The Frick Collection has unveiled a large pastel mural commissioned from the Swiss-born artist Nicolas Party at the museum’s temporary home, Frick Madison in New York City.
This site-specific work was created in response to Rosalba Carriera’s Portrait of a Man in Pilgrim’s Costume—one of two eighteenth-century pastels by Rosalba bequeathed to the Frick by Alexis Gregory in 2020.
The installation features Rosalba’s superb portrait at the center of a three-wall mural designed by Party, as well as two new related works specially created by Party for this presentation.
On view from June 1, 2023, through the remainder of the Frick’s residency at the Breuer building (which ends March 3, 2024), this installation will inspire the Frick’s summer and early fall programming as well as a new publication.
The project, which also marks the 350th anniversary of Rosalba’s birth, is organized by Xavier F. Salomon, the Frick’s Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator. Salomon comments,
“When I first fell in love with pastels, some ten years ago, my research quickly led me to the queen of pastel, Rosalba. Her practice and love for the powdery sticks increased the popularity of the medium and were crucial to the development of the art form. I felt a powerful attraction to her pastels. Today, I like to think our approaches might not be all that different.”
Born in Venice, Rosalba Carriera (1673–1757) was celebrated throughout Europe during her lifetime for her portraiture. She was the preeminent portraitist in Venice in the mid-eighteenth century, at the same time the Venetian Carnival reached its zenith. During this period, foreign travelers flocked to Venice for the masked revelries that became synonymous with the city, and Rosalba’s studio was a popular stop for visiting foreigners, who often posed for her in their elegant Carnival costumes. Portrait of a Man in Pilgrim’s Costume (ca. 1730) is most likely one such work.
The sitter is possibly French, British, or German, but his identity remains unknown. With his black cape, staff, and jaunty tricorn hat, he is depicted as a pilgrim.
Party’s mural includes elaborate draperies that highlight the Rosalba portrait along with two additional pastel portraits he created in response to it.
These ornate draperies evoke the work of two other towering figures in European pastels—Jean- Étienne Liotard (1702–1789) and Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704–1788)—and echo the function of Venetian Carnival masks, which were designed to both conceal and reveal the features of their wearers. Party’s installation engages devices of disguise and disclosure, from masks to draperies to makeup (often produced with the same chemical components used to make pastel sticks).
The large-scale murals created by Party, whose primary medium since 2013 has been pastel, are ephemeral, lasting only for the duration of a specific exhibition at a unique location.
The historical nature of his practice aligns perfectly with the installation at Frick Madison, which has given the museum a unique opportunity to reimagine its permanent collection display, presented for the first time outside the domestic setting of the Gilded Age mansion at 1 East 70th Street.
This project is part of a series of initiatives in recent years that invite contemporary responses to the Frick’s holdings. Party’s installation not only will offer a fresh perspective on an important recent acquisition, but will further Frick Madison’s prompting of visitors to question the impact of site and setting on their perception of historic objects in the collection.
Funding for the installation is generously provided by The Christian Humann Foundation and the David L. Klein, Jr. Foundation, with the support of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.
ABOUT NICOLAS PARTY
Born in Lausanne in 1980, Party is a figurative painter who has achieved critical admiration for his familiar yet unsettling landscapes, portraits, and still lifes that simultaneously celebrate and challenge conventions of representational painting. His works are primarily created in soft pastel, which allows for exceptional degrees of intensity and fluidity in his depictions of objects both natural and manmade. Transforming these objects into abstracted, biomorphic shapes, Party suggests deeper connections and meanings. His unique visual language has coalesced in a universe of fantastical characters and motifs where perspective is heightened and skewed to uncanny effect. In addition to paintings, Party creates public murals, pietra dura, ceramics, installation works, and sculptures, including painted busts and body parts that allude to the famous fragments of ancient Greece and Rome. His brightly colored androgynous figures vary in scale from the handheld to the monumental and are displayed on tromp l’oeil marble plinths of differing heights that upend conventional perspective.
ABOUT THE FRICK COLLECTION AND FRICK MADISON
The historic buildings of The Frick Collection are currently closed for renovation and enhancement, their first comprehensive upgrade since the 1930s. For the duration of the renovation project, the collections of the museum and library remain accessible to the public at Frick Madison, the Marcel Breuer–designed building at 945 Madison Avenue that was once the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and most recently, The Met Breuer. Now in its final year, the temporary residency ensures that the public can continue to enjoy the Frick’s masterpieces, while also giving the museum a unique opportunity to reimagine its presentation of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts within a completely different context.