February Director’s Message
After all that snow, there is no doubt about February’s arrival… There are many projects going up and coming down at the Wadsworth this month. On the 11th we celebrate the opening of Paul Manship: Ancient Made Modern with virtual events for members. One of America’s most celebrated sculptors of the early twentieth century, Manship is known as an innovator of style and an artist who contributed to telling the human story in public spaces particularly in New York with commissions such as Prometheus at Rockefeller Center and the gates to the Bronx Zoo. This show reveals Manship’s significant use of appropriation of ancient art’s forms, which took root during his student years at the American Academy in Rome and continued in his travels. In his words, “the art of the past is an open book.” He blended elements he observed in art from antiquity with a modern aesthetic à la his 1920s-30s New York City surroundings. Signature bronzes, associated sketches, and ancient artifacts tell this story of how Manship became a master of his craft. Come visit. Check out the three virtual experiences (the first of which are launching February 11 on our Mobile Guide) connected to the project. We’re happy to welcome you.
We’ve been delighted to host so many of you this winter. Visiting Made in Connecticut recently, a visitor was surprised to find a car in the gallery, and commented that “it’s a gorgeous work of art.” This coming week (February 5-7) is the last opportunity to see the show. Within the next few weeks you’ll see a fresh installation of works from the contemporary collection in those spaces on the first floor of the Wadsworth building, highlighting recent acquisitions of art by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Charles LeDray, and Linda Stark. Joining them are a mix of longtime favorites and some surprises by artists like Arakawa, Daniel Buren, Tara Donovan, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Duane Hanson, and Kehinde Wiley. Ali Banisadr / MATRIX 185 will close mid-month, last chance to see the show is February 14, but we were able to acquire The Caravan(below, left) out of the project.We’re hard at work creating new collection installations with the goal of introducing a new project every month into the summer. Next month is Todd Gray / MATRIX 186 (opening March 4), which includes new work created for the exhibition; and plans are underway to install works by Goya, Posada, and Chagoya on the third floor of the Wadsworth building in early April.
February is Black History Month and in recognition we’ve organized a number of programs to celebrate. Tomorrow, artist Sonya Clark leads a talk about her work Blackened and Bleached (above, center) which was recently acquired for the collection. Clark will be joined by curator Patricia Hickson and conservator Casey Mallinckrodt for a discussion about how her artistic interventions, in this work the coloring and bleaching of Confederate Battle Flags, challenge the object’s symbolic power and complicate history, conservation, and preservation. Check our online events calendar for the full lineup of related virtual programs this month, including those created in collaboration with The Amistad Center for Art & Culture. While this month provides a great opportunity to surface and celebrate stories of Black heritage, I’m reminded of the power of our collection to do that year-round. One of the newest stories we have to share is centered on a new acquisition of silver, a nineteenth-century Nutmeg Grater (above, right) made by Peter Bentzon, one of the few identified silversmiths of African descent working in early America. This rare object joins the Wadsworth’s extensive collection of silver and propels conversations about what it might have meant for Bentzon, a free person of color, merchant, entrepreneur, and silversmith to have independently and successfully operated his own business in nineteenth century America and the Caribbean.
I hope you will take advantage of free admission and visit this month, perhaps with a loved one to spend time together around Valentine’s Day.
Thomas J. Loughman
Director and CEO
Paul Manship, Flight of Night (detail), 1916. Bronze on a veined black marble base. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Gift of Philip L. Goodwin. © Estate of Paul Manship
Ali Banisadr, The Caravan, 2020. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund,
Sonya Clark, Blackened and Bleached, 2015. Dyed and bleached Confederate Battle Flags. The Douglas Tracy Smith and Dorothy Potter Smith Fund
Peter Bentzon, Nutmeg Grater, ca. 1810-20. Silver