Bernini’s clay models and Warhol’s legacy meet in New York this autumn
While the New York autumn is approaching as beautifully as sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan more than a half-century ago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or simply the MET, provides two very good reasons to visit again. Two very different reasons.
On 3rd October Bernini: Sculpting in Clay opened in the MET. This exhibition offers an inside view of the working process of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculptures, which decorated the streets, churches and piazzas of Rome for almost four centuries.
In the 1630s, the Grand Master of the Baroque sculpture began to rapidly model small clay sketches, fired as terracotta, so he could visualize the large marbles they would later become. This is the first exhibition to show most of Bernini’s known terracotta models, with his related drawings from the creation process. The first sight at the entrance is of Bacchanal: A faun teased by children, an early marble sculpture that the teenage Gian Lorenzo created along with his father, the acclaimed sculptor Pietro Bernini. The sculpture is memorable for its liveliness and strongly accented diagonals, a distinctive style of Gian Lorenzo’s, and the buoyant forms and cottony texture of the Bacchanal, influenced by the father.
It feels like entering the Master’s workshop, full of drawings and vigorous clay studies. Here you can find the sketch from which The Elephant and Obelisk was born and which has, since 1667, stood standing on the Piazza Del Minerva. Here also are the clay models of The Lion and The Nile from the Fountain of the Four Rivers.
The drapery and religious ecstasy are impressive, detailed particularly by the clay ancestor of The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, a funerary monument from the church San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere. Worth seeing are the sketches of the famous Saint Longinus sculpture, which today stands in the north-eastern of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, among the many other bozettos, or clay models, masterfully crafted under Bernini’s fingers. The exposition ends with the terracottas of the angel statues he created for the restoration of the Ponte Sant’Angelo, the oldest bridge connecting the heart of Rome with the Vatican across the Tiber.
And while in the past it was all about craft and details, contemporary art is all about ideas and concepts…
On the fourth floor of the MET, Regarding Warhol: Sixty artists, fifty years is exploring Andy Warhol’s influence on contemporary art, with 45 of his own works and over 100 from 60 other artists. The exhibition is divided into five different parts, connected with the main topics that Warhol was interested in: daily news and advertisement, disasters and death, celebrities and serial images, queers, and art installations.
Warhol was influential both for his contemporaries, including Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, and for today’s pop-art superstars, such as Damien Hirst and Cindy Sherman. A very pleasant surprise is seeing Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (Head) (1981), along with the silkscreen of Basquiat that Warhol did three years later. The exhibition of course includes Warhol’s Nine Jackies and Turquoise Marilyn (1964). Triple Elvis (1963) can also be seen, along with Deborah Kass’ similar Double Ghost Yentl (My Elvis) from 1997.
One of my personal favorites in the collection is Chanel Chainsaw, made by American artist Tom Sachs in 1996, with its razor-sharp concept and exploration of the money-power-violence circle. In its rightful place stands the orderly-arranged medicine boxes in Hirst’s Eight Over Eight (1997-1998), a piece heavily influenced by American pop culture.
The exhibition also contains movies such as Warhol’s unwatchable-in-real-life Empire (1964), which projects a single shot of the Empire State Building for 8 hours and 5 minutes, and Bruce Nauman’s single-channel video installation Office Edit I (2001), which Empire undoubtedly influenced.
I even brought home a piece of art-candy from Cuban-born Felix-Gonzalez Torres’ Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), (1991). Very simply, through a pile of multi-colored candies individually wrapped in cellophane and sitting in the corner of the room, this piece represents the death of the artist’s partner, who passed away from an AIDS-related sickness, as his ideal weight of 175 pounds diminishes with every piece of candy the visitors take home.
The exhibition ends with a collaboration between Warhol’s Silver Clouds (1966), which fly around a room covered in his Cow Wallpaper (1966), under the sound of the debut Velvet Underground & Nico album, which was produced by the artist himself.
This truly is an opportunity not to be missed for art lovers.
Regarding Warhol: Sixty artists, fifty years will be in the MET until 31st December 2012.
Bernini: Sculpting in Clay will be in the MET until 6th January 2013.
More information can be found on the museum’s website.