The first comprehensive retrospective exhibition in thirty years to be devoted to the achievements of Barnett Newman (1905-1970), one of the most radical and influential artists of the 20th century, will debut at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from March 24 through July 7, 2002. Co-organized by the Museum and Tate Modern, this exhibition assembling about 65 paintings, six sculptures, and 65 works on paper will be seen in the United States in Philadelphia only. It brings together Newman’s earliest surviving works, dating from the mid-1940s, as well as those of the pivotal period of the late 1940s and early 1950s when Newman emerged as an important figure within the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York. The exhibition also examines Newman’s late work, created at a time when a younger generation of painters and sculptors came to find inspiration in the purity of his art and in the clarity of his vision.
“Bringing together paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from all over the world, this exhibition provides the first opportunity in thirty years to see such a comprehensive assembly of Newman’s work,” said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “For several generations of viewers, it will be their only firsthand exposure to the full range of his spectacular achievements. For those who already know his art well, the exhibition will be an unparalleled opportunity to reconsider it at the beginning of a new millenium.”
Ann Temkin, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and curator of the exhibition, said that the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue will reveal many new facts about Newman. “On the one hand Newman is legendary as the creator of the ‘zip,’ and on the other, really very little has been understood about his development. The term ‘zip’ itself, which Newman did not take up until the last few years of his life, has blinded people to the slow and complex nature of both the making and the viewing of his paintings.”
A master of expansive spatial effects and richly evocative color, Barnett Newman invented a distinctive way of painting that was both emotive and uncompromisingly abstract. Newman created works of art with an audaciously minimal array of means—fields of color and the vertical bands he called “zips.” Along with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, he changed the scale of American painting, making it larger and enabling the canvas to effectively envelop the viewer, a quality that would give rise to a new expression of the sublime in abstract art. The exhibition will trace the dramatic shifts in Newman’s art over the course of three decades, from his Surrealist-inspired drawings of the 1940s to the bold largescale paintings and sculptures he created in his last years.
The exhibition will include many works of art not seen together in more than a generation. Onement I, 1948 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York), the painting Newman considered his personal artistic breakthrough, will be placed in the context of both the early works which led to its creation and to its many subsequent variations. Newman’s largest painting, Anna’s Light (1968), is 20 feet in length and will be on display in the United States for the first time since its acquisition by the Kawamura Memorial Art Museum, Japan. Other major loans will arrive from the Kunstmuseum Basel, the first public collection to acquire the artist’s work, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and the Menil Collection in Houston. The National Gallery of Art in Washington is making an unprecedented loan of the fourteen Stations of the Cross paintings (1958-66), which will be featured in their own gallery. The monumental 26-foot tall Broken Obelisk, (1963-1967) lent by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, will face Philadelphia from the Museum’s East Terrace, while other sculptures will be installed indoors.
The exhibition was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Tate Modern, London, with the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., and The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, and the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Barnett Newman is made possible in Philadelphia by generous grants from The Dietrich Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Marsha and Jeffrey Perlman, Gerri and David Pincus, and other generous individuals, and by the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions.
After its showing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition will be seen at Tate Modern, London (September 19, 2002 - January 5, 2003) where it will be installed by Jeremy Lewison, Tate Director of Collections.
A fully illustrated publication accompanies the exhibition. Barnett Newman is published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press in North American and by the Museum in association with Tate Publishing outside North America. The book contains essays by exhibition organizer Ann Temkin, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Richard Shiff, the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art and Director of the Center for the Study of Modernism at the University of Texas at Austin. Each work of art is reproduced in full color and accompanied by its own entry. The book also contains an extensive chronology of the artist’s life, a selected bibliography and a selected exhibition history (354 pages; 180 illustrations in full color and 87 in black and white). Barnett Newman is available in hardcover ($65.00) and softcover ($36.00) and can be purchased in the Museum Store, by calling (800) 329-4856, or by visiting the Museum’s Online Store at www.philamuseum.org. ISBN: 0-87633-156-8 (hardcover); ISBN: 0-87633-157-6 (softcover).
Barnett Newman Symposium
Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6, 2002
Van Pelt Auditorium
Admission by ticket only
Members, Students and Faculty $15; Senior citizens $25; Non-Members $30. Friday registration: 2-3 p.m., West Lobby; Saturday registration: 8:30-9:30 a.m. Tickets available at the Reservation and Ticket booth in the West Foyer or by calling (215) 235-SHOW (7469). There is a $2.75 surcharge per ticket for all tickets reserved by phone. (Subscription fees include Museum admission, admission to all lectures, a private Saturday morning viewing of Barnett Newman, and informal breakfast and lunch on Saturday.)
An afternoon of lectures on Friday, April 5 (3:00-5:00 p.m.) will be followed by an informal evening panel that will bring together friends of the artist (7:00-8:45 p.m.). Saturday’s session will include a full day of talks (9:30-5:00 p.m.). Moderated by Ann Temkin, the symposium will bring to Philadelphia a distinguished panel of specialists. They include Richard Shiff; Yve-Alain Bois, Professor of Art History at Harvard University and the author of the forthcoming Barnett Newman catalogue raisonné; Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Director of Conservation at the Whitney Museum of American Art and a contributor to the Newman catalogue raisonné; Benjamin Buchloh, Professor of Art History, Columbia University; and Suzanne Penn, Paintings Conservator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In addition, there will be a panel discussion among friends of the artist, including the dealer/collector Ben Heller, an early champion of Newman and sculptor Robert Murray, who assisted Newman. For information, please call 215-684-7605.
Concerts on Fairmount
Sunday, April 14, 2:30 p.m.
Van Pelt Auditorium.
Members $10, nonmembers $20, seniors and students with valid ID $17
As a tribute to Barnett Newman, who was an avid fan of grand opera, soprano Monique McDonald and pianist Carrie-Ann Matheson will perform selections by Mozart, Gluck, Handel, Verdi, Puccini, Bellini, and Rossini. McDonald currently sings with the Marilyn Horne Foundation and the New York City Opera, among others.
Wednesday Nights at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
May 15, 2002
Free with Museum admission
In honor of Barnett Newman, and as part of an evening of dance performances by Monica Bill Barnes, MOXIE, and Emily Hubler and Dancers, the Museum will present a bird watching outing and gallery talks about the artist.
Bird Watching: A Birder's Perspective. Join Mike Weilbacher, executive director of the Lower Merion Conservancy and “Mike the Science Guy” on WXPN’s Kid’s Corner, for bird watching on Kelly Drive on the occasion of the retrospective exhibition Barnett Newman. Behind Newman's famous quip, “Aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds,” had a passionate, lifelong interest in bird watching. Bring binoculars and meet at the West Information Desk at 5:15 p.m.
Gallery Talk: Barnett Newman: A Biographical Perspective with Melissa Ho, Exhibition Assistant and contributor of the chronology of Newman’s life in the Barnett Newman exhibition catalogue (6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.)