Met’s Old Masters galleries reopen
When the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries for European paintings made between 1250 and 1800 open to the public on 23 May, visitors will experience a collection transformed and refreshed, the result of two years of expansion and rethinking.
The renovation of the galleries is long overdue, last undertaken in full in the early 1950s. When the Met’s then director Thomas Hoving inaugurated the age of the blockbuster in the early 1970s, one third of the space, then given over to Impressionism and contemporary art, was turned into galleries for temporary exhibitions.
The impetus for the new, expanded galleries was the 2007 re-installation of the Met’s collection of ancient Greek and Roman art, which reclaimed space that had been taken from the collection in 1949 by the Fountain restaurant. “We felt that if [the] Greek and Roman [collection] could get [its] old space back, we hoped for an arrangement to get some of our old space back," says says Keith Christiansen, the chairman of the European paintings department. "But when we approached our director, Tom Campbell, he said: ‘Why don’t you just take it all?’”
The Abstract art collection the CIA built
In the 1990s, a long held suspicion was confirmed: the US Central Intelligence Agency secretly sent Abstract Expressionism and other forms of American art and music abroad in the 1950s and 1960s as part of a propaganda campaign to assert American cultural dominance in the Cold War era. The first chief of the CIA division spearheading that campaign stated why the operation had to be clandestine: “It was very difficult to get Congress to go along with some of the things we wanted to do—send art abroad… In order to encourage openness we had to be secret.”
The most thorough recreation to date of that doomed project can be seen in “Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy”, a travelling exhibition jointly organised by three university museums: Auburn University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia (Indiana University is also participating as a venue for the tour, but is not one of the organisers). The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue offer a thorough examination of a moment in American history when politics and culture—as well as professional expertise and populist taste—clashed, a phenomenon that feels all-too-familiar.
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Duchamp season at the Barbican
In this audio slideshow, hear from some of the people behind the staging of The Bride and the Bachelors at the Barbican Art Gallery, and see exclusive photographs from the installation and rehearsals