If She’s a Spy, Shouldn’t She Know Our Name?

In my opinion, Homeland is one of the best new shows this season. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the series takes place in Washington, D.C., and the plot revolves around CIA officer Carrie Mathison played by Claire Danes as she attempts to thwart a terrorist plot against the United States. I know, it all sounds very 24, and that’s likely because the series share executive producers.

So what’s this got to do with the Phillips? During this week’s episode, Carrie questions a diplomat believed to be involved in the conspiracy. In a tense moment in which it looks like the bad guy might slip away under the protection of diplomatic immunity, Carrie warns how this would impact his favorite daughter, with whom he had enjoyed spending two days looking at his “beloved impressionists at the Phillips Gallery.”

Calling the museum the Phillips Gallery isn’t completely wrong; the Phillips has had several names since its founding. Initially it was the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery, then from 1948 until 1961 it was the Phillips Gallery, but since the ’60’s we’ve officially been The Phillips Collection. Though Danes plays a fictional character, I was surprised to hear a CIA agent using lingo from 50 years ago.

I’m curious–do you refer to the museum as the Phillips Gallery? Know anyone who does?

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

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

Amélie, Batman, and Gabriel Allon: My Favorite Phillips Pop Culture Moments

Flipping through the latest Crate and Barrel catalogue, I noticed under the tony leather ottoman a familiar looking book. In fact, it’s one I have at work and home: the exhibition catalogue for Calder Miro.

Crate&Barrel catalogue with Calder Miro exhibition catalogue, Spring 2011

I suspect I noticed this detail since it has personal meaning for me; I work at the Phillips and the first exhibition I gave tours of was Calder Miro. But I can’t get over how often I see the museum, the collection, and exhibitions mentioned in my life outside of work.

Here are some of my favorite pop culture references to the Phillips:

1. Amélie. This one of my favorite movies and, in my opinion, one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s best films (though Delicatessen is a close second).  Where’s the Phillips reference? Remember her neighbor, the man with the brittle bones who paints and repaints an artwork every year? Well—he was painting Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party!

2. Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. My dad loves mysteries, and he pointed out to me that Silva often refers to the Phillips in his books. In The Messenger, Silva introduces Sarah Bancroft, a fictional curator, who works at the museum and reappears in a number of other Gabriel Allon books. In his latest novel, The Rembrandt Affair, the art thief Maurice Durand muses how he once considered stealing Luncheon of the Boating Party from the museum’s walls!

Cover for Daniel Silva's The Messenger (Signet, 2006). Note the yellow highlight on page 141. It mentions the Phillips!

3. Batman—that’s right—Batman! I’m generally more of a Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight fan than the Tim Burton kind, but I’ll admit, I was excited when I rewatched the 1989 film and noticed a link to the Phillips. Remember the scene where Jack Nicholson’s Joker enters a museum with his crew and vandalizes artwork? He takes a brush and paints “Joker was here” on a reproduction of one of the Phillips’s paintings by Edward Hopper, Approaching a City.

So, I’m curious, have you seen the Phillips mentioned in popular culture? Please let me know by commenting on this post. I’m collecting these references in the hopes of writing “Part 2: Your Favorite Phillips Pop Culture Moments!”