Roaring ’20s return to Long Island through Jazz Age exhibit

Roaring ’20s return to Long Island through Jazz Age exhibit
The Nassau County Museum of Art's "Anything Goes: The Jazz Age" exhibit, which runs through July 8, features a row of portraits by Man Ray. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

The Nassau County Museum of Art opened its latest exhibit Saturday, bringing the art, music, literature and feel of the 1920s to the Gold Coast.

Francis Cugat’s “Celestial Eyes” hangs alongside “The Great Gatsby” book cover. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

The “Anything Goes: Jazz Age” exhibit, which opened Saturday and will run through July 8, fills the Arnold and Joan Saltzman Fine Arts Building with art in every form, from live music being piped through an antique gramophone in the museum shop to the Francis Cugat painting that inspired the famous blue “The Great Gatsby” cover and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award trophy given to the best college hockey player annually.

“The show you have here is absolutely everything I’ve got in my heart and in my head,” Director Charles Riley said during the gallery reception Friday. “Everything I know about the jazz age is laid out in these rooms.”

When Riley, author of “Free as Gods: How the Jazz Age Reinvented Modernism,” was hired during the summer, he said he would work to bring a jazz age show to the museum.

Jazz music will be played through antique turntables throughout the exhibit. (Photo by Amelia Camurati)

The exhibition tracks the progress of modernism in art from cubism to neoclassicism. Composers such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter were taking syncopation and the blues to new heights at this time, and their records, sheet music, and piano rolls are on view and will be heard throughout the show on ’20’s-era turntables and player pianos.

As a Princeton University alumnus, Riley was exuberant discussing the trophy depicting the former Princeton hockey player who died during World War I while serving as a fighter pilot.

Cugat’s painting “Celestial Eyes” that dons most “The Great Gatsby” book jackets is also on loan to the museum on its first trip ever away from Princeton University.

The giants among the artists were Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Max Beckmann, Emil Nolde, Gaston Lachaise, Man Ray, Stuart Davis, Florine Stettheimer and Tamara de Lempicka, all of whom are represented in the show with major works, including a little-known Picasso drawing of the famous Jazz Age muse Sara Murphy on the beach at Antibes, as well as a spectacular Léger still life.

Art for the show was also curated from Heckscher Museum, Parrish Museum, Cradle of Aviation Museum and New York University Grey Art Gallery.

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