Dr. David Skorton, a cardiologist who’s been president of Cornell University since 2006, is the next secretary of the Smithsonian, the institution announced today. He takes over from G. Wayne Clough, who announced his retirement last year.
Like Clough, who was president of Georgia Tech from 1994 to 2008, Skorton hails from an academic background. He spent three years as president of the University of Iowa before taking the top post at Cornell in 2006. During his eight years at the Ivy League school, Skorton raised more than $5 billion for Cornell while also serving as a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College and a professor in biomedical engineering at Cornell’s College of Engineering.
Through March 21, Washington Project for the Arts presents its annual Art Auction Exhibition at Artisphere. The showcase of local artists features work by Holly Bass, Meaghan Carpenter, Frank Hallam Day, Victoria F. Gaitan, Patrick McDonough, and others.
“Garry Winogrand,” at the National Gallery of Art through June 8, features 160 photographs making up a retrospective of the American street photographer’s career, from images taken at the Bronx Zoo in the 1960s to pictures of John F. Kennedy, Muhammad Ali, and more.
Through July 31, the Kreeger Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary with “K@20,” an exhibition of work by 14 area artists, each of whom has exhibited at the museum over its two-decade history. The show features work by Gene Davis, Ledelle Moe, Jann Rosen-Queralt, and more.
“Made in the USA: American Masters From the Phillips Collection, 1850-1970” is at the Phillips through August 31, celebrating the return home of some 200-plus of the museum’s most compelling works of American art. Among the 120 artists included are Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Edward Hopper.
“Directions: Jeremy Deller” continues through July 31 at the Hirshhorn, featuring “English Magic,” a 14-minute video by the British conceptual artist.
“Cool and Collected: Recent Acquisitions,” at the National Building Museum from March 8 through May 2015, allows the museum to show off additions to its collection, including a “kaleidoscope dollhouse” by Laurie Simmons (a.k.a. the mother of Girls creator Lena Dunham) and Peter Wheelwright, as well as work by local sculptor Raymond Kaskey.
“Pop Art Prints,” on display March 21 through August 31 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, offers a rare look at 39 prints from its collection, including work by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and Jasper Johns.
Opening at the Corcoran March 22 are “Rineke Djikstra: The Crazyhouse,” a video installation of young adults dancing and singing for the artist at a nightclub in Liverpool, and “Jenny Steinkamp and Jimmy Johnson: Loop,” an immersive video-and-sound installation originally commissioned by the museum in 2000.
James Dean had it. So did Muhammad Ali. John Travolta had it and lost it. Defining “cool” is a task that has challenged teenagers and lexicographers alike for generations. Tulane University historian Joel Dinerstein and then-National Portrait Gallery curator Frank H. Goodyear III had been casually discussing an exhibition about the history of cool for several years, but it wasn’t till a politician named Barack Obama entered the picture that they wrote a proposal.
“There was a lot of conversation about Obama’s cool during the lead-up to the 2008 election,” Goodyear says. “We thought what we should do was excavate the origins and evolution of that particular persona.” The result is “American Cool,” an exhibit of photographs—opening February 7 at the Portrait Gallery—that looks at 100 people who have embodied cool at one point or another, from Greta Garbo and James Cagney to Patti Smith and Jay-Z.
The show’s four sections explore the roots of cool, its birth in the ’40s and ’50s, its links to the counterculture in the ’60s and ’70s, and cool from the ’80s to today. Dinerstein and Goodyear had four criteria: Subjects had to have made an obvious contribution in their field, have had some kind of transgressive or rebellious side, and have had a lasting impact beyond their generation; most important, there had to be a good picture of them available.
Some were obvious choices, others more contentious. “Frank and I worked incredibly harmoniously, but there were disagreements,” Dinerstein says. “We had a huge argument over John Travolta.” Says Goodyear: “While the movies he made in the mid- to late ’70s were resonant at that time, what I knew Travolta from was some fairly lame movies and his connection with Scientology.” So they took an academic approach and polled students between ages 18 and 21, who overwhelmingly agreed Travolta should be included. The same with rapper Missy Elliott, to whom students gave preference over Queen Latifah.
Besides exploring cool, the show examines how the rise of photography ran parallel to the word’s entry into the public consciousness. “Photography was the dominant visual medium during the midcentury when these figures were making their mark,” Goodyear says. “It was through photography that the public came to know them.” Among the highlights: images by Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Although Goodyear and Dinerstein agree Washington isn’t renowned as the center of cool, they think it’s a fitting location for the show. “Cool is central to the American self-concept,” Dinerstein says. “What better place than the nation’s capital and the Smithsonian?” But despite the fact that Obama’s election served as inspiration, the President didn’t make the cut. “When he was elected, the public perception of him—and to some degree his larger persona—changed,” Goodyear says. “As President, it’s impossible to be antiestablishment.”
Through September 7; npg.si.edu.
This article appears in the February 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
Whether you’re of the school that thinks it’s genius or among the naysayers who think it’s a marketing ploy for a sequel that hardly needs more hype, the Newseum’s new show is kind of a big deal. “Anchorman: The Exhibit” opens tomorrow on the Pennsylvania Avenue museum’s second floor, and contains such relics as might get Ron Burgundy himself excited: original costumes, a model of Baxter the dog sporting pajamas, Sex Panther perfume, and even Ron’s jazz flute.
The show opens five weeks before the release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s as much a promotional device as Ben & Jerry’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream or Will Ferrell’s in-character ads for the Dodge Durango. Still, “Anchorman: The Exhibit” offers a little more than just costumes and other artifacts enshrined inside glass cases of emotion. Scenes from the first movie are cross-referenced with snippets looking at TV news history, from the way news teams were promoted as gangs of friends you’d invite into your home to the sexism frequently experienced by female reporters. There’s also a segment exploring the real-life case of Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel, which reveals how consultants urged news producers in the ’70s to whip up their ratings with animal stories and other squishy human-interest features (here’s looking at you, BuzzFeed).
Is it a thought-provoking and insightful analysis of TV news in America? No. It’s an exhibit of costumes and props from a hugely successful cult movie. Visitors can film themselves playing anchormen and anchorladies from behind a replica of the Channel 4 newsdesk, and click on a touchscreen to see Ron Burgundy offer advice to prospective newsreaders, such as: “Drink plenty of fluids, and by fluids, I mean bourbon or gin.” Some of the unexpected inclusions are the most interesting—Ron Burgundy’s wallet contains an “American Excess” credit card, and Judd Apatow’s copy of the script is so tiny it’s hard to read. But it’s the most Instagrammable exhibit of the year, and that’s really all that matters.
“Anchorman: The Exhibit” opens November 14 at the Newseum. For more information, visit the Newseum’s website.
Through October 22, Washington will have the rare distinction of having not one but two works by Leonardo da Vinci on display.
Just across the Mall from the National Gallery, where da Vinci’s “Ginevra de’ Benci” has long been the only painting by the artist in the Western hemisphere, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Air and Space is displaying da Vinci’s “Codex on the Flight of Birds,” a 1505 document featuring writings and sketches on the subject of flight.
From September 13 through October 22, visitors can catch a glimpse of the real Codex in the Wright Brothers Gallery, and scroll through touch-screen computers that translate the document’s text, written in da Vinci’s signature “mirror” script.
The document is usually kept at the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, and has only been displayed outside of Italy a handful of times. In addition to notes, it includes sketches of birds in flight, and prefigures da Vinci’s observations on how humans might mimic them to achieve mechanized flight.
The loan is one highlight from Italy US 2013: Year of Italian Culture in the United States, a cultural alliance between the US and Italy that has seen Michelangelo’s David-Apollo on display in the National Gallery and Italian poems reproduced on Washington’s buses.
Admission to see the Codex is free, but timed tickets must be booked online for the first week of its exhibition, by phone at 866-868-7774 or online. For more information, visit the Air and Space Museum’s website.
In Ellen Harvey’s Washington, tourists flock to the city trying to make sense of its landmarks. But Harvey’s visitors are from another planet, exploring a world that’s been devoid of humans for thousands of years. In “The Alien’s Guide to the Ruins of Washington, D.C.”—July 3 through October 6 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art—the British-born Brooklyn artist explores notions of architecture, heritage, and identity by showing how aliens might interpret the neoclassical buildings here and around the world.
Harvey, a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, has long been interested in how art is defined—painting miniature landscapes illegally on buildings in her “New York Beautification Project” and offering people free portraits in return for their evaluation of her work at the 2008 Whitney Biennial. The idea for “The Alien’s Guide” was sparked in part by the Corcoran’s neoclassical building as well as the act of museum-going itself. “Institutions always have this desire to impose meaning on the chaos of reality,” Harvey says. “We look back to the classical architecture of the Greek and Roman eras, and it’s such a foreign society to us—we impose our own ideas upon it. I thought it would be fun to discuss assumptions of hierarchy, power, and democracy by having aliens come to earth and come up with the wrong end of the stick on everything.”
It might not be arm wrestling with Muammar Qaddafi, but the Smithsonian’s upcoming exhibit on the visual history of yoga is still enticing enough to Jack Donaghy’s alter ego that he’s agreed to co-chair the exhibition’s gala. Alec Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria, a yoga instructor, will act as gala chairs for “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” scheduled to open at the Sackler Gallery on October 19. The actor announced the news yesterday—how else?—via his Twitter account.
The Sackler’s yoga exhibition is the first ever museum exhibition to explore the history of yoga and also the first the Smithsonian has actively crowdfunded, in an effort to raise $125,000 towards its costs. If you can’t wait until October, and you want to see a video of the Baldwins practicing yoga in a studio in Cannes right now, watch here.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture announced today that media mogul, actress, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey has pledged to donate $12 million to the museum, in addition to the $1 million donation she made in 2007.
The museum, scheduled to open in 2015, is the 19th Smithsonian institution and the last to open on the Mall. It will pay tribute to the rich and complex history of African American culture in the US. Winfrey is on the museum’s advisory council, along with other luminaries and artists such as Quincy Jones, former First Lady Laura Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The donation is the largest pledge the museum has received from a single person, and will help fund the museum’s theater, which will be named the Oprah Winfrey Theater and will host film screenings, theater works, and other performances.
“I am so proud of African-American history and its contributions to our nation as a whole,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I am deeply appreciative of all who paved the path for me and all who follow in their footsteps. By investing in this museum, I want to help ensure that we both honor and preserve our culture and history, so that the stories of who we are will live on for generations to come.” Winfrey has donated an estimated $400 million to charitable causes during her lifetime.
Winfrey stars in the upcoming Washington-set movie The Butler as the wife of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served eight different presidents. It’s her first appearance in a motion picture in 15 years, since her lead role in the film adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. (See the trailer for The Butler in our earlier post.)
It isn’t April 1, so we’re assuming the press release from the Newseum about a planned “Anchorman” exhibit opening in November is genuine. November 14, the museum joins forces with Paramount Pictures to present “Anchorman: The Exhibit,” which will coincide with the release of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues in December. Among the items on display: Ron Burgundy’s jazz flute, a re-creation of the KVWN-TV anchor desk, and a news set where visitors can pretend to be Brick Tamlin.
Items we hope are included, but unconfirmed for now:
- Sex Panther perfume.
- Many leather-bound books.
- A trident.
- A glass case of emotion (although if you think about it, that’s basically what the Newseum is, only on a much larger scale).
We look forward to updating this when we learn more, but for now, you stay classy, Pennsylvania Avenue.
Yes, we’re spoiled with free museums in Washington, but that doesn’t mean this weekend’s Art Museum Day isn’t worth celebrating. Saturday, May 18, area institutions such as the Phillips Collection, the Corcoran, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Hillwood Estate are opening their doors with special deals on admission. The details:
Baltimore Museum of Art
Admission to the BMA is free, but the museum is offering $10 off individual and family memberships on Art Museum Day, so you can join for $45 instead of the usual $55. New members also receive a $10 voucher to Gertrude’s, the museum’s restaurant.
Corcoran Gallery of Art
The Corcoran is offering free admission all day May 18, as well as every Saturday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Additionally, use the hashtag #ArtMuseumDay to get 15 percent off at the museum shop.
Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens
Visit the Hillwood Museum on May 18 and receive two-for-one admission to the upcoming exhibit “Living Artfully: At Home With Marjorie Merriweather Post,” opening June 8.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
The NMWA will offer free admission all day May 18, from 10 to 5.
The Phillips is offering free admission all day on May 18, from 10 to 5.