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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

MAM Behind-the-Scenes: Rotating the Collection

Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.
Gallery with Portrait Miniatures at Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: Tina Schinabeck.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, like many other large museums, has so much art that it is impossible to display it all at once; there is just not enough space in the galleries.

Instead, the museum often rotates their installations, allowing the largest amount of objects to be displayed—just at different times. This also lets the curators to explore many different narratives using the permanent collection.

One such rotating installation is the display of portrait miniatures. Located in the gallery that contains most of the eighteenth-century European material, the portrait miniatures make a fascinating case study on just how the Milwaukee Art Museum goes about rotating artwork.

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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement

American Studio Glass installation. Photo by the author.
American Studio Glass installation at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by the author.

The year 2012 is considered the 50th anniversary of the American Studio Glass movement. The anniversary is being celebrated with exhibitions and events across the country, organized in large part by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a terrific collection of studio glass, and we were thrilled to be part of the celebration. Along one wall of the newly-designed Kohl’s Art Generation Studio is a new installation that celebrates using glass as a medium of creative impulse.

The glass sparkles, tells an important art history story, and I hope that its visual beauty inspires young artists as they create their own artwork nearby.

What is the American Studio Glass movement, and what is this anniversary?

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Art Curatorial

How many curators does it take to create an exhibition?

Installation shot, MIAD's "Style, Innovation, & Vision" exhibition. Photo by the author.
Installation shot, MIAD's "Style, Innovation, & Vision: Six Perspectives of a Design Collection" exhibition. Photo by the author.

Don’t answer that. Most jokes beginning that way aren’t very nice to the subject. My answer, in this case, is: six.

This fall, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) Director of Galleries Mark Lawson asked six design-lovers to curate an exhibition in the college’s Brooks Stevens Gallery.

Style, Innovation, & Vision: Six Perspectives of a Design Collection (Oct 7, 2011 – March 1, 2012) shows the results of his experiment.

MIAD has a significant collection of industrial design objects–ranging wildly from a Betty Crocker mixer to wheelchairs to a Motorola Razr cell phone. In 2010 MIAD’s webmaster Dave O’Meara and MIAD alumnus Dave Hinkle created a new digital catalog of these objects and illustrations.

To celebrate and advertise the possibilities of this new resource, Mark Lawson used it at the center of an exhibition. He called in a variety of voices to help, and I was thrilled to be one of the six involved.

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Art Curatorial

Refreshed Look for the American Paintings Galleries

American Paintings gallery, August 2011. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
Milwaukee Art Museum American Paintings gallery, August 2011 reinstallation. Photo by Mel Buchanan.

The newly reinstalled galleries in the Museum’s lower level offer a survey of the American paintings collections from the Colonial era to the turn of the 20th century.  The nearly fifty objects on view showcase not only a history of American art, but also the history of the Museum’s interest in American art.

Around half of the paintings on view are part of the Layton Art Collection, Milwaukee’s first public art gallery and our present-day Museum’s parent organization. The Layton Art Gallery was founded by meat packer and philanthropist Frederick Layton in 1888, and you’ll find Layton’s monumental 1893 portrait by Eastman Johnson still on view in the newly-installed American painting gallery.

The other half of the collections on view represents works acquired by the Museum as gifts and purchases, both before and after its 1957 merger with the Layton Art Gallery.

Old favorites remain, but there are many new additions pulled from Museum storage.

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Art Curatorial

The Rooms of Wonder

Entrance to Loca Miraculi
Entrance to "Loca Miraculi | Rooms of Wonder", lower level in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo by Jim Wildeman.

Recently, I’ve noticed that several museums have created their own versions of the wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. The Walker Art Center, for example, has arranged their permanent collection into an exhibition called Midnight Party. This new installation, on view until February 2014, is inspired by Joseph Cornell’s film by the same title, and explores works dealing with dreams and fantasies. It also has a gallery dedicated to odd objects, such as a toothbrush that has teeth in the place of bristles.

The Brooklyn Public Library just closed their own wunderkammer, which was composed of artworks from Takeshi Yamada’s Museum of World Wonders. The objects reminded one of curiosities seen in carnivals, such as carnivorous plants and a hairy trout.

At this point you might be asking yourself, what exactly is a cabinet of curiosities?

And how does this relate to the Milwaukee Art Museum?