Monday, May 3, 2010

the eyes have it...

Beloved by Robert…and soon many more
Mertites and the New Egyptian Galleries
Opening May 8, 2010 at the Nelson-Atkins

Meritites, “Beloved by Her Father” and curator Robert Cohon, has a new home in Kansas City. Your journey through the encyclopedic Nelson-Atkins has a new beginning in the New Egyptian Gallery, opening on Saturday, May 8, 2010. Robert’s journey began ten years ago when he had the idea to create something special with his beloved children and yours in mind; something to excite them about art and history. What he didn’t realize perhaps is that your children and their children will be bringing their children to this exhibit, for this dramatic, accessible, intimate display, like great architecture, looks to be built to stand the test of time.

Large liquid panels of glass from Milan house Meritites “resurrection machine”, in Robert’s words, her towering inner coffin with her huge gold face staring at you in a way, as she faces a glass case of 305 figurines of various sizes, her servants for the afterlife, their small faces, all of them unique, staring back. The glass, understated lighting, and deep blue of the room may transport you and your children. The sloped wall at the back invites you to look up and the wrapped mummy will have everyone quickly looking down again. The mummy is not Metritetes, or even her beloved Daddy, but rather an unknown, soon to be carbon-dated young fellow with exceptional teeth. Robert gave him a name that means “my vital life force is strong”.

This new room opens upon the room you may remember, the “art-deco on steroids” (again Robert Cohon’s words) with a collection of relief and sculpture, beginning with the magic-inspired art of a god, legends, stories, deities…ending at the far end with the human efforts to commemorate rather than mystify. Art may have taken a shift from making magic to making a memory. Don’t worry, throughout the Nelson-Atkins, you could be feeling quite a few human shifts, in art and within yourself. And when the shift feels too dramatic, there’s always the serenity of Rozelle Court, perhaps the most beautiful public space in this city.

But, Meritites, “Beloved by Her Father” and curator Robert Cohon, may be the centerpiece for this New Egyptian Gallery, but the piece that may launch you, may just resurrect your love of art is an alluring wax portrait of a woman’s face with eyes so beautiful, you may have to be told to please move on. Amidst all of this gold, pottery, carving, and massive statuary, Robert Cohon took time to speak of this beloved portrait…the first painting on your encyclopedic tour of the human quest to create something more beautiful than nature…

This exhibit, this thoughtful display of art may pull you into the past a bit, but more so, it seems to inform the present by making people feel alive, by making them feel something. By feeling something we may just feel closer to others, and learn a bit more about love in the process. Don’t forget to bring the children; Robert would love for you to do that.

…and while Robert Cohon lovingly launch this exhibit, on this last Friday in April, a proud and loving curator named Marc F. Wilson looked on quietly, on this his last working day at his beloved Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Robert Cohon
Curator, Ancient Art
Robert Cohon has been Curator of Art of the Ancient World at the Nelson-Atkins and taught at the University of Missouri-Kansas City as a joint-appointment since 1985. With a doctorate from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, he has published extensively in international journals on Roman decorative marble sculpture and forgeries of ancient art. His work at the Nelson-Atkins has included the development of the shows Discovery and Deceit: Archaeology and the Forger’s Craft (1996–7);Treasures of Deceit (1998–2000); Spring Fashions, 1 B.C. (1998); and Echoes of Eternity: The Egyptian Mummy and the Afterlife (2000). As part of the Archaeological Institute of America’s lecture program, he has presented his research in the United States and Canada. His current scholarship focuses on the role of measurement in the designing of sculpture.

Designer: Amanda Zeitler
Research: Michelle Valentine

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