Twenty Can't-Miss Art Events

From gallery shows to Kevin Spacey's planned murder, here's a collection of the season's best to come.

"Made in Hollywood: Photographs From the John Kobal Foundation"

December 12 — March 6 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196, or visit norton.org.

The Golden Age of Hollywood produced actual demigods. The silver screen imbued the stars with impossible glamour. But the studio system was no heaven: It overworked and disposed of actors and churned out movies in the brutal fashion of an assembly line. Perhaps that's why so many photos of stars and starlets, today considered iconic, had to be saved from the dump decades ago by film historian John Kobal, whose foundation is putting up a collection of his salvaged Hollywood prints in the Norton Museum. You'll know some of them: There's Rita Hayworth in a silken gown, expelling a jet stream of cigarette smoke, a fur coat slipping out of her hand onto the floor, a sly cast to her eyes. Others are less well-known: Particularly entrancing is a picture of Marilyn Monroe sitting on a cement curb, lighting a cigarette in a long holder, with a book, The Body Thinks, by her side. There are 94 fascinating photographs in all — original gelatin silver prints.

"STARE: The Pleasures of the Intensely Familiar and the Strangely Unexpected"

December 15 — March 13 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196, or visit norton.org.

It's a deficiency of the English language that there's no single word for "morbid curiosity," the compulsion that makes humans slow down their cars as they pass accident scenes. It's the pleasure of the intensely familiar and the strangely unexpected that is the fodder for "STARE," a collaboration between artists and photographers from the U.S., France, Germany, and Africa who aim for "the singular moment when we cannot look away and we must continue looking." So, appropriately enough, one of the works is a portrait of Michael Jackson.

Freud's Last Session

December 17 — February 6 at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-514-4042, or visit palmbeachdramaworks.org.

Connoisseurs of philosophical conversation will lap up Freud's Last Session, a play that pits Freud, the cancer-ridden psychologist and gazer into abysses, against C.S. Lewis, the earnest Christian apologist. The fictional tête-à-tête goes down in London — on the first day of WWII, no less. "I want to learn why a man of your intellect, one who shared my convictions, could suddenly abandon truth and embrace an insidious lie," Freud demands of Lewis — the "insidious lie" being God. There's no action in this play, just discourse — and they never do resolve whether God exists. But their back-and-forth about religion, love, good and evil, sex, and war is riveting material, leavened by the humor and wit of two of the 20th-century's smartest men.

"Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art"

January 29 — April 24 at the Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500, or visit moaflnsu.org.

Next year is the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo's ascent to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where he painted the world's most celebrated fresco. It's also the anniversary of the Catholic Church's establishment of the papal Swiss Guard, the Vatican Museums, and St. Peter's Basilica. To commemorate the occasion of its total institutional domination of Europe's art and culture, the Vatican is shipping many of its finest valuables in a traveling exhibition to the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, one of three locations to be graced with the church's 700-year-old paintings by Giotto and the baroque sculptures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The only thing better than this collection would be a tour of the Vatican vaults. Among the 200-plus priceless artifacts, many never before seen, are papal jewels, bone fragments of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and Pope John II's personal effects, along with swords, armor, and uniforms used by the papal Swiss Guards — plus, most stunningly, the compass and tools employed by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. The objects, as the MoA puts it, are meant to "illustrate the Catholic Church's impact on history and culture" — or rather, a narrow, whitewashed view of that impact, since a Giotto is no less a product of the Church than a witch-burning stake.

"To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures From the Brooklyn Museum"

February 12 — May 8 at the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196, or visit norton.org.

The ancient Egyptians believed that death could be overcome, but their afterlife was no cakewalk — it demanded rigorous preparation. The Egyptians held that the ka, a spiritual essence, required food and sustenance after death. And that was just the ka essence — the ba and kha essences had their own special needs. Before dead pharaohs could take up residence in the stars, they went through a postmortem spa treatment: Their carcasses were bathed in wine, stripped of all internal organs but the heart, mummified, and buried with buffets. Commoners had little chance of passing into the afterlife, unless the royals bestowed upon them the necessary accouterments. The inequality of the Egyptians' afterlife, and their rituals around life and death, are the focus of the Norton Museum's superb exhibition of more than 100 Egyptian treasures — including a real mummy — borrowed from the famous collection at the Brooklyn Museum. And from March 26 — July 17, the Norton also draws on the Brooklyn Museum to showcase ancient Chinese mummies and tombs.

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