The 2000-2001 art season in the Baltimore-Washington region promises museum-goers and gallery visitors visually intriguing, intellectually stimulating shows that ought to offer a little something for everyone.
Baltimore's two largest museums, the Walters Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art, have both scheduled ambitious exhibits calculated to make the most of their collections' strengths.
In October, the Walters opens an eye-popping extravaganza, "Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930," a show that frankly revels in the exotic, sensual images produced by European artists in response to the 19th-century's fascination with the "Orient," which in those days meant mostly the Middle East and North Africa.
In January, the Walters presents another crowd-pleaser in "Manet: The Still-Life Paintings," which offers a look at how the father of modernism helped reinvent this venerable form over the course of his career.
At the BMA, Robert Rauschenberg is the subject of a much-anticipated exhibit opening in December that focuses on the artist's groundbreaking mixed-media works, in which he borrowed sculptural elements from everyday objects - chairs, ladders, lighting fixtures and clothing - and incorporated them into painted canvases, many silk-screened with images from advertisements. The show will include one of Rauschenberg's most famous works, "Canyon" (1959), in which he affixed a taxidermied golden eagle directly onto the canvas.
In February, the BMA presents "BodySpace," an exhibit of large-scale works that create environments in which visitors must use their entire bodies to fully understand the artists' meaning.
The Contemporary Museum's big fall show is "Snapshot," a collection of some 1,000 photographs submitted by artists from around the world that explores the techniques of popular folk imagery and family documentation. The show is about the overlaps and connections between mass culture and fine art, and between public image-making by artists and the personal image-making of amateur snapshooters.
Area galleries will also be offering exciting shows, including an exhibition of work by Fortune and Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White in September at UMBC's Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery, and new works by regional artists at the C. Grimaldis, Gomez and Galerie Francoise galleries.
Out-of-town exhibits worth a peek include two fabulous shows at Washington's Phillips Collection: "Degas to Matisse" this month and "Over the Line: The Art and Life of Jacob Lawrence" in May. Another must-see exhibition is the Philadelphia Museum's October portrait show, "Van Gogh: Face to Face." Get your tickets now.