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“It’s hard to put into words how wonderful it is to share the excitement of someone realizing they’ve connected with the artwork…that in a sense they have taken possession of the artwork. You can feel the electricity.”

Kathe Patrinos,
Co-Chair, Docent Committee

Right: Marylin Finberg, treasurer, Carnegie Museum of Art’s docent committee, gives a tour to a school group in the Scaife Galleries.

Photo: Tom Altany

Look, Discuss, and Learn:
How Docents Guide Museum Visitors

Marcia Rubenstein, chair, Carnegie Museum of Art’s docent committee, stands in front of two pieces in the collection that visitors ask about most often: Willem de Kooning’s Woman VI, and Albert Giacometti’s Man Walking. Photo: Tom Altany

What makes a trip to Carnegie Museum of Art meaningful for the thousands of people who visit each year? Ask any of the docents, and they’ll probably agree that taking away a greater understanding of even one work of art makes the experience worthwhile. The docents, who serve as volunteer guides and educators, receive extensive training on the works within the Museum of Art—including temporary exhibitions such as the Carnegie International.

The docents’ goals, according to Marilyn Russell, the museum’s curator of education, are “to bring greater insight and understanding to the works of art by generating discussion and by placing the works in the context of society, world events, and the individual life of the artist.” Russell explains that, although the docents are knowledgeable about the individual works, “they don’t tell visitors what a painting or sculpture means, but instead they help the viewers to react to the work of art in its historical and aesthetic context and from their personal point of view.”

Many docents at the Museum of Art say that 20th-century works tend to elicit the most questions, as well as the strongest reactions. Abstract contemporary works such as Willem de Kooning’s Woman VI and Ryman’s Issue initially perplex visitors, who often ask such questions as, “Why is this art?” and “What is this worth?”, frequently followed by, “I could do that!” What pleases the docents most is seeing the pleasure that follows their in-depth discussion about the work. “De Kooning’s Woman VI is a favorite of mine to discuss with students,” says Kathe Patrinos, co-chair of the docent committee. “Students relate more to the contemporary works. They love being challenged.”

Rather than lecturing, the docents turn to a widely used art education technique called “visual thinking strategies” in which the visitors are asked multiple questions that encourage them to closely examine the artwork and draw their own conclusions. “We then provide tidbits of information that help to support the viewers’ comments,” says Patrinos. She notes that the docents especially enjoy stepping back while a debate spontaneously occurs within a tour group.

The more familiar and beloved works such as Monet’s Waterlilies and John Singer Sargeant’s Portrait of a Boy typically generate positive responses and a great deal of discussion. Some of the other contemporary works that intrigue visitors are the Silver Coat by Yayoi Kusama with its multiple protrusions and Alberto Giacometti’s Man Walking. Docent Emily Stevick says that hearing a few key facts about Giacometti’s sculpture “helps visitors identify with the worn down but firmly fixed figure.”

Marcia Rubenstein has served as a docent for 20 years and is the current chair of the committee. In her experience, the strength of the museum’s collection is its variety. “Visitors respond to a cross-section of works ranging from the very old, such as the Ancona Altarpiece from 1472, to the very new, such as works purchased from the recent Carnegie Internationals,” she explains. “As docents, we try to reach out and engage visitors so that they have a pleasurable experience. We want them to leave the museum with the desire to return again.”
Patrinos concurs. “It’s hard to put into words how wonderful it is to share the excitement of someone realizing they’ve connected with the artwork…that in a sense they have taken possession of the artwork. You can feel the electricity.”


Artists from Five Continents to Exhibit at 2004 Carnegie International

Thirty-eight artists from around the world have been selected to exhibit their works at the 2004 Carnegie International, which opens October 9, 2004, and runs through March 20, 2005. The exhibition will include more than 400 works—paintings, sculpture, photography, works on paper, and film and video—by both internationally renowned and emerging artists. In addition, the show will incorporate small monographic exhibitions of three important older artists, including new sculpture and drawings by American artist Lee Bontecou; a retrospective of drawings, comic strips, and notebooks by Robert Crumb, an American-born artist living in France; and a series of sculptures and artists’ books by the late Croatian artist, Mangelos (Dimitrije Basicevic´).

Above: R. Crumb, Untitled (Carnegie International poster), 2004,
Courtesy of the artist (© 2004) and Paul Morris Gallery, New York

Hailing from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, the artists have been selected for their contributions to the world of contemporary art over the past four years. Curator Laura Hoptman says that while each artist offers a distinct view of the world through his or her work, “they each consider and use art as a meaningful vehicle through which to confront what philosophers have called ‘the Ultimates’—that is, the largest, most unanswerable questions ranging from the nature of life and death, to the existence of God, to the anatomy of belief.”

Works in the 2004 Carnegie International range from the premier of a large and ambitious video project by Istanbul-based video artist Kutlug Ataman to new paintings by Peter Doig, Neo Rauch, and Julie Mehretu, and large-scale color photos by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. For artists Tomma Abts, Paul Chan, Jeremy Deller, Mark Grotjahn, and Eva Rothschild, this exhibition will be their debut at an American museum.

The 2004 Carnegie International marks the 54th installation since the International was established in 1896 by Andrew Carnegie. Today it is North America’s most renowned exhibition of international contemporary art. For a complete list of artists participating in the 2004 International, visit www.cmoa.org/international.

Above: Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Orange Butterfly), 2002, oil on linen,
Courtesy of the artist; Blum and Poe, Los Angeles; and Anton Kern Gallery, New York



Left, Emil Nolde, German, 1867-1956, Tänzerinnen (Dancers), 1917, woodcut on tan, thick, moderately textured, wove paper, (copperplate engraving), Milwaukee Art Museum

From the early decades of a unified Germany to the years of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, Expressionism was the dominant avant-garde art form in Germany. Some of the most dramatic works from the major German Expressionist artists of this era are on view in Defiance Despair Desire: German Expressionist Prints from the Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection through August 8, 2004. The exhibition, organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum, features more than 200 works by 32 artists who collectively changed the course of Modernism with their radical styles, techniques, and subjects.

Expand Your Expressionist Experience—
Attend an Education Program

The following programs complement Defiance Despair Desire and are open to the public.
Lunch and Learn:
Defiance Despair Desire: German Expressionist Prints
Thursday, July 15, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
$25 members/$30 non-members
Fee includes lunch in Carnegie Café
Reservations required, 412.622.3288
Participants learn how and why a group of young artists working in the opening decades of the 20th century turned to printmaking to express their response to the radical transformation of life in Germany.

Bier Party! Art & Brewing -
Two Great German Traditions

Thursday, July 15, 6-9 p.m.
$25 admission
Reservations required, 412.622.3288
Open galleries and an exhibition party featuring a sampling of a variety of beers from Pittsburgh’s Penn Brewery will be part of an entertaining evening where visitors enjoy two German art forms—printmaking and great beer. A special tutorial tasting with Penn Brewery owner, Tom Pastorius, will be available for members only.

Max Pechstein, German, 1881-1955. Tänzerin im Spiegel (Dancer in the Mirror),
1923, Milwaukee Art Museum


Recent Aquisition:

Nakashima Table Added to Decorative Arts Collection

George Nakashima, Japan, 1905-1990, Table, 1958-1959, walnut Gift of Blanche F. and John T. Galey © Peter Haroldt, Photographed in Galacrest, Somerset.

Throughout his career as an architect-turned-woodworker, Japanese-American George Nakashima (1905-1990) won numerous international awards for his exceptional craftsmanship and furniture design. This massive walnut table, commissioned by Blanche and John Galey for their house in Somerset, Pa., was delivered in January 1960, about one year after its commission. Nakashima wrote to the Galeys, “We were pleased to have heard that you like your table. It is so personal that I was a bit concerned as to how you would react. And so big.” The table was placed in the home’s main room, where it remained until 2004, when it was given as a gift to Carnegie Museum of Art by Mrs. Galey (now Mrs. James Alexander).

“ This is a very important table,” says Curator of Decorative Arts Sarah Nichols. “It’s notable for its huge scale, its beautiful figuring of the wood, and for the natural gnarled effect of the walnut that Nakashima incorporated into the work.” According to Nichols, experts regard this table as one of the best examples of Nakashima’s furniture.

With works in many of the most important collections in the world, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Nakashima remained humble about his work and reverent toward nature. This table was built in his studio in New Hope, Pa., where he worked following his internment during World War II. Now under the helm of his daughter, Mira, the Nakashima Woodworking studio continues to build commissioned works incorporating the techniques and philosophy first set forth by its founder.

The Nakashima table will be on view in the Scaife Galleries following the close of the 2004 Carnegie International.

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Copyright (c) 2003 CARNEGIE magazine. All rights reserved.