Posted on January 12th, 2017 by Rachel
Enjoy our jaunty shot of the exhibit title!
Last week, thanks to tickets through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Rachel and Joanna visited the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibit “Matisse/Diebenkorn,” which brings together the work of these two artists, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn, for the first time. As always when museum professionals visit other museums’ exhibits, we had Thoughts.
Alas, no photographs allowed in the exhibition.
I’m not an art historian by any means, but I did take a few classes in college – just enough knowledge to make me dangerous. For one thing, I thought I knew Diebenkorn’s work, but the first gallery showing his early abstract work confused me; thus my very first Thought was, ‘Oops, I was picturing someone else.’ Pro-tip: look at the exhibit website before visiting, instead of just thinking you know what’s going on. The BMA’s helpful list of things to know includes “[Diebenkorn] moved between abstraction and figuration,” which would been useful if I’d read it ahead of time. Thankfully for my ego, the third gallery included works that were more familiar.
I used to have a print of this painting hanging in my kitchen. I know art exhibits should not always be about familiarity and recognition, but it is still a pleasant feeling. Cityscape #1 (1963) via SFMOMA.
Having no background in art history, I tend to find the labels at art exhibitions a little too concise, containing little more than title, date, artist, and who owns the piece now. I was thrilled to find that BMA Senior Curator of European Paintings & Sculpture Katy Rothkopf, who curated the Baltimore-occurrence of this show chose to use meaty labels, often including contextual details about the techniques used, the artists’ lives during the period of the piece’s creation, and particularly helpful explanations of how one piece could have been inspired by another.
A perfect example – Joanna and I loved the label for Matisse’s Reclining nude with arm behind head (1937) which included a reference to a “stumping” and was immediately followed by an explanation of the technique and what it does for the piece!
I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of books from Diebenkorn’s own library, all focused on Matisse’s work. Not only did this help strengthen the exhibit’s argument – that Matisse was a heavy influence on Diebenkorn – but it also showed a willingness to break out of the traditional “art, and art only” style of exhibition and include supporting artifacts and documents, a willingness which I think many art museums have recently embraced.
I agree with Joanna! Including material beyond the artworks themselves really rounds out the experience for me. I would urge all art curators to go even further if possible – I love when there are multiple photos of the artist at work, images of the artist’s workspaces, even cases with their tools.
The BMA offered audio guides, which (at least when we were there) nearly every guest accepted. I am not personally a fan, though I know many people very much enjoy them, and they can be a useful tool for conveying additional information without overloading the walls with text. But one reason I don’t like them is that they discourage conversation. This type of exhibit, with labels asking visitors to actively look at each image and compare them to others in the gallery, seems particularly well-suited to dialogue… but everyone is just listening to their headsets. Rachel and I did not have headsets so we felt free to discuss (quietly, don’t worry), and I think that enhanced our experience. I did see at least one other pair of women braving the isolation of the headphones to talk about what they saw, which made me happy – especially because one of the women said to the other, as if continuing an earlier “Hmm, I’m not so into these” conversation, “Well, I would take a Diebenkorn if someone gave it to me.” Me too!
I will say that having everyone else in the gallery wearing headphones made me much more comfortable voicing all my thoughts and opinions to Joanna! I’m often worried about disturbing other visitors or making anyone feel judged (we don’t have to like the same art, after all), so on a (very) personal level the popularity of the audio tour worked out great for me. But I also know I would have enjoyed the experience much less without the ability to turn to Joanna and discuss.
If you’re hoping to see the exhibit yourself, make plans to go soon – the show closes on January 29th!
Posted on June 27th, 2011 by Rachel
Last Thursday, the 23rd of June, all the interns, plus Rachel Kassman and Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, took a day field trip to Washington D.C! After an early morning start by car and train, we got to D.C. about 10 A.M. and did were released to do some exploring around the Mall. I went with interns Codi and Morgan to the National Museum of the American Indian as well as the National Gallery of Art sculpture garden.
Choctaw Indian Dance outside of the National Museum of the American Indian
Our first major stop and tour of the field trip was at the American Museum of American History. There, we learned the extensive process of making a museum more interactive while teaching the visitors about the exhibit. Overall an informative tour about a possible type of job in a museum. I also got the chance to see the dress I had been waiting to see for a long time, the one worn by Michelle Obama at the Inauguration Ball of President Obama! No matter your politics it really is a beautiful dress.
The dress and accessories worn by Michelle Obama.
From there we did more exploring and I went with Codi and Morgan to the Rotunda to finally see the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I’m glad I finally was able to see them!
Posing with one of the new Humvees at the Armory.
Our last stop of the day was to the Armory of the National Guard of D.C. We were given a tour by the new curator, Lt. Miranda Summers, of the in-progress National Guard Museum. I definitely feel much more privileged to be working in a well catalogued and organized museum after seeing the collections at the Armory. With the end of the tour we headed home after a full but very informative day. I am greatly appreciative to the internship coordinators for structuring and including field trips such as this one to expand our knowledge about Museum work. I’m excited to see where we go next!
A blog post by summer intern Mary Barthelme.
Posted on February 28th, 2011 by Rachel
I was asked to set up a visit to the brand new National Museum of American Jewish History on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall this past Sunday for members of the JMM’s Board of Trustees. Sunday coincided with the opening day of the annual conference of the Council of American Jewish Museums, which the NMAJH hosted, so the trustees had an opportunity not only to see the new museum, but also to attend the opening plenary session of the conference. No problem, I said to myself, this will be a breeze to do . . . but I quickly found out that one detail led to another, led to another, and so on.
Boarding the bus to Philadelphia
Our Bus Trippers relaxed on the drive, enjoying bagels, juices, and chatting with one another. When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were all ready for our visit to the NMAJH.
The NMAJH building was imposing, sitting right on the mall at 5th and Market Streets. Our bus driver found the entrance and we were welcomed by a representative of the museum. We had plenty of time to check out the highlights of the exhibitions in the museum; although there was no way that we could see everything on the four floors in the few hours we were there. Everyone gave it their best shot, knowing that we would have to make a return visit. You know of course, that I made a bee line for their Museum Store and browsed and chatted with the Museum Store Manager to my heart’s content. It is quite a store and well worth visiting!
A view inside the bus - look at all those excited travelers!
Trustees also attended the Plenary session of CAJM which they found very interesting, Following that, they had time to check out more exhibitions, and do a bit of shopping. Our bus returned promptly at 4:00 PM to take us back to Baltimore, arriving at 6:00 PM. Again, nourishment was provided, crunchy apples, dark chocolates and chocolate chip cookies were on the menu. If nothing else, we ate well.
The gang's all here!
Everyone had a great time, it was an opportunity to meet and greet in a relaxed way. We all agreed that the NMAJH is an amazing museum and we encourage you to make the trip to Philadelphia to check it out!