To Kill or Not to Kill, That Is the Question

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American Folk Art Museum Exterior
Photo by Dan Nguyen


While the whole world is watching the latest political "reality show" – the Christie-gate – the smaller world of art follows the morbid news of the upcoming building demolition of the former American Folk Art Museum in New York. The Museum of Modern Art, less than ten years since its last expansion and remodeling, is once again puffing out its chest to become even bigger and, supposedly, better. Meanwhile, it is ready to commit, in my opinion, the inexcusable sin of killing a small but distinct architectural project that stands in the way of MoMA's expansion.


(L) Exterior Reflection, Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Photo by Tony Fischer
(R) MOMA, New York City
Photo by Ed Schipul


Once upon a time, architects Liz Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, responsible for the current MoMA expansion, were close friends with Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the architects who built the Folk Art Museum. But not any longer, as one can read on the front page of the New York Times this past Sunday. Diller and Scofidio claim that they spent months trying their best to figure out how to incorporate the small Folk museum into their MoMA project, but there was absolutely no way to do it. Now, I wonder if anyone in the museum suggested that they sit down with their friends, Williams and Tsien, and try to figure out a creative solution to the problem instead of tarnishing the reputation of their own architectural firm as well as the reputation of MoMA, their client.


Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, by Arata Isozaki
Photo by CTG/SF


But not all is bad on the museum front. After years of being in the doldrums, our own Museum of Contemporary Art announced their choice for new museum director: the French-born Philippe Vergne, who currently presides over the Dia Art Foundation and, prior to that, worked at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. So far, so good.


Philippe Vergne, MOCA director, 2014
Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles


His first pronouncement gives us hope; he intends to find a worthy chief curator for the museum who will be able to restore MOCA's reputation as a leading international institution of contemporary art.


Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), "Spring: Orpheus and Eurydice," 1862
Oil on canvas
Musée Fabre, Montpellier Agglomération


Now, let me proudly announce that, yes, I met one of my three New Year's resolutions! On Sunday, I zoomed in and out of Santa Barbara to catch the exhibition of famous 19th century French artist, Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863). The exhibition, Delacroix and the Matter of Finish, closes at the end of this week, and I wanted to see a number of his paintings, which were borrowed especially for this exhibition from various American and European museums.


Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), "Winter: Juno and Aeolus," 1856
Oil on canvas
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase


Though Delacroix's lasting fame is rightfully connected with such masterpieces as his majestic Liberty Leading the People, painted early in his career, I find his much later paintings particularly appealing. There are a few of them in this intriguing, well-focused exhibition. As one might expect from Delacroix, the prevailing subjects of his paintings come from Greek mythology and the Bible. But it's not travails of Orpheus and Eurydice or St. Sebastian that captured my imagination. What amazed me the most were Delacroix's brushstrokes, so free, so loose and wild, you'd swear it was painted not by a 19th century Master, but by some drunken genius painter soon after World War II.

Banner image: Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), The Fanatics of Tangier, 1857; oil on canvas. Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Purchase, 1962