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This Is Last Weekend

For Rock, Roll Photos

Fenimore Museum President D’Ambrosio discusses Herb Ritts’ iconic Madonna portrait from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. If you want to see it, this is your last chance. The exhibit’s last day is Sept. 2, Labor Day. (Jim Kevlin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – “Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits” was a game-changer for The Fenimore Art Museum.

“Our admissions at The Fenimore were up 13 percent from last year,” said Paul D’Ambrosio, president. “This tells us that we need to keep appealing to a broader, younger audience.”

The portraits – Monday, Sept. 2, is the exhibit’s last day – include Madonna, David Bowie, Prince and other music icons.  It was loaned by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Herb Ritts Foundation. Also on view are costumes and instruments on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall.

“The last three weeks, it’s been mobbed,” said D’Ambrosio. “People realized it’s closing, and that’s increased turnout, but July had a lot of momentum too. The symposium was completely packed.”

While “2019 is not a record breaker yet, …it is up there,” said Todd Kenyon, communications director. “I believe with the great fall exhibitions coming in September, it could end up being in the top three.”

Rock & Roll President Greg Harris, a CGP graduate and Baseball Hall alumnus, was on hand for the annual gala on Friday, July 12, and served as the moderator for the symposium the following day.

The symposium focused on Ritts’ contributions to the modern image of the rock star and included Laurie Kratochvil, Rolling Stone’s former photography director; John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester; and Rory Ritts, Herb Ritts’ younger brother.

Even the opera crowd got in on the rock and roll. “When there was a matinee at the Glimmerglass Festival, we’d have a line out the door,” D’Ambrosio said. “And they were all here for the Herb Ritts.”

In addition to the Ritts exhibit, the Fenimore also hosted Mo Willems “We Are Art,” an exhibition devoted to his “Elephant and Piggy” books, and “Perfect Harmony: The Musical Life and Art of William Sidney Mount,” featuring 25 oil paintings, instruments and pencil sketches to form the bridge between his passion for art and music.

And the year isn’t over yet. Following the departure of the Ritts exhibit, the Clark gallery will host “Duane Michals: The Portraitist.”

“They’re these wonderful conceptual portraits of people,” he said.

They’ll also have “Heroines of Abstract Expressionism,”

A private, yet-unseen collection of abstract paintings by Lee Krasner, Elaine DeKooning, Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, and others.

“They’re a rarely acknowledged group,” he said. “And yet, they have these great works.”

Inspired by the turnout for the Ritts exhibit, next year the Fenimore will host an exhibit of pop artist Keith Haring. “It’s going to be a knockout,” said D’Ambrosio. “We are getting one work that’s 100 inches wide. But no matter what the scale, his style has the same exuberance.”

Haring’s sister Kay will be on hand to talk about his life and work, and a Haring-inspired mural is being commissioned for Pioneer Park next July. “Keith Haring will attract the same crowd as the Herb Ritts,” said D’Ambrosio.

Ansel Adams will also make a return to the Fenimore’s galleries with an exhibit of his Manzanar photographs documenting life in the Japanese Internment Camps at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California during World War II.

“It’s a very timely exhibit,” said D’Ambrosio.






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