March 07, 2015

"In the Studio" at Gagosian Gallery

Every now and then commercial galleries turn a philanthropic cheek and offer scholarly exhibitions where nothing is for sale.  Such an event is going on right now at the Gagosian Gallery who has turned over two of its New York locations to a museum quality show on the theme "In the Studio".

The Gagosian Gallery was founded in 1980 by Larry Gagosian.  From a rather unremarkable beginning, Mr Gagosian has developed into a global force in modern and contemporary art with fourteen locations from Hong Kong to Rome, a roster of major artists and a celebrity client list.  In short, Gagosian Gallery is generally considered to be a superstar in the art world - an enterprise in a class by itself.

Pablo Picasso 
"L'Atelier (The Studio)", 1928

So when I read that Gagosian Gallery was offering a pair of exhibitions devoted to images of artists' studios, I knew it was going to be something to see!

Jean-Baptise Simeon Chardin
"Attributs du peintre (Attributes of the Painter)", c. 1725-27
I started off at 522 West 21st Street in the Chelsea gallery area, where guest curator John Elderidge (Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA) had assembled over 50 paintings and works on paper on the theme.  "In the Studio: Paintings" presents works by nearly 40 artists who worked between the mid 16th and late 20th centuries.

 Jacek Malczewski
"Melancholia" 1890-94

Some of the works were very classical depicting the painter at an easel and other genre scenes, while others were more abstract.  Several were presented for the first time in New York and were very nice discoveries.  Taken together, the exhibition filled Gagosian's rather large space and was a true delight.

Constantine Brancusi
"View of the Studio: Plato, Mademoiselle Pogamy II, and Golden Bird", c. 1920

Moving uptown to the Gagosian premises at 980 Madison Avenue, I came to "In the Studio:  Photographs" curated by Peter Galassi (former Chief Curator of Photography at MoMA).  Here, spread over two floors, were over 150 photographs by 40 artists depicting views of the studio from the beginning of photography to the present.

Jeff Wall
"Picture for Women", 1979

In my opinion, this section was a little looser in its interpretation of "artist's studio" and not as tightly edited, but there were certainly some masterful examples.  I could have lived without some of the more "anatomical" examples, but overall the show was an interesting interpretation of the studio and what goes on inside.

It is a rare and generous gesture by a for-profit institution to offer such an academic and altruistic exhibition.  I thank the Gagosian Gallery for giving the public this opportunity to see two very worthwhile shows with no admission fee, and I would urge anyone in the neighborhood to visit one or both before they close on April 18.

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