Spotlight: Ugo Rondinone’s Witty Takeover of a Swiss Museum Sees Him Curate Himself Into Art History

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What you need to know: The Museum of Art and History (MAH) in Geneva is hosting their annual Open Invitation exhibition from 26 January to 19 June 2023. For this edition, Ugo Rondinone was invited to take over the MAH building and its collection to produce the immersive exhibition experience “when the sun sets and the moon rises.” Located within the iconic architecture designed by Marc Camoletti (1858–1940), and strongly referencing two famous Swiss artists from the collection, Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) and Félix Vallotton (1865–1925), the effort establishes a dialogue between the historical and the contemporary, thanks to Rondinone’s interventions. The proverbial bookends of the exhibition are two works by Rondinone, the sun (2017) and the moon (2022)—circular sculptures over 16 feet tall, the former in gold and the latter in silver—that can be used as starting or ending points for visitors as they meander through the galleries.

About the artist: The Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964) studied at the Hochschule für Angewandte Künste in Vienna before moving to New York in 1998, where he currently lives and works. Rondinone represented Switzerland at the 2007 Venice Biennale with Urs Fischer and has been widely recognized for his monumental public commissions; his two most famous being Human nature (2013), which was installed at New York’s Rockefeller Center and received millions of visitors, and Seven Magic Mountains (2016), an installation of rock totems in the Nevada desert. By working with sculpture, painting, video, sound and photography, the artist’s diverse practice is involved in equally diverse themes and motifs that refer to the zeitgeist through, for example, contemporary vernacular or the iconography of advertising. Rondinone also has a parallel curatorial practice, which gives him a complex understanding of the many ways in which his work and projects connect with the public.

Why we love it: Rondinone’s takeover of the MAH highlights both the artist’s unique artistic and curatorial vision as well as the institution’s premier historical collection and magnificent architecture. Encompassing nearly a dozen gallery rooms, Rondinone invites visitors to explore the unique juxtapositions between his work and that of the historical art and architecture of the room. In one gallery, Rondinone takes a collection of Hodler paintings of Swiss warriors and installs them on plinths, turning them into sculptures to get around. Elsewhere, another gallery is populated with 11 glass horses in various shades of blue containing water from different oceans, a response to the series of paintings by Hodler depicting Lake Geneva and Lake Thun hung on the wall – which inviting a reflection on the natural versus the artificial, “the bounded and the boundless”. Together, each room within “when the sun sets and the moon rises” presents a new facet of Rondinone’s dialectical exploration of his own art practice against the backdrop of a major European institution.

Take a look inside the exhibit below.

Installation view of “when the sun sets and the moon rises” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun sets and the moon rises" (2023).  Photo: Stefan Altenburger.  Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun sets and the moon rises” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun sets and the moon rises" (2023).  Photo: Stefan Altenburger.  Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun sets and the moon rises” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun sets and the moon rises" (2023).  Photo: Stefan Altenburger.  Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun sets and the moon rises” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of "when the sun sets and the moon rises" (2023).  Photo: Stefan Altenburger.  Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

Installation view of “when the sun sets and the moon rises” (2023). Photo: Stefan Altenburger. Courtesy of the Museum of Art and History, Geneva.

“when the sun sets and the moon rises” is on view until June 18, 2023.

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Museum for Art in Wood receives $10 million endowment and a new name

The Center for Art in Wood announced Monday that it will receive a $10 million donation from the Windgate Foundation. In the same announcement, the center also said it would change its name to the Museum of Art in Wood.

“The museum is not really undergoing any transformation,” said Jennifer-Navva Milliken, the executive director and chief curator. “It is the name that captures the way the museum functions. My hope is that the public will be able to better understand what to expect [and] how to come in and use us, and enjoy and explore.”

The Windgate Foundation split the $10 million gift so that $3.5 million will be managed by the Arkansas Community Foundation, which will pay out a quarterly unrestricted grant to the museum. The remaining $6.5 million is managed by the museum, which invested the funds. The interest earned will be used for general operating support.

In the past decade, the Windgate Foundation has awarded significant gifts to the museum, including $2 million in 2013 and $2 million in 2017. “But this donation is “by far the largest,” Milliken said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not still fundraising doesn’t have to raise, we absolutely do, [but] it allows us to think about security in a way we couldn’t before.”

She added that the name change was already discussed when the news of the donation came, and it is not part of the donation. “We are already acting as a museum. We have a permanent and growing collection of artwork [and] are preserved, managed and researched according to museum standards.”

The museum’s collection contains 1,200 objects, and its research library contains 1,000 books and reading materials on the history of woodturning and woodworking. Located in Old Town, the museum is open to visitors Wednesday through Sunday.

Founded as the Woodturning Center in 1986, the museum hosts various exhibitions throughout the year. The next one, “The Mashrabiya Project,” is “the most ambitious programming” in the organization’s history, according to Milliken. Opening March 3, the show will explore intricate wooden window screens called mashrabiya and explore the importance of this architectural element in Islamic culture.

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Kimmerer lecture Tuesday prompts lunch feast, watch parties, museum booklet – WSU Insider

Washington State University campus programs share ways to get involved firsthand in the common reading virtual lecture at 6:00 pm Tuesday night by Braiding Sweetgrass author Robin Wall Kimmerer. The lecture, entitled, “What does the earth ask of us?”, is free and open to the public.

Visit the general reading webpage to learn how to join the virtual reading, ask an advance question for the author, find details about viewing parties, and more.

Afternoon feast

Dining Services is offering a special lunch menu inspired by the book on Tuesday at all three Pullman campus cafes – Northside, Southside and Hillside. Entrees of maple-glazed salmon and a vegetarian “Three Sisters Stew” will be accompanied by wild rice pilaf, corn cakes, green beans with candied pecans, and roasted maple squash. Faculty and staff can enjoy the special meal from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m

“After learning about the food references in Sweetgrass braid, we’ve been thinking about ways to support the common reading lecture since early fall,” said Sarah Larson, Director of Dining Services. “I approached the culinary team with the idea for a special meal and members immediately embraced the idea.” Three Sisters Stew, for example, stems from an essay describing native interwoven garden plantings of corn, beans, and squash.

Evening watch parties

Starting late Tuesday afternoon, various groups invite students and members of the WSU community to join viewing parties to enjoy the lecture together. Four on Pullman Campus is hosted by:

  • First Year Programs, which is home to the General Reading Program, at 5:30 pm in CUE 202
  • Native American programs at 6:00 pm in Spark G-45
  • Olympia Hall of Residence at 18:00 in the lobby
  • School for the Environment at 5:30 pm in Troy Hall 309

Viewing parties will also be hosted by:

  • WSU Tri-Cities at 6:00 pm in its Writing Center (CIC 101)
  • WSU Vancouver at 5:45 pm in its Library Building (VLIB) 261
  • Puyallup Research and Extension Center at 5:30 pm in the DF Allmendinger Center, 2606 W. Pioneer

Museum booklet

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU is producing a booklet to inspire visitors to find connections between works of art currently on display and themes found in Sweetgrass braid. Titled Common Reading Connections, it contains nine excerpts from reflections written by students in Honors 280 in fall 2022, describing connections they found between topics in the book and artwork. Copies of the booklet will be available at the museum’s reception desk.

In addition to its ties to the Community Reading Program, the Kimmerer Lecture also kicks off the VWS spring guest season.

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Art Industry News: British Museum Workers Announce Plans to Go on Strike During Busy School Break + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily summary of the most consequential developments coming from the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Monday, January 30.


Hermès and MetaBirkin go to trial – The French luxury brand is taking digital artist Mason Rothschild to court over trademark infringement after the artist released his MetaBirkins NFT collection, which depicts the fashion house’s famous Birkin bag without permission. The case will continue today in federal court in Manhattan. (Mint Telegraph)

Politician condemns Tate Britain’s Drag Queen Storytime – The Conservative Party’s Emma Harriet Nicholson, who is a current member of the House of Lords, has written an open letter to the Tate’s board of trustees criticizing the museum’s decision to invite drag queen Aida H. Dee to acting towards a children’s group, condemning it as “propaganda.” The letter came with a petition signed by 3,500 people protesting Tate’s imposition of “gender ideology” on children. “We do not program artists to promote particular views, nor to reconcile different views ,” a Tate spokesperson said in response to the uproar. (ART news)

British museum staff to strike – More than 100 employees of the museum’s visitor services and security teams who are members of the Public and Commercial Service Union (PCS), the country’s largest public service union, will be among the latest in the UK to strike over pay and pension disputes, with a seven day-long action planned from 13 February. The country is expected to see the biggest strike day in a decade this Wednesday. (Evening Standard)

Dua Lipa Collects Hirst NFTs – The Grammy-winning pop star’s love for butterflies is evidenced not only by her outfits, but also by her choice of art. The 27-year-old singer-songwriter has revealed she owns at least four out of five of Damien Hirt’s limited edition butterfly prints from the series The Empresses, named after female rulers throughout world history. The limited edition prints are part of an NFT collection produced by Hirst and Heni in early 2022. (The Art Newspaper)


Phillips collaborates with ICA San Francisco – The auction house has begun a three-year partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, with the house supporting one exhibition at the institution each year, starting with the group show “Resting Our Eyes,” which opened just last week. (Press release)

Sargent’s Daughters West Name Director – Angela Robins will take on the role of director for the gallery’s new Los Angeles-based outpost, returning to the art world after leaving to become a winemaker. The first show at the gallery, titled “Death of Beauty,” has an all-star lineup and opens on February 14. (Press release)

Skowhegan Raises $21 Million – The Maine-based school of painting and sculpture surpassed its 75th anniversary capital campaign, with donations from art world honchos including Eleanor Acquavella, Donald Moffett and Paul Volent. The funds will help to upgrade the facilities on campus for students; two new structures are slated for completion this year: a Flex Space and a series of natural amphitheater spaces. (Press release)


Saatchi Yates opens new gallery in Saint James – The London gallery has just inaugurated its new 10,000 sq ft gallery space on Bury Street with a solo show of paintings by Cologne-based, Lebanese artist Omar El Lahib. The large exhibition on the ground floor will present breakthrough artists, while private rooms are reserved for secondary market offerings. (Press release)

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Guggenheim Museum faces lawsuit over Picasso painting

Written by Toyin Owoseje, CNN

One of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period paintings is at the center of a lawsuit between a Jewish family and New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

The heirs of Karl Adler and Rosi Jacobi want the repatriation of the artist’s 1904 masterpiece “Woman Ironing (La repasseuse),” which they say the couple sold under duress when they tried to escape persecution by the Nazis in their native Germany to escape in 1938.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Manhattan Supreme Court, says Adler acquired the artwork in 1916 from Munich gallery owner Heinrich Thannhauser, but sold it to Thannhauser’s son, Justin, in 1938 for about $1,552, well below its value. The suit alleges that a desperate Adler took the significant loss due to his family’s circumstances.

“Adler would not have disposed of the painting at the time and price he did but for the Nazi persecution to which he and his family have been subjected, and will continue to be,” the complaint states.

In the lawsuit, the family members say Adler was chairman of the board of directors for Europe’s leading leather manufacturer, but things changed when the “Nazi regime in Germany shattered their lives.”

In 1938, the family fled Germany and traveled through the Netherlands, France and Switzerland before settling permanently in Argentina, the suit says.

The Guggenheim Museum said it believes the suit is “without merit.” Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

“The Adlers needed large amounts of cash just to obtain short-term visas during their exile in Europe. Unable to work, on the run, and not knowing what the future held for them, the Adlers had to liquidate quickly what they could. collect as much cash as possible,” the lawsuit states.

The heirs claim that Thannhauser “profited” from the misfortune of German Jews. They also claim that “Thannhauser was well aware of the plight of Adler and his family, and that Adler, absent Nazi persecution, would never have sold the painting when he did so at such a price,” according to the lawsuit.

Rosi Adler died in Buenos Aires in 1946 at the age of 68, while her husband Karl died at the age of 85 in 1957 during a visit to his homeland.

“Woman Ironing” remained in Thannhauser’s art collection until his death in 1976. It was donated to the Guggenheim in 1978, along with the rest of his artwork.

Adler’s descendants, along with a number of non-profit and Jewish organizations named as plaintiffs in the class action, say in the complaint that the painting is “in the wrongful possession” of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

The family is seeking the painting’s return or compensation commensurate with its current market value, which the suit estimates is between $100 million and $200 million.

The Guggenheim Museum told CNN in a statement that it “takes provenance matters and restitution claims extremely seriously” but believes this case is “without merit.”

“Karl Adler’s sale of the painting to Justin Thannhauser was a fair transaction between parties with a long-standing and ongoing relationship,” the museum said.

It added: “The extensive research conducted by the Guggenheim since first being contacted by an attorney representing these plaintiffs shows that the Guggenheim is the rightful owner of the painting.”

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Hong Kong Palace Museum: How to celebrate Lunar New Year like an Emperor

Written by Rebecca CairnsKristie Lu Stout, CNN

It’s Lunar New Year. Dressed in their best festive clothes, an 18th-century family sits down to feast on a sumptuous banquet in a room decorated with auspicious signs.

This scene will sound familiar to many of the families, across China and the world, who enjoy their own festivities, traditions and symbolic foods over the holiday period, which began on Sunday. But there are some significant differences: This hotpot dish is ornately decorated in cloisonné enamel, the signs are covered in turquoise, jade and rubies, and the patriarch’s fashion choice is a silk robe with dragon motifs hand-stitched in gold thread . It is a lunar new year fit for an emperor.

“It’s a symphony of the senses,” said Daisy Wang, deputy director of the Hong Kong Palace Museum, where these Qing Dynasty-era treasures are on display in a second-floor gallery focused on the daily life in Beijing’s imperial palace.

“You have to imagine what the emperor and his family would hear, what they would taste, what they would touch, what aromas they would smell,” Wang added. “We have to use all our senses to imagine what happened 300 years ago, inside the Forbidden City.”

The $450 million building opened last summer and has a rotating collection of more than 900 treasures on loan from Beijing’s Forbidden City, from rare ceramics to delicate scroll paintings. The museum celebrates its first Lunar New Year by inviting visitors to see how one of China’s longest-reigning emperors celebrated the occasion, through the auspicious objects on display.

Decode the past

The Qing Dynasty’s fourth emperor, the Qianlong Emperor, was “one of the most powerful rulers on earth in the 18th century,” Wang said. “He ruled over a vast area, with a population of probably more than 300 million.”

His reign, from 1735 to 1796, was also characterized by flourishing art and creativity in the country. Known to be learned and cultured, he published more than 40,000 poems during his lifetime, and amassed an enormous collection of ancient and commissioned imperial works of art during his six-decade rule.

Everywhere you look in the Palace Museum exhibit, the emperor’s penchant for luxury is on display, from hanging panels with jade floral motifs to a few gold gourd decorations. The latter, embedded with semi-precious stones and bearing the Chinese characters for “great fortune”, is among more than 60 gourd-shaped decorations commissioned by the Qianlong Emperor to decorate the Forbidden City during the Spring Festival in 1746 alone.

Some highlighted Lunar New Year-related objects on display include some golden gourd-shaped ornaments. Credit: CNN

As with many works of art, it contains “hidden meanings,” Wang said. A symbol of fertility, bottle gourds, or “hulu,” have a name that sounds similar to the Chinese words for “prosperous” and “wealth,” she added.

However, the emperor didn’t just commission works of art: His extravagant taste extended to his wardrobe. “(He) never commissioned (just) a single garment,” Wang said. “It always had to be two, four, six.”

Known to change his outfit up to seven times a day, one standout piece of clothing on display in the exhibition is a robe adorned with intricately hand-stitched dragons flying between bouncing, clouds in gold-wrapped thread.

This royal dragon robe was one of the Qianlong Emperor's finest ceremonial robes.

This royal dragon robe was one of the Qianlong Emperor’s finest ceremonial robes. Credit: CNN

Famous traditions

With a taste for large banquets, often consisting of hot pot, dumplings and roast duck, the emperor’s eating habits – and the serving dishes and utensils used – will be familiar to many. According to Wang, Qianlong loved hotpot so much that he ate 200 such meals in one year, which some say contributed to his longevity (he died in his late eighties).

New Moon Festivals were particularly special for the Emperor because it would be one of the few occasions he could eat in the same room as family and friends. “Due to security concerns, he usually ate alone,” Wang said.

An extravagant hot pot used by the Qianlong Emperor.  Although it is beautifully decorated using the cloisonné technique, the copper inside makes it completely functional.

An extravagant hot pot used by the Qianlong Emperor. Although it is beautifully decorated using the cloisonné technique, the copper inside makes it completely functional. Credit: CNN

The imperial items he used, in addition to being gilded and bejeweled, also reveal how many traditions have remained the same.

“One of the things that surprised me is how similar the way he celebrated the Lunar New Year is to our practice today.

“I hope that visitors will come to connect these ancient objects with their own lives.”

Watch the video above for an inside look at the Lunar New Year objects on display at the Hong Kong Palace Museum.

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Museum Asks Public to Reinvent a Classic Painting, With Incredible Results

Girl with a pearl earring? More like Guy With an Apple AirPod.

The Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague has put out a call for recreations of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic 17th-century painting — with bizarre and delightful results.

No earring in this photo by Jessica van der Mast. Just an AirPod.


Woman wearing a turban and two pearl earrings while holding a camera

Architect Zoé Molnár is a girl with a pearl earring — and a camera.


Scroll through posts tagged #mygirlwithapearl on Instagram and you’ll find more than 4,700 interpretations of the famous oil painting of a young girl in a headscarf, a large earring dangling from her left ear. The tributes range from beautiful to creepy to surreal, from classic to abstract to steampunk. You will see the girl in photographs, digital drawings and oil paintings, and recreated in sculptures made from embroidery thread, toys, school supplies and multicolored beads and buttons.

A Na'vi from Avatar as the girl with a pearl earring

Multimedia artist Double O Roos: “I make her cry for the world for the people and for the Earth.”


Girl With a Pearl Earring with a robot instead of a girl

Robot With a Pearl Earring, an oil on canvas by artist Julian DePuma.


She appears as a baby, an older bearded man, a duck, a dog, a bunny, and a blue Na’vi from Avatar. In more than one image, she is decidedly 21st century, with a face mask or earplugs or with a mobile phone. One artist overlaid Vermeer’s painting on a Tinder screen and called the creation “Swipe Right.”

A girl wears a mask on top of her turban in this interpretation of Girl With a Pearl Earring

A number of the tributes have face masks, of course.


Girl with a pearl earring, wearing a face mask

Art gallery owner Gea Kok shows the famous Girl, ready for COVID.


Are some of the digital versions created with an AI art creation tool such as Dall-E or Midjourney? You can bet on it.

The Mauritshuis usually houses the famous painting, but for eight weeks from February the work will be on loan for a Vermeer exhibition at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Rather than leave the girl’s wall empty, the Mauritshuis plans to rotate some of the crowd-sourced renditions through a digital display.

“The room where the Girl hangs will temporarily become a place of inspiration with as many Girls as possible gathered, from home and abroad,” says the museum.

Pencils and other school supplies made in the shape of Girl With a Pearl Earring

“My mandate for myself was to create it with what I could only find in my living room,” says Elisabeth Koch.


Girl With a Pearl Earring, recreated with embroidery floss

Submissions came in all sorts of colorful materials.


As the submissions attest, the museum has placed no limits on creativity here. “A self-portrait with a bath towel as a turban, a painted iron or even a pile of crockery,” it says. “Few are too crazy for us.” Registration for the competition closed on 15 January.

Vermeer, one of the most famous Dutch painters of the 17th century, is known for his intimate domestic scenes and beautiful use of light.

His iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring has made a number of literary and film appearances, including in a 1999 historical novel of the same name that told a fictional story of the painting’s creation. That book led to a 2003 film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson as a young servant in the house of Vermeer, played by Colin Firth.

If you want to explore the original painting in more detail to better appreciate the reimaginings, an augmented reality feature called Pocket Gallery in Google’s free Google Arts & Culture app offers a virtual exhibition space where you can view all 36 of Vermeer’s paintings. see and learn about . None of them have robots.

Girl With a Pearl Earring as a self-portrait by a bearded man

Visual artist Wil Peerboom, like many others, opted for a self-portrait.


Dog dressed in the style of Girl With a Pearl Earring

“Pooch With a Pearl Earring” has a nice ring to it.


An earring in the shape of the painting Girl With a Pearl Earring

A meta-assumption of Girl With a Pearl Earring: the painting as an actual earring.


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[In Pics] With Walls As A Canvas Odisha Capital Turns Into Cultural Museum During Hockey WC

Bhubaneswar: Odisha is imbibing the spirit of hockey at a frenzied pace, celebrating every goal and win, irrespective of the country. There is a festive energy all around with the vibrant colors of the state adding to the joie de vivre In other words, the splendor of Odisha is on full display for foreign visitors – a perfect amalgamation of its rich culture and sporting spirit.

The walls at major places in the state capital painted on different themes tell the story of Odisha – its rich culture, folk art, achievements, aspirations and much more. From the moment visitors touch the ground at the airport, a drive through the city is like a true guided tour in a museum, with every wall telling a story.

All the paintings changed the capital’s visual landscape. Twenty-eight teams consisting of 1500 artists worked relentlessly to make this creative vision a success.

Let’s take a tour.

Biju Pattnaik International Airport

Paintings near the airport depict former Odisha Chief Minister Biju Pattnaik’s vision for the state. The painting of a flight along with the acronym UDAN, which reads “Ude desh ka aam nagrik,” depicts the Regional Airport Development Program of the Government of India. It also includes Odisha’s most famous tourist destinations for vacationers. Other paintings depict the government’s initiative to save the girl child with the message “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”.

Rabindra Mandap

Paintings on the walls outside Rabindra Mandap depict various folk dances of Odisha, including the world famous Sambalpuri dance, the Ghumra dance of Kalahandi and the tribal dances of Odisha.

The outer walls of this place depict the vivid and rich cultural heritage of Odisha.

These paintings depict individuals performing folk dances in their traditional dress, as well as the musical instruments used in those dances.

AG Square

The artwork here depicts the celebrations and festivals that take place in Odisha during the month of Kartika, which is considered the holiest of all the months of the year. The paintings show young and married women celebrating the Dharma Masa festival with floating boats made of banana tree leaves in the water. This ritual is also performed during Bali Jatra.

Other paintings bring to life the tribal culture of Odisha, while others show the various mudras, ornaments and musical instruments associated with the classical dance form Odissi.

The Pattachitra art paintings are perhaps the most striking of all and arouse much curiosity due to their bright colors and intricate designs.

IDCO Exhibition Grounds

Through their works, artists demonstrated how the exhibition hall serves as a stage for handicrafts and handicrafts produced by local artisans and various tribes and how various stalls are set up every year to showcase wonderful works of art and craftsmanship.

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Museum of Broadway Co-Curator Ben West Talks About How He Made Theater History Come to Life

How do you narrow down 300 years of Broadway history? Fortunately, Ben West trained for the task.

When the founders of the new Museum of Broadway first approached West in 2019 about creating the narrative journey of the museum, which follows Broadway’s development from 1732 to the present day, West has already spent the past five years tracking the evolution of the American musical spent. archives across the country. A musical theater artist and historian, West’s book The American musical coming out later this year.

Co-founders Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti have already selected the game-changing shows to which the museum will devote room-sized exhibits – the Ziegfeld Follies, The Wizand Rent between them. West’s task was to write and design the “Timeline Walls” placed between the rooms, each wall capturing several decades of Broadway history through a mix of text, images and quotes. The walls have more than 750 assets, highlighting more than 500 productions and more than 100 artists.

West spoke with TheatreMania about chronicling a vast and complex history, appealing to seasoned theatergoers and newcomers alike, and the story of roller skating on Broadway.

Ben West
(© Kris Rogers)

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

There’s an endless amount of Broadway history contained within the task you’ve been handed, and I’m sure there’s a ton you couldn’t include. How did you go about narrowing it down?
On the musical front, the backbone of the museum is the evolution of the American musical. Within it there are three underlying themes: the American musical as a reflection of American consciousness; repositioning African-American and female artists as part of that evolution throughout, although they are often segregated or overlooked in traditional histories; and the role of outside influences such as vaudeville, minstrelsy, burlesque and nightclubs, and how these were also part of the definition of Broadway in the early 20th century. So I didn’t look at it in terms of narrowing down the history as much as presenting a comprehensive history by following those underlying themes and trends that occurred throughout.

The timeline walls strike a balance between acknowledging offensive works of the past, or institutional barriers artists faced, while still celebrating the achievements of the artists working under those circumstances. For example, there is a section on 1920s musicals with mostly black casts that highlights those performers, while also acknowledging that white performers wrote the shows. Can you talk about finding that balance throughout the museum?
For me, it stems from telling an accurate history. There are also, dare I say, overlooked white male artists that people passing through the museum won’t know by name, or won’t remember, who were an integral part of the theater’s evolution .

But specifically on the African-American and female front, it’s a difficult period. Even with something like minstrelsy, there’s this very interesting duality. Today, most individuals identify minstrelsy as blackface and grotesque, racist caricatures of African American life. This is the extent of our modern knowledge of minstrelsy, to a great extent. Which is accurate, and cannot be denied.

However, it is also very interesting as an art form because it is the foundation of the American musicals we enjoy today. Over the 1800s, minstrelsy developed comedy, it developed song, it developed dance on the American coast. It also opens doors for Black artists. And the art form itself is evolving. For example, when we get to the turn of the 20th century, many of the songs we have in minstrel shows are not inherently race songs. These are pop songs that can still be heard today.

For example, there is a great song called “You Made Me Love You,” by Jimmy Monaco and Joe McCarthy, that was used in a minstrel show in the 1910s. And that song has nothing to do with race. I mention this because this idea of ​​complication and duality is something that continues through the turn of the 20th century.

There is also a perception that black performers in the early 1900s had to wear blackface to appear on stage. And this is not true, as an absolute rule. Similarly, there is a perception that black performers, especially in vaudeville, which was an important institution in the first three decades of the 20th century, were confined to a lower-class Black-specific circle, the TOBA [Theatre Owners Booking Association]. In fact, there were a number of black performers who performed alongside white performers in major vaudeville on Broadway. And many of these individuals did not perform in blackface.

It’s just a very complicated period, so for me it’s about trying to present an accurate history with a lot of grounding and a lot of context, and using documented articles, documented interviews, documented photographs to tell that story. And this is part of the reason why my research is focused on primary sources – newspaper articles, manuscripts, original documents, as opposed to reference books or documentaries.

The timeline walls at the Museum of Broadway chart 300 years of Broadway history.
(© Monique Carboni)

How did you ensure that the timelines were accessible to visitors with little or no familiarity with Broadway, while also appealing to theater fans who walk in with a lot more knowledge?
For me it was about digestible bites. I used a main copy block that devotes two or three paragraphs to a specific theme or trend happening in that time period. But then in addition to that there are milestone boxes, which are a short paragraph about a specific moment, and there are quotes, and there are lyrics.

All the elements on the wall are meant to work together. For example, something can be addressed in a box that is not addressed in the main text. One of them happens on the wall of 1927, which has a box about concert dancing that is integrated into the legal stage. People definitely know Agnes de Mille and the ballet Oklahoma! But over a little over a decade before, there is a very active moment from concert dance to the musical stage. It’s not that Oklahoma! just happened out of nowhere. Showboat didn’t just happen, it’s not the first book musical. It is an artistic advance.

Another fun example is that in the 1983 wall there is a milestone case about roller skates. Because Starlight Express happen that year, but Starlight Express isn’t the first time we’ve seen roller skates on Broadway. So there is a box that goes back decades about the history of roller skating on Broadway.

Also on that wall is talk of a show that no one might have expected to be featured, which is Tango Argentinotalk about how amazingly successful that dance piece became, and the trend it was a part of, because after that we have a number of Spanish and Latin dance-driven shows emerging on Broadway.

So there is a lot to be exposed by people who already know a lot about musical theatre. And likewise, I am hopeful that I have presented the history in such a way that it is digestible for those who are just being introduced to it.

What you said about Oklahoma! emphasizes that Broadway rarely if ever discovers any new form, it only brings that form to a new level of public consciousness. When something “new” hits Broadway, it builds elsewhere.
Often there is a great interest in saying, “What is the first?” or “This is the first!” Like saying that Company or Cabaret was the first concept musical. But actually none of them are. First off, what is a “concept musical”, that’s a term I won’t support…

…I think that’s why there’s a note in the Company room after referring to it as a “concept musical” adding: “Although some say it’s more accurate to call it a …”
… a “narrative revue.” Yes, that one was me. [laughs] The only thing in the museum that I owned were the timeline walls, but I gave extensive feedback on many historical elements, so in some cases I wrote suggestions that ended up being used. Because it’s just more complicated than just saying “concept musical”! It’s just a bigger discussion.

Hopefully people will also see that what we think of as Broadway today is not actually what Broadway was. So vaudeville, for example, was Broadway! For a decade and a half, it was Broadway. Minstrelsy was literally on Broadway; in 1908 it opened the New York Theater on Broadway. Broadway is vast in terms of all the different forms it has taken.

This timeline wall chronicles the early golden age of musical theater.
(© Monique Carboni)

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Confirmed Thomas Moran painting donated to Toledo museum

HELENA – When retired Gibsonburg art teacher Marto “Marty” Atkinson was growing up in Hudson, her mother kept a Thomas Moran painting on the wall. Her mother was told over and over by so-called antique experts that the painting was worthless, but her mother insisted the painting had great value.

Atkinson, who now lives in Helena, doesn’t know much about the painting’s history, only that her maternal grandfather somehow acquired it in Philadelphia. When her mother died, Atkinson inherited the painting, and she always wondered if her mother’s intuition about it was correct.

Atkinson legacy painter whose work led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park

In 2005, Atkinson found out her mother was right.

“My friend had tickets to Antiques Roadshow, and she called me and said, ‘Get the painting,'” Atkinson said.

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