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October 10, 2014  |  Do You Know Your MoMA?
Do You Know Your MoMA? 10/10/14

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How well do you know your MoMA? If you think you can identify the artist and title of each of these works from MoMA’s collection—all currently on view throughout the Museum—please submit your answers by leaving a comment on this post. We’ll provide the answers next month (on Friday, November 14). Read more

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Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: An Evening of Cocktails with Toulouse-Lautrec’s Muses
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Reine de joie (Queen of Joy). 1892. Lithograph, sheet: 59 7/16 x 39 7/16 in. (151 x 100.1 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Reine de joie (Queen of Joy). 1892. Lithograph, sheet: 59 7/16 x 39 7/16 in. (151 x 100.1 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rodgers

My favorite part of Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris is the moment when actress Marion Cotillard reveals her preferred moment from Paris’s illustrious past. Instead of being magically transported to the roaring 1920s of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Pablo Picasso, and Gertrude Stein, she prefers the glamour of the Belle Époque—the riotous 1890s when the City of Lights basked in all its outrageous fin-de-siècle glory. A new sensibility called L’Art Nouveau was winding its organic tentacles around the built environment, infusing it with the sensuous forms and generative force of nature. The accompanying move toward abstraction was opening up new possibilities for artistic expression in painting and sculpture. Japonisme was all the rage, and its elegant asymmetries, colorful patterns, flattening of space, heavily outlined forms, and radically cropped images had taken Paris by storm. A renaissance of printmaking breathed new life into traditional approaches to artistic production, and the graphic potential of the poster reached its apotheosis. And what would that moment have been without the towering genius (if diminutive in physical stature) and force-of-nature personality of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec?

What has always fascinated me most about this artist was his chameleon-like ability to construct his identity(s), actively living every moment of his brief and physically disabled but spectacular life in a blaze of artistic glory. An aristocrat, born with a silver spoon in his mouth (not an absinthe spoon, that would come later), Toulouse-Lautrec lived with one foot in the rarified world of great privilege, in the palaces, salons, and soirées made accessible by his privileged birthright, yet with the other firmly planted in the rowdy world of the Parisian demimonde, surrounding himself with other gifted outsiders of the artistic and entertainment worlds. Adroitly bridging “high” and “low,” Toulouse-Lautrec embraced a culture of excess that almost single-handedly defined the idea of a bohemian lifestyle.

Pablo Picasso. Glass of Absinthe. Paris, spring 1914. Painted bronze with absinthe spoon, 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 3 3/8" (21.6 x 16.4 x 8.5 cm), diameter at base 2 1/2" (6.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Louise Reinhardt Smith. © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso. Glass of Absinthe. Paris, spring 1914. Painted bronze with absinthe spoon, 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 3 3/8″ (21.6 x 16.4 x 8.5 cm), diameter at base 2 1/2″ (6.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Louise Reinhardt Smith. © 2014 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the brothels and cabarets, at the wildest parties imaginable, clad in exotic costumes and mixing up the deadliest concoctions of cocktails (American style) that he served at infamous soirées with hundreds of guests, Toulouse-Lautrec creative flame burned brightly as he walked (albeit with some difficulty) on the wild side. At one of the more spectacular of these parties, the 1895 housewarming fête for Alexandre (Thadee) Natanson, editor of La Revue Blance, and his wife Misia, the artist outdid himself serving 300 guests 2,000 cocktails (or so he proudly claimed) mixed in lurid hues of red, pink, yellow, and green, and apparently creating the desired effect, as several guests (including the artists Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard) left the party horizontally, as they had to be carried off to an impromptu “triage unit” for the hopelessly inebriated. Clad in a waistcoat made from an American flag and a shaved head, Toulouse-Lautrec staged the event, designed the invitations, and entertained guests including Alfred Jarry, Andre Gidé, Mallarmé, and Félix Fénéon. Now THAT’S a party!

Some of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most engaging work depicts his close female friends and muses, included the celebrated performers Jane Avril [also known as “La Melinite”—“the bomb,” Yvette Guilbert, and La Gouloue (“the glutton”)], immortalized in a series of prints and posters currently on view in the exhibition The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art.

Come join me and other fans of 1890s Paris on October 16 or 22 for MoMA After Hours: Toulouse-Lautrec’s Nightlife, an evening of drinks, divas, and delightful conversation as we channel Toulouse-Lautrec’s demimonde while enjoying an after-hours visit to the exhibition and hands-on drawing project inspired by the artist’s constant doodling. Sample savory hors-d’oeuvres and raise of glass to “the green fairy” (absinthe) and to the incomparable joie de vivre of Toulouse-Lautrec and his divas. Who knows, you may even be inspired to dance the can-can.

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The Conservation of Henri Matisse’s The Swimming Pool

The centerpiece of the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Matisse’s remarkable room-size cut-out The Swimming Pool returns to the MoMA galleries for the first time in more than 20 years. In this video, MoMA’s Department of Conservation shares a behind-the-scenes look at the process of conserving this beloved artwork, and in the text below conservator Laura Neufeld provides background on the project. Read more

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October 3, 2014  |  Five for Friday
Five for Friday: Leaf Peeping in MoMA’s Collection

Five for Friday, written by a variety of MoMA staff members, is our attempt to spotlight some of the compelling, charming, and downright curious works in the Museum’s rich collection.

As a native of New England, I wasn’t aware there was such a thing as “leaf peeping” until I moved to New York about a dozen years ago. I guess I took for granted the fact that I didn’t have to go somewhere to see the leaves change color. Since I’m unable to get out of the city this weekend—which the Internet confirms is the peak of the “leaf peeping” season—I decided to round up some foliage from MoMA’s collection… Read more

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October 2, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Design
Design and Violence: One Year Later

“From the branches of a mango tree, in its spreading shade on a hot May morning in a north Indian village, the bodies of two teenaged women hang”—Nivedita Menon

“Every three seconds, somewhere on this planet, a person is forced to flee his or her home”—António Guterres

“Violence begets violence”—Judge Shira Scheindlin

Design and Violence, an online curatorial experiment that explores the manifestations of violence in contemporary society, is a year old. Read more

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September 30, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Design
The White Elephant in the Gallery
Jimenez Lai. White Elephant. 2011. Aluminum, rubber, sandblasted polycarbonate, fabric, cowhide, polyfill batting, 144" X 147" X 90". Moma Imaging, John Wronn

Jimenez Lai. White Elephant (Privately Soft). 2011. Aluminum, rubber, sandblasted polycarbonate, fabric, cowhide, and polyfill batting, 144 X 147 X 90″. Photo: John Wronn

With its fully furnished interior space fitted-out in overstuffed cowhide, and an exterior clad in poly-carbonate panels Jimenez Lai’s White Elephant  (Privately Soft)  operates as both a free standing mini-building and as maxi-furniture. Read more

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September 24, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Matisse’s Cut-Outs at MoMA: A Look Back

On October 12, the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs—the largest presentation of this final chapter of Matisse’s work ever mounted— will open at MoMA.  Much of the anticipation surrounding this show stems from the fact that this visually vibrant and conceptually radical body of work has not been seen on this scale in New York in over 50 years. Read more

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September 23, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions, Publications
Toulouse-Lautrec’s Portraits of Paris: “I don’t detail you. I totalize you!”

Cover of the publication The Paris of Youlouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art, published by The Museum of Modern Art

Cover of the publication The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art, published by The Museum of Modern Art

“The Moulin Rouge hired the most famous dancers to perform the quadrille naturaliste (cancan), which delighted spectators with its swish of petticoats and flashing flesh as legs flew high—knickers optional,” writes Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints, in The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters from The Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition catalogue brilliantly chronicles the short life and career of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Parisian fin-de-siècle world he depicted. Suzuki creates a vivid portrait of the various elements of Lautrec’s life: the world of cafés, nightclubs, and the theater; women of the upper and lower classes; artists and writers; the culture of belle époque Paris. The catalogue accompanies the exhibition The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters, which features, almost exclusively, work from MoMA’s collection.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Miss Eglantine's Troupe (La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine). 1896. Lithograph. Sheet: 24 1/4 x 31 1/4" (61.6 x 79.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Miss Eglantine’s Troupe (La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine). 1896. Lithograph. Sheet: 24 1/4 x 31 1/4″ (61.6 x 79.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Born to aristocratic parents who were first cousins, Toulouse-Lautrec was afflicted with genetic abnormalities. He stopped growing in his early teens at the height of four feet, 11 inches, and as he continued to mature, the growth of his nose and lips outpaced that of his face, causing drooling, lisping, and sinus troubles. Physically unfit for many of the social and sporting elements central to aristocratic life, Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris to study art, where he pursued both his creative and social life with vigor. He spent his days working on painting and lithography, and his absinthe-fueled nights at the opera, theaters, cafés, or nightclubs. His life and work merged; he became a chronicler of the Montmartre scenes he frequented.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret (Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret). 1893. Lithograph. Sheet: 53 3/4 x 37 15/16" (136 x 96.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Emilio Sanchez

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Aristide Bruant in his Cabaret (Aristide Bruant dans son cabaret). 1893. Lithograph, sheet: 53 3/4 x 37 15/16″ (136 x 96.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Emilio Sanchez

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Seated Clowness (Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o) (La Clownesse assise) from Elles. 1896. Sheet: 20 7/8 × 15 13/16" (53 × 40.2 cm).  One from a portfolio of twelve lithographs. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Seated Clowness (Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o) (La Clownesse assise) from Elles. 1896. One from a portfolio of twelve lithographs, sheet: 20 7/8 × 15 13/16″ (53 × 40.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller

Suzuki describes Toulouse-Lautrec’s subjects as “resoundingly populist.” She writes, “Toulouse-Lautrec was a nightly visitor to the theater, the circus, and the opera, finding tremendous freedom and inspiration in those milieus.” Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed the performers he adored, like “The Clowness,” Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o, a nightclub entertainer.

An 1893 lithograph shows Toulouse-Lautrec’s friend Aristide Bruant, the proprietor of the Mirliton—a Montmartre café. Although Bruant is shown in profile, his back to the viewer, contemporaries would have immediately recognized his large felt hat and velvet coat; the portrait rests on social signifiers rather than on faithful depiction. Suzuki explains that Toulouse-Lautrec “used the low-cut dress of La Goulue, the high-stepping posture of Jane Avril, the gloves of Yvette Guilbert, and the profile of Valentin, rather than traditional portrait likenesses. Toulouse-Lautrec himself was quoted telling Guilbert, ‘Ma chere, I don’t detail you. I totalize you!’”

Using MoMA’s extensive collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints, posters, journals, songs sheets, theatre programs, and illustrated books as her inspiration, Suzuki paints a portrait of an artist whose unique biography, persona, and taste is clearly reflected in his art. She places Toulouse-Lautrec squarely in and of his historical milieu, positing that his work might be seen as a visual distillation of the spirit of the Parisian belle époque.

Don’t miss the exhibition, on view at MoMA now through March 22, 2015. To learn more about Toulouse-Lautrec, download a free preview of the catalogue, or visit MoMAStore.org to purchase the book.

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September 12, 2014  |  Do You Know Your MoMA?
Do You Know Your MoMA? 9/12/14

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How well do you know your MoMA? If you think you can identify the artist and title of each of these works from MoMA’s collection—all currently on view throughout the Museum—please submit your answers by leaving a comment on this post. We’ll provide the answers next month (on Friday, October 10). Read more

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September 5, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Now in the Galleries: Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer II
Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918). Adele Bloch-Bauer II. 1912. Oil on canvas. Private collection. © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918). Adele Bloch-Bauer II. 1912. Oil on canvas. Private collection. © 2014 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

We are thrilled to announce that Gustav Klimt’s stunning Adele Bloch-Bauer II, one of two formal portraits that the artist made of his patron Adele Bloch-Bauer, is on view in MoMA’s fifth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries beginning today, as a special long-term loan from a private collection. Read more