It’s getting to be that time of year—time for some holiday spirit seasoned with a pinch of shopping. Our recommendation: make a list of everyone who’s been nice, and reward them with something from The Wolfsonian’s Museum Shop. We’ve rounded up a selection of fun, affordable gifts, all $40 and under, to help you get started. You may not want to get the dictator erasers for your boss—but then again, you might. Bust-like erasers of Lenin, Stalin, and Marx ($4 each) are sculpted (so to speak) from artist-quality eraser material.
“Seeing the art physically, and being able to closely examine it, is a wonderful way of teaching. It is how students really learn things, and how works of art resonate and create an emotional response. We are very fortunate to be able to use The Wolfsonian’s collection as a resource,” says Lidu Yi, assistant professor of Chinese art history in FIU’s Department of Art and Art History. Yi has integrated museum materials into her course Arts of China and Japan, which she is teaching this semester to thirty-one undergraduate and graduate students. By introducing students to The Wolfsonian, Yi hopes to encourage them to incorporate collection research into their final projects.
“I want students to learn about the museum and make good use of it. This course is only the beginning. I plan to continue to encourage students to learn about collection through my future classes,” she says. When she began her research of the collection several months ago, “it literally opened another world to me. There are such rich resources at The Wolfsonian for scholars and students to use. I didn’t realize the collection had so many materials on Japanese woodblock prints and on politics and war from Japan, which are wonderful for comparative study. The illustrated books are also incredible,” she says. “When people think about Japanese and Chinese art, they probably would not imagine that The Wolfsonian has the resources that it does.”
At a time when air travel was still new and captured the world’s imagination, Italian Minister of Aviation Italo Balbo (1896–1940) was effectively Mussolini’s international goodwill ambassador as well as his heir apparent. “Balbo was Italy’s second-most-famous Fascist leader. He conceived and organized incredible feats of air travel, first in Europe and then to the Americas,” says Francis X. Luca, The Wolfsonian’s chief librarian. From Italy to the Americas: Italo Balbo’s 1930 and 1933 Seaplane Squadrons, the new library exhibition, showcases a range of printed ephemera related to Atlantic crossings by squadrons of Savoia-Marchetti seaplanes organized and led by Balbo. The exhibition extends the museum’s Rebirth of Rome series of exhibitions while thematically linking to the library’s most recent exhibition, also on air travel—Giants Lighter than Air explored Zeppelins.
Balbo’s trans-Atlantic crossings occurred after he successfully organized two Mediterranean flights, the first with an armada of sixty-one seaplanes in 1928 and then, a year later, with thirty-five seaplanes. After those flights, Balbo raised the stakes, planning and leading a squadron of about a dozen Savoia-Marchetti seaplanes from Rome to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1930. He topped that in 1933 with a squadron of twenty-four seaplanes that flew from Rome to the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress exposition and back. To put these accomplishments in context, these were among the first mass Atlantic crossings.
In the 1930s, under the shared direction of designers Gio Ponti (1891–1979) and Pietro Chiesa (1892–1948), Fontana Arte, the newly created artistic division of the glass manufacturing company Luigi Fontana & C. (founded in 1881 and located in Milan), pursued innovative paths of research into the expressive potential of glass. New production techniques afforded by technological advances were reinventing the field, resulting in entirely new possibilities for the medium.
This remarkable object, a pedestal topped by a huge, amber-colored glass bowl (measuring 53 ½ inches in diameter), was conceived as an expression of the evolution from a classical element, the Doric column, into an outsized decorative fountain. This rare piece was originally in Villa Toeplitz, an eclectic residence in Varese, Italy, named after its owner, the Polish banker Giuseppe Toeplitz.
Soon, passersby on Washington Avenue who look into The Wolfsonian’s Bridge Tender House will see what at first glance appears to be a severed head—and an oddly familiar one, at that. Bust of a Doctor, a new installation by artist Gideon Barnett, goes on view just before Art Basel Miami Beach; it opens November 28, 2013 and remains on view through May 18, 2014.
Anthony Bosch is the “doctor” in question. The former director of Biogenesis, a clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, Bosch is a central figure in the doping scandal involving star baseball players, including Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun.
Barnett pulled multiple images of Bosch from the Internet as source material for Bust of a Doctor. He then used modeling software to create a sculptural portrait, fabricated of plaster composite by means of a 3D printer. “I’m interested in Bosch’s specific story at this moment in history, but I’m also thinking of what he may represent in the future,” says Barnett. “The role of an enabler is as essential to the broader cultural storyline as that of a compromised hero, and I consider Bosch to be historically relevant enough to warrant canonization.”
During Art Basel Miami Beach, the international art world colonizes Miami, in the best possible sense of the word. The Wolfsonian’s range of innovative programs and exhibitions makes it the perfect starting point for your Art Basel adventures.
Groundbreaking artist Coco Fusco sets the stage for Art Basel with her pre-festival talk Restore, Represent, Reenact, Re-perform: Live Art in the Era of Endless Replay on Monday, December 2 at 7 pm. Fusco, a Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist, scholar, and critic, discusses works including her most recent installation, And the Sea Will Talk to You (2012), which explores physical and emotional aspects of the sea journey between Cuba and the United States. “Fusco’s work…carries a deeply challenging perspective that illuminates in creative and sometimes confrontational ways the prejudicial niceties of American society,” according to Hyperallergic.
For those well-acquainted with The Wolfsonian, this description will sound quite familiar: “One of the most interesting things to me about the institution is its approach to the art of this period. We investigate the historic, political, economic, and social context of the times through the art, viewing art as an expression of society, of human being and human doing. Everything in the collection is a bit like pieces of a puzzle, from furniture to paintings to posters to small postcards to architectural drawings.”
However, these are not the words of a Wolfsonian employee, nor are they about The Wolsonian—instead, they were spoken by Matteo Fochessati of the Wolfsoniana in Genoa, Italy, where he is a curator. The Wolfsonian’s partner institution, the Wolfsoniana generously lent several works to the Rebirth of Rome series of exhibitions. The occasion of the Year of Italian Culture in America, which the current exhibitions celebrate, seemed the perfect time to check in with our partner institution.
In five years Rome must appear marvelous to all the peoples of the world, vast, ordered, powerful, as it was in the time of the first empire of Augustus.—Benito Mussolini, 1925
On November 22, The Wolfsonian unveils The Birth of Rome and Rendering War: The Murals of A. G. Santagata. The two shows complete Rebirth of Rome, a series of exhibitions exploring Italian art, design, and political identity during the period of Benito Mussolini’s dictatorship. Already on view are Echoes and Origins: Italian Interwar Design and From Italy to the Americas: Italo Balbo’s 1930 and 1933 Seaplane Squadrons.
Italy during the interwar years faced sweeping changes to its political landscape: the struggle to recover from the First World War and the resulting instability set the stage for the Fascist Party’s rise to power. As Wolfsonian curator Silvia Barisione explains, “Mussolini was determined to create a modern, unified nation that was rooted in the splendor and glory of the ancient Roman past. [His] vision was that of a Third Rome, a new Empire that took its cue from history but was thoroughly contemporary. The exhibitions in Rebirth of Rome provide a perspective on the years of Fascist dictatorship, a time when the nation was grappling with complex questions of its collective identity.”