Americana Week has begun. Yesterday perhaps the first event of the week was a gallery talk at Keno Auctions ”American Still Life Painting in the 19th Century,” with Dr. William H. Gerdts. There’s a good deal of excitement and enthusiasm around Americana Week this year. The American Wing Galleries are re-opening at the Met and the much anticipated Duncan Phyfe show is at last on there.
It could be the Renaissance of interest in American art and decorative arts we’ve been waiting for. It’s not that it had gone anywhere, just that the roots of our artistic legacy have been overshadowed in recent times by later objects and contemporary art.
The excitement around Americana Week, which this year for the first time is chronicled by its own web site, AmericanaWeek.com, is supported by the opening this past November of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. There was a lot of criticism surrounding putting a number of America’s great works of Art out there in the hinterlands, but perhaps it’s this provincial attitude that America is just the 13 colonies that’s held us in the doldrums. I recall someone in the industry telling me not so long ago he didn’t understand why Texans would like old (I suppose meaning before Texas became a state) things American because– “It has nothing top do with them.” On the contrary, it has everything to do with us, meaning us as a whole.
Here in Dallas there’s a wonderful collection of American decorative arts at the Dallas Museum of Art, and a superb collection of Hudson River Paintings at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Yes, this too is America.
Another event this year may have helped resurrect the interest in historic Americana. The renovation of the galleries at the New York Historical Society. It wasn’t the renovation itself, but the fact that it allowed the opportunity for these masterworks to travel. They were in Fort Worth this summer, helping the Amon Carter celebrate its 50th Anniversary.
If you need more evidence of the pendulum swinging, consider that as we speak, American landscapes are on view at the Louvre in France. Yes folks, the French are looking at our art. Not our Warhols and Lichtensteins, but our Thomas Cole’s. It’s called “American Art Enters the Louvre.”