Don’t be surprised if someone asks if you’ve heard the new show at MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art has chosen sound as the subject of a major exhibition.
Barbara London, the museum’s associate curator in the media and performance art department, has spent the last few years listening to the work of sound artists and looking at related scores, drawings and installations. Her findings will be the subject of “Soundings: A Contemporary Score,” the museum’s first big show devoted exclusively to sound art.
The show, running Aug. 10 to Nov. 3, will feature work by 16 artists, most of them little known to the public. They are young, ranging in age from the early 30s to the mid-40s, and international, coming from the United States, Uruguay, Norway, Denmark, Britain, Germany, Australia, Japan and Taiwan.
Sound will be explored in many guises. There will be environments where sound shapes space, and explorations into how sound affects a viewer’s experience. There will also be recordings, including those from abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, flying bats and a food-processing factory in Taiwan.
The show will be visual, too. The artist Marco Fusinato, in Melbourne, Australia, has produced five abstract drawings based on an orchestral score by Iannis Xenakis, the Greek composer and theorist who died in 2001. On each page a straight line connects each note to a central spot, creating a focal point of weight and intensity. The multimedia artist Camille Norment removed the insides of an old-fashioned standing microphone and inserted a pulsating light, casting a shadow on the wall that suggests the rib cage of a now silent singer.
Another work about absence will be by the Scottish artist and Turner Prize winner Susan Philipsz. She has taken the score of a symphony composed for 24 instruments by Pavel Haas in 1943 while he was in a Nazi concentration camp, and reimagined it with just one cello and one viola playing their intermittent parts.
The show will go beyond the galleries, with visitors happening upon sounds throughout the museum. Bells will ring in the sculpture garden — church bells, cat bells, bicycle bells, the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. Together they make up “A Bell for Every Minute,” the piece by Stephen Vitiello that was performed on the High Line in 2010. A different bell will sound every minute, and on the hour all the bells will ring together.
A POLLOCK AT CHRISTIE’S
Describing what he calls today’s “masterpiece market,” Brett Gorvy, worldwide chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, was talking the other day about the high prices that collectors have been paying both at auction and privately for top works by Abstract Expressionist painters, particularly Rothko, de Kooning and Pollock.
That market will be tested yet again at Christie’s evening sale of postwar and contemporary art on May 15. A star work will be “No. 19, 1948,” one of Pollock’s classic drip paintings.
The entire work is covered with layer upon layer of delicate drips painted on paper that were then laid on canvas.
While the catalogue entry will say only that the painting is from a private collection, and Mr. Gorvy declined to name the seller, it was displayed at Glenstone, the museum in Potomac, Md., founded by the Washington industrialist and philanthropist Mitchell P. Rales and his wife, Emily.
“No. 19, 1948,” which has an estimate of $25 million to $35 million, was last at auction at Christie’s in May 1993. It sold then for $2.4 million. The buyer, anonymous at the time, was François Pinault, Christie’s owner, according to several dealers familiar with Mr. Pinault’s collection who said that several years later he sold it privately to the Raleses.
AN ESTATE AT SOTHEBY’S
There has been such a dearth of estate property this spring that when a group of artworks does appear, everybody fights to get it. This spring Sotheby’s won a collection of mostly Impressionist and modern art amassed by Alex Lewyt, a Manhattan vacuum cleaner inventor who died in 1988. Lewyt and his wife, Elisabeth, an animal-welfare advocate who died in December, collected some 200 works, including paintings and drawings by Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Cézanne and Modigliani. The couple also collected illustrated letters by artists like Gauguin, Renoir and Léger. Together, the works from the estate are expected to bring $67 million to $98 million, and the proceeds will benefit a foundation to be established in the Lewyts’ name.
The property will be sold in a series of auctions starting with the one of Impressionist and modern art on May 7 in New York. Among the highlights are “Les Pommes,” a still life by Cézanne from 1889-90. The Lewyts bought it from the Wildenstein Galleries in 1953. The painting, of apples artfully arranged on a table, has been displayed in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It has an estimate of $25 million to $35 million.
The sale will also include Modigliani’s “Amazone,” a 1909 portrait of the glamorous socialite Marguerite de Hasse de Villers. That work, which has also been featured in many museum shows, including one at the Met in 1968, is expected to sell for $20 million to $30 million. It is a powerful image, depicting a self-assured baroness dressed in a riding habit, one hand on her hip, with pursed red lips and a sex-kitten gaze.