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Art Adventures: 9 works to celebrate The Philadelphia Museum of Art's 90th Anniversary

By Alexander Mason Hankin | March 23, 2018 | Lifestyle

When you think of Philadelphia, you think of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the city's most iconic landmarks. There is good reason (aside from being best known for its role in the Rocky movies) that The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) is so popular. It proudly sits overlooking Ben Franklin Parkway and is the leading cultural institution in the city.

On Monday March 26, the museum will celebrate its 90th Anniversary, having first opened their doors to the public in 1928. To celebrate the momentous occasion, we have chosen nine works to celebrate this milestone anniversary. We strongly encourage locals and visitors alike to go and visit the beautiful works and galleries the museum has to offer.

Cy Twombly Fifty Days at Iliam


Perhaps our favorite room in the museum is a series of 10 paintings by artist Cy Twombly, that depict Homer’s Iliad. If you’re not a Greek history buff, the Iliad is the predecessor of the Odyssey and tells the story of the battle of Troy. There is a theme of Greek and Roman culture that plays out in many of the works in this collection, but also the architecture of the building itself. Twombly depicts the story through words and images, and allows the viewer to use the chaotic nature of the paintings to create the story in their mind. The rooms seem simple at first, but then challenges those viewing the works to take their time and really digest each painting.

Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers


van Gogh is someone that everyone can relate to. His use of bold color and heavy brush strokes make his work visually appealing to eye. van Gogh is one of the names that draws us to a museum and luckily the PMA has an example of this post-impressionist master in his Sunflowers painting.

Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)


The True Artist by Bruce Nauman is one of the earliest works by an artist using neon. Prior to this piece, a neon sign was nothing more than an advertisement and usually associated with something inexpensive. Nauman not only reclaims this medium but also makes a statement on the duty of the artists. The swirling nature draws the viewer in and is one of the more captivating works in the collection. The recent conservation was helped in large part in funding from the Young Friends of the PMA and as a result is shining brighter than ever!

Claude Monet, The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny


Located in the same gallery as Sunflowers, The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny by Claude Monet is a visually engaging piece. Monet’s impressionist work is truly appreciated when observed from both far and up close. From afar, a beautiful nature scene is laid out via tranquil yet vivid colors however, if you get up close and personal, this piece conveys a more in-depth emotion. The closer you get, the more the nature scene loses clarity and instead opens you up to a world of swirling brush strokes and abstract colors.

Marcel Duchamp, Bottle Rack, Bicycle Wheel, and Fountain


Last year the Philadelphia Museum of Art celebrated the 100th Birthday of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, which is perhaps his most famous work. The Young Friends of the PMA helped fund the exhibit well. This work was shrouded in scandal when it was first exhibited at the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, under the alias R. Mutt. It challenged the art world and caused outrage in having a urinal entered as art. While the original was lost, the PMA has a second caste. Duchamp’s ready-mades were an early pioneer in challenging the conceptual notion of “what is art?"

Pillared Temple Hall


If you are looking for a tranquil place to collect your thoughts, look no further than the Pillared Temple Hall. This 16th century Indian Hindu temple is an architectural marvel. Boasting beautiful, life-size pillars of deities from the Mahabaratha and Ramayana, this is one of our favorite places to reflect and have a Zen moment in the museum.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance


Another one of our favorite post-impressionist paintings at the PMA is At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance by Toulouse-Lautrec. Even if you aren’t familiar with his art, you will probably have a connection with him if you know the movie Moulin Rouge. Toulouse-Lautrec is famous for his depiction of Paris in the late 1890s, painting artists, performers, and nightlife. I love this work because unlike so many of his contemporaries, he seems to capture the electric and artistic energy of the time period that make so many of us long to be able to visit this moment in history.

Hendrick Goltszius, Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus would Freeze


I’m sure many would walk right by this Goltszius piece without taking a second look, but we are always drawn to it. Goltszius crafted this piece almost entirely from pen ink, adding just a few touches of paint for texture. I find this technique so wonderfully detailed and skilled. At a first glance, this work gives off the impression of a dark subject matter, but give it another look and you’ll see it is actually portraying something very sweet. While the scene set up for you is from Roman mythology, it is actually a commentary that love needs both food and wine to survive, meaning that a relationship needs to be cared for to flourish. The piece has been passed through many a royal courts, including that of Charles II of England.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Diana


No visit to the museum would be complete without paying homage to Diana. The undeniable centerpiece of the museum, Diana, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, sits perfectly poised above the Great Stair Hall. A mix between eye candy and femme fearlessness, Diana was crafted to emulate her namesake, a goddess who represented the moon and hunt. Her presence serves as a symbol of strength and protection, not just for the works in the museum, but to Philadelphia’s greatest cultural institution.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art 90th Anniversary Open House is March 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Highlights include; pay what you wish admission, hard hat walk-through for members, guided tours, and family programs just to name a few.


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