"You can't see it, but there's a quiet cultural revolution under way at the White House," gushed the AP's Nancy Benac in the lead to her Tuesday night dispatch headlined: "Modern art hits 1600 Pa. Ave ." Benac heralded:
The Obamas are decorating their private spaces with more modern and abstract artwork than has ever hung on the White House walls. New pieces by contemporary African-American and Native American artists are on display. Bold colors, odd shapes, squiggly lines have arrived.
In the celebration of the kind of art the Obamas have chosen to display in office and residential areas, Benac admired the "impressive assortment of modern and contemporary work" mixed with "an intriguing trio of patent models," all of which "a private art dealer in New York" pronounced "highly sophisticated"
as he applauded: "We feel we have someone now in the White House who is
saying that culture is an important part of this country."
Benac added another glowing review, highlighting how Harry Cooper, "curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery, said the Obama's selections are exciting the art world."
To say nothing of how they've excited Benac and the Associated Press.
Benac's description of the painting which illustrated the AP article :
The Obamas' selections include an impressive assortment of modern and contemporary works from the National Gallery of Art. One of the most striking is Edward Ruscha's "I Think I'll ... ," which superimposes phrases such as "I think I'll ..." and "maybe ... no" and "wait a minute" on top of a blood red sunset.
An excerpt from the Washington, DC-datelined October 6 AP story:
You can't see it, but there's a quiet cultural revolution under way at the White House. The Obamas are decorating their private spaces with more modern and abstract artwork than has ever hung on the White House walls. New pieces by contemporary African-American and Native American artists are on display. Bold colors, odd shapes, squiggly lines have arrived. So, too, have some obscure artifacts, such as patent models for a gear cutter and a steamboat paddlewheel, that now sit in the Oval Office....
Thomas' "Watusi (Hard Edge)" now hangs in the East Wing, where Michelle Obama has her offices. The acrylic on canvas, on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, shows a jumble of geometric shapes in bright reds, blues and greens....
Working with California decorator Michael Smith and White House curator William Allman, the Obamas have borrowed dozens of works from various Washington museums and galleries, being sure to use only items that weren't already on display. Other recent first families hung a few modern pieces in their living quarters, but none approached the scope of the Obamas, Allman said....
The first lady's office provided a list Tuesday of dozens of pieces of artwork-on-loan that now supplement the hundreds of more traditional landscapes, portraits and still life paintings that dominate the permanent White House collection.
Richard Feigen, a private art dealer in New York, scanned the list and pronounced it "highly sophisticated."
"We're encouraged as far as the art world," Feigen said. "We feel we have someone now in the White House who is saying that culture is an important part of this country."
Jeri Redcorn, a 69-year-old Native American artist from Norman, Okla., said she started jumping up and down and screaming when she found out last week that a piece of her pottery was on a bookshelf in the Oval Office....
Harry Cooper, curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery, said the Obama's selections are exciting the art world and should provide a significant boost to the arts in general.
"This is great art to live with," he said. "A lot of it is challenging. There are different styles: figurative art, abstract art. A lot of it is avant-garde: It was avant-garde, and a lot of it still is avant-garde."
The Obamas' list of borrowed items also includes an intriguing trio of patent models on loan from the National Museum of American History, including models for Samuel Morse's 1849 telegraph register, a gear-cutting machine and a paddlewheel for a steamboat...
- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center