Posts Tagged 'Dallas Museum of Art'



Dear Director

Nowadays we dash off a quick email, send a text, and dread writing a thank you note, but handwritten letters were once the common means of correspondence—and not that long ago . . . though being an archivist my idea of concepts like “long ago,” “old,” and “recently” may be a little skewed.

Here are three letters from artists with works in the collection writing to former Dallas Museum of Fine Art and Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts directors. They run the gamut from social commentary to the mundane. I think all of the letters are interesting, though, in how they are informal and hint at the personalities of the people behind the names on museum labels.

The first letter was written by artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi to DMFA director Richard Foster Howard on July 9, 1941.

Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs
Dear Mr. Howard,
I should have written you long ago to thank you for your letter of identification ___ & haven’t had a chance to do so because I have been on move since I left N.Y. the beginning of June.
I am thoroughly enjoying the south-west, working hard, hoping to accomplish something before the summer is over. Here is dramatic scenery and a beautiful climate. I don’t know why more American artists don’t come here to work.
I want to thank you again for your generous letter – it made me feel good – – grateful – Best wishes for the summer.
Sincerely yours, Yasuo Kuniyoshi
July 9

The letter Kuniyoshi refers to is one he asked Mr. Howard to write identifying him as an American painter long in residence in the United States in case he should be questioned by police while sketching outdoors on his south-west tour. He had heard that other artists had been questioned as a result of the “war situation.”

The second letter was written by Thomas Hart Benton to DMFA director Jerry Bywaters on November 1, 1954.

Nov. 1 -54
Dear Jerry,
You may be wondering why I haven’t sent your picture back and, anticipating a possible query, I want to tell you why.
I came back here from Martha’s Vineyard with a commission on my hands which took me to Kentucky for material (three weeks) and which, with a deadline attached, has kept me busy since my return and which will continue to keep me busy for another three weeks or so.
Picture cleaning is tricky business – so give me time. I’ll do your picture up right and you’ll get it back soon enough.
Y— Tom

The picture Benton refers to is unknown.

Finally, here is a letter from Gerald Murphy to DMCA director Douglas MacAgy written on August 5, 1960.

5 : VIII : 60
Dear Donald MacAgy: –
It was good to hear from you. I feel sure that your European trip was successful.
I have heard nothing but the highest praise on all sides regarding the exhibition and the warmest commendation for you in particular for having devised it.
Hank Brennan, who is here, deplores so much that Life was caught napping concerning your exhibition!
Please do let me know when you are to be in NYC this Fall so that the deferred junket of this last Spring to Snedens may be recaptured.
Best wishes for continued success,
Sincerely, Gerald Murphy
PS. Thank you so much for having the clipping sent to me. How much more intelligent ‘art criticism’ is than in the past. I was amazed! GM

Murphy is referring to the DMCA exhibition American Genius in Review: I, May 11–June 19, 1960.

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Making a List and Checking It Twice—A Day in the Life of a Registrar

The DMA recently installed Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), one of the artist’s immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms. As its name suggests, the room features pumpkin lanterns that are reflected in mirrored panels, creating the illusion that they continue into infinity. The effect is both intimate (a maximum of two guests may enter at a time) and mesmerizing.

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London, © Yayoi Kusama

A lot of planning takes place behind the scenes before works of art go on view to the public. That is where registrars (like me) come into play! Registrars (also sometimes called Collections Managers) are responsible for both the logistics and physical care of art as well as collection-related documentation.

For most exhibitions or rotations of works of art in the galleries, we’re working with multiple pieces that come together as a group; however, with installation art like Kusama’s, we need to keep track of all the details and components that make up the piece as a whole. For this project, it meant coordinating the safe transportation of the many room components and the 62 pumpkins that go into the space once constructed.

First, we double-checked that everything traveled according to the packing list and carefully examined every single pumpkin to ensure they were ready for installation. These condition reports are like an artwork’s health chart. It’s an important ongoing part of our job because a condition report records the object information (also known as tombstone data), a general description or photo of the artwork (or pumpkin in this case!), and, most importantly, a detailed summary of the overall appearance and condition at a specific point in time.

In the months leading up to install, registrars collaborate with team members in other departments to finalize the gallery layout, installation schedules, wall text (or didactics), and any special opening events. Once the installation begins, the registrar serves as air-traffic control to help make sure the team stays, to the best of our ability, on track according to the installation schedule.

Registrars also take step-by-step notes and pictures to document the process, especially for an installation like Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which requires very specific construction. Installations can be a little tiring but the end result is so rewarding! You get to see a project come together literally from the ground up and then share it with the community.

The pumpkin-themed mirror room will be on display from October 1, 2017, through February 25, 2018, with DMA Members getting a sneak peek up until the opening (DMA Member tickets are available here). Visit our website for details and to purchase tickets: DMA.org/Kusama.

 

Alicia Chavez is the Collections Assistant at the DMA.

You’re Invited

On September 21, the DMA will host a special Decorative Arts Symposium, and you’re invited! The morning of the symposium will begin with coffee, breakfast bites, and stimulating conversation until attendees sojourn into Horchow Auditorium for a delightful round of renowned speakers.

The Decorative Arts Symposium features garden designer, author, television host, and conservationist P. Allen SmithJohn Hays, Deputy Chairman of Christie’s America and specialist in American Furniture and Decorative Arts; and Ann Pailthorp, Farrow & Ball’s leader of the North American Colour Consultancy Program for British craftsmen in paint and paper.
uncrat
At the culmination of all the speaker’s presentations, guests are invited to attend an intimate book signing. Publications by the speakers will be available onsite the day of the symposium in case you don’t own them yet!

It’s not too late to secure you tickets for this enchanting morning – after all, how often do you get to listen to speakers of this caliber in one room together? http://bit.ly/DMADecArtsSymposium 

Falling for Dallas

Fall is one of our favorite times of year at the Museum: student tours return to the galleries after summer hiatus, special exhibitions begin to open, and–most exciting of all–a new class of McDermott Interns joins our ranks!

This year’s class is comprised of nine talented women: three native North Texans, three north-easterners, two Southern Californians, and one mid-westerner. We basically have the US represented from sea to shining sea! Some are more familiar with the Metroplex than others, but all are very eager to experience what Dallas and the Museum have in store this year.

Kathleen Alva, McDermott Intern for Adult Programming and Arts & Letters Live, recently graduated as a McDermott Scholar from UTD in Richardson–that makes her McDermott squared! Originally from the LA area, she’s excited to be discovering Dallas proper this year.

Yohanna Tesfai, McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching, recently moved back to Dallas after completing her MA in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin. She recommends checking out NorthPark Center for some shopping with a healthy dose of art, which I wholeheartedly support.

Samantha Evans, McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching, has spent her past few years in Denton where she completed her MA in Art Education at UNT. Also from the LA area, she too is looking forward to getting to know Dallas.

Elise Armani, McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art, joins us from the Midwest, having recently completed her BFA from the University of Minnesota. She’s excited to get involved in the Dallas contemporary arts scene.

Lea Stephenson, McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art, completed her Masters in Art History at Williams College in Massachusetts. As a New Englander, shes excited to explore all the unique things Texas has to offer.

Beth CreMeens, Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art, is a native Dallasite who has returned after receiving her Masters in Art History from Tufts University in Massachusetts. Beth loves visiting White Rock Lake, her favorite Dallas spot for strolling and appreciating nature.

Tayana Fincher, McDermott Intern for African Art, also attended Williams College in Massachusetts, where she completed her BA in Art History. She is originally from McKinney, Texas, and is excited to participate in the myriad cultural opportunities available in the Arts District.

Olivia Feal, McDermott Intern for Interpretation, recently completed her BA in Art History at Smith College in Massachusetts. As a public transportation expert hailing from NYC, Olivia is enthusiastic to become acquainted with her new town via DART.

Danielle Gilbert, McDermott Graduate Intern for Arts of the Americas, received her Masters of Philosophy in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage from the University of Cambridge in the UK. Danielle is looking forward to enjoying a performance by the Dallas Symphony.

We look forward to working with them and helping them get to know Dallas better in the months to come!

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator and former McDermott Intern at the DMA.

Reflection

Today marks the 16th anniversary of 9/11, and as we take a moment to remember those who were lost, we reflect on the resilience of our American cities as they are celebrated in our Museum collection.

This work by C. Bertram Hartman celebrates the vibrant energy of New York City almost one hundred years ago. It captures the dynamism of the city and New York’s energetic expansion, which was as palpable then as it is today.

C. Bertram Hartman, New York Skyline, c. 1930, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Elizabeth M. and Duncan E. Boeckman, 2005.89.2

The painting includes a campanile-type tower, shown in the central-upper-left, that is likely the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, already a “historic” skyscraper in 1930, when this work was completed. Hartman was a native of small-town Kansas and trained in Chicago, Munich, and Paris. Munich-trained artists are often identifiable based on their muted color palettes, as opposed to the exaggerated colors of the French movements. This energetic landscape of buildings and their harsh shadows is a visual approach that we still associate with the characteristics of New York City. Hartman would have been familiar with Cubism and its numerous Synthetic Cubist inheritors, and in the case of this NYC scene, he uses this type of geometrical arrangement of the buildings. The application of fractured perspectives on an urban view champions that fast pace and spirit of excitement.

Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer and Emily Schiller is the Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

Fabulous Fall with Bestselling Authors

When publishers vet book tour locations for someone with the caliber of international bestselling author Ken Follett, the well-established reputation of Arts & Letters Live, the DMA’s 27-years strong literary and performing arts series, is a huge benefit. Dallas is one of only three stops on Follett’s US tour, the other two being Boston and New York. Ken Follett will kick off the Fall 2017 season on September 14 at First United Methodist Church with a discussion of A Column of Fire, the third novel in his enthralling Kingsbridge Series. The first two novels in the series, Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, have sold 38 million copies worldwide!

For those who yearn for the seemingly lost art of a well-crafted written letter in lieu of a quick email or text message, Seattle-based Letters Aloud presents an afternoon of real letters by real people, read by great actors with live musical accompaniment, on September 24. Letters Aloud’s mission is to connect audiences to famous (and infamous) historical figures through their intimate correspondence. As one fan said, “It’s like literary crack” and makes history come to life in surprising, inspiring, and hilarious ways. These dramatic readings will chart the course of celebrity through the correspondence of artistic luminaries like Stephen King, Jackson Pollock, Elvis Presley, Emily Dickinson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Vincent van Gogh, and Tom Hanks, to name a few.

Letters Aloud

Want the inside scoop on international bestselling author Dan Brown’s interest in codes, science, religion, and art and his creative process in writing chart-topping books and making blockbuster movies? On October 6 he takes the stage for the first time in Dallas to talk about all that and his newest novel, Origin, which has been hailed as his most brilliant and entertaining work to date. The novel opens with Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arriving at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” When the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, Langdon is forced to escape Bilbao. Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon uncovers clues that ultimately illuminate the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

Bestselling author and acclaimed journalist Walter Isaacson joins us on October 26 to discuss Leonardo da Vinci, the biography of the famous artist that sets forth little known information about da Vinci’s life, connecting his art and science. Isaacson shows us how Leonardo’s genius stemmed from skills we can hone in ourselves—passionate curiosity, keen observation, a playful imagination, and being bold enough to think differently. Leonardo DiCaprio was recently slated to play the artist in the film adaptation after a heated bidding war between Paramount and Universal.

Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz landed on the DMA Arts & Letters Live roster after a Texas Book Festival colleague recommended that Arts & Letters Live have lunch with the national marketing director of Phaidon, who was in town for a conference. While chatting with our new Phaidon friends on the DMA’s Socca Cafe patio, we learned about the forthcoming book Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005–2016 and knew immediately that DMA audiences would adore hearing about this artist’s creative process and behind-the-scenes stories of all the famous people she has photographed. Leibovitz’s event with DMA Arts & Letters Live on November 14 is one of only five appearances slated worldwide.

To see the complete roster of Arts & Letters Live events and to purchase tickets, visit DMA.org/all

 

Carolyn Bess is Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.
Michelle Witcher is the Program Manager of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

A Founding Mother

While using the archives for a small research project (more on that in a future post), I was reminded of one of the Dallas Art Association’s (DAA) founding members, Elizabeth Patterson Kiest (Mrs. Edwin J. Kiest). Mrs. Kiest attended the first meeting of the group of art supporters that formed the DAA on January 19, 1903 and she served as DAA Treasurer from its inception to her death in 1917, a century ago this year.

Bronze plaque in honor of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest for her long service as founder and Treasurer of the Dallas Art Association.

The Kiest Memorial Fund was established in her honor, with a plaster cast of Winged Victory as the first purchase. (The piece is no longer in the collection.)

An interior view of the Free Public Art Gallery space in the Textile and Fine Arts Building, with the plaster cast of Winged Victory in the upper left.

Beginning in 1932 the Kiest Memorial Fund was used to fund a purchase prize for the annual Dallas Allied Arts exhibitions, from which works by major Dallas artists were acquired for the collection including Jerry Bywaters, Otis Dozier, De Forrest Judd, Everett Spruce, Charles T. Bowling, Allie Tennant, Perry Nichols, Donald S. Vogel, William Lester, and Octavio Medellin.

In addition to the DAA, Mrs. Kiest was involved in a number of civic and women’s clubs, the foremost being the Dallas Shakespeare Club and the Matheon Club. The Dallas Shakespeare Club would later donate Road to the Hills by Julian Onderdonk to the Museum in memory of Mrs. Kiest.


Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Dallas Shakespeare Club in memory of Elizabeth Patterson Kiest

 

Hillary Bober is the Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art. 


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