Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stay-cation -- Museum Marathon

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Thursday found me heading into Boston early to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum before meeting my sister at the MFA. Embarassingly enough, I had never been to the Gardner before, which is an almost criminal admission now that I have seen it. Mrs. Gardner collected art and dictated that upon her death, the collection and the mansion where she kept it would both remain as is, forever, neither adding to or removing from either. All paintings and works of art are left as she wished. This includes the empty frames and wall space that once held the Vermeer, Rembrandt and Degas that were stolen from the museum in 1990. I thoroughly enjoyed the early Italian art (Botticelli, Raphael, Titian) as well as Mrs. Gardner's obvious penchant for chairs. But the true highlight for me was the courtyard, which is fragrant and beautiful beyond imagination.

Museum of Fine Arts
Just across the Fenway from the Gardner is Boston's grand-daddy museum, the Museum of Fine Arts. While a massive construction effort is underway, most of the museum is still open for viewing, including a handful of special temporary exhibitions. My interest today lies in the exhibiton of large-format photgrapher Yousef Karsh. While I am not a fan of photography, I was spurred to see this based on the rave reviews the exhibition has received both in the media and by my mother and sister, who saw the display earlier. This particular exhibit was a biography done by Karsh and was predominantly of popular personalities from the early to mid 1900s. These large format shots showed exquisite detail, from pores on the nose to creases in the forehead to tiny lines around the eyes. Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, Hepburn, Keller, Castro...many more...all received unforgettable treatment by Karsh. And Karsh's notes and written summaries of particular photo shoots really brought he pictures alive. My sister wisely held the wall of political portraits until the end of our tour, to best tie in with our next stop, which was an exhibit of Andy Warhol's political works.

Currier Museum
From Boston up route 93 in Manchester, New Hampshire is the Currier Museum. The draw for me here is the exhibit of political works by Andy Warhol. Admittedly I am not a big fan of modern art, but there is something attractive and accessible to me about his work, whether it is how familiar the subject matter is or his bold use of color. We made it to the museum with about an hour before it closed, and this was plenty of time to take in the exhibit as well as its modern and European collections (we missed only the American collection when the museum closed). The Warhol exhibit was small but very easily digestible. Warhol did numerous works on his subjects, including the Kennedys (John, Jackie, Robert and Ted), the Carters (Jimmy, Rosalyn and Lillian), Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.

In front of the museum is this scuplture of a dog, which I stood beneath just to prove I was there.