New versus Old (ctd.)

April 23 2018

Video: KHM

I wrote recently about the trend to exhibit contemporary artworks among Old Masters, both on AHN and in The Art Newspaper. In The New York Times, Nina Siegal looks at two more instances of this phenomenon, in the Frans Hals museums in Haarlem, and in the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The latter is perhaps the most high-profile demonstration of what is called in curatorial circles 'trans-historical display'. It's an ugly term for an ugly practice. 

The Frans Hals museum is trying trans-historicalism in a misguided attempt to make Old Masters 'fashionable'. But really it signals nothing more than a lack of ability to present Old Masters to new audiences on their own merits. It just makes the museum look as if it doesn't value its Old Masters, and doesn't know what to do with them. As I've written before, it's like going into a restaurant, seeing the menu, and then being told by the waiter that actually everything's pretty rubbish; you'd soon get up and leave.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum at least has put contemporary and modern works in its famous galleries as part of a structured exhibition, called 'The Shape of Time' (as previewed in the video above). Some of the pairings of new and old art actually make good sense, and are built around tangible relationships between the exhibits, such as hanging a Manet beside his hero Velasquez. I also like the pairing of works that have been specifically commissioned for the show, such as the painting by Kerry James Marshall made in response to, and hanging beside, a work by Tintoretto. Others are, as the show's curator Jasper Sharp says, 'more intuitive', which sounds as vague as it looks; a Rothko hung next to a Rembrandt seems to be simply random, although I can't help but celebrate the way in which Rembrandt effortlessly crushes the Rothko beside him. 

When the KHM put the above photo on its Instagram page, Jaspaer Sharp said; “Half them were saying ‘this is absolutely abysmal." What do you think?

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.