“From the daring, abstract ‘nocturnes’ of 19th-century painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler to the bold young Robert Rauschenberg exhibiting an erased Willem de Kooning as art, artists have long been catalysts for change and rebellion,” reads the intro to Rabble-Rousers: Art, Dissent, and Social Commentary from the Heckscher Museum of Art’s Permanent Collection. Singling out artists who “challenged traditional aesthetics, politics, and social norms” the show features prints by “Whistler, Rauschenberg, John Sloan, Larry Rivers, and May Stevens; photographs by Larry Fink and Garry Winogrand; and paintings by William Beard and George Grosz, among others.” Rabble-Rousers will be shown at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, Long Island, December 7, 2013-March 16, 2014.
In 1920, coal mining multimillionaire August Heckscher donated 185 works of art to be housed in a new Beaux-Arts building located in (where else) Huntington’s Heckscher Park. It was a charmed existence for the beau monde in Huntington before World War II. Henry Clay Frick, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Theodore Roosevelt owned large estates along the North Shore. Today, visitors can also roam the rooms of the Vanderbilt Museum (the 1936 Spanish Revival Mansion built for sailor and yachtsman William K Vanderbilt II, the great-grandson of railroad and shipping magnate), and Coindre Hall, a medieval French château constructed in 1912 for pharmaceutical magnate (and race car enthusiast) George McKesson Brown. Heckscher, Vanderbilt and Brown were all rabble-rousers too, if you go by the definition that a rabble-rouser stirs up the passions of the masses. Even if they’d have rather the masses keep quiet. Anyway, now you can go into their houses.