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Displaying items by tag: Postmodern

Among the hundreds of mostly younger artists taking part in the 2014 Liverpool Biennial, Britain’s biggest festival of international contemporary art, one name stands out: James McNeil Whistler. No, this isn’t some wincingly hip 20-something digital artist, who just happens to share the name of the great 19th century American painter, or who has adopted it as kind of post-modern jape.

This is the actual Whistler, the great proponent of "art for art’s sake", American born and raised, Paris trained, and long resident in London, most famous for painting his mother and his murky views of the Thames at night.

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When Gudmund Vigtel was named the High Museum of Art’s director in 1963, it was a sensitive time for Atlanta’s art world. More than 100 members of the Atlanta Arts Association and their family members had died the year before in a tragic plane crash. The city’s civic leaders hoped that Vigtel could turn the museum into a living monument of sorts.

Vigtel came to the High Museum from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington where he served as the assistant director. Civic leaders turned to Vigtel to spearhead the fund-raising campaign they started with hopes of remaking the museum. As it turns out, they chose the right man for the job.

During his 28 years at the High Museum, Vigtel transformed it from an unsuspecting, modest institution to one of the U.S.’s most renowned art museums. Vigtel oversaw the museum’s move from a small brick building to an architecturally groundbreaking 135,000-square-foot postmodern structure designed by Richard Meier. While the relocation happened in 1983, Vigtel began fund-raising and seeking out an architect in the mid-1970s.

Vigtel tripled the size of the High’s permanent collection and implemented an art appreciation program for children. He also started one of the country’s first African-American art collections. The decorative arts collection he opened at the museum has gone on to become one of the finest in the country. After acquiring hundreds of works by 19th- and 20th-century American and European artists, Vigtel left the High Museum with a $15 million endowment, which has since grown.

Vigtel died at his home in Atlanta at the age of 87. His wife, two daughters, four grandchildren, and a profound legacy survive him.

Published in News
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 04:51

Thank heavens we’re POST-Postmodern. V&A show review.

Charles Jencks, the architectural theorist credited with inventing the term “postmodernism”, once pointed out that what is exciting and avant-garde one moment tends to feel like old hat the next. No doubt he is right: younger generations often berate the immediate past to assert their own identity.

Even so, walking through the V&A’s new exhibition, which traces the rise and fall of postmodernism across different disciplines during the Seventies and Eighties, I was tempted to ask: has there ever been a more irritating movement in the history of art and design?

The curators tell the story of postmodernism perfectly well. We learn about its development during the early Seventies, in the work of architects such as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who believed that the lingua franca of high modernist style was defunct. In place of clarity and functionality, they introduced new styles and techniques, such as pastiche and irony. (Venturi and Scott Brown were obsessed with the signage of Las Vegas, which gives a clue about the direction in which postmodernism would head.)

Their ideas proved infectious. Before long, artists, musicians and filmmakers, as well as fashion and furniture designers, were also making “postmodern” work — characterised by brash, bold colours, a skin-deep interest in surfaces, and the playful juxtaposition of different styles and “looks” usually identified with distinct periods in history.

There are countless examples of this at the V&A, such as Wendy Maruyama’s Mickey Mackintosh chair from 1988, which “updates” a distinctive piece of Art Nouveau furniture designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh by adding a pair of enormous Mickey Mouse ears.

For a movement obsessed with nuances of style, though, it’s remarkable how glaringly unstylish most postmodernist design actually is. It is as though, for a short but frenzied period around the turn of the Eighties, many of the architects, artists and designers whose work features in this exhibition collectively lost their bearings on what constituted good taste.

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