Art Alliance News
While the doors remain temporarily closed to the public, the Art Alliance continues its legacy as a hub for the arts in Philadelphia. Learn more below about ongoing activities and stay tuned for future updates and announcements.
October 2020 Updates
Dear Friends of the Art Alliance,
Though our doors have been closed, much is underway at the Art Alliance. While we were all disappointed to cut short the Pew-funded exhibition Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant Garde and postpone a number of planned projects this year, we are so pleased to share that we’ve been able to leverage this unplanned pause in strategic ways.
As you’ll discover below, we have seized the opportunity to advance our next phase of renovations, made possible by the generous support of the Dietrich Foundation; the vision and leadership of President David Yager; and continued design expertise of Solomonoff Architecture Studio and JacobsWyper Architects. At this very moment, work is advancing to restore and enhance the grand stair and second-floor landing. The recent investments made by both the Dietrich Foundation and the university amid a global pandemic is a true testament to the legacy and future potential the Philadelphia Art Alliance at University of the Arts holds for our city and the region. Yet our work towards transforming the Art Alliance as a destination for contemporary creative practices across disciplines is truly just beginning.
As one who has the privilege of overseeing and working across university centers, of which the Art Alliance is one (including Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Lightbox Film Center, and the Center for Immersive Media, among others), I am continually inspired by the potential these initiatives hold not just today, but in five years, a decade, a quarter century or more, in our work to advance human creativity.
For more than 100 years, the Art Alliance has been a truly unique destination for artists across disciplines; what was once a historic mansion became the nation’s first multidisciplinary arts center by 1915. Though its use as a private house was short-lived, the Art Alliance’s physical structure informed its role as a longstanding home for relevant contemporary art makers of the day. The building’s distinct history, construction and story have established it as a true architectural gem in the heart of Rittenhouse Square. Though it has been well-loved and cherished throughout the past century and has showcased countless groundbreaking exhibitions and events under its roof, elements of the building have long been in need of attention.
Thanks to a grant from the William B. Dietrich Foundation, University of the Arts is able to advance to the second phase of the Art Alliance’s renovations: a restoration of the building’s characteristic grand staircase and second-floor landing. The Foundation’s generosity has meant that this exciting project has never lost its momentum, even throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Sid Sachs, chief curator and director of exhibitions at University of the Arts, contributed an essay to the recently published exhibition catalog accompanying She-Bam Pow POP Wizz! Les Amazones du POP, currently on view at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Nice (MAMAC) in France.
Spanning the period from 1961 to 1973, the exhibition primarily highlights the efforts of European and North American artists. The included works illustrate the influence of heroines—from characters like Barbarella to artists such as Evelyne Axell—on the history of Pop Art. Though this movement has been the subject of numerous exhibitions around the globe, this presentation is notable for its emphasis on the role of female practitioners who harnessed stereotypical portrayals of women, popular in the media of the time, in order to defy them.
Sachs, whose curatorial vision is regularly on display at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, is well-versed in this subject matter. His expertise was previously demonstrated through the exhibition Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958–1968, which debuted at University of the Arts in 2010 and later traveled nationally to venues including the Brooklyn Museum. Seductive Subversion was a landmark effort in expanding the critical understanding of Pop Art and was the first exhibit to examine the role of women in Pop Art. Hyperallergic cited the show as an “important and revelatory exhibition” which “amplified what many people suspected for a long time: men weren’t the only ones to make Pop Art.” The exhibit received the AICA Award as Best Thematic Museum Exhibition nationally that year, and in November 2019, Artnews cited it as the seventh most influential show of the past decade.
When Sachs first learned of plans for She-Bam Pow POP Wizz!—from an artist included in his 2010 exhibition who was also selected for the exhibition in Nice—he reached out to MAMAC director Hélène Guenin and Geraldine Gourbe, the museum’s guest curator at the time. He explains, “I was curious about who else they might be including in the exhibit, because since Seductive Subversion, the Pop canon had been substantially revised.” This sparked a correspondence during which Sachs provided key information about certain artists, galleries and estates and was invited to contribute to the catalog.
The essay Sachs’ provided, titled “Extended Thoughts on Women and Pop Art,” deepens the understanding of the contributions made by women Pop artists, as well as the often-unexplored subversive and political implications of the movement. This work builds on content he previously wrote for Seductive Subversion and marks the first time his writing on this subject has been translated into French. Revisiting this topic, Sachs reflected on the impact of his previous work, saying “When I researched and presented Seductive Subversion, no one had ever done any work in this area. It was new territory. Every major Pop Art exhibit since that time has included women.” The current show at MAMAC, on view until Mar. 28, 2021, can be seen as a supplement to this pioneering effort.