After renovations, Smart Museum reopens with two exhibits in new galleriesBy Arthur Fournier
Visitors who enter the new Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery at the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art this weekend will encounter an intriguing display of Surrealist art, including works by Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Max Ernst, Arshile Gorky, Man Ray, Mark Rothko, Kay Sage, Yves Tanguy and Dorothea Tanning, as part of the installation chosen to inaugurate the museums newest exhibition gallery.
After a $2 million renovation project that took more than seven months to complete, the Smart Museum is ready to welcome the public to its galleries for a special reopening preview reception from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21. Surrealism in America During the 1930s and 1940s: Selections from the Penny and Elton Yasuna Collection is one of two new exhibitions. In the museums new Old Master Gallery, The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe, an exhibition of Renaissance painting, drawing, sculpture and decorative art, also will be on display.
The Smart Museum officially resumes its normal operating hours on the following Tuesday, but Sundays preview will allow the University community, friends and members of the Smart to take an early look at the museums updated and expanded facilities.
Kimerly Rorschach, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum, said the renovations will allow the museum to expand its programming in ways that make greater use of the intellectual resources at the University. By the mid-1990s, the Smart was operating at the absolute capacity of its original facilitythat placed real limits on what we were able to accomplish, Rorschach explained. The Silver Anniversary Renewal Campaign raised the funds necessary to rethink, renovate and reinstall our space in a way that truly reflects our strengths as a university fine-arts museum, and it opens new paths for greater interaction with faculty and students.
To better realize the museums emphasis on high-quality, intellectually focused exhibitions, the Board of Governors and the museums staff determined that a total reconfiguration of the galleries would be necessary. In collaboration with Smart staff members, John Vinci of Vinci/Hamp Architects redesigned the interior of the original Edward Larrabee Barnes building at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. The renovations have reclaimed certain areas of nonpublic space that were underutilized, explained Richard Gray, Smart Museum Board Chairman. The result is a state-of-the-art museum facility that now includes a hall for the presentation of special exhibitions, expanded galleries for the permanent collection, a new education study room and a thoroughly modernized collection storage facility, he added.
With 2,500 square feet, 16-foot ceilings and advanced lighting and security systems, the Smarts new Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery for special exhibitions will provide curators with the flexibility needed to accommodate works from any period, ancient to contemporary. Surrealism in America is the first show scheduled to take place in the new hall.
Flanking the special exhibition area are galleries for modern and contemporary art. To the east, the Elisabeth and William M. Landes Gallery for modern art has been configured to display American and European art from the 19th century through the 1960sone of the most significant and best-represented periods in the Smarts collection.
With 2,100 square feet of exhibition space, curators have expanded the presentation of decorative arts, including Frank Lloyd Wright furniture from the Robie House, European modernist furniture, ceramics and design. The modern display also includes a new arrangement of works by Degas, Matisse, Metzinger, Dove, Lipchitz, Pechstein, Matta, Rothko, Soyer and Rivera, among others.
To the west, an 1,800-square-foot contemporary gallery showcases works from the museums collection of art produced during the past 40 years, including historically important works by Robert Arneson, Red Grooms, Robert Colescott, the Chicago Imagists and the group known as the Hairy Who.
The Old Master Gallery occupies 1,000 square feet in the space formerly devoted to special exhibitions. The smaller scale of this space makes it ideal for the presentation of more tightly organized, thematically ordered exhibitions of works from the permanent collection, such as The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe.
Adjacent to the Old Master Gallery, a new Asian Gallery is located in the remaining 1,000 square feet. The gallery will allow room for growth in the Smarts collection of artworks created in Asia over the past 5,000 years. As many of the works in this collection pose special exhibition challenges because of their disparate sizes, materials and formats, the gallery has been designed for maximum flexibility in lighting and display techniques.
Another new element of the redesigned space will greatly improve the Smarts ability to present top-quality public programs. For the first time in the history of the museum, on-site programming will be able to utilize a room designed for the study of artwork or the presentation of classroom materials. The facility includes a new print and drawing study room and state-of-the-art audio-visual and computer equipment for multimedia presentations.
We are very grateful to our donors and very proud of the museums new space, said Rorschach. Its been such an amazing year, and I think the changes weve experienced in the past several months represent a great leap forward for the Smart, the University and Chicagos visual arts community.
The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art is at 5550 S. Greenwood Ave. Beginning Tuesday, Nov. 23, the Smart Museum will resume normal hours of operation. Museum hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum will be closed Mondays. For more information, call (773) 702-0176.