First Look at Philadelphia Museum of Art presentation at The Strand Hotel, NYC, February 22, 2018

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Review by Anne Akers; Founder/Editor in Chief, GLOW Beauty Health Wellness Magazine

It was a damp, rainy day in Manhattan as a select gathering of the press came together to enjoy an elegant luncheon, camaraderie and presentation by Timothy Rub, CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who along with his curators, previewed some of the many and varied exhibits coming to this iconic home of the Arts.

The reception on the PH level of The Strand Hotel was, in many ways, reminiscent of the spirit of
the Museum itself: a place that invites all to connect with the beauty and power of the arts, to step into the world of one’s imagination, and to savor an experience that is often surprising, lively, and memorable.

The Philadelphia Museum dating back to 1876 and long known for its superb collections of sculpture, exceptional American paintings (impressionist and post impressionist), furniture, silver and ceramics has transitioned into the new millennium with the same grace and ease of previous decades. It has combined its remarkable history with great technological strides which include computerized operations, energy-saving measures, and new enhancements inside the galleries and on the grounds. At the same time, demographics are shifting to a younger audience and interest in all things Asian is apparent.

Following these trends, the Museum is now undergoing a $2 million renovation of four of the Museum’s China Galleries, those that focus on the key concepts in Chinese culture, ranging from “Fascination with Nature” to Exchange and Globalization. Say CEO Rub, “These efforts will create relevance and deepen understandings” for visitors and a new educational curriculum.

On an artistic note, the Museum also welcomes an exhibition by Jean Shin, a Korean American
who uses random pieces of clothing and apparel to create a materials-based meditation on identity, society, and community to address questions of exclusion and inclusion, the familiar and unfamiliar. A collection called Unraveling (2006-2018) featuring sweaters collected from NYC’s Asian-American community has traveled to many cities while sweaters from the Philadelphia-American art community, disassembled and reconfigured by the artist to create an intricate web of connectedness, will be the exhibitions newest addition.

For me, as a military dependent, of particular interest is an exhibition by Shin called ARMED, whereby she has visited, interviewed, and collected uniforms from current and former members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, reflecting on the relationship between personal histories and collective memories. Finally, following the Museum’s long association with the works of Marcel Duchamp, the most comprehensive collection of his works will travel to Tokyo, Japan and Korea in 2018 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the artists death.

While the Museum continues to showcase artists from the early decades of the 20th century spanning the advent of the automobile and moving pictures to the growth of American cities and the Great Depression, the pendulum now swings forward to a young millenial artist, Rachel Rose, who creates video installations combining video, sound and architectural elements with digital editing that aligns visual images with historical references. The artist, who was in attendance, was acknowledged as the Museum’s curator expressed his interest in artists around the world who are active in time-based media.

For the ladies in the audience, myself included, as well as those enamored by the history of textiles and fashion, the speaker proudly displayed a full range of glorious photos covering over seven decades of style, from Dior to Schiaparelli. Showcasing fashion as an art form, and featuring magnificent ballgowns and evening wear to illustrate the use of shape and volume as design strategies, there were audible sighs of admiration as Issey Miyake’s “Flying Saucer”, a sunburst yellow gown, was displayed against the gray skies visible from the PH windows where we dined. The presentation continued with announcement of “Perfect Little Ladies”, an extraordinary collection of Victorian dolls, the ultimate toy for privileged girls of this period, along with the tiny accessories designed for every occasion. It was the hope of the designer hat the imaginary life of these dolls–paying social calls, hosting tea parties, and other grown up behavior—would help the owner imagine her future privileged life.

Alas, as the afternoon came to a close, our speaker concluded with a nod to the Philadelphia Eagles and a candid photo of Lane Johnson, Tackle for the Eagles, on the steps of the Museum with the Lombardy trophy in hand! Our wait staff then appeared with a dessert presentation of a beautifully poached pear as I began to bid fond adieu to my delightful table mates who included a member of the Italian Press, a Yale University Press scholar, and a representative of Visit Philadelphia.

Upon departure, each guest was gifted a white umbrella, imprinted with the Museum logos in bright colors, along with a thumb drive of the day’s presentation. It is my hope to visit this venerable Museum in the great city of Philadelphia in the near future.


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