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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

The Neapolitan Crèche: A Holiday Tradition

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Although this year we cannot gather at the Museum to see the Neapolitan crèche in the European galleries, an annual tradition for many, it is still possible to appreciate the joy this special tableau brings.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Crèche Redux: A Storyboard

Woman holding a baby surrounded by people, angels, and goats
Naples, Italy, “Nativity Scene (Crèche)”, mid-18th century. Polychromed terracotta, painted wood, and fabric, on a later support. Dimensions variable. Gift of Loretta Howard Sturgis, M2006.9.1-.20. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Back in early 2018, Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art, proposed that the Museum again install its Nativity scene, or crèche, in the galleries for the holidays. The work, a visitor favorite, hadn’t been on view since 2013, because the setting for the Holy Family and other figures was worn and needed repair—such stage sets are often fragile constructions that require replacing. The Museum’s setting needed either to be restored or refabricated. The decision was made to make a new stage set, and a group of us, from the Conservation department and the preparatory staff, started to explore the possibilities.

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Art Behind the Scenes Museum Buildings

A Night at the Museum

Alberto Rios is not only one of the Museum’s wonderful third-shift security officers; he is also a talented photographer. You may have seen some of his photos featured on the Museum’s social media pages. He captured this gorgeous sunrise on the East End and an image of Schroeder Galleria lit up for Pride Month, among other views of the Museum. Because he has such a great eye, and he has the unique opportunity to capture the Museum at a time when most are asleep, I asked if he would create a photo diary, taking viewers through one of his shifts. Get a behind-the-scenes—and somewhat eerie—look at the Museum (after dark!) below.
—Erin Aeschbacher, associate content writer

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Art Behind the Scenes

The Man That Time Forgot: Duane Hanson’s “Janitor”

Time changes everyone—or almost everyone. Through the years, the Janitor has remained a constant in the galleries of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

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Art Behind the Scenes

We’re Keeping the Lights On for You (but only figuratively speaking)

Lifelike Janitor sculpture leaning against a wall and a black and white portrait drawing of a woman
The building is eerily quiet, but Duane Hanson’s “Janitor” keeps continual watch over the Museum.
Lifelike janitor sculpture leaning against the wall with a black and white portrait in the background
The building is eerily quiet, but Duane Hanson’s “Janitor” keeps continual watch over the Museum.

As we wait to welcome you back to the Museum, work continues behind the scenes. In the conservation department, we prepare for many different disaster scenarios that might potentially strike our collection. Fire, flood, insect infestations, mold, and even terrorism are all covered in the Museum’s Emergency Preparedness Plan; COVID-19 and Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order are not. Having the Museum closed to the public for an extended period presented us with an entirely new set of challenges.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

The Curators’ Game: Collection Rotation

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tasman Sea, Ngarupupu, 1990. Gelatin silver print. Purchase, Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation Acquisition Fund, M2001.154. Copy photo by John R. Glembin.

What happens when a group of curators following the Safer at Home order plays a game with works from the Museum’s collection? You’re about to find out.

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Art Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes with the Museum’s Art Preparators

Just how does Robert Indiana’s The American LOVE sculpture make its way from the truck bed to become a fixture on the lakefront? What does the back of a Robert Henri painting look like? How does a three-dimensional sculpture get packed for safe travel to Spain?

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Education Events Exhibitions

The House of Cards Project

spiral
UWM-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts students (left to right) Anna Emerson, Paul Manley, and Jessica Schubkegel installing the House of Cards spiral. Photo: Ray Chi.

In the early 1950s, designers Charles and Ray Eames painstakingly arranged penny cars, pencils, pills, and papers to photograph for their House of Cards construction set. They probably never imagined that decades later, thousands of children and adults in the Milwaukee region would meticulously decorate their own House of Cards, let alone that these cards would be installed together in a towering spiral at the Milwaukee Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America.

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Art Behind the Scenes Education

Community Partner Project: Penfield Montessori Academy

Throughout the month of January, families who visited the Kohl’s Art Generation Studio made art for other kids to enjoy by contributing to a community mural that is displayed at Penfield Montessori Academy.

pma-verticalPenfield Montessori Academy employs a child-centered exploratory approach to learning, while also allowing children with special needs to grow in the classroom amongst their peers. They work in collaboration with Penfield Children’s Center, a fellow Kohl’s Hometown Partner, extending the opportunities that families can receive into their child’s schooling, as well as providing after-school care. Penfield Children’s Center creates a positive start in life for infants and children, many of whom have developmental delays or disabilities, by providing early education, health services, equipment, and family programming.

Penfield Montessori Academy opened for their inaugural school year in September 2016, so our Youth and Family Programs team met with their staff to brainstorm about what we could create to help beautify the school. We decided on a community mural, taking inspiration from artwork at the Museum and Penfield Montessori Academy’s mission of growing and learning together.

Being a part of this process was an amazing experience. I have the pleasure of working with a fantastic team of educators who designed this mural as a way to invite kids and their families to contribute to a project that not only provides them with a unique art making experience at the Museum, but benefits the Milwaukee community as well.

When families dropped by the studio, they drew from real flowers and plants, inspired by Nature and Opulence: The Art of Martin Johnson Heade, using a magnifying glass to get a closer look. They also drew from a variety of school supplies: pencils, scissors, glue, and other items that kids might recognize from their classrooms. Drawings were made directly onto transparencies, which were then transferred to the canvas, and painted. (See photos of the entire process in the slideshow below!)

It’s not quite as simple as I’m making it sound. We had a lot of help from our visitors, as well as incredible staff. But when it all came together… wow! Just look at this beauty!

9-bam
My favorite part: that sun! [insert heart-eyed emoji here]
We unveiled the mural to the students and staff on February 21st, and boy, were they excited. As a part of the unveiling, Kohl’s Color Wheels, the Museum’s off-site studio program, provided a hands-on art activity to the kids at Penfield. The kids created colorful paintings from real flowers!

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Penfield Montessori Academy and Penfield Children’s Center hold a very special place in my heart with everything they do to serve families in our community. I am constantly amazed by their dedication, and I’m thrilled to call their amazing school home for this mural.

To see more photos from the mural unveiling and the beautiful paintings the kids created, check out the Flickr album.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Where Did They Go?

Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.
Academic Gallery with Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Photo credit: John R. Glembin.

There are some things in the Museum that are always changing—exhibition galleries, works on paper, portrait miniatures. But sometimes we make smaller changes to those galleries that seem to be “permanent”. For instance, every once in a while, individual artworks disappear from the walls and are replaced by others. Have you ever wondered why?

In today’s post, we’ll take a look at two different reasons that paintings in the European galleries have gone off view and learn a little about the things that replaced them.

First, let’s look at the Layton Art Collection’s fabulous painting Homer and His Guide by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. This monumental painting—it’s almost 7 feet tall!— usually hangs in the Academic Gallery, S200. It’s not on view right now because it is out on loan.