Reading the writing on the wall (text): Beckmann in New York — When Brilliant Art meets Dull Presentation, or why Trump Tower isn’t the only sign of dumbed down cultural discourse on Fifth Avenue


Max Beckmann. German, Leipzig 1884–1950 New York, “Falling Man,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 55 1/2 × 35 inches (141 × 88.9 cm). Frame: 62 1/4 × 41 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (158.1 × 104.8 × 7 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Max Beckmann. SL.9.2016.13.1. Wall text for the Metropolitan Museum exhibition “Max Beckmann in New York” has reduced the interpretive possibilities for this complex tableau, rich in mythological and historical references, to a sort of back to the future echo of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York. Image courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Text copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak

I was all set to write about how refreshing it was to discover an exhibition, Max Beckmann in New York, whose curator, going against the trend in many leading Paris museums, does not feel the need to re-encadre a painter who should be able to stand on his own merit in an artificial curatorial construct that contrasts him with other artists or situates him, after the fact, in a historical, literary, or sociological context that has more to do with museum marketing than the artist’s actual intent and universe.

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