Unique Anthology Presents Museum’s Holdings Through the Perspectives of Sixty-one Cultural Figures in Fields of Art, Dance, Literature, Music, Film, and More

Book Cover, detail of Thomas More portrait

New York (December 1, 2020)—Celebrating its eighty-fifth anniversary this winter as a New York museum, The Frick Collection announces the January publication of a fresh take on its remarkable holdings. Co-published with DelMonico Books・D.A.P., The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick features sixty-one illustrated reflections on the institution’s preeminent collection, with each contributor writing about an artwork that has personal significance, that has moved, challenged, puzzled, or inspired them. Authors from the worlds of art, music, dance, literature, film, and more share the deep impact visual arts have for them. Writer Jonathan Lethem shares how he started going to the Frick as a teenager, to gaze at Hans Holbein’s portraits of Thomas Cromwell and Sir Thomas More. Dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones writes about Chardin’s Still Life with Plums, seeing gestures between objects, considering time as reflected by light, and feeling empathy for subjects reduced to “objecthood.” With poetic verse, artist Julie Mehretu reflects on how Rembrandt’s work has offered her transformative encounters. Historian Simon Schama revels in Turner’s Mortlake Terrace: Early Summer Morning, which reminds him of his childhood growing up next to the River Thames. This volume begins with a preface by Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director, and a foreword by writer Adam Gopnik (who also contributed an entry).

Wardropper comments, “This engaging anthology attests to the inspirational power of art and reminds us that there is no one way to look. We see artworks through the lens of what we bring to them and what we are seeking. It is therefore no surprise that the responses in this anthology are as varied as the world the art reflects.” He adds, “As a moment to welcome new voices, the timing couldn’t be better: this winter we begin a new chapter of display as well, presenting our holdings at Frick Madison, the nearby temporary location during the renovation of our longstanding home on 70th Street. What better way to celebrate this unprecedented viewing opportunity than with an offering of new reflections from a wide range of colleagues in the arts?”

As Gopnik observes, “though these texts don’t have, or seek, a homogeneity of tone, they do show a uniformity of purpose. All of them, for all the variety of sensibilities and political leanings they contain—taking us from Moeko Fujii recalling how her Japanese mother became entangled in a Vermeer to Dame Diana Rigg telling us of how Rembrandt’s incomparable self-portrait informs her acting—strikingly seem to settle on a single shared strategy. It is to look at a picture, remember how one first experienced it … survey one’s subsequent experience of it, and try to bear down … on what the picture might actually be like.”

Contributors are André Aciman, Ida Applebroog, Firelei Báez, Victoria Beckham, Tom Bianchi, Carter Brey, Rosanne Cash, Jerome Charyn, Roz Chast, George Condo, Gregory Crewdson, Joan K. Davidson, Lydia Davis, Edmund de Waal, Rineke Dijkstra, Mark Doty, Lena Dunham, Stephen Ellcock, Donald Fagen, Rachel Feinstein and John Currin, Teresita Fernández, Bryan Ferry, Michael Frank, Moeko Fujii, Adam Gopnik, Vivian Gornick, Agnes Gund, Carolina Herrera, Alexandra Horowitz, Abbi Jacobson, Bill T. Jones, Maira Kalman, Nina Katchadourian, Susanna Kaysen, Jonathan Lethem, Kate D. Levin, David Masello, Julie Mehretu, Daniel Mendelsohn, Rick Meyerowitz, Duane Michals, Susan Minot, Mark Morris, Nico Muhly, Vik Muniz, Wangechi Mutu, Catherine Opie, Jed Perl, Taylor M. Polites, Diana Rigg, Jenny Saville, Simon Schama, Lloyd Schwartz, Annabelle Selldorf, Arlene Shechet, Judith Thurman, Colm Tóibín, Chris Ware, Darren Waterston, Edmund White, and Robert Wilson.

Artworks discussed include Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert; Bronzino’s Lodovico Capponi; Clodion’s Zephyrus and Flora; Duccio’s Temptation of Christ on the Mountain; Fragonard’s Progress of Love series; Gainsborough’s Hon. Francis Duncombe and Mall in St. James; Goya’s Don Pedro, Duque de Osuna and The Forge; Greuze’s Madame Baptiste; Holbein’s Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell; Houdon’s Armande-Thomas Hue, Marques de Miromesnil and Madame His; Ingres’s Comtesse d’Haussonvile; Manet’s BullfightTwo Birds of Paradise from the Meissen Manufactory; Piero’s St. John the Evangelist; Rembrandt’s Polish Rider and Self-Portrait; Romney’s Lady Hamilton; Turner’s Harbor of Dieppe and Mortlake Terrace: Early Summer Morning; Van Dyck’s, Marchesa Giovanna Cattaneo; Velásquez’s King Philip IV of Spain; Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing GirlMistress and Maid, and Girl Interrupted at Her Music; Watteau’s Portal of Valencienes; Whistler’s Harmony in Pink: Portrait of Lady MeuxArrangement in Black and Gold: Comte Robert de Montesquou–Fezansac, and Symphony in Grey and Green: The Ocean.

The Sleeve Should Be Illegal & Other Reflections on Art at the Frick, published January 26, 2021, is made possible by The Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation (168 pages; 122 color illustrations, hardcover $29.95, member price $26.96). It may be pre-ordered online through the Frick’s Museum Shop at www.frick.org/shop, or by emailing shop@frick.org.


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