Discover the allure and significance of one of the world’s most precious metals this fall at the Gardner. Metal of Honor: Gold from Simone Martini to Contemporary Art explores how four artists, of different times and different places, use gold as an artistic strategy for innovation and honor. Works by Simone Martini (c. 1284-1344, Italy), whose novel compositions and masterful techniques were unequaled in Europe and well ahead of his time, are juxtaposed with works by three contemporary painters—Titus Kaphar (b. 1976, US), Stacy Lynn Waddell (b. 1966, US), and Kehinde Wiley (b. 1977, US). These artists reinterpret the style and medium of devotional imagery to explore the meaning of representation, commemoration, and adoration today.
The exhibition features stunning examples of Martini’s skilled manipulation of gold and the sacred symbolism it evokes, including the Gardner’s five-panel altarpiece and its smaller painting, Virgin and Child with Saints. These pieces are the first two works by the artist in the United States, a testament to our founder’s pioneering tastes. A new film explores goldwork techniques used in Martini’s time and today.
Just as Martini did for his sacred subjects, these three contemporary painters turn to gold in the portraits to elevate and honor the Black men and women they depict. The exhibition features two later works from Kaphar’s The Jerome Project, which is continued in the Fenway Gallery with works from the original 2014-15 series, three works from Wiley’s ICONIC series, and three figurative works by Waddell, who will also be featured on the Museum’s Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade.