Curator gives students inside look at Phila. Museum of Art's new exhibit

The Penn Art Appreciation Society organized the trip

· February 23, 2014, 7:36 pm   ·  Updated February 24, 2014, 2:03 am

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Curator and 2007 Penn alumnus John Vick led members of the Penn Art Appreciation Society on a tour of “The Surrealists: Works from the Collection,” a new exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that pulls from the museum’s own collection and features pieces by Salvador Dali and Max Ernst, among others.


Some Penn students were seduced by surrealism this weekend.

Penn Art Appreciation Society hosted an excursion to view the surrealist exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday. Students gathered in the Perelman Building of PMA  with the exhibition curator John Vick. Vick, who received his master’s degree in art history from Penn in 2007, called surrealism more “seductive” than “attractive,” because it is often distorted and invites more imagination than more conventional aesthetics.

“The Surrealists: Works from the Collection” features paintings by some of the most celebrated surrealists, including Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Roberto Matta and Dorothea Tanning.

Everything in the exhibition is from PMA’s collection. “Rather than focusing on the specific parts of surrealism - say paintings or sculptures, or women of surrealism or dreamy images - this is more of an introduction and broad view of a movement,” Vick said.

On the tour, Vick talked about works like “The Poet and His Muse” by Giorgio de Chirico and Salvador Dali’s “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War).” The former shows two abstract human forms wearing togas, while the latter is “a visualization of self-destruction,” according to Vick.

“It’s grotesque. It’s disgusting,” he added. “Yet it’s the one that people all want to come and see.”

College and Wharton sophomore and PAAS president Elaine Liu hoped club members would be more exposed to Philadelphia’s art resources. “It is not different from visiting a friend you haven’t see for a while or going to an amusement park where you know some great sensory experiences are waiting for you,” she said.

PAAS is a new club that dedicates itself to sharing the knowledge and love of arts. In addition to excursions to local museums and galleries, PAAS also organizes art dinners and mini-symposiums for students to learn and talk about the arts.

Wharton sophomore Anthony Chen was excited to have access to the exhibition’s curator. “While I’m sure we all appreciate art to some degree, it’s an elevated experience to see the collection from the eyes of the person who selected the works,” Chen said.

Engineering sophomore Scott Collins agreed. “The curator of the exhibition, John Vick, was very insightful. He illuminated surrealism - both the artists and their art - in a broad scope,” he said. “I now feel more at home with the movement, ready to delve deeper into its secrets.”

Despite Friday’s stormy weather, 20 students participated in the trip. They came from a variety of academic backgrounds, including computer science, finance and communications. The event concluded with a question-and-answer session about surrealism and art appraisal.

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