A Timeless Connection To The Arts
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
I’ve always been completely obsessed with pop culture—but I’m also fortunate to have my love of art grounded in some of the finer things, thanks to some lucky circumstances. Living just a 20-minute car ride outside of Manhattan meant lots of trips to the city for museums, Broadway shows, and orchestral performances, and it would be foolish of me to overlook these experiences as anything less than formative in my everyday life.
I also look to my time in high school in New York City as essential to molding my artsy-leaning personality. Lucky enough to attend a school just two blocks away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art—free to students with IDs—meant lots of afterschool trips to visit my favorite haunts in the cavernous palace of all things art.
I’d sneak away to the Frank Lloyd Wright Room with friends that I hadn’t yet shared that secret with. Tucked away in a nondescript corner of the museum, Wright’s oak-paneled masterpiece was “exactly what I want my house to look like,” I’d tell people with awfully presumptive stars in my eyes, but who could blame me?
Likewise, the quiet Chinese garden with a skylight and a koi pond proved popular among my friends as I navigated my way through ancient manuscripts and clay pots from the Ming Dynasty in search of my secret retreat. Let the tourists have the Temple of Dendur. I’ll take the stone benches and spacious, airy expanses of my find any day.
In recent years, the Met has started taking significantly more risks in its exhibitions, surely a result of museumgoers’ penchant for paying less than the “suggested donation.” A year ago, the museum’s fashion institute drew record-breaking crowds and reviews for its Alexander McQueen retrospective, a visually stunning and visionary work that traced the designer’s career from his days at art school until his untimely death in 2010. Each room was like a theatrical display of the utmost quality, one devoted entirely to his headpieces and jewelry, another to the period of his work when he drew inspiration from the blood-soaked battles of the Scottish Highlands. Turn the next corner to find an odd assortment of visitors gazing upon a holographic Kate Moss twisting and turning in a slow-motion fashion show of the future—except it happened several years ago.
Now the Met has its Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years exhibition on display, rife with artists whose inclusion come as a surprise to staunchly old-money supporters of the institution. Many of the reviews have criticized the show for being all flash with no substance—more of a gimmick than a well-thought out showstopper.
Which brings me to the very institution that has replaced the Met for me during my four years here in Boston. The MFA has evolved in front of my very eyes, transforming itself into a masterful representative of both old and new arts. Last year’s Chihuly exhibit was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in both Boston and New York. Curated intelligently, with a clear emphasis on both introduction and immersion, the show lingers on with the green icicle tour that still adorns the building’s otherwise sparse courtyard.
Two falls ago, I went to a screening of James Franco’s Howl at the MFA, attended by its directors, which struck me as a major get for Boston. Similarly, this spring will see Lena Dunham, of Girls fame, sit down for a sold-out conversation with her mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, demonstrating the institution’s clear and receptive grasp on the cultural moment at hand.
This weekend sees the premiere of the Mario Testino exhibit In Your Face, which our spread is based upon this week. The fashion photographer has been truly instrumental in shaping the world of pop culture, leading a movement by magazines to replace their cover models with celebrities, a phenomenon we now treat as nothing more than everyday. Testino said to The Boston Globe that he picked Boston for his first major U.S. showcase because he “was surprised that a city that seems to me quite conservative would be interested in my work.”
The MFA, and Boston as a whole, is hot on the Met’s heels, and the Testino exhibit proves it. Modernism has finally arrived in Boston—whether or not it puts down roots for good is up to its Boston audiences.