Amedeo Modigliani’s nickname was Modi, in reference to maudit, meaning “cursed.” The artist believed he was destined to live a short life after a streak of bad health, and indeed, he died at 35 after a 19-year battle with tuberculosis. Up to that point he lived the life of a quintessential bohemian artist, broke, drenched in alcohol, and searching for meaning through creativity. In such a short career he managed to leave behind a heap of art, and this winter a small portion can be seen at the Jewish Museum in New York in its latest exhibit on the artist, “Modigliani: Unmasked.” It is a modest show but succeeds in showing how a Sephardic Jew from Italy grappled with his complex identity in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
“Let it be inscribed on the portals of the world’s museums,” Robert Hughes wrote. “What you will see in here is not meant to be a social experience. Shut up and use your eyes.” This is precisely what the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest colossal achievement, “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” demands. The exhibit, open until February 12, provides a behind-the-scenes look into the life of Michelangelo Buonarroti through his most intimate works—the incomplete, the first drafts, the drawings he made for his lovers—rendered in the most delicate mediums of chalk, ink, and graphite on paper. The show has been called an unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it is.
Through no fault of his own, Edvard Munch could be considered an agent of kitsch. He feared this would be the case, writing in his undated diaries that “kitsch” was something “I have worked against all my life.” But after his death, re-creations and imitations of his paintings and prints—mostly of the “Scream”—weakened his paradoxical purpose: to simultaneously provide the viewer with an escape from and confrontation of anxiety. Although the “Scream” has been battered by commercialism, Munch’s angst pulsates in each of the 21 pieces held in the National Gallery’s latest exhibit on the prolific printmaker.
Art historians enthusiastically contextualize artists, but it is a more difficult task when the artist is alive to watch their attempt. Rearranging several paintings before the opening of his first retrospective show in the United States, Markus Lüpertz wanted everything to be perfect. “He choreographed the exhibit,” Phillips Collection director Dorothy Kosinski said with well-earned pride.
American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers is a classical equity feminist, meaning she believes the government should not impose an unfair advantage or disadvantage on women or men. But Sommers is concerned that classical equity feminism has been eclipsed by what she calls “fainting-couch feminism,” an ideology overplaying victimhood that has leaked from college campuses and celebrity activists into the mainstream.
Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” has been described as the most “selfie-worthy” art show touring North America. But Kusama’s work is not necessarily pitched at the Instagram hordes who line up by the hundreds to witness her famous mirror-lined rooms. A picture—however many likes and shares it gains—cannot convey the mental afflictions that provoked each piece.