April 29, 2010  |  Behind the Scenes
MoMA Offsite: European Stay-cation?

Chris Ofili. Prince amongst Thieves. 1999

Much of the dust—er, ash—has settled in Europe, and those marooned there by Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano are trickling back home. Nonetheless, when airspace was finally cleared mid–last week, there were reports of half-empty planes returning from some of the most afflicted cities, such as Zurich and London. I know a handful of people whose airlines will not honor tickets at their original prices until April 29 or later, so perhaps this in part explains the sparsely populated jets. But one must also consider the Europeans who may have canceled trips and vacations to the States completely. How many of those people will therefore miss a planned trip to MoMA, I wonder?!? It is with this concern in mind that I drafted this MoMA Offsite entry. Perhaps it’s too rash to predict for Europe the trend of the “stay-cation” (which swept our nation last year due to factors altogether different, of course), but nonetheless I’d like our members, friends, and supporters there to know that many MoMA works are on view in Europe at this time.

In the UK, the first- and worst-hit of all outside Iceland, MoMA has works on loan to museums in London and Dublin. At Tate Britain, two small sculptures by Henry Moore round out a show that The Guardian calls “The most important exhibition of Moore works for a generation.” Two Forms (1934) and Reclining Figure (1938) are charming examples of Moore’s early experiments in the avant-garde (advisory to weary travelers: Reclining Figure is made of cast lead!). Also at Tate Britain is the intimate and intricate Prince amongst Thieves (1999), a painting by Chris Ofili. The Moore show and the Ofili show are on view through August 8 and May 16, respectively. Across the Thames, the aforementioned Theo van Doesburg exhibition remains on view through May 16 as well. And in Dublin, at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Philip Guston’s Painting (1954) joins an interdisciplinary exhibition that examines the great twentieth-century composer Morton Feldman’s connection to the visual arts. Feldman was particularly involved with artists of the New York School, so although Painting is the only work from MoMA’s collection in the show, others by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko will surely summon thoughts of the city that never sleeps. Vertical Thought: Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts is on view through June 27.

Joan Mitchell. Ladybug. 1957. Oil on canvas, 6' 5 7/8" x 9' (197.9 x 274 cm). Purchase

Speaking of the New York School, if you’re immobile in Germany, you too can indulge in Abstract Expressionist masterpieces at the Museum Kunst Palast in Düsseldorf. Painting Number 2 (1954) by Franz Kline; The Clock (1956–57) by Philip Guston; Jacob’s Ladder (1957) by Helen Frankethaler; and Ladybug (1957) by Joan Mitchell are all included in the exhibition Le Grande Jeste! Informal and Abstract Expressionism, 1946–64, which traces the development of the artistic movements in the United States and into Germany, France, Italy, and other European countries.

Marcel Duchamp. Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics). 1925

In neighboring Switzerland, the Kunstmuseum Basel currently houses a presentation of the MoMA–organized mid-career retrospective of Gabriel Orozco, which closed here in early March. Several works from our collection are part of the exhibition, and MoMA published the accompanying catalogue. Also in Basel, at the Museum Tinguely, is an infrequently exhibited work by Marcel Duchamp, Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) (1925).

For those beneath the somewhat friendlier skies in Italy and Spain, I sure hope you made it out safe and sound. But if not, it’s still possible to get a MoMA experience near you. In Italy, two different museums are featuring two paintings each from our sizable collection of Giorgio de Chirico canvases: Florence’s Organizzazione Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi has The Nostalgia of the Infinite (1912–13) and The Serenity of the Scholar (1914), and in Rome, The Seer (1914–15) and The Duo (1914–15) can be seen at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. And in Madrid, Two Edges (1948), a Barnett Newman painting, joins a group of other abstract paintings from the period to offer comparisons and connections to the paintings by Claude Monet in Monet and Abstraction at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

So if you’ve lost a vacation to New York, head to one of the above museums to perform your mourning—and be sure to have a hot dog and some black coffee after your visit!