Conservation of The Blue Boy Completed

Posted in exhibitions, museums by Editor on March 11, 2020

Press release from The Huntington (27 February 2020) . . .

The conservator removed dirt trapped underneath the varnish (as seen on the cotton swab), which clouded the clarity of Gainsborough’s masterful brushwork (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens).

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced today that the extensive 18-month initiative to analyze, conserve, and restore The Blue Boy (ca. 1770) by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) is complete, and the iconic painting will go back on view Thursday, March 26, in the Thornton Portrait Gallery. With much of the process carried out in public view during the Project Blue Boy exhibition (22 September 2018 — 30 September 2019), the major undertaking involved high-tech data gathering and analysis as well as more than 500 hours of expert conservation work to remove old overpaint and varnish, repair and reattach the lining and other structural materials, and inpaint areas of loss as a result of flaking and abrasion. Now, minute shades of color, fine brushstroke textures, and nuanced details of the famous figure of a young man in a blue satin costume, as well as the landscape in which he stands, are once again legible and closer to what Gainsborough intended.

The Blue Boy has been a star of The Huntington’s collections since we opened as the first old masters museum in Los Angeles in 1928, when visitors flocked to see this magnificent work of 18th-century British portraiture,” said Huntington President Karen R. Lawrence. “Now the painting is again the center of a joyous occasion, as we celebrate the completion of a robust and thoughtful conservation project. A well-attended exhibition showcasing the conservator at work, more than 100 public talks, and the convening of experts in the field all helped to define Project Blue Boy as an ambitious and successful project with an educational focus.”

More than 217,000 people visited the Project Blue Boy exhibition. Christina O’Connell, The Huntington’s Mary Ann and John Sturgeon Senior Paintings Conservator and leader of the project, gave about 170 gallery talks, emphasizing the guidelines and code of ethics in the field of conservation as she responded to visitor questions on topics ranging from the history of the painting, to details of the technical study, to the structural elements of the work.

The conservation project involved slowly removing several uneven layers of dirt and discolored varnish with small cotton swabs to reveal Gainsborough’s original brilliant blues and other pigments. Then, with tiny brushes, the artist’s brushstrokes were reconnected across the voids of past damage as part of the inpainting process.

As O’Connell worked on the painting, she became intimately aware of Gainsborough’s every brushstroke. “It’s been an incredibly deep professional experience,” she said. “Conservation work is very much a process of discovery. I’ve not only had a view of the painting at the microscopic level, but I was also able to observe each stroke as the true colors of Gainsborough’s palette were revealed from underneath many layers of dirt and discolored varnish.” During the process, O’Connell discovered that although Gainsborough painted The Blue Boy on a recycled canvas (as revealed in earlier X-rays), he made considerable use of a complex network of paint layers and pigments to create a painting that truly showed off his skills.

“We have to remember that this painting wasn’t commissioned, but rather was produced by Gainsborough for the express purpose of showing off his prowess at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1770—where it would be seen next to the work of his rivals,” said Melinda McCurdy, The Huntington’s associate curator for British art and co-curator of Project Blue Boy. “Gainsborough intended it to grab attention, and conservation work has revealed the incredible technical skill he brought to this showpiece.”

Other discoveries made over the course of the project, which was supported by a grant from Bank of America as a part of its global Arts Conservation Project, include one relating to the painting’s lining. After observation and analysis, conservators determined that the lining adhesive for The Blue Boy correlated to a historic recipe for a paste made of rye flour and ale. O’Connell enlisted the help of a food historian to recreate the paste with modern ingredients to construct a mock-up in order to observe how the materials for the lining behaved. More discoveries should be forthcoming once the copious data that was collected during the project is analyzed. Information was gathered via X-radiography, infrared reflectography, cross-section microscopy, and macro X-ray fluorescence scanning. The results of the analysis will take several more months.

Conservation was funded by a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project.  Additional generous support for this project was provided by the Getty Foundation, Friends of Heritage Preservation, and Haag-Streit USA

AGO Acquires Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom

Posted in museums by Editor on March 3, 2020

Unknown artist, Portrait of a Lady, Three Quarter Length, Holding an Orange Tree Flower, mid-18th century, oil on canvas, 80 × 56 cm
(Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, purchase, 2020, 2019/2437)

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Press release (25 February), from Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario:

If you’ve read about the AGO’s recent acquisitions, then you know it’s a top priority of ours to acquire dynamic and captivating works that will both strengthen and diversify our collection. With this in mind, we jumped at the opportunity to purchase the beauty you see pictured above. And what’s even more exciting is that it comes to us with a fascinating mystery to uncover.

Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom is a striking and mysterious portrait that commands your attention. Its central figure is a young woman wearing a luxurious blue silk gown, woven with intricate lace trim. Around her neck and wrists are elegant pearls, which complement her bejewelled drop earrings. She is aware of her own radiance, smizing with piercing brown eyes and regal posture, clasping the front of her gown while presenting an orange tree blossom.

Though the subject’s presence is arresting and undeniable, her identity, as well as that of the artist who painted her, are currently unknown. Scholars agree that Portrait of a Lady is from the mid-1700s, painted by a male artist who was born and trained in Europe. With so many unanswered questions, we are left wondering: Who was this painter? What is the location of this painting and what brought him there? Who was his stunning subject?

Very few portraits of Black people by European artists survive from this time period. The painting raises important questions about the subject’s status within the transatlantic slave trade. While her opulent clothing and the mere existence of the portrait suggest that she was a free woman, her ancestors and even one of her parents may have been enslaved.

We continue to do research to find out more about her story. In the meantime, the presence of this figure in the European galleries reminds us that history is complex and diverse, composed of countless stories told from many perspectives. For the AGO, this acquisition is an important step toward acknowledging the rich and vital presence of people of colour in the history of Europe and its art. Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom is currently on view on Level 1 in Frank P. Wood Gallery (Gallery 123).

Mei Mei Rado Named Costume & Textile Curator at LACMA

Posted in museums by Editor on February 6, 2020

Starting this month at LACMA:

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has appointed Mei Mei Rado as the new Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles. Dr. Rado received her M.A. from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center in New York. She specializes in the history of both Western and Eastern Asian textiles and dress from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, with a focus on intercultural exchanges. She is currently working on her book manuscript The Empire’s New Cloth: Western Textiles at the Eighteenth-Century Qing Court, which was supported by a postdoctoral grant from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Dr. Rado was awarded the J. S. Lee Memorial Fellowship for Chinese Art at The Palace Museum in Beijing, a Predoctoral Fellowship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Freer/Sackler Galleries (now the National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian Institution). Her contributions to exhibitions and exhibition catalogues include Interwoven Globe: Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500–1800, and China: Through the Looking Glass (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Shanghai Glamour: New Women, 1910s–40s (Museum of Chinese in America, New York); Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (The Smart Museum, The University of Chicago); The 1930s: Elegance in an Age of Crisis (Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology, New York); and Far-Reaching Elegance: Magnificent Chinese Export Silk (China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou). From 2017 to 2019, she taught at The School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons School of Design in New York.

A selection of Dr. Rado’s publications can be found on her Academia site. Her forthcoming article “Fabric of Light, Surface of Displacement: Lamé and Its Shine in Early Twentieth-Century Fashion” will appear in an edited volume Materials, Practices and Politics of Shine in Modern Art and Popular Culture (Bloomsbury).

Getty Acquires Wright’s ‘Two Boys with a Bladder’

Posted in museums by Editor on January 22, 2020

Press release (17 January 2020) from The Getty, following the announcement of its intentions last June:

Joseph Wright of Derby, Two Boys with a Bladder, ca.1769–70 (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum).

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that the acquisition of Two Boys with a Bladder will proceed, following the granting of an export license by the Arts Council of England.

“We are very pleased that an export license for Two Boys with a Bladder by Joseph Wright of Derby has been granted. This important work has not been on public view since the 18th century and is therefore virtually unknown to scholars,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We look forward to sharing this spectacular painting with our visitors and scholars in the context of our other 18th-century collections. Two Boys with a Bladder counts among Joseph Wright of Derby’s most accomplished nocturnal subjects and reflects the experimental interest of artists and scientists of the Enlightenment. It joins two other works by the artist at the Getty.”

The recently rediscovered painting depicts two young boys, boldly lit by a concealed candle, inflating a pig’s bladder. In the 18th century, animal bladders served as toys, either inflated and tossed like balloons or filled with dried peas and shaken like rattles. While bladders appeared frequently in 17th-century Dutch painting they were depicted less frequently in 18th-century Britain. It was a motif that Wright made his own; the elaborate costumes that the boys wear are of the artist’s own invention, in the style of British ‘fancy pictures’. The dramatic pictorial effect created by the concentrated candle light within a dark interior setting was in vogue in much of Europe in the late 16th and 17th centuries, but it was not until the 18th century that English artists picked up the theme, Wright being among the first to do so.

The previously unpublished masterpiece is Wright’s earliest known treatment of the subject. Unseen in public since the 18th century, the painting forms part of a sequence of dramatic nocturnal paintings that includes The Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768, National Gallery, London) and An Academy by Lamplight (1770, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven). It was painted as a pendant to Two Girls Dressing a Kitten by Candlelight, which is now at Kenwood House in London.

Two Boys with a Bladder is a remarkable discovery that sheds new light on Wright’s work at the most important moment of his career,” said Davide Gasparotto, senior curator of paintings at the Getty Museum. “It is a compelling example from his most important and successful genre, candlelight paintings. Moreover, Wright’s innovative experimentation with the use of metal foil embodies a sense of technical and scientific exploration that typifies the intellectual milieu of the midlands on the eve of the industrial revolution. It is a major addition to the Getty’s holdings of art from the English golden age.”

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Note (added 22 January 2020, and slightly modified 23 January) — Another relevant painting by Wright not mentioned in the the announcement is The Huntington’s Two Boys by Candlelight, Blowing a Bladder, just twenty-five miles away. In comparison, the Getty’s picture is all the more impressive, but the San Marino painting is notable all the same. CH

Nationalmuseum Acquires Two Self-portraits by Joseph Ducreux

Posted in museums by Editor on November 12, 2019

Press release (8 November 2019) from Sweden’s Nationalmuseum:

Nationalmuseum has acquired two physiognomic self-portraits painted by the French artist, Joseph Ducreux, one of the foremost artists at the court of Louis XVI. Ducreux’s portraiture exhibits strong influences of naturalism and is characterized by the artist’s ability to capture a specific facial expression or emotional state. He shares this ability with the Austrian artist, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt.

Joseph Ducreux (1735–1802) was likely a student of Maurice Quentin de la Tour (1704–1788). The real launch of Ducreux’s career came when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Marie Antoinette (1755–1793). In order to discover how the future French crown princess looked, the artist was sent to Vienna in 1769 with a commission to depict her. The result was so successful that Ducreux was subsequently made a baron and was given the title of ‘premier peintre de la reine‘.

Joseph Ducreux, ‘Self-Portrait, Silence’, 1790s, oil on canvas (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 7495; photo by Anna Danielsson).

Because of this closeness to the royal family, and more particularly, the queen, Ducreux found himself in a perilous situation in the years immediately following the start of the French Revolution in 1789. He therefore took up residence in London during a period some time in 1791. There are few facts about Ducreux’s activities during this brief period, but we know that he exhibited portraits and self-portraits at the Royal Academy of Arts, including two that were called Surprise mixte [sic] with Terror and Surprise, respectively. Most likely, one of the portraits that Nationalmuseum has now acquired was a later version of the first of the two aforementioned works that had been exhibited in London. The facial expression of the artist is permeated with exaggerated surprise mixed with terror, as shown in his large eyes, gaping mouth and dramatically extended right hand. There is no doubt that these works are self-portraits, but their titles, which describe emotions, such as surprise, show that they were also intended to focus on physiognomy as a phenomenon, in itself.

The fact that Ducreux could return to Paris so soon, was most likely due to his acquaintance with Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), the foremost artist of the Revolution. By August 1791, he once again exhibited his work in the Salon in Paris. One example is a work that the catalogue calls Silence, which is currently in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas. Ducreux’s expressive oil portraits, however, were met with both praise and scorn, but regardless garnered a great deal of notoriety, which, in turn, increased the demand for additional works of this sort. Nationalmuseum’s Silence is probably a later version by Ducreux of the work exhibited at the Salon. The artist is portrayed with a powdered wig, a top hat and a brown coat. As often was the case, some of the powder is seen on the artist’s shoulders and coat collar. The portrait depicts his upper body in profile, but the head is turned to the viewer. His right index finger is lifted to his mouth to clearly communicate the need to keep silent.

Joseph Ducreux, ‘Self-Portrait, Surprise’, 1790s, oil on canvas (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 7496; photo by Anna Danielsson).

Ducreux’s interest in physiognomy reflects his time and can more generally be indicative of the favourite scientific theme of the Enlightenment. By combining an expressly physiognomic perspective with a self-portrait, this work may well be viewed as having laid the foundation for new directions in portraiture. This is in no way any kind of caricature, but neither does it any longer have anything of the formal and serious nature of traditional portraiture. Ducreux has attempted to capture in himself, facial expressions that we can see every day, on people, in general. It is perhaps not at all surprising that one of Ducreux’s self-portraits of this type has now become a popular on-line meme, which, in itself, shows this artist’s timeless playfulness and desire to experiment

“Nationalmuseum is happy to have been able to acquire these exceptional works, which are so characteristic of Joseph Ducreux’s self-portraits,” declares Daniel Prytz, curator at Nationalmuseum.

The newly acquired portraits by Ducreux can now be viewed, in the Museum’s presentation of its collections in one of the recently remodelled small rooms with 18th-century art, which now includes portraits from the period of the French Revolution.

Nationalmuseum receives no state funding with which to acquire design, applied art and artwork; instead the collections are enriched through donations and gifts from private foundations and funds. The acquisition has been made possible through a contribution by the Sophia Giesecke Foundation.

Reopened: August the Strong’s State Apartments and Porcelain Cabinet

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on October 3, 2019

Audience Room of the State Apartments of Dresden’s Residenzschloss (28 September 2019)
Photo by Oliver Killig

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Press release (26 September 2019) from the SKD:

August the Strong’s Royal State Apartments (Paraderäume) and the Porcelain Cabinet in the Turmzimmer (Tower Room) were opened on Saturday, 28 Saturday 2019, marking the culmination of the restoration of Dresden’s Residenzschloss, which started in 1986. The prestigious suite of rooms in the west wing—conceived by the Elector-King personally as a ceremonial centrepiece of his residence—takes visitors to the pinnacle of ostentatious princely splendour on their tour of the museum palace.

Together with original artworks from several of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden’s museums, the painstakingly restored rooms form a unique ensemble of museum-grade rooms. The harmonious interplay of wall textiles, paintings, precious ornamental furniture and porcelains, magnificent robes of state, and August the Strong’s royal insignia let visitors experience both the standard of European artistry in the early 18th century and the ceremonial court culture.

Porcelain Cabinet in the Tower Room of Dresden’s Residenzschloss (28 September 2019); photo by Oliver Killig.

August the Strong opened the State Apartments exactly 300 years ago, in September 1719, to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Friedrich August and daughter of the Emperor and Archduchess Maria Josepha of Austria. The construction and craft works continued from March 1717 to 2 September 1719—the day on which the Habsburgian daughter-in-law of August the Strong and his wife Christiane Eberhardine was welcomed in the new staterooms. Not only were the nine rooms of the State Apartments built in the west wing to mark this occasion, the entire second floor of the palace was renovated. The resulting ceremonial, prestigious suite began at the Englische Treppe (English Staircase) and led on through the Riesensaal (Hall of the Giants) and the Turmzimmer (Tower Room) to the west wing.

It housed the most important ceremonial and splendid rooms in the residence, enabling the Prince-Elector of Saxony to prove that his palace was truly the palace of a king, rivalling the residences of other European kings and the Emperor. The interiors grow increasingly luxurious from room to room: Whether in the corner state room to the two antechambers, to the audience chamber and the state bedroom, the rooms seemed to outdo one another in the number and splendour of the candelabras, wall textiles and furniture. This prestigious suite combined touches of the ceremonial style of the French royal court at Versailles with that at the imperial court of Vienna, whereby the state bedroom in the Viennese tradition was used as the most private ceremonial venue, and not for the opulent lever, the morning reception, as was the case under Louis XIV.

Johann Joachim Kaendler, Johann Friedrich Eberlein, Elementvase Luft aus dem fünfteiligen Satz der Elementvasen, Meissen, 1742
(Porzellansammlung der SKD; photo by Adrian Sauer).

In 1997, the Saxon State Government decided that the ceremonial rooms, which had been completely destroyed in the Second World War, should be rebuilt as far as possible. The present meticulous restoration of the rooms to their historic, 18th-century condition is an immense achievement by Staatsbetriebe Sächsische Immobilien- und Baumanagement (Saxon Real Estate and Construction Management, SIB) and many regional and international artists and craftspeople. Comprehensive records allowed the rooms to be restored as closely as possible to the original. For instance, Louis de Silvestre’s monumental ceiling paintings were recreated based on colour photographs taken in 1942/1944. The preserved baroque ornamental textiles of the audience chamber with pilasters adorned in intricate gold embroidery and trim were restored and the crimson silk velvet was reproduced to cover the entire wall surface with ‘thread-true’ recreations based on a fragment. Lost tapestries were replicated based on comparable examples. Overall, 300 craft firms from around Europe that have preserved the traditional skills worked together on this project.

Thanks to timely removal for safekeeping, many of the precious items of furniture from the early 18th century and the following decades, which were in the ceremonial rooms’ inventory, were preserved. They had been stored by the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) since the end of the Second World War: the throne, rare silver furniture from Augsburg, French ornamental furniture using the Boulle marquetry technique. Paintings and overdoors by Louis de Silvestre from Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister now complete the current restoration project. As surviving historical pieces, the preserved originals tell the tale of the original interior and the rooms’ eventful past.

In four other rooms that, like the restored State Apartments, are in the west wing, exhibits from the Rüstkammer (Armoury) showcase the overwhelming splendour with which August the Strong staged his own persona and power. The two retirades (private refuges)—a suite of rooms leading from the corner state room to the state bedroom—house an exhibition on the ‘Royal Wardrobe’ of the Elector-King. The robes of state reflect his biography and significant events in his reign. Precious royal baroque fashions from the baroque period share space with August the Strong’s favourite weapons and diplomatic gifts received from the kings of Europe and the Czar. The picture cabinets located behind the audience chamber are dedicated to his royal majesty August the Strong and his son Augustus III. Besides the royal insignia of the Saxon-Polish union, the figurine dressed in the coronation regalia of 1697 with the face of August the Strong from the life mask of 1704 is particularly impressive. Other royal artefacts, like the Saxon electoral hat and the ceremonial royal flags and swords of Poland and Lithuania, reveal the European dimension of the linked Saxon and Polish monarchy.

The route to the State Apartments also takes visitors through the 100 m² Turmzimmer (Tower Room) in Hausmannsturm of the Residenzschloss. At the time of the wedding, August the Strong displayed his state treasury in the form of the exceptionally precious monumental silver vessels on pedestals and wall shelves there. In the 1730s under August III, the silver buffet was turned into a porcelain cabinet that went on to serve as a prominent showroom for the electoral and royal porcelain collection for 200 years. Now hosting a selection of porcelain, the recreated room has regained its historical function. It houses unique masterpieces from the manufactory in Meissen, like the Johann Joachim Kaendler’s outstanding, highly sculptural vases depicting the elements, returning to their original home after more than 75 years in the depot.

Eva-Maria Stange, State Minister for Higher Education, Research and the Arts: “Restoring the State Apartments to their resplendent former glory, gives the Residenzschloss its soul back. Visitors to the rooms get a great impression of life in the royal court. We must also remember that the principality and its prosperity were built on the work and hardships of the miners who extracted the silver that made Saxony rich, among other things. Even at that time, the economy, science and the arts stimulated one another, creating the admirable halo effect that is still maintained today.”

Marion Ackermann, Director General of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden: “When opened in 1719, August the Strong’s State Apartments and the Tower Room were the expression of an axiomatically European understanding of culture. Influences from many European countries inspired the efforts to attain perfection and outstanding artistic achievements. 300 years later, we can experience this phenomenon again: It was only the cooperation of many extraordinary Saxon and European craftspeople, artists and restorers, who still master the ancient techniques at a high level that made restoration of the State Apartments, and the Tower Room as a Porcelain Cabinet possible. With respect and admiration, I would like to thank everyone who worked on the project under the guidance of Staatsbetrieb Sächsisches Immobilien- und Baumanagement and collaborated to complete this unique architectural masterpiece.”

Dirk Syndram, Director of Grünes Gewölbe and Rüstkammer: “Nowhere else can you feel as close to August the Strong as in the State Apartments. And no other rule of baroque Europe left behind so many, so magnificent and so personal material testimonies to his time. These many originals make the splendour with which August the Strong surrounded himself directly tangible.”

The Frick Pittsburgh Names Elizabeth Barker as Director

Posted in museums by Editor on September 30, 2019

Press release (26 September 2019) from The Frick Pittsburgh:

The Board of Trustees of The Frick Pittsburgh announced the appointment of Elizabeth E. Barker, Ph.D., as the museum’s next Executive Director. The appointment as the institution’s fourth executive director, and the first woman, follows a nine-month national search, which began in early 2019, following the announcement of former Executive Director Robin Nicholson’s departure to lead the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia. Judith Hansen O’Toole has served as Interim Executive Director since February 2019. Barker will assume her position on December 1, 2019.

Barker brings to Pittsburgh twenty-five years’ leadership and curatorial experience at renowned museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, and Yale Center for British Art. During her tenure at the Met, from 1994 until 2005, where she served as Associate Curator of Drawings and Prints, Barker led efforts to digitize collections and engage new audiences. Her 2001 William Blake retrospective featuring the Met’s first audio tour for families with children and a reading and concert performance by the writer and musician Patti Smith became one of the year’s most highly attended exhibitions.

A specialist in British Art of the eighteenth century with a Ph.D. in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and B.A. from Yale, Barker’s publications have addressed a range of art, from Italian Renaissance to contemporary art.

David Burstin, Chair of The Frick Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees said, “Barker distinguished herself throughout the interview process with her extensive background at a variety of cultural organizations, scholarship, track record of innovation and creativity, dedication to inclusiveness, and enthusiasm for the position—and for the city of Pittsburgh. Her exceptional attributes and experience—particularly her career-long focus on increasing access and inclusion—are perfectly aligned with the museum’s needs. We are pleased she will bring her talents and energy to lead The Frick Pittsburgh into the future, while building on the superb work of Judy O’Toole, the museum’s previous directors, and our dedicated staff.”

“I am delighted to be joining The Frick Pittsburgh and honored to be able to build on the remarkable work of my predecessors—founding director DeCourcy McIntosh and his successors, Bill Bodine and Robin Nicholson—as well as the important contributions of interim director Judy O’Toole, the dedicated Board of Trustees and talented staff,” said Barker.

“The opportunity to continue to help to feed the cultural soul of those who know and love The Frick, while welcoming, engaging and inspiring new audiences to this exceptional museum is tremendously exciting. I am also humbled and inspired to become part of the Pittsburgh community, with its rich and diverse cultural resources, and join in a shared commitment to ensuring that this region continues to thrive as a vibrant and robust destination for the arts. The energy here is palpable. The instant I set foot in this beautiful city I fell in love.”

Barker has fourteen years’ experience as a museum executive. From October 2014 through March 2019, she served as Stanford Calderwood Director of the Boston Athenæum, the distinguished independent library, exhibition center and cultural venue founded in 1807. Under her leadership, the Athenæum raised $13.5 million, increased annual giving by 28% and expanded membership by 78%. During her tenure, Barker established Education and Visitor Services departments, spurred a significant expansion of programs and events and launched new partnerships with more than 40 regional cultural organizations. And, as part of an effort to increase public access to the 230,000-item special collection, Barker oversaw the initiative to publish the institution’s celebrated painting and sculpture collection online.

Commenting on the news of Barker’s appointment as The Frick’s new Executive Director, Boston Athenæum Board President John S. Reed characterized her leadership of the Boston Athenæum as defining and important. Reed remarked, “She increased access, attracted new audiences, and executed the board’s vision for the future. Her energy, experience, creativity, and collaborative approach will be a great asset to The Frick and the city of Pittsburgh.”

Prior to her tenure at the Boston Athenæum, Barker served as Director of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. During her seven years at the Mead, an encyclopedic college art museum, Barker led a successful AAM reaccreditation process, doubled hours of operation and dramatically increased attendance. By raising funds to endow new positions and expand the museum’s technology, use of the Mead’s collection for teaching, research and enjoyment increased tenfold.

Barker’s earliest experience as a museum director was at Colgate University’s Picker Art Gallery in Hamilton, New York. Under her direction from 2005 until 2007, the museum expanded its offerings and became more accessible for students and the general public. Barker raised $2.3 million for museum facilities and collections during her tenure, built docent, internship and fellowship programs and developed and executed a strategic plan, all while co-curating more than a dozen installations and two traveling exhibitions.

At SAM, Kim Rorschach Retires as Amada Cruz Steps In

Posted in museums by Editor on September 27, 2019

This month Amada Cruz succeeds Kimerly Rorschah as Director and CEO of of the Seattle Art Museum. Rorschach did her PhD at Yale in the 1980s, writing on Frederick, Prince of Wales. At the University of Chicago, she was director of the Smart Museum of Art before going on to serve as the founding director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Kim graciously served on my dissertation committee at Chicago, offering invaluable advice and wisdom. A few words here don’t begin to express my debts of gratitude, but I feel profoundly fortunate to have been one of her students. Craig Hanson

From the press release (10 June 2019) . . .

Amada Cruz previously served as Director and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum. Photo by Airi Katsuta.

The Board of Trustees of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) announced today that Amada Cruz has been chosen as the museum’s new Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO following an extensive international search. Since February 2015, Ms. Cruz has served as the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, the largest art museum in the Southwestern United States. She will assume her position at SAM in September, succeeding Kimerly Rorschach who will be retiring.

In her role at SAM—comprising the downtown Seattle Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park, and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the downtown waterfront—Cruz will oversee the institution’s wide-ranging artistic and education programs and manage a staff of more than 300.

“I am so excited about moving to one of the most progressive, innovative, and fastest-growing cities in the country. As an immigrant, Seattle’s embrace of diversity and commitment to inclusion certainly strikes a chord,” says Cruz. “Across its three stunning locations, SAM offers incredibly varied cultural experiences. It’s a particularly exciting opportunity to reintroduce the spectacular Asian Art Museum’s building and collection to the city this fall. And I am honored to be following the enlightened leadership of Kimerly Rorschach. She has been a model of a 21st-century museum director, connecting with communities and expanding the range of artists exhibiting at the museum and entering its collection. I’m looking forward to continuing SAM’s commitment to welcoming everyone.”

“After an exhaustive search with an impressive array of candidates, it’s clear that Amada Cruz is the forward-thinking leader we’re seeking,” said Charles Wright, SAM trustee and chair of the search committee. “Amada’s strong vision, extensive experience as both a curator and a fundraiser, and keen understanding of the power of the visual arts will undoubtedly help her take SAM to the next level.”

“Like the city of Seattle, the museum is always evolving and moving forward,” said Stewart Landefeld, SAM Board of Trustees Chair. “Kim’s incredible leadership has brought SAM to a vital and stable present, and Amada is the right person to lead it into an ambitious future along with SAM’s talented staff, dedicated volunteers, and committed Board of Trustees.”

During her tenure at the Phoenix Art Museum (PAM), Cruz set ambitious goals to increase diversity and create a culture of inclusion and accessibility. She oversaw a series of initiatives designed to improve financial stability, strengthen community engagement, and build national visibility. PAM attracted key national funders in support of the museum’s mission; introduced more Latinx and bilingual educational programming; and increased diversity across exhibitions and installations, presenting works by artists of color, LGBTQI+ artists, and women artists, including a retrospective for modern artist Agnes Pelton that will travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2020.

Over her 30-year career, Cruz has held posts as the Executive Director at San Antonio-based Artpace, an artist residency program; Director of the Center for Curatorial Studies Museum at Bard College, where she co-organized the first US museum survey of Takashi Murakami’s work; and Acting Chief Curator and Manilow Curator of Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Cruz has also worked as a grantmaker and was the founding Program Director for United States Artists in Los Angeles, where she formed longstanding relationships with artists around the country and was responsible for all programming activities of a Ford and Rockefeller Foundations initiative. She also has been Executive Director of Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue in New York City, which awarded grants to visual artists in San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Cruz received a Bachelor’s degree in Art History and Political Science at New York University. She received the 2018 Virginia Cardenas Arts Advocacy Award by Xico, an Arizona cultural institution serving Latinx and Indigenous artists. In 2015, W Magazine named her one of the 11 most powerful female museum directors in America.

“I am absolutely delighted that Amada Cruz has been named to lead SAM into the future. She is an experienced professional of the highest integrity and brings an exciting vision for the future of our great museum,” says Kimerly Rorschach, SAM Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO. “She has a profound love of art and a deep commitment to increasing access for all. I know that she will keep the museum moving forward in our dynamic city and region.”

From the press release (31 October 2018) announcing Kim Rorschach’s retirement:

Kimerly Rorschach became director of the Seattle Art Museum in November 2012. Photo by Scott Areman.

Kimerly Rorschach, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), announced today that she will retire in fall 2019 after seven years leading the institution. Rorschach will step down following the opening of the museum’s newly renovated and expanded Seattle Asian Art Museum facility. The museum’s Board of Trustees will initiate an international search to find Rorschach’s replacement.

Winnie Stratton, President of SAM’s Board of Trustees, noted, “Kim’s retirement culminates an esteemed 25-year career leading museums. SAM and Seattle are stronger today thanks to her seven years of leadership. Over the years, it has been an honor to work with Kim and see how each of our three locations have matured to a new level and thrived with her guidance. She facilitated important art scholarship and brought to Seattle groundbreaking exhibitions. She worked to bring in more diverse and younger audiences, and increased attendance and community engagement.”

Added Stewart Landefeld, Chairman of SAM’s Board of Trustees, “SAM has flourished under Kim’s leadership. Her myriad of duties aside, she has been the number one champion for the museum. Her contribution to fundraising has been transformative, including raising nearly $125M towards the museum’s current $150M campaign to boost SAM’s endowment, renovate the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and expand programming across all three sites. Collegial, disciplined, and community-focused, Kim has been a great mentor and colleague. Her passion, drive, and desire to foster new connections between art, culture, and the community, will be greatly missed.”

Rorschach joined SAM in November 2012. She immediately set her sights on creating a schedule of exhibitions and programs for the museum’s three locations that was compelling and timely and that would resonate with a rapidly growing and diversifying Seattle community.

Working with SAM’s curators, Rorschach has been able to secure and produce an exhibition lineup that has bolstered the museum’s mission to “connect art to life” and increased attendance and membership to new levels. Through the years, Rorschach has overseen a roster of special exhibitions such as Disguise: Masks & Global African Art (2015); Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art (2015); Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic (2016); Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (2017); Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect (2017); and Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas (2018). In cooperation with The Phillips Collection and the Museum of Modern Art, Rorschach helped bring to Seattle in 2017 Jacob Lawrence’s epic The Migration Series—the first time all sixty panels had been shown together on the West Coast for two decades. At the Seattle Asian Art Museum, known for its historic Chinese, Japanese, and Korean collections, Rorschach and the museum’s curators developed a lively and popular program of contemporary Asian exhibitions including Live On: Mr’s Japanese Neo-Pop (2014), Chiho Aoshima: Rebirth of the World (2015), and Tabaimo: Utsutsushi Utsushi (2016). The Olympic Sculpture Park continued to develop and thrive with the introduction of new year-round programs including the popular SAM Lights in December, as well as art installations in the PACCAR Pavilion by Sam Vernon (2015), Victoria Haven (2016), and the current installation by Spencer Finch.

During Rorschach’s tenure, SAM’s global collection has been enhanced by significant acquisitions. Louis-Phillipe Crépin’s Shipwreck Off the Coast of Alaska (1806); Raphaelle Peale’s Still Life with Strawberries and Ostrich Egg Cup (1814); Ai Wei Wei’s Colored Vases (2010); Jaume Plensa’s Echo (2011)—a gift of the late Barney Ebsworth; and Kehinde Wiley’s Anthony of Padua (2013) are among the many new works that have added breadth and depth to the collection and addressed critical gaps.

Guided by a shared vision for strengthening SAM’s collection for all, Rorschach has worked hand-in-hand with numerous generous donors to bring to the museum several substantial and transformative private collections, including the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, the most extensive collection of modern and contemporary art in the Northwest, featuring works by Johns, Frankenthaler, Rothko, Ruscha, Irwin, and more; as well as the Sam and Gladys Rubinstein Collection, focused on early European modernism, including works by Jawlensky, Delaunay, and Kupka.

Under Rorschach’s leadership, SAM’s growth has not been limited to its collection. She joined the museum as the nation and Seattle were beginning to rebound from a major economic downturn. She took steps to address the museum’s long-term operating challenges, improving its operating performance year over year. She has been instrumental in the launch of a major $150M fundraising campaign to secure the museum’s financial future; greatly increase its operating endowment by $60M; fund the $54M renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, located in SAM’s historic first home; and fund numerous new programs, including a new Asian Paintings Conservation Center. She also worked with the museum’s staff and Board of Trustees to create a multi-year Strategic Plan, confirming the museum’s mission and vision, articulating its values, asserting its leadership position, and defining key strategic directions moving forward. This Strategic Plan continues as a template for SAM’s growth and was recently updated to include new priorities, including a focus on equity and inclusion.

Equity and inclusion have been top priorities for Rorschach during her time at SAM. As part of a commitment to building racial equity, addressing institutional racism, and bringing forth real change, she led the museum’s participation in the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative; established racial equity training for the museum staff, volunteers, docent corps, and Board of Trustees; and oversaw the formation of a museum Equity Team. Under her leadership, the museum also created special exhibition advisory committees to ensure that diverse community voices are part of the exhibition, programming, and marketing planning processes.

Engaging young people and building new audiences has also been a top priority for Rorschach. With her encouragement, SAM began hosting free

Community Celebrations, inviting thousands of people to see the special exhibitions on opening day. At the Olympic Sculpture Park, the museum launched the innovative Tiny Trees preschool program partnership and new winter programming for all audiences. And SAM has continued to grow its important partnership with the City of Seattle around the Creative Advantage arts education initiative. Overall, the museum has seen dramatic growth in its young adult audiences, echoing the rapid growth of the Seattle area.

Among Rorschach’s proudest accomplishments is the renovation and expansion of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, currently underway. The project not only preserves and restores the historic Art Deco building that houses the museum, but it also adds much needed gallery and education space. The project creates an opportunity to rethink the way the Asian Art Museum collections are presented and how new tools, such as interactive technology, can help visitors engage with the collection. A 12,000-square-foot expansion will allow for an expanded programming schedule for students and adults, supported by dedicated education space and more rotating exhibitions featuring cultures outside of SAM’s core Chinese, Japanese, and Korean collections. The anticipated reopening of the museum is late 2019.

“It has been a tremendous honor to lead the Seattle Art Museum during this exciting period of challenge and growth,” said Rorschach. “I am so proud of all that we have accomplished, and of our incredible SAM staff, whose dedication has inspired me every step of the way. I am also enormously grateful to SAM’s Board of Trustees and generous supporters, whose leadership has underpinned our many successes. With the downtown expansion and Olympic Sculpture Park, and now the rebirth of the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM’s three sites are poised to serve the community for many years to come.”

Before coming to the Seattle Art Museum, Rorschach was the founding director of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, which she established as the most dynamic museum presenting contemporary art in the region, with a significant national profile. She previously served as the director of the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art, and held curatorial positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. Rorschach holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, and was a Fulbright Scholar. She is a former President of the Association of Art Museum Directors and serves on the board of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, New York, founded by Agnes Gund.

The Wallace Collection to Lend

Posted in museums by Editor on September 26, 2019
The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons, 2005)

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From the press release, via Art Daily (25 September 2019) . . .

Although the Wallace is traditionally considered to be a ‘closed’ collection, the terms of Lady Wallace’s bequest do not expressly forbid lending or borrowing. Sir Richard Wallace himself loaned works extensively to other institutions in Paris and London, notably the Royal Academy and the Bethnal Green museum. The conclusion reached by the Trustees and the Director is that temporary loans would not be going against the bequest and this would be entirely in keeping with Sir Richard’s desire to share great art with the widest possible audience.

As the Wallace Collection resides in Sir Richard Wallace’s original home at Hertford House, Manchester Square, in central London, each loan request will be considered extremely carefully in order to minimise disturbance to its unique environment. Owing to these restrictions, the Wallace Collection will only be able to enter into loan agreements under very special circumstances.

The decision to lend works on a temporary basis will enable the Wallace Collection to develop exciting new collaborations with museums across the UK and internationally, expanding public access to the museum’s exceptional collection and encouraging new audiences to engage with its treasures. It will also provide exciting opportunities for scholarly research and enable the museum to remain a centre of curatorial excellence.

António Horta-Osório, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, says: “This is a hugely significant moment in the history of the Wallace Collection and is the result of careful deliberations by the Board. Our successful programme of ground-breaking exhibitions, in which our own masterpieces are showcased alongside related treasures from elsewhere, can now be complemented by an ability to lend our works to other great collections. This allows us to develop new collaborations at home and internationally, and will mean that the treasures of the Wallace Collection will be shared with an even greater audience. It represents a new chapter in the museum’s history and will ensure that the Wallace Collection continues to flourish and remains relevant for generations to come.”

Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection, says: “I am thrilled we are announcing that the Wallace Collection will now be able to lend works of art. This is a transformative moment for the museum which will enable us to deepen our understanding of the Collection and play a wider role within the international art historical community. This is not a decision that has been taken lightly by the Board, mindful as we are that the Wallace Collection is loved by the public for being an intimate house museum. However, in order to share our collection with the widest possible audience we believe that it is the right next step for the Wallace Collection and we look forward to expanding our horizons in accordance with the scale of the museum.”

NGA Announces New Curatorial Staff

Posted in museums by Editor on September 4, 2019

Press release (2 September 2019) from the NGA:

Aaron Wile began in June at the National Gallery of Art as associate curator of French paintings.

The National Gallery of Art announced today new additions to the curatorial staff: Betsy Wieseman, Shelley Langdale, Brooks Rich, and Aaron Wile.

Betsy Wieseman will join the museum as curator and head of the department of northern European paintings. Wieseman is currently chair of European art from classical antiquity to 1800 and curator of European paintings and sculpture 1500–1800 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She begins her tenure in Washington on November 25, 2019. Shelley Langdale, Brooks Rich, and Aaron Wile joined the Gallery over the course of the summer. Shelley Langdale began her Gallery tenure in May as curator and head of the department of modern prints and drawings. Brooks Rich also joined the Gallery in May as associate curator of old master prints. Aaron Wile arrived at the Gallery in June as associate curator of French paintings.

“We are thrilled to welcome so many talented new staff to the Gallery—their curatorial experience is extraordinary,” said Franklin Kelly, chief curator, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “I look forward to working with them as they engage with our renowned collections with fresh eyes. Their ideas and subsequent projects will energize the museum community and inspire visitors, scholars, and staff for years to come.”

Betsy Wieseman, Curator and Head of Northern European Paintings

Marjorie E. ‘Betsy’ Wieseman is currently chair of European art from classical antiquity to 1800 and curator of European paintings and sculpture 1500–1800 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Wieseman is a renowned specialist in 17th-century Netherlandish art with an emphasis on Dutch portraiture and genre painting and the work of Peter Paul Rubens. She has also written about portrait miniatures, the technical examination of paintings, and the history of collecting, among other subjects. She previously held curatorial positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, and the Cincinnati Art Museum. For 11 years she was employed at the National Gallery, London, as curator of Dutch painting 1600–1800 (2006–2012) and as curator of Dutch and Flemish painting 1600–1800 (2012–2017).

As curator and head of northern European paintings—a new position at the Gallery that merges the former curator of northern baroque painting and curator of northern Renaissance painting positions—Wieseman will oversee one of the most important collections in this area outside the Netherlands. Wieseman holds a PhD from Columbia University and an MA and BA from the University of Delaware.

Shelley Langdale, Curator and Head of Modern Prints and Drawings

Shelley Langdale refined her curatorial expertise while working with some of the nation’s foremost collections of works on paper: first the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, then the Cleveland Museum of Art, and, for the past 17 years, the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While her primary focus has been modern and contemporary works on paper, Langdale has organized or collaborated on an unusual range of projects, from an exemplary study and exhibition of Pollaiuolo’s 15th-century engravings in Cleveland to an exhibition of Yoshitoshi’s magnificent color woodcuts in Philadelphia. Widely admired for her professional activity and generosity, she successfully mentored a long line of curatorial fellows and interns at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was deeply involved with the city’s artists and art organizations. She is also the current president of the Print Council of America, the national professional organization of curators of works on paper.

As the head of modern prints and drawings at the Gallery, Langdale oversees approximately 60,000 prints, watercolors, drawings, and multimedia works on paper. Her initial projects at the gallery include participation in an upcoming set of installations celebrating women artists and donors for the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment; addressing the storage and documentation needs of the Gallery’s growing collections of workshop and artist archives (Gemini G.E.L., Crown Point Press, and the prints of Jasper Johns, among others); and an exhibition drawn from the Gallery’s collection of modern works on paper. Langdale holds an MA from Williams College and a BA from Bowdoin College.

Brooks Rich, Associate Curator of Old Master Prints

Brooks Rich recently completed his PhD in early 16th-century Netherlandish engraving at the University of Pennsylvania, where he wrote his dissertation “The Mystery of the Monogram AC at the Margins of Early European Printmaking.” Rich has an impressive range of curatorial experience in the departments of prints, drawings, and photographs at several leading institutions, including curatorial fellowships at the Rijksmuseum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he organized the exhibition Rockwell Kent–Voyager: An Artist’s Journey in Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books (2012). Rich has also worked at the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In his new role at the Gallery, Rich will balance the demands of cataloging, researching, caring for, and organizing exhibitions about the Gallery’s collection of prints and illustrated books dated before 1900. In addition to his PhD, Rich holds an MA from Williams College and a BA from Bowdoin College.

Aaron Wile, Associate Curator of French Paintings

Aaron Wile received his PhD from Harvard University, with a specialization in 17th- and 18th-century French painting. Most recently he was at the University of Southern California (USC) as a postdoctoral fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities. Prior to this academic post, he was a Chester Dale Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an Anne L. Poulet Curatorial Fellow at The Frick Collection, where he organized the critically acclaimed exhibition Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France (2016), the first exhibition devoted to Watteau’s military works. His exhibition catalog essay won an award for excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators. He is also the recipient of the 2015–2016 James L. Clifford Prize for best article from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

Wile will take part in the exhibition, research, and acquisition projects related to the Gallery’s French painting collection, with particular attention given to the 17th- and 18th-century works. In addition to his PhD, Wile holds an MA from Harvard University and a BA from Haverford College.