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‘Guitar Heroes’ featured at the Met

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting the exhibition, "Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsman from Italy to New York," through July 4, which features approximately 50 stringed instruments produced by master luthiers John D'Angelico, James D'Aquisto and John Monteleone.

John Monteolone of Islip, N.Y., with his set of four archtop guitars called "Four Seasons."

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The exhibition, organized by associate curator Jayson Kerr Dobney, will focus on the work of these modern-day master craftsmen and their roots in the 400-year-old craft that was first brought to New York from Italy around the turn of the 20th century.

"The work of Italian luthiers, or makers of stringed instruments, has been highly desired since the 16th century, when lute makers in cities such as Venice and violin makers in places like Cremona supplied instruments for many of the most important personages in Europe. In subsequent centuries, makers such as the famed Antonio Stradivari continued this tradition. Stradivari, best known for his violins, built a great variety of stringed instruments, including both mandolins and guitars, one of which will be on loan to the exhibition," according to a museum release.

"By the end of the 18th century, Naples had become the dominant center for stringed-instrument production on the Italian peninsula, with makers there introducing innovations to both the mandolin and guitar. Later, in the decades around the turn of the 20th century, many skilled luthiers from southern Italy moved to New York as part of the mass immigration of the time. These makers set up workshops throughout the region, building traditional-style violins, guitars and, most importantly, mandolins, which experienced a tremendous popularity in America from the 1890s to the 1920s.

"Blue," an archtop guitar, by James D'Aquisto of Greenport, N.Y.

"A change in musical tastes by the late 1920s meant that many Italian-American luthiers were suddenly forced out of business, but the young John D'Angelico was among a small group who were able to transition to building archtop guitars, an instrument that combined elements of violin construction (carved top, f-holes) with the guitar, based on the models being produced at the time by the Gibson Guitar Company. The archtop guitar was especially popular with jazz musicians in the days before the electric guitar. D'Angelico quickly built a reputation for his high-quality, beautifully constructed guitars. "The tradition was carried forward by his apprentice James D'Aquisto and continues today with the work of the famed mandolin and guitar maker John Monteleone."

The exhibition will also feature stringed instruments from the museum's collection.

The Met has also produced its first app for this exhibition, which includes artist interviews, video and commissioned musical performances. The app can be downloaded for free from iTunes.

40 under 40

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will present "40 under 40: Craft Futures," at its Renwick Gallery from July 20, 2012, through Feb. 3, 2013.

All of the artists in "40 under 40" were born since 1972, the year the museum's contemporary craft and decorative arts program was established at the Renwick Gallery.

"When the Renwick Gallery opened in 1972, it introduced a new generation of artists to the American public," says Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in a release. "I am excited that we are poised now to introduce to the museum's community these 40 young artists who will inspire a new generation of craft enthusiasts and collectors."

According to the museum, the exhibit will investigate evolving notions of craft within traditional media such as ceramics and metalwork, as well as in fields as varied as sculpture, industrial design, installation art, fashion design, sustainable manufacturing and mathematics.

The selected artists include furniture designers and/or makers Vivian Beer, Daniel Michalik, Christy Oates, Jason Horvath and William Hilgendorf, and turner Matt Moulthrop.

The museum says it intends to acquire works by every artist in the exhibition for its permanent collection. The exhibition will tour nationally after it closes in Washington, D.C.


Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY 10028. Tel: 212-535-7710.

Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, 20006. Tel: 202-633-7970.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.

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