Happy New Year!
It is one we kick off with “See Hear,” a new regular column by author and “KC Studio” contributing writer Steve Paul, who knows KC’s arts scene — visual, performing, cinematic, literary, architectural — better than anyone, following his decades of work as arts editor at the Kansas City Star.
Steve gets around. Little in KC arts escapes his attention, and now that he is free of his desk job, he travels widely, doing research for his books and scoping out cultural attractions from New York to Havana and many points in-between. His column, “See Hear: Steve Paul on Rambling Around the Arts,” will reflect his freewheeling approach.
Art history may judge a unique collaboration between the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and Bruce Hartman, executive director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, as a key impetus to broadening the narrative of American art history.
As chronicled in our story by Brian Hearn, in recent years, Hartman has focused his lifelong collecting energies on 20th-century American Indian art, scouring auctions worldwide for names that he, but not many other art museum professionals, knows and admires. The caliber of these works is such that Crystal Bridges has recently begun showing loans from Hartman’s American Indian painting collection in the museum’s permanent collection modern galleries, where they hang beside works by Marsden Hartley, Hale Woodruff, Charles Demuth, Joseph Stella, Thomas Hart Benton and other giants of American art.
It is Hartman’s mission to see these works by American Indian artists fully recognized as part of the American art canon.
Kansas City is home to a veritable brain trust of American Indian art. Gaylord Torrence, curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, put Kansas City front and center for scholarship in the field with his 2014-15 “The Plains Indians” exhibit, which made its debut in Paris, before opening at the Nelson-Atkins and making its final stop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Torrence recently served as guest curator for The Met’s “Art of Native America: The Charles and Valerie Diker Collection,” an exhibit of historical masterworks by Native American artists from more than 50 cultures on view in the American Wing at The Met from Oct. 4, 2018 through Oct. 6, 2019.
Another feature in the current issue was inspired by a collaboration between an artist and a design connoisseur. Years ago, my life partner, artist James Brinsfield, teamed up with Museo co-owner Steve Maturo to curate an exhibit pairing contemporary art and furniture at the Epsten Gallery at Village Shalom. Titled “A House is Not a Home,” the exhibit featured works of art by Kansas City artists selected by Brinsfield, alongside high-end contemporary furniture chosen by Maturo.
In the January/February Artist Pages, we put a new twist on this idea, inviting Maturo to preside over art/furniture pairings, which were photographed at Museo by “KC Studio” staff photographer Jim Barcus.
For people who love art, there is something soul-killing about interior design spreads filled with decorator-caliber artworks (by often unnamed artists), with nothing to say about life in our times.
Maturo, a longtime art lover, starts with museum-quality contemporary art, and builds a room from there, with striking results.