Editor’s letter, September/October 2015

Editorial Staff Opinion

One afternoon not long after I began working here I opened a letter that asked me a challenging question: how, the writer wanted to know, “did a Polack [sic] like you get your position?” After a few jolly moments in the office I called our longtime editor Wendell Garrett, who enjoyed odd news from the passing scene. Wendell was amused, but he also reminded me that the magazine had been founded in the 1920s, the banner era of American xenophobia, and he reckoned some of that lingered in a few of its readers.

It made sense. The heretofore neglected field of American art and decorative arts embraced by the magazine was bound to draw a trickle of folks for whom the only way to be American is to give up being anything else…as if that were possible. The magazine, of course, took a higher road, celebrating the successes of American arts and just as often noting their connections to the arts of the rest of the world.

Which brings me to our September/October issue, which has traditionally had an international flavor, and to the inclusion here of three articles that join culture to travel, something we do upon occasion and plan to do more often in the future.

Cambridge, England, is justly celebrated for its Fitzwilliam Museum and for the modernist art at Kettle’s Yard, but Avis Berman finds something else astonishing there—the New Hall Art Collection at Cambridge University’s Murray Edwards College, the second largest collection of women’s art in the world, installed not gallery style but throughout the college as a part of its everyday life. That Avis has provided a discerning critic’s admiration of the works on view only enhances our desire to visit.

One of the few things our frequent contributor James Gardner and I agree about is the pleasure of long city walks. James lives part of the year in Buenos Aires where his daily rambles are undoubtedly a good bit longer than the three-mile walking tour of that city’s architecture he gives us here. But three miles with James is more than enough to explain whyBuenos Aires is conventionally known as the Paris of South America.

On to Budapest where Rosalind Pepall returns us to the seductions of the city’s fin de siècle glories, and from there to a virtual kind of globalism—Dennis Carr’s guided tour of the MFA Boston’s exhibition Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia. To those articles add Mark Mitchell’s impassioned defense of American still life painting, Amy Marks Delaney’s reinvigoration of the exhibitions at Winterthur, and Harold Nelson and Bernard Jazzar’s article on American enamels, and we arrive where we started, with Americanness where it should be…as part of everything else.