Dogs Have Their Day At AKC Museum of the Dog In New York
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It's finally happened - New York City's world-famous museum scene has gone to the dogs. An art museum dedicated to our canine companions has opened in Manhattan. It's called the AKC Museum of the Dog. Karen Michel, who loves dogs, went there to sniff it out.
KAREN MICHEL, BYLINE: The AKC Museum of the Dog - AKC stands for American Kennel Club for you cat people - isn't so easy to find. What seems like the front door isn't - no, say, fire hydrant to mark the entrance and no dog bowls outside. That's because actual living dogs aren't welcome here.
ALAN FAUSEL: I don't see many around the Met or the Guggenheim.
MICHEL: That's Alan Fausel, the museum's executive director. You may have seen him on "Antiques Roadshow." He's been affiliated with New York art auction houses and once sold a pair of paintings of dogs playing poker for half a million dollars.
FAUSEL: But I don't know if I want to talk too much about dogs playing poker because that's not my job right now. My job is the museum.
MICHEL: And he takes this job very seriously. This is an art museum - no paintings or even socks in the gift shop of dogs playing cards. The museum itself has bronze and porcelain sculptures and paintings of canines through the ages, all but one of them realistic. And all the identifying labels are heavy on information about the breeds, with only the names of the artists, most of whom specialize in depicting dogs - purebreds as befits the name of the museum.
FAUSEL: Well, we have the modern work by Christine Merrill - one of our great contemporary artists - of Millie, the - George H.W. and Barbara Bush's springer spaniel, shown here on the south lawn of the White House.
MICHEL: Though I spend lots of time in art museums and with my dog, I wasn't familiar with most of the artists here. Most of these sculptors and painters actually specialize in depicting dogs.
FAUSEL: Maud Earl is one of the great dog painters of all time. Really, a number of her works - some of the things she's doing is just very different from other artists - very subtle things that she's doing with the paint and with the compositions.
MICHEL: OK, we're standing in front of her "Two Pointers On Point In A Field." What makes this notable?
FAUSEL: What's - it's sort of about the intensity of the gaze.
MICHEL: Standing raptly in front of a life-sized bronze dog are Susan Davis and Julie Fiechter. They're dog people - Belgian sheepdogs to be exact. Julie Fiechter is both a breeder and an artist who only paints dogs.
JULIE FIECHTER: There's a connection. You get a connection with a dog.
MICHEL: You don't get that with people?
FIECHTER: I just love dogs so much I'd rather concentrate (laughter) on the dogs.
SUSAN DAVIS: When you catch a dog in their element, the expression in the eyes and the freedom in the movement, there are no words.
MICHEL: And if you wonder what kind of canine expression you have in your eyes, there's a display near the entrance that'll help you find out.
OK, let's see. Start.
It takes your picture and tells you what breed you are.
I'm a Boston terrier - non-sporting group, friendly, bright, amusing. Well, I had earphones on. Maybe that has to do with it.
Yeah, must have been the earphones. What do you think, Yomo?
(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)
MICHEL: For NPR News, I'm Karen Michel.
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