Thursday, May 9, 2024

Collection Hangs


In Collection Hangs, Major Museums Remix the Classics

In Collection Hangs, Major Museums Remix the Classics

Until it reopened in a $230 million new building this past June, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum was an anomaly among United States institutions: it held a world-class collection of modern and postwar art with nowhere to properly exhibit the bulk of it at once. Now, a 50,000-square-foot space allows masterpieces like Picasso’s 1906 La Toilette to return to view, along with showstoppers from the likes of Chaim Soutine, Andy Warhol, and a whole lot more.

The way these pieces are displayed, however, changed vastly. The history of modernism and postwar art has long been peopled almost entirely by white men, from Henri Matisse to Jackson Pollock, and the small sampling of the AKG collection formerly presented to the public reflected that slant. The rehang following the four-year closure runs counter to the notion.

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The Pop gallery featured the requisite Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist paintings, but at its center was a sculpture by Marisol, a Venezuelan American woman artist whose estate the museum acquired in 2016. The gallery devoted to perceptual abstraction contained dizzying paintings by Burgoyne Diller and Max Bill, but it also had a smattering of pieces by women, including Swiss painter Verena Loewensberg. The acknowledged greats of contemporary art—Cindy Sherman, John Baldessari, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer—were given pride of place, but so were Indigenous artists whose art historical status is less cemented, like Seneca painter G. Peter Jemison and Kalaaleq and Danish artist Pia Arke.

The Marisol sculpture and the Loewensberg painting are the kind of unexpected objects viewers have learned to expect in US museums these days, which have begun dramatically reshaping their permanent collection galleries, drawing out new conceptions of recent art history in the process. Gone are the days when such galleries remained static, with masterpieces rarely ever leaving the walls. Now, it is more common for those masterpieces to share space with lesser-known works by women and artists of color. A leveling is taking place in the permanent collection galleries of museums like the AKG that, in the 20th century, helped write the history of modern and contemporary art, which they are now engaged in dismantling.

A large museum gallery with a large tire sculpture, a sculpture of silver figures dancing, and five paintings on the walls.
View of a recently reconfigured gallery at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.PHOTO MARCO CAPPELLETTI

In 2019, AS THE BUFFALO AKG was closing its doors for construction, the Museum of Modern Art in New York embarked on a landmark permanent collection rehang that would set the tone for museums going forward. Inaugurating a new set of galleries, MoMA’s remit was to dramatically diversify its presentations and regularly switch them out, so that nearly all the works that appeared in 2019 would be changed within the coming years. Thus, MoMA curators wanted to spotlight areas of art history that had rarely been shown before in New York. New York Times critic Holland Cotter devised a term for the newly enlarged canon that MoMA had envisioned: “Modernism Plus.”

Masterpieces of modernism, like Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, went back on the walls. But alongside them were new faces. Les Demoiselles was paired with Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die (1967), depicting a confrontation between Black and white people in which they all become entangled amid spatters of blood. Prior to 2019, MoMA visitors had become accustomed to a rigid chronological structure that roughly conformed to museum founder Alfred H. Barr’s modernist trajectory. The inclusion of the Ringgold work, painted 60 years after the Picasso, was a tear in the fabric of the very history MoMA had written.

Art historian Michael Lobel told the Times ahead of the reinstallation’s opening that MoMA was “moving away from ideas like ‘masterpieces’ and ‘breakthroughs,’ to a kind of art history of dispersion.” And to judge by the changed installations since the pandemic, those words continue to hold true. Last year, a gallery of Surrealist art held beloved works by René Magritte and Joan Miró alongside Bitches Brew, a 2010 painting by German artist Jutta Koether that features swirls of pink acrylic, plus a red mesh and cutesy keychains. In a gallery focused on Pop, Warhol paintings shared walls with Untitled (Ears), a 1964 piece by Japanese artist Tomio Miki, who cast his ear in aluminum and set some two dozen copies of the resulting object in a grid. In a gallery loosely themed around feminist art, the protagonists were not
well-known white feminists like Louise Bourgeois and Carolee Schneemann, but two recent entrants to MoMA’s collection, Lebanese painter Huguette Caland and Sudanese painter Kamala Ibrahim Ishag.

A gallery room at MoMA with two paintings sharing similarities in terms of abstraction but disparate in terms of subject matter.
Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, and Faith Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die, 1967, at the Museum of Modern Art.PHOTO CHRISTINA HORSTEN/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

FOR MOMA TO DO SUCH a game-changing rehang was influential precisely because the museum had authored the history of European modernism in the first place. That history provided a template for museums the world over: Post-Impressionism gives way to Fauvism, Cubism leads to Constructivism, and so on. Barr, the museum’s first director, devised a collection that reflected that progression, which he later mapped via an influential diagram that plotted how artists arrived at the accomplishment of total abstraction. Barr called MoMA’s holdings “a torpedo moving through time, its nose the ever advancing present, its tail the ever receding past of 50 to 100 years ago.” (The torpedo, as it were, actually gained its momentum in Buffalo in 1926, when the AKG, then known as the Albright Art Gallery, acquired Picasso’s La Toilette. The board of trustees objected so strongly to the piece that they blasted director A. Conger Goodyear, who’d agreed to the purchase. Goodyear, tarred by “one or two of the Trustees, who were opposed to modern art,” as he later put it in a letter to a colleague, was not chosen for reelection, and hightailed it to a more progressive institution: he was board president of MoMA from its founding in 1929 until 1939.)

Barr’s “torpedo” was not merely a metaphor. Because he was obsessed with charts, it was a diagram too. His crudely drawn underwater weapon was placed on an art historical continuum, with its small tail containing Francisco Goya and John Constable and its big head engulfing the School of Paris, plus amorphous entities that he labeled “Rest of Europe” and “Mexicans.” The torpedo notably did not include Latin Americans, Asians, Africans, or Indigenous artists. Nor, for the most part, did the 1936 map of modernism that Barr produced for “Cubism and Abstract Art,” a MoMA show mounted that same year.

By his own admission, Barr strove to impose order during what he perceived as a chaotic artistic moment. “Since the war,” he wrote in 1934, “art has become an affair of immense and confusing variety, of obscurities and contradictions, of the emergence of new principles and the renascence of old ones.” His goal, in constructing his diagrams, was to cut through the noise and generate some authority for the museum. And he did so by adding to the collection pieces like Monet’s Water Lilies, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Dalí’s Persistence of Memory, half of Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series,” Diego Rivera’s murals. That meant leaving out a lot of art by women and artists of color that didn’t fit within the confines of his maps.

A black and white picture of three men in tuxedoes standing next to two sculptures.
Alfred H. Barr, at right, with Nelson Rockefeller and Fiorello La Guardia in 1934.GETTY IMAGES

As the 20th century wore on, steps were taken to undo some of Barr’s closed-mindedness. Kirk Varnedoe, who served as chief curator of painting and sculpture during the ’90s, attempted to expand how MoMA showed European modernism by looking beyond France and the US, adding works to the collection by Russians, Germans, and Italians who had not previously made the cut. He also enlarged MoMA’s holdings from the ’60s and ’70s, acquiring James Rosenquist’s epic painting F-111 (1964–65), which is still afforded a gallery of its own.

While lauded by critics, Varnedoe’s reshaped collection galleries did not go far enough for some. In 1997 the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist artist collective, surveyed MoMA’s painting and sculpture galleries, and determined that a paltry 9 percent of the offerings were by white women; the survey found that not a single work on view was by a woman of color. Later on, the picture looked even worse. When art historian Maura Reilly surveyed the permanent galleries after a 2004 reinstallation, she found that just 4 percent of the art displayed was by women, and even less than that by women of color.

To some degree, the exclusionist sensibility was encoded in MoMA’s DNA. Art historians Charlotte Barat and Darby English put it this way in 2019, in their vital book Among Others: Blackness at MoMA, published by MoMA: “Long touted as a global center of modernism, MoMA, in its elected isolation within (white) Euro-American cultural traditions, contributed mightily to the impression that figures and practices linked to other traditions—regardless of their deep ties to its own—fell outside its scope of concern.”

Take the case of sculptor William Edmondson, the first Black artist to have a solo show at MoMA, in 1937. The museum bought none of the works in the exhibition, though most were available for sale. The museum even displayed one of his works on long-term loan from a collector during the ’40s, but did not acquire one until 2017. So, for those 80 years, MoMA’s permanent collection galleries did not reflect Edmondson’s contribution to the history of modern art that Barr himself had written.

A gallery room with marble floors, a fierce figural sculpture, a neon light work, and paintings on the walls.
Installation view of the exhibition “American Voices and Visions: Modern and Contemporary Art,” 2023, showing works by (left to right) Roger Brown, Frank Romero, Luis Jim nez, and Nam June Paik at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.PHOTO ALBERT TING

IF MOMA’S HISTORY of European modernism was the blueprint for museums in the past, its rehang is a model for the present, and the future. MoMA’s “Modernism Plus” approach has informed permanent collection rehangs at museums well beyond the AKG. This past September, when the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington, D.C., opened its doors after a renovation, a 2002 Nam June Paik video installation resembling a map of the United States—a crowd-pleaser, labeled an “electronic masterpiece” by SAAM itself two years ago—cohabited with a 1969 sculpture of a burning man by Luis Jiménez, a pioneer of the Chicano art movement and a far lesser-known artist.

The Jiménez works in the SAAM hang are not that dissimilar to the Pia Arke and Martin Wong paintings at the AKG, or even those by Tomio Miki and Huguette Caland at MoMA. All these artists share belated invitations to a party previously open only to those who had been canonized. And that trend is gathering steam.

In an interview, Henriette Huldisch, a curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis who is now rehanging that collection, proposed a word for it, polyvocalism. Consider these rehangs a chorus of artists speaking together: before, soloists had the stage, transfixing rapt audiences while the chorus was occasionally allowed to chime in.

But what happens when that chorus grows too loud, making it hard to hear individual voices? This was the question critics across the pond posed last year, when London’s Tate Britain unveiled a rehang unlike any other in its history.

Many who come to Tate Britain still expect to see gems of British art history: J.M.W. Turner’s fog-swept seascapes, Constable’s quaint images of the English countryside, Henry Moore’s sculptures of lithe bodies abstracted to a point of near unrecognition. Those works have almost always been readily available at Tate Britain, where they have long occupied a central position. But when Tate Britain announced a rehang in 2022, billing it as the first time the institution had significantly revamped its collection galleries in a decade, it was immediately evident that big changes were afoot.

A columnated building facade with pink banners hanging down.

Turner’s paintings still had their own room, but now, 17th-century portraitist Joan Carlile, who some scholars believe to be the first professional female artist in England, was accorded a similar space. Constable, too, enjoyed an individual gallery, but so would Guyanese-born painter Aubrey Williams, a key figure of the postwar era. Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson called this rehang “a new way of seeing British art history,” telling the Art Newspaper “we wanted to include all of the Tate’s great favourites, but also offer a whole host of new discoveries.”

When the rehang opened last spring, however, British critics were far less enthusiastic, and some responded with vitriol, accusing the museum of having placed politics before art. Jackie Wullschläger, writing for the Financial Times, singled out a 2013 Sonia E Barrett sculpture composed of a smashed-up chair, a reference to mahogany furniture made by enslaved people in the Caribbean and then sent eastward. She deemed the work’s presence at the center of a gallery containing paintings by William Hogarth and Canaletto “nonsense insulting to pioneering, democratic painters and to audiences.” For ArtReview critic J.J. Charlesworth, the problem was not the inclusion of works like Barrett’s, but that the curators found nothing to say with them. He accused Tate Britain of constructing a “zombie social art history.”

Not everyone took the same tack as Wullschläger and Charlesworth—“You can’t please everyone all of the time and there’s no pleasing some people,” wrote Laura Freeman in the Times of London—but it was notable that their reactions, and those of other critics, focused so heavily on the historical greats of Tate Britain’s collection. There was a sense that, in making way for artists like Carlile and Williams, Turner and Constable had been effectively sidelined. If the stars of art history no longer mattered, was it even necessary to have a canon? Had the age of the radical rehang gone too far?

By the time Tate Britain opened its new presentation, Charles Saumarez Smith, former director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, had sounded an alarm. In a 2021 book documenting the evolution of art museums since MoMA’s founding, he included the reorganization of permanent collections in a list of four ways museums were “under attack,” writing of an “assault on the canon: the acceptance that all forms of selection and hierarchy are temporary and ephemeral, the product of cultural choice rather than of universal values, and that certain types and categories of artists have been excluded. Belief in an overarching master narrative, a coherent way of structuring and ordering the history of art through a belief in greatness, has gone.”

Curators, especially at American institutions, are undeterred by such warnings, and prefer to listen to their audiences. “We are beholden, as an institution, to tell the story as we know it, but also to poke holes in that story or interject some footnotes,” Holly E. Hughes, senior curator for the collection at the AKG, said in an interview. “We can keep telling the same story over and over again, and that’s fine. But I don’t think that’s what people want.”

Two paintings on walls behind a grey abstract sculpture and a doorway looking into another room.
View of a recently reconfigured gallery at the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.PHOTO MARCO CAPPELLETTI

Call it an “assault,” as Saumarez Smith does, or term it headway, as Hughes might. The fact remains that permanent collections are changing, as are the ways they are being shown. That will only continue this year at MoMA. Say farewell to a gallery filled with Ellsworth Kelly’s sketchbooks; in August a mini-survey of work by Romare Bearden will replace it. Elsewhere in the building, a gallery devoted to works about labor by Charles Sheeler, August Sander, and Aleksandr Rodchenko, will give way, after two years on view, to a show themed around the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. The central work in that new gallery will be Isaac Julien’s Looking for Langston (1989), an essayistic feature film about Langston Hughes and his circle that is regarded as a landmark in the history of queer cinema.

No doubt, Barr’s modernist torpedo will continue to shoot through the oceans of art history, now more often navigating depths previously uncharted. Originally designed to move only forward, its new settings have it swerving every which way in an effort to account for all the non-Western, non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual artists who didn’t make the original cut. What becomes of modernism, pulled by so many currents at once, is anyone’s guess, but MoMA’s permanent collection presentations should continue to provide clues.  

This article appears under the title “Perpetual motion” in the Spring 2024 issue, pp. 82–87.

it's a family affair

 it's a family affair

happy returns for 17


Mirra Andreeva: Madrid Open sees many happy returns for 17-year-old tennis star

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 29:  Mirra Andreeva of Russia serves against Jasmine Paolini of Italy during their Women's Round of 16 match during day seven of the Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica on April 29, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
By Matthew Futterman
Apr 30, 2024


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Mirra Andreeva, the Russian teenager who refuses to act her tennis age, knows that keeping too close an eye on her ranking can lead to all sorts of toxic brain games. 

It can drive players to think of themselves as numbers rather than human beings. It can make them measure results rather than process — tracking movement up and down the ladder rather than how they are improving each day.

This mindset has a way of inserting itself into the brain at the most inconvenient time, sending players down the rabbit hole of the consequences of a win or a loss when the outcome is still up for debate, even at the crucial moments of a match, when they’re supposed to be focused on hitting the next ball. 

As the Madrid Open reaches its final days, so many of the top women are still alive. That includes Andreeva’s hero, Ons Jabeur, as well as the world No 1, Iga Swiatek, and Elena Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion. All of them have fallen victim to the rankings obsession at some point in their careers — Swiatek burst into tears at the news of Ash Barty’s retirement when the Australian was world No 1, knowing it opened a door for her — and all of them, sometimes, still do. 

Sorry: Andreeva can’t help it.

See, she and her mother, Raisa, who got her and her sister into tennis when they were toddlers in Siberia, cut a deal this year. Andreeva really wants a dog. She has noticed a handful of other players travel with their dogs. She wants one, badly. She’s arguing that it will be a kind of service pet and help her with the usual tensions of teenage life and the unusual ones of teenage life as a budding tennis star. 

Her mother, ever the tennis mom, saw an opportunity to incentivize pet ownership. Make the top 20, she told Mirra, and you can get a dog.

“This is my goal for this year,” Andreeva said, combining her deadly serious tone with the twinkle in her eyes that tells you to add a wink in your mind.

Four months into the season, it looks like Raisa Andreeva is going to be toting some poop bags around in her luggage before too long. Her daughter celebrated her 17th birthday on Monday with the sort of win she has swiftly become known for. 

Just when it looks like her (usually much more experienced) opponent has seized control, and the ghosts of narratives about inexperience and immaturity are becoming a little less nebulous, Andreeva looks down at her shoelaces, has a little chat with herself and vanquishes them.

She doesn’t just recover. She storms back.

Andreeva, 17, has already developed a reputation for comebacks (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

This time, Jasmine Paolini, the 28-year-old from Italy, got the full Andreeva. Paolini, the world No 13, served for the first set at 5-3, then found herself on the receiving end of a flurry of hard, flat backhands and the steady determination that belies her age. Roughly 15 minutes later, Andreeva was stealing the first set in a tiebreaker. Give it another 30, and it was a victory in straight sets.

“She understands the game very well,” Paolini said of Andreeva when it was over. “She doesn’t seem like she is 17.”



Mirra Andreeva manages one teenage tennis miracle after another

The birthday dinner, however, had to wait. Within two hours, Andreeva was back on the court for a doubles match with her partner, Vera Zvonareva, who is — wait for it — 22(!) years older than she is. She and Zvonereva lost in straight sets.

The celebrations went undimmed.

She got earrings and a bracelet from her family and another bracelet from her agent. There was cake waiting for her back in her hotel room. Life was good. 

A little over a year ago, barely anyone in tennis had even heard of Andreeva. She was 15 and hadn’t played a WTA Tour event — basic logic suggested she was still some distance from being able to compete against the best players in the world. She wasn’t even in the top 300. 

However, she and her older sister, Erika, are represented by IMG, the sports and entertainment conglomerate that owns the Madrid Open. That helped her land one of the coveted wild card entries into the tournament, which organizers often give to stars who haven’t qualified by their ranking but can help sell tickets, or to prospects they deem worthy of a taste of the big stage. 

The latter category of player does not generally last very long. Andreeva missed that memo. 

She became one of the youngest players to beat a top-20 opponent, Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil. She then did it again in the next match, beating Magda Linette of Poland, who was double her age, and made the fourth round. A month later, she surged through qualifying to win a total of five matches at the French Open and six at Wimbledon, even though she had barely ever set foot on a grass court.



Meet Mirra Andreeva, the 16-year-old Russian tennis star wowing Wimbledon

It’s been quite a year of transition. Andreeva knows that. And yet, in some ways, she feels that nothing has changed very much at all.

The most striking thing about the data behind her two runs in the Spanish capital is how similar things are 12 months on — aside from a swing in second serve points and return points won. Andreeva is more of a known quantity now, and her opponents know they have to put her on the back foot when they can.

Andreeva knows that she can do it right back to them — and for longer. In 2023, she won and lost every match at the tournament in two sets. This year, she’s already won two matches from one set down.

It’s a similar story mentally.

“Inside, I feel the same,” she said. 

The past weeks have brought one significant change. Andreeva hired Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion and former coach of Garbine Muguruza, a two-time Grand Slam champion who recently retired. It’s early days, but Andreeva said Martinez already has her working on a slice backhand, a staple of the Spaniard’s game. She is still learning how to use it, but has been throwing in the occasional slice to change the rhythm of points or when she is playing defense.

Martinez also has Andreeva hitting her Duolingo app on her phone a bit. She’s already essentially fluent in French and English in addition to her native Russian. Spanish is next. 

“Right now, I just know the bad words,” she said.

Andreeva is far from a finished product, physically or mentally. She will no doubt get stronger as she evolves into a grown-up.

The mental side takes its own kind of work as well — work that she is already showcasing. She said when she got down in matches last year, she would basically hope her opponent would slip up and give her a chance to climb back into the match. This season, she has been telling herself to take the initiative, embracing the idea that if she doesn’t, she will probably lose.

Madrid is quickly becoming her birthday event (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Still, there is so much new for her, even here in Madrid, where it all started. This is the first tournament where she has defended significant rankings points. If she didn’t make it as far as she did last year, she would have dropped farther away from puppy ownership.

She got as high as No 33 in February and is currently No 43. She said the pressure of repeating what she had done last year in Madrid weighed on her as the tournament approached. 

Then she looked at it from another perspective: Aryna Sabalenka, the defending champion, had to defend a title. All Andreeva had to do was defend three rounds. This is life at the higher end of professional tennis. 

“It’s going to happen every year,” she said. “You cannot run from this.” 

She has won four matches and made her first quarter-final in a tournament of this stature. Not that she is resting on her laurels. She said she allows herself to enjoy her victories for “about five minutes”. Then she starts thinking about the next match.

After Monday’s rollercoaster win over Paolini, in which she stole that first set then nearly coughed up a 5-2 lead in the second before winning 6-4, she found Martinez on the couch in a lounge. Martinez told her she was exhausted from the nerves of the afternoon. Her hands had been shaking. She was so tired she could barely get up. 

This was all a big hoot to Andreeva. Sometimes she’s down and has to come back; sometimes she’s up and things get tight. Tennis doesn’t bring a ton of stability, just problems to solve. The swings are to be embraced, not avoided.

She may have another problem to solve soon enough: deciding on a dog. For the record, her mother was against the idea — but then Andreeva made her listen to her friend and fellow Russian, Anna Kalinskaya, who has traveled with her Pomsky, Kobe, and explained to Raisa how a pup has special soothing powers after tough matches and could calm the nerves ahead of them. Raisa was sold… kind of.

Andreeva wants a cocker spaniel but knows they’re too big to tote around. She also is determined to adopt a puppy from a shelter.

So many things to think about. This is what happens when you get old.

(Top photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Matthew Futterman

Matthew Futterman is an award-winning veteran sports journalist and the author of two books, “Running to the Edge: A Band of Misfits and the Guru Who Unlocked the Secrets of Speed” and “Players: How Sports Became a Business.”Before coming to The Athletic in 2023, he worked for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Star-Ledger of New Jersey and The Philadelphia Inquirer. He is currently writing a book about tennis, "The Cruelest Game: Agony, Ecstasy and Near Death Experiences on the Pro Tennis Tour," to be published by Doubleday in 2026. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mattfutterman


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Elizabeth Q.

· Apr 30

I've watched and loved tennis pretty all my life, and I'm not young:) To me, Mirra Andreeva is the complete package. To be as great as she is, as young as she is, yet to remain so respectful and humble is beyond me
She is like a much needed breath of fresh air to tennis
Yes because of her young age her emotions can sometimes get the better of her but she is aware of that, and is working hard to combat it. I've seen her really sobbing after losing a match, but she still manages to go to the net and congratulate her opponent. The way Townsend and Vondrusova barely even looked at her when she beat them is disgusting behaviour. A now 17 year old actually behaves better than them. How ashamed should they be. The men are so much better than the women when they don't win
Mirra really is a special young Lady, and an awesomely talented tennis player


Alexander J.

· Apr 30

She's ranked 43rd and she beat Magda Linette ranked 48th....okay. Thanks for the breathless coverage trying to humanize yet another ruzzian player....the puppy, the mental strength, only knowing bad Spanish words! She may be the 'real thing' or she may crash and burn and not meet the media hype.


Michael O.

· Apr 30

Nice amount of detail here.

But - the chart has me a bit confounded.

On her serve she has gone from winning 60.0 serves out of 100 in 2023 to 57.2 out of 100 in 2024.

The return of serve has gone up 7%, so that offsets it and then some, but still...