Doron Langberg, Salman Toor, Jenna Gribbon, and Toyin Ojih Odutola in Conversation with Vermeer, Holbein, and Rembrandt
New York (September 28, 2021)— The installation at Frick Madison has prompted new ways of looking at the Frick’s paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts—works predominantly made in Europe from the thirteenth through nineteenth centuries. Living Histories: Queer Views and Old Masters is the latest addition in a broader program in the past decade that has celebrated a range of voices and perspectives through digital productions, installations, publications, and collaborations. At various times during the next year, four New York–based artists will engage with Old Master paintings in the permanent collection, each presenting a single new work on the second floor, where paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Holbein are displayed. These “pop-up” presentations, each running for a limited number of months, will initiate fresh conversations with the institution’s traditional figurative holdings, with particular emphasis on issues of gender and queer identity typically excluded from narratives of early modern European art.
The series begins on Thursday, September 30, presenting one painting each by Doron Langberg (b. Yokneam Moshava, Israel, 1985) and Salman Toor (b. Lahore, Pakistan, 1983) framed amidst those in the Frick’s Northern European galleries. Both works will be on view at Frick Madison into January 2022. Langberg will present a painting, Lover, in conversation with Hans Holbein the Younger’s iconic portrait of Sir Thomas More, whose usual counterpart at the Frick, Holbein’s Sir Thomas Cromwell, will be temporarily on view in the fall exhibition Holbein: Capturing Character in the Renaissance at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. At the same time, Toor’s painting Museum Boys will be shown alongside Mistress and Maid and Officer and Laughing Girl by Johannes Vermeer. It temporarily takes the place of Vermeer’s Girl Interrupted at Her Music, which is on loan this fall to the special exhibition Johannes Vermeer: On Reflection at the Dresden Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. Next winter and spring, the Frick will feature pairings by artists Jenna Gribbon (b. Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, 1978) and Toyin Ojih Odutola (b. Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1985) responding to works by Holbein and Rembrandt, respectively. The 2 rest of the third- and fourth-floor Frick Madison installations, showing highlights from the Frick’s holdings, will remain largely unchanged during this project, offering further context and depth to these confrontations between past and present on the second floor. This year-long project will be accompanied by ongoing programming, and a publication will present reflections on the experiences of the artists and curatorial team. Living Histories has been jointly organized by Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Curator, and Aimee Ng, Curator.
Comments Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director, “We are thrilled and rewarded by the opportunities presented by our residency at the Breuer building. The positive responses to the reframing of our collection have encouraged us to continue to expand the range of conversations we have around our objects and the breadth of ideas we explore. With this project, involving artists who have been inspired by works at the Frick in their own practice, we invite a rich array of contemporary voices, as we have done more frequently over the past decade. Living Histories builds on our seven-year academic partnership with the Ghetto Film School, installations by artists Arlene Shechet (2016–17) and Edmund de Waal (2019), as well as the acclaimed anthology The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick (2021), which features meditations on our collection by sixty-two artists, writers, and other cultural figures.”
Adds Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, “As curators charged with the care and interpretation of our great collection, we want to explore and challenge our audiences—living artists among them—to reflect on how Old Masters retain their relevance today. With this groundbreaking project, we pair European works from centuries past with ones newly commissioned for a fresh dialogue that looks at broad issues around human relationships as represented in paintings. As a queer professional in the arts, I find this exploration significant and at the same time personally familiar. We welcome our audiences to consider alongside us what they see in Old Master as well as contemporary works, from the ambiguity of painted narratives to the assumptions that are part of our viewing experience of portraiture.”
Comments Aimee Ng, Curator, “Another dimension to the selection of artists, each critically acclaimed and creating in distinct figurative modes, is that they represent the diversity and complexity of our city, one rich with queer life and history intersected with many other identities. Among Doron, Salman, Jenna, and Toyin—like so many of the Frick’s staff and the museum’s founder, Henry Clay Frick—none are originally from New York but all chose this city as a home for their careers and relationships. To bring together in this project their contemporary perspectives and our beloved Frick works is an exciting celebration of the past and present, and of the power of building conversations across histories, geographies, and cultures.”