“Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI” To Open at the FAMSF’s de Young Museum

As technological innovation continues to shape our identities and societies, the question of what it means to be, or remain human has become the subject of fervent debate. Taking advantage of the de Young museum’s proximity to Silicon Valley, Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI arrives as the first major exhibition in the US to explore the relationship between humans and intelligent machines through an artistic lens. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with San Francisco as its sole venue, Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI will be on view from February 22 to October 25, 2020.

Technology is changing our world, with artificial intelligence both a new frontier of possibility but also a development fraught with anxiety,” says Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI brings artistic exploration of this tension to the ground zero of emerging technology, raising challenging questions about the future interface of human and machine.

The exhibition, which extends through the first floor of the de Young and into the museum’s sculpture garden, will explore the current juncture through philosophical, political, and poetic questions and problems raised by AI. New and recent works by an intergenerational, international group of artists and activist collectives—including Zach Blas, Ian Cheng, Simon Denny, Stephanie Dinkins, Forensic Architecture, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Pierre Huyghe, Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, Agnieszka Kurant, Lawrence Lek, Trevor Paglen, Hito Steyerl, and Martine Syms—will be presented.

The Uncanny Valley

In 1970 Japanese engineer Masahiro Mori introduced the concept of the “uncanny valley” as a terrain of existential uncertainty that humans experience when confronted with autonomous machines that mimic their physical and mental properties. An enduring metaphor for the uneasy relationship between human beings and lifelike robots or thinking machines, the uncanny valley and its edges have captured the popular imagination ever since. Over time, the rapid growth and affordability of computers, cloud infrastructure, online search engines, and data sets have fueled developments in machine learning that fundamentally alter our modes of existence, giving rise to a newly expanded uncanny valley.

Photo Credit: Ian Cheng, Installation view: BOB, Central Pavilion, Giardini, Venice Biennale, Venice, 2019, Copyright Ian Cheng, Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, Photography by: Andrea Rossetti

As our lives are increasingly organized and shaped by algorithms that track, collect, evaluate, and monetize our data, the uncanny valley has grown to encompass the invisible mechanisms of behavioral engineering and automation,” says Claudia Schmuckli, Curator in Charge of Contemporary Art and Programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “By paying close attention to the imminent and nuanced realities of AI’s possibilities and pitfalls, the artists in the exhibition seek to thicken the discourse around AI. Although fables like HBO’s sci-fi drama Westworld, or Spike Jonze’s feature film Her still populate the collective imagination with dystopian visions of a mechanized future, the artists in this exhibition treat such fictions as relics of a humanist tradition that has little relevance today.

Nestled within the museum’s garden, Pierre Huyghe presents Exomind (Deep Water), a sculpture of a crouched female nude with a live beehive as its head. With its buzzing colony pollinating the surrounding flora, it offers a poignant metaphor for the modeling of neural networks on the biological brain and an understanding of intelligence as grounded in natural forms and processes.

In the museum’s contemporary art galleries, Ian Cheng’s digitally simulated AI creature BOB (Bag of Beliefs) also reflects on the interdependency of carbon and silicon forms of intelligence. An algorithmic Tamagotchi, it is capable of evolution, but its growth, behavior, and personality are molded by online interaction with visitors who assume collective responsibility for its wellbeing. In A.A.I. (artificial artificial intelligence), an installation of multiple termite mounds of colored sand, gold, glitter and crystals, Agnieszka Kurant offers a vibrant critique of new AI economies, with online crowdsourcing marketplace platforms employing invisible armies of human labor at sub-minimum wages. Simon Denny also examines the intersection of labor, resources, and automation. Presenting 3-D prints and a cage-like sculpture based on an unrealized machine patent filed by Amazon, he literally casts human labor as the proverbial canary in the mine.

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Art News: “Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection” at The Philadelphia Museum of Art

Art gives us real delight only when the eye derives pleasure from what is really worthy.

John G. Johnson, from his art and travel memoir, Sight-Seeing in Berlin and Holland among Pictures, 1892.

This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection, November 3, 2017 – February 19, 2018, a major exhibition focusing on one of the finest collections of European art ever to have been formed in the United States by a private collector. The exhibition marks the centenary of the remarkable bequest of John Graver Johnson—a distinguished corporate lawyer of his day and one of its most adventurous art collectors—to the city of Philadelphia in 1917. It also coincides with the celebration of the centennial of

Portrait of John G. Johnson, 1917. Conrad F. Haeseler, American, 1875 1962

Portrait of John G. Johnson, 1917. Conrad F. Haeseler, American, 1875 1962. Oil on panel, 34 x 24 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Miss Julia W. Frick and Sidney W. Frick, 1971.

the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The exhibition will include masterpieces by key figures of the Renaissance such as Botticelli, Bosch, and Titian; important seventeenth-century Dutch paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Steen, and others; and works by American and French masters of Johnson’s own time, most notably Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Édouard Manet and Claude Monet. Old Masters Now will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at the collaborative work of the Museum’s curators and conservators who have worked with the collection since it was entrusted to the Museum’s care in the early 1930s. The exhibition will explore a host of fascinating questions ranging from attribution to authenticity and illuminate the detective work and problem-solving skills that are brought to bear when specialists reevaluate the original meaning and intent of works created centuries ago.pma_title_horz

Born in the village of Chestnut Hill, now part of Philadelphia, and educated in the city’s public Central High School and then the University of Pennsylvania, John Graver Johnson (1841–1917) became recognized as the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world. He represented influential clients such as J. P. Morgan, US Steel, the Sugar Trust, and Standard Oil. He was also known to accept cases that many would consider ordinary if the details piqued his intellectual interest. Johnson quietly acquired many important works of art, but also highly singular ones that have been the source of much scholarly discussion.

Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil, 1874. Claude Monet, French, 1840 1926.

Railroad Bridge, Argenteuil, 1874. Claude Monet, French, 1840 1926. Oil on canvas, 21 3/8 x 28 7/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

At the age of 34 he married Ida Alicia Powel Morrell (1840–1908), a widow with three children. He traveled to Europe often, visiting France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium, and collected pictures as an amateur art historian relying on his own evaluation. In 1892, he published Sight-Seeing in Berlin and Holland among Pictures. Also that year, he published a catalog of his collection which at the time included 281 paintings.

Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, 1430 1432. Jan van Eyck, Netherlandish

Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, 1430 1432. Jan van Eyck, Netherlandish (active Bruges), c. 1395 1441. Oil on vellum on panel, 5 x 5 3/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

In 1895, Johnson was appointed to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Art Commission where he oversaw the Wilstach Gallery, which housed a public collection of paintings. Under his leadership, the Commission purchased important works, among them James McNeill Whistler’s Arrangement in Black, and Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Annunciation, the first work by an African-American artist to enter a public collection in the United States. Johnson was also the attorney for Alexander Cassatt, brother of the artist Mary Stevenson Cassatt. One of his earliest purchases was Cassatt’s On the Balcony. When Johnson gave this work to the Wilstach Gallery in 1906, it was the first painting by the artist to enter an American public collection. During his 22-year stewardship of the Wilstach Gallery, he made 53 gifts from his personal collection, which are now on view at the Museum.

Marine, 1866. Gustave Courbet, French, 1819 1877. Oil on canvas on gypsum board. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Marine, 1866. Gustave Courbet, French, 1819 1877. Oil on canvas on gypsum board. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Musical Group, 1520s. Callisto Piazza (Calisto de la Piaza da Lodi),

Musical Group, 1520s. Callisto Piazza (Calisto de la Piaza da Lodi), Italian (active Lodi and Brescia), c. 1500 1561/62. Oil on panel, 35 5/8 x 35 3/4 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO said, “Over time our appreciation of Johnson’s extraordinary gift continues to grow, and yet it remains a source of endless fascination with many discoveries still to be made. We are delighted to open a window onto our work, offering visitors a fresh look at the process of scholarship and conservation that we bring to the care of our collection and an insight into the questions, puzzles, and mysteries that continue to occupy our staff.”

Johnson’s collection was formed through his own study and, in later years, with the assistance of illustrious art historians including Roger Fry and Wilhelm Valentiner. Bernard Berenson advised his purchases of works by Antonello da Messina, Sandro Botticelli, and Pietro Lorenzetti, and others. To this day, the John G. Johnson Collection is distinguished by its quality, rarity, and diversity in European art.

Portrait of a Lady, c. 1577 1580. Attributed to El Greco

Portrait of a Lady, c. 1577 1580. Attributed to El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), Spanish (born Crete, active Italy and Spain), 1541 1614. Oil on panel, 15 5/8 x 12 5/8 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Portrait of a Young Gentleman, 1474. Antonello da Messina

Portrait of a Young Gentleman, 1474. Antonello da Messina (Antonello di Giovanni di Michele de Antonio), Italian (active Messina, Naples, and Venice) 1456 – 1479. Oil on panel, 12 5/8 x 10 11/16 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto, 1558. Titian

Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto, 1558. Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Italian (active Venice), first securely documented 1508, died 1576. Oil on canvas, 45 3/16 x 34 15/16 inches. Framed: 58 3/4 × 48 1/4 × 5 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

At the time of his death on April 14 in 1917, Johnson left his collection to the city of Philadelphia. In his will, he said: “I have lived my life in this City. I want the collection to have its home here.” The City of Philadelphia accepted the conditions of his will, which contained a codicil directing that his house be opened as a gallery for the public to enjoy. In 1933 the Johnson Collection was moved temporarily from Johnson’s house at 510 South Broad Street to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, due to a funding crisis caused by the Great Depression as well as a determination by a court-appointed master that the Johnson house was unsafe for the collection. In 1958 the Museum, the City, and the Johnson Trust entered a formal agreement concerning storage and display of the Johnson Collection at the Museum. Johnson’s art was exhibited as a separate collection within the Museum for more than 50 years. In the late 1980s, legal approval was granted for the Museum to integrate the works into its full collection. The collection numbers 1,279 paintings, 51 sculptures, and over 100 other objects.

Christ and the Virgin, c. 1430 1435. Robert Campin, also called the Master of Flémalle, Netherlandish

Christ and the Virgin, c. 1430 1435. Robert Campin, also called the Master of Flémalle, Netherlandish (active Tournai), first documented 1406, died 1444. Oil and gold on panel, 11 1/4 x 17 15/16 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Head of Christ, c. 1648 1656. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch

Head of Christ, c. 1648 1656. Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch (active Leiden and Amsterdam), 1606 1669. Oil on oak panel, laid into larger oak panel, 14 1/8 x 12 5/16 inches. Framed: 28 1/4 x 23 x 2 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

Interior of Saint Bavo, Haarlem, 1631. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Dutch

Interior of Saint Bavo, Haarlem, 1631. Pieter Jansz. Saenredam, Dutch (active Haarlem and Utrecht), 1597 1665. Oil on panel, 32 5/8 x 43 1/2 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917.

The exhibition will open with a gallery dedicated to Johnson himself, providing a picture of one of Philadelphia’s most prominent leaders during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A timeline will trace key moments in his colorful legal career, highlighting important cases and invitations he was reported to have received from President Garfield and President Cleveland to be nominated for a seat on the United States Supreme Court, and another from President McKinley to serve as his United States Attorney General, all of which Johnson declined. It notes that in 1901, he represented his hometown baseball team, the Phillies (then known as the Philadelphia Ball Club), when players sought to break their contract to play for another team. This section will also explore his decades-long formation of an art collection, from his early acquisitions of contemporary art, such as Mary Cassatt’s On the Balcony, to paintings that he acquired the day before he died. Archival material, travel albums, and large-scale photographs of the interiors of Johnson’s houses at 426 and 506 South Broad Street will reveal the strikingly idiosyncratic way in which he displayed and lived with his collection. Continue reading

Rodin at The Met

Exhibition Dates: September 16, 2017–January 15, 2018

Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery (Gallery 800) and Gallery 809

On the centenary of the death of Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate its historic collection of the artist’s work in Rodin at The Met, opening September 16, 2017. (The exhibition is made possible by the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation.)

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Auguste Rodin (French, Paris 1840-1917 Meudon), Orpheus and Eurydice, modeled probably before 1887, carved 1893, marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Thomas F. Ryan, 1910

Nearly 50 marbles, bronzes, plasters, and terracottas by Rodin, representing more than a century of acquisitions and gifts to the Museum, will be displayed in the newly installed and refurbished B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery (Gallery 800). The exhibition will feature iconic sculptures such as The Thinker and The Hand of God, as well as masterpieces such as The Tempest that have not been on view in decades. Paintings from The Met’s collection by some of Rodin’s most admired contemporaries, including his friends Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1898), will be presented in dialogue with the sculptures on display.

The extraordinary range of The Met’s holdings of Rodin’s work will be highlighted in an adjacent gallery (Gallery 809) with a selection of drawings, prints, letters, and illustrated books, as well as photographs of the master sculptor and his art. This focused presentation will introduce visitors to the evolution of Rodin’s draftsmanship and demonstrate the essential role of drawing in his practice. It will also address Rodin’s engagement with photographers, especially Edward Steichen (1879-1973), who served as a key intermediary in bringing Rodin’s drawings to New York.

Rodin at The Met begins a new chapter in the Museum’s long-standing engagement with Rodin. In 1912, The Met opened a gallery dedicated to Rodin’s sculptures and drawings—the first at the Museum devoted exclusively to the work of a living artist. Displayed in that gallery were almost 30 sculptures and, within a year, 14 drawings. During the late 20th century, the historic core of The Met’s Rodin collection was further enhanced by Iris and B. Gerald Cantor and their Foundation’s gifts of more than 30 sculptures, many of them from editions authorized by the artist and cast posthumously. Today, The Met’s holdings of Rodin’s art are among the largest and most distinguished in the United States. The exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to experience anew Rodin’s enduring artistic achievements.

Rodin at The Met is organized by Denise Allen, Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts; Ashley Dunn, Assistant Curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints; and Alison Hokanson and Asher Ethan Miller, both Assistant Curators in the Department of European Paintings.

Education programs will accompany the exhibition including a Sunday at The Met program “Rediscover Rodin” on October 15, a Picture This! Workshop on October 19, and a Met Signs Tour: Rodin at The Met with Emmanuel von Schack on Friday, November 3.

The display in Gallery 809 will close on January 15, 2018. The installation of paintings and sculptures in Gallery 800 will remain on permanent view with periodic rotations of selected works.