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Astaire, Ally McBeal, My So-Called Life: Your Favorite Phillips Pop Culture Moments

July 14, 2011

Recently, I wrote about references to the Phillips in books, movies, and even furniture catalogues. Your comments and clues have inspired “Part 2: Your Favorite Phillips Pop Culture Moments.” Here are some more connections between the museum and the world of moving pictures:

1. Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, and The Band Wagon. As far as I know, neither Fred Astaire or Cyd Charisse were avid art collectors . . . which might explain why they stumble over some of the facts related to Degas’s Dancers at the Barre, a painting in The Phillips Collection. In the film, Astaire plays Tony Hunter, a dancer/singer/movie star with an amazing art collection; you can catch a glimpse of it in this clip. Included in his fictional collection is the Phillips painting, which Charisse calls a “very early” Degas and pretends to read the date as 1877.

Degas’s process for creating Dancers at the Barre is the subject our upcoming fall exhibition. Scholars believe that he actually started the painting in 1884 and completed it about 16 years later, late in his career.

2. Ally McBeal. The fictional law firm Cage & Fish famously featured unisex bathrooms where the characters sought privacy (but got just the opposite) or channeled their inner Barry White. Where’s the Phillips reference? Hanging on the wall of the bathroom is a reproduction of Adolph Gottlieb’sThe Seer (1950). You can catch a glimpse of it about six seconds into this clip.

3. My So-Called Life. Was there ever a better show capturing the awkwardness of being a teenager? Have another look at the pilot and travel back to the mid-’90s when the Cranberries filled the airwaves, flannel shirts were all the rage, and apparently, reproductions of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party operated as ideal dining room décor!

*Bonus* As if that weren’t exciting enough, Klaus Ottmann, director of the Center for the Study of Modern Art and curator at large, was in the 2009 film Breaking Upwards. Though uncredited, he appears in a scene that takes place in his wife’s Chelsea gallery in New York. He also had a small, nonspeaking role playing an East German border guard in the 1982 German movie Der Mann auf der Mauer  (The Man on the Wall), filmed in West Berlin and directed by Reinhard Hauff.

On the right is Klaus Ottmann in a scene from Breaking Upwards

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