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Saturday, April 2, 2016

ICON Magazine City Beat March 2016

                 City Beat March 2016

The Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show will invalidate T.S. Eliot’s warning that “April is the cruelest month.”  The half century old show, April 15-17, will be held at the Marine Parade Grounds at The Navy Yard. This is not Grandma’s old “stuff” but will feature 58 dealers with English, Asian and Continental material dating from the 17th Century. The vast array of artifacts includes period furniture, decorative and fine arts, silver, textiles, jewelry, Native American art, antiquarian books and prints and 20th Century contemporary art. Guests will view a side exhibition on items that dealers collect and attend special lectures with speakers like Ellie Cullman, rated by Architecture Digest as one of America’s 100 top designers, and Nancy Moses, former director of the Philadelphia History Museum and author of Lost in the Museum: Hidden Treasures and the Stories they Tell. Moses will explore the shadowy world of museum politics and how museums care for works of art that are locked in storage.  Co-chaired by Ann Hamilton and Nancy Kneeland, PAAS is presented by the Haverford Trust Company. The gala preview Party on Thursday, April 14 is another reason why this year’s show will be the best in decades.     

We had high hopes for the Headed to the White House exhibit at the National Constitution Center, but after a walk-through we pinched ourselves: Is this the same NCC that produced the magnificent Diana: A Celebration exhibit in 2009, and The Life and Music of Brice Springsteen in 2012? As Janis Joplin once crooned, “Baby, it just can't be.” While Headed offers wide screen newsreel clips from old Democratic and Republican conventions and 300 campaign buttons from 1832 onwards, is this enough to interest adults? Most of the displays at this “family friendly” exhibition are child interactive. Translation: Stick your mug in the face holes on the stand up images of past presidents (then stick your tongue out); vote for the best president ever (!); create your own campaign commercial, or walk in a campaign manager’s shoes. Perplexed viewers wondered if NCC’s dumb down approach pointed to a merger with the Please Touch Museum. Isn’t mixing adult interests with interactive exhibits for kids the kiss of death for museums? Despite our admiration for NCC President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, we feel no dazzle for this Mister Rogers road show.

Ed Fong’s E-Moderne Gallerie continues to impress. At his masterful Floating Ink: A Visual Feast of Contemporary Paintings from China exhibition we watched an ink painting demonstration in the lower gallery. Later, Fong walked around and urged everyone to get a drink. “Where’s your drink? Come on, live a little! Get a drink!” At other city galleries the reverse is true: Lite bites have been replaced by pretzel sticks and miniscule wine pours. The change mirrors New York’s stingy art scene where guests pay for wine and are lucky if they get one potato chip. The DiVinci Art Alliance (“Where art is Genius”) shares Fong’s view that a great art opening should go beyond pretzel stick logic. This may end because at a recent (terrific) group photography opening there we heard that a Di Vinci pretzel advocate is calling for a downsizing.  



Laura Krebs Miller, VP of Cashman and Associates, invited us to the opening of the rehabbed 12 story AKA Rittenhouse Square in Center City. Generally we are not impressed with rehab makeovers, especially the “art” that winds up on the walls. New urban living spaces are the opposite of French salon style: no books stacked on coffee tables and no bookshelves, as if contemporary design was only about the installation of the latest tech savvy wide TV screen. AKA bucked this trend with decent art (sketches in small frames), and homey rooms recalling an earlier era. The big bonus that evening was a rumor that Ed Rendell would be drop by, so we looked forward to congratulating him  on his condemnation of Mayor Kenney’s sanctuary city mandate. When the ex-governor didn’t show, we spotted City Councilman Mark Squilla. Squilla’s City Council bill to give police the right to approve or deny licenses for musical venues, caused us to get handfuls of pasta salad in preparation for a face throw but we regained our composure when the sighting proved to be false.