What We Saw at the Guggenheim Museum

NYC, Sept 30, 2017 — Entry to the Guggenheim was free because much of the ramp and numerous galleries were closed for the installation of the next major exhibition: Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World.

Installation of the next exhibition has begun. Fascinating to see some of the process of mounting a major show. This one will feature 150 works of experimental art by 70+ contemporary Chinese artists and collectives.

The exhibitions that we were able to see were the now-closed Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897, and the Guggenheim Collection: Brancusi.

Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897

Jean Delville (1867–1953) Portrait of the Grand Master of the Rosicrucians in Choir Dress, Joséphin Péladan (detail), 1895 oil on canvas. Musée des Beaux Arts, Nîmes, France

The Salon de la Rose+Croix was a short-lived annual exhibition in Paris,held in the years 1892 through 1897. It was established by Joséphin Péladan — an eccentric French author and critic — to highlight his Rosicrucian fraternal religious sect.

Symbolist artists from across Europe and the US participated — rejecting secular sensibilities, scientific theories, and the prevailing Realist aesthetic. They highlighted the spiritual aspects of art, and many sought “to provoke visionary states of mind in their viewers.”

According to Senior Curator Vivian Greene, “participating artists varied in ideology and, to some extent, in style, but primarily employed a version of Symbolism characterized by sinuous lines, elongated bodies, and flattened forms, [and] subject matter was allegorical, literary, mythical, or religious.”

The Disappointed Souls (Les âmes déçues), 1892, by Ferdinand Hodler (1853, Bern — 1918, Geneva). Oil on canvas. Kunstmuseum Bern, Staat Bern. First Salon de la Rose+Croix, 1892

Guggenheim Collection: Brancusi

The small Brancusi exhibition presents six key pieces of the sculptor’s work from the Guggenheim collection. No closing date has been announced.

Flying Turtle (Tortue Volante) 1940–45; Marble on limestone base. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 56.1451

Constantin Brancusi (b. 1876, Romania–d. 1957, Paris) lived and worked in Paris during the early decades of the 20th century, debating the tenets of modernism with the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Rousseau. He pioneered a unique stylistic approach as he strove to simplify and abbreviate his forms, while retaining the integrity of his materials.

Brancusi’s wood pieces didn’t attract me, but the three marble sculptures did — especially his “Flying Turtle,” with its sharp-edged yet seemingly soft lines, and its extraordinary refined, smooth finish.

All three pieces are unsurpassed in their expressive simplicity of form. And all three demonstrate Brancusi’s frequent pairing of complementary materials, choosing contrasting textures, materials and masses for the sculpted figure and the supporting base.

Wayne F. Miller (1918–2013, Gelatin silver print, 1946; Guggenheim Museum, New York; James Johnson Sweeney Records Flying Turtle in Constantin Brancusi’s studio; note the unfinished limestone base
Muse (La Muse) 1912, marble; Oak base 1920. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 58.1516
Installation view: Guggenheim Collection: Brancusi, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Ongoing. Photo: David Heald (Image from the Guggenheim website)

I am an art geek, writing about art, exhibitions and museums. Discover more than 1600 art museums, artist studios, historic houses and gardens across the US.

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