Archive for the ‘Past Internationals’ Category

Enter the archive

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Jeff Koons sculpture being installed during 1988 Carnegie International

Jeff Koons sculpture being installed during 1988 Carnegie International

Some say that the Carnegie Museum of Art was the first museum of modern and contemporary art in the U.S. It is true–as far as American institutions go–the Carnegie has been around the block. It opened in 1895 and a year later started an annual exhibition to bring work by the best and most talented artists to Pittsburgh. We inherited this model of an exhibition and hence thought it pertinent to reflect back on how it all went over these 117 years. Now, enter the archive: a visual history as told through installation photos and films (some seen for the first time), a few choice artworks, and a good amount of text. It opened over the weekend and will be up through the run of the 2013 Carnegie International.

Carnegie International in the 1990s and 2000s

Carnegie International in the 1990s and 2000s


Carnegie International in the 1960s

Carnegie International in the 1960s




The Film Collection – On view through March 2014

Friday, June 28th, 2013
harry smith_heaven and earth magick 1962

Still from Harry Smith’s Heaven and Earth Magick, 1962

This month we opened our new and improved modern and contemporary collection galleries. The installation is a component of the 2013 Carnegie International (as is the Playground Project, which also opened this month in the Heinz Architectural Center) and highlights the major role the International has played in forming the museum’s collection. As the show has been curated by different individuals over its nearly 120 year history, and as those individuals have chosen to acquire certain things rather than others, the collection has a unique character reflective of personal tastes and interests.  Sometimes major artists were missed, but with the benefit of hindsight, the museum has continued to fill in the gaps through new acquisitions. Works that weren’t in Internationals past are included in the reinstallation as well, to create a cohesive presentation of many of our best works.

Film and video is one facet of artistic practice that showed up late on the International‘s radar, appearing for the first time in the 1985 iteration. In the meantime, the Film and Video department was doing really innovative things, bringing some of the most important filmmakers to Pittsburgh to present their work and building an outstanding collection. Rethinking the collection galleries has given us the opportunity to make room for this frequently overlooked segment of our holdings (and history), so we’ve built an elegant new “black box” space in gallery 14.  Over the course of the next 8 months–through the run of the International– this gallery will be home to a roughly chronological, rotating program of works by 11 major artists (see the full upcoming schedule after the jump). Most of the films that will be on view were acquired during the Film and Video department’s first ten years (1970-1980), and some were presented in person by the filmmaker.

First up: Harry Smith‘s Heaven and Earth Magick (1962), a surreal collage film composed from Victorian-era catalogues and exercise manuals that Smith produced over a period of five years using a randomizing selection process called sortilege, inspired by the Surrealist practice of automatic writing.  Smith adopted a strategic regimen of sleep deprivation, working to the point of exhaustion and then transferring his dreams to film upon waking. The resulting animation revolves around a male magus character who, after injecting a female figure with magic potion, finds she has disintegrated and must be reassembled.

Heaven and Earth Magic includes references to the Kabbalah, 19th-century philology, and the writings of Dr. Wilder Penfield on open-brain surgery and the concept of the Homunculus, evincing Smith’s nearly encyclopedic knowledge of esoterica and mysticism. The artist was an avid collector of everything from pop-up books and forgotten folk records (he famously compiled the Anthology of American Folk Music, released in 1952) to Native American costumes, string figures, and Fabergé eggs. His interest in ethnic artifacts and everyday ephemera, as well as obscure forms of knowledge and the occult, was rooted in a search for universality underlying the diversity of human endeavor.

Stop by and see the film before July 8th, when we’ll switch it out for a compilation of Kenneth Anger‘s early work.


Scandal in the 1909 International

Thursday, May 16th, 2013


Said-Huh-to-bride-1909_500pxFrom today’s perspective, George Sauter’s The Bridal Morning is only one among innumerable paintings showing a female nude. It depicts a standing female from behind who is being assisted by two other women as she gets dressed for her wedding. But in 1909 the public response to the work was greatly divided. The painting, which received second prize at the Carnegie Institute in the 1909 exhibition, aroused a huge controversy ranging from praise to condemnation.


President Taft, the International, and the Pirates

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

s-day KE-Honus-Wagner-by-Bingaman

During some archival research for the upcoming re-installation of the International’s collection, I came across an unlabeled black-and-white photograph (top). After some some further digging it became apparent that the picture represents a highlight in the early history of both the exhibition and Major League Baseball. The photo features a huge painted billboard which bears an image of Pittsburgh Pirates fans packed into the stands at Exposition Park and is flanked by two inscriptions: PRESIDENT TAFT APPLAUDING WAGNER’S TWO-BAGGER MAY 29, 1909 and WELCOME MR. PRESIDENT FOUNDER’S DAY MAY 2, 1910. The painting on the board was a reproduction of a photo taken by Frank Bingaman first published in the Pittsburgh Press on May 30, 1909. The related article, “Taft Has Jolly Time at Ball Game but Upsets Plans,” detailed how William Howard Taft (an avid baseball fan) was “the first U.S. President to attend a Major League baseball game at a location other than Washington.” The game also gave Taft the chance to witness the legendary play of Pirate Honus Wagner, “The Flying Dutchman.” The Pirates lost this game 3–8 to the Chicago Cubs, but ultimately won the World Series later that year (thanks in large part to Wagner’s .339 batting average for the season).

President Taft remained in Pittsburgh for two days. Besides attending the Pirates game, he participated in the initiation of Memorial Fountain in Arsenal Park and visited the Allegheny County Club, confirmed by several photographs in the museum’s archives (below).

Just one year later, President Taft returned to Pittsburgh and again attended a Pirates game, which the Pirates won this time 5–2 against the Cubs on May 2, 1910. According to the press, Taft’s visit to Forbes Field was part of a tight schedule the President had to complete during his two-day stay in Pittsburgh. An article in the Pittsburgh Press read “Great Preparations Made to Entertain Head of Nation.” On the morning of May 2, 1910, thousands must have lined the streets in Oakland to catch a glimpse of the President residing in the Schenley Hotel and leaving for the Carnegie Music Hall later on. President Taft attended the museum’s Founder’s Day celebration, which coincided with the opening of the Annual Exhibition (now known as the Carnegie International). He gave a speech and officially opened the fourteenth International.

The following day the Pittsburgh Press article “President Gives Talk about Art” described the atmosphere and decorations in the Carnegie Music Hall for the event and featured a summary of the President’s speech. The small annual booklet that typically contains the Founder’s Day summary included a report on the occurrences and a reproduction of the entire address. Here is an excerpt:

“The contrast necessarily impresses itself on one’s mind of  the enormous material development and progress of Pittsburgh on the one hand, with the smoke and the fire that indicate the great industries on every hand, and then the esthetic side of the community, that is shown and encouraged in this great temple of art, of music, and of learning….In the old countries the people—the common people—love art and music, and therefore, those who have the control of the government do not hesitate to use the proceeds of taxes to encourage those tastes, and to give the pleasure that music and art give to those people….In Europe you cannot help being impressed with the love of art of the common people. And while we may be pardoned in our first hundred years for not having spread wider that love because of the difficulties we had to encounter in settling this country and in making it prosperous in a material way, we certainly cannot as a people escape from severe condemnation if in the next hundred years we do not make great progress, great strides in the matter of the love of art, and its cultivation on every hand.”

In more recent news, Taft has recently been elected to join the Washington Nationals’ “Racing Presidents” Mascots.

Nicola Schroeder is a German art historian currently living in Pittsburgh and working on the archive of the Carnegie International.

Carnegie International, the catalogs, and their covers

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Cover of the 1961 Carnegie International (called Pittsburgh International Exhibition)

The earliest Carnegie International catalog covers featured a profile with the motto “Honos Alit Artes” (in English, “Honor feeds the arts”). This phrase is attributed to Cicero, who argued that an artistic discipline, such as painting, requires recognition and support from the public in order to flourish. This cover design was used from 1896 to 1914, when the annual show was put on hold due to the war. When the exhibition was brought back in 1920, the covers had a new, modern design. This Art Deco look was used from 1920 to 1922, and the show was renamed the International Exhibition of Paintings. 1924 saw the introduction of a new cover design, this time a classic image of a goddess. (more…)