In December 1962 Da Vinci's Mona Lisa set sail from Paris to New York for what was arguably the riskiest art exhibition ever mounted. The fragile icon traveled like a head of state, with armed guards and military surveillance, in a temperature-controlled vault. Masterminding the entire show was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. For eighty-eight charmed days, “Lisa Fever” swept the nation as nearly two million Americans attended exhibits in Washington, D.C. and New York. It was the greatest outpouring of appreciation for a single work of art in American history and the beginning of our nation's love affair with the arts.
Acclaimed biographer Margaret Leslie Davis “tells the tale in charming fashion” (USA Today), revealing a saga filled with international intrigue and the irresistible charm of Camelot and its queen.
The 1963 American exhibition of the Mona Lisa in New York City and Washington, D.C., was America's first blockbuster art show, and Davis recounts in numbing detail the negotiations, preparations, flummoxes and successes of the exhibit. The exhibition was masterminded by the diplomatically savvy Mrs. Kennedy, whose personal relationships with French cultural minister Andr Malraux and National Gallery director John Walker overcame negative French press and concerns over subjecting a fragile artwork to a transatlantic journey. Heavily guarded and packed in a custom strong box, the Mona Lisa traveled in a first-class cabin on the USS France. Though Walker planned the exhibit with military precision, the opening ceremony was chaotic, and the painting was badly hung and poorly lit. Although Davis's (Rivers in the Desert) tale of the inner workings of a major art exhibition has its moments, it's undermined by padding (like the text of an imagined interview of LaGioconda by a newspaper reporter with nothing to report ) and the author's fawning over Jackie. 16 pages of b&w photos.