On March 20 Iris Cantor was celebrated by French President François Hollande in a ceremony where he bestowed on her the new rank of Officier in the French Legion d’Honneur. Mrs. Cantor, President and Chairman of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, first became a member of this august organization in 2000, when she was named a Chevalier. During the past two decades she has been repeatedly cited for her profound philanthropy and support for the worlds of culture and healthcare for women in France.
Before a crowd of about 100 people — including members of the press and of Paris’ museum community, well-wishers, and friends — President Hollande told Iris Cantor that she was “right to be passionate about Rodin. He is a beautiful companion.” He went on to say, “Thanks to your love for Rodin, you and your husband have contributed to the influence of France. Therefore, because you have furthered the spirit of France, as a symbol of gratitude we express our appreciation by presenting to you the insignia of Officier of the Legion d’Honneur.” (translation courtesy Annie Allen).
Mrs. Cantor’s honor has also been celebrated by the media and friends in this country. Link here to a wonderful tribute to her in the New York Social Diary.
When Auguste Rodin died on November 17, 1917 he was the most famous sculptor since Michelangelo. His work was exhibited and collected world-wide and it had an enormous influence on what sculptors of his day and ours create and exhibit. Now, one hundred years after his death, museums all over the world are commemorating Rodin’s vision as he transformed sculpture from a traditional artform to a modern one.
The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation has been a major participant in this commemoration. As it has every year since the late 1970s, the Cantor Foundation has loaned traveling exhibitions to museums all over North America. Much sought-after, these exhibitions have visited scores of museums and have introduced Rodin to more than ten million people since the program began. Currently on tour are Rodin: The Human Experience; Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections and Rodin: Portraits of a Lifetime; Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections. This year alone these two shows have been at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon and the J. Wayne Stark Galleries at Texas A&M University in College Station. Later this year these shows will go to the Flint Institute of Arts in Michigan, the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, and the Pauly Friedman Art Gallery at Misericordia University in Dallas PA.
In addition, the Foundation has participated in a nation-wide effort, led by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to make available to the public a chronological list of all opportunities in this country to see Rodin sculpture. Take a look here. A similar effort has been undertaken in Europe, organized by the Musée Rodin.
Two new exhibitions are now in the works. Muses, Sirens, and Lovers: Rodin and Women, Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections will include about 45 bronzes of Rodin’s women: as models; as objects of love, dalliance and appetite; as collectors of his work; and of course as the subject of his artistic fascination. The exhibition will include special loans of Rodins that have been donated by the Cantors and the Cantor Foundation to the Brooklyn Museum, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and other institutional friends of the Cantors and the Foundation.
The other exhibition is a general, 22-piece retrospective filled with “stars.” It’s called Rodin: Truth, Form, Life, Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections. Sized especially for college museums and galleries, it’s being snatched up by academic institutions.
Both shows will travel though 2020. Museums are invited to inquire about joining the tours — hurry, as there are only a few slots left! — by contacting Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Judith Sobol at the Foundation.
At its April meeting, the Boad of Directors of the Cantor Foundation named Vice President of the Board of Trustees Ryan Fisher the new Executive Director of the Foundation. The fourth Executive Director in the Foundation’s 41-year history, Fisher’s election to the leadership position puts him directly in charge of the Foundation’s philanthropic efforts and its vision for moving forward into the 21st century. Fisher’s first official act was to name Judith Sobol, who had been ED for 16 years and as such oversaw the curatorial, philanthropic, and administrative functions of the Foundation, to the new position of Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. As such, Sobol will focus on the Foundation’s traveling exhibitions and loan programs.
On a lovely summer evening in late August a lively crowd of students, faculty, and townspeople turned out for the public opening of Rodin: The Human Experience; Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections at the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond. This exhibition of 32 bronzes from the Cantor Collections is on a three-year tour of American museums.
The Harnett’s opening celebration began with a welcome by Elizabeth Schlatter (left), deputy director and curator of exhibitions at the Museums. She shared insights gained about Rodin’s sculpture from the process of installing the show, saying that “one thing I didn’t quite expect until we started laying out the exhibition was the contrast between the dark and often warm colors of the bronzes and the creamy white paint of our walls and pedestals. This contrast creates a silhouette effect and manages to bring out the strong linear quality of these pieces.”
Schlatter went on to say, ”When we talk about sculpture we often first discuss 3-dimensional volume, as it’s a distinctive quality from…paintings or prints. But when curators are figuring out where to put things throughout a gallery, we are often concerned with with sightlines, that is, when a visitor stands at one end of a gallery, how does everything look in front of you, is there something grand across the way that holds your attention as you turn a corner, is there a flow amongst the objects, are things in front of each other blocking your view or can you highlight adjacencies, having works that reveal similarities and differences merely by their placement next to each other.
“So when…figuring out the placement of these Rodin pieces, we’d put a work on a pedestal with a head…looking to the left, then Richard Waller (our executive director) and I would stand back, way back, and see how it looks. And it would look great. And then we’d ask our preparators to turn the sculpture maybe 20 degrees counter-clockwise, and it would look even better. An example of this would be Rodin’s “Monumental Head of Shade,” which is this exquisite torqued head and neck, originally from “The Gates of Hell.” Each time we turned the head around we got an amazing new profile, …[one] you can really only appreciate when you see the work in person and in the gallery space, against this light background. And over and over again this would happen as we were laying out the show — beautiful and different contours would be revealed as we played around with the alignment of the works and each time I would think (and pardon my language), but Damn, Rodin was a genius.”
Schlatter’s inspiring introduction was followed by a piano concert by Joanne Kong and Paul Hanson (right) from the University of Richmond’s Department of Music, who played — with explanations — music popular at Rodin’s time. This led into a lecture by Cantor Foundation Executive Director Judith Sobol, speaking about the formation of the renowned Cantor Collection and about Rodin’s achievements in transforming sculpture from a traditional to a modern art form. Sobol’s talk was followed by a reception and viewing of the exhibition.
Speaking later, University of Richmond Museums Executive Director Richard Waller (left, with Cantor Foundation Executive Director Judith Sobol) cited the exceptional opportunity this show offers to college and university museums and galleries. Waller noted the Rodin exhibition “is a perfect fit for our Harnett Museum of Art, it is both beautiful and a powerful experience for our visitors. As a university museum in a liberal arts environment, our mission includes bringing outstanding art to our campus for the enrichment of our students, staff, and faculty, as well as for our greater community. It has been wonderful and gratifying to see the overwhelming response from our audiences, as well as first-time visitors, to this remarkable exhibition from the Cantor Foundation. I would like to thank and acknowledge the Cantor Foundation for providing this important opportunity to bring the experience of Rodin’s creativity and genius to the University of Richmond.”
University of Richmond Museums staff with Cantor Foundation Executive Director Judith Sobol, from left to right: Heather Campbell, Curator of Museums Programs; Richard Waller, Museums Executive Director; David Hershey, Assistant Collections Manager; Stephen Duggins, Museum Preparator; Matthew Houle, Curator of Museum Collections; Henley Guild, Museum Preparator; Katreena Clark, Museums Operations Manager;Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions; Martha Wright, Coordinator of Museum Visitor and Tour Services. (All University of Richmond photos © Kim Schmidt.)