The rule of artistic quality is threatened everywhere but at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where director Philippe de Montebello has stood for thirty years against the decadence of the contemporary museum world. While other institutions flirt with the fashions of the moment--the CEO museum at MOMA, the branding museum at Guggenheim--the Metropolitan has remained a museum of art. Great art and excellent curators have ruled over financial and egotistical concerns. This mission may have once been the personal vision of de Montebello, but it has become formalized as institutional mandate with the appointment last week of the young Tom Campbell, a scholar and curator of medieval tapestries, to serve as de Montebello’s successor. The news of this dark horse candidate, who has led a career defined by stunning exhibitions rather than one marked by careerism, could not have been better for the Metropolitan, or for the world of culture.
The opening tomorrow of the Metropolitan’s latest exhibition,“Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964,” speaks once again to strength of this institution, mounting a survey of perhaps the most understated modernist artist—the first survey of his work in more than a quarter century and the first ever in the United States. For those who observe the recessive traits of contemporary culture—the rise of Slow Food, for example—this exhibition will speak to a repressed sensibility. Karen Wilkin will be reviewing the show for us in our October issue of the magazine. The Metropolitan, with its institutional strength, has also paved the way for a host of Morandi shows around New York this month in the commercial galleries, which I will address in my forthcoming “Gallery chronicle”: “Giorgio Morandi: Paintings and Works on Paper” at Lucas Schoormans in Chelsea (508 West 26th street) and “The Etchings of Giorgio Morandi” at Pace Prints, opening on September 18 (32 East 57th Street).
In addition to the Metropolitan’s exhibition, there are additional public shows on view later this month: “Giorgio Morandi: Watercolors and Drawings 1920-1963” at the Italian Cultural Institute opening on September 23 and “Giorgio Morandi: Etchings 1912-1956” at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimo opening on October 1.
Our own Karen Wilkin will also be speaking about Morandi at two different venues this week: on Wednesday at the New York Studio School, on a panel including Janet Abramowicz, William Bailey (our honoree at this year’s New Criterion art auction), and Neville Rowley. Then this Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum, Karen will lead off a symposium on the artist’s work at 2 pm. When picking and choosing what to see in a month dedicated to Morandi, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum, there is only one option, and that's to see it all.