At the Morgan Library and Museum: The Kasper Collection and The Diary

Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs
Through May 1, 2011

The New York-born fashion designer Kasper (Herbert Kasper, b. 1926) may be best known for his collection of feminine dresses for Joan Leslie, but his private collection of drawings and photographs, a selection of which is currently on display at The Morgan Library and Museum, celebrates his keen eye for art. In building the impressive collection, Kasper did not acquire works indiscriminately but focused on three primary areas - Old Master drawings, mostly in the sixteenth century Mannerist period; twentieth-century drawings of the likes of Picasso, Degas, Matisse, and Dubuffet; and works of contemporary photography by emerging artists, many of whom became established art world names.

Baccio Bandinelli (1493–1560)
Head of a Woman Wearing a Ghirlanda
Red chalk
11 1/4 x 7 1/8 inches (28.6 x 18.1 cm)
Kasper Collection
Photography by Brad Dickson

The latter collection of contemporary photographs is quite stunning in context. While we would expect to see a fine drawing from a student of Raphael or of Caravaggio at the Morgan, a museum with a deep collection in Old Master drawings, it's a pleasant jolt to walk into the West Gallery at Mr. Morgan's place to see works by Ed Ruscha, Vera Lutter, William Eggleston, Jenny Holzer, Adam Fuss, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Furthermore, they've mixed it up in the East Gallery, so an Italian drawing of an angel circa 1598 by Andrea Lilio shares wall space with a 1997 Vik Muniz chromogenic print of a work made with chocolate syrup. Why not? Splendid, too, are the cubist drawings, grouped together, by Picasso, Gris, and Léger.

William Eggleston (b. 1939)
Stage 14, Parking Lot, Hollywood, 1999–2000
Iris print
24 x 30 inches (61 x 76.2 cm)
Kasper Collection
© Eggleston Artistic Trust
Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives
January 21 through May 22, 2011

Not that we like to invade anyone's privacy, but it's fun to peer through the Morgan's glass cases and read the innermost thoughts of famous writers and artists. In an age of blogging and status updates, the ubiquitous habit of public over-sharing of private information in the digital realm makes an exhibit of original diaries particularly relevant. There's a great variety of form and content here, including Charlotte Brontë's minuscule handwriting and storytelling, John Steinbeck's large ledger tracking his progress on The Grapes of Wrath, war diaries, artist sketchbooks, Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne's mutual marriage diary, Bob Dylan's sketchbook for a 1973-1974 tour, and Tennessee Williams's restless wanderings filled with self-doubt and Secanol. Many life lessons are found within these pages. My eyes happened to land on Steinbeck's handwritten words of wisdom - "Simply can't have people around on working days." That's something best shared only with a diary.

Diary of Sophia Peabody Hawthorne (1809–
1871), 1862. Gift of Lorenz Reich, Jr., 1980.

The Morgan Library and Museum is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street. Check the official website for visitor information and special events related to the exhibitions.

Images courtesy The Morgan Library and Museum.

1 comment:

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

This sounds like a great show, Teri! As much as I'd love to see the Morgan Library for itself, the shows there have never overly compelled me to add it to the list when we come to New York. The contemporary photography sounds more exciting to me than the usually more historical works shown.