Museum’s Biggest Show
To Feature Photos Of Madonna,
Cher, All Of Rock’s Greatest
By LIBBY CUDMORE
Madonna is coming to Cooperstown.
So is David Bowie.
Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tina Turner will be here too, part of “Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits,” due to open April 2 at The Fenimore Art Museum.
“There are more than 100 pieces to this collection,” said curator Chris Rossi. “It’s the largest show we’ve ever put on.”
Ritts’ “Rock Portraits” debuted at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2015.
“There’s a whole different element to his rock portraiture. It’s not just the visual connection, there’s a sonic connection as well,” said Greg Harris, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president (and a CGP graduate.)
A famed photographer of celebrities in the 1980s-‘90s, Ritts was known for his black-and-white portraiture, much of it shot in the style of classical Greek sculpture. He died of pneumonia at the age of 50 in 2002.
“He created icons,” said Harris. “So much of what we think of when we think of these artists is because of him.”
Following a successful run at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the exhibit toured at other art museums, where a friend of Rossi’s saw it and reported back to her.
“When we realized we had a connection to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame through Greg, we knew we had to bring it to the Fenimore,” said Rossi.
Fenimore Director of Marketing Todd Kenyon said he believes the exhibit will “resonate with the baseball crowd,” too.
“At the core of it, to have it at this great art museum that celebrates folk and American art, these images are a perfect fit,” said Harris.
The exhibit features some of Ritts’ iconic images of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dizzy Gillespie and others, as well as music videos, interviews, contact sheets and Ritts’ own camera.
“There’s a mini-gallery of Madonna,” said Harris. “He photographed her more than 30 times.” We’re suddenly jealous of this accolade, as I’m sure many of you are. Some people are still hoping she’ll turn up on TubeV.
Visitors will even have a chance to snap a Ritts-inspired selfie at a photo booth made up to look like Madonna’s iconic “Cherish” music video shoot, and music by the artists will be playing throughout the gallery.
“We’ve had exhibits where there are websites, but this really brings it to a multi-sensory level,” said Rossi.
But more than just the Ritts photographs,
Rossi is working with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame curators to bring additional items from their collection to the Fenimore as part of the exhibit. “We’re getting Rod Stewart’s brown tiger-print jumpsuit, Sting’s bass and one of Slash’s guitars,” said Rossi.
“These are not just items these artists touched,” said Harris. “All of the items have connection to making that music. It adds a contextual element to the exhibit.”
To accommodate the exhibit, the entirety of the Clark Gallery, some of which is used for storage, will have to be opened up. “We’re going to use the Community Gallery as well, and might even move the entrance of the exhibit into the Great Hall,” she said.
The Fenimore received $135,0225 in a CFA funding to promote the exhibit, including live concerts, film screenings and talks from artists. The lineup has not been announced yet, and, according to Kenyon, the committee will meet to plan a schedule later in the month.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 2 and is part of what Rossi called “a summer of music.”
Starting May 25, the Fenimore will host “Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount,” a collection of 25 oil paintings, pencil drawings, musical instruments, and related objects on loan from the Long Island Museum. The exhibit will also feature music by Mount playing throughout.
For the opera fans, the Fenimore will display two dresses worn by opera singer Beverly Sills in the 1975-1976 production of “La Traviata,” as well as the exhibit “Floating Palaces of the Hudson” and will include images of the old paddle wheelers in conjunction with the Glimmerglass Festival’s production of “Showboat.”
“The whole thing is going to be a lot of fun,” said Rossi. “It’s like being in a candy store.”