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Doctor Atl, figura central del arte mexicano

Posted by on Oct 9, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Doctor Atl, figura central del arte mexicano

Su amplia trayectoria lo llevó siempre a forjar caminos guiados por el idealismo y el bien común

Gran paisajista pero también escritor, vulcanólogo y artista visual, Gerardo Murillo, mejor conocido como “Dr. Atl”, será recordado mañana a 137 años de su nacimiento, como una figura central del arte mexicano y maestro de los muralistas Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco y David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Retratos, autorretratos y paisajes de diversos climas y relieves de México, fueron captados por el diestro pincel de Murillo, quien desarrolló una técnica especial, denominada “Atl colors”, con la que realizó pigmentos a base de resina, cera y petróleo, que le dieron una consistencia única capaz de pintar hasta en roca.

De acuerdo con sus biógrafos, Gerardo Murillo nació el 3 de octubre de 1875 en Guadalajara, Jalisco, donde inició sus estudios de pintura en el taller de Felipe Castro.

El documento consultado en “redescolar.ilce.edu.mx”, señala que en la ciudad de Aguascalientes estudió la preparatoria en el Instituto Científico y Literario del Estado y a su regreso a Guadalajara frecuentó el taller de Félix Bernardelli.

Para 1896, ya con 22 años, Murillo ingresa a la Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes en la Ciudad de México, becado con mil pesos por el gobierno de Porfirio Díaz como estudiante de pintura.

Murillo viaja a Inglaterra, Alemania, Francia, España e Italia. Estudia en la Universidad de Roma y en la Sorbona de París. Se dedica al periodismo y a la pintura. Estudia arte pictórico antiguo y al muralismo renacentista.

Cuentan que en el Salón de París presentó su autorretrato pintado al pastel, por el cual obtuvo una medalla de plata.

Sus biógrafos destacan que en 1897 estudió filosofía con Antonio Labríola y Derecho penal con Enrico Ferrí; Sociología con Emilio Durkheim y Psicología, así como Teoría del arte con Henri Bergson.

En 1901, decoró muros de una villa romana donde representó la lucha entre el hombre, el cosmos y la sociedad (actualmente destruidos). En 1902, el escritor Leopoldo Lugones lo bautizó como “Dr. Atl” que en náhuatl significa “agua”, fuente de la vida.

Para 1903, regresó a México con gran entusiasmo sobre el renacentismo, el neoimpresionismo y el fauvismo y contratado por la Academia de San Carlos clasificó, evaluó y restauró sus colecciones. Asistió a talleres de pintura y dibujo y arremetió contra los métodos de enseñanza.

Lo llamaron “El agitador” por persuadir a colegas y jóvenes de arte popular; entre ellos, a José Clemente Orozco e Ignacio M. Beteta. En 1908, decoró el Salón de la Escuela donde representó desnudos femeninos utilizando su técnica “Atl-color”.

En 1910, con motivo de la celebración del centenario de la independencia se realizó una exposición de artistas mexicanos sobre pintura española. Como resultado obtuvo el gobierno tres mil pesos.

Murillo tiene la iniciativa de crear el Centro Artístico con el propósito de pintar muros públicos, idea interrumpida por el estallido de la Revolución en noviembre de ese mismo año.

En 1911, de nuevo en Europa se estableció en Francia. Expuso en Alemania, Italia y en París fundó el periódico Action d´ Art y la Liga Internacional de Escritores y Artistas, cuyo propósito era crear una coalición de combate desde el factor primordial del progreso.

Regresa a México, al enterarse del golpe de estado de Victoriano Huerta en 1913 y se reunió con Venustiano Carranza. El 28 de julio de 1914, le pidió a Emiliano Zapata se uniera a Carranza para derrotar a Huerta, propuesta que fue aceptada.

Murillo fue nombrado interventor de la Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes y reformó los programas de estudio. Su actividad política terminó con el asesinato de Carranza. Después, publicó libros que ilustró con retratos, desnudos de mujeres, montañas, mares, volcanes y comentarios.

Publicó títulos como “Las artes populares en México” (1921) e “Iglesias de México” (1924). En 1926, inició la Guerra cristera y simpatizó con el movimiento anticlerical. En 1927, publicó artículos en “El Universal” y “Excélsior”. Su obra alcanzó estabilidad y se dedicó a pintar retratos y paisajes.

De sus obras, destaca el retrato de la pintora, poetisa y modelo mexicana Carmen Mondragón, con quien sostuvo un romance y a quien bautizó, en 1921, como Nahui Ollin. Escribió “Cuentos de todos colores”, “Un hombre más allá del universo” y “El Padre eterno”, entre otros.

Murillo vivió cerca del Paricutín al que observó, pintó y escribió su monografía.

Se sabe que sus cuadros, estudios y dibujos fueron donados a la nación en 1950. Debido a la inhalación de gases del volcán que le provocan un trastorno irreversible, en 1949 le amputaron la pierna derecha.

Tras el incidente, el Doctor Atl se dedicó a sobrevolar los cielos, alcanzando una visión amplia de sus paisajes. Creó el “aeropaisaje” y los “atl-colors”.

Escaló el Popocatépletl, el Iztaccíhuatl y presenció el nacimiento del Paricutín, en 1942. Escribió “Cómo nace y crece un volcán: el Paricutín”. Entre 1947 y 1948, durante sus exposiciones en Guadalajara, la Secretaría de Educación Pública le otorgó el premio Nacional de Ciencias y Artes.

Murillo rechazaba ese tipo de reconocimientos y en 1951 renunció a la membresía del Colegio Nacional, a pesar de la insistencia de Carlos Chávez y de Diego Rivera.

Su autobiografía fue publicada en el suplemento cultural de “El Novedades”.

El polémico y productivo artista murió el 15 de agosto de 1964 de un paro cardiorrespiratorio. Sus restos están en la Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres, en el Panteón de Dolores, de la capital mexicana.

Informador.com.mx

PINTURA, PLACER Y REVOLUCIÓN. ARTE Y ARTISTAS EN MÉXICO

Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in News | 0 comments

PINTURA, PLACER Y REVOLUCIÓN. ARTE Y ARTISTAS EN MÉXICO

DEL LUNES 15 AL JUEVES 18 DE OCTUBRE DE 2012 

4 sesiones de 90 minutos.

De 18,30 a 20,00 horas.

Curso completo: 64 €.

4 sesiones de 90 minutos. De 18,30 a 20,00 horas. Curso completo: 64 €.

Comprender el arte surgido en México a lo largo del siglo XX es comprender su propia historia, la pasada y la reciente. El arte en México en el siglo XX está impregnado de planteamientos políticos pero también está lleno de calidades y cualidades inimaginables a esas alturas. Mientras en Europa el Impresionismo como movimiento va dando paso a las nuevas vanguardias surgidas ante las nuevas necesidades, cubismo, fauvismo… en el otro lado del Atlántico se seguía un camino renovado partiendo de aquella base. La pintura toma la vieja Europa como referencia para romper aquellos esquemas y reinterpretarlos, nuevas formas, nuevoscolores y nuevos lugares se mezclan con personalidades que vagan entre el placer pictórico y la sensualidad artística. El muro es el lugar público de expresión y a partir de este momento prácticamente lugar institucional para los artistas. Sus biografías serán el eje conductor deesta excepcional historia.

DIEGO RIVERA.

Lunes 15 de octubre de 18,30 a 20,00 horas

Vida, obra y personalidad de un artista. Nos enfrentamos a uno de los artistas más controvertidos, conflictivos y apasionados del siglo XX, hijo de la historia de su país la cual llevó como nadie anteriormente tanto al lienzo como a los muros de Mexico. Su fama se extiende por todo América y así será reclamado. Brillante exposición del ideal.

FRIDA KAHLO.

Martes 16 de octubre de 18,30 a 20,00 horas

El poder del sentimiento sobre la obrade arte. Esta artista es el mejor ejemplo de tesón artístico y vital. Además de recoger toda la tradición cultural mexicana en sus cuadros, su pintura se nos presenta como un diariode vida, una turbulenta pero excitante vida marcada por un accidente o el matrimonio con Diego Rivera. La pintura, más que nunca, se convertirá en el modo de escape con la creación de visiones muy particulares de la realidad.

 

MURALISMO: SIQUEIROS Y CLEMENTE OROZCO.

Miércoles 17 de octubre  de 18,30 a 20,00 horas

Éstos junto a Diego Rivera fueron los fundadores de un nuevo estilo, de una nueva forma de expresión: el mural, manipulándolo de forma excepcional para hacernos sentir la violencia, la sensualidad o la gravedad de lo vivido mediante una expresión directa, muchas veces, o mediante símbolos de su propia historia.

 

aularte, aula contemporánea de arte y cultura.

C/ Hospital nº 2, local 3. – 28012 Madrid

Teléfonos: 685 111 559/7 y 91 5309138 – Correo electrónico: info@aularte.es –

Fax: +34 915309138

(Español) La casa de Dolores Olmedo en Acapulco

Posted by on Sep 28, 2012 in News | 0 comments

(Español) La casa de Dolores Olmedo en Acapulco

MÉXICO, D.F. (apro).- Acaba de anunciarse que la casa de Acapulco de Dolores Olmedo, mecenas de Diego Rivera, y en la que éste pasó sus dos últimos años para enfrentar un cáncer, fue adquirida en partes iguales por el empresario Carlos Slim, el gobierno del estado de Guerrero y el Conaculta, para hacer el Museo de la Memoria Colectiva, que se inaugurará en 2013.

El monto ascendió a casi 40 millones de pesos.

Hacia 1986 la casa estuvo en proceso de remodelación del estudio de Diego Rivera para abrirlo al público en el centenario del nacimiento del muralista como centro cultural y biblioteca para niños, proyecto que no se concluyó. En ella Rivera decoró 108 m2 de techo con mosaico, y desarrolló en el muro frontal de la propiedad una esculto-pintura de 100 m2 donde representó a los dioses Exekatl, Tláloc, Quetzalcóatl y Coatlicue. Puso además la inscripción Exekatl Kali, por lo cual a la residencia se le conoce como “Casa del Viento”.

En realidad el gran mural del frente, dividido por la reja de entrada, son dos muros: uno, el de la izquierda, mide 12.70 m. de largo, y otro el de la derecha, de 20, más unas inscripciones en 2.35 m., que dicen: Exekatl Kali (Casa del Dios del Viento), Tlalokan; en azul, vertical y paralelamente, Dolores Olmedo, Diego Rivera y los números romanos LVI.

A la izquierda, una gran serpiente, Quetzalcóatl, cuya cola de plumas asciende como un remate florido, al lado de El sapo-Rivera que ofrece su corazón encendido a la dueña de la casa”, explica Lola Olmedo. Está también un coyote, Xolotl, “el hermano gemelo de Quetzalcóatl”.

A la derecha el enorme Tláloc, acompañado de la Coatlicue.

Ahí visitaron a Rivera en 1956 personajes como el general Lázaro Cárdenas, el criminalista Alfonso Quiroz Cuarón, el actor estadunidense Yul Bryner y el abogado del expresidente estadunidense Dwight D. Einsenhower, Barney Hodes.

En la casona, enclavada en la cima del cerro de La Pinzona, “en el viejo Acapulco de los mexicanos”, según relató a Proceso la señora Olmedo en marzo de 1986 –cuando se supo que remodelaba el lugar–, Diego Rivera pintó 25 puestas de sol en 1956, que expuso en su última muestra, Colores en el mar, el cielo y la tierra.

Entrevistada por el semanario Proceso sobre esas puestas (desde la habitación del artista en La Pinzona se domina, a la izquierda, la espléndida bahía de Acapulco, de frente el mar abierto y a la derecha Pie de la Cuesta y La Quebrada), la crítica de arte Raquel Tibol expuso:

“Diego tenía una paleta de Gaughin, una paleta fauvista. El fauvismo, al romper con el impresionismo, deja la paleta naturalista (aunque Gaughin está en la naturaleza, está en Tahití), es decir, la irrita, la violenta, en lo que era el color rabioso. Diego no hace una copia de la naturaleza, sino que al pintar extremos contrastados, sin separarse de la naturaleza, agrega la imaginación.”

De esas pinturas Dolores (Lola) Olmedo adquirió 20, expuestas en el Museo Dolores Olmedo de Tepepan, Distrito Federal, donde vivió. Al enseñar la habitación tras el cristal donde Rivera realizó esas obras de óleo-témporas sobre masonite (en sus apenas 40.3 x 28.2 cm. de cada cuadro está todo el cielo y todo el mar vespertinos), dijo conmovida:

“Siento mucha tristeza al recordar al maestro. Aquí pasó una época feliz con algunos de sus amigos y aquí preparó, luego de su viaje a la Unión Soviética, su última exposición. Después de que murió, en 1957, no me volví a parar por aquí en doce años, no podía soportarlo.”

En esta casa pintó además a la señora de Beteta, a los hijos de la misma Olmedo (como en el célebre La hamaca, donde están su hija Irene y una amiga), los cuadros de los niños soviéticos, de Praga, de Bratislava, de Cracovia…

Ella compró la Quinta Brisa de Acapulco (enfrente de las playas de Caleta y Caletilla) en 1948 y recordó en aquella entrevista que Rivera fue a residir a La Pinzona de una manera peculiar: “No lo invité, él se autoinvitó”. Llegó acompañado de su esposa Emma Huurtado, su hija Ruth, su enfermera Judy Ferrato y su secretaria Teresa Proenza. Olmedo lo visitaba cada semana, pero luego partió un año a Europa a ver a su hijo Alfredo Phillips, hoy al frente del Fideicomiso Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo.

“Diego –refirió– viajó en mayo de ese año a México, para ver al doctor Montaño, quien lo trataba del cáncer que le había detectado el doctor Ignacio Millán. Ya por esta época había cobalto en México. El pintor se dedicó a preparar la que sería su exposición postrera, que montó hacia octubre en la galería que llevaba su nombre (Ignacio Mariscal y Mariano Arista) en la Ciudad de México, propiedad de Emma Hurtado.

“Diego escribió desde Europa la carta citada, y anunció misteriosamente el obsequio del decorado en el estudio así: ‘El le va a escribir a usted algo que va a quedar grabado por los siglos’.”

La carta a Lola Olmedo está representada en el techo del estudio con la paloma y la hoz y el martillo, que es “la tierra de la paz” (URSS); está un avión, peces, el sapo (símbolo del mismo Diego) y el corazón, que es Olmedo, con cuatro estrellas, sus hijos.

El mosaico de piedras de colores mide 6.48 por 10.20 m. Es el remate del estudio, y por estar cubierto no ha sufrido deterioro alguno a pesar de que el edificio rectangular no tiene muros. Rivera lo diseñó para cubrirse con cristales, pero la altura va más allá de los cuatro metros.

“No hay cristales de ese tamaño –expresó Lola Olmedo–, lo que pasa es que el maestro quería que todo lo que pensaba se debería de hacer. Voy a poner en cada uno de los cuatro lados un muro de unos 2 metros, y en las partes altas grandes cristales. Cuando esté terminado –y se está haciendo fielmente, como él lo diseñó– a ver si pongo algunas reproducciones de sus obras y hacemos algo, tal vez una biblioteca infantil.”

El estudio, asentado en un alto segundo piso, tiene una escalera circular externa y una interna que conduce a habitaciones de abajo, donde hay dos terrazas: las cornisas de ellas son también murales de piedras de colores: uno, de 10.52 por 1m., con una serpiente, y otro, de 7 por 3.30 donde representó el símbolo náhuatl del movimiento junto a una mano. Además, el techo del entrante al baño, en el estudio, también está decorado y mide 1.84 por 5.36 m.

Desde la calle empinada, por encima del gran mural esculto-pictórico, se aprecia el mosaicado de los techos.

En noviembre de 1958, Carlos Pellicer evocó aquí a Diego Rivera, a un año de su muerte, en un poema:

En esta Casa del Viento
los ojos son más grandes que los oídos,
que bajan por la escalera que conduce al mar,
y sin decir palabra nos están diciendo
que aquí vivió una vez la mano
que entre el agua y la tierra y el aire
y el fuego,
se puso a pintar

Proceso.com

An Hour with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at Casa Azul

Posted by on Sep 24, 2012 in Frida Kahlo, News | 0 comments

An Hour with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera at Casa Azul

The line snaked around the corner of Casa Azul, home of Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, in Colonia del Carmen Coyoacan in Mexico City.  Now a museum, the home is a mecca and tribute to the talent, strength and perseverance of a woman who endured pain and suffering in privacy while consorting with the intellectual elite of the world.  Her likeness and style is replicated throughout Mexico.  As a social, cultural and political icon, she could be considered akin to a contemporary Virgin of Guadalupe in many circles, revered, honored, even worshipped.  She stands as a role model for women’s fortitude in the face of insurmountable odds against survival.

It was late Sunday morning when I arrived at Casa Azul and thank goodness, because the traffic was light and it only took the taxi twenty-five minutes to get there from my little hotel in Colonia Roma.  (Sunday is a good day to travel the streets of Mexico City quickly.)  Thankfully, I could squeeze in an hour before leaving at 3:15 p.m. on the ETN bus to Irapuato, Guanajuato.  Not enough time, but enough for a taste of Frida Kahlo‘s life as a painter and her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera.

It’s common knowledge among Frida fans that she was in a terrible accident at the age of 18, when a streetcar ran into the bus she was riding in, and a metal rod penetrated her body.  She began to paint as an antedote during her recuperation and then later taught art, met Diego Rivera and married him in 1929.

Kahlo’s self-portraits convey the despair, anguish and uncertainty of her existence.  Her wheelchair sits in front of the easel.  On it rests a luscious painting of fruit (note the Mexican flag), a juxtaposition to other paintings that depict her naked, exposed, splayed on a bed, bleeding from life’s emotional and physical wounds. There is a universality in the message that each of us can identify with, which is what makes her paintings so powerful.

Naturally, it is easy to romanticize these two figures of Mexican art and politics.  And, Casa Azul allows us a glimpse into their romantic relationship — note the kitchen with the little ollas spelling out Frida and Diego’s name along with the two palomas (doves) connected to each other.

And, the museum tells the truth about the Rivera-Kahlo relationship by exhibiting the two clocks that Frida painted that tell the story of how time stopped when she discovered his affair with her sister, their subsequent divorce and then their remarriage a year later when time began again for her.

Above is an unfinished self-portrait done while she was visiting Detroit, Michigan.  Below are some drawings by Rivera that were recently discovered.

Frida Kahlo called Diego Rivera “Frog.”  A reflecting pool in the garden has a mosaic tile floor with a frog swimming, there are frog motifs throughout the house and garden, and in Frida’s happy bedroom (she also had a sad bedroom with a suspended mirror where she painted during confinement in her body cast) on a side table is the frog urn that contains her ashes after cremation.

Of course, an hour is not enough to savor the experience of being in this astounding home, and I will return again for much longer during my next visit to Mexico City — which, by the way, I found to be safe a

Oaxaca culture

Frida Kahlo Y Diego Rivera

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 in News, Past Exhibitions | 0 comments

Frida Kahlo Y Diego Rivera
-Arken Museum-
7 September 2013 – 12 January 2014

Passionate love, marriage, childlessness, affairs, divorce – and yet another reconciling marriage. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s passionate relationship was turbulent. Many exhibitions have emphasized private and personal matters when presenting works by the two Mexican artists. In the exhibition FRIDA KAHLO & DIEGO RIVERA, ARKEN chooses an alternative focus by examining how each artist regarded and represented themselves as well as the Mexican identity.   

Frida Kahlo depicted everyday life and brought Mexican culture into her art. She became a pioneer of modern art by representing herself from the position of a female artist at the very periphery of the Western art scene. She questioned the issue of gender in both everyday life and art. She introduced new artistic themes which hardly had had any visibility in the history of art previously.

With simple forms and condensed motifs, Diego Rivera created a popular idiom accessible to everyone. In his own words he saw a potential masterpiece everywhere – in the local customs and in the everyday life of ordinary people. His paintings ascribe dignity to everyday life and can be seen as monuments of existential human conditions. In his art, Rivera included motifs and experiences that were unfamiliar to high culture.   

Kahlo and Rivera each developed their distinct modern style rooted in the Mexican cultural heritage. In the exhibition you can experience the diversity in their artistic strategies; Frida Kahlo’s personal, autobiographic point of departure opposed to Diego Rivera’s existential yet revolutionary utterances. Common to Kahlo and Rivera was the wish to create new, closer connections between art and life.

ARKEN MUSEUM DK-2635 Ishøj Tel: (+45) 43 54 02 22 Skovvej 100

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in Exhibitions, Upcoming Exhibitions | 0 comments

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting

The High Museum of Art in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario is organizing a major exhibition of work by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, the two central figures of Mexican modernism. “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting” will feature some of the best examples of Kahlo and Rivera’s art, with more than 75 works primarily drawn from the collection of Mexico’s Dolores Olmedo as well as the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art. The High Museum of Art will be the only U.S. venue for this exhibition, which opens in Atlanta on February 16, 2013 and remains on view through May 12, 2013. “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting”will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue.

Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting” marks the first time important work by two influential Mexican artists will be shown in the Southeast.” said Michael E. Shapiro, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., Director of the High Museum of Art. “By working with Art Gallery of Ontario, the High Museum of Art continues its commitment to collaborative partnerships that bring great works of art from around the world to Atlanta.” “I am delighted join forces on this project with the High, a museum for which I have the utmost respect,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario. “Collaborations like these strengthen the international community of art institutions and allow us all to continue bringing the world’s most renowned art to our visitors and members.” Few artists have captured the public’s imagination with the force of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and her husband, the Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera (1886–1957). “Frida & Diego” positions their work within the political and artistic contexts of their time. The myths that surrounded them during their lifetime arose not only from their significant body of work, but also from their active participation in the historical happenings around them. Their art speaks of a fierce loyalty to and pride in Mexico, the ideals of the 1910 Mexican Revolution and their commitment to the conditions of the common man. Key paintings by Frida Kahlo featured in the exhibition include:

The Museo Dolores Olmedo houses the world’s largest collection of works by Kahlo. The museum’s collection also features numerous works by Rivera that helped establish the Mexican school of painting, as well as his portraits, both of which are represented in “Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting.” The exhibition also features works from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art, which comprises the largest private holding of 20th-century Mexican art, spanning works from the 1910s to the 1990s. Friends of Rivera and Kahlo, the Gelmans amassed a significant number of their works, including Kahlo’s inventive self-portraits and Rivera’s portrait of Natasha Gelman from 1943.

Exhibition Organization and SupportFrida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting”is co-organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Museo Dolores Olmedo, Mexico City, in association with The Vergel Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection of Mexican Art and Galería Arvil. Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Canada) With a permanent collection of more than 80,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. In 2008, complete with a stunning new design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the AGO opened its doors to the public amid international acclaim. Architectural highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block along the Gallery’s façade, and the feature staircase, which spirals up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above it. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic African art gallery, from the cutting-edge works in the contemporary tower to Peter Paul Rubens’s masterpiece “The Massacre of The Innocents”—a highlight of the celebrated Thomson Collection—there is truly something for everyone at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Detroit Votes to Raise Taxes to Save Cash-Strapped Museum

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Detroit Votes to Raise Taxes to Save Cash-Strapped Museum

 

Voters in three Michigan counties have defied conventional assumptions about politics and taxes, approving a new property tax — called a millage — that will raise an estimated $23 million dollars for the cash-starved Detroit Institute of Arts.

One of the few museums in the United States to rely mostly on public funding, the DIA has been especially hard-hit by the downturn that has stricken the Motor City for the better part of 20 years. The nationwide recession that began in 2007, just as the building finished years of renovations, forced major cuts in spending.

The DIA laid off 20 percent of its staff in 2009, executive vice president and chief operating officer Annmarie Erickson told ABC News.

“It was awful,” she said, “but we were already building our case. This is a great museum that’s operating as leanly as possible. We had no hope of regaining of city or state funding. We needed the taxpayers to step and help.”

And with the endowment yielding only enough to cover 16 percent of the museum’s operating costs, the DIA decided to take their appeal to voters.

It was an unlikely case, but the institution had history on its side.

More than two decades before Henry Ford’s first Model T came roaring off the assembly line, the museum first opened its doors on the city’s historic Jefferson Avenue. Over time, as automakers like Ford, and eventually Chrysler and General Motors forged an American economic Goliath, the DIA grew too, expanding its collection and building a formidable reputation in the arts community.

By 1927, the museum had outgrown its original home and relocated to a larger space in midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center Historic District, where it flourished, hosting frescos by artists like Diego Rivera and becoming the first public museum in the United States to purchase paintings by Van Gogh and Matisse. Detroit was booming and the DIA rode the wave, using money from its many corporate sponsors and private donors to amass more than 65,000 works spread across hundreds of collections.

But just as the museum rose up on the auto industry’s spokes, it too was cast into near economic catastrophe when boom went bust, and the donations — along with its endowment — began to dry up. During the depths of a nationwide recession that began in late 2007, three of every four Detroiters told the National Poverty Center that they knew a friend or family member forced out of work.

This profound level of disruption, paired with the wider political climate, is what makes the result of the Aug. 7 vote so remarkable. Residents of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb — where it passed by just over 1,300 votes — counties approved the tax, which will be levied for for the next 10 years at an approximate cost, according to the campaign that pushed the measure, of “$15 per year for every $150,000 of a home’s fair market value.”

Ironically, Erickson said, it was the same broad economic dislocation that pushed the institution into existential crisis that will, it seems, ultimately save it.

“Detroit is known for cars and music. But I also think right now is a tremendous moment for young people and the arts,” she said. “Areas of the city have been gentrified by young artists, making new art available to the public and sustaining key arts institutions.”

A rally Aug. 3 in support of the new tax drew more than 700 local artists and supporters to the DIA’s steps.

“As artists, we support the DIA 100 percent,” Free Art Friday Detroit’s Shawn McConnell told thedetroiter.com in the days leading up to the rally and vote. “Without museums to educate and inspire, we would not be the artists we are today. We want to preserve that possibility for future generations.”

Museum officials said they hope the new funding, which will be put toward staffing and day-to-day operations, will give them the space they need to rebuild their bankroll. By the time the millage expires, the New York Times reports, they hope to put away as much as $400 million dollars.

In the meantime, residents of the three counties that voted to raise taxes for the sake of art will be offered free admission to the DIA. On display today, Vermeer’s 1664 masterpiece, “Woman Holding a Balance,” which has been loaned out until Sept. 2 by the  National Gallery of Art in Washington.

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Now available: Diego Rivera images from the Detroit Institute of Arts

Posted by on Aug 18, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Now available: Diego Rivera images from the Detroit Institute of Arts

ARTstor and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) have collaborated to release more than 1,000 images of works by Diego Rivera to the Digital Library. The images were digitized from a rare collection of photographs created in conjunction with the seminal 1986 exhibition “Diego Rivera: A Retrospective,” organized by Linda Downs, Curator of Education, and Ellen Sharp, Curator of Graphic Arts, at the DIA to mark the 100th anniversary of Rivera’s birth. The photographs provide comprehensive documentation of Rivera’s works, including frescos, paintings, and works on paper. Of particular note are images of preparatory cartoons, drawings, and notebooks that have never been published and have since been dispersed and acquired by private collections.

Since its founding in 1885, the Detroit Institute of Arts has assembled a collection of over 60,000 objects, encompassing an encyclopedic overview of world art from pre-history to the present. In addition to distinguished collections of American and European art, the museum also houses works from Africa, Oceania, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2000, the General Motors Center for African American Art was established to broaden the museum’s holdings of African American art.

Diego Rivera Painting Set to Break Auction Record

Posted by on May 22, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Diego Rivera Painting Set to Break Auction Record

NEW YORK – Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s 1939 oil painting “Girl in Blue and White” could be the most expensive piece of Latin American art ever auctioned.

Rivera’s painting could break the auction record, fetching over 7.2 million, at the Sotheby’s Latin American art auction in New York.

If it sells for the high end of its $4 million to $6 million estimate, it could double the artist’s previous record of $3 million.

The painting, “Niña en azul y blanco,” is a portrait of 10-year-old Juanita Rosas and is from a period in which Rivera captured the innocence of children. The muralist chose the work to illustrate a catalog for a 1949 exhibition celebrating his 50 years of painting, organized by the Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts.

“It is very typical of his work, especially of that period,” said Carmen Melian, director of Sotheby’s Latin American Art department. Rivera “painted through the years the children of the help at his home and the neighbor’s, and in particular he painted Juanita several times,” Melian said.

It’s Rivera’s most important painting to be auctioned in decades, according to Sotheby’s, which has promoted it as one of his two biggest paintings outside of Mexico and says it is hitting the market at the right time. Just last year the Museum of Modern Art featured a solo exhibit of Rivera’s work.

“What I love the most is that it was painted in his studio,” Melian said of the painting. “I have been in his studio and the floor there has been dyed green, that’s why it is green in the piece. And the white wall in the background, with its mix of blue and pink, is almost like a Monet or a Renoir; the front is more realistic, the figure of the kid pops out.”

Rivera’s current record is $3,082,500 for the 1928 oil on canvas “Baile en Tehuantepec,” (“Dancing in Tehuantepec”) sold in 1995 at Sotheby’s in New York.

“Niña en azul y blanco” could even break the auction record for Latin American art, held since 2008 by Mexican Rufino Tamayo’s “Troubadour.”

“You never know,” Melian said. “You don’t see a piece like this one very often.”

Reporting by the Associated Press.

The Last Pedestrians: Albert Kahn, Edsel Ford, Diego Rivera

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in News | 0 comments

The Last Pedestrians: Albert Kahn, Edsel Ford, Diego Rivera

The Last Pedestrians: Albert Kahn, Edsel Ford, Diego Rivera – By Jerry Herron

The story of the automobile — like the story of the city of Detroit — is a tale of unwitting eternal returns. At every turn the inventors of modern life — of its machines, its aspirations — seemed unable or unwilling to grasp the meaning of what they were in the process of creating and unleashing, and what they were thus undoing and destroying.

Among these creators of modern life was the architect Albert Kahn, who emigrated from Germany in 1880, at age 11, with his mother and five siblings. His father, a rabbi, had already arrived in Detroit. Young Albert showed artistic talent, and with the help of his teacher, the sculptor Julius Melchers, secured a position as office boy in the firm of Mason & Rice, architects to Detroit’s elite carriage trade. Albert prospered there (despite his color blindness, which he concealed by memorizing the precise hue of every object in the office) and soon was ready to strike out independently. In 1895 Kahn founded his own practice and quickly became the most important architect in Detroit — as it happens, this was just as the horse-drawn carriage would give way to the motorcar, and as the horseless carriages produced in the city’s great factories would start inexorably to transform America’s cities and landscapes. 

Between 1910 and 1930 — when most of downtown Detroit was created — Kahn personally executed one-quarter of all the architectural commissions in the city. By the time of his death, in 1942, he had produced over 1,900 buildings, and his designs had served to monumentalize the burgeoning civic culture: the YWCA, the YMCA, the Maccabees Building, the National Theater, the First National Bank Building, the neoclassical General Motors World Headquarters and, across Grand Boulevard, his crowning achievement, the 28-story art deco headquarters he executed in 1928 for the Fisher Brothers, auto body suppliers for GM. But the project that got built was dwarfed by the project that might have been: Kahn’s original design for the Fishers incorporated two 26-story towers, each anchoring one corner of a city block, with an art deco skyscraper rising between them, through successive setbacks, to a copper mansard roof, 70 stories above the street. If the crash of 1929 had not convinced the Fishers to scale down their histrionic self-advertisement, Kahn’s ornate masterwork would have been 30 floors higher than the contemporaneous slab-sided Penobscot Building (1928), which would remain Detroit’s tallest structure for half a century, until Henry Ford II hired John Portman to design his ill-fated Renaissance Center in the early ’70s…..

Not that this matters much anymore. In the last half of the 20th century, Americans quit needing the kind of city expressed in Albert Kahn’s designs: grand in scale, decoratively overwrought, unaccommodating to the velocity of the automobile, to the new momentum of the culture. Both the YWCA and YMCA were demolished in the late ’90s; trees of heaven now grow through the collapsed roof of the National Theater; and in 2001 General Motors abandoned the outmoded world headquarters on West Grand Boulevard that it had occupied since 1923 (and which was then the second largest office building in the U.S.) and moved its vastly diminished corporate ranks to the RenCen.

And that might have been the end of the story of Albert Kahn, if he hadn’t been betrayed by the automobile into a relevance he neither sought nor understood. “Modernists present us with box-like forms,” he complained in 1931, “with windows unconventionally placed at corners or in long horizontal slots, with structures devoid of cornices, flat roofs surmounted by pipe railings, and ask us to accept these as the last word in Architectural design.” Kahn accused Erich Mendelsohn and Walter Gropius of creating “shaven architecture” and dismissed Le Corbusier as perpetrating “functionalism to the ‘nth’ degree.” [1] Yet — paradoxically — it was from Albert Kahn, and architects like him, that the modernists had learned their lessons. Gropius, for example, in an extremely influential article of 1913, hailed the power of American industrial architecture:…..

                  ….These sleek, modern vehicles would also form the basis of an improbable friendship between the billionaire’s son and the Mexican painter — and ardent communist — Diego Rivera. In 1932, the Detroit Institute of Arts invited Rivera to the capital of industrial America, commissioning two murals for the museum’s interior courtyard, works expressive of the history and spirit of the city, then suffering through the worst of the Great Depression. Rivera the communist was politically exotic, and in those years much sought after; still in his forties, he had just been the subject of a one-man retrospective at MoMA. When he reached Detroit, accompanied by his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo, two things became immediately clear. First, he would require not just a portion of the proffered courtyard for his commission, but all four walls of the space, floor to ceiling; and, second, he would concentrate on a single subject: “Detroit Industry,” specifically Henry Ford’s River Rouge Complex, wherein the inventor had at last achieved his dream of total ownership and control, with raw materials — timber and iron and coal — coming in one end, and finished automobiles driving out the other.

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, 1932–33, murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Top: North Wall. Middle: Wide-angle view of Rivera Court. [Photo by Ben Seese] Bottom: South Wall. For a closer look, see this 360° view by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Rivera kept art studio not factory floor hours; he didn’t start to work until midnight. Assistants would transfer his drawings onto the wet plaster walls with huge stencils, which he’d then outline in dark paint. When dawn began to break through the skylight, Rivera would apply color. Some photos of the unfolding project remain. There’s an image of Frida Kahlo, looking down from a balcony on the second floor, her long hair coiled in a nimbus-like braid, the central part clean as a scar. She’s at eye level with the great shapes that preside over Diego’s murals: four gigantic figures representing the peoples of America — Native, African-American, Asian, Caucasian — reclining in a mythic desert. Enormous hands thrust upward, bearing the mineral wealth that made possible the assembly-line production of automobiles represented in the paintings below.

When the architect Paul Cret, who had designed the Institute of Arts, caught wind of the project, he was incensed. Like Albert Kahn, Cret had little use for the industrial future; his building, he insisted, was a Beaux-Arts masterpiece, as it would have appeared before Rivera’s incursion:

Sunlight softly filtered through a rectangular cloth awning draped between each pair of carved and painted wooden beams in the Garden Court. … The four white walls reflected the ambient light. Terra-cotta roundels with Etruscan motifs were mounted along the upper registers, and marble masques in antique style flanked each corner of the court. A huge stepped fountain, with fish in its pools and tropical vegetation in its planters, dominated the center of the court. … The court served as resting place from museum fatigue, a grand architectural space with the soft play of light, fresh smell of plants, and soothing sounds of water. [4]

And into this dappled and serene space, Rivera proposed to inject the racket of the assembly line, the stink of industry, the vividly rendered bodies of working men. Cret was outraged. He wrote to Albert Kahn, imploring his fellow architect to intervene — to halt this project so “out of harmony” with the “international Beaux-Arts style” of his design. [5] But the Depression had bankrupted the Institute of Arts; Edsel Ford was paying the bills, and the murals proceeded to cover the courtyard walls as planned.

Edsel visited Diego often, at least once a week, as the huge figures took shape in the frescoes. What would they have said to each other, underneath the lights, Frida looking down from the balcony at the scion of industry and her communist husband? Diego was 46 years old, tall, with a great paunch and heavy-featured face. Edsel was seven years younger, polite, fastidious, well liked, and secretly pitied for the plain fact that he would never be allowed to grow up like other men because Henry Ford was his father. [6]

Diego painted Edsel into the Detroit Industry murals; but back in Edsel’s studio, the painter found the basis for a still more convincing likeness in an oil portrait that shows the younger Ford preparing drawings for a new Lincoln coupé. Edsel’s head is turned slightly to the right; he is wearing a well-tailored double-breasted suit with wide lapels; his necktie is a vivid blue. In the background are three movable blackboards that depict his designs for the streamlined Lincoln; in the foreground is his drafting table with his drawing instruments neatly arranged. His face shows no trace of the caught-in-the-headlights apprehensiveness that characterizes photographs of him from the period.

The most remarkable thing in the portrait, however, are the hands. These are not Edsel’s hands (that much the period photographs make clear). These are over-sized Palooka mitts. They are the same hands that dominate the upper panels of the Detroit Industry murals: large, fleshy, almost grotesque. In fact they are Rivera’s own hands, bestowed upon Edsel as a token of mutual self-recognition that registers also in the portrait’s eyes, which return a glance that must have passed more than once between these two men. “He did not know that it was already behind him,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of Jay Gatsby and his dream of freedom and happiness, “somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” But I like to think that Edsel and Diego did know that their own contradictory dreams were already behind them; the futures they had imagined were already receding, fitting subjects of nostalgia. Diego Rivera dreamed of the workers’ revolution, all the while painting in the fresco tradition of Renaissance nobility, working on commissions for modern-day princes of industry. Edsel Ford drew his futuristic automobiles, all the while residing in the baronial Cotswold-style mansion in Grosse Point designed for him by Albert Kahn. History, Rivera might have pointed out, recalling Marx, is like the automobile: real and inevitable, yet likely to melt into air, the vehicle of a freedom from which there would be no escape.

In March 1933 Rivera finished his Detroit murals and moved on to new work and politics and love affairs; it was in May of that year that the Rockefellers ejected him from his ill-fated project at the new Rockefeller Center in New York, ordering workmen to chisel from the walls a partially finished fresco, which included a portrait of Lenin. In Detroit Rivera’s newly finished murals had come immediately under attack, both for their notorious politics and for their depiction of naked flesh. On March 23, 1933, just after the public unveiling, the Detroit Free Press editorialized: “It is easy to understand the concern and disgust of members of Christian bodies over the grotesquerie and even blasphemy in the Diego Rivera murals. … Certainly they represent decadent art. Undoubtedly they contain communist propaganda.” [7]

The city council entertained a resolution to whitewash the Detroit Industry panels. Meanwhile unprecedented crowds — as many as 10,000 people each day — flocked to the Institute of Arts, the better to enlighten themselves about the growing scandal and the possibility of impending class war fomented by Rivera’s surreptitious propaganda. But Rivera in Detroit fared better than Rivera at Rockefeller Center, largely due to Edsel’s steadfast support. Eventually the controversy would be eclipsed, first by events in Europe and then by the unexpected prosperity that the Second World War brought to the “arsenal of democracy,” as Detroit styled itself in those years, with justifiable pride. By the time peace arrived, Edsel was dead, and the scandal of the murals long forgotten. Rivera’s portrait of Edsel Ford was donated by his wife to the Institute of Arts; that’s where I first saw it, in a private dining room, at lunch, looking up from my plate of noodles…..

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