It’s rare for me to have friends who are experts, so it’s exciting to relate the following from my friend Mike, who is the Exhibition Designer/Preparator for the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia S.C.
When I heard that his museum had the big Turner to Cezanne exhibit right before Syracuse, I sent him the following e-mail betraying my culturally stunted sensibilities: “Turner to Cezanne–it’s coming here after you guys had it. What should a layperson like myself look for at the exhibit–or is it just corporate hype?” In reality, I was hoping he’d say it was just a PR thing and I could safely skip it. Wrong!
It’s a pretty sensational show, especially if you dig impressionism and post-impressionism. There were a couple of Welsh sisters (name of Davies) in the 19th century who inherited a million dollars, no strings, at the age of 20. They decided to spend most of it on modern art and did a fine job of selecting paintings. Nowadays, you can’t walk into a museum shop and swing a dead cat without knocking over the display of Monet calendars and coffee mugs – a fact that can dilute the way we receive Monet’s paintings. But Monet and the rest of those guys were revolutionaries of their time. The exhibition is chock full of major works by major painters. These are paintings that had a important influence on the direction of modern art. Cezanne’s The Francois Zola Dam is worth the price of admission, alone. Awesome. I looked at that piece pretty much every day for the run of the show and it never got old.
A word of warning: all works are under glass. That’s just the way they do things in Wales. But it’s low glare glass so it’s a very minor irritation. One of the most important ideas at work throughout modernism is that a painting cannot and should not be something else – like a nude or a tree or a bowl of fruit. It’s essentially a flat surface with an arrangement of marks on it. It’s what Rene Magritte was thinking of when he painted a realistic picture of a tobacco pipe and wrote beneath it ”This is not a pipe” Of course, serious painters throughout history have known this but it came to the fore in modernism and you can see this idea (among other things) taking shape in this show.
So that’s my fast and dirty ramble on “T2C” as it came to be known in hundreds of in-house e-mails. Exhibitions titles, like college courses, all get abbreviated.