Today marks the opening of “Call of the Wild,” a new group exhibition organized by the New York Academy of Art’s president, David Kratz, in collaboration with the actress (and Academy board member) Brooke Shields, at Art Southampton in Bridgehampton, New York.
Shields, whose extensive filmography includes the legendary Louis Malle film Pretty Baby and the sitcom Suddenly Susan, is making her debut as a curator with this show. Its title can be taken pretty literally. The exhibition hinges on the concept of “animals’ relation to the animal kingdom, our relation, how we see them, how we view them, how we witness,” Shields told me yesterday over the phone. “We just threw that out as the topic, and then all of the Academy artists submitted, and then the process of selection started.”
Participating artists in this painting-and-critter-heavy exhibition include Dina Brodsky, Loretta Mae Hirsch, and Elliot Purse. One piece that tickled my Wisconsin heart was Midwest Periphery I, a 2016 oil on panel of a cow by Nicolas V. Sanchez. Shields told me that the selection process was long but rewarding. One new experience was “finding the merit in art that you might not necessarily consider your taste,” she said. “Which was amazing to me, because it was so freeing to me to able to look at a piece of art and say, ‘You know what, I wouldn’t want to live with this, but I absolutely appreciate the technique or the execution or the subject matter.'”
Shields’s initial history with the New York Academy dates back to attending an event and meeting the artist Will Cotton, who had created a commissioned portrait of Shields’s daughter as a tenth anniversary gift from her husband. From there, she started regularly attending Academy events, and in time, Kratz asked Shields to be on the board. “I said, I don’t have any schooling in this, I didn’t graduate from a primarily art-driven institution,” Shields said, adding that Kratz told her, “We need actual people who are artists in a field, not just people on our board who are the money people.” Shields told me that she couldn’t say no.
For her first go at curation, the actress seemed pleased with the results. “It’s always fun when you branch out and do something that you’ve never done before and realize that, you know, you can do it. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve learned a lot. And it feels good to not feel like I’m a fish out of water.” When asked about a possible continuation of her curatorial career, Shields didn’t shut the door on the idea. “If I’m asked, I would absolutely love it,” she told me. “I really enjoyed the process, I’m sure I got lucky. I’m sure it’s not always this enjoyable.”