Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Portrait of an Icon

It's no secret that I love art, of all kinds, from all over, and by no means solely American-made. That said, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of my favourite of the Smithsonian museums (and only partially because its acronym is SAAM). This is mainly because the SAAM finished up a 6-year renovation in 2006 and is simply a gorgeous space. Another reason is that since 1968, the SAAM has shared its space with the National Portrait Gallery (although for my purposes, I'll call them both the "SAAM"). So when I read that there was an exhibit on Katherine Hepburn, far and away my favourite actress, at the SAAM, it did not take much prompting to get me there.
The exhibit is called One Life: Kate and is in celebration of what would be her 100th year (she died in 2003). It is by no means an extensive show, contained entirely in one room, but that is what makes it so effective. While the show is centered around the portrait by Everett Raymond Kinstler (above), which is owned by the NPG, it is much more than that. In addition to the painting, the exhibit also includes many photographs, caricatures, movie posters, and clips from various films on a stylish console in a corner. There are two other displays, however, which really made the show for me. The first features all four of her Oscars, and the second a red sweater which she wore so frequently around her shoulders in her later years that it became as iconic as the woman herself. The end result of the clever combination of media and objects is a cozy, concise exhibit which feels more like a portrait in the round that the portrait itself. Whether you're a fan of Kate, or simply in the Washington, DC area with a free afternoon, I recommend this exhibit. One Life: Kate was curated by Amy Henderson, and will be open through September 28th, 2008.

(all photos save that of the Kinstler painting were taken by me)

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