The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania opens its new season with the first East Coast showing of the popular exhibition Pictures, Patents, Monkeys, and More...On Collecting. Organized and circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), the exhibition opens to the public on Wednesday, September 4, 2002 and continues through Sunday, December 15, 2002. The Opening Reception, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for Wednesday, September 4, 2002 from 6:00 to 9:00 pm. An Exhibition Walkthrough will take place on September 4, 2002 at 4:30 pm with ICA Senior Curator Ingrid Schaffner; Penn student (C '04), writer and collector Arthur Bochner; and Dr. David P. Silverman, the Eckley Brinton Coxe, Jr. Professor of Egyptology and Curator-in-Charge of the Egyptian Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
The motives for collecting are widely compelling: constructing memory, building knowledge, keeping stuff. This exhibition features four different collections to pose questions about collecting in general. Specifically, it looks at collecting as both imagery and process in contemporary art. On view are selections from: the contemporary art collection of the Robert J. Shiffler Foundation, 19th century patent models from the Smithsonian Institution, a private collection of vintage sock monkeys, and exclusively at ICA, Egyptian antiquities from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
Since 1998 The Robert J. Shiffler Foundation has collected and made available art on the fringe of accepted artistic practice. The foundation's collection offers an intriguing selection of creations by influential American artists from the last 15 years. Included in the exhibition are selections by Janine Antoni, Karen Finley, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Christian Marclay, Joel Otterson, Alan Rath, Matthew Ritchie, Jessica Stockholder, Brian Tolle and others. These works look at important themes in contemporary art: identity, collecting, display, and new artistic practices. Complementing the works are video programs; spoken word, sound, and musical recordings; and performance relics.
The patent models, from a collection of 10,000 at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, do not reveal individual collecting, but instead reflect institutional collecting as an American tradition. By 1880, when the practice was discontinued, inventors had submitted over 150,000 models. Citizens, eager to keep abreast of the latest technologies, made the public display of the models one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country. Models on view at ICA include a dog-powered treadmill, an early version of a pinball machine and a brass pill-coating machine. Originally assembled to create a public record, these intricate, highly crafted and imaginative models can be considered small-scale sculptures in their own right.
Sock monkey toys, a tribute to U.S. thrift and inventiveness, became a part of American childhood in 1953, when the Nelson Knitting Co. registered its design for turning a pair of socks into a stuffed toy. As interpreted by generations of home sewers, the sock monkey is now seen as a form of folk art, its basic pattern transformed through costuming, stitching, and stuffing. This private collection was started in 1985 and now includes over 1,500 monkeys. Approximately 100 of these whimsical and unique stuffed toys are included in the exhibition.
The fourth component of the show, exclusive to ICA, is a selection of Egyptian antiquities from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's little known Dillwyn Parrish collection. Mrs. Dillwyn Parrish bequeathed these exquisite Egyptian figurines and artifacts in 1914. She and her husband were avid collectors of antiquities at a time when wealthy individuals were collecting mummies and other antiquities for their often elaborate curiosity cabinets. Pieces in the show include scarabs, seals, amulets and shabtis. (Shabtis were small figurines buried with the dead to carry out the tasks of preparing the dead owner's place in the afterlife: plowing the fields and irrigating the land. A magical spell from the Book of the Dead, often inscribed on the shabti itself, enabled the figurine to spring to life when the time came.) This little known collection will be considered in the context of collecting as a phenomenon that is both timeless and highly idiosyncratic.
This is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by Independent Curators International (ICI), NY, a non-profit traveling exhibition service specializing in contemporary art. Guest curator for the exhibition is ICA's Senior Curator, Ingrid Schaffner, with assistance at the current venue (ICA) from Dr. David P. Silverman, the Eckley Brinton Coxe, Jr. Professor of Egyptology and Curator-in-Charge of the Egyptian Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The exhibition is accompanied by a 72-page illustrated catalogue with essays by Schaffner, psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger, and artist Fred Wilson.
The ICA is open to the public, except during installation, from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday through Friday and from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3 for adults; $2 for students over 12, artists, and senior citizens; and free to ICA members, children 12 and under, PENN card holders, and on Sundays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. For more information, call 215-898-7108/5911, or visit www.icaphila.org
ICA acknowledges the generous support of Stephen R. Weber. Additional support has been provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, The Dietrich Foundation Inc., the Overseers Board for the Institute Of Contemporary Art, friends and members of ICA, and the University of Pennsylvania. (Information complete as of 7/10/02).