The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from a look at the coming art season is that we're unquestionably in a multicultural age. To what degree this is a positive function of a desire to reach out to other cultures and to what degree it's a consequence of hard times is impossible to tell. But whatever the cause, on the Baltimore horizon there are precious few European painting and sculpture shows -- which are always the most popular ones, but are also the most expensive to do.
Surveying the landscape of exhibitions coming to our major museums in the next year, one finds only a single such show, the William S. Paley Collection of modern art opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art Oct. 31. This promises works by Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, etc., but, as an exhibition of works from a collection left by Mr. Paley to the Museum of Modern Art, it involves neither the cost nor the scholarship of a curated theme show drawn from many collections.
By stretching the category of painting and sculpture a little, one could also include the 30 Matisse cutouts (they were, after all, what Matisse did when he could no longer paint) coming from the Pompidou Center in Paris (May 25) as a thank-you for the loan this year of the BMA's Matisse masterpiece "The Blue Nude." But again the cutouts will be a selection of objects from one museum -- an inexpensive way to do a show, however grand the art may be.
The truth is that few museums can afford to do the major European painting and sculpture shows any more, and Baltimore's museums increasingly appear not to be in that category. To bring us what we do get, the BMA in recent seasons has resorted to creative swaps with other museums ("our Matisses for your Monets"); and last spring's "Sisley" at the Walters Art Gallery was a medium-sized show of an artist whose name is not among the biggest.
But the other part of the truth -- the good part of it -- is that as our horizons are ever widened by shows from other parts of the world we are coming to realize that neither the Western Tradition nor what are considered the traditional fine arts should have a monopoly on our attention. That will be brought home often in the coming year by the international smorgasbord of art offered to us from all over the world -- and right here at home.
At the Walters Art Gallery there will be "African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia" (Oct. 17), 100 objects dating from the 4th to the 18th century and tracing the religious history of Christian Ethiopia; then "River of Gold: Pre-Columbian Treasures From Sitio Conte" (Feb. 13), more than 200 artifacts dating from 700 to 1000 A.D. excavated at a Panamanian cemetery in 1940; then "Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals" (May 1), a theme show containing 100 works that show how art can use secrecy for purposes of power; then "Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts" (Aug. 28), an exhibit that explores the Armenian Gospel Book as a door to the history of Armenia and the role of Christianity in its history.
The Maryland Institute, College of Art, will present "Rejoining the Spiritual: The Land in Contemporary Latin American Art" (Feb. 15), focusing on seven Latin American artists whose work
reflects concerns with the land and the environment. And Morgan State University today opens an exhibit of "Ghanaian Art."
At the Baltimore Museum we will have "Northern Lights: Inuit Textile Art From the Canadian Arctic" (Nov. 17), featuring contemporary wall hangings by 12 contemporary Inuit women artists; and "Roni Horn: Iceland" (Feb. 23), focusing on an artist who depicts Iceland's landscape.
The Inuit show is only one of several that reveal the artistry of crafts from around the world. The National Museum of Ceramic Art will bring "Facets of the Same Nature" (Sept. 23), an exhibit of contemporary Dutch ceramics. The Contemporary, Baltimore's museum without walls, in collaboration with Baltimore Clayworks and the Maryland Institute, will present "Contemporary East European Ceramics" (Oct. 23), 100 works by 74 artists from 14 countries from the Czech Republic to Ukraine.
To show that we can hold our own in this category, the Maryland Historical Society will have "Lavish Legacies: Baltimore Album Quilts" (March 6), a show of the marvelously colorful and iconographically rich album quilts that enjoyed a very brief vogue in 19th-century Baltimore.
Maryland Art Place's "A Meeting of Hands" (Oct. 14) will be a collaboration with the Baltimore Clayworks to bring together five clay artists and five non-clay artists to create collaborative works. This is in celebration of the Year of American Craft. And at the Rosenberg Gallery at Goucher College we will have "Handkerchief Quilts by Pat Long Gardner" (Nov. 1), a Baltimore quilter who has revived the tradition of handkerchief quilts as well as written a book about them.
Made in America
And now that we're back home, it's time to say that there will be no dearth of American art, local and otherwise. Debuting at the Baltimore Museum will be "Fay's Fairy Tales: William Wegman's 'Cinderella' and 'Little Red Riding Hood' " (Sept. 15), recent works from the photographer who has made himself famous by making his dogs famous; "Songs of My People" (Dec. 18), a smaller version of a widely acclaimed show of photography documenting contemporary African-American life; "Maryland Public Treasures" (Feb. 20), a collection of art that normally resides in public facilities ranging from regional museums to schools and churches; and "Eugene Leake" (March 30), a museum show at last for the man who made over the Maryland Institute in the 1960s and then retired to become a landscape painter whose works are widely respected and much loved.
Among the many shows of contemporary art are the BMA's "Body and Soul" (June 19), featuring four artists whose work has to do with, according to the museum, "personal identity in relation to psychosexual and sociopolitical themes."
At the other end of the spectrum must be the Maryland Institute's "Kustom Kulture" (Dec. 3), organized by the Laguna Art Museum and exploring the work of Judy Chicago, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, Von Dutch and others whose work has contributed to, according to the institute, "American popular culture, custom cars, and the Los Angeles art scene of the past thirty years."
In local galleries
Among local gallery shows, the C. Grimaldis Gallery will feature new paintings and works on paper by Baltimore's -- and the world's --own Grace Hartigan (Nov. 4), German contemporary prints (Dec. 2), and small sculptures and paintings by Anne Truitt (spring of 1994, month uncertain). Nye Gomez's season will include paintings by Mary Swann (Sept. 18), photograph/constructions by Carole Jean Bertsch (Oct. 23) and sculpture by PatMcGuire (Dec. 4) and Joan Erbe (Jan. 8). And Galerie Francoise will number several sculptors among its 1993-1994 artists, including Karen Acker (Oct. 9), Leonard Streckfus (Nov. 4) and Gagik Aroutiunian (June 2).
Among alternative galleries, one of the most interesting shows of the year looks to be School 33's "Touch: Beyond the Visual" (Dec. 11). The idea behind this is that we use the sense of sight too exclusively, so we are going to get works we can actually touch.
At colleges and universities
Some of our more imaginative shows each year are put on by local colleges and universities, and this season will be no exception. UMBC will have "Ciphers of Identity" (Nov. 12), a traveling exhibit addressing the struggle for social and cultural freedom curated by the well-known critic Maurice Berger. Goucher will bring us a double show of photographs of contemporary Israelis and Ethiopian Jewish life (Jan. 17). Loyola will show works of the Czech photographer Viktor Kolar (Jan. 28). The art gallery of the University of Maryland College Park will have "Anonymity and Identity" (Nov. 3), a show of images of the body by artists from the United States, Germany, France and Canada. And look for
"Prints by the Nabis: Vuillard and His Contemporaries" (Oct. 30) at the Mitchell Gallery of St. Johns College in Annapolis.
Building projects in town
Despite talk of hard times -- and it's not just talk, of course -- building projects do go on. Construction on the Baltimore Museum of Art's $10 million New Wing for Modern Art progresses, with a planned opening date in the fall of 1994. And Rebecca Hoffberger, guiding light behind the American Visionary Art Museum -- our national museum of outsider art, to be built near the Inner Harbor -- says that enough money has now been raised ($5.24 million of the $6.25 million construction cost) to begin construction before the end of the year; the opening will be about 18 months from then.
Washington and New York
Elsewhere, "John James Audubon: The Watercolors for 'The Birds of America' " (Oct. 3) at the National Gallery should be immensely popular. This is the first major traveling exhibition of the Audubon's actual watercolors from which his great book was made since the New York Historical Society acquired them in 1863. But equally exciting is the gallery's exhibit on "Egon Schiele" (Feb. 6), a major exhibition of the work of this great but short-lived (1890-1918) Viennese expressionist.
The National Museum of American Art will have a major retrospective of the American painter Jacob Kainen (opens Friday); the Hirshhorn will show 50 paintings, drawings and sculptures from its own collection of the works of Willem de Kooning (Oct. 21); and the National Portrait Gallery will have a show of the art of the African-American photographer James VanDerZee (Oct. 22).
In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open its new 19th-century European paintings and sculpture galleries (Sept. 21) after a two-year renovation and reconstruction. It should be an exciting event, for the Met has one of the greatest collections anywhere. There will be 20 galleries, some devoted to individual artists and three devoted to a temporary showing of the promised Annenberg Collection.
WHERE TO CALL
For more information about museum and gallery schedules, call:
* Baltimore Museum of Art, (410) 396-7101.
* C. Grimaldis Gallery, (410) 539-1080.
* Galerie Francoise, (410) 337-2787.
* Hirshhorn, (202) 357-1618.
* Loyola Art Gallery, (410) 323-1010.
* Maryland Art Place, (410) 962-8565.
* Maryland Historical Society, (410) 685-3750.
* Maryland Institute, College of Art, (410) 225-2300.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, (212) 535-7710.
* National Gallery Art, (202) 737-4215.
* National Museum of Ceramic Art, (410) 837-2529.
National Museum of American Art, (202) 357-2247.
Nye Gomez Gallery, (410) 752-2080.
* Walters Art Gallery, (410) 547-2787.
* School 33, (410) 396-4641.
* University of Maryland Baltimore County, (410) 455-3188.
University of Maryland College Park, (301) 985-7154.
* Watch for these exhibitions at Baltimore's major museums:
" African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia" At the Walters Art Gallery offers 100 objects dating from the 4th to the 18th century and tracing the religious history of chrisian Ethiopia (opens Oct. 17).
* " The William S. Paley Collection" at the Baltimore Museum of Art promises works by Degas,Cezanne,Gauguin,Matisse and Picasso,among others (opens Oct 31).
* " Lavish Legacies: Baltimore Album Quilts" at the Maryland Historical Society shows the colorful and iconographically rich album quilts that were in vogue in 19th-century Baltimore (opens March 6).
* " Secrecy African Art That Conceals and Reveals" at the Walters Art Gallery exhibits 100 works that show how art can use secrecy for purposes of power(opens May 1).