• Art of the Moment

    • The largest exhibition of medieval, renaissance and contemporary unicorns of all times invades Manhattan.

    A herd of unicorns lights up northern Manhattan / 

    With a renewed brilliance, unicorns are once again becoming part of the world we inhabit. If you feel like chasing one, you only have to take the New York subway to 190th street, where over forty of these elusive creatures have been gathered in Cloisters, the Met’s medieval branch.

    “Search for the Unicorn”, is a collective portrait of the magical animal, which is ferocious and kind, impossible and pure at once. To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Cloisters gathered their most delicate treasure: the seven unicorn tapestries that John D. Rockefeller acquired in 1922 for over a million dollars and then donated to the museum for its inauguration. These seven magnificent canvasses portray the hunt, capture and death of the animal, which is, as the legend says, trapped by a virgin damsel.

    Knit in wool, silk and silver strings, the tapestries also represent the Passion of Christ and the union of holy marriage (one of these was hung in the church where Mary Antoinette and Louis XVI were married, as if portending a tragedy). However, much of what is represented in the tapestries’ intricate embroideries remains a mystery for us all.  

    The medieval art curator, Barbara Drake Boehm, gathered paintings, sculptures, ceramics, tablecloths, a chair and other elements, most of them from Medieval Renaissance Europe, to accompany the majestic unicorns in the tapestries. After all, during medieval times the unicorn was real, but always foreign.

    The exhibition includes naturalist studies such as Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, from 1486. It is said that the unicorn depicted in the prints was seen in Mount Sinai and portrayed in the flesh. “Search for the Unicorn” also has a unicorn from Mughal, India; a folio from the early 1300s that depicts Alexander the Great fighting against a Habash monster, a mythical creature from Ethiopia believed to have been evolved from the rhinoceros, Jewish versions where the unicorn is captured and the objects employed in the Hebrew religious life of the fourteenth century. The exhibition also includes the first modern unicorn, sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini and Damien Hirst and Mark Dion’s (among others) contemporary representations.

    So it is that the unicorn becomes the driving force of art, the power that lets us communicate directly with the other world, magic and enlightening, and that on this occasion comes together in Manhattan to dazzle those who are lucky enough to witness it.

    Tagged: exhibitions, Unicorns, Manhattan, inspiration, Fantasy Lands