Andris Nelsons has garnered a lot of attention during his first season as Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—much coverage in the local and even national press; receptions for the public and an exhibition with a talking hologram at Symphony Hall; placards on buses around Boston and in the subway. He threw out a ball for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The BSO organization wants him talked about by the man and woman on the street—especially the younger set. It remains to be seen whether a new younger audience will be drawn to the BSO. Eventually, it’s the music that will matter, not publicity.
This exceptionally important and beautifully realized exhibition is not only the first retrospective of the work of Adolph Gottlieb in Italy, it is the first full retrospective of his work anywhere in quite a few years. One can hardly say that Gottlieb is a forgotten artist, because there has been a steady flow of exhibitions following his death in 1974 through the eighties, nineties, and up to the present day, more at major private galleries rather than museums, and none as ambitious or as scholarly as this. On the other hand it appears that Gottlieb's reputation has weakened in recent years, especially among the general public, among whom Jackson Pollock has become a sort of louche patron saint of Abstract Expressionism, or "Ab Ex," as MoMA now encourages us to call it, more through biographical scandal and sensational controversies over his oeuvre than a serious appraisal of his work — not that the Boston College exhibition about the Matter sketches was not serious and important work. Hence, in our conversation about the show, Philip Rylands, the director of the Guggenheim Collection, was surely right in pointing out that the principle goal of the exhibition is the re-assessment of Gottlieb's pre-eminence among the "Abstract Expressionists" — something that was never in doubt during the peak years of both the movement and his career.