From Eilshemius Show, Auguring of Good Season

What can we look forward to–or, for that matter, not look forward to–in the 2001-2 art-exhibition season? The good news is that the season starts off with a big Louis Eilshemius exhibition at the National Academy of Design (Sept. 19 to Dec. 30) and a major retrospective devoted to Alberto Giacometti at the Museum of Modern Art (Oct. 11 to Jan. 8)–which is very good news indeed for anyone with a keen interest in the arts of painting, drawing and sculpture.

Some of us have been waiting a long time for a revival of the work of the American painter Louis Michel Eilshemius, and it looks as if the exhibition that Steven Harvey is organizing at the National Academy– Louis M. Eilshemius (1864-1941): An Independent Spirit , bringing together 40-odd pictures–will at last do justice to this enchanting painter who, though greatly esteemed in the last century by figures as diverse in their tastes as Alfred Stieglitz and Clement Greenberg, Marcel Duchamp and Duncan Phillips, is now virtually unknown to a younger generation.

Alberto Giacometti is anything but unknown, but I doubt if we have ever before seen a show on the scale of the one coming to MoMA, which marks the centenary of the artist’s birth. Organized at the Kunsthaus Zürich, it is said to encompass some 90 sculptures, 40 paintings, 60 drawings and works in plaster that are rarely allowed to travel. This is clearly one of the major events of the season.

Come spring 2002, however, MoMA will be closing the season with Gerhard Richter: 40 Years of Painting , organized by Robert Storr (Feb. 14 to May 21), which I cannot say I am much looking forward to. Mr. Richter is currently a great favorite at MoMA, which may say more about the intellectual plight of the museum than about the quality of this artist, who strikes me as little more than a clever master of pictorial legerdemain. Yet the Richter show may have one beneficial (if unintended) consequence: It may help to ease whatever feelings of pain or loss the public is likely to suffer at the prospect of MoMA shutting down its historic West 53rd Street building for several years in order to complete its huge expansion into West 54th Street. Following the Richter show, MoMA will temporarily shift its operations to Queens, and will not reopen as a mega-MoMA in midtown Manhattan until sometime in 2005.

Meanwhile, the Whitney Museum of American Art will be serving up something called Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964-1977 (Oct. 18 to Jan. 6), consisting of film, video and slide installations by, among other luminaries, Bruce Nauman, Andy Warhol, Vito Acconci and Yoko Ono–an appropriate prologue, perhaps, to the next Whitney Biennial, coming in the spring of 2002.

It’s anyone’s guess as to what awaits us in a show called Vital Forums: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960 , which the Brooklyn Museum of Art is mounting in the fall (Oct. 12 to Jan. 6). This exhibition is said to explore “organic images” from the Cold War era in all the visual arts–which probably means a melange of high art, pop culture, commercial design and the kitchen sink à la the lamentable American Century debacle at the Whitney two years ago. If nothing else, this Atomic Age gambit may settle the question of whether the Brooklyn Museum has learned anything from its recent disasters.

Mercifully for grown-ups, the Metropolitan Museum of Art can still be counted on to uphold a high standard of quality and seriousness. (No, I haven’t forgotten the Jackie Onassis hokum, but we live in an imperfect world.) This month, the Met is bringing us two exhibitions of special interest. First comes Caspar David Friedrich: Moonwatchers (Sept. 11 to Nov. 11), which brings together three versions of this German Romantic painter’s most celebrated subject–two on loan from museums in Dresden and Berlin and the third, Two Men Contemplating the Moon (circa 1830), a recent addition to the Met’s own collection. Among the other paintings on this Moonwatchers theme are works by Friedrich’s contemporaries, among them the Norwegian painter Johan Christian Dahl and the Danish painter Martinus Rorbye. Whether or not you are an acolyte of the Friedrich mystique, this will be a rare opportunity to see prime examples of the art that has caused this curious cult to prosper.

Of even more interest is the Met’s exhibition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints (Sept. 25 to Dec. 2), organized in collaboration with the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Some 52 of the 61 extant drawings by the artist will be exhibited, plus 60 Bruegel prints and 20 drawings by Bruegel’s contemporaries.

Next month, the Met will open a major exhibition (Oct. 9 to Dec. 30) of the work of the French Neo-Impressionist painter Paul Signac (1863-1935), documenting a 50-year career with 120 oils, watercolors, drawings and prints–the first such exhibition, I believe, to be devoted to Signac on this scale. It will be accompanied by a similar exhibition of 60 Neo-Impressionist works from the Met’s own permanent collection. Signac was a considerable figure in the turn-of-the-century Paris avant-garde, a prolific artist who also served as president of the Société des Artistes Indépendents and wrote a treatise on color– D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme (1899)–which is still read today, and it will be interesting to see if his talents as a painter can support an exhibition of this size.

Elsewhere, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia will be exhibiting Medici portraits from the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (Sept. 15 to Dec. 9), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art will mount a huge exhibition of an American master, Thomas Eakins (Oct. 4 to Jan. 6): 60 oil paintings and 120 photographs in addition to drawings, watercolors and sculpture. The Eakins show will later travel to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and then come to the Met in the summer of 2002.

There will be two exhibitions of 17th-century Dutch painting this season: Art & Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt at the Newark (N.J.) Museum (Sept. 30 to Jan. 20), and the first ever international loan show devoted to Aelbert Cuyp at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (Oct. 7 to Jan. 13). The Phillips Collection in Washington will be showing Impressionist Still Life (Sept. 22 to Jan. 13), and the fall will also bring yet another look at the most turbulent friendship in modern painting with Van Gogh and Gaugín: The Studio of the South at the Art Institute of Chicago (Sept. 22 to Jan. 13). And back in New York, the winter will bring a no doubt fascinating look at Pierre Matisse and His Artists , at the Morgan Library (Feb. 14 to May 19).

Best of all, perhaps, winter will also bring us Goya: Images of Women at the National Gallery of Art in Washington (March 10 to June 2). This is said to include some 115 works and will first be seen at the Prado in Madrid (Oct. 30 to Feb. 9).

Last and certain to be least, we shall presently be treated to the latest chapter in the long and inglorious history of public television’s meddling and muddling in the contemporary art world. This is a PBS series called Art: 21–Art in the Twenty-First Century , which is expected to make its debut on Sept. 21 and 28–but, as they say, check your local listings for exact times. As it happened, I attended a preview of some excerpts from this dog’s dinner of a documentary a few weeks ago at Bowdoin College in Maine. I’ll return to this melancholy event when I’ve had an opportunity to view the whole damned thing.