PAST Academic Focus Gallery Installations

Night in the City of Light: Paris’ Cabaret, 1881-1914

February 15 – June 29, 2014

Cabaret and café-concert culture in late 19th-century France captivated a new public and served as a site for creative exchange between visual artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and theatre performers. Cabarets, or cabarets artistiques, offered a variety of flashy spectacles including singers who performed their own songs, while at café-concerts the audience listened to singers recite popular melodies of the period. Both were awash in alcohol. A companion installation, Cheap Thrills: The Highs and Lows of Montmartre’s Cabaret Culture, 1881-1939 in the Perkins Gallery (February 18 – May 15, 2014) provides an additional overview of cabaret venues and famous performers.

View slideshow below, as a lightbox for full, uncropped images.

These installations showcase important material from the Nasher Museum of Art and the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscript Library, such as sheet music, posters, and illustrated periodicals. The auditory experience of the cabaret is reanimated by recordings of traditional cabaret songs newly arranged by Duke’s New Music Ensemble ([dnme]), which visitors can listen to in both installations. This music will also be presented live in a series of three [dnme] performances in the Von der Heyden Pavilion (February 21), Fullsteam Brewery (April 6), and Baldwin Auditorium (April 10).

These installations are the result of a collaboration between doctoral students in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Alexis Clark, Kathryn Desplanque, Emilie Anne-Yvonne Luse, and Laura Moure Cecchini, and doctoral students in music composition who participate in the Duke New Music Ensemble ([dnme]): Benito Crawford, D. Edward Davis, Timothy Hamburger, Jamie Keersecker, Dan Ruccia, and Vladimir Smirnov.

Doris Duke: A Life Well Travelled

October 12, 2013 – February 2, 2014

The name Doris Duke is often synonymous with the glamorous yet eccentric and reclusive heiress whose life played out in the press. The archival materials in this installation, which are part of the Doris Duke Collection at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, reveal a much different and more complex story. Adventurous, intelligent, and independent, Doris Duke (1912-1993) was determined not to be defined by social expectations or her vast wealth. Throughout her life she continued her family’s innovative pattern of philanthropy, eagerly advocated for the protection of the environment, and pursued her lifelong passion as both a collector and patron of Islamic art. This installation includes documents from Doris’s childhood, audio recordings of Doris singing and playing piano, and reproductions of photographs taken throughout Doris’s life and travels.


Let the Great World Spin

July 20 – October 6, 2013

Andy Warhol, "Vote for McGovern," 1972. Screenprint in colors on paper, 42 x 41 15/16 inches (106.7 x 106.5 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. Gift of Blake Byrne, T'57; 2002.23.10. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.

This installation was inspired by Colum McCann’s novel Let the Great World Spin, the 2013 Summer Reading book for incoming first-year students at Duke. Set in New York City, the book follows the lives of several strangers who are all connected by one common experience: the real-life tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers by Philippe Petit in 1974. As the characters’ lives collide, we are reminded of the interconnectedness of our daily actions, past, present, and future. The artworks displayed reflected a variety of cultures and time periods and explore themes found throughout Let the Great World Spin, including balance, flight, city life, and the war in Vietnam.
Members of the Duke community from a variety of academic departments have offered their personal reflections on some of the works. Their thoughts are shared in the installation’s accompanying booklets.


May 21-July 7, 2013

Socrates, Ghanaian, The Powers of Sea Lady (detail), c. 1980s. Acrylic on burlap mounted on polyester fabric, 65 1/2 x 38 3/4 inches (166.4 x 98.4 cm). Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC. On loan from the Afro-Atlantic Sacred Arts Collection of the Center for African and African American Research at Duke University, Durham, NC; L.6.2013.3. Photo by J Caldwell.

This installation was organized by Professor Richard Powell’s Art History class “The Black Atlantic” as an educational counterpoint to the exhibition Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey previously on view at the Nasher Museum from March 21 through July 21.

View the image gallery for this installation.



October 13-December 23, 2012

Alexander Kosolapov. Born in Moscow, Russia, 1943 . "Lenin-Coca-Cola" (detail), 1988. Screenprint on paper. Edition 50/75. Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Michael Wilsey. 2000.16.4. Photo by J Caldwell.These works offer representations of, and responses to, images of power in late and post-Soviet Russia (1970-1995). Focusing on three major institutions of Soviet culture—Communism, architecture, and the media—this exhibition explores the ways in which artists represented, confronted and challenged them through different styles and forms.

A number of the selected pieces address the Communist Party overtly; Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mikhail Gorbachev all appear in their most iconic forms. Other works approach politics more indirectly, raising related questions of culture, consumption, and economics. Architecture is represented both as a means to assert official power through the construction of state-sanctioned buildings, and as a means to flout it through the creation of alternative architectural worlds. Finally, whether through the incorporation of newsprint, advertising, or Hollywood film stars, many of these works also address the pervasiveness of mass media in Russia during this time. Far from rigid, these categories frequently overlap in the objects on display. The resulting interplay offers a glimpse of the cultural and political climate of this period in Russian history.

View the image gallery for this installation.

This installation was organized by Professor Pamela Kachurin’s class, ARTHIST289, 544/RUSSIAN355, 561: Soviet Art after Stalin.


August 4-October 7, 2012

For a second year, the Nasher Museum of Art is collaborating with Duke’s Office of New Student Programs to present an art installation accompanying the incoming freshmen summer reading book. This year’s selection, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011), is a novel that follows an American pharmacologist as she seeks out her former mentor developing a fertility drug in the heart of the Amazon. Over forty art works from the Nasher’s permanent collection, ranging from Ancient American ceramics to contemporary Chinese photography, explore themes such as maternity, bioethics, biodiversity, and post-colonialism.

The video above succinctly details the State of Wonder exhibition featuring Molly Boarati, the Nasher Museum’s Academic Program Assistant, and was produced by Duke’s Office of News and Communications.


March 10-July 29, 2012

LifeinClassicalAntiquity_SpStudents and professors in three Duke classes– Archaic Greece (Professor Carla Antonaccio), Roman History (Professor Tolly Boatwright), and Representing Women in the Classical World(Professor Sheila Dillon)– are using these works, and others in the museum’s permanent collection, as material evidence for the cultural production and history of antiquity.

These objects are drawn from the two collections of antiquities held by the Nasher Museum. The Duke Classical Collection was begun by Duke’s Department of Classical Studies in the 1960s, and transferred to the university museum in the late 1990s. Most of the collection was published in A Generation of Antiquities: The Duke Classical Collection 1964-1994 by Professor Keith Stanley. The Kempner Collection, given to the museum in 2006 by Dr. Barbara Newborg, is documented in a new catalogue, The Past is Present: The Kempner Collection of Classical Antiquities at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, published in 2011.

The variety of materials, size, function, provenance and dates of these objects illuminates the rich complexity of the ancient world. These objects allow students first-hand experience with the material remnants of the ancient cultures they study. 


November 17, 2011-January 22, 2012

stitch1This installation was organized in conjunction with the publication of The Past is Present: The Kempner Collection of Classical Antiquities at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, a catalogue devoted to classical antiquities given to the museum in 2006 by Dr. Barbara Newborg.

This remarkable gift nearly doubled the Nasher Museum’s holdings in ancient art, including classical Greek, Etruscan and Roman works, and greatly enhanced the collection’s quality and variety. The Kempner Collection provides a broadened range of classical objects that allows the museum to serve its varied audiences. Duke students and faculty studying ancient art can do so at a much higher level than before. The collection also enriches the experiences of our visitors, including K-12 students, community members and visitors.


August 18-October 16, 2011

IMAGE: Rosa Bonheur, "A Group of Six Sheep," 19th century. Graphite on paper, 9 3/8 x 11 ½ inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of George and Alice Welsh, 2001.15.5.For the first time, the Nasher Museum is collaborating with Duke Summer Reading and Duke Reads Online Book Club. An installation in the museum’s education gallery presents more than 30 works relating to Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. The installation will challenge visitors–whether carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians or vegans–to think about what eating meat means to them. It includes works in a variety of media spanning more than 2,000 years. Find out more information about DukeReads.

IMAGE: Rosa Bonheur, “A Group of Six Sheep,” 19th century. Graphite on paper, 9 3/8 x 11 ½ inches. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of George and Alice Welsh, 2001.15.5.