Open This End, at theMiriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, features contemporary art from the collection of Blake Byrne, one of the top 200 art collectors according to Art News. The title comes from a 1962 Warhol painting featured in the show which also includes painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, installation and mixed media of more than 30 artists from the 1960s to the present. Among the artists are: Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Rita McBride, Gerhard Richter, Martin Kippenberger, Marlene Dumas and Paul McCarthy. Despite the number of works featured, the setting is so intimate that you can engage with each work on a very personal basis.
My two favorite pieces in the exhibition were a large mixed media canvas by Mark Bradford and a trompe l’oeil painting by Sigmar Polke. While very distinct artists, both pieces were similar in that they gave you a different experience when viewing up close and at a distance. Bradford’s layering is very rich but one experiences more dynamism when you stand several feet back. Polke’s colorful, seemingly abstract piece, is very pleasing when standing right in front of it. But only when across the room do you see his intention to reveal champagne glasses on a tray. It was a lovely illusion.
Open This End is being exhibited in celebration of Byrne’s 80th birthday and is appearing at the schools that he and his family have attended. A goal of the exhibition, according to the exhibit notes, “is to inspire others to share their art collections for educational purposes and start an ongoing dialogue about art collecting, philanthropy and ethics.” A symposium on this topic, featuring Blake Bryne, will take place on March 6 at Columbia University’s Uris Hall. The exhibit is on view through March 12