Artists curating exhibitions may be the next big trend in New York—in the past year, Julie Ault oversaw a Nancy Spero survey at MoMA PS1, and the Guggenheim has currently turned over its entire rotunda to mini-shows organized by artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Julie Mehretu, and others. And yet another show in this vein is headed to one institution in Chelsea later this month.
On September 28, the artist Charles Ray will open an exhibition pairing Renaissance and Baroque bronze sculptures with his own works at the Hill Art Foundation. It’s an exhibition two years in the making, according to J. Tomilson Hill, who established the foundation with his wife Janine and has been collecting Ray’s work since the mid-1990s. (Hill and his wife have placed ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list each year since 2002.)
Hill, who opened the foundation’s 7,700-square-foot Chelsea home earlier this year, had previously organized an exhibition titled “Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes from the Hill Collection” at the Frick Collection in 2014. That show also included works of contemporary art from the couple’s collection, and when he visited Ray a couple years back at the artist’s Los Angeles studio, he brought along the catalogue from the Frick exhibition.
“I knew Charley’s work was patterned after various forms of classical sculpture, not just Greco-Roman but also Renaissance and Baroque, and even going back to Egyptian and Assyrian,” Hill told ARTnews.
The collector has long been interested in forming art-historical conversations between old works and new ones. His collection is rich in both Renaissance and Baroque sculptures with contemporary art, by the likes of Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Lucio Fontana, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool, who was the subject of the foundation’s opening show.
“I’m interested in dialogues as a way to show the influence of work,” Hill said. “I want to create these dialogues that use the art of today to look back but also use the art of the past to inform the art of today.”
What especially struck Hill was the correlation—an unconscious influence, perhaps—of Barthélemy Prieur’s 16th-century bronze Lion Devouring a Doe had on Ray’s 2018 sterling-silver sculpture Mountain lion attacking dog. Hill, who purchased the Prieur work from the collection of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, realized that Ray could be fit for the task of curating a show placing works like these side-by-side. Both pieces will feature in the forthcoming exhibition.
The exhibition, on view until next February, will be divided in two parts, one for each floor of the foundation’s space in Chelsea. The third floor, which will be titled “Three Christs, Sleeping Mime, and the Last Supper,” will feature three sculptures of Christ, two by Alessandro Algardi and one by Antonio Susini, along with Ray’s 2014 Mime sculpture in aluminum. The top floor, titled “Pagan Paradise,” will have Adriaen De Vries 16th-century bronze Bacchic Man: Lomazzo Personifying the Accademia della Val di Blenio alongside two works by Ray.
“This exhibition does not chart a literal Christian or Pagan story,” Ray said in a statement accompanying the exhibition. “The viewer will not find a line between heaven and hell, the earthly and the divine, but sculptural form from both the past and the present will allow the dialectical traditions of the western mind to tumble out and fill the space of both the viewer and the work.”
Hill said that the optics—both inside the exhibition space and outside it (viewers can see the space from the High Line)—will make the show a must-see. “Charley’s genius is in how he installed the show,” Hill said. “We can’t wait for people to see Charley’s juxtapositions.”