The 2018 Super Bowl is this weekend and, as is customary, organizations that have nothing to do with sports — say, art museums — are weighing in on the event. Although my personal favorite — a game outcome prediction based on the robustness of the classical music scene in each team’s host city (on NPR, of course) — appears to be on hiatus this year, the annual museum bet is on!
Since the New England Patriots are playing the Philadelphia Eagles this year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are betting a free loan of a painting from their respective permanent collections. If the Patriots win, the Philadelphia Museum will loan Benjamin West’s “Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky” (ca 1816) to the MFA. If the Eagles win, the MFA will send John Singleton Copley’s “Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis)” (ca 1763) to the City of Brotherly Love. While the two museums prepare to trash talk each other on Twitter all weekend, we decided to take a look at what’s at stake in this year’s Museum Bowl.
Measuring only slightly larger than a standard sheet of paper, Benjamin West’s “Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky” commemorates the Founding Father’s famous 1752 kite experiment, which he used to prove that lightning is electricity. Both Pennsylvanians (although Franklin was born and raised in Boston), the two Benjamins were actually friends in real life, and Franklin was godfather to one of West’s sons. West painted this almost supernatural portrait of Franklin and his allegorical putti helpers more than 20 years after Franklin’s death, a study for a larger painting he was planning for the Pennsylvania Hospital, which Franklin founded in 1751. That larger painting was never executed.
What John Singleton Copley’s “Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis)” lacks in drama compared to “Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky,” it makes up for in size. Measuring more than four feet tall and three feet wide, the painting is a traditional portrait of Mercy Otis Warren, a political writer during the American Revolution who penned poems and satirical plays attacking the Loyalists and encouraging the colonists of Massachusetts to rebel. Although painted after Warren was already fairly well-known, Copley’s portrait shows her in her mid-30s, when her principle activities were as a housewife and mother. She is portrayed tending to flowers, an activity symbolic of her motherly duties.
Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game, expect one of these exceptional works to touch down in the winning city’s art museum soon.
Join Hyperallergic for an online conversation with cultural organizer and curator La Tanya S. Autry on February 1 at 7pm (EST).
This week, the Tonga eruption as captured from space, Boston gets a big gift of Dutch and Flemish painting, 30 years of New Queer Cinema, an important Marcel Breuer house is demolished, and much more.
At this free online summit, hear from architects Tadao Ando and Lesley Lokko; artist Himali Singh Soin; author Amitav Ghosh; design studio Formafantasma; and more.
Being bowled over by an unknown artist’s first one-person show does not happen often but when it does, it renews your faith that the art world is not just about buzz and hype.
Surrealist images of a Rice Krispies box or Yukon Gold potato explore how data is transformed into the visual language called art.
This immersive video installation utilizes waterscape scenes to speak about concepts such as existence, intimacy, healing, and aquatic ecology.
What is wonderful about the online photography exhibition What Have We Stopped Hiding? is that one is given entrée to the internal monologue of the artists featured in the show.
Self-taught artists were invited to exhibit, and sell, their fuzzy stacks of pancakes and tasseled tapestries.
Curator, educator, and transdisciplinary artist Jova Lynne is coming from MOCAD to lead Temple Contemporary exhibitions and public programs.
Our culture seems obsessed with the artist/model relationship, portrayed in countless movies and narratives as a relationship that is lustful and scandalous.
Creator Art Spiegelman said he was “baffled” by the decision and called the school board’s behavior “Orwellian.”
The winners of this year’s Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest prove that life is indeed better under the sea.