Saturday Is A Day For Art - And Anne

It's two years this month since the death of Anne d'Harnoncourt - mirthful evangelist for art, deft ringleader of all good things for the city, mother figure to artists of all stripes and, for two and a half decades, all around charismatic personification of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Except perhaps for any attention it will draw to herself, she would have loved what's going on this Saturday at the museum. To honor her memory, the arthouse on Fairmount and its street-level Perelman annex are open to the public for free.

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Visitors are welcome to think about anything they want, of course, as they make their way from the "Horse Armor of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, for use in the field" to Nauman's "The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)" - both fairly new.

But I spent enough time with d'Harnoncourt to know that she would have been immensely pleased if at some point during the experience we paused to think about the miracle of a comprehensive art museum: The aleatory, if still closely curated, way in which this collection has developed (90 percent of acquisitions are donations). The skill with which curators assemble and present works. And the way, sometimes unexpected, in which the proximity of two unrelated items can make you look at each one differently. Works speak to each other, d'Harnoncourt was fond of pointing out.

Not to get too It's-A-Wonderful-Life about it, but the museum would be a completely different place if d'Harnoncourt somehow hadn't found her way there in 1967. No primacy in Duchamp. No Gross Clinic. Asian art might be represented, but certainly not on the high level you can see as a result of her ardent support of that department.

Don't forget to notice, too, the many recent works given in her memory. Even now, d'Harnoncourt hasn't stopped growing the collection. She cheated death in this one way, and I think it's fair to say it's the way she would have loved most.
 

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