“Paris-New York” brings Vassar collection on a ten-month five-city tour of JapanOn a snowy day in February 2008 eighty-six works from the permanent collection of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College left Poughkeepsie for a ten-month five-city tour of Japan. The Yamagata Museum of Art partnered with the Art Center to organize “Paris-New York: Modern Paintings in 19th and 20th Century. Masterworks from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York”. The exhibition sought to create a deeper understanding of the spirit of the collection by exploring the strong holdings in American abstract expressionism. Alongside the works of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, the exhibition also provided the historical backdrop by including nineteenth century American and French landscape artists such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Thomas Cole.
Over eighty thousand visitors viewed the exhibition at its five venues: the Shimane Art Museum, the Ishibashi Museum of Art, the Fushu Art Museum, and the Miyazaki Prefectural Art Museum. In conjunction with the exhibition, a color catalog was produced with essays and text in both Japanese and English.
James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass Director, commented “Since we at Vassar would like to think of ourselves as globally connected thanks now in large part to a curriculum that offers a broad range of studies on global topics, this moment of true connectedness, via an exhibition of largely American modern art, to a distant part of the world eager for a greater understanding of our culture, was particularly fraught with meaning.”
The exhibition not only provided the opportunity for Vassar to share “their” collection with their friends and colleagues in Japan but also allowed for a cross-cultural dialogue about the place of art in society. Mr. Mundy presented a lecture at the Tohoku University of Art and Design on the subject of the importance of the art museum to a harmonious society.
In his catalog essay, Kunio Motoe, Director of the Fuchu Art Museum and Professor at the Tama Art University offered his reflections on the ethic of work in American Art. He writes, “In America, art is labor. Unlike Japan, where art is often seen as a leisure activity, America offers no room for romantic sentiment.” This perspective on American artistic production and other comments on the artworks within the exhibition encourage continued conversation.