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Wondering where Sarasota, Florida Is? (click to enlarge)

I resented Sarasota, Florida when I lived there because no one was young and no art seemed new. Virtually every attempt at aesthetics would be best viewed on the walls of some widow’s condo: things like ink drawings of Sandhill cranes, colored pencil sketches of underbrush waving over white sand, and black-and-white silver gelatins of swamps and mangroves. The lack of real art compounded by a museum-sized collection of Dalis forty minutes northward was enough to make any aspiring art student gag — or at least I was.

Now, I resent New York because nothing seems old. Everyone’s childish, art is either conceptual or video-projected, everyone’s drunk, there are way too many MFAs, and the market corrupts. Examples of all my favorite modern art theories are constantly on view here, blurring all of those Chelsea strolls and Guggenheim hikes into a perpetual exhibition of my own personally curated show. Havens like the Met, The Morgan Library and The Frick Collection offer a few works from the Renaissance, Medieval, Ancient and prehistoric eras, but this city has a clear modern bias, which can get repetitive.

The Ringling Museum in Sarasota has since become my favorite place to escape when I visit Florida. The lavish grounds house a perimeter of statues, as if it were Versailles, and several decadent galleries exhibit medieval icons and Renaissance portraits. These eras in the history of image making are especially interesting to me because they deal with humanity in a way that none other can. Unless one gains access to the caves at Lascaux or Chauvet humanity’s discovery and loss isn’t depicted so overtly than it is by the Virgin Mary’s distorted fingers. Each six-hundred-year old red and blue that hasn’t yet lost its vibrancy at the Ringling Museum makes me think of New York, and how I yearn for old things. The elaborate patterns covering the walls are comforting compared to the city’s white cubes, and the amount of notables makes me wonder why the entire collection isn’t on a King-Tut-style traveling tour. Until it is, here’s a brief walkthrough.

Peter Paul Rubens, “The Triumph of Divine Love” (1577-1640).

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Peter Paul Rubens, “The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek” (1625).

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Peter Paul Rubens, “The Defenders of the Eucharist” (c.1625)

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Quinten Metsys, “Madonna of the Cherries” (c.1520)

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Italian sixteenth century wax portraits. Woman in center is “Portrait of a Noblewoman” Woman at upper right is “Portrait of Giovanna D’austria”

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Circle of Pieter Coecke van Aeist, Triptych: “Christ Arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane” (left wing), “The Annunciate Virgin” (left wing verso), “The Adoration of the Magi” (center), “Christ Carrying the Cross” (right wing), “The Angel of the Annunciation” (right wing verso) (c.1520)

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Domenico Puligo, “The Virgin and Child in Majesty with Saints Quentin and Placidus” (c.1521-1522)

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Francesco Salviati, “Portrait of an Aristocratic Youth” (c.1543-1544)

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Nicolas Poussin, “Ecstasy of Saint Paul” (1643)

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Fede Galizia, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” (1596)

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Francesco del Cairo, “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” (c.1630/1635)

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Carlo Dolci, “The Blue Madonna” (c.1670)

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Carlo Dolci, “Saint John the Evangelist Writing the Book of Revelation” (c.1650)

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Hendrik Cornelisz van Vliet, “Interior of the Pieterskerk in leaden” (1653)

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A replica of Michelangelo’s “David”

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Frans  Franken, “Cabinet Decorated with Scenes from the Old Testament” (1581-1642)

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Frans Snyders, “Still Life with Dead Game” (1661)

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El Greco, “The Crucifixion with Mary and Saint John” (c.1603-1605)

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Claude Jacquet, “Harpsichord” (1652)

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Richard Morris Hunt, “The Astor Mansion Cream Salon” (1895)

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Another view of Richard Morris Hunt’s “The Astor Mansion Cream Salon” (1895)

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Gaston Lachaise, “Elevation (standing woman)” (1927)

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Sarasota’s John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art can be found online at www.ringling.org.

7 replies on “A Visual Escape to Sarasota, Florida’s Ringling Museum”

  1. “makes me wonder why the entire collection isn’t on a King-Tut-style traveling tour”. 
    right?! i am also from this area (tampa) and now live in nyc and understand the previous feelings on the scarcity of good art in this region. but now like you, returning to the ringling and others like the dali museum and the tampa museum of art are always highlights when i head south to visit family. while growing up there, these museums gave me hope of what bigger cities w/more and better museums would have in store and it’s one of the reasons i moved to nyc. thanks for reminding us all of this gem. the frick is a fav too.

  2. Florida represent!  I love the Ringling but I think mostly because it doesn’t feel like Florida.  Arts funding a little farther north here in the Tampa Bay area is horrible and only getting worse.  Downtown St. Pete’s worth checking out, though, with the likes of the Mindy Solomon Gallery, C. Emerson Fine Arts and the 600 block.  The Dali museum’s ok.  I guess I’m tired of him the way I’m tired of grouper sandwiches no public transportation infrastructure.  There are a few “gems” around here but I’d trade one or two of them for more opputunities to see some contemporary work. 

  3. Good to hear from some Floridians. I wanted to write about Ringling in this way because I think a lot of New Yorkers identify with moving to the city to get away from home, but maybe they’re too stubborn to admit its not the wonderland they imagined. I feel like salon-style shows in apartments and gatherings in houses are the best exhibitions, and these can be done anywhere because artists are everywhere. Dan, I’ll have to check out the galleries you mentioned next time I’m in Tampa, and Jennifer I’m glad you also think Ringling’s a gem. 

    1. Good idea about the salon-style shows.  I was tossing around the idea of starting a collective.  A house exhibition might be a good place to start.  I do feel a little guilty bashing the scene here without trying to build one.  A little.  Anyhow, thanks for the idea.

        1. That would be cool.  I just deactivated my facebook account but I’m bringing it back up now.  If you want, I can find you on there and we can start planning. 

  4. I’ve lived in Tampa for just over a year now to be with my sig other, most recently moving from nyc.  I still haven’t visited the Ringling, although it’s on the list–ahem, the short list.  I appreciate the perspectives of living with almost too much art to very little- thanks for the reminder.  But yet, I do want to see the arts grow in this area- as much as possible and small is always the way to start.  Danny- let’s talk! 

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