WASHINGTON, April 13, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Filthy Lucre," an immersive interior by painter Darren Waterston, reimagines James McNeill Whistler's famed Peacock Room, a sumptuous 19th-century dining room and icon of American art, as a magnificent ruin, literally overburdened with its own materials, creativity and tortured history. Opening May 16, 2015, at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the room is the centerpiece of "Peacock Room REMIX," an exhibition that probes the dramatic and occasionally unresolved tensions between art and money, ego and patronage, and the Peacock Room's own exquisite beauty and contentious past.
In "Filthy Lucre," a near life-size recreation of Whistler's aesthetic masterpiece, Waterston transforms almost every detail with images of decay, excess and natural phenomena. Every surface is encrusted with gold or oozing with paint, splintered shelves buckle and tilt and an eerie glow seeps through the shutters. A soundscape by the band BETTY haunts the space.
"Filthy Lucre" is inspired by both the artistic mastery of the Peacock Room—long regarded as the period's greatest surviving decorative interior—and the legendary feud over its creation, which pitted Whistler against his patron Frederick Leyland in a dispute over money and creative freedom. "Peacock Room REMIX" is the only chance for visitors to experience Waterston's creation adjacent to the original Peacock Room, which is a permanent showpiece of the Freer Gallery of Art.
"Darren Waterston's 'Filthy Lucre' is a remarkable work in its own right, and it also gives us a new appreciation for the intense, even visceral, emotional afterlife of the Peacock Room," said Lee Glazer, associate curator of American art at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. "Far from being a static monument, the Peacock Room continues to inspire artistic ambition and creation."
Waterston explained, "I set out to recreate Whistler's fabled Peacock Room in a state of decadent demolition—a space collapsing in on itself, heavy with its own excess and tumultuous history. I imagined it as an unsettling cacophony of excess, with every interior surface and object within sumptuously painted."
Originally from San Francisco, New York City-based Waterston frequently explores the underside of beauty through his paintings, works on paper and installations. Exhibiting in the U.S. and abroad since the early 1990s, this is his first collaboration with the Smithsonian.
On view through Jan., 2017, the larger exhibition "Peacock Room REMIX" features a changing series of related installations, beginning in May 2015 with portraits of the Leyland family by Whistler and Waterston's preparatory studies for "Filthy Lucre." Later iterations will explore Whistler's "Lost Symphony," a never-completed painting intended for the Peacock Room (February–May 2016) and the craze for Chinese blue-and-white porcelain in the Victorian era and today (June–November 2016).
"Peacock Room REMIX" is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Waterston's installation "Filthy Lucre," 2013–14, was created by the artist in collaboration with MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass.
Opening weekend events include the May 15 opening gala "Birds of a Feather," co-chaired by Max N. Berry, actress Gillian Anderson and philanthropist Dame Jillian Sackler DBE; a panel on "Stories of Art and Money" May 16 moderated by NPR host Scott Simon and featuring art journalist Georgina Adam; Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden director Melissa Chiu; artists Waterston and Brian Dailey; James Madison University art history professor and catalog author James Ott. Later celebratory happenings include the museum's sell-out after-hours party, "Asia After Dark: PEACOCKalypse," June 13 and monthly evening open houses throughout the summer when the Peacock Room shutters are open, with special guests and exclusive access. A full listing of events can be found online.
About the Freer and Sackler Galleries
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art are the Smithsonian's museums of Asian art, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit asia.si.edu or follow twitter.com/freersackler or facebook.com/freersackler. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.
SOURCE Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries