Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial European

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.

20th and 21st Century Design Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement

American Studio Glass installation. 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?

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” 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.

American Art Collection 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.

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?

Art Curatorial

Join Me on a Visit to the MFA’s “Art of the Americas” Wing

Boston MFA Americas Wing

Last week I visited The Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and I was delighted by what I saw.  I traveled with several Milwaukee colleagues as we prepare for upcoming installation projects at the Museum. I was delighted to visit old “friends” in Boston’s rich American collection, I was thrilled to experience Norman Foster’s cool and elegant architecture, and I was grateful that several MFA curators took time to discuss the project in detail.

Acclaimed by everyone as a smashing success since its opening in November 2010, the Boston MFA’s $504 million, 121,307 square foot addition reorganizes the American art collection into 53 varied galleries. I found it an academic and sensual pleasure.

I was in the building for almost 12 hours, and I snapped almost 400 digital pictures. Here are a few that share what I saw and some notes on how these things might affect installation here in Milwaukee:

Art Behind the Scenes Exhibitions

Wright Changes to the 20th-century Design Gallery

Milwaukee Art Museum 20th-Century Design gallery. Before changes (above) and after (below).

When you visit the Museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century exhibition, you’ll notice that in addition to a trove of architectural drawings from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the installation includes drawings and furniture from the Museum’s permanent collection.

In the “Commissioned Houses” section, alongside stunning drawings of Wright’s homes for specific clients, the Museum’s George Mann Niedecken Combination Daybed/Writing Desk/ Lamp sits grandly on a center pedestal. Designed for Wright’s Irving House in Illinois, the desk is reunited with an Irving House lamp on loan from a private collection. In the exhibition’s section on “Enlightened Workspaces” the Desk (on long term loan to the Museum) designed for the S. C. Johnson Company building in Racine is on view along side site plans, presentation renderings, and models.

Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Education

Installation of the 2011 Scholastic Art Awards

Installation of the 2011 Scholastic Art Awards exhibition. Milwaukee Art Museum's Schroeder Galleria.

Every year the Museum is proud to celebrate the outstanding artistic talents of Wisconsin’s young artists. Since 1976, Wisconsin’s regional Scholastic Art Award competition culminates with an exhibition and awards ceremony at the Museum. Our team professionally tackles (in a short amount of time!) the thoughtful display of more than 325 pieces of student art—ranging from photographs to lamps, from charcoal drawings to silver jewelry.

This year, art preparator Kelli Busch organized the design and installation of the student artwork in the Museum’s Schroeder Galleria. The exhibition will be on view February 5–March 6, 2011.

Below are a few photographs of Kelli’s installation work in progress…

Art Curatorial Education

Listening to the Decorative Arts

Round Room video gallery, Milwaukee Art Museum's Lower Level Chipstone gallery.

As of late we at Chipstone have found ourselves discussing how the different senses affect our perception of decorative arts objects. For example, have you ever been asked to describe an object while blindfolded?

At our summer session for college undergrads, titled Object Lab, the students are required to do just that. It is amazing how “seeing” an object with our hands instead of our eyes, makes us drop the art historical jargon and really get into the essence of a piece. Although our conversation at Chipstone has centered around touch and how touching a piece of furniture or a ceramic object helps the viewer understand the object better than if he or she were just relying on sight, I’d like to explore how sound can add to an object’s experience and understanding.

Art Events Exhibitions

What’s Happening at the Museum: Nov. 15-21

Well, it’s here. The first-ever Art of the Table event at the Museum starts Thursday, November 18. The family-friendly event features 22 art-inspired tabletop designs by area designers, including local artists and national retailers, who were given a
10 x 10 foot space within the galleries to create their nontraditional installations.

The event was inspired by the On Site installation in the Museum by Robert Therrien, called Under the Table. This larger-than-life dining room table is perched in the heart of Windhover Hall and is quite a sight to see.