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Thursday night, MoMA hosted an exclusive preview of “Exhibition on Screen,” with the screening of the film Matisse from MoMA and Tate Modern”.

The film is the first in a series from Fathom Events, in association with Arts Alliance and Seventh Art Productions, is bringing five of the world’s most acclaimed art exhibitions to more than 300 movie theatres around the country starting with “Matisse from MoMA and Tate Modern” on January 13th.
The film walks the viewer through the Henri Matisse – The Cut-Out exhibit at the Tate Modern in London which has since move to MoMa in New York. The exhibit itself is the largest, most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted with over 100 pieces borrowed from public and private collections around the globe.
The film itself is much more then showing art on museum walls and talking museum curators. It delves into Matisse’s life with the greatest focus on his last years in Vence, France during WWII, where he made his famous cut-outs; here are personal interviews with his granddaughter and former assistants that give you a taste of Matisse’s life and personality; and footage of Matisse himself creating the  cut-outs with this large textile sheers. The film also shows the extensive planning that went into setting up the New York show for its current exhibit “Matisse: The Cut-Outs” which wil forever change the way you look at how art is hung is a museum, as well as how MoMa conserved The Swimming Pool, which is on view for the first time in 20 year.
The film is an immersive look at the exhibit and will make you want to plan a trip to visit MoMa before the exhibit closes on Feb 10. To se it through a new lens.
We had a chance to talk with the Executive Producer and head of Seventh Art Productions Phil Grabsky before the screening.
The Source: How did art exhibit films for the cinema come about?
Grabsky: I’ve been making documentary films for about 30 years. About 15 years ago I started making art films for television. We were swimming against the tide, in fact it’s gotten worse. At the same time, I was making films about composers for the cinema and starting to see the cinema networks were becoming much more accessible to those types of films. It’s only 10 years ago that we had to have 35mm prints, 16mm prints, which we could never afford. We could barely afford to make the films. Then the cinemas started to put in DVD projectors and more recently we could distribute via satellite and now something like Matisse, every theatre gets a hard drive which is virtually the same (quality) as we have in the post-production suite.
You also had the growth of event cinema, which to give them credit, really started with The Met Opera. In 2009, having made lots of exhibition films for television, I went to The National Gallery and said “I want to do a big show for the cinema because that’s where these films should be seen.  They said, “You’re in luck because we have a Leonardo exhibit coming up. This will be the biggest Leonardo show ever in terms that we will have nine Leonardo’s in one building, which has never happened before history and will never happen again.” It took two years of work but we did do that film. To get into the cinemas, it had to be a live show on opening night. It played live in Brittan, then a recorded version in 30 countries.
Last year we did season one, which was “Manet from the Royal Academy”, “Munch from the Munch Museum and National Gallery Oslo” and “Vermeer from The National Gallery”. They all played in the United Stated in hundreds of cinemas and the audience reaction was fantastic.
The Source: What is the structure you use to show an exhibit in a new way even for those who may have seen it in person?
Grabsky: For us, the shows always have three elements: we show the exhibition as well as we can – talk with the curators, the historians or dances, we go behind the scenes to see how these things are put together and then a biography of the artists.
The Source: How did you get access with the museums to make these films?
 
Grabsky: One of the films in this season is a big fresh biography of Van Gogh in the Van Gosh Museum in Amsterdam. When I went to see them, which was about two and a half years ago, they said,” We have about 800 applications to film on our desks right now and we have to turn most of them down.” As you can imagine, we have to really get their confidence, which we have. They came back to us and said, “we think there needs to be a fresh new biography of Van Gogh. The film Vincent van Gogh – A New Way of Seeing from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam” is quite biographical.
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The Source: An art film can be very dry. How do you put that excitement in that people want from a cinematic entertainment experience?
Grabsky: We are working in a commercial cinema environment and nobody is coming to be lectured so everything from the poster to the trailer, all the way through, key, of course, is the film itself. How do you make that exciting? It’s partly story telling. The biography of Matisse took an enormous amount of time to make an 11 minute film about his life story. Each film, we have a different attitude toward. For Matisse, we commissioned a ballet dancer and choreographer from the Royal Ballet to do an interpretation; Corey Pines to do a jazz interpretation; its who we interview, the pace. My kids are 15 and 13, they cannot get bored.
Tickets for the “Exhibition on Screen” series are available online at www.FathomEvents.com and at participating theater box offices. These high-definition exhibitions on screen will be presented at select cinemas around the country through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network. For a complete list of theater locations, visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).
The exhibit Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs has been extended at MoMA in New York through Feb 10.