Rare Leonardos Visit New York for First Time


In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci traveled to Milan with the hopes of becoming a court painter for Ludovico Sforza. In an effort to impress the distinguished patron, the artist created an immaculate metalpoint drawing titled Head of a Young Woman (Study for the Angel in the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’).

Unlike most of Leonardo’s drawings, the Young Woman is highly finished. The contours of her face are meticulously shaded. Highlights on her cheeks give her a glowing complexion. Her deep-set eyes communicate a wistful and lifelike gaze. Elegant and arresting, she is what Bernard Berenson called “one of the finest achievements of all draughtsmanship.”

Visitors to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York now have the rare opportunity to view this drawing, which seldom leaves Italy, in person. The Young Woman is one of nearly 20 works by Leonardo and his followers featured in the intimate exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci: Treasures from the Biblioteca Reale, Turin,” on view through February 2. Read the full story on!


Zombies Take Over the Museums!

Mrs. T

Late one night, in the basement of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the security guard on duty fell asleep. When he heard the sound of someone tapping on the window, the guard awoke to find an old woman in a tattered white wedding dress peering at him from behind the glass. She was the spitting image of Mrs. T, from George Bellows’s 1920 portrait Mrs. T. in Cream Silk, No. 2.

As if by magic, the woman floated through the control room door and then vanished into thin air. And as the story goes, the guard never worked the night shift again.

For the past several years, the museum has been collecting ghost stories like this one from staff and visitors and compiled the tales into a new audio tour. The tour, which is available both at the museum and online, is one of many Halloween and Día de los Muertos–inspired activities being offered by museums this fall. Read the full article on!

The Frick’s High-Tech, Old Master Remix


Yesterday, an immaculate replica of Ambrosius Bosschaert’s Vase with Flowers in a Window (ca. 1618) appeared to come alive at the Frick Collection. Like a talking painting from Harry Potter, the flowers swayed with the wind and the daylight in the background grew brighter as time passed. Morning dew on the flowers evaporated. The water level in the vase slowly diminished. A snail in the lower-right corner of the composition emerged from his shell and leisurely inched his way out of the frame.

The work, titled Transforming Still Life Painting (2012), is a looping, 3-hour animated film by British artist-duo Rob and Nick Carter. The first digital artwork to ever be shown at the Frick, Transforming Still Life Painting simulates the effects that 24 hours of real-life elements—water, sunlight, wind—would have had on Bosschaert’s flowers. The film depicts the scene through a modern lens, just as Bosschaert’s original materials reflected his own time. “Computer-generated imagery is our form of reality,” says Nick. “This is what we see everyday.”

The piece is being presented in conjunction with the Frick’s new exhibition “Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis.” The show opens today and features a selection of paintings on loan from the Mauritshuis museum in the Hague, which is temporarily closed for renovations. The loan includes such treasured Golden-Age artworks as Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1665) and The Goldfinch (1654) by Carel Fabritius. Read the full article on!

Finding Soul in High Heel Shoes

A massive bronze sculpture by Willie Cole depicts an abstracted seated figure, meditatively resting its head in its hands. At first glance, the piece, titled The Sole Sitter, appears to be made up of a series of geomorphic shapes. After a closer look, it becomes evident that the shapes are actually larger-than-life shoes. A pair of clogs forms the knees and thighs. Mary Janes represent the feet. A cluster of high heels serves as the head.

Since the 1980s, the New Jersey–born, African American artist has been assembling like objects to form works that communicate potent messages about African history and the slave trade, among other themes. Cole’s ironing board woodcuts, shoe and hair-dryer masks, and bicycle-inspired headdresses reclaim African artistic traditions in ways that are both visceral and unexpected.

The Sole Sitter, one of Cole’s most recent works, is based on principles of the West African religion Yoruba, in which specific deities are believed to lead worshipers to the gods. The Sitter is waiting and hoping for a deity to come. Cole constructed this work along with eight other paintings and sculptures for his upcoming solo exhibition “If wishes were horses….” Read the full story on

Noguchi’s Missing Link

In an elegant and gestural ink-on-paper drawing by Isamu Noguchi, a statuesque, standing nude holds her baby in her arms. The two are interlocked so intimately that the child looks as though it’s a part of the mother, joined to her the way a blossom is affixed to a tree branch. Titled Mother and Child, the piece is one of more than 100 drawings and scrolls the artist created while on a 1930 visit to Beijing.

During that six-month trip, the Japanese-born artist was introduced to famed Chinese poet, seal carver, and ink painter Qi Baishi. Noguchi, then only 26 years old, observed the older master in his studio and became inspired by his heavy brushstrokes and use of simplified, biomorphic forms. Noguchi merged Qi’s ink-wash techniques with his own skills as a figure painter. The resulting collection of drawings is known as the “Peking Scrolls.”

For many years, the series was thought of as a peculiarity in the artist’s output. But an exhibition at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York, sheds new light on the drawings and their significance on Noguchi’s later abstract sculptures. Titled “Isamu Noguchi / Qi Baishi / Beijing 1930,” the show presents, for the first time, a collection of “Peking Scrolls” alongside works by Qi Baishi, as well as several drawings, sculptures, and photographs. Together, these objects demonstrate the evolution of Noguchi’s artistic style. See the full story on!

Brancusi & Brain Waves: 3-D Printing Goes to the Museum

Out of Hand
“How comfortable is the term ‘comfort’?” asks Ron Labaco, a curator at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. His question is in reference to the 2010 creation Brain Wave Sofa by Lucas Maassen and Dries Verbruggen from the Belgian design team Unfold. For the piece, Maassen used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor his brain waves while he closed his eyes and thought of the word “comfort.” Software translated the data into a three-dimensional image, and the designers programmed a computerized milling machine, called a CNC mill, to carve a foam replica of that image to use as the foundation for the couch.

Brain Wave Sofa is one of more than 100 pieces featured in “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital.” Opening at MAD on October 16, the exhibition showcases works of art, fashion, furniture, and architecture that have been constructed with 3-D printing and CNC milling devices. Read more on!

That’s So Raven: Artistic Visions of Poe

In a chilling blue-and-gray watercolor by Edmund Dulac, the ominous journey described in Edgar Allan Poe’s 1844 poem Dreamland takes form. The painting features an enormous phantom with a vacant stare and stoic expression sitting on a throne. Eye-level with the clouds, the spirit appears to preside over the dark, mountainous land beneath him.

This striking image was originally printed in a 1912 anthology of Poe’s poems and is one of more than 100 pieces featured in a new exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum. Titled “Edgar Allan Poe: Terror of the Soul,” the show opens October 4 and presents works ranging from drawings and portraits to original manuscripts and letters—it even includes a piece of Poe’s coffin. The objects come from three of the most prominent Poe collections in the United States—the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, and the private holdings of collector Susan Jaffe Tane. Read more on!

Anonymous No More: Bringing Contemporary Tibetan Art to the U.S.

“There are currently six million Tibetans still in Tibet,” says curator Rachel Perera Weingeist. “And we never get to hear from them—except through their art.”

Tibet, which has been occupied by China since 1951, is largely closed off from the Western world. Travel outside of the country is restricted and there are staunch limitations on its exports. To help make Tibetan art more accessible to American audiences, Weingeist conceived the show “Anonymous: Contemporary Tibetan Art.” She invited Tibetan artists living all over the world to submit their work anonyously for the exhibition, believing that this option would allow artists to “express themselves without any repercussions.” Read more on!

Paint the Town, Red

Red Grooms
“If you ever saw Francis Bacon’s studio, it was a world-class disaster,” says Red Grooms. “It was quite a mess.” To accurately depict that disorder in his sculptural Portrait of Francis Bacon (1990), Grooms collected a miscellany of used art supplies and other well-worn objects from his own studio and included them in the piece, portraying Bacon—legs crossed, hands clasped—right in the middle of the clutter. This diorama is as playful and narrative as a pop-up book, and it’s one of eight such works included in the show “Red Grooms’ New York City” at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan through January 5. Read more on!

An Altarpiece in Pieces

Piero della Francesca, The Crucifixion, 1454–1469, oil and tempera on poplar panel, thinned and cradled, 14.7 x 16.2 cm The Frick Collection, New York.

Piero della Francesca, The Crucifixion, 1454–1469, oil and tempera on poplar panel, thinned and cradled, 14.7 x 16.2 cm The Frick Collection, New York.

“Piero della Francesca in America” is the first U.S. exhibition to unite six paintings from the artist’s Sant’Agostino Altarpiece. The work, which was executed between 1454 and 1469, was dismantled approximately a century after it was completed. Many of the pieces have since been lost or destroyed, and only eight have survived.

By uniting these paintings, curator Nat Silver explained that the exhibition is able to tell two distinct stories—the first is a history of collecting at the Frick. Helen Clay Frick—the daughter of Henry Clay Frick—first purchased della Francesca’s St. John the Evangelist  (1454–69) in 1936, just months after the museum first opened. Since then, the Frick has had a special connection to these pieces. For example, Helen Clay Frick once tried to purchase Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels (ca. 1460–70), which is on loan for the exhibition from the Clark Art Institute in Boston, from Sterling Clark. And in 1961, The Crucifixion (1454–69)—the only surviving work from the altarpiece’s predella—was donated to the Frick by John D. Rockefeller. Henry Clay Frick once reportedly turned down an offer to acquire the The Crucifixion, and now it is a central work in this exhibition.

The second story that “Piero della Francesca in America” tells is that of the artist in his hometown of Borgo San Sepolcro. As the story goes, the town was founded by two pilgrims who brought with them a stone from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected. This iconography has served as a vital part of Borgo San Sepolcro’s history, and the image of the resurrection is even found on the town’s seal. Many of the paintings here, such as the Saint Augustine panel (1454–69), feature related imagery . In this panel, the saint wears lavish, ornate robes which are embossed with scenes from the life of Christ. The robes are fastened by a finely detailed brooch that bears an image of the resurrection.

Though the altarpiece itself is not complete, the union of these paintings allows for a discussion of these two very comprehensive histories.

“Piero della Francesca in America” is on view at the Frick Collection through May 19, 2013.