Last week your correspondent was invited to the grand opening of the new gift shop of the Dahesh Museum of Art, located at 145 Sixth Avenue in New York. For the past several years the Dahesh has been a museum without walls, as significant portions of this important collection have traveled the world in various shows and exhibitions. In conjunction with the new store location, the Dahesh has completely revamped their Web site, and readers are urged to visit it to learn about the collection and travelling shows: http://www.daheshmuseum.org.
The new space is also the location of an upcoming series called Salon Thursdays, where leading scholars of the arts will provide free programs starting at 6:30 PM. For further details, call the Dahesh at 212.759.0606. The initial series of Salon Thursdays include:
October 4: Aida: One Woman, Two Nations, and Verdi’s Egyptomania, presented by Fred Plotkin, celebrated author, scholar and blogger on all things opera. His blog, Operavore (http://www.wqxr.org/#!/people/fred-plotkin/) is highly recommended to anyone interested in Opera and Classical Music.
November 1: Jean-Frederic Waldeck: A Nineteenth-Century Artist Painting Exotic Mexico, presented by Esther Pasztory, Professor of Pre-Columbian Art History at Columbia University, who will discuss the life and work of this quirky Orientalist who went to Mexico and made the ancient Aztecs vivid in an entirely modern way.
December 6: Making Their Mark: Drawing by Academic Artists in the Nineteenth Century, presented by Dr. David Farmer, Director of Exhibitions at the Dahesh, which will explore the role of drawing in the development of those artists who trained in the academies and ateliers of Europe and America in the 19th Century.
The new store is a treat for aesthetes of all stripes, including beautiful things for the home, reproduction prints and posters, and an impressive collection of scholarly books on the Classical tradition. More importantly, the offices of the Dahesh are now in one location, allowing museum administrators to better work together on travelling shows and creating a tentpole in Hudson Square to possibly reopen the museum downtown.
Your correspondent is a great believer in the Dahesh and its mission. It is the only institution in the United States devoted to academic art of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The curators and scholars there have worked tirelessly to reassert the work of Europe’s academic tradition in the broader context of European and American 19th Century art. They have managed to do this elegantly, despite the dismissal of academics chocking on a shallow, Post Modernist aesthetic, and a rapacious art market suspicious of actual beauty. The genesis of the collection was assembled by Salim Moussa Achi (1909-1948), who envisioned a museum of academic European art. Perhaps one day the dream will become a reality once again.