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Baltimore Museum of Art reopens newly renovated contemporary wing; first phase of $24.5M renovation
Visitors exploring the Baltimore Museum of Art's newly renovated Contemporary Wing. Photo: Stephen Spartana.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art yesterday unveiled an exciting new look at the art of our time when it reopened its newly renovated contemporary wing, completing the first phase of a $24.5 million renovation leading up to the Museum’s 100th anniversary in 2014. Visitors discovered 16 refreshed and revitalized galleries showcasing masterworks by Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol alongside more than a dozen new acquisitions created by established and emerging artists working today. Highlights of the project include a major architectural intervention by artist Sarah Oppenheimer; three new exhibitions; a new black box gallery for light, sound and moving image works; two new interactive galleries; and the museum’s first mobile art guide for the collection.

“The reopening of the contemporary wing is an important milestone for the BMA, as it is the first completed phase of the Museum’s renovation, which will provide a more dynamic and engaging experience for our audiences,” said Museum Director Doreen Bolger. “We look forward to welcoming our visitors into a transformed environment that will create thought-provoking encounters with contemporary art.”

A Great Collection of Contemporary Art
More than 100 objects—including paintings, sculpture, photography, works on paper, and video—are presented thematically in galleries improved with state-of-the art lighting and new interiors. The BMA’s contemporary wing, which opened in 1994, houses a significant collection of American art from the last six decades with major late paintings by Warhol, as well as works by Grace Hartigan, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Glenn Ligon, Bruce Nauman, and Anne Truitt. The museum also holds an outstanding group of works by influential international artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Franz West, and artists whose work makes a profound social statement, including David Hammons, General Idea, Zoe Leonard, Josephine Meckseper, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

Exciting New Acquisitions
Among the many acquisitions making their debut this fall are The Shallow Sea (2010), a haunting sound installation by Turner Prize-winning artist Susan Philipsz; Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart) (2011), a vibrant mixed-media sculpture composed of intricate areas of digitally cut paper and everyday objects by Sarah Sze; and a series of photographs and videos from Oliver Herring’s Areas for Action (2011) project. Other recent additions to the collection include works by Walead Beshty, Guyton\Walker, Elad Lassry, Julie Mehretu, R.H. Quaytman, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Nari Ward. These works will be presented to show how the newest of the new art relates to evolving traditions of modern and contemporary art.

“The BMA is known for its extraordinary commitment to contemporary art and artists, and in reimagining the wing, we wanted our audiences to be exposed to artists expressing a wide array of styles, points of view, and experiences,” said Kristen Hileman, the BMA’s Contemporary Art Curator. “Our new acquisitions, paired with our outstanding core collection, encompass works by some of the most important voices of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

New Interactive Galleries & BMA Go Mobile
Two new interactive galleries encourage visitors to create, share, and connect with contemporary art, ideas, and artists in innovative and unexpected ways. The Big Table is a gathering space with creative activities inspired by artistssuch as Ed Ruscha and Bruce Nauman who use language to create powerful works of art. Artist talks, demonstrations, and art-making activities will also take place there thisspring. Open Studio highlights one artist’s ideas and creative process, focusing first on Sarah Oppenheimer’s fascinating two-part architectural intervention with a time-lapse video of its installation, video interviews with the artist, working drawings, and models. The first mobile art guide for the collection, BMA Go Mobile, launches with rich information and fresh perspectives on more than 100 objects in the contemporary collection, as well as exclusive video and audio commentary by artists, curators, and othersin Baltimore’s creative community. This personalized and portable mobile website can be accessed from iPhones, Android, and Blackberry smartphones. iPod Touches will also be available for Museum visitors to use during their visit.

New Exhibitions & Site-Specific Installations
A series of innovative, exciting, and diverse contemporary art exhibitions and programs focuses on emerging and midcareer artists, giving visitors opportunities to experience a variety of new and cutting-edge perspectives every four months. The museum’s Front Room gallery will present international and multidisciplinary solo artist shows and thematic exhibitions and the new Black Box gallery will feature light, sound, and moving image works. A gallery dedicated for lightsensitive contemporary works on paper also presents changing exhibitions of important and rarely shown prints, drawings, and photographs. The following exhibitions and projects debuted in conjunction with the November 18

Sarah Oppenheimer
November 18 – ongoing
Architectural intervention

The BMA is the first major museum to commission and acquire a site-specific installation by award-winning artist Sarah Oppenheimer. For this dramatic two-part work, the artist has cut through the floor, ceiling, and walls between the 2nd and 3rd floors of the contemporary wing and also through the wall between the contemporary and Cone wings to connect visitors and periods of art history using meticulously crafted mirrored and aluminum sculptural forms. Oppenheimer (American, born 1972) has exhibited at venues in the U.S. and Europe and is a visiting critic at Yale University.

Front Room: Zwelethu Mthethwa
November 18, 2012 – February 10, 2013

The Front Room exhibition in the first gallery of the contemporary wing features eight stunning color portrait photographs by acclaimed artist Zwelethu Mthethwa. Selections from three of his most compelling series include large-scale images of South African youths in elaborate church uniforms, interior portraits of South Africans that show aspects of their domestic life, and laborers amidst the stark landscape of the sugar cane industry. Mthethwa (South African, born 1960) has had more than 35 solo exhibitions at galleries around the world and was included in the 2005 Venice Biennale.

Black Box: Allora & Calzadilla
November 18, 2012 – February 3, 2013

The BMA’s new black box gallery debuts with a special presentation of this recently acquired 11-minute video (2008) set in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. The film depicts alternating scenes of the lower Mississippi River Delta wetlands and a resident of the Ninth Ward “playing” a set of window blinds in an abandoned house, creating an inconstant flutter of light in the darkened space. Jennifer Allora (American, born 1974) and Guillermo Calzadilla (Cuban, born 1971) are a renowned artist collaborative who represented the U.S. in the 2011 Venice Biennale.

On Paper: Drawings from the Benesch Collection
November 18, 2012 – February 10, 2013

A new dedicated space for the BMA’s renowned holdings of contemporary prints, drawings & photographs opens with 10 outstanding drawings from the 1960s and 70s by contemporary masters Jasper Johns, Philip Guston, Lee Bontecou, Claes Oldenburg, Antoni Tąpies and others. The first exhibition is from the museum’s Thomas E. Benesch Memorial Collection, a group of more than 140 outstanding drawings by international contemporary artists.

November 18, 2012 – May 5, 2013
Site-specific installation

Baltimore-based street artist Gaia has created two mural-sized artworks for one of the contemporary wing’s newly created architectural spaces. For this unique indoor project, he has taken inspiration from the museum’s iconic Vahine no te Vi (Woman of the Mango) painting by Paul Gauguin and created portraits of individuals living in the Museum’s neighboring Remington community. Gaia (American, born 1988) is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art known for his distinctive hand drawn images of animals and human figures.

BMA Renovation
In addition to the new presentation of the contemporary wing, the BMA’s $24.5 million renovation includes the reinstallation of its American and African collections, and improvements to the lobby to enhance the visitor experience. The renovation will also provide the museum with greater flexibility in the presentation of both its collection and exhibitions, facilitating more dynamic and engaging encounters with art at the BMA. The project is expected to be completed during the museum’s 100th anniversary in 2014.

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November 20, 2012

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