Thursday, November 4, 2010

Life is Just a Three Ring Circus, Act III--The Ringling Museum of Art

My last stop was the Ringling Museum of Art itself.  Unfortunately, I approached the Museum from the wrong side and ending up starting with the Searing Wing and working my way backwards through the galleries. Most people would start with the Museum, end with the Searing Wing and then exit to walk over to Ca' d'Zan through Mabel's Rose Garden and the Banyon Groves, but, as usual, I did things my own way.

I have to admit that the art on display at the Ringling Museum is not my favorite with its emphasis on works from the Baroque and Renaissance periods.  I was actually strolling through the galleries and thinking to myself, "Self, this isn't nearly as interesting as the Arcimboldo Exhibit was at the National Gallery" when I looked up and there were two Arcimboldo paintings right in front of me!  (And if I had any questions as to whether his art fit in with that of his contemporaries, it was resolved once and for all right then!)  I was astonished to learn that most of the works that are on display in the Museum were actually owned by Ringling and donated to the State of Florida as part of his estate .  When I was talking with one of the guards, he told me that Ringling owned another 500-600 paintings that are in storage because there just isn't room to display them.   Truly a collector on a grand scale. 

The highlight of the Museum can be found in Galleries 1 and 2 -- five huge "cartoons" done by Rubens on the theme of the Triumph of the Eucharist. The works were commissioned by Rubens' royal patron, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, to provide the basis for a series of tapestries that would be woven and presented to the Poor Ciares, the Franciscan convent of the Royal Discalced Nuns in Madrid and are the actual size of the tapestries.  As you walk into the first Gallery, the space opens up majestically and you are surrounded by four amazing paintings . It truly takes your breath away.  One of the tapestries is also on display in the foyer as you enter.   If you are interested in reading more about Rubens and his works on display at the Ringling, you can go to http://www.willemswebs.com/ringlingdocents/pages/Galleries1&2.pdf

I then exited the Museum into a sculpture garden and courtyard that took me by surprise.  Once again, the Ringlings' love of all things Italian was front and center.   The setting was reminiscent to me of the Vatican with the sculptures (of saints???) on the roof of the building looking down at the visitors. The marble and bronze sculptures are beautiful--I particularly liked the horses and chariot pictured at the right.

The piece d'resistance, though, is the sculpture of the David that is at the end of the courtyard.  I had to laugh--the vision of the David, my all-time favorite sculpture that I spent hours in front of at the Academia in Florence, surrounded by palm trees was just too incongruous.  When I approached the sculpture, though, I learned that it is a 20th century bronze case from the marble original by Michelangelo.  Crazy! 

Needless to say, I will be visiting the Ringling Museum of Art many times in the years to come.  I haven't even mentioned that the Historic Asolo Theater is also on the grounds.  http://www.asolorep.org/    But that is a topic for another day.

56 comments:

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  7. keep up the work . . . great images . . . . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewAhqjfMiEY . . . . . .

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  9. "The Ringling" is the only art museum that I can name that has ever had a visual artist arrested for creating visual art it did not approve of. I also don't believe John Ringling would be all that happy with what his museum has become and some of the things it has done which go directly against the will that he left behind. I feel that his first wife, Mable Ringling, would be embarrassed that a circus museum was added to her property and so close to her Rose Garden that she took such great pride in. I really feel John Ringling would be greatly upset that it is now known simply as "The Ringling."

    Most people don't realize that John Ringling never intended to have the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art connected to his history in the circus business. If you read his will, it is never mentioned that he wanted any circus memorabilia to become part of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. He never would have expected the Florida State University to control his museum either, as he had intended to leave it to the people of the State of Florida. The recent re branding of the museum as "The Ringling" also conflicts with the instructions left by John Ringling in his will. The will states that no one has the right to change the name of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art.

    A man who worked at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art , named Joe McKennon (deceased), self-published an 80 page book called Rape of an Estate in 1986 which recorded issues of abuse and misuse at the museum before Florida State University took control of it in 2000. In the book, the author admits his guilt in helping to turn the museum of art into a circus/art museum as a circus curator and by restoring the many circus wagons on display there. The publication also reprints John Ringling's will. In the will, it is stated that no one has permission to ever change the official name of the museum itself and that it is always to be called the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Rape of an Estate is bound in a simple way with a plain white cover with big blue text. The museum was so threatened by this small book, that they tried to get all the published copies and still today stores them under lock and alarm in their circus museum building. There are stacks of the book in a locked circus archive room that the public is not allowed into. Only the security attendants on the 2nd and 3rd shift during patrols are allowed in that room and also a limited number of circus museum employees. The museum has tried to bury this book away because, as the word "rape" in the title suggests, it shows the museum in a negative way on many issues . This is an example of both censorship by the museum and of the museum trying to control what the public perception is of both its history and its deeds. There are a very few copies of Rape of an Estate around and it can sometimes be found online available for sale on sites like amazon.com.

    I don't feel that having a visual artist arrested for making artwork is the work of an art museum, that does not seem to foster any kind of art education or appreciation for the arts. I don't think you should support this either, nor should you help to support "The Ringling" continue this kind of action against artists.

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    1. I happen to have a copy of Joe Mckennon's book. Thank you for the history lesson and the knowledge that I have a rare find. Take care!

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