Pairing Old Masters with contemporary works of art has been an OMNP dilemma of late. Does reevaluating Old Masters against their derivatives from today bring about a more clear understanding of their influence? Is this just an intellectual parlor show, or does such dialogue create new considerations for each work and artist?
One combination that definitely seems to work is Old Masters meshing with the minimalist environments designed for Contemporary art. The austerity of the “white cube” is the perfect foil for the ornate qualities of an Old Master painting and the piety of its subject matter.
The blank backdrop helps to amplify a painting’s lush palette, simultaneously, the unadorned space has a purity about it that is ethereal, thereby clarifying the reverential power of a painting’s subject (i.e. an OM religious scene, or a royal portrait.)
OMNP has previously covered similar instances of this in NYC this year, at gallery features for the works of Francisco Goya and Kim Keever. Recently, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis has taken this concept a step further, with “Ideal (Dis-)Placements: Old Masters at the Pulitzer,” now on view until June 20, 2009.
One of the most compelling aspects of this exhibition was the elimination of artificial lighting to display the works, focusing primarily on natural sources. This turned out to be a most intuitive curatorial decision, as it brings about a new mystique to the works on display. The building’s cutting edge design (by architect Tadao Ando) takes on a new resonance that is less uber-modern and more historically accurate; recapturing the unique viewing experience of such works from centuries ago.