Handcuffs, late nineteenth or early twentieth century, metal. Sidney H. Radner Collection at The History Museum at the Castle, Appleton, Wisconsin.
Houdini: Art and Magic
On view now through September 4, 2011
- Included with Museum admission:
- $10 General
- $7 Seniors and Full-Time Students
- $5 Children 2–12
- FREE to Members and Children under 2
- FREE to all on Thursdays
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Magician, escape artist, and showman extraordinaire Harry Houdini (1874–1926) has remained an object of fascination for generations. Combining biographical and historical artifacts with contemporary art inspired by his physical audacity and celebrity, Houdini: Art and Magic explores Houdini as an individual and an enduring cultural phenomenon, documenting the period in American history when the young Jewish immigrant helped shape the cultural landscape and became an acknowledged mass-market star.
Featuring more than 150 objects—including film clips, stunning period posters, dramatic theater ephemera, rare photographs, original props (including a straitjacket, milk can, and Metamorphosis Trunk used by Houdini), and the work of select avant-garde artists—the exhibition reveals Houdini’s legacy as an iconic figure, both in his time and in ours, who has inspired artists today to reconsider his role as a daring persona.
More about Harry Houdini
Born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Harry Houdini was a Jewish immigrant to the United States. His first escape was with his family, when he was four, fleeing anti-Semitism in Central Europe and settling in Appleton, Wisconsin. The young Weisz quickly found the bright lights of the stage more appealing than the dim synagogue of his father's rabbinic profession. After running away to join the circus, he made his debut as trapeze artist "Ehrich, Prince of the Air" at age nine. The metaphor of escape is essential to Houdini's phenomenal success: resisting the title of magician, he favored "escape artist." At the height of his fame, Harry Houdini was a living icon.
Houdini: Art and Magic reveals how the magician's sustained acclaim rested on his use of common objects, especially his own body, to perform uncommon feats. His ability to imbue those feats with suspense and mystery, without the usual smoke and mirrors, distinguished him from other performers and imitators. He represented the human ability to escape and transform boundaries, both physical and metaphysical. He defied death in as many ways as he could imagine—and in public.
The same qualities that produced such delight, apprehension, fear, and excitement in Houdini's audiences at the turn of the twentieth century—the progression from the ordinary to the extraordinary, and the transcendence of mortal limitations—have likewise galvanized many avant-garde artists at the turn of the twenty-first century. Houdini: Art and Magic presents the art work of these contemporary artists—among them Matthew Barney, Jane Hammond, Vik Muniz, Deborah Oropallo, and Raymond Pettibon—in the context of Houdini's life and work.
HOUDINI: ART AND MAGIC IS ORGANIZED BY
THE JEWISH MUSEUM, NEW YORK, AND MADE POSSIBLE BY JANE AND JAMES STERN, THE SKIRBALL FUND FOR AMERICAN JEWISH LIFE EXHIBITIONS, AND OTHER GENEROUS DONORS.
THE EXHIBITION AND ITS RELATED PROGRAMS AT THE SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER ARE MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF:
Houdini: Art and Magic
March 1, 2011