.com).
holiday happenings (see:
Holiday Happenings Give
Visitors to Philadelphia Even More to Enjoy) are bookended by visits to several of Philadelphia’s
incomparable sites and attractions. Next: Independence Hall (you need to get a timed
ticket, either walk up for free or in advance online for $1 fee, www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehalltickets.htm); a fabulous exhibit
devoted to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG) at
the National Museum of American
Jewish History, located within the Independence Hall area
(thru Jan. 12, at 5th & Market, mnajh.org, 215-923-3811); Philadelphia Magic Gardens (doesn’t
need any holiday embellishments, 1020 South St., 215-733-0390, phillymagicgardens.org);and Franklin
Institute (222 North 20th St., 215-448-1200, www.fi.edu), before having to pull myself away from Philadelphia.
Staying at The Roost
East Market apartment hotel really enabled us to be part of the city, most
of what we wanted to see within walking distance. It’s not hyperbole to say the
comfort of a fully-equipped, gorgeously furnished apartment meets luxury
amenities of a boutique hotel. All of the apartments feature
full-size kitchens with cookware and utensils (I especially love not having to
go out for breakfast) and king size beds. A third-floor is
devoted to guest amenities including a well-equipped 24-hour fitness center,
magnificent and comfortable lounge areas and library, a huge demo kitchen, a
private screening room, an outside, 20-meter heated lap pool, barbecue area,
landscaped terrace, community vegetable garden;
and bike-share program. There is also 24-hour front desk and concierge,
security (you need your card to access the elevator and public areas); and
direct access to a parking garage. They
even arrange dog-walking and grocery delivery services. (The Roost East Market, 1199 Ludlow
Street Philadelphia, PA 19107, 844-697-6678, https://myroost.com/philadelphia/east-market/).
A Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package includes
overnight free parking and perks, and is bookable at Greater
Philadelphia’s official visitor website, visitphilly.com, 800-537-7676 where you can explore things to do, upcoming
events, themed itineraries and hotel packages.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum calls its special exhibition a “A Spectacle in Motion” – a title that proves to be anything but hyperbole. Imagine before documentary, before moving pictures, before photography, where the only way people could see images of places beyond their own experience was through painting, etched drawings in newspapers, or scrimshaw. Now imagine a whaling voyage that starts in New Bedford and travels thousands of miles to Fiji, painted on one mural, nearly one-quarter mile long – the longest painting in America. I can only imagine the sensation “The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World,” caused when it was first exhibited in 1849.
“Purrington & Russell’s Original Panorama: Whaling Voyage Round the World. Three Miles of Canvas” a poster from the Boston showing in 1849 proclaims. “Tickets 25 cents, half-price for children” (at a time when the sailors themselves earned $1 a day).
The mural, which is only rarely displayed in its entirety, has not been seen since the 1960s and is only on public view through October 8 by the New Bedford Whaling Museum, in New Bedford, Massachusetts (and very possibly never again), is a documentary of the whaling voyage, and while it stays still, it is you that gives it motion as you walk down the long, long stretch of each of the four panels – altogether nearly one-quarter mile long. But in its day, it was designed to be rolled so that it did in fact create a moving picture.
Coming upon this spectacle was one of the highlights of the Blount Small Ship Adventure cruise of New England Islands, all the more thrilling because it was completely unexpected, as most highlights and adventures are. As I was leaving the New Bedford Whaling Museum, I spotted a flyer saying that there was a free shuttle to “the mural.” I took a leap of faith and within moments, was traveling in the van for the five-minute, two-mile drive to the historic Kilburn Mills,as the van driver (a 47-year veteran of the museum who had a hand in moving it and laying it out to be photographed for the digitized exhibit) explained. Even after he gave me some sense of what the mural was about and why it needed to be housed in such a sprawling building, I was completely unprepared for what I would encounter. Indeed, seeing the Grand Panorama proved to be a thrilling experience and not a mere ‘viewing”. But as I climbed the flights of stairs to the fourth floor and got my first glimpse, it was, OMG. It took my breath away. Titling the exhibit “A Spectacle in Motion” was not over-selling.
The mural, in four panels each that stretches the entire length of the mill, is as long as the Empire State Building is tall; it is the longest painting in America.
Painted in 1848 by two New Bedford artists, Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell based on Russell’s actual around-the-world whaling journey, the mural documents every aspect of the places visited as well as key events. You see Pitcairn, settled by the Mutineers of the Bounty wound up; the scene as the whale rammed the Essex, the 1820 event that inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”; the island of Juan Fernandez off Chile, the temporary home of castaway Alexander Selkirk who was the model for Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.” It shows in gory detail the harpooning of a whale, blood spewing into the water; the danger as whalers are thrown into the churning sea; the 1847 eruption of the volcano at Fogo, Cape Verde, spewing its orange-red lava; sailing through a dark furious storm.
The voyage starts in New Bedford, with the first section looking so much as it does from the water as we have seen, coming into port on Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe.
The last scene is in Fiji and the last panel is curious: it seems to depict two women, one giving birth and the other a midwife.
I can only imagine the sensation that The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World caused when it was first exhibited in 1849 – before documentary, before moving pictures, before photography, when the only way to get a visual impression of some place beyond your own experience was through painted or drawn images. But this goes so far beyond. Over the course of 1,275 feet, the mural documents the entire whaling voyage, from its departure from New Bedford, to Fiji Islands. Along the way, it shows the blood, gore, the dangers and hardships of whaling. And because you move, it is the closest thing to a “moving” picture documentary they would have had.
But where the mural transported these 19th century viewers to places on the globe they had never been – it was the 3D Imax, the Virtual Reality of its day- it transports us back in time. And in its day, it was designed to actually move. Before moving pictures, the scrolls were cranked on either side like reels of film, and displayed on a theater stage.
The New Bedford Whaling Museum calls the exhibit “Spectacle: A Voyage in Motion” in appropriate typeface that shouts its excitement. It is astonishing, captivating, awesome – on so many levels – the sheer size and ambition, the quality of the art – the delicacy and fine line of scrimshaw, stunning use of colors – the insights into the events – the importance of the subject, and on top of that, the achievement of restoring the painting – and finally, the enormity and rarity of the work being displayed at all – just the process of unrolling it and hanging it for display damages the painting.
The museum spent two years restoring the mural, which originally was shown by rolling it so that the images actually did move – and important details of that conservation process, along with historical notes, are provided that are fascinating.
The mural is displayed in four sections that each cover the entire length of an historic textile mill (textile manufacturing displaced whaling when that industry collapsed, and then was replaced itself in the 1950s when climate controls made it possible to manufacture more cheaply in the South, which was then replaced by tourism).
Given the extraordinary length, the fragility of the painting, the sheer cost of moving it, setting it up, and finding a room big enough to display it, this is the first time in generations that the entire Panorama can be seen by the public.
From where it is unfurled in the building two miles from the Whaling Museum, you travel around the world and back in time with the whalers without ever leaving the city. The exhibition’s interpretive panels and kiosks are fascinating to enrich the context and content of the Panorama, as well as to give a fuller appreciation of what went into the two-year restoration project.
The notes from the museum describe the Panorama as “a maritime artwork of national historical importance, authentically depicting a whaling voyage originating from the port of New Bedford in the mid-19th century. It was painted in 1848, by New Bedford artists Caleb Purrington and Benjamin Russell, who traveled it around the country as a commercial enterprise.”
The panorama as a form of public entertainment was developed in Europe in the late 18th century and subsequently made its way to the United States after demonstrating its commercial potential to an armchair traveler audience. Robert Barker, who patented this exhibition style, defined a “panorama” as “all view.”
He felt that spectators should feel like they were “really on the very spot,” that they should feel as if they were part of the scene in a surrogate reality, an imaginary “Grand Tour” of the world.
This is precisely what visitors will experience. It was the Virtual Reality of its day.
In the late 1840’s and early 1850’s, well before the age of cinema, the Panorama was designed and performed as a moving panorama, a form of entertainment where multiple scrolls moved across a stage similar to how a reel-to-reel film would later be shown.
But, “after years on display, the wear and tear on the 170-year old painting was so extensive that it was deemed worthless and impossible to conserve. After decades of conservation planning and method strategy research, the Museum brought this national treasure back to life and is proud to share it with the public. However, due to the extensive conservation efforts that have been invested into the painting, it will no longer be shown in its original format – as a moving panorama – as this would undo the extensive work recently completed.”
The Panorama drew crowds in the era of public entertainment before moving pictures and films. To celebrate this origin, the exhibition is coupled with dynamic and engaging programming all summer long. Live performances, contemporary artistic presentations, and other unique interpretations accompany educational programs and cultural celebrations.
Plan on being dazzled for at least one to two hours.
The exhibit is billed as a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” and is free and open to the public, through Columbus Day, October 8, 9 am to 5 pm at Kilburn Mill (the museum provides a free shuttle service every half hour from 10 am to 5 pm through Labor Day).
The Grand Panorama: The Experience
As the Panorama was being conserved, it was photographed at high resolution to produce this fully digitized recreation of the entire painting for the first time, allowing the Museum to create a exhibition of The Grand Panorama it calls “The Experience” – recreating the same experience the 19th century audiences had of seeing the original Panorama on a theatrical stage, with music and narration.
You stand on the bow of the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, and watch the Panorama scroll by in a life-sized digital format projected in a full theatrical setting, and experience what Benjamin Russell and other whalers saw as they left the port of New Bedford and traveled the sea in search of whales. This re-creates the experience that the 19th century viewers would have had, since the mural was originally rolled.
The stage set is based on drawings and prints from the period and is installed off the Lagoda’s bow so visitors can experience the performance from the deck, from theater seating on the floor level, or from vantage points to the port and starboard of the iconic whaleship.
Since the original score and narrative have been lost over time, they have been recreated and remastered for the new installation, and includes new research and points of interest.
Visitors are able to dive deeper into the specifics of the Panorama story on a large, touch-screen, interactive kiosk. The kiosk will have thematic tabs on various subjects, including a map of the voyage, related Museum artifacts and paintings, and the Panorama’s conservation history. You will be able to zoom in close to any scene or detail that interests you and get rich context for each section.
Enhancing the experience, artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collections further illustrate Russell’s own global travels and connect locations represented in the Panorama with relevant ethnographic material and objects. Exhibitions that tell the stories of Yankee Whaling, the connections with the Azores and Cabo Verde, as well as the many stories told in the existing Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World exhibition help amplify the content of the Panorama. The Panorama in the context of its own time – the era of the “public spectacle” is explored in the exhibition, and includes complementing pieces from the Museum’s permanent Collection.
While I strongly recommend the incomparable experience of seeing the mural first-hand and this Virtual Reality experience, the museum will also have an online digital version, an interactive designed to expand access to the Panorama and to supplement both the Spectacle in Motion exhibitions, the Original at the Kilburn Mill and The Experience at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. While it will work on a phone or tablet it has been optimized for desktop viewing.
The quality of the collection at New Bedford Whaling Museum – consisting of the merger of two private collections of whaling artifacts – is not to be believed, including what is claimed to be the largest collection of scrimshaw. I love the way the gallery rooms are like a warren – you come upon them.
I love the theming of the rooms: From Pursuit to Preservation: The History of Human Interaction with Whales; Energy and Enterprise: Industry an d the City of New Bedford; Enlightened Counters: the Two Nations of Manjiro Nakahama (about a 16-year old Japanese sailor who was rescued and spent eight years in New Bedford, the first Japanese person to live here, then went back to become a major counselor to the Emperor negotiating with the US and England) and The East Unlocks its Gates: American Whalers and Trade in Asia.
There is (of course) a Herman Melville room (while Melville never actually visited Nantucket before writing “Moby Dick,” he sailed from New Bedford on his whaling voyage), artifacts collected from around the world brought back by the whalers and opened the New Bedford people to the cultures of the world. There are sections dedicated to the Portuguese from the Azores and the sailors recruited from Costa Verde and how they impacted the diverse community in New Bedford. I am introduced for the first time to Captain Joshua Slocum, the first to solo circumnavigate the world.
An astonishing sight is the skeleton of a whale that is suspended from the ceiling as you enter the Museum, its bones with oily brown patches. It turns out that the bones still have oil which drips out and is collected in a jar below.
There is the world’s largest model whaleship, the Lagoda, at half-scale that takes up the entirety of the Bourne building, that you can climb aboard. In addition, there is the Mariner’s Home that is used for exhibit, and the Seaman’s Bethel which offers a superb video about whaling.
It drives home the theme that is so pressing today: “Trade: Expand American Ideas” (but also bring ideas back).
New Bedford Whaling Museum, 16 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford MA 02740, 508-997-0046, www.whalingmuseum.org.
They are contained within the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, a 13-block historic district of cobblestone streets, historic, stately buildings now juxtaposed with contemporary art galleries and funky restaurants and shops (my favorite: Sanctum – Folklorica: Apothecary and Witchwares, Tarot Reading). At the visitors Center, you can watch a 20-minute orientation movie and take in exhibits about whaling and New Bedford, “The City That Lit the World.” (www.nps.gov/nebe/planyourvisit).
This was one of the incredible highlights of our own voyage aboard Blount Small Ship Adventures’ Grande Caribe, on the third day of a seven-day New England Islands cruise. We docked in the port along with the largest fishing fleet on the East Coast, and could look through etched glass of the same port in 1914 of our ship. Arriving by ship – we had come from Warren, Rhode Island to Bristol and had come this morning from Newport and will be going on to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket – made this experience even more tangible.
What is most remarkable about the new exhibit at the Nassau County Museum of Art, “Anything Goes: The Jazz Age” celebrating the Roaring Twenties, is the cross-connections between art, music, literature, design, furniture and fashion, and the people who were similarly cross-pollinating these cultural categories. There is a drawing by George Gershwin, another by ee cummings, the original painting by Francis Cugat (brother of Xavier, the musician) that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote into his iconic novel, “The Great Gatsby” and had to have for its cover (and has never before been seen outside the Princeton University Library).
There are the Park Avenue Cubists, and the clique that gathered at Gerald & Sara Murphy’s beachhouse in Antibes (Sara, a famous Jazz Age muse, is the subject of a little-known Picasso drawing of her on the beach at Antibes). One room of the fantastic Frick mansion that is now home of the museum is devoted to Jazz Age music, with gramophones and Victrolas and radios that show off the design, while early records from the collection of Dr. Jay Tartell play. Even fashion and jewelry design (Tiffany is represented).
There are so many astonishments as you go through – James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was censored and burned but here in a bookcase is one of the first editions, along with a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paris,” based on Hobey Baker, a World War I flying ace and Princeton hockey star and in a gallery, the original Hobey Baker Memorial Trophy.
In this extraordinary multimedia exhibit, you are immersed in the masterpieces and experiments of a generation that changed the history of Modernism. The giants among the artists – Picasso, Léger, Matisse, Beckmann, Nolde, Lachaise, Man Ray, Stuart Davis, Florine Stettheimer and Tamara de Lempicka – are all represented in the show with major works, but there are so many artists – particularly women artists – who will be new for many like Anna Walinska, a teenager from Brooklyn who lived in Paris during the ‘20s and met Picasso, Matisse, Stein and others while making the drawings and paintings which are on view in a solo gallery in the show.
The exhibition tracks the progress of Modernism in art from Cubism to Neoclassicism. Composers such as Gershwin and Porter were taking syncopation and the blues to new heights at this time, and their records, sheet music, and piano rolls are on view and are heard throughout the show on ’20’s-era turntables and player pianos.
The Ballets Russes, for whom Picasso and Chanel designed productions, broke all dance conventions and inspired a new wave of fashion, with examples in the exhibition curated by noted expert on ’20’s fashion, JoAnne Olian. The exhibit’s pieces of Art Deco furniture and rare jewelry from the private collection of the Macklowe Gallery display the machine-age elegance that was in vogue.
“We’re used to Cubism today, but these guys were brave,” museum director Charles A. Riley II, who organized the show, said at the opening reception.
The show ties all the cultural strains together so you almost see the creative pollination from one discipline to another, all in an expression of a philosophy that defined the Jazz Age: “Living well is the best revenge” was the motto of an extraordinarily fortunate generation, anything but “lost,” that remains today the epitome of sheer creative freedom.
Riley noted that though a sense of artistic “freedom” and breaking social and cultural conventions was the theme of the Roaring Twenties, it was “freedom plus order.” Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic to Paris that so inspired the sense of adventure and daring, was also an exercise in discipline.
The show offers a comprehensive picture of the Jazz Age when World War I ended on November 11, 1918 and ended on October 24, 1929, when Wall Street crashed after its historic nine-year bull run. The commentaries and notes that accompany the exhibit are fascinating insights to the context for the creations and the people propelling them.
In addition to art and design, the exhibition brings the age of superstars vividly to life with memorabilia celebrating the Golden Age of aviation, including a leather pilot’s helmet and goggles, photographs of Babe Ruth and a seat from the original Yankee Stadium built in 1923, original Victrola turntables and the first generation of radios, first editions of monumental novels and sheet music, and the original Hobey Baker trophy, the top honor for American college hockey (all players who visit wearing their team jersey during the run of the show will be admitted for free).
As Riley, who donned his own Princeton hockey jersey, noted, Hobey Baker’s life was worthy of a movie – a World War I flying ace, at the end of the war he would likely have headed to Wall Street; he took one last flight which proved fatal.
The exhibition unveils some important historical discoveries, including previously unknown drawings by the poet cummings that were found by his dear friend Gaston Lachaise. Their friendship and collaboration is celebrated in a gallery that includes many of Lachaise’s greatest sculptures, including a monumental cast of “Elevation,” as well as his own drawings and a stunning portrait by cummings of the legendary supermodel Marion Morehouse.
A fortunate group of American artists and writers in Paris during the ’20s, many of them in Stein’s circle, were pioneering a new style of abstraction, and the show boasts some significant canvases by Davis, as well as Charles Green Shaw, Gertrude and Balcomb Greene, Joseph Stella, Carl Holty, Jan Matulka, Charles Biederman and an unknown work on paper by Betty Parsons, who would become best known as one of the great champions of Abstract Expressionism.
In another art historical coup, the show presents an unknown drawing by the model and muse Kiki de Montparnasse that had been hidden among the papers of Man Ray, whose portrait of Kiki is among the treasures on view, along with his portraits of Hemingway, Chanel, James Joyce and dancers from the Ballets Russes. The other major photographic finds in the show are by Carl Van Vechten, whose lens captured the jazz greats in Harlem nightclubs. The show also boasts an unknown drawing of Baker by the artist Paul Colin, whose posters, including rare examples included in the show, made her famous in Paris.
“When I play hockey, I leave it all on ice,” Riley said, wearing his hockey jersey.”This show is everything I’ve got – my heart and head. All laid out.”
Throughout the exhibit, there are fabulous photographs of these key figures that put you right into the moment.
The Long Island connections in the show are among the highlights. F. Scott Fitzgerald published “The Great Gatsby” on April 10, 1925, but he started it two years before over the garage in a rented house in Great Neck. In his lecture, Scribner III, whose grandfather published the novel, will reveal the backstory of its progress from manuscript to masterpiece under the editorial guidance of Maxwell Perkins, who secured the iconic cover by Cugat. And Lindbergh took off from the storied air strip at Roosevelt Field, where Elinor Smith, the “Flying Flapper of Freeport,” set new records for altitude and endurance.
Indeed, the local connections are also in the collectors who have loaned to the exhibit, including Dr. Jay Tartell and Deborah Tartell who not only loaned the stunning gramophones, phonographs and victrolas, but also that sensational photo and autographed program of George Gershwin; and Dr. Harvey Manes, a trustee, who loaned several works.
Drawing on museum, university and private collections, including those of the Heckscher Museum, Parrish Museum, Cradle of Aviation Museum, New York University Grey Art Gallery, and Princeton University, the wide-ranging exhibition has been underwritten by the Americana Manhasset and Wheatley Plaza, longtime supporters of the museum and its mission.
In addition, the programming and publications have been sponsored by generous gifts from The Ritz-Carlton Residences and by Charles Scribner III. Each week the show will feature special programming, including live jazz in the beautiful paneled library of the mansion, lectures by experts in the arts and design, and live demonstrations of the player piano and Victrola in addition to the museum’s renowned docent-led tours and education programs.
Among the programming highlights are a May 12 lecture by Scribner, a popular speaker at the Morgan Library and Metropolitan Museum of Art, among other venues; an original cabaret musical based on the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald composed and performed by Angela Sclafani and her ensemble; and tours of Jazz Age Manhattan led by museum director Charles A. Riley II, author of two books on the period. The museum is publishing a fully-illustrated catalog of the exhibition with essays on the art, music and fashion of the era, and is re-launching the official website with special features keyed to the show.
This year’s gala ball on June 9 will be themed “All That Jazz” with guests in costumes, Angela Susan Anton, Board President, announced.
“Anything Goes: The Jazz Age” is on view through July 8, 2018.
The Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12). Members are admitted free.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy are tethered together in peoples’ minds, and not only because they both were assassinated within two months of each other in that fateful year of 1968. A new, remarkable exhibit that has just opened at the New-York Historical Society commemorates the 50th anniversary of those events, examines their conjoined legacy and makes some interesting discoveries: their lives had a kind of parallel trajectory, yet, they consciously steered separate courses, intersecting finally in death.
On view through May 20, 2018, Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. showcases 61 photographs and 30 documents and artifacts that reveal the relationship between these historic figures. The exhibit is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by Vanity Fair contributing editor and New York Times writer David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. Schiller, a photojournalist who covered many of the significant events throughout the 1960s, conceived of the project and collected 21,000 photographs, sifting them down to 3,000, then 2,000, and ultimately, over the course of just three days, laid out the photographs that are presented much like a 20-page photo essay in Life Magazine, where Schiller worked, would have produced.
But in the course of gathering that material, an essential question arose: why were there so few photos of King and Kennedy together? The exhibit has just one where the two men were at the same event, with then-Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Another instance where they would have been together was when King testified to a Senate Committee which included Robert Kennedy, in which he stated that the millions of dollars that were being sent to support the war in Vietnam should better be spent to revitalize America’s ghettoes (a photo is taken from behind King). Significantly, while Kennedy supported the idea of spending more in cities, he was forced for political reasons (like the fact that his brother, as President, dramatically escalated America’s role in Vietnam) to disassociate himself from King’s anti-Vietnam stance.
Margolick, who researched and wrote the book in a mere seven months time, started off with no pre-conceived notion, but wanted to come up with some original construct about these two lions of American history.
Indeed, if news is the first draft of history, books provide the room for reflection and context.
The big idea of the book and the exhibit is that “Robert Kennedy was a political person and Martin Luther King Jr. a spiritual person; they respected one another but there was a limit how closely they could ally,” Margolick said at the press opening of the exhibit.
The two men had reason to be wary of one another.
Robert Kennedy was at his core a politician from a political family; on top of that, his brother, as president, had made key decisions including significantly involving the US in war in Vietnam, and was skittish about making civil rights a key focus of his administration; as JFK’s Attorney General, Robert Kennedy had signed off on J. Edgar Hoover’s request to surveil King, whom Hoover was convinced was a Communist. But Kennedy also sent US Marshals to force school integration.
King, for his part, was a spiritual man for whom civil rights was not merely a political issue but a matter of everyday survival for millions of people who could be brutalized without repercussion under a Jim Crow regimen.
“They were initially wary of each other,” Margolick said. “There was an enormous chasm which gradually shrank, but did not entirely disappear.”
“RFK felt MLK a liability, he couldn’t get close.” There was that special night, when Robert Kennedy, who made a concerted effort to embed himself into black communities when he realized he did not have more than a superficial understanding of issues, was in “black” Indianapolis for a campaign speech and gets notice that King has just been killed, and instead of rushing away, he spoke compassionately to the crowd. “That was a special night. Death was the only time Kennedy actually embraced [the idea] of King. Kennedy was dead two months later. There was no time to carry torch of MLK.
“But even in limited time, Kennedy was reluctant to embrace King. The Kennedys were politicians King was a spiritual man. Kennedy considers the political implications of everything. Part of the purpose of this book is to examine and correct the revisionist idea that were together – really was there was always space between them.”
They also came from completely different worlds: Kennedy chose to take up the fight; the fight chose King.
Over the course of researching the book, Margolick said, “my point of view was constantly evolving. I wanted it to be as original as it could. I looked at newspapers no one had; primary documents not examined before. I came to realize the most precious thing was to talk to dwindling supply of people who knew both men – very few knew both: Andrew Young, William Vanden Heuval and some behind scenes intermediaries.
Margolick realized that an excellent source would be the photographers who photographed both – including Harry Benson, Steve Shapiro – who could even describe how differently they interacted with crowds.
“Both men had a sense of their mortality – they knew they were doomed.” One of the photographers, he thinks it was Harry Benson, said that when King was in a crowd, he would look it over carefully, mindful of his safety. He never stayed in one place longer than he had to.”
But, he adds, “Robert Kennedy didn’t care. He had a premonition of death but approached it differently. He told his security force he didn’t want precautions. There were reporters who never left RFK’s side because they expected he would be assassinated and wanted to be there when it happened.”
Lawrence Schiller, who organized the project and curated the exhibit, was one of those photographers who helped document history beginning in the 1960s. He was assigned to Robert Kennedy and followed him for the last 40 days of his life. Schiller was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night that Robert Kennedy delivered his last speech, tried to hurry out by going through the kitchen, where he was met by Sirhan Sirhan who shot him dead. (The portrait that opens the exhibit was taken by Schiller on board Kennedy’s plane en route to California just days before the speech.)
He was just 26 years old working as a photojournalist on a fateful day in 1963 when he was summoned from Los Angeles to Dallas after President John F. Kennedy was shot. He was in the police station when, as it happened, the police were booking Lee Harvey Oswald.
“The elevator opened to reveal Oswald, who was only 24 years old. It shocked me that evil could be in such a person – a kid my age had caused this tragedy.”
Schiller, who has several photos in the exhibit, called upon many of the photographers he knew who are represented, but there are many which had not been published before.
The exhibit is laid out chronologically for the most part, but in some cases “emotionally chronologically”, as when a portrait of Robert Kennedy, photographed on Feb. 26, 1962, with a movie slate, is juxtaposed next to a police mug shot of King from Feb. 22, 1956, upon which someone had scrawled “DEAD 4-4-68”; and in a case with artifacts, the Time Magazine editions with each on the cover, is displayed. ”King’s ‘Man of the Year’ drove people crazy,” Schiller remarks.
Asked which photo was the most impactful, Schiller points to one of a man with a broom, sweeping the blood from outside King’s hotel room in Memphis, a photo which he said had never been published; another shows the hotel room. Schiller says that people came in and collected vials of blood to keep as a memento.
The exhibit starts with Rosa Parks and ends in a field after Kennedy’s assassination, where people are holding a sign, “So long Bobby.” Several of the photos don’t feature King or Kennedy at all, but provide context: the KKK, US Marshals, Freedom Riders, the march after Medgar Evers was assassinated in June 1963, just five months before JFK was assassinated, in eerie similarity to the one-two King-Kennedy assassinations.
There is great intimacy of the experience – the photos, which were printed all at the same time in the same lab from negatives and then scanned – are 8 x 10 and smaller, the room is compact, so you are close to the images, can easily read the captions and notes.
“The insight we came to early on emerged from the question: Why were there not more photos of the two together?” Margolick said. “The book tries to fill the gap, why there were no more photos of the two together. They kept apart. We are documenting, explaining the absence of something.”
One notable absence is a still photo of Robert F. Kennedy addressing a black audience in Indianapolis the night that King was killed, which in itself, says a lot.
“No one knew how important that speech by Kennedy would be, the night MLK was killed,” Margolick said. “The event that became so important was so scantily covered, there were just two still photographers there from local papers. It was only a 6-7 minute speech, but there is no film of the entire speech.” But it was at that point that Kennedy most fulsomely embraced King. (A portion of the video is displayed.) There’s a monument in Indianapolis commemorating the event.
Born Worlds Apart
Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) and Robert F. Kennedy (November 20, 1925 –June 6, 1968) were born worlds apart—culturally, geographically, racially, financially, and politically—but by the time they were killed within months of each another in 1968, their worlds had come together. As their concerns expanded beyond civil rights (King) and organized crime (Kennedy), their ties deepened to encompass shared interests in supporting the poor and opposing the war in Vietnam. This unprecedented exhibition explores the overlapping paths of their lives through images taken by some of the most renowned photojournalists of the era, including Bob Adelman, Danny Lyon, Henri Dauman, Jacques Lowe, Spider Martin, Steve Schapiro, Lawrence Schiller, and Paul Schutzer, alongside original correspondence, publications, and ephemera.
“The year 1968 rocked the nation in many ways, but it would be difficult to point to anything that shocked and sickened Americans more that year than the senseless and tragic deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Fifty years later, the legacies of Kennedy and King still reverberate. This timely exhibition underscores the two men’s lasting impact on our nation while drawing attention to the ways in which their lives intersected. ”
Exhibition highlights include images of King and his son looking at the charred remains of a cross the Ku Klux Klan burned outside his Atlanta home in 1960, King’s mug shot after being indicted for the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Kennedy being swarmed by an adoring crowd during his 1968 presidential campaign. Also on view are posters reading “Honor King: End Racism!” and “I Am a Man” that were carried in a Memphis march led by widow Coretta Scott King and her children on April 8, 1968, as well as a black and white “Kennedy/King” button worn by a New Yorker in memory of the two slain leaders.
An adjunct display showcases the bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr.―one of five existing casts created by Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston (1907– 1997), on loan from the Community Church of New York. Rebel Spirits is based in part on The Promise and the Dream, written by David Margolick and produced by Lawrence Schiller for National Geographic Publishers. The exhibition was curated by Lawrence Schiller, Cristian Panaite, and Marilyn Kushner. It was produced by Wiener Schiller Productions, Inc. in association with Susan Bloom International with support from Getty Images, The Jacques Lowe Estate, and Steve Schapiro.
Published by National Geographic and written by David Margolick, The Promise and the Dream: The Interrupted Lives of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. features an introduction by historian Douglas Brinkley. The book is available at the NYHistory Store.
Several public programs will provide further insights into the exhibition and its time period. On March 6, eminent legal experts survey the evolution of the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretations of the 14th Amendment—in commemoration of its 150th anniversary—and civil rights throughout American history, highlighting landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. On April 23, scholar Randall Kennedy discusses the Supreme Court and Martin Luther King Jr. On May 21, journalist Chris Matthews sits down to explore the rebel spirit of Robert Kennedy.
The New-York Historical Society has a variety of fascinating exhibits, some short term and some ongoing.
The Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975 on view through April 22, 2018 is particularly timely in conjunction with the “Rebel Spirits.” Featuring interpretive displays, digital media, artwork, artifacts, photographs, and documents, the exhibit provides an enlightening account of the causes, progression, and impact of the war. Spanning the duration of U.S. involvement in Indochina, the narrative incorporates perspectives covering both the home and the war fronts.Displays touch upon the Cold War, the draft, military campaigns initiated by both sides, the growth of the antiwar movement, the role of the president, and the loss of political consensus. The exhibition explores themes of patriotism, duty, and citizenship. Key objects include a troopship berthing unit, interactive murals, vibrant antiwar posters, artwork by Vietnam vets, a Viet Cong bicycle, the Pentagon Papers, and news and film clips.
Gallery of Tiffany Lamps
Step into the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps, a permanent exhibit which is the centerpiece of a newly designed fourth floor, and you are aglow in light and beauty. The exhibit features more than 100 illuminated Tiffany lamps from N-YHS’s spectacular collection displayed within a dramatically lit jewel-like two-story space (the glass staircase is exquisite).
The presentation is breathtaking, and so insightful: it was only in the last decade that it was learned through a series of letters that some of Tiffany’s most famous and prized lamps, featuring nature imagery like wisteria, dragonflies, spider webs, were designed by Clara Driscoll, who headed the Women’s Glass Cutting Department of some 45-55 young women (mainly 16-17 year olds who would work until they went off to be engaged).
The redesigned fourth floor also offers exhibitions and interactive media that explore American history. Themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics—such as slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11—offering unexpected and surprising perspectives on collection highlights. Touchscreens and interactive kiosks allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects like never before. When I visit, a docent is discussing the Industrial Revolution with high school students.
Women’s Rights & Social Activism
A new Center for Women’s History enables visitors to discover hidden connections among exceptional and unknown women who left their mark on New York and the nation with the multimedia digital installation, Women’s Voices, and through rotating exhibitions in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery. Objects from the Billie Jean King Archive are also on view.
Hotbed, a special exhibit on view through March 25, 2018, is about Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, when it was a hotbedof political activism and social change—where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote. Celebrating the centennial of women’s right to vote in New York and on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, Hotbed features immersive installations and more than 100 artifacts and images—drawn from New-York Historical’s archives and several private collections—that bring to life the neighborhood’s bohemian scene and energetic activist spirit.
Collecting the Women’s Marches, on view through June 3, 2018, documents January 21, 2017, when hundreds of thousands rallied at the Women’s March on Washington for diverse issues including women’s rights, racial equality, and the environment. Counting more than 500 sister marches across the United States, it was the largest single-day protest in the nation’s history. As part of its History Responds program, the New-York Historical Society collected a range of artifacts, including signs, sashes, pussyhats, and colorful props, to document the moment. One year later, Collecting the Women’s Marches highlights some of the political and visual themes that emerged, as well as the efforts of individuals and groups that worked behind the scenes. An adjunct display of protest clothing by Olek (Agata Oleksiak), an artist who works in crochet, and Brick x Brick, a public art performance group, is also on view. It is odd to have an exhibit of a major historic event so recent, and to actually have been there.
New York through the Lens of George Kalinsky on view through June 3, 2018 is an amazing photo exhibition of some of New York’s most iconic cultural moments over the past 50 years as captured by George Kalinsky. Serving as Madison Square Garden’s official photographer, Kalinsky has turned truly memorable moments―sporting events, legendary performances, and notable occasions―into lasting images that have defined the city. Among the quintessential photographs on view are Pope John Paul II hoisting a seven-year-old child onto the Popemobile in Madison Square Garden, Bill Bradley celebrating a New York Knicks victory, Sloane Stephens winning the 2017 US Open, and Jesse Orosco falling to his knees on the mound as the Mets won the 1986 World Series.
Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection, ongoing: Since 1804, the New-York Historical Society has been welcoming to its collection some of the most esteemed artworks of the modern world. Collector’s Choice: Highlights from the Permanent Collection showcases a selection of paintings that reflect the individual tastes of several New York City collectors who donated their holdings to New-York Historical. Joining Picasso’s Le Tricorne ballet curtain are featured American and European masterpieces spanning the 14th through the 21st centuries from Luman Reed, Thomas Jefferson Bryan, and Robert L. Stuart, including colonial portraits of children, marine and maritime subjects, and an installation showcasing recently collected contemporary works.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 10 am – 6 pm; Friday: 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm; Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm Admission: Adults: $21; Teachers and Seniors: $16; Students: $13; Children (5–13): $6; Children (4 and under): Free. The museum has a pay-as-you-wish policy on Fridays from 6-8 pm.
The Gilded Lady seems to be resting peacefully, her painted visage staring up to the sky. But inside this container are the remains of a real woman who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and for the first time, the ancient coalesces with 21st century scientific techniques: we actually get to peer inside, probing down layer by layer to her mortal remains, and then, at a digitally reconstructed, 3-D image of her as she lived: this middle-aged woman was beautiful.
She has already traveled from Chicago where she lives at the Field Museum, to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Denver and now she is reposing here in New York as part of Mummies, an extraordinary exhibit featuring one of the largest collections of mummies housed in North America that just opened at the American Museum of Natural History through January 7, 2018.
The exhibit provides an unparalleled glimpse into the lives and traditions of people from ancient cultures. It puts us face to face, head to head with people who lived their lives thousands of years ago, in Egypt and in Peru – two of the many cultures that practiced mummification. The contrasts and the similarities are striking, and just as their similarities speak to a unity of humanity, this extraordinary way of connecting past to present connects us as human beings. (And to bring about an even broader connection, increasing the span from thousands to 100s of thousands of years ago, be sure to visit the AMNH’s Human Evolution wing.)
“Mummies have long been fascinating, and now the intersection of these ancient relics and cutting-edge technology is revealing new and intriguing secrets,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “For generations, the Museum has studied and presented the diverse cultures of humanity, past and present, to help us better understand one another and ourselves. Today, when such understanding is more important than ever, Mummies invites us all to consider both what may be distinct among cultures and what is universal in the human condition.”
On a special, limited tour from the collections of The Field Museum in Chicago — and presented for the first time on the East Coast (the traveling exhibition has already been on view in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Denver), Mummies showcases the ritually preserved remains of 18 individuals from ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru. The Peruvian mummies that are on display have not been seen since they were exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Significantly, you get to discover how modern imaging techniques have transformed the study of mummification by letting researchers peer inside centuries-old mummies without disturbing or damaging them. Digital touchscreens let you “virtually” peer into Peruvian mummy bundles, layer by layer from the skin to the bones, as well as animal mummies buried as offerings to Egyptian gods. You also get to handle 3D-printed figurines of burial goods that were encased within mummy wrappings for millennia and only recently revealed.
“You may think you know mummies,” Futter said at a press preview, pointing to the most popular representations in horror movies. “That’s not what this show is about. This is serious business that simultaneously offers a window to the past – two different ancient worlds – and into the latest technology and study. You get a glimpse of actual people entombed – who they were, what their lives were like, what they looked like.”
“They are like messages from a different time – they are our sisters and brothers in a shared humanity. It may not be as sensational as a [horror] movie, but more amazing than you would have imagined.”
Indeed, most people – especially young people – have never actually seen a dead body before. The most profound experience in the exhibit is seeing the remains of a woman who lived 5500 years ago, whose bundled body was left in the Egyptian desert where it naturally mummified.
Indeed, it wasn’t just pharaohs and their spouses and other royal figures who were mummified, though their tombs and the possessions that were left with them reflected their station. This was the common practice – as people were lower and lower down the economic totem pole, the possessions that they would have been buried with were more and more modest.
In Egyptian society, it was also common for animals to be mummified and buried – there is a baboon and a crocodile in the exhibit. Cats were actually popular and David Hurst Thomas, the co-curator of the exhibit, said that archaeologists found cemeteries of a million mummified cats, manufactured for sale to be entombed with the loved one.
It is fascinating to have this view to contrast the Peruvian mummies (I’m betting few people have even realized that pre-Colombian Peruvian peoples practiced mummification), with the Egyptian burial practices. The two civilizations never interacted – mummification developed independently, indeed, on every continent but Antarctica, Dr. David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, division of Anthropology and co-Curator of the Mummies exhibit, said at a press preview of the exhibit.
In Peru, mummification was intended to enable the living to stay connected with their loved ones. The body was carefully prepared and wrapped and then a mask was placed on top the canvas.
One of the scans of a bundle reveals that it is a woman with two children. The scans also show artifacts that have been buried with the individual.
The ancient Egyptians, in contrast, mummified their dead so that they could live on – their limbs intact – in the next world. The earliest mummies, like the 5500-year old woman, were not buried in elaborate pyramids or tombs, but were put into a pit grave. Over the centuries, the mummification process became more and more elaborate – organs were preserved in canopic jars and bodies placed in magnificently painted coffins with gilded masks.
By using these new technologies – most that have come from medicine – the scientists have been able to see artifacts that were buried with them, how a mother is buried with her two children (how did they die?).
“They have so much to teach us – medical infirmities, migration, interaction of societies,”
The Gilded Lady, for example, is utterly fascinating – you see her in her magnificently decorated coffin, and on the wall are the slides that show how her hair was curled, had a damaged spine, possibly as a result of tuberculosis. Based on the scan of her skull, they made a 3-D reconstruction using a 3-D printer, and from that, like a forensic scientist, re-created what she likely looked like in life – all of this in one view.
The gilded mask that we see was not meant to illustrate how the woman looked in life, but was an idealized portrait that had a purpose: the Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife, the dead would need their faculties – eyesight, hearing, taste and smell. The masks allowed them to maintain these senses. The golden skin was used to show divinity: after death, the dead would be transformed into the god Osiris, who, like most gods, had skin of gold.
The Gilded Lady lays across the room from another mummy, named Minirdis according to the hieroglyphs on the coffin. The coffin was opened for the first time in a century for this exhibition. In examining the remains, researchers discovered the teenaged boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, construction of the coffin, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, and confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled (though might not the inscription have been added when the boy was buried?)
The hieroglyphs on the coffin say the name of the mummy who is supposed to go inside it – Minirdis, son of a priest. Preserving the person’s name was essential for their soul to reach the afterlife. Minirdis means “Min is the one who gave him,” and Min was a god of fertility. The inscription also says that Minirdis’ father, Inaros was a priest, in charge of purifying and clothing the god’s statue. The only problem was that the boy inside was mummified around 250 BC, or 200 years after the coffin was made, indicating that the mummified individual wasn’t Minirdis after all, but also confirming that coffins were occasionally recycled.
The scans of the body show that the coffin was too large for the body inside and the bones hadn’t fused, indicating that the body was a teenage boy.
The CT scans enabled scientists to generate 3D-printed skull reconstructions of both the “Gilded Lady” and Minirdis. Then, artist Elisabeth Daynès studied the replicas and built facial muscles and skin layer by layer. The hyper-realistic portraits in 3D. we meet at the end of the exhibit let us come face-to-face with these ancient people, seeing them as they may have looked in life —while their mummified remains sleep peacefully.
Peruvian Mummies On View for the First Time in a Century
We are much more familiar with Egyptian mummies, particularly with the sensational exhibits of King Tut and the artifacts uncovered from his tomb in the Valley of Kings, as well as the scientific analysis of his mummified remains. But this exhibit goes much further in its exploration of the cultural significance of the burial practice.
The first part of the exhibit focuses on the collection of Peruvian Mummies, which had not been seen in public since they were on display in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
People living along the Pacific coast of South America in what is now Peru began to mummify their dead more than 5,000 years ago. Scholars think that the Chinchorro culture (5,000–2,000 BC)—the world’s first practitioners of mummification—prepared the bodies of their loved ones personally, removing the deceased’s skin, de-fleshing the bones, and removing the organs before reinforcing the skeleton with reeds and clay and reattaching the skin. The mummy was then painted black or red and given a wig and an individualized clay portrait of the deceased.
In addition to the Chinchorro, dozens of societies in the region mummified their dead to remember and remain connected with the departed.
As we walk through the Mummies exhibit, we encounter a number of Peruvian mummy bundles, including the mummified remains of three children from the Chancay culture (AD 1000–1400), which placed their dead into a sitting position and wrapped them in layers of cloth.
The exhibit is very much hands-on, interactive, if you can believe it, because you get to do what scientists do, in penetrating the layers of scans to reveal the body contained in the wrappings, through the skin layer, to the bones.
There are digital touchscreens, where you can examine composite CT scans of these mummies and virtually “unwrap” them to reveal figurines and other burial offerings that are contained within, becoming surprised as surely the scientists were, when a scan reveals a mother with two children bundled together, or seeing the objects that were personal or prized which reveal so much about who they were in life.
A life-sized diorama of a Chancay pit burial demonstrates the common practice of interring members of an extended family together. These burial pits were accessible to living family members, allowing relatives to bring food or drink to their loved ones’ graves, or even to remove mummies to take them to festivals or other special events. We see examples of real burial offerings such as chicha (corn beer) pots.
Jim Phillips, curator of The Field Museum, tells me that the Peruvian mummies were uncovered on expeditions in the 1880s and 1890. This means they would have been recent finds – the most modern discoveries – when they were displayed at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Egyptian Mummies of the Nile Valley
Unlike people in Peru, ancient Egyptians believed the dead could live on in the next world if provided with a physical home, preferably within the body itself. This belief made it essential to preserve the corpse, and Egyptians used an elaborate process of mummification to halt the natural process of decay. Scholars posit that natural mummification—an example of which can be seen in the remains of a woman whose preservation occurred naturally in the hot, dry sand about 5,500 years ago—gave Egyptians the idea for artificial mummification.
Within centuries, ritual burial in Egypt evolved into a complex practice that included elaborate embalming, brilliantly decorated sarcophagi, and grandiose tombs designed to deter grave-robbers (we see magnificent limestone busts from sarcophagi that were an added layer of security to those who could afford this extra protection and would have weighed thousands of pounds). Organs that would hasten decay—the liver, lungs, intestines, and stomach—were removed, preserved, wrapped, and housed in separate containers. The heart—thought to be the source of emotion and intellect—often stayed in place, since it would be necessary in the afterlife, while the brain, thought to have no use, was removed through the nose. Forty days in salt desiccated the body, and embalmers then used resins, oils, and padding to restore its appearance before wrapping it in linen. Artifacts on view include a Ptolemaic Period mummy (332-30 BC) along with canopic jars containing the person’s organs. Here, there are stations where you can handle 3D-printed burial figurines that depict ancient Egyptian gods provide visitors with an opportunity to explore the hidden artifacts within its wrappings.
The objects found in Egyptian tombs were meant to provide for the deceased in the afterlife. Burials of wealthy Egyptians include their servants, represented by figurines called shawabti; ideally there would be 365 of these, one for each day of the year, with 36 overseers, one for each week in the Egyptian calendar. Even mummified animals were included in tombs, and archaeologists have uncovered cemeteries containing millions of animal mummies, including cats, baboons, gazelles, birds and even crocodiles, some of which are on view. Grave-robbing was rampant in ancient Egypt, and an Egyptian tomb diorama represents a type of crypt that Egyptians with rank or wealth constructed to guard against such thefts. Within the tomb, a plain stone sarcophagus contains a smaller stone sarcophagus and a wooden coffin from the Late Period (525-343 BC) covered in hieroglyphs. Most of the imagery on the coffin was inspired by scenes in The Book of the Dead, a collection of funerary texts believed to assist a person’s journey into the afterlife.
Dr. Thomas says the Gilded Lady steals the show, and indeed she does. She was mummified during the Roman Period (30 BC-AD 395), a period when we see in the exhibit the most magnificently painted coffins. There is one of a woman whose coffin is a stunning piece of artwork – it has a magnificent gilded mask and the body had pronounced breasts. Why? The anthropologists could not say, showing that there is still so much more to be learned.
Mummies is on view in New York through January 7, 2018. The exhibition is co-curated at the American Museum of Natural History by David Hurst Thomas, Curator of North American Archaeology in the Division of Anthropology, and John J. Flynn, Frick Curator of Fossil Mammals in the Division of Paleontology.
Mummies was developed by The Field Museum, Chicago, and will go back there for an exhibition after its New York showing.
Mummies is featured in the Museum’s recently re-launched Explorer app, developed with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which lets visitors think like an explorer by personalizing their onsite experience using cutting-edge location-aware technology that provides unique journeys through the Museum’s 45 permanent halls.
When we see these fantastic exhibits, we don’t necessarily see behind them, to the fact that the American Museum of Natural History, founded in 1869, is one of the world’s preeminent scientific, educational, and cultural institutions, whose research has contributed not only to their discovery, but to the understanding of what is displayed.
Indeed, the press tour takes us behind the scenes to the institution’s Microscopy and Imaging Facility – the technology that would have been used to scan the mummies. The equipment is shared by all five departments of the institution, whether AMNH scientists are studying fossils, cultural artifacts, planets or solar systems, the cutting-edge imaging technologies in the facility make it possible to examine details that were previously unobservable. While earlier studies often required unwrapping mummies – which could have damaged them – tools like high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanner provide scientists with non-invasive methods to examine them. MIF technician Morgan Hill walked us through the process, along with Zachary Calamari, a Ph.D. student in comparative biology program at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, who showed us how the scans help in research of two naturally-mummified newborn wooly mammoths – one who was mummified by being frozen and the other who was “pickled.”
During our visit, the CT scanner is doing an image of a rabbit. It is this ability to understand the internal aspects of dinosaurs and fossils that have led scientists to rejigger Evolution’s schema, to redefine who is related to who and what is connected to what.
The Museum’s five active research divisions and three cross-disciplinary centers support approximately 200 scientists, whose work draws on a world-class permanent collection of more than 33 million specimens and artifacts, as well as specialized collections for frozen tissue and genomic and astrophysical data, and one of the largest natural history libraries in the world. Through its Richard Gilder Graduate School, it is the only American museum authorized to grant the Ph.D. degree and the Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
The Museum encompasses 45 permanent exhibition halls, including the Rose Center for Earth and Space and the Hayden Planetarium, as well as galleries for temporary exhibitions. It is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, New York State’s official memorial to its 33rd governor and the nation’s 26th president, and a tribute to Roosevelt’s enduring legacy of conservation.
The museum gets 5 million visitors a year and the Museum’s exhibitions and Space Shows can be seen in venues on five continents. The Museum’s website and apps for mobile devices extend its collections, exhibitions, and educational programs to millions more beyond its walls.
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024-5192, 212-769-5100. Open daily from 10 am-5:45 pm except on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Visit amnh.org for more information.
For the first time, all of Nassau County Museum of Art’s galleries are devoted to the art of photography, collectively giving a retrospective and perspective on 100 years and some of the most important photographs and photographers in history. The exhibit is on view through March 5, 2017.
On view in the Main Galleries on the first floor are two exhibitions drawn from the collection of the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts (KIA), Kalamazoo, Michigan: Ansel Adams: Sight and Feeling and Light Works: 100 Years of Photos. On view in the Second Floor Galleries is New Photos: Long Island Collects, important photographic works of the last half century from private Long Island art collections.
Ansel Adams: Sight and Feeling: Ansel Adams’ ability to create photographs with a remarkable range and subtlety of tones is legendary. Yet for all his technical mastery, Adams recognized that what made a compelling photograph was far more elusive. This exhibition of Adams’ photographs from the KIA collection suggests how his intuitive and emotional response to the landscape resulted in powerful and enduring photographs.
Light Works: 100 Years of Photos: From Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th-century photographic studies of animal locomotion to Richard Misrach’s contemporary chromogenic prints, this exhibition spans the history of photography. Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many other celebrated photographers comprise this survey of photography processes and subjects from 1873 to 2000.
Coincidentally, the opening at NCMA occurred the same day as Time published its “100 Most Influential Photos of All Time,” and notably, several in this exhibit have been included among those deemed the most influential including Eadweard Muybridge’s breakthrough photo, “The Horse in Motion,” from 1878; Edward Steichen’s “The Steerage” (1904), Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare” (1932), Dorothea Lange’s “The Migrant Mother” (1936) among them.
New Photos: Long Island Collects focuses on significant photographic works created from the 1960s through the present day, from private collectors. Among the artists included in New Photos: Long Island Collects are John Baldessari, Matthew Barney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Vic Muniz, Cindy Sherman and William Wegman.
The Museum is offering a variety of public programs to amplify the experience of visiting these three exhibitions. Two films are screening daily: Stryker’s America: Photographing the Great Depression and Cartier-Bresson’s Century. Three Brown Bag Lectures illuminate the art and the artists included in these exhibitions. Other public programs are inspired by the exhibitions: Sketching in the Galleries, and The River, a concert performed by the musical ensemble ETHEL. The Museum’s family programs from November 19 to March 5 similarly draw inspiration from the exhibitions: Neiman Marcus Family Sundays,February Break for Art and two Super Family Sunday offerings, Winter Wonderland and Merrynaking in a Gold Coast Mansion. For further information on these programs, visit the Museum’s website, nassaumuseum.org/events.
Even the museum’s gift shop artfully presents items that evoke the exhibit.
The Nassau County Museum of Art is a destination in itself.
Most of the 145 acres that are now the Nassau County Museum of Art originally belonged to poet, lawyer, conservationist, political activist, patron of the arts and preservationist William Cullen Bryant, who settled in Roslyn in 1843.
The long-time editor of the New York Post built his home, Cedarmore, and founded Roslyn’s public library.
In 1862, he built a cottage for his friend and fellow poet, Miss Jerusha Dewey (you can see the cottage when you explore the hiking trails).
In 1900, Lloyd Stephens Bryce purchased Bryant’s ‘Upland Farm’ and commissioned architect Ogden Codman, Jr. to design Bryce House, the present mansion. Henry Clay Frick, co-founder of U.S. Steel Corporation purchased Bryce House in 1919 as a gift for his son, Childs Frick, a Princeton graduate who became a vertebrate paleontologist and naturalist.
Be sure to make time to explore the grounds of this magnificent estate:
Sculpture Park: Approximately 40 works, many of them monumental in size, by renowned artists including Fernando Botero, Tom Otterness, George Rickey and Mark DiSuvero among others, are situated to interact with nature on the museum’s magnificent 145-acre property.
Walking Trails: The museum’s 145 acres include many marked nature trails through the woods, perfect for family hikes or independent exploration.
Gardens: From restored formal gardens of historic importance to quiet little nooks for dreaming away an afternoon, the museum’s 145 acre property features many lush examples of horticultural arts. Explore expanded gardens and beautiful new path to the museum.
Nassau County Museum of Art is located at One Museum Drive in Roslyn Harbor, just off Northern Boulevard, Route 25A, two traffic lights west of Glen Cove Road. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and above) and $4 for students and children (4 to12). Members are admitted free. Docent-led tours of the exhibition are offered at 2 p.m. each day; tours of the mansion are offered each Saturday at 1 p.m.; meet in the lobby, no reservations needed. Tours are free with museum admission. Family art activities and family tours are offered Sundays from 1 pm; free with museum admission. Call (516) 484-9338, ext. 12 to inquire about group tours. The Museum Store is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Red Maple Market Café is open Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m. Call (516) 484-9337 for current exhibitions, events, days/times and directions or log onto nassaumuseum.org.
I have come to Pittsburgh for the three-day, 120-mile Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Spring Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage, and used it as an opportunity to explore Pittsburgh, a city that once was known for steel mills, but which now has won accolades as “America’s most livable city.”
I am fascinated to see how it made such a transition from grey to green.
With only one full day to explore, I specifically seek out attractions that define Pittsburgh, all walkable within the downtown, getting advice from the Omni William Penn Hotel concierge.
I continue my walk from the Fort Pitt Museum, over the Fort Duquesne Bridge toward the National Aviary (it was the “national” that got my attention), fascinated how city planners managed to turn a city designed for industry and machines into one that can be so walkable and bikeable.
The National Aviary, America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds, offers a lovely exhibit of birds, including being able to walk through massive habitat-style exhibits, where the birds – like the Victoria Crowned Pigeon (amazing headdress), Golden Breasted Starling (nesting) fly freely about you, often landing very close by.
There is also a bat exhibit (you can watch bat feeding), poke your head up into the penguin pen, As I walk about, I am surprised to read a marker that states this was the site of the Western Penitentiary (1826-1880) and held confederate prisoners here 1863-64.
The National Aviary (www.aviary.org), which was designated “national” by President Clinton, would certainly be a highlight for family travelers and am having such an amazing time taking pictures, seeing some birds that I had never seen before in such close proximity without cages, I lose all sense of time (which is why I didn’t have enough time to visit the Heinz History Center).
The Warhol Museum
The National Aviary is also just a short walk to my next stop: the Warhol Museum. I had not realized that Andy Warhol was a native son of Pittsburgh (born to a Slovakian family of modest means, he attended Carnegie Mellon which was Carnegie Technical at the time) – this museum is in the tradition of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, totally extolling the life of one artist. It basically continues what Andy Warhol did most successfully his whole life: market his art to inflate prices. The best part, for me, was learning more about his biography – what made him “tick”, his creative process and about his techniques.
My own belief is that Warhol was more of a marketing genius than an artistic one (at least Salvador Dali was both a marketing genius and an artistic one), but I am willing to be convinced otherwise as I roam the museum.
Indeed, as a placard notes, since the seven-story museum opened in 1994, there has been a steady increasing level of recognition of Warhol’s “singular contribution to 20th century art and his extraordinary influence on contemporary art internationally. The museum is on the forefront of research into Warhol’s work.”
There is a timeline along the massive walls that document in excruciating detail Warhol’s life and learn such tidbits as: Andrew Warhola was born in 1928 to immigrants from Mikona in Slovakia; he graduated Carnegie Tech (which became Carnegie Mellon); in 1956 he met Edmond Walloaitch who used photography in his own works; most of Warhol’s early endeavors were self-published; he was inspired by popular culture and enlarged images from magazines and photographs with a projector, then painted the projection on canvas; he used a rubber stamp, then the silk screen process; the first silkscreen painting based on a photograph was a baseball, in 1962; he “replicated the look of commercial advertising, giving Warhol faithful duplication of his appropriated source image, while also allowing him to experiment with over-painting, off-register and endless chance combinations”.
After graduating Carnegie Tech, he took a “risk” and came to New York City where he got his big break, illustrating a story “What is Success” for Glamour Magazine. “He became one of the most successful commercial illustrators.” A particularly noteworthy item on the timeline: 1972- after publication of his “Vote McGovern,” the IRS audited Warhol annually until his death.” Warhol died in 1987, at the age of 58.
He created the “blotted line technique” – where he could trace or copy and an image “appropriating images from popular culture” – and reproduce any number of them, factory-style.
Warhol, we learn, made a fortune from portraits, once again, getting a giant commercial boost after an exhibit at the Whitney in 1979, curated by his close friend David Whitney consisting of 56 double portraits of artists, fashion designers, collectors, art dealers, which showcased an aspect of his painting “that he characterized as ‘business art’.”
After the 1979 show, his private portraits business hit heights- early 80s – he produced did 50 a year at $40K for 2-panel, or $2 million in annual profits.
“He was unapologetic in his imposition of lucrative business model as part of his art practice.”
I notice a prominently displayed portrait of Prince from 1984, which is up just after the musician’s death.
Andy Warhol was known for his passion as a collector – very possibly an outgrowth of his impoverished childhood and his expropriation of others’ art and design. Over his lifetime, he collected some 500,000 artifacts. There is an immense room, called the “Vault” that is filled with “time capsules” – 610 flimsy cartons, each with 500 objects.
I found it totally ironic, though, that you are not allowed to take any photos since Warhol’s art was based on expropriating the images and designs created by others (ie. Campbell Soup Can, Marilyn Monroe photo). You can take part in workshops to learn the silkscreening techniques he used. The museum is a must-see for anyone who is a fan.
The Andy Warhol Museum was created by the Andy Warhol Foundation, Dia Center for the Arts, and the Carnegie Foundation which operates the museum. It is one of four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of National History and Carnegie Science Center are the others, www.carnegiemuseums.org).
The Andy Warhol Museum, 117 Sandusky Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212, 412-237-8300, www.warhol.org ($20/adults, $10/students and children 3-18, half price on Fridays, 5-10 pm; closed Mondays).