It is said that Andrew Carnegie "robbed Egypt." Indeed, the Egyptian collection is well-known and wonderful, but so is the art collection. Carnegie International, the exhibition series established by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, is a prestigious annual display of international art that has kept Pittsburgh involved in a worldwide exchange, even during decades when other American museums dealt mostly in American art. This is fortunate for those of us who love the French Impressionists! Carnegie was buying them when they were avant garde.
Carnegie International Exhibition has always been faithful to its founder’s expressed wishes—to buy art when it is new, radical, and different. Does that mean that the Carnegie is full of Andy Warhol’s, Pittsburgh’s own recent worldwide art fame? No, the Carnegie in Oakland isn’t that radical! The Warhol Museum, included under the umbrella of The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is on the other side of town. This distance is actually not a matter of preference, but the museum in Oakland simply doesn’t have room for Warhol, who has seven floors of his own in the most comprehensive museum in the world devoted to a single artist. Installation art also has its own facility, the Mattress Factory, on the Northside, and Carnegie Science Center is also in that neighborhood. As a result, the original museum in Oakland preserves much of its original identity and houses only art and natural history.
The original Renaissance-style building was opened in 1895 and expanded in 1907. Two entrances are flanked by statues of Bach, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Galileo.
Inside, the stupendous entrance hall is a preview of the prestigious collections in the
The day of our last visit, a mineralogy show disrupted our visit to the Hall of Sculpture, made of the same Pentellic marble as the Parthenon and fashioned after the Temple of
Athena on the Acropolis.
The Hall of Architecture is the only one in America and contains one of the three largest collections of casts (140) in the world, including the largest cast in existence, that of the facade of the 12th-century French Abbey Church of St. Gilles-du-Gard. In addition, the Heinz Architectural Center has several changing exhibits, and another gallery displays decorative arts.
The Sarah Scaife Gallery houses paintings arranged in chronological periods. Furniture and decor items are arranged with framed art to create a multidimensional representation of the time period in which the art was created. Bronzes of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and a desk of H. H. Richardson decorate rooms where Paul Cezanne’s Landscape near
Aix and Van Gogh’s Plain of Auvers are hung. A pair of British architect
Robert Adams’ cabinets, made for Lady Wynn, are displayed with 18th-century art.
A chair from a Gustav Stickley workshop is near American George Sotter’s Six Views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Oakland (inspired by Monet’s studies of Rouen
Chronologically, paintings begin with 15th-century Italian works. Then Rembrandt’s
Christ Preaching, Albrecht Durer’s engraving of Adam and Eve, Frans
Hals’ Man with a Herring, and hundreds more predate the American collection, which begins with Benjamin West’s Venus Lamenting the Death of Adonis
(1768). Numerous works by Winslow Homer and James McNeill Whistler make the
American collection from the mid-19th century to the present, one of the most distinguished, and the Carnegie is equally praised for three other collections: French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and late 20th century.
I am drawn to the monumental Monet. His Nympheas (Water Lilies) was originally conceived for the Orangerie in Paris.
The metallic mural Chariot of Aurora once hung in the Grand Salon of the
oceanliner Normandie. These are choices everyone admires, but I try to expand my artistic understanding by studying the latest Carnegie International Exhibit. I have "trouble" appreciating some contemporary art, but I finally come to a social-realist piece that attracts me with its deliberate lack of aesthetic appeal. Neo Rauch lived behind the
Iron Curtain in Leipzig, and his 2002 depiction of "inspiration" as a monster kept in a cage is interesting, if not physically appealing.
In the painting, an artist has come to liberate him (Inspiration). Can you identify the artist, depicted as a sexless American hippie from the 1970s? Yes, interesting!
Another work in the contemporary exhibit is To the Unknown Artist by Anselm
Kiefer, who depicts the landscape of postwar Germany, where Hitler had destroyed many artists, now immortalized by Kiefer. As I regard the blotches in browns and reds that really do suggest to me a landscape of destruction, I hear the announcement of closing. I don’t have time to see the large collection of Japanese landscapes.
The 54th Carnegie International Exhibit will be at the museum until March 20, 2005.
There will be others. I can’t resist a few minutes in the gift shop before I leave, but in my last-minute flutter, I can’t find the shop I want. I believe the art museum has its own, but
I have to settle for the "generic" museum shop, where I grab a rain forest umbrella for more than I could have paid at Phipps Conservatory.
From Forbes Avenue, we can walk to Fifth, only a block, for the bus going downtown, but this time we are driving. To see directions, hours, and events schedules, look here. We always walk some first to admire the multi-university neighborhood with all its impressive buildings, diverse cultural features, and residents from everywhere, who are always on their way on foot to some cultural event—there are so many!