Press Release

PAFA Presents Leah Modigliani: The City in Her Desolation

PAFA Presents Contemporary Art Installation

Leah Modigliani: The City in Her Desolation

June 8 - August 23, 2017

What power decides why one city is allowed to stand, but not another; why one body is banned from civic space, but not another?  

PHILADELPHIA (May 30, 2017) - The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) presents Leah Modigliani: The City in Her Desolation, on view June 8 - August 23 in PAFA's Morris Gallery, 118 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia. In this installation, Modigliani explores the history of two works in PAFA's 19th century sculpture collection by examining the changing role of civic engagement through culture.

PAFA's Curator of Contemporary Art, Jodi Throckmorton, notes, "The fate of all cities, and the fragile promise of the social contract of equality for all, is the subject of Modigliani's work, which tracks the banishment of two important works of art - and the eventual reclamation of one."

Based on research of the archives that Modigliani conducted over the past year in PAFA's Study for the Center of the American Artist, she created six new artworks inspired by the fates of two neoclassical figurative sculptures: William Wetmore Story's Jerusalem in Her Desolation (1873) and Giovanni Battista Lombardi's Deborah (1873). Both unveiled to great fanfare at the opening celebration of PAFA's Historic Landmark Building in 1876, these female personifications of the classical world were symbolic of the imagined destiny of the United States as an ascending power rising from the rubble of history.

By 1949, however, aesthetic tastes had changed and the works were marked for de-accessioning. Jerusalem was relocated to a park in Frazer, Pennsylvania, while Deborah was destroyed in 1950 after a new owner could not be found. Although too late to save Deborah, in 1972 PAFA embarked upon a years-long process of reacquiring Jerusalem. Story's sculpture finally returned in 1986, underwent restoration to repair decades of damage from being outdoors, and in 1992 was placed back on display where it remains today.

"I found the narrative of Jerusalem and Deborah so rich in contemporary meanings: female personifications of justice and faith banished or destroyed; ethical questions about the destruction of artworks; the role of visual culture in mediating trauma and politics; the individual's attempt to take responsibility for a collective wrong, and so much more," Modigliani states. "What power decides why one city is allowed to stand, but not another; why one body is banned from civic space, but not another?"

Leah Modigliani, currently Artist-in-Residence at PAFA, is both artist and art historian, studying the history of the avant-garde and its relationship to political critique, the history of conceptual art, social dissent since 1968, and feminist politics of visual representation and discourse. Her creative and scholarly interventions employ the methods and languages of a variety of disciplines including fine arts, art history, critical theory, cultural studies, geography, and anthropology.

The opening reception will be on June 7, 6 - 8 p.m.


SEI is the exclusive Presenting Sponsor of the Morris Gallery Exhibition Program.

About PAFA
Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education with a world-class permanent collection of American art.


About the Morris Gallery Program
The Morris Gallery program, inaugurated in 1978 to present the work of living artists in the Philadelphia region, expanded during its over 30-year run to show work by some of the most influential artists of the time, both inside and outside of Philadelphia. Some well-known examples include Robert Ryman, Vik Muniz, Nan Goldin, Laylah Ali, and Virgil Marti, among many others. The program continues today as a showcase for a diverse array of emerging and mid-career artists from the Philadelphia region and beyond that reflects art-making today.


About SEI
SEI (NASDAQ:SEIC) is a leading global provider of investment processing, investment management, and investment operations solutions that help corporations, financial institutions, financial advisors, and ultra-high-net-worth families create and manage wealth. As of March 31, 2017, through its subsidiaries and partnerships in which the company has a significant interest, SEI manages, advises or administers $779 billion in hedge, private equity, mutual fund and pooled or separately managed assets, including $297 billion in assets under management and $478 billion in client assets under administration. For more information, visit
Last Updated
May 30, 2017 - 10:34 AM

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.