Exhibitions

The Gifts that Keep on Giving

Like or not, the holiday gift-giving season is upon us, the time of year we begin making a list and checking it twice. It’s a good thing that Christmas and Hanukkah only come around once a year, what with all the stress gift selection causes. In 17th- and 18th-century France, however, the fine art of gift giving was a yearlong endeavor.

Let Them Eat Turkey

Thanksgiving is the time when you get to use all the best stuff in your kitchen: the gravy boat, the fancy napkins, and, of course, the turkey deep fryer. Louis XIV and the other French monarchs who succeeded him obviously didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but they did bring out the good stuff when setting the table. Some of the objects in Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, open through March 31, 2013 at the Legion of Honor, are examples of these items; they’re just like the things you set your table with, but with a “royal” twist.

You’ve probably moved past the first dining room set that you bought off Craigslist, but no matter how nice your table is, you likely didn’t have it custom-made to feature your royal markings. Louis XIV’s mosaic tabletop is made of semi-precious stones and features, among other things, some of his official emblems, like the lyre of Apollo and fleurs-de-lis. It was made by the Gobelins manufactory, a workshop responsible for many of the objects used to decorate Versailles and the other royal residences.

Louis XIV tabletop

Mosaic tabletop with emblems of Louis XIV, last quarter of the 17th century.
Gobelins Manufactory (France, established 1662)
Marble and pietre dure (hardstones)
©RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY

Have Turban Will Travel

Objects are fussy. They’re susceptible to humidity, light levels, vibrations, and any number of other dangers, both large (floods) and small (mice). And whether it’s a tiny tea cup or a four-ton bronze statue, each object also has its own idiosyncrasies. Wood, for example, doesn’t get along with water, and paper can’t stand light. A museum is carefully designed, in part, to control all these factors and to give objects the secure and stable home they deserve. But what happens when an object needs to travel outside the museum’s walls?

The permanent collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco number over 100,000 objects, and only a percentage are on view. However, many of these treasured artworks can be viewed in exhibitions at other institutions throughout the world at any given time. When art objects are loaned in this way, they often travel for long periods of time, which is why it’s so important for our conservators to carefully prepare objects for their extended journeys. Such was the case when the Cleveland Museum of Art requested to borrow an ancient turban from the Nasca culture of Peru, featured in the exhibition Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes that opened last week.

Turban, 200–600. Peru, South Coast, Nasca. Cotton cord wrapped with a band of camelid fiber fringe. The Caroline and H. McCoy Jones Collection Gift of Caroline McCoy-Jones. 2000.17.5

A Half-Century of Excellence

When Kathan Brown first opened Crown Point Press (CPP) in 1962, lithography and screenprinting were the prevailing fine art printmaking workshop processes. With the establishment of CPP, Brown provided artists with alternatives to these methods, affirming her commitment to intaglio—any process in which incisions in a plate’s surface hold the ink that will create the image. These new printmaking possibilities evolved into increasingly diverse offerings that afforded artists new outlets for their creativity, the fruits of which are currently on display in Crown Point Press at 50 (through February 17, 2013) at the de Young.

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith (American, b. 1954). Still, 2006. Color spit-bite aquatint with flat-bite and soft-ground and hard-ground etching printed on gampi paper chine collé. Crown Point Press Archive, gift of Crown Point Press. 2010.39.17.2

Instrument in Progress

Tonight, Friday Nights at the de Young features work in progress by Artist Fellow Monique Jenkinson (aka Fauxnique). As part of the creation of her original work, Instrument, Jenkinson is working with three different choreographers in an experimental process designed to enact, expose, and undermine the roles of the dancer as workhorse and the choreographer as auteur. The presentation tonight will be a rare opportunity to witness the development of Instrument, inspired in part by Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (on display at the de Young through February 17, 2013). The first in a series of three, today’s post focuses on the collaboration between Jenkinson and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez.

Monique dancing

Interiority and the The William S. Paley Collection: Home as a Staging Ground for Identity

It’s hard to imagine that the artwork on view in The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism (through December 30) once decorated the walls of a private home. Today’s guest blogger, Alisa Carroll, explores the role that art can play in both the construction of a home and the communication of the owner’s identity. Carroll is a San Francisco-based writer and consultant the editor-in-chief of 3D Magazine, and a San Francisco scout for Elle Décor. Her first book, a monograph with interior designer Jay Jeffers, will be published by Rizzoli in fall 2013.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901). M. de Lauradour, 1897.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901). M. de Lauradour, 1897. Oil and gouache on cardboard. 26 3/4 x 32 1/2 inches. The William S. Paley Collection. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. SPC79.1990

Interiority—The quality of being focused on one’s inner life and identity.

Bring Me Scissors! And Other Memories of Rudolf Nureyev

At the age of 14, former ballerina Stephanie Herman ditched school and waited in line for six hours at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House to see Rudolf Nureyev dance with Margot Fonteyn. Little did she know that a decade later, she would be dancing with the famed ballerino, whose career and costumes are the subject of the special exhibition Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance, which opens tomorrow, October 6.

Layers of Leslie

There are only two weeks left to experience the special exhibition Chuck Close and Crown Point Press: Prints and Processes on view at the de Young. The tight focus of this exhibition allows visitors to zero in on the processes behind Chuck Close’s photorealist technique as it appears in the print format.

Constructing a Collection: Paintings, Power, and William S. Paley

It was well known within the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) that chief executive William S. Paley would always set aside what he was working on to take a call from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Paley’s relationship with MoMA began in 1937, just eight years after its founding, and included roles as trustee, president, and chairman. His eventual donation of his collection to the museum—an important selection of modernist art—strengthened the institution in vital ways, and is the subject of The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism, which is on view through December 30 at the de Young. Paley's relationship with MoMA was built on great generosity, and continued until his death in 1990.

Picasso_Paley

William S. Paley in the foyer of his home at 820 Fifth Avenue, in front of his Pablo Picasso painting, Boy Leading a Horse (early 1906). Museum Archives Personalities Slide Collection. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

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