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Collaboration is the watchword of the day for all not-for-profits. The exhibition Fierce Friends: Artists and Animals in the Industrial Era, 1750-1900 (opening Saturday, March 25 exclusively for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh members) is an exemplary model of cooperation—at our Oakland museums, around the region, and even abroad (see cover story). The inspiration for the show came after the successful Light! exhibition in 2001, which was co-organized with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. For it, Carnegie Museum of Art Curator Lulu Lippincott and Van Gogh Museum Curator Andreas Blühm assembled dozens of works of art and related artifacts concerned with the crucial change in illumination during the 19th century, as the world moved toward gas, then electric, lighting.

Subsequently, Lulu and Andreas discovered their shared curiosity for the evolving depiction of animals during the Industrial Era. Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s historic and beloved Camel Driver was an early inspiration, representing as it does a grand Romantic model (in photo above). A landmark example of 19th-century French taxidermy, this tableau has fascinated museum visitors since it was purchased for the collection in 1904.

These two talented curators, with assistance from colleagues in Pittsburgh and Amsterdam, once again used their shared interests in the creation of the cross-disciplinary Fierce Friends, saluted by the London Telegraph as “fierce, fabulous, and fantastic.” An examination of art and natural history, it proved wildly popular in Amsterdam. Its installation in Pittsburgh should prove even more grand, and thoughtful, as it will incorporate significant objects—fossils, taxidermy, and other artifacts—from Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s vast collections, in addition to pieces from Carnegie Museum of Art, the Van Gogh Museum, and a number of other art museums.

Imagining that this exhibition would be well-received by Pittsburghers, Carnegie Museums was emboldened to approach the R.K. Mellon Foundation a few months ago for support of Fierce Friends and related animal-themed exhibitions at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, including the photographic exhibit Bears: Icons of the Wild (February 4-May 28); Wild at Heart (March 4-August 16), an exhibit of painting and sculpture from the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which will showcase highlights from the museum's historic and contemporary collections; and, Stuffed Animals: The Art and Science of Taxidermy (May 21-Sept. 3), a historical look at the groundbreaking work of taxidermists and scientists. The R.K. Mellon Foundation’s leadership saw the possibilities of Fierce Friends even more broadly, and provided additional guidance for the initiative Pittsburgh Roars (see page 22). More than 60 venues are participating in this regional effort meant to stimulate visitation at local attractions and appeal to tourists nationally and internationally, throughout the year. Further, Pittsburgh Roars is but the first of such coordinated regional marketing and programming efforts that will continue in 2007 and 2008.

From the Camel Driver to a sustained festival of exhibitions and events throughout the region is a good stretch—and a memorable demonstration of the power of collaboration.

Richard Armstrong
The Henry J. Heinz II Director,
Carnegie Museum of Art

Bill DeWalt
Carnegie Museum of Natural History

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