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Art Curatorial

Celebrating Chihuly in Wisconsin

Dale Chihuly (American, b. 1941) Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II, 2000 Blown glass 183 x 86 x 96 diameter in. (464.82 x 218.44 x 243.84 cm) Gift of Suzy B. Ettinger in memory of Sanford J. Ettinger M2001.125 Photo credit John R. Glembin © 2009, Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly (American, b. 1941), Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II, 2000. Blown glass; 183 x 86 x 96 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Suzy B. Ettinger in memory of Sanford J. Ettinger. Photo John R. Glembin.© 2013, Dale Chihuly

One cannot walk through the doors of the Milwaukee Art Museum without taking in a colorful burst of Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork. The Museum’s Isola di San Giacomo in Palude Chandelier II (at left) is one of the most popular works in the Museum, located at the entry of the Quadracci Pavilion. Milwaukee’s Suzy B. Ettinger, who was recently featured in a great Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Style article, donated the artwork in 2001 to brighten the Museum’s new white Santiago Calatava-designed addition.

Museum visitors have been posing for photos with it ever since (it even appears snaking behind my own mother in her Facebook profile picture). Chihuly’s universal popularity encourages many museums to place his glass artwork front and center as a cheerful greeting.

In fact, in the almost 50 years since he lived and studied in Wisconsin, no other artist can claim to have brought as much popular attention to American art glass as Dale Chihuly.

This weekend, Wisconsin is celebrating Chihuly’s achievements.

Categories
Art Curatorial

A bit of Milwaukee in the Saarinen Archives at Yale

Milwaukee Art Center, Saarinen building, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Building, Eero Saarinen, 1957. Milwaukee Art Museum, Institutional Archives.

If you’ve visited the Museum recently, you know that we take our 125th anniversary seriously. There was cake for “Barbara Brown Lee Day” on May 2, there are three celebratory exhibitions, including a glamorous salon-style rehang of Gallery 10, and an upcoming publication about the roots of the Milwaukee Art Museum in Layton’s Legacy: An Historic American Art Collection.

An anniversary is an excuse to celebrate and an opportunity to engage the community. It is also a chance for us to dig into our history and learn more about our past.

Research is never done!

For my part, when I was in New England this winter, I made a research diversion to Yale University to delve into their Eero Saarinen Archives to find information we could use about the design, inspiration, and creation of the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

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Art Curatorial

Lewandowski’s Mosaic Mural at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center

Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. Image courtesy www.warmemorialcenter.org.
Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. Image courtesy http://www.warmemorialcenter.org.

Though the soaring wings of the dramatic Santiago Calatrava building sometimes steal the show, the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion is just one of two internationally significant architectural gems here on the Museum campus.

The other is the bold Saarinen masterpiece 1957 Milwaukee County War Memorial Center.

Modernist architect Eero Saarinen (American, b. Finland 1910–1961) is known for dramatic design accomplishments like the St. Louis Gateway Arch (1965), JFK Airport’s TWA Flight Center terminal (1962), and the iconic “Tulip chair” (1955). He took over the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center commission at the death of his father, Eliel Saarinen (Finnish, 1873–1950). The designs called for an arts complex that would “Honor the Dead by Serving the Living,” including a museum, performing arts center, and veterans’ memorial.

On the western facade of Saarinen’s Modernist concrete, steel, and glass floating cruciform is a purple and blue tile mosaic. You probably see this mural best when driving toward the building on Mason Street.

I had been working in this stunning building for several years before I finally paused to ask: What is that mosaic? What do the letters mean? Who is the artist?

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 5: Finally, Enjoying the Gallery

Installation shot "Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate." Photo by the author.
Installation shot “Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate.” Photo by the author.

Well, that was a whirl! For any of you that follow these blog posts in a timely manner, you’ll know (and one of you even pointed out to me in a gallery talk!) that I ambitiously scheduled two “Making an Exhibition”  blog posts for myself on the week of and week after the Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition opened.

Mistake. So, here I am, three weeks tardy to my original plans, finding an afternoon to recap the excitement of putting together the exhibition in its final week, celebrating the opening of the exhibition, and then sharing it with tours and reporters.

I am thrilled with how the beautiful artwork and tremendous story unfold in our exhibition. I am happy to report that we had a great crowd at our opening night. And I have been honored to share this story with more than one reporter, who had very lovely things to say about our exhibition in the press.

Here are a few things that happened.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 4: Storyboards, Design, and Installation

Pin board of a Milwauke Art Museum Curator. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
A “visual checklist” pinboard at my desk. Photo by the author.

Picking paint colors. Stepping under ladders in closed off galleries. Artfully arranging teacups. All are things I’ve done in the past few weeks, and all are entirely fun perks to a curator’s job. Beyond the fun, what I aim to do in this post is go a little deeper into the process of installing, painting, and arranging an exhibition.

In the first three posts of this series, I’ve addressed steps to developing the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013), from idea to loan paperwork to marketing.

The next step of bringing this incredible story and artwork physically to the public were the conversations we had about the design of the gallery, because there are as many ways to display artwork as there are paint colors in the Sherwin-Williams sample book.