Frick Museum exhibits a bevy of artistic artifacts


From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick Frick Art Museum 7227 Reynolds St. 412-371-600… From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick Frick Art Museum 7227 Reynolds St. 412-371-600 Runs through Feb. 3

It’s hard to make relevant the legacies of men whom most college kids simply consider old, rich, dead white guys.

In fact, most kids probably don’t even know who Henry Clay Frick was, other than that he was important enough to have his name slapped on a couple of buildings here in Pittsburgh.

For that reason alone – but few others – it is worth the 67A bus ride out to The Frick Art Museum to check out its new exhibit featuring a collection of fine antiques, some of which have never been shown before in the Pittsburgh area.

Titled “From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick,” the new exhibit highlights Frick’s love of collecting fine art and Morgan’s bottomless pocketbook to do so. Both men were great financiers of the Progressive Era and each had his own zeal in collecting pieces of European and Asian art essentially inaccessible to the rest of the American public.

For those with a piqued interest in history, the exhibit does well to trace the history of each individual object as well as place into historical context the importance of Morgan and Frick.

In the opening room, there is a political cartoon displayed on the first wall, printed in 1911, from Puck magazine. The cartoon caricaturizes Morgan holding a magnet of the U.S. dollar, pulling in expensive artifacts from all over the world.

The curatorial staff recreated the display and positioning of some of the artifacts directly from archival photographs of Frick in his own home. This allows the viewer to see the art exactly how Frick saw it, which makes the exhibition a bit more interesting.

For those intrigued by the opulence and detail of fine art, the display does not disappoint there either.

There are intricately painted porcelain Chinese vases, including a pair from the 18th Century for which Frick paid almost two million dollars. There is a gold statuette by an Italian sculptor from the early 16th century and many pieces of fine antique furniture, including a writing table by the French artist La Croix.

Pieces in the exhibit come from all over the Western world and China. As such, it is a veritable history lesson in the fine art of these places from the past 300 years, give or take.

But that’s the problem – most college students don’t want to take their weekend to go see another history lesson. Obviously aimed for an older demographic, the exhibit does little to make the importance of this work relevant to those who, perhaps, need to understand it the most.

If for nothing else, it’s worth the trip to marvel in the splendor of someone else’s riches – or, at least, furniture more beautiful than anything one would find in a dorm room. Ultimately, though, “From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick” requires more work on the part of the young, uninformed critic to appreciate it fully than most are willing to give.