“An understudied and critical chapter of the Metropolitan’s history.”

From April 4 to August 11, 2013, the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (BGC) presents Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Focusing on a remarkable but little-known collection that entered the Metropolitan Museum as a gift of J. Pierpont Morgan in the early twentieth century the exhibition features more than 200 objects of primarily medieval art and French eighteenth-century paneling, furniture, metalwork, textiles, paintings, and sculpture, as well as late nineteenth-century art pottery, most of which have rarely been viewed since the 1950s. The fourth in a series of collaborations between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the BGC, the exhibition provides the first comprehensive examination of Georges Hoentschel—a significant figure in the history of collecting—and illuminates an understudied and critical chapter of the Metropolitan’s history.

Drawn primarily from the Metropolitan Museum’s holdings, with loans from other public and private collections in the United States and France, the exhibition tells the story of this unique collection in four sections. The first introduces Georges Hoentschel, who was an enterprising and successful decorator during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when France witnessed a great scientific, industrial, and social transformation and the newly moneyed bourgeoisie adopted a lifestyle based on an aristocratic model. As director of the Parisian decorating firm Maison Leys, Hoentschel catered to these affluent clients, creating for them interiors in historic French styles. In this section of the exhibition, ephemera, family papers, photographs, and a film presentation will outline his story within the context of Belle Époque Paris.

Organized by Bard Graduate Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this exhibition was curated by Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, curator of European decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum; Deborah L. Krohn, BGC associate professor; and Ulrich Leben, BGC special exhibitions curator and visiting professor.

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