Graham Shearing

Graham is a collector, critic, curator, consultant and writer who has lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 20 years. After studying law at the University of Cambridge and reading for the English Bar, he was distracted by the lure of art and has been so ever since.

The new Westmoreland

Early in October, looking out over the view of Greensburg from the newly reconfigured Westmoreland Museum of American Art, someone remarked that a building’s foundations had been discovered recently in the old parking garage, which is being turned into a garden. In England, such work recently turned up the body of King Richard III, slain …

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Changing times at Frick?

The Frick Art and Historical Center is the creature of Miss Frick (Helen Clay Frick was always called that), the daughter of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, and it sprang into existence after the reclusive 96-year-old grand dame died at Clayton, her childhood home in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze in 1984. Since 1970, there had been an …

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An outside view

“Embedded” is a strange word, which we have come to recognize nowadays as the term used for journalists and photographers permitted to report in war zones under military protection and some limitation. That was the experience of British photographer Mark Neville working in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in 2011 as an official war artist, …

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Richard Mellon Scaife

When Dick Scaife died last summer, there surfaced a rash of brief memoirs of a man most often described as “reclusive,” and, more ambivalently, “mercurial.” Before then, he had been shielded from close scrutiny by the code of Omertà, a protective silence, at least by his friends and close associates. This frustrated those less friendly …

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Robert Qualters: When Retrospection Gets Personal

As we get older, as age begins to play tricks with our memories, as our surroundings change and the immediately familiar becomes obliterated, we come to rely on simple strategies like keeping a photograph album or simply hanging on to significant things. Many artists make memory their stock-in-trade, not simply as documentation, but rather by …

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A lens on life

1. An old woman is seated in an upright armchair in a sparely furnished room. 2. A slightly younger man in a suit approaches from a room beyond. He is not perfectly in focus. She does not appear to be aware of him. 3. The man seems to pause and fixes his attention on the …

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New and newer

The founding director of the Andy Warhol Museum, Mark Francis, recounts this story: A few weeks before the museum opened, Francis had taken the distinguished curator, Walter Hopps, on an advance tour of the completed building. (Hopps was instrumental in putting on Warhol’s first Pop Art show, in June 1962 at the Ferus Gallery in …

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The Carnegie International: 2013

Let me say at the beginning that I adore the current Carnegie International, curated by Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers and Tina Kukielski. It has made me change my mind about a number of things I have held dear in the past. And, to me at least, it is already old hat, because for nearly two …

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A purposeful re-hang

A useful trick for carnegie museum of Art visitors is to read the label on the wall beside the art. In the lower corner is the accession number, for example, 96.1, which indicates the year in which the work was acquired, 1896, followed by the order in which the work was entered into the museum’s …

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The Time of Arkus

Leon Arkus was the fifth director (1968–80) of the Carnegie Museum of Art during its most transformational phase since the building of the museum in the late 19th century. The Scaife Wing and the Heinz Galleries came into being under his supervision, allowing The Carnegie to function as a contemporary museum of art as never …

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Inventing the Modern World

World’s Fairs asks two questions of themselves: “Who are we?” and “Where are we going?” Sometimes they look backwards as well, perhaps a little wistfully. They also fall into the category of jamboree, a 19th-century slang word of American origin indicating a noisy assembly of people and things for a variety of purposes. Usually they …

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Changing the venerable

Almost no building remains fit for its purpose forever, except perhaps a mausoleum. However great a museum or a gallery may be, there is always the lure of a new wing or a re-fit. Nothing remains the same, even in western Pennsylvania. Let’s look at how some of our institutions have faced, and continue to …

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A New Pittsburgh Biennial

The pittsburgh biennial, which you will have encountered before in smaller incarnations going back to 1994, is back with a vengeance. It now lasts six months, putting it on a par with The Carnegie International; it engages more artists (some of whom might be more valuably presented in that International); and it has no fewer …

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Point and Shoot

You would never have thought it. That an ordinary medium, which simply traps the light that falls onto a surface and somehow saves it could be so powerful. You could rank it with the invention of the printing press. Nearly 200 years later, my little point-and-shoot may surprise you, as you have been surprised by …

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An artrageous centennial

Centennials don’t happen every day. For the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh it is lasting a good year and then some. In 2008 Vicky Clark curated an exhibition at The Carnegie Museum of Art, “The Popular Salon of the People,” which surveyed the history of the AAP’s Annual Exhibition and showed just how good and diverse …

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Reanimation

Night drivers in western Pennsylvania will know the quickening experience when a deer is caught by the car’s headlamps. Usually it’s a momentary, harmless event, but always a bit of a shock. Filmmakers (Jean Cocteau, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch) use the same kind of device to sometimes devastating effect. In black and white, it works …

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Reconsidering the ‘40s

Especially nowadays, you get a different kind of art in times of war, variously patriotic, indignant and escapist. When these elements exist together, they are best nurtured by the democratic postulate, which, in times of war, itself hangs only by the skin of its teeth. Painting in the United States 2008, the superb show at …

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Rich with Art

In the centennial year of his birth, Paul Mellon has been universally celebrated. The Bank of New York Mellon’s corporate art collection was itself inspired by this great collector and is currently at The Carnegie. It is one of the few surviving, curated, corporate collections in the city. Paul Mellon wasn’t interested in masses of …

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A Frame to Conjure With

A few years ago, if you had the good fortune to work as a porter at one of the major auction houses in New York or London, you might have had the greater good fortune to be handed a picture frame, discarded by one of the purchasers of the painting. It was one of the …

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From the Outside In

Pittsburgh has always left vivid impressions on the mind of the outsider. For some reason, however, visiting writers have been less kind to Pittsburgh than visiting artists. Over 20 years ago, flying to this city for the first time, I was reading a 1927 essay by H.L. Mencken, describing his view of Western Pennsylvania from …

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Andy’s Not the Only One

Sometimes when trying to assess the importance of any one artist, I am reduced to playing the auction trick. What’s it worth? People who have pooh-poohed Andy Warhol think twice when they hear one of his paintings sells for $14 million. It may be the wrong road to art appreciation, but in our glib, new …

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Art Collector G. David Thompson

What might be described as the great collections built up by Pittsburghers — those of, say, Henry Clay Frick, Gertrude and Leo Stein, Duncan Phillips, Andrew and Paul Mellon respectively, and Walter Arensberg — are perhaps best understood as being financed by Pittsburgh. The actual collections were built up elsewhere. That is not true of …

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