A major new first-floor Brooklyn Museum gallery opened in March with Fine Lines: American Drawings, which will remain on view through May 28. The new 6,000-square-foot space is the latest step in a phased renovation that will, within the next two years, dramatically alter the entire first and second floors of the Museum’s McKim, Mead and White building.
This new space, designed by Ennead Architects, incorporates both a larger and a smaller gallery and two vestibule areas. It is named the Robert E. Blum Gallery–as was the previous special-exhibition gallery on the first floor. Read more →
An exhibition of some thirty-five exceptional American and European quilt masterpieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned decorative arts holdings will examine the impact of feminist scholarship on the ways in which historical quilts have been and are currently viewed, contextualized, and interpreted.
Only one of these rare quilts has been on public display in the past thirty years. “Workt by Hand”: Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts will be on view in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art from March 15 through September 15, 2013. Read more →
Fine Lines: American Drawings from the Brooklyn Museum presents a selection of more than a hundred rarely seen drawings and sketchbooks produced between 1768 and 1945 from the Brooklyn Museum’s exceptional collection. The exhibition will feature the work of more than seventy artists, including John Singleton Copley, Stuart Davis, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Eastman Johnson, Georgia O’Keeffe, John Singer Sargent, and Benjamin West. Read more →
The Brooklyn Museum, together with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has organized the landmark exhibition John Singer Sargent Watercolors, which unites for the first time the holdings of Sargent watercolors acquired by each of the two institutions in the early twentieth century. The ninety-three watercolors in the exhibition–including thirty-eight from Brooklyn’s collection, most of which have not been on view for decades–provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to view a broad range of Sargent’s finest production in the medium. Read more →
Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, the first exhibition to explore the impact of the feminist writer, curator, and activist Lucy R. Lippard on the Conceptual art movement, is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through February 3, 2013.
Using Lippard’s influential 1973 book Six Years, which cataloged and described the emergence of Conceptual art in the late sixties and early seventies, as a critical and chronological framework, the exhibition illustrates the dynamics of Lippard’s key role in redefining how exhibitions were created, viewed, and critiqued during that era of transition. Read more →
Each voter may nominate as many as three artists for inclusion in the GO exhibition, which will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from December 1, 2012, through February 24, 2013.
The ten artists with the most voter nominations will receive studio visits from Brooklyn Museum curators Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions, and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, who will make the final selection of works to be included in the exhibition.
Members of the public will nominate the artists whose work will be considered for GO: a community-curated open studio project, an upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, by registering online to vote and by visiting artist studios during the GO open studio weekend on September 8-9, 2012. 1861 Brooklyn-based artists will open their studio doors in 46 of Brooklyn’s 67 neighborhoods, covering Brooklyn’s 73 square miles.
Today marks the launch of a new phase of the GO website, which showcases participating artists and allows voters to register. By visiting www.gobooklynart.org, voters can create and share itineraries of artist studios they plan to visit on September 8 and 9. Itineraries can be accessed on the GO iPhone application, so voters may take their plans with them as they travel around Brooklyn during the open studio weekend.
On September 8 and 9, artists will open their studio doors to the public from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Voters must check in using either the GO iPhone app or SMS text messaging using a unique number assigned to each artist and posted on a sign in their studio. Voters can also write down artist numbers and enter them later at the GO website. To be eligible to vote, registrants must check in at a minimum of five studios. After the close of the open studio weekend, eligible voters will receive an email from the GOteam with nomination instructions.
The public nomination period will begin on September 12 and end on September 18. During that time, voters will have the option to comment on the artist studios they visited. The comments will be publicly available on the GO website and may be selected for inclusion in the exhibition GO: a community-curated open studio project.
The GO project launched in May with the goal of transforming how communities in Brooklyn, and beyond, engage with the arts by providing the public with the opportunity to discover artistic talent and get involved in the exhibition process at a grassroots level.
The project is co-organized by Atkins and Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology. GO: a communitycurated open studio project is inspired by two established programs: ArtPrize, an annual, publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the long tradition of open studio weekends held each year in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, Gowanus, Red Hook, and Bushwick.
The Brooklyn Museum is launching a borough-wide initiative in which Brooklyn-based artists will be invited to open their studios, allowing community members to visit and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to be held at the Museum.
Brooklyn Museum curators will visit the studios of top nominated artists to select works for the exhibition. The open studio weekend for GO: a community-curated open studio project will be held September 8 and 9. The exhibition will open during First Saturday on December 1, 2012, and will be on view through February 24, 2013. Web and mobile technology will be a central component bringing artists and community together to share information and perspectives on art. All participants (artists, voters, and volunteers) will be able to create a personal online profile at the project’s website, www.gobrooklynart.org. Artist profiles will include photos of each artist and their studio, along with images and descriptions of their work. Volunteers will be connected with their respective neighborhoods online, and voters will have profiles that track their activity during the open studio weekend and provide a platform on which to share their perspectives.
“GO is a wide-ranging and unique project that will transform how Brooklyn communities engage in the arts by providing everyone with the chance to discover artistic talent and to be involved in the exhibition process on a grassroots level. Through the use of innovative technology, GO provides every Brooklyn resident with an extraordinary opportunity to participate in the visual arts in an unprecedented way,” says Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman.
The project launched on May 18th with volunteer registration. Volunteers will identify and work with local groups and businesses within specific neighborhoods to engage artists and potential studio visitors. The Brooklyn Museum will also partner with the Brooklyn Arts Council, open studio organizations, the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, and Heart of Brooklyn to promote participation in GO. The New York City Housing Authority will also play an important role in engaging residents living in public housing developments in Brooklyn.
Artists will have an opportunity to register their studios at www.gobrooklynart.org in June. Artist registration will be followed by voter registration in August and early September. In October, Sharon Matt Atkins and Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Curator of Contemporary Art, will make studio visits to the top nominated artists to select the work for the exhibition. Curators and community members will engage in a public dialogue about the selection of work.
GO continues the Brooklyn Museum’s long tradition of highlighting the borough’s community of artists. Since its 2004 exhibition, Open House: Working in Brooklyn, the largest survey to date of artists working in Brooklyn, the Museum has continued its commitment to Brooklyn artists with exhibitions by Fred Tomaselli, Lorna Simpson, and an upcoming exhibition by Mickalene Thomas, among others, and the current Raw/Cooked series of five exhibitions by under-the-radar Brooklyn artists.
A pioneer in crowd-sourced exhibitions, the Brooklyn Museum also presented Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition (2008), a photography show in which nearly 3,500 community members evaluated the work of 389 local photographers. More recently, Split Second: Indian Paintings (2011) invited the Museum’s online community to participate in the selection of works to be shown in an installation of Indian paintings.
The project organizers are Sharon Matt Atkins, Managing Curator of Exhibitions, and Shelley Bernstein, Chief of Technology. GO: a community-curated open studio project is inspired by two predecessors: ArtPrize, an annual publicly juried art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the long tradition of open studio events that take place each year throughout Brooklyn.
The project’s website will be updated throughout the process until the exhibition’s opening in December 2012.
An extremely rare mother-of-pearl-inlaid Mexican folding screen, commissioned about 1700 by the viceroy of New Spain has been purchased by the Brooklyn Museum from Salvart Limited in London.
The work was officially accessioned by the Museum’s Board of Trustees on April 19. Representing a combination of Asian, European, and American artistic traditions, this six-panel screen is encrusted with mother-of-pearl and painted with oil and tempera. At the time it was acquired, it was the only recorded surviving shell-inlaid folding screen, or biombo enconchado, that remained in private hands. The funds for this acquisition came from the proceeds of the sale of Vasily Vereshchagin’s Crucifixion by the Romans (1887), which was sold last November at Christie’s London for nearly $2.7 million to benefit the Brooklyn Museum’s Acquisition’s Fund.
These panels constitute half of a twelve-panel screen, created after Asian models by artists working in the circle of the celebrated Gonzalez family in Mexico City, where it was displayed in the state rooms of the capital’s viceregal palace. The other half of the screen is in the collection of the Museo Nacional del Virreinato in Tepotzotlan, Mexico. The complete screen was commissioned by Jose Sarmiento de Valladares y Aines, the count of Moctezuma y Tula, during his reign as viceroy of New Spain from 1696 to 1701. Appointed by Spain’s last Habsburg king, Charles II, Sarmiento declared his allegiance to the Habsburg dynasty in the New World by having the front of his monumental folding screen painted with a major Habsburg victory over the Ottoman Empire, a scene from the Great Turkish War (1683-87). He requested a hunting scene modeled in part after prints by the Medici court painter Johannes Stradanus for the back of the screen, which would have served as a backdrop for the women’s sitting room in the palace. Both sides of the screen are framed with a mother-of-pearl encrusted floral decorative border inspired by Japanese lacquerware created for the export market.
In 1701, only one year after Spain’s new Bourbon king, Philip V, had ascended to the throne, Sarmiento, a Habsburg-appointed viceroy, was recalled to Spain- he returned with his prized biombo enconchado in tow. The screen was later divided into two in Europe, and one half found its way to the United States by 1965, when it was recorded in a private collection in San Francisco- it entered the Museo Nacional del Virreinato by 1970. The Brooklyn Museum’s half of the screen was in England (Yoxford, Suffolk) for generations, in the collection of Cockfield Hall, until the family sold its residual contents, including the screen, at auction through Phillips East Anglia in 1996.
Japanese folding screens, which inspired the format of Mexican biombos, were introduced to the Americas in the early seventeenth century as both diplomatic gifts from Japanese embassies and as elite Asian exported goods. Asian screens found immediate favor with the viceroyalty’s prosperous elite, and by the 1630s local artists were re-creating the screens in a new world style for privileged private collectors. Paintings inlaid with mother-of-pearl (pinturas enconchadas), of which this work is also an exceptional example, developed later, about 1660, by Mexican artists who combined the European art of tempera and oil painting with Asian and Mexican lacquer and mother-of-pearl encrustation techniques.
This extraordinary six-panel screen will be the highlight of Behind Closed Doors: Power and Privilege in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898, a traveling exhibition organized by Richard Aste, Curator of European Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where it will be on view September 20, 2013, through January 12, 2014, before continuing on to three additional U.S. venues.
Also accessioned at the same board meeting and purchased with funds from the sale of the Vereshchagin painting is Hacienda La Fortuna (1885), an Impressionist landscape of southern Puerto Rico by Francisco M. Oller (Puerto Rican, 1833-1917). As the most important Puerto Rican painter of his era, Oller was commissioned by the Barcelona emigre Jose Gallart Forgas to paint a series of portraits of his five Puerto Rican sugar plantations. The Museum’s new acquisition is an early morning view of Gallart’s most important plantation, La Fortuna, with rural workers gathering sugarcane before the planter’s home (seen in the distance), his warehouse at left, and his sugar mill at right. Hacienda La Fortuna was the only one of Gallart’s five hacienda painting commissions that Oller completed for his Spanish patron.
Oller was born and raised in San Juan but trained in Madrid and Paris, where he quickly fell under the spell of the Realist painter Gustave Courbet and painted with his friends Paul Cezanne and Camille Pissarro. The Puerto Rican Realist and Impressionist painter exhibited at several of the Paris Salons and at the 1875 Salon des Refuses. Back home, Oller took an active role in the abolitionist movement–slavery was finally abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873–and in pedagogy, establishing several art schools in the island’s capital.
Beginning June 6, Oller’s masterpiece of Puerto Rican industrial landscape painting will be on view in the Museum’s European gallery alongside paintings by his fellow avant-garde artists Courbet, Pissarro, and Claude Monet. Hacienda La Fortuna will later join the shell-inlaid Mexican folding screen in the Behind Closed Doors exhibition.
Image: Circle of the Gonzalez Family (Mexican, late 17th to early 18th century). Folding Screen with the Siege of Belgrade (front) and Hunting Scene (reverse), ca. 1697-1701. Tempera and resin on wood, shell inlay (enconchado), 90 1/2 x 108 5/8 in. (229.9 x 275.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Lilla Brown in memory of her husband John W. Brown, by exchange, 2012.21
An innovative installation approach, featuring some of the most important objects in the Brooklyn Museum collection, has been developed to create new ways of looking at art and exploring the Museum by making connections between cultures as well as objects. Scheduled to open on April 19, 2012, Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn, on long-term view in the newly renovated Great Hall, near the main entrance, provides for the first time a dynamic introduction to the Museum’s extensive collections, which range from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, representing almost every culture around the world, both past and present. “This remarkable cross-collection presentation, built around some of the most exceptional works in the Museum, better enables the visitor to explore the collection galleries by providing a model of how to make connections between cultures and how to better understand the ways that different peoples have addressed many of the same issues throughout time,” states Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman. “For the very first time, our visitors have the opportunity to sample the breadth and depth of our holdings as they enter the Museum.”
“Over the course of the twentieth century, the Museum collected on a grand scale, making works of art that had previously been reserved primarily for the elite available to the public. As works of art became available to the many rather than the few, their meanings often changed. Deconstructing those meanings on a basic level provides an understanding of the Brooklyn Museum’s collections as a resource for study,” comments Chief Curator Kevin L. Stayton, who has coordinated the presentation, working with the Museum’s curators.
The installation is organized around three main sections: “Connecting Places,” “Connecting People,” and ‘-Connecting Things.” In viewing the juxtaposition and combination of works from different cultures around the world, the visitor will be asked to consider the importance of the idea of place to the definition of culture and the self- the ways in which people represent themselves in the works of art that help define them- and the role of objects, or things, in supporting identity, both personal and cultural.
The “Connecting Places” section presents artworks that reflect the human fascination with the physical world around us and how it relates to spirituality. The landscapes in which people live and the elements of nature that surround them deeply affect the way people see the world and how they try to understand the universe. This section includes a four-legged bowl (circa 250-600 C.E.), made in what is now Guatemala, that reveals a Mayan concept of the cosmos- an eighteenth-century cosmic diagram, made in Gujarat or Rajasthan, that presents a unique worldview- the monumental 1765 painting Our Lady of Chocharcas Under the Baldachin showing the celebration of a pilgrimage in which Lake Titicaca is almost as significant as the statue of the Virgin herself- a festival hat, probably made around Potosi in the eighteenth century, depicting a triangular mountain that might be the Cerro de Potosi, the source of the silver that enriched the area- Louis Remy Mignon’s monumental painting Niagara (1866), which became a powerful symbol of natural resources that made their potential seem almost limitless- the renowned Century Vase made by the Union Porcelain Works of Brooklyn for display at the Centennial Exposition, in 1876, displaying native animals and scenes of progress unique to the American experience- and a contemporary work, Soundsuit by Nick Cave, that explores man’s involvement with nature.
The “Connecting People” section investigates the ways in which human beings have represented themselves in artworks, in various cultures through time. A number of the works address the journey from life to death, such as a stunning and rare Huastec stone statue that features a standing human figure on one side and a skeleton on the other. Other works include a kachina doll, in the Brooklyn Museum collection since 1904, that reflects the ways in which the human form can represent the spiritual and universal- and Gaston Lachaise’s monumental Standing Woman, a modern work that dignifies the human form and raises it to a level that reflects the humanist tradition.
The “Connecting Things” section includes works that carry particular significance to those who make and use them. Among the objects is a group of more than 100 pitchers to illustrate the many permutations of a single form- kero cups used in ritualistic ceremonies that were important to the Andean concept of reciprocity- a coffin in the form of a Nike sneaker, by Ghanaian artist Paa Joe, that reflects the importance of consumer society and global trade in the modern world- and an African staff, a symbol of authority that is the model for an African-American emancipation cane.
The installation was designed by Matthew Yokobosky, Chief Designer at the Brooklyn Museum, working together with Chief Curator Kevin Stayton, Director Arnold Lehman, and all of the Museum’s curators.
Image: Louis Remy Mignot (American, 1831-1870)’s “Niagara, 1866″-, A Gift of Arthur S. Fairchild. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.
A completely new, significantly larger Brooklyn Museum Gift Shop, designed by the architectural firm Visbeen Associates, is opening Wednesday April 4, 2012 in space previously devoted to temporary exhibitions. At 4,150 square feet, the new shop is 1,600 square feet larger than the shop it replaces. The store is part of a multiphase transformation of much of the Museum’s first floor designed by Ennead Architects that has already resulted in an extensive renovation of the Museum’s historic Great Hall and the creation of a major new exhibition space. “The major goals of the new design for the first floor of the Museum have been to create a more coherent visitor experience, larger footprints for the Museum’s shop, restaurant, and exhibition galleries, and space to create a remarkable installation of major works from the Museum’s permanent collections,” comments Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman.
“The design for the new Museum Shop has created a significantly enhanced shopping environment for our visitors along with an exciting new approach to merchandising. The shop will offer a fresh selection of unique items related to the world cultures represented in the Museum’s rich permanent collection. An important feature will be products from both established as well as emerging Brooklyn designers and artisans,” states Vice Director of Merchandising Sallie Stutz.
The newly created store will be organized around an arc shape that will be reflected in a curved jewelry counter in the center that forms the focal point of the space and will be echoed in a coffered ceiling containing recessed lighting. Two light fixtures, created by Brooklyn artist David Weeks, will be focal points of the design. The shop will feature 225 linear feet of lightly stained oak casework with metal fittings, with additional free standing fixtures in which merchandise will be displayed.
The new space, along the east side of the front facade of the building, was originally built in 1904 and is one of the oldest sections in the nearly 600,000-square-foot landmark building designed by McKim, Mead, & White. A wider entrance to the shop from the Lobby will provide greater visual access to the Great Hall, assisting circulation, and a rear entrance will connect it to planned temporary exhibition galleries.
One of the first in a museum in the United States, the Brooklyn Museum Shop began in 1935 as a sales desk offering publications, postcards, and photographs of objects in the Museum’s collections. In 1954 it evolved into a Gallery Shop that specialized in toys and original folk art and crafts from around the world, as well as objects related to special exhibitions. In 1963-64, the Museum Shop produced the first shopping bag created by a museum, featuring a four-color graphic.
Following the April opening of the Museum Shop, the next phase of the first-floor transformation, scheduled for completion in late summer of 2012, will include a new Museum restaurant and cafe, a bar, and an outdoor dining terrace, all planned to be opened for lunch and dinner. The dining room will also accommodate special functions. Casual dining areas will overlook the Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden. There will be direct access to the various dining areas and bar from the Museum’s 350-car parking lot.
The final phase of the first-floor renovation will transform space that has been occupied by the current Museum Cafe into special exhibition galleries that will add 50 percent more floor space to the previous temporary exhibition gallery, the Robert E. Blum Gallery.
The first-floor renovation continues a major redesign of the Museum’s ground level that began in 2004 with the opening of the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Pavilion, the Ennead-designed and critically acclaimed front entrance, as well as the renovated lobby, newly created front plaza and South Entrance, and expanded parking facilities.
Major support for the Museum’s extensive first floor renovation project has been provided by the City of New York through the Department of Cultural Affairs and the City Council.
Support has also been provided by Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin, Arline and Norman M. Feinberg, and Lisa and Dick Cashin.
Illustration: Brooklyn Museum Retail Shop Sketch by Visbeen Associates.