The Smithsonian Will Stage a Blowout Show With Objects From Across Its Museums—and 5 New Artworks—to Celebrate Its 175th Birthday

To mark its 175th anniversary, the Smithsonian Institution is staging a massive celebration in the form of a sprawling exhibition featuring works from many museums under the Smithsonian umbrella. To tie them all together, the organization is also commissioning site-specific art commissions from Beatriz Cortez, Nettrice Gaskins, Soo Sunny Park, Devan Shimoyama, and Tamiko Thiel.

The show, titled “Futures,” will be held at the Smithsonian’s storied Arts and Industries Building, which has been largely closed to the public for two decades. Dating to 1881, the building, which served as the first home for the U.S. National Museum, has undergone a $55 million renovation and is once again ready to welcome the public with an interdisciplinary, immersive exhibition asking them to consider how art and technology continue to shape our world.

The show is due to open in late 2021; after its closure, the building will undergo another round of renovations before opening permanently.

“We have tried to get a piece from each other Smithsonian museum to reflect that diversity of knowledge and celebrate that legacy within the construct of the future,” Ashley Molese, the Arts and Industries Building curator, told Midnight Publishing Group News.

Expanded Present, an iridescent installation by Park, will greet visitors outside, surrounding the doorway with a sparkling cloud—because when a building has been closed for 20 years, you need to have something letting the public know you’re open for business.

Soo Sunny Park, <em>Expanded Present<em>. Concept Design courtesy of the artist.

Soo Sunny Park, Expanded Present. Concept Design courtesy of the artist.

The piece, which will change in appearance based on the time of day and shifting weather conditions, is made from reflective materials such as fencing, metal studs, and dichroic glass, which was invented by NASA.

Once inside, there will be more than 150 objects to examine, including artifacts of scientific and technological advancement placed alongside works engaging the tools of the future.

Highlights include the solar panels that Jimmy Carter installed on the roof of the White House during his presidency in the 1970s and the prototype of Virgin’s Hyperloop used in a successful test late last year. There’s  also the Bakelizer, the original machine that chemist-entrepreneur Leo Hendrik used to produce the first synthetic commercial plastic.

Soo Sunny Park installing work at the Rice Gallery. Photo by Nash Baker courtesy of the artist.

Soo Sunny Park installing work at the Rice Gallery. Photo by Nash Baker courtesy of the artist.

In addition to the commissions, other artworks will be scattered throughout the exhibition, including Stephanie Syjuco’s altered photographs of Filipinos put on forced display in “Living Villages” at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis—shown alongside a pamphlet from the event from the Smithsonian collection.

But it is the five art commissions that will serve as anchors throughout the show.

For her piece Chultun El Semillero, Cortez was inspired by chultunes, underground storage chambers built by the Maya in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. She’s filled her own welded steel versions with living plants, seeds, and other tools.

“She’s had the structure be excavated from the earth to create these future space time machines that are transporting knowledge and seeds and medicine to this indeterminate place in the future,” Molese explained.

The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian.

Thiel’s ReWildAR uses augmented reality to show viewers a Washington, D.C., that has returned to nature, transforming the halls into a re-wilded garden. The artist consulted Smithsonian horticulture experts to determine what the environment might look like if climate change continues unchecked.

“Tamiko was doing A.R. installations before anyone else was using that technology in the art world,” Molese said. “She’s imagining a moment in time in the future where… the landscape in Washington, D.C., has warmed and altered.” (Viewers can download an app to wander through the AR space, or use iPads provided by the museum.)

Gaskins also explores new technologies with her “Featured Futurists,” portraits of such figures as Buckminster Fuller and Octavia Butler made using a A.I. neutral network application called Deep Dream.

Nettrice Gaskins, <em>Octavia Butler</em> from "Featured Futurists." Image courtesy of the artist.

Nettrice Gaskins, Octavia Butler from “Featured Futurists.” Image courtesy of the artist.

Shimoyama based his installation The Grove on utility poles, creating a sort of manmade forest where visitors can sit and reflect on the show and our more tumultuous recent history.

“You come to a kind of clearing where you’re greeted by these stunning bedazzled Swarovski crystal-covered totems,” Molese said. “It’s almost a mourning garden or a labyrinth.”

Devan Shimoyama, The Grove. renderings. Image courtesy of the artist.

Devan Shimoyama, The Grove. renderings. Image courtesy of the artist.

Despite the many challenges facing our world and the creation of intentional moments of meditation, the exhibition strikes a purposely optimistic note.

“‘Futures’ is dedicated to a hopeful vision of a future that we choose, not one that we fear. We wanted to create it almost as a choose your own own adventure, defining pathways that build a more equitable, relatable, and inclusive future,” Molese said. “It was a very conscious choice not to be too dystopic in our vision.”


“Futures” will be on view at the Smithsonian Institution, Arts and Industries Building, 900 Jefferson Drive, SW, National Mall, Washington, D.C., November 2021–July 2022. 

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5 Vivid Artworks That Celebrate the Use of Fruit, From a Paul Cézanne Still Life to Maestro Dobel Tequila’s Fruit Chemist Installation

Summer is just around the corner and you know what that means: nature is blooming, flowers are popping up from the once frozen ground, and the literal fruit of farmers’ labor is bountiful and ripe for the picking.

As the art world wakes up for the first IRL art fair at Frieze New York this week, Maestro Dobel Tequila is presenting a lush “Artpothecary” installation to celebrate.

The project, entitled “The Fruit Chemist,” is the brainchild of Dobel’s Creative Director, Alejandra Martinez, who began working in the art world after graduating from college to support the work of local artists from her native Mexico. “Like art, tequila is a precious Mexican export,” Martinez says, explaining that the inspiration for the Artpothecary is the botica, a pharmacy-like store that was once ubiquitous around Mexico, where owners would create specially made, hand-concocted tinctures for the individual needs of their clients.

The piece, which is brought to life by the globally renowned designers Bombas & Parr, takes inspiration from the history of the soda fountain, and will be manned by an anonymous mixologist—the Fruit Chemist himself—who will concoct fruit-inspired cocktails for Frieze attendees.

Read on below to learn more about the project and see artworks that capture the history of fruit in art over the centuries.

Maestro Dobel Artpothecary’s ‘The Fruit Chemist’ is located at the Shed through May 9 at Frieze New York.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus (1591)

Arcimboldo's Vertumnus, (c. 1590–1591). Courtesy of Wikiart.

Arcimboldo’s Vertumnus, (c. 1590–1591). Courtesy of Wikiart.

The 16th-century artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo is synonymous with paintings of hybridized humans made from brightly colored plants, fruit, and vegetables. In this portrait, conceived to portray the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, Arcimboldo used specific types of fruit and vegetables as allegories of political power and wealth.

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life with Ham, Lobster and Fruit (ca. 1653)

Still Life with Ham, Lobster and Fruit</i> (ca. 1653). Courtesy of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Jan Davidsz de Heem, Still Life with Ham, Lobster and Fruit (ca. 1653). Courtesy of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

The Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century was marked by a rash of still life paintings which often depicted tableaux of flowers, meat, fruit, and sometimes even insects. Scenes of rotting fruit or dying flowers in particular symbolized the fleeting nature of mortality, while others celebrated the bountiful harvests enjoyed by wealthy citizens and the more humble meals of the lower class.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with Glass Flask and Fruit (ca. 1728)

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, <i>Still Life with Glass Flask and Fruit (ca. 1728)</i> . Courtesy of Staatliche Kunsthalle.

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with Glass Flask and Fruit (ca. 1728) . Courtesy of Staatliche Kunsthalle.

Chardin was a beloved painter of 18th century life, admired by his instructor, Henri Matisse. He was also a great influence on both Édouard Manet and Paul Cézanne. In writings by Marcel Proust, a depressed young man is led toward enlightenment by encountering the paintings of Chardin and Rembrandt, setting the standard for engaging with art as a transformative experience. Still Life with Glass Flask and Fruit is one of Chardin’s more evocative works, and prominently features fruit.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte pommes et poires (ca. 1888-90)

Paul Cezanne, Nature morte pommes et poires (Circa 1888-90). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Paul Cézanne, Nature morte pommes et poires (Circa 1888-90). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The painter Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence when it had not yet become industrialized, like other cities in France. He often returned to domestic scenes where he would experiment with perspective and arrangements. In many of his works, the artist intentionally painted the tables on a tilt, so that the viewer could better appreciate his fruit’s form.

“The Fruit Chemist” by Maestro Dobel Tequila (2021)

The Artpothecary by Orly Anan for Maestro Dobel.

The Artpothecary by Orly Anan for Maestro Dobel.

Maestro Dobel Tequila’s installation features a cornucopia of fresh fruits and flowers to complement its world-famous tequila, celebrating the return of live art fairs. In addition, the storied Maestro Dobel company, which created the world’s first Cristalino tequila, hired the anonymous Fruit Chemist to not only design, but also execute the most creative beverages with the best tequila for fairgoers. 

The Fruit Chemist project is also the first iteration of the Artpothecary at Frieze New York, described by Martinez as a sort of “botica gone contemporary” with a “fruity and wild” energy. And to celebrate experimentation in mixology and art even further, Martinez also tapped artists Eduardo Sarabia and Orly Anan to create work infused with the same vibrancy and boldness as the rest of the project, thereby rounding out the installation.

Born from 11 generations of tequila-making legacy, Maestro Dobel leans on over two centuries of mastery to innovate through its portfolio of award-winning tequilas. Beyond activity at Frieze New York, Artpothecary will also host art-world experts and artists alike to bring to life a series of events, experiences, and partnerships across the United States.


Maestro Dobel® Tequila. 40% Alc./Vol. (80 proof). Trademarks owned by Maestro Tequilero, S.A. de C.V. ©2021 Proximo, Jersey City, NJ. Please drink responsibly.

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To Celebrate the Glass Ceiling Kamala Harris Shattered, This Artist Installed a Portrait of Her in Washington Made Entirely of Cracked Glass

Vice President Kamala Harris’s history-making election as the first female, Black, and Asian American to serve in our nation’s second-highest office has been immortalized in a new artwork.

Swiss artist Simon Berger’s sculpture, installed yesterday in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, by the National Women’s History Museum and the women’s leadership network Chief, is made from broken glass, symbolizing the shattering of the glass ceiling that prevents women from advancing to leadership positions.

“Representation matters, especially at the ballot box, and the inauguration of Kamala Harris as the first woman, and first woman of color, to serve as vice president of the United States is a landmark moment in American history,” said Holly Hotchner, the museum’s president and CEO, in a statement.

“Today’s progress is built on the legacy of the women who came before—the trailblazers, like Kamala, who raised their voices, marched for their rights, and ran for elected office; the women who cracked glass ceilings so that other women could shatter them,” Hotchner added.

Berger developed his unique artistic practice of glass shattering in 2016, when he started taking a hammer to layers of laminated glass to create cracks and fissures that, from a distance, create legible images.

He based his six-and-a-half-foot-tall portrait of Harris, titled Glass Ceiling Breaker, on a photograph by Celeste Sloman.

A short film of Berger at work on the piece, set to the sounds of Harris’s victory speech, honors some of the women who came before her to break other political barriers: the first female congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm; the first female senator, Carol Moseley Braun; secretaries of state Madeline Albright and Condoleezza Rice; and supreme court justices Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Simon Berger, Glass Ceiling Breaker, based on Celeste Sloman's portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris. The art installation on the National Mall in Washington, DC, is presented by the National Women's History Museum, Chief, and BBH New York. Photo by Shannon Finney courtesy of Getty Images for National Women's History Museum and Chief.

Simon Berger, Glass Ceiling Breaker, based on Celeste Sloman’s portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo by Shannon Finney courtesy of Getty Images for National Women’s History Museum and Chief.

In her vice-president-elect acceptance speech, Harris thanked “the generations of women… who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight.… And I stand on their shoulders.”

The museum enlisted creative agency BBH New York and production company m ss ng p eces to stage the installation of the work, which has been displayed against the stunning backdrop of the National Mall’s reflecting pool and the Washington Monument. It is on view through tomorrow evening.

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