How the Mystic Seaport Museum is making waves in visual art, from hosting a Smithsonian show to commissioning new art

What do the port cities of Venice and Mystic in Connecticut have in common? The two share a long maritime history and world-class art. On October 15, Mystic Seaport Museum opens”Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano“, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum that presents more than 115 works of art from more than 40 institutions and private collections that explore the influence of Venetian arts on American artists. The show debuted in Washington, DC, and stopped in Fort Worth before docking at Mystic, where it will remain until February 27, 2023.

Christina Brophy, senior vice president of curatorial affairs, told Artnet News that she collaborated with the Smithsonian on a previous exhibition and jumped at the chance to host this art exhibit at the maritime museum.

The Mystic edition of “Sargent, Whistler and Venetian Glass” alters the sequence of the show to highlight the cultural connections between Venice, Mystic and greater New England. For this edition, the Tomaquag Museum in Rhode Island is lending a necklace of trade beads and a beaded top hat, both by Aboriginal artists, to highlight “the incorporation of Venetian glass and other trade into the language vernacular of traditional work, which also includes elements of wampum, bone, and porcupine quill,” Brophy said.

The Mystic Seaport Museum has also retrieved rarely seen works from its own collection, including glass plate negatives taken in Venice by whaler, merchant and diplomat Henry Hiller, as well as a diary documenting a sailor’s Venetian adventures. . Lino Tagliapietra, a master of Murano glass, appears alongside other living legends he inspired, including Debora Czeresko, Dale Chihuly and Kim Harty.

Local glass artist Jeffrey P’an also makes an appearance. Museum members will have the opportunity to visit his workshop for a live glassblowing demonstration. Other programs for the general public include on-site tours and lectures by glass and lace experts. For the duration of the show, visitors entering the hall will be greeted by a 35.5-foot Venetian gondola from La Gondola in Providence. The Rhode Island-based specialty gondola ride company will also be offering Mystic River rides in another of its vessels during the show’s opening weekend.

Since 1929, the Mystic Seaport Museum has dedicated its 19 acres to America’s maritime past. Facilities include a 75,000-volume research library, a recreation of a 19th-century seafaring village, and the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. It also has an extensive collection of films, photographs and over 500 different types of watercraft, as well as a fine selection of prints and paintings.

The museum plans to both show more of its permanent art collection and increase its engagement with living artists by commissioning site-specific works that address issues such as climate change and ecology. Rhode Island artist Sue McNally was commissioned to paint an on-site mural called Mystical Blue, and the museum has also commissioned Alexis Rockman to produce 11 paintings on the subject of climate change in the maritime industry for a show called “Oceanus”, which will be presented in May 2023 before traveling domestically and abroad, to the way of a true sailor. Brophy also mentioned an upcoming call for artists to create an installation for his planned exhibition “Entwined.”, planned for 2024, “on Indigenous, African, and African-American maritime social history.”

Below is a preview of the works that will be featured in “Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass” prior to the show’s departure.

Attributed to the Società Veneziana per l’Industria delle Conterie (SVC), “Sample Cord with Flameworked Beads”, (Late 19th century—1904). Image courtesy of Illinois State Museum.

Maxfield Parrish, “Venetian Lamplighters” (1922). Image courtesy of National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, RI, and American Illustrators Gallery, New York, NY.

Francesco Toso Borella, Vittorio Toso Borella and Compagnia di Venezia e Murano, “Replica of a Renaissance Goblet (Campanile Cup)” (1903-12). Image courtesy of Iris and Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University.

Scuola dei Merletti di Burano, “Lace panel with the lion of Saint Mark” (20th century). Image courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Thomas Moran, “A View of Venice” (1891). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

John Singer Sargent, “A Venetian Woman” (1882). Image courtesy of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Louise Howland King Cox, “Mayflowers” (1911). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Roman Empire, “Mosaic Glass Bowl”, (1st century BCE – 1st century CE). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Giovanni Boldini, “Portrait of James McNeill Whistler” (1897). Image courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.

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