Because it sits atop a hill, I assumed that Atlanta, Georgia’s High Museum was named for a geographic feature. Wrong. It was named for the High family, who gave their home on Peachtree Street to the Atlanta Art Association in 1926. Then I assumed that the Stent Family Wing was the newest part of the current High. Wrong. It’s the oldest. Finally, I assumed that the High’s show, “Cézanne and the Modern”, wasn’t worth mentioning because it closed on January 11, 2015.
The High Museum doesn’t, in my opinion, have a 5 Compass permanent collection. What it does have is a gift for displaying offbeat art, like Frances and Emory Cocke’s English Ceramics, and mounting excellent temporary shows, like the recent “Dream Cars: Innovative Design”. The staff told me that Dream Cars stunned with its popularity, and its run was easy to extend because it was going to no other venue.
The High’s Stent Family Wing is a beautiful problem. Richard Meier designed it and won the Pritzker Prize the year after it opened, 1983. Reminiscent of but sunnier than Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, the Meier Building’s cylindrical design and spiral walkways allowed the High to show only about 3% of its permanent collection. Like the Guggenheim, it’s architecturally arresting but not an especially practical art display space. Solution? Spend $124 million on 3 new connected buildings, have Renzo Piano design them, and call it the Woodruff Arts Center. It opened in 2002.
The subtitle for the Cézanne show is “Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection”. Masterpieces is the accurate word for what Henry Pearlman bought. Founder of the Eastern Cold Storage Company, Henry developed an interest in art later in life and began collecting. When he was 50, he bought a Chaim Soutine landscape at an auction in New York that so enchanted him that he experienced a lift each evening when he walked in from work and saw it. He decided to buy more modern works and eventually amassed the world’s best collection of Cézanne watercolors. What was seen in the High until January 11, 2015, were 24 Cezanne’s plus 25+ masterworks from the likes of Van Gogh, Modigliani etc. Some were offbeat, like a rare vertical Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain that Cézanne obsessively painted.
Before leaving The High on a high, I found out that “Cezanne and the Modern”, Henry & his wife Rose’s entire collection, won’t officially close until January 3, 2016. That event will occur at Princeton University where this show opens on September 12, 2015. This is appropriate since the Pearlmans’ art has been at Princeton since 1976. From the 7th of February until May 18, 2015, it will be at the Vancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, Canada.
If you live on the East Coast, Princeton is not far. Vancouver, one of my favorite cities, is a wonderful destination. Cézanne + Vancouver = a GREAT travel idea. I’m not wrong about that.