PRINT November 2015


“Reimagining Modernism” at the Met

View of “Reimagining Modernism: 1900–1950,” 2014–. On wall, from left: Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1944. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.; Alice Neel, Portrait of Dick Bagley, 1946; Walt Kuhn, Clown with a Black Wig, 1930. On platform, from left: Gerrit Rietveld, Zig Zag Stoel, ca. 1937–40; Koloman Moser, armchair, 1903; Alvar Aalto, 31 armchair, 1931–32; Charles Eames, LCW side chair, ca. 1946. Photo: Chandra Glick.

A CURATOR FRIEND once asked me what I thought of her proposal for an exhibition of two painters who had never met or known of each other’s work. I was skeptical: Why bring together artists who have no demonstrable connection beyond the fact they shared the planet for a time? “Curating,” my friend replied, “is about creating a visual conversation.” And the conversation that mattered, as she saw it, was among the objects on display rather than among the artists who made them. Instead of retrieving an episode from the art-historical past, the curator might spark a new moment of aesthetic possibility by forging an unexpected dialogue among works never before seen in tandem. Individual objects would thus be understood not simply as a product of the artist’s moment but also of the viewer’s own.

My friend’s words came back to me on a recent visit to “Reimagining Modernism: 1900–1950,” a

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