The Flamingos Have Flown the Coop: Or, One Flamingo Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Public Programs Manager Andria Lisle reflects on Brooks’ Art & A Movie program and interviews photographer Susan Segal.

pink9Behind the scenes, planning our quarterly Art & A Movie programs, which are part of the larger Brooks Films program, feels a little bit like training a housecat to jump through a fiery hoop. It can be done (see: Moscow Cats Theatre), but it is often a difficult process. First, we have to choose the film and negotiate screening rights. Then we have to find a suitable art-making activity that must fit numerous criteria: It has to relate, somehow, to the accompanying film. It has to be inexpensive, interesting, and easily interpreted. It has to be open-ended enough for attendees to riff on their own. It also has to pass the eagle-eyed examination of our Chief Curator and Registrar, who have strict rules on what kind of art-making materials can be used in the Rotunda, where many works of art, including Nam June Paik’s Vide-O-belisk and photographs by William Eggleston and Ernest Withers are on view.

Paint and glue are verboten, which spurs our imagination on to more creative ideas. Make working clocks out of 45 rpm records? We did that when we screened Thunder Soul. Braid chic bracelets out of sailor’s rope? Yes, when we screened Bonjour Tristesse. Fabricate miniature chairs out of champagne cork cages? Yes, along with a packed screening of Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture. We’ve made ransom note Valentines (and liberally poured White Russians) for The Big Lebowski, and sewn felt mustaches for City Lights.
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Symbols of History

News Channel 3’s Alex Coleman came by this morning to talk to our Chief Curator Marina Pacini about an upcoming auction of “Printed & Manuscript African Americana” by the the Swann Auction Galleries.  Mike Lollar of The Commercial Appeal wrote an article about it in today’s paper. Among the items up for auction (click here for Swann’s full catalogue) are a number of items from the Civil Rights movement, including one of very few surviving copies of the original poster carried by Memphis sanitation workers during the 1968 strike, bearing the message I AM A MAN.

One of the things that makes these posters so significant, Marina explains, is that this simple sentence, just a few words, so powerfully expresses the fundamental statement of Civil Rights.  It is also remarkable because the placards themselves were made from cardboard, that this one was kept and is in such good condidtion.

Also up for auction are photographs by Ernest Withers.  The Brooks considers ourselves very lucky to have a collection of Withers’ work, and we have a permanent tribute to the ground-breaking photographer in our rotunda. There is always one of his photographs on display on this special wall so visitors are able to see these historical images anytime they come in.  It is access to visual resources such as these, Marina says, that allows people to learn about and experience history in a new way.

The WREG story will appear sometime after 5pm today.

Read more about the museum’s collection of works on paper here.

A Romantic Day in Venice

Thank you to everyone who spent their Valentine’s Day at the Brooks!

A couple enjoys a romantic gondola ride (video) down Venice's Grand Canal

Our delicious Valentine’s Brunch was sold out, and we saw RECORD-BREAKING attendance for the opening day of Venice in the Age of Canaletto!  People came from near and far to see these beautiful paintings and exquisite decorative objects. Click thumbnails to see larger view:

Brooks Director Cameron Kitchin chats about the exhibition with a visitor

Exhibition Curators Stanton Thomas and Alexandra Libby signed copies of their book on Canaletto

We also had a full house for the Kress Foundation President’s Max Marmor’s informative (and entertaining!) talk on the history of the Kress Collection at the Brooks.  This summer, the Foundation sent photographers to all of the museums that housed Kress works of art, to create a digital database of all 3,100 works of art.  If you click on the image below, you can see interactive panoramas of all of the Brooks’ galleries with Kress objects:

If you didn’t get a chance to visit the new exhibition yet, come this weekend, February 20 – 21 for our Friends & Family Weekend events.  Details will be posted tomorrow on special offers and discounts, so stay tuned…

Collection Spotlight: Canaletto

Giovanni Antonio Canaletto (Italian, 1697–1768). The Grand Canal from Campo di San Vio, 1730–1735. Oil on canvas. Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, was born in Venice and worked for his father, a successful theatrical scene painter. In 1719 Canaletto traveled to Rome where he probably encountered the work of other artists painting vedute (views), such as Gaspare Vanvitelli. Shortly after his return to Venice in 1720 Canaletto began depicting scenic views of the city. His paintings were primarily collected by Englishmen on the Grand Tour, which was an important part of the education and maturation of wealthy young Englishmen. Vedute, such as Canaletto’s The Grand Canal, served as souvenirs as well as visible proof of the impressive journey.  

The Grand Canal from Campo di San Vio was painted for the Englishman George Proctor. Its pendant, also a gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, The Molo: Looking West, Ducal Palace Right, hangs in the El Paso Museum of Art. The subject of the canal seen from the Campo di San Vio was one of Canaletto’s favorite images of Venice and at least twelve views of this scene, painted in the 1720s and 1730s, are known today. In each of these paintings Canaletto selected a slightly different viewpoint or included a varied assemblage of boats and people.   

Here the viewer looks east along the Grand Canal, with the peeling façade of the Palazzo Barbarigo in the foreground and a woman leaning out of the upper balcony. The perspective on the south side of the canal terminates at the Punta della Dogana and includes the dome of Santa Maria della Salute above the palaces at the right. One of the most majestic palaces on the Grand Canal, the Palazzo Corner della Ca’ Grande, designed by Jacopo Sansovino, perches on the north side. The viewer’s first reaction to Canaletto’s paintings is often to believe that they offer a descriptive representation of what the artist actually saw. His work, however, involves extensive manipulation of buildings, piazzas, canals, and perspective. Paintings such as The Grand Canal show the influence of Canaletto’s earlier work as a scene painter for the theater, demonstrated by the ease with which he captures interesting lighting and multiple viewpoints. Canaletto’s fascination with people is evidenced by the beggars, gondoliers, tradesmen, and aristocrats who populate his vedute paintings.

An exhibition highlighting the artist’s work entitled Venice in the Age of Canaletto will open at the Brooks February 14, 2010.

Art and the Community.

Yesterday at the museum, we co-hosted with Indie Memphis musician Stoll Vaughan as part of the David Lynch-presented web series Interview Project. Vaughan played some music, showed a few of the interviews (which I highly recommend everyone check out – a new one is released every three days), and told some stories from the road.  It was a great afternoon. 

I mention it because at one point Vaughan (a native of Kentucky, currently living in LA) said something that really hit me.  He said that in a city like Los Angeles people come to take, whereas in a community like Memphis they come to give.

That really struck a chord with me.  It is something that I have long felt, but have never been able to voice so perfectly.  Memphis is more than a city.  We, especially within the arts, are a community where giving back is par for the course.  Most of us have a healthy amount of pride in our city (don’t you Love Memphis, too?), and are committed to making it a better place.  Working at the Brooks, I am constantly reminded of what a transformative influence the arts can have on a person or place.  (Read more about our community mural projects, art therapy programs, and more here).  Also through the work of the Urban Art Commission, Rhodes’ CODA program, ArtsMemphis outreach, the South Main Arts District, the burgeoning Broad Ave scene, not to mention the countless individual artists that make great things happen around the city!

Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the NEA, is visiting Memphis at some point this week on a nationwide tour entitled Art Works that underscores this exact point. “Art Works” is a triple entendre referencing: 1.) art works, like the things that artists create; 2.) art works to transform a person, to make a place better, etc.; and 3.) art works because it creates jobs, employs people, stimulates the economy.

Next Sunday, December 6 at 2pm, we’re showing a movie at the museum that I think dovetails perfectly with this whole idea.  It is called Downside Up: How Art Can Change the Spirit of a PlaceJohn Weeden (the seemingly indefatigable Director of the UAC) and I decided to show this a couple months back, before the news of Landesman’s visit was announced, so the timing of it couldn’t be more perfect (though honestly, completely unintentional).

After the film, we will be holding an open conversation about positive things happening in our own community; areas where we’d like to see improvement; ideas about how we can better nurture the arts as an integral part of the city’s development, etc.  Representatives from both the UAC and the Center City Commission will be there to listen and to explore ideas with us, the arts community, and all those interested.

So if you believe in the power of art, if you believe that art can make a difference in our community, in our city, please come out to lend your voice to this discussion!

Sunday, December 6  | 2 pm
Film: Downside Up
Can art make an impact on an individual, a community, a city? With the majority of its downtown deserted, many people had given up on North Adams, Massachusetts, until MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) located there and breathed life back into the community.  The Brooks Museum collaborates with the Urban Art Commission to present this moving documentary about how art can bring the tentative, dangerous notion of hope to a city widely viewed as hopeless.
Stay afterwards for a discussion on how art makes a difference in Memphis with representatives from the Urban Art and Center City Commissions.

(Free for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.)

Bike Safety

FYI, bikers:

Bicycle Safety in the Streets
Revolutions will be hosting a Bicycle Safety Class this Saturday, November 21, 2009 from 10:00am-12:00pm.  Spend a couple hours with fellow bike enthusiasts as they discuss general safety guidelines, specific regulations regarding riding bicycles in Memphis, and overall strategies for getting from point a to point B as safe as possible.  Feel free to bring your questions. 

Date: Saturday, November 21 (10:00am-12:00pm)
Info: Should I ride with traffic or against it? Should I ride on the sidewalk? Can I take a left hand turn in traffic on my bike? Is it even legal to ride in the road? How can I safely navigate Memphis’ city streets?  Answers to all these questions and basic street safety procedures will be covered in this workshop.

The class will be free and open to the public.  No reservation is necessary.  Hope to see you there!

Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop
1000 South Cooper Street
Memphis, TN 38108

MORE about bikes:
Last week Brooks staffer Emily Greenberg blogged about the museum’s efforts to support this green method of transportation.  Read the post here

And read the Flyer’s article about the Brooks’ bike racks, designed by local artist Tootsie Bell.

Book Reading: Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art

cover_whitaker_museumlegsThis Thursday, October 1 at 6 pm, the Brooks is very pleased to welcome author Amy Whitaker as she talks about her book Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art, a collection of essays about political and economic questions around museums, approached at a human scale for a generalist reader, in an irreverent and engaging way.

The evening will be a relaxed, light-hearted reading from her book and discussion on museum culture.  Admission to the event is $5 for members, $10 for non-members, and includes a glass of wine.  Call 544.6208 for details.

“If you’ve ever considered going to an art museum and then thought, errr, I’ll do something else… If you’ve ever arrived at one and left a little glazed and confused…  Then this is your story.

Museum Legs—taken from a term for “art fatigue”—starts with a question: Why do people get bored and tired in art museums and why does that matter?  As Whitaker writes in this humorous and incisive collection of essays, museums matter for reasons that have less to do with art as we know it and more to do with business, politics, and the age-old question of how to live.”

Whitaker is the perfect docent—wise, wry, and engaging.  Her essays are as captivating as the artworks they describe.

Daniel Gilbert
Professor of Psychology, Harvard University
Author of Stumbling on Happiness

Whitaker writes with such wit and style—I was completely absorbed and laughed and nodded in equal measure. Really, I loved it.

Sophie Howarth
Director, The School of Life

Whitaker’s thoughtful and intriguing essays are a reminder of the gifts of moments of reflection, insight, and pleasure that museums can offer to society, and the missed opportunities if we aren’t ever mindful of what museums can accomplish.

Gail C. Andrews
Director, Birmingham Museum of Art


Amy Whitaker has an M.B.A. from Yale and an M.F.A in painting from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She has worked in art museums including the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate, and for a well-known artist and a well-known hedge fund.  This is her first book.

Read more at about the book at

Masterpieces opens soon!




In two short weeks, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will unveil the largest exhibition in our 94-year history: Masterpieces of European Painting from Museo de Arte de Ponce.  You’ve seen some behind-the-scenes photos, so now we thought we’d give you a little background on this exhibition, which will be on view from October 3, 2009, through January 10, 2010. 

Museo_de_Arte,_Ponce,_Puerto_Rico-ExteriorMuseo de Arte de Ponce began less than fifty years ago as a collection of European art acquired by philanthropist Luis A. Ferré “for all Puerto Ricans” to enjoy.  Inspired by a trip to Europe in 1950, Mr. Ferré, who was to become the governor of Puerto Rico, began amassing an encyclopedic collection of Western art on the basis of aesthetic excellence. Today, the museum is acknowledged as one of the finest holdings of Old and Modern Masters in the Americas, counting over 3,000 works of art from every major school of European painting and sculpture.

Why is the Brooks getting to host some of these amazing paintings?  Good question.  This exhibition is the result of the temporary closing of the museum in Ponce, which is undergoing a major renovation and expansion of its site.  The Brooks is one of only three other institutions in the US to house these works for a short period. 

60.0149The exhibition will feature 60 huge canvases, ranging from the 14th through 19th centuries — iconic works by major Italian, British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and German painters. Among the artists represented are the famed Pre-Raphaelite visionaries Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (image shown), the renowned Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens, and the great belle-époque painter, James Tissot.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (English, 1828 – 1882)
The Roman Widow, 1874 | Oil on canvas
Collection Museo de Arte de Ponce
Fundación Luis A. Ferré, Inc. Ponce, Puerto Rico

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Stay tuned for more exhibition installation photos in the next couple days…

Warm Up to Wine + Film: An Australian Showcase

Thursday, June 11, 6 pm

Join us on the Brushmark terrace as we sample wines and hors d’oeuvres from Australia during our ever-popular Warm up to Wine celebration.  Then, come down to the Brooks auditorium to see the award-winning Aussie film, Kenny, winner of Best Film, Best Script, and Best Sound at the Australian Inside Film Awards. Kenny is a mockumentary comedy about an optimistic man with a laundry list of obstacles; including his job as a portapotty handler and dealing with his ex-wife. Director, producer, and creator of the film, Clayton Jacobson, says that “Kenny represents the humbling nature of common decency”(1). Kenny takes pride in his work and in his family, the latter being surprisingly the one thing Kenny just can’t get right. In the film, Kenny deals with the dirty background of parties an outdoor events unflinched and unappreciated. After travelling to the expo for plumbing supplies in Nashville, TN, Kenny finally earns what he has unconsciuosly been working to achieve.

“Kenny is the funniest film I’ve seen this year. I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time.” – Michael Moore, Filmmaker

“Kenny is much more than just a very funny film, it’s a film with a good heart and a sharp eye on the human condition…”-Chris Samuel, Blogger

Call 901-544-6225 or click here to make reservations.


April Film News

Thanks to all those of you who came out to see Soderbergh’s CHE screened in partnership with Indie Memphis.  We had sell-out audiences both nights! 

In film news this month, we’re excited to announce the installation of a brand new Panasonic HD projector.  This will allow us to screen even more ambitious projects in the future, so stay tuned for information on that.  There’s a lot going on this month at the Brooks, so the April film schedule is light, but mighty!  Here’s what’s playing:

Thursday, April 16 at 7pm
The Great Debates
Conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal Gore Vidal met for eight notorious face-to-face debates on ABC News during the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968.  The debates have become legendary due to the vitriolic (and nearly physical) exchanges between the commentators.  The Brooks, in partnership with the Honors Committee of LeMoyne-Owen College, will present these debates uncensored and in their entirety for the first time since their original broadcast.   (runtime approx 2 hours)

Here’s one of the most famous moments (though video quality on YouTube is poor):

Thursday, April 30 at 7:30pm
The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema

Acclaimed psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek takes viewers on an exhilarating ride through film history.  Whether untangling the famously baffling films of David Lynch, or rethinking Hitchcock, Zizek illuminates the screen with his passion, intellect, and unfailing sense of humor.  (runtime approx. 150mins)

UPDATE:  You can have your cake and eat it too!  Since Indie Memphis is premiering Craig Brewer’s $5 Cover on this same night, we will run an encore screening of The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema on Saturday, May 2 at 1pm

Make it Dinner & a Movie
Don’t forget, the Brushmark is open every Thursday night from 5-9pm serving tapas & wine.  Now that the weather is nice, the terrace is open too! Call 544-6225 for reservations.

For more film info, see the Brooks website, or call me at 544-6208.

CHE: In Two Parts


The Brooks and Indie Memphis team up to present Steven Soderbergh’s biohistorical epic about the life of the controversial revoultionary icon, Che Guevara.  This exclusive engagement will be shown in two parts on consecutive Sundays.  Benicio del Toro earned a Best Actor award at Cannes for his portrayel of the controversial and paradoxical leader. As the tag line suggests: “Everyone knows the icon, few know the man.”

I can confidently say that Che is one of the most talked-about films of the past year.  It has been both praised and villified, much like the man it represents.  The length of the film has also gotten a lot of attention.  Clocking in at almost 4 1/2 hours, it is possibly the longest movie in commercial film history, which is one of the reasons that the Brooks, like other theaters, are splitting it into two parts.  What is not in question, however, is Soderbergh’s ambition and willingness to push the envelope to undergo this significant project.

Sunday, March 1
CHE :The Argentine

Sunday, March 8
CHE: The Guerilla

Swing by the Brooks at 4pm both Sundays for lively libations (cash bar) and cuban-themed noshing. The films starts at 5pm.  Don’t miss out on the Brushmark afterward, where tapas and conversation will be served. Revoultionary style. 

For tickets or more information, click here or call 544-6208.

Films in February

The Brooks teams up with Indie Memphis for a film series of “Festival Favorites” this month.  “The idea was to bring some of the buzzed-about highlights of last year’s film festival circuit to Memphis for their only public screening, and we’re excited to work with the Brooks to make it happen,” said Indie Memphis Executive Director Erik Jambor.  The lineup is:

Thursday, February 12 at 7:30pm
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
In search of the perfect Valentine’s movie…?  This award-winning feature is a rollicking comedy ride and a tender journey through modern romance on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles.  From the producers of Before Sunset and Dazed and Confused, this film also won the Grand Jury Award at the 2008 Florida Film Festival.

Thursday, February 19 at 7:30pm
Momma’s Man
From the producers of Half Nelson and Maria Full of Grace, this feature film chronicles the increasingly anxious dilemma of a young husband and father who stops off at his parents’ loft during a business trip to New York and finds himself unable to leave.  Momma’s Man was an Official Selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Thursday, February 26 at 7:30pm
The Pool
This film won a Special Jury Award at the 2008 Sundance Festival.  It tells the tale of a hotel worker obsessed with a swimming pool in the opulent hills of Goa, India, whose life is turned upside down when he attempts to meet the myseterious family that arrives at the house.  This is the narrative feature debut of filmmaker Chris Smith, whose documentary American Movie was also met with wide acclaim.

Check out Indie Memphis’ website for more information about the films, including comments by film critics.  More info about tickets & events can be found on the Brooks’ website.  

Stay tuned for more information on films in March, including a special screening of Soderbergh’s epic CHE.  In the meantime, you can read what Beifuss has to say on his blog The Bloodshot Eye.

Botero at the Brooks

In a little over a week, the Brooks will be opening a new exhibition of paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Fernando Botero.  It’s going to be a really exciting exhibition, and we hope that you’ll come out!  

If you have never seen Botero’s work, imagine if Velasquez painted in the style of Diego Rivera.  He takes the human form and exaggerates its proportions to the point of absurdity.  The result?  Gigantic, quirky, round figures awash in hyperreal color that submit a darkly humorous commentary on the legacy of colonialism in South America. 

Our Lady of Colombia (1992)

Our Lady of Colombia (1992)

Botero is among the most famous living artists from South America (born in Columbia), and we are very lucky to be able to show such an extensive group coming straight from his private collection.  Some of the works have never been seen in public before!  There will be roughly 100 pieces on display – the most complete showcase of Botero’s work that has been seen in the past 30 years.

The Widow (1997)

The Widow (1997)

There will also be three of his oversized sculptures greeting you as you come into the museum.  When they came to install them last week, there was definitely excitement in the air (no pun intended!).  We were watching outside as the crew carefully set them up. It was incredible to see this massive, reclining bronze figure being lowered onto the lawn by cranes. 

The Baroque World of Fernando Botero opens on Sunday, October 19 and is on view through January 11, 2009.  Hope to see you there!

An Education in Rock

Tucked away somewhere in my closet is a t-shirt designed with “The Clash” logo. But, I have to be honest that until doing research for our upcoming “rockumentary” film about The Clash frontman Joe Strummer, I knew nothing about the band. I suppose this proves that not only am I pathetically devoted to fashion trends, but I am also a lot less cool than I would like to think.

While researching the band, I found that I should be embarrassed in my lack of knowledge of The Clash. In reading about our next film- Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten, I found that the rock band had quite an impact on society. Joe Strummer had a devoted following of millions, continuing today, even after his death. His lyrics were powerful and compelling, and it was interesting to find out that some of those lyrics in the 1970’s and 1980’s even predicted current events like the war in Iraq and the consequences of global warming.

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten was directed by one of Joe’s long-time and closest friends, Julien Temple. Because of this, the film is a very personal look into Joe’s life with real interviews, concert footage, and home videos. The way the film was produced was a great reflection of Joe Strummer himself- raw, honest, and uncut. Its MySpace page calls it a “spontaneous combustion” on screen, and I would have to agree. This “rockumentary” is definitely worth watching, whether you are a devoted Clash fan, have never even heard of the band, or are a fake fan like me. So if you’re wondering, “should I stay or should I go?” just pull out your Clash t-shirts and come see the film on Sunday, June 22nd at 2 p.m. It should be a rockin’ good time.

Local musician Robert Johnson will introduce the film, detailing his personal encounters with Strummer and the band while recording alongside them in the summer of 1977.