Visions of the American West: Masterworks from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center
When: Starts Oct. 22. Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through March 4, 2012
Cheekwood glimpsed its potential for public appeal with the Chihuly show last year. Its scope and success inspired them to dream bigger this season. On Saturday, they unveil "Visions of the American West," a 182-piece exhibition that marks the grandest project in the museum’s history, aimed at families, art connoisseurs, gun collectors, history buffs, and everyone in between.
Rooms will offer jaw-dropping oil paintings by American masters like Remington and Bierstadt, along with relics of Native American and Western culture. Today kicks off Cheekwood’s first Wild West Weekend, a two-day celebration with kids’ activities and guided tours; don’t miss lectures by Bruce Eldredge, executive director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and Christine Brindza, curator of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art.
We got a sneak peek at the exhibit today, and it's fascinating: not just for the tension threaded throughout between the mixed blessing of westward expansion and the urge to romanticize the Old West, but for the potent, almost primal pull of all that cowboys-and-conquest iconography. (If you can resist the temptation to stand behind an authentic Gatling gun and sight down its barrel at whatever passes by, you're a better man than I.) From colossal Thomas Moran landscapes to Hoss Cartwright's 20-gallon hat, from Buffalo Bill Cody's Studebaker stagecoach to a tribal chief's cascading ceremonial headdress of eagle feathers — seen in real life, a garment of breathtaking majesty — it's a demonstration of the power of American myth-making and self-invention, writ on a scale as wide as the prairie.
Above: rare footage of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West troupe parading through New York in 1902.