The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Side Chair | 1815–20 | Attributed to John and Hugh Finlay (American) | Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore, Maryland | Maple | Purchase, Mrs. Paul Moore Gift, 1965 (65.167.9)
«Klismos» Chair | ca. 1937 | Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings (American, born England): Manufacturer: Peterson Studios | Wood, vellum | Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, 2001 (2001.207)
My name is Jared Goss and I’m a curator in the modern art department, and my topic is «Chic.»
I see this word being used time and time again, and yet no one seems to really be able to define what it means. I think everybody
loves chic things. I think everybody has a different idea of what that word means. If you look it up in the dictionary
it is defined as, «being fashionable,» and I think that’s a completely useless definition.
Something from classical antiquity can be enormously chic, but yet I don’t think that classical antiquity is in fashion at the moment.
Chicness is a completely subjective term, really it’s a question of one’s personal taste.
The Boldini portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt, her neck is totally bizarrely proportioned, and I think that’s what gives it a great deal of its stylishness. And there’s an air of nonchalance about it that to me makes it chic. On the other хэнд
the portrait of Empress Eugenie, she’s dressed up to look like Marie Antoinette. She isn’t Marie Antoinette, she wants to be Marie Antoinette, it’s a picture that strives, and it’s sort of like Elizabeth Taylor dressed up as Cleopatra.
The Guardi is pure fantasy. No place could be as chic as the landscape here. It could only exist as an atmospheric creation.
The Canaletto is almost like a photographic recreation. There’s no imagination, it’s a very prosaic image.
It’s all about this veneer of perfection. Inventiveness is a quality of chic. Virtuosity is often characteristic.
I think the Watteau is painted with enormous virtuosity, but it’s a throwaway virtuosity, you’re not aware of technique when you look at it.
Certain materials are chicer than others. Obscure materials like jasper, like alabaster
like rock crystal. And who would ever think to make
the king of the jungle out of delicate porcelain. Chic things at their best are
very understated. I particularly am drawn to classical urns. This one is especially beautiful because of its simplicity. It doesn’t have athletes runПing all over it, but it’s got this beautiful attenuated shape.
Lady’s Desk by E.-J.Ruhlmann, looks like, if you actually sat down to pen a letter on it, the legs would snap off.
This is a very perverse object, it really was created solely for its decorative effect.
I’m obsessed with mythological creatures—the sphinx, the chimera, the griffin—but there’s certain mythological creatures that are decidedly not chic.
Dragons, unicorns, maybe they’re geek chic, I don’t know. I can’t explain why unicorns aren’t chic, but they’re just not.
Devotional objects are rarely chic. They are designed with a specific purpose in mind and as a result they really shouldn’t be chic.
Cult objects are inherently chic. There’s something about it that makes it have a very special and somewhat limited appeal to a certain audience.
It’s a bit of an anomaly for a museum to have a room like this. It’s a complete creation of the curators who put it together. Visitors who came to the Museum could look at that room and say, «This is the way our ancestors lived, wasn’t it glorious, wasn’t it grand,» when in fact they lived in comparative squalor. I love the craziness of this totally fake vision of the past.
The Frank Lloyd Wright room is not chic, because everything about this room is founded on the basis of earnestness, truth to materials, simplicity of construction. It’s in-your-face integrity.
Of course, I think everybody wants to be chic. I don’t think that I necessarily want to find myself surrounded by fashion magazine portrayals of chic. It has
to be effortless. It has to be unsought. It just has to be.
And some things have it, some things haven’t got it.