The Portland Art Museum was a treat. When you travel and have the time and access to see great art – there is a pressure to get it all in. Instead of walking around aimlessly at the Portland Art Museum I thought I’d focus in on what interested me the most.
My favourites were the Forbidden Fruit from Chris Antemann at Meissen and the Native American Art installations.
Chris Antemann at Meissen
SEP 27, 2014 – FEB 8, 2015
In 2012, Oregon-based sculptor Chris Antemann was invited to participate in the Art Studio program of the renowned Meissen Porcelain Manufactory to collaborate with the Meissen master artisans on unique pieces and a series of limited editions of her sculptures, resulting in a grand installation that reinvents and invigorates the great porcelain figurative tradition. Using the Garden of Eden as her metaphor, the artist created a contemporary celebration of the 18th-century banqueting craze. Inspired by Meissen’s great historical model of Johann Joachim Kändler’s monumental Love Temple (1750), Antemann created her own 5-foot version. Stripping the original design back to its basic forms, she added her own figures, ornamentation, and flowers, as well as a special finial with three musicians to herald the guests to the banquet below. Employing her signature wit and formal references to classic Baroque Meissen figurines, Antemann has invented a new narrative on contemporary morality through her one-of-a-kind porcelain figures in a setting that evokes the decadence of Boucher and Watteau.
Antemann’s Love Temple is the centerpiece and heart of the installation. It was designed to house a host of semi-clothed revelers around a banquet of “forbidden fruit.” After sculpting the Love Temple and banquet table, Antemann expanded the vision of the installation to include a pleasure garden made up of eight separate pieces that surrounds the temple, creating an elaborate tableau in the great tradition of royal 18th-century sur la table.
Accompanying the lavish and overflowing banquet table is a massive 12-light porcelain chandelier and a collection of smaller sculptures to accompany the table along the gallery walls, evoking the tradition of palatial porcelain rooms. The small, intimate vignettes entertain with playful scenes of dalliance and seduction.
A very cheeky exhibit and perhaps art that we may cast off as cheap and cheesy. But the beauty in these porcelain pieces is the attention to detail, sauciness, the manipulated control in creating such fine and cohesive work. I was mesmerized and found myself lost in the Love Temple piece. As I moved around the tableau I saw even more decadence and conversations between the characters unfolding. The ‘forbidden fruit’ reminded me of sugar plums and added a further enticement to keep looking as a voyeur into the characters debauchery.
Native American Art
The Museum’s collection of Native American art is housed in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Center for Native American Art. The collection, remarkable for both its depth and diversity, consists of more than 5,000 prehistoric and historic objects created by some 200 cultural groups from throughout North America. Included are outstanding works by Native American masters such as Allan Houser, Charles Edenshaw, and Maria Martinez, in addition to regional contemporary artists such as Lillian Pitt, Joe Feddersen, Pat Courtney Gold, Rick Bartow, and James Lavadour.
The Center is located on the second and third floors of the Hoffman Wing in the Museum’s Belluschi Building; each gallery is devoted to art from a specific cultural region. The second-floor galleries focus on the Museum’s world-renowned collection of Northwest Coast art as well as galleries dedicated to the Arctic, Plains, Woodlands, Southwest, and California regions. Also located on the second floor is the Phil and Sue Bogue Gallery, dedicated to the display of the Museum’s excellent collection of Pre-Columbian art from Meso and South America. Two additional galleries featuring work from our own region, western Oregon and the Columbia Plateau, are located on the third floor.
Being Canadian, I am always drawn to First Nation art. I particular love looking at costuming, accessories and especially bead work. The Portland Art Museum will satiate your fix. From the ornate dress, beaded handbags and tapestries you will be moved by the emotion and history woven into each piece. Awe-inspiring and also worthy of reflection into the history of Native American Art in the Northwest Coast.
If you have time check out the Modern Contemporary Art space. I took swooning breaks between the works of Damien Hirst ‘5 Skulls’ and Andy Warhol’s ‘Family Album 312’.
The Portland Art Museum needs some of your time the next time you are in Portland.
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205