My sister and I took a trip to New York City many years back. We were only there a few days, running at a fevered pace trying to pack everything in. We wanted to be sure to see the New York Museum of Modern Art, but it had some wings under construction, so instead, we went to the Guggenheim Museum.
While it was an inspiration to be standing inside Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunningly beautiful building, I have to say, I wasn’t so thrilled with most of the art that was in it at the time. It was modern art in the extreme…three flourescent light tubes mounted together in a vertical grouping; black canvas on a white wall, and other similar installations. Uncultured as I was, I just didn’t “get it.” There were some very interesting sculptures, but there were many things from their permanent collection that I would love to have seen that were not out. I live fairly distant from New York, and who knows when I might get the chance to return and give the museum another chance.
Now, my chance has come, virtually. The Guggenheim has digitized a large part of their publications, many of them out of print. They can be purchased as e-books from sources such as Amazon, but lots of them are publicly accessible for free right on their web site. The full press release is here, and you can access the online free ones here.
Now I know that you can check myriads of books out of the library on any given artist, but I really love an exhibition catalog. Apart from looking at the art, I learn some interesting things from the way the curator organizes a particular exhibition, and there are nearly always essays commissioned for the catalog that offer unique insight. Of course, it would be better to see these works in person, but a catalog can be a help, because some of this art is permanently out my reach in other countries.
I spent my morning perusing their catalog about one of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder (LOVE the catalog cover). People know Calder for his mobiles and large, freestanding sculptures that he called “stabiles.”
However, he also created jewelry, tapestry, sketches, and gouache paintings. He would twist little wire caricatures at parties with tools he kept in his pocket. He even made a little traveling circus with wonderfully crude moving characters, which I was fortunate to see when a smaller exhibition traveled to Seattle a few years back. What a treat to see his retrospective through the wonder of the digital age. Thanks, Guggenheim!
Images in this post are licensed from the credited photographers under the GNU Free Documentation License, and were sourced from Wikimedia Commons.