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Yale University Art Gallery reopens $135 million renovated and reinstalled galleries
The expanded and renovated Gallery contains 69,975 square feet of exhibition space, compared to 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion, and occupies the length of one-and-a-half city blocks. Photo: Andrew Leu '13. ©All rights reserved by Yale University Art Gallery.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- The Yale University Art Gallery celebrates the grand opening of the renovated and expanded museum. This important initiative, which has been accompanied by parallel growth in the museum’s holdings, has enabled the Gallery not only to enhance its role as one of the nation’s preeminent teaching institutions, but also to join the ranks of the country’s leading public art museums.

The $135 million* project has increased the space occupied by the museum from one-and-a-half buildings—the 1953 modernist structure designed by Louis Kahn and approximately half of the 1928 Old Yale Art Gallery, designed by Egerton Swartwout—to three, encompassing the Kahn building, the entire Old Yale Art Gallery, and the contiguous 1866 Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight (and home to the Gallery from 1867 to 1928). The project—designed and led by Duncan Hazard, Management Partner, and Richard Olcott, Design Partner, in the New York City-based Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership)—has united the three buildings into a cohesive whole while maintaining the distinctive architectural identity of each.

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, notes, “The reinstallation of the Gallery following its renovation and expansion is a stunning testament to the transformation that this project has achieved. The new galleries are superb places for viewing art, with space for generous installations in which recently acquired works provide new perspectives on longtime favorites. At last visitors can fully experience the remarkable depth and sweep of the Gallery’s holdings. We are deeply grateful to all of the Yale friends and alumni—including our Governing Board—who have made this initiative possible, and especially for the visionary leadership of Yale President Richard C. Levin, who has supported the project from its inception.”

The expanded and renovated Gallery contains 69,975 square feet of exhibition space, compared to 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion, and occupies the length of one-and-a-half city blocks. The Gallery’s eleven curatorial departments were all involved in planning for the project and in the reinstallation. Designated collection galleries include those devoted to African, Asian, Indo-Pacific, and modern art, located in the Louis Kahn building; art of the ancient Americas, ancient art, European art, coins and medals, photography, and contemporary art, located in the Old Yale Art Gallery; and American paintings and sculpture and American decorative arts, located in Street Hall. Works on paper are integrated into a number of the galleries, and the reinstalled museum also features a number of study galleries, including one on the arts of Islam; the new Nolen Center for Art and Education; and three special-exhibition galleries.

Highlights of Recent Acquisitions
Visitors to the expanded and renovated Gallery encounter not only long-celebrated treasures, such as Frans Hals’s double portrait De Heer Bodolphe and Mevrouw Bodolphe (1643), John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence (1786–1820), Vincent van Gogh’s Night Café (1888), Marcel Duchamp’s Tu m’ (1918), and early American period rooms, among many others, but also some 1,100 new acquisitions. These have been selected from among approximately 57,000 works generously donated to the Gallery since 1998, when plans for the expansion began.

Recent acquisitions range from paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, and prints to decorative arts and design objects. The works encompass a broad range of cultures and historic eras, reflecting the Gallery’s efforts to expand the reach of its collection to represent more accurately the diversity and scope of world culture.

African Art
The Department of African art was established through a gift of both artwork and funds for a curatorial position, donated in 2004 by Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933. In addition to 85 examples from the Benenson gift, from a total of 585 objects, the galleries of African art now also display 34 works from a highly important 2010 gift of more than 200 antiquities from SusAnna and Joel B. Grae. Objects on view from the Grae collection—which has transformed the Gallery’s ability to convey the depth and complexity of the history of African art—include human figures in terracotta, some almost life-sized, from the civilizations of Sokoto, Katsina, and Nok in ancient Nigeria. Dating back 3,000 years, these were collected in the 1950s and 1960s by the civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin.

American Decorative Arts
The Gallery’s American decorative arts collection is among the finest in the United States, with historic strengths in silver of the colonial and early Federal periods from the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection. Among new acquisitions are a New Jersey spoon rack (1737); a Philadelphia Queen Anne armchair (ca. 1740); a horn chair made in San Antonio, Texas (ca. 1890); and two important collections of modern objects. One of these, a generous gift from John C. Waddell, B.A. 1959, comprises more than 150 objects designed between 1925 and 1940, including examples by many of the leading American designers of the modern period. The other is the Swid Powell Collection, with more than 1,500 examples of innovative ceramics, silver, and glass, in addition to preparatory sketches and prototypes, designed for Swid Powell by architects, artists, and designers. More than 30 objects from the Waddell collection are on view in the new galleries, including a sterling-silver centerpiece bowl designed by Eliel Saarinen for Charter Company (1929–30); a Plexiglas side chair designed by Gilbert Rohde (1939); and John Vassos’s Model No. 77-B1 microphone and stand, designed for the Radio Corporation of America (1937–38). About a dozen objects from the Swid Powell Collection are on view, including the Teaside tea set by Stanley Tigerman (1986); Robert Venturi’s Grandmother pattern ceramics (1984); and a salad serving set designed by Michael Graves (1990).

American Paintings and Sculpture
The Gallery’s eminent collection of American paintings and sculpture, comprising works from the 17th to the mid-20th century, are installed in expansive, sky-lit galleries. The more than 3,000 paintings, sculptures, and miniatures in the collection have been enhanced by several extraordinary recent acquisitions, such as the exquisite painting Two Hummingbirds with Their Young (ca. 1865), by Martin Johnson Heade. A gift of longtime patron Jerald Dillon Fessenden, B.S. 1960, the painting shows the birds, painted by Heade on a trip to Brazil, with their iridescent, jewel-like red and green feathers glittering against a hazy gray sky and distant mountains. Another new acquisition—vastly different from the Heade—is Tunnel of Love (1947), a complex, multilayered painting by Henry Koerner that was inspired by Coney Island. Also adding to the department’s 20th-century strengths is Invasion Barge (1943), a vigorous scene created at the height of the Second World War by George L. K. Morris, B.A. 1928, a leading member of the small but important group of artists known as the “Park Avenue Modernists” who were devoted to advancing abstraction. The gift of two rare watercolor-on-ivory mourning miniatures, Memorial for Sarah Myers (ca. 1795) and Memorial for Mrs. Lucy Carew Tillinghast (ca. 1800–1810), from Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, brings additional depth to the Gallery’s already remarkable collection of American miniatures, many of them earlier gifts from the Deutsches.

Art of the Ancient Americas
The new galleries of the art of the ancient Americas span more than 3,000 years, exploring themes in art that cross cultural boundaries from the Olmec to the Inca and geographic regions from Mexico to Peru. The installation of the new galleries has been enhanced by recent acquisitions that include a Costa Rican ocarina (whistle) in the form of a kinkajou, a Maya ballplayer figure in full regalia, and a collection of gold and jade ornaments and tools.

Art of the Ancient Mediterranean
An expansive sculpture hall that is home to the display of art from the ancient Assyrian world through early medieval Europe, with smaller thematic installations along the way, fills much of the ground floor of the Old Yale Art Gallery. New acquisitions on view include marble portraits of Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 147–49), Julia Domna (A.D. 203–17), and Plato (ca. 3rd- century A.D.); a painted wood mummy portrait of an old woman (A.D. 100–140); and an intact red-figure vase with a scene of sacrifice (ca. 420 B.C.).

All of the objects in the gallery dedicated to Yale’s celebrated collection of major finds from the ancient city of Dura-Europos were excavated in the 1920s and 1930s. Visitors to the gallery will find a new, full-scale reconstruction of the city’s Mithraeum, a complete set of horse armor from the Roman cavalry (never before on view at Yale), and newly restored wall paintings from the baptistery, including some of the earliest-known images of Christ.

Asian Art
In celebration of the opening of the expanded Gallery, the Department of Asian Art has reinstalled the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Gallery of Asian Art. Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese painting, calligraphy, and prints, along with a recently acquired Korean screen, are on display, complementing East Asian ceramics and sculpture from the permanent collection. Of special interest is the display of contemporary Japanese ceramics, including such recent additions as Kondo Takahiro’s Green Mist (2006). Indian miniature paintings of the mid-18th century and recent gifts of Indian sculpture, including the 10th-century sandstone Kubera and Riddhi, are featured in the South Asian section of the gallery.

Coins and Medals
The Gallery’s collection of coins and medals, which until now has been housed in the University’s Sterling Memorial Library, comprises some 100,000 pieces, including Greco-Roman coins, Renaissance medals, medals related to the American Revolution, and medals from the Civil War era, among others. Newly acquired examples include a silver Roman didrachm (300 B.C.); a bronze coin depicting Septimus Severus, emperor of Rome in A.D. 193–211, from the Halicarnassu mint; and an 18th-century copper medal of Jean Dassier depicting several Roman poets. Coins also enrich installations in other areas of the museum, including in the ancient art and American decorative arts galleries.

European Art
The galleries devoted to European art represent a collection that encompasses some 2,000 objects from the 9th through the 19th century, including paintings, sculpture, textiles, and a small but distinguished group of decorative arts. Roughly 400 of these works are now installed in the galleries, which present some of the most exceptional works created in Western Europe during this time period. The numerous new acquisitions on view include recently discovered works by Renaissance masters Donatello, Pontormo, and Garofalo; a painting of the Crucifixion (1584–94), a powerful and poignant work of private devotion by the important Italian painter Annibale Caracci; a superb gilt bronze crucifix (ca. 1690–1700), the work of Italian sculptor Camillo Rusconi, one of the finest sculptors of his day; Francois Baron Gerard’s enchanting Portrait of Emilie Brogniart (1795), his first submission to the Paris salon; and a masterpiece of early Romantic painting in France, the Retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Russia in 1812,
by Ary Scheffer (1826).

Indo-Pacific Art
Formed through gifts of three superb collections, this new department has placed the Gallery among the leaders in the field of Indo-Pacific art. On view in the opening installation are highlights drawn from an important collection of Indo-Pacific art, a promised gift to the Gallery made in 2009 by Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971, who has since added many works. The promised gift includes more than 600 ethnographic sculptures and roughly the same number of Indonesian textiles, most of the latter originally collected by renowned experts Robert Holmgren and Anita Spertus.

Also on view are selections from the 2007–8 gift of Valerie and Hunter Thompson, Toronto collectors and arts benefactors whose outstanding and comprehensive collection features ancient Javanese gold jewelry and sculpture.

Additionally, Mr. Jaffe provided the funds to fully endow a curatorial position and to create the new Kubler–Thompson Gallery of Indo-Pacific Art, named in honor of two pioneering Yale art historians, the late Professor George Kubler and Professor Robert Farris Thompson.

Modern and Contemporary Art
This exceptional collection—among the finest and most wide-ranging in the United States—is now installed throughout the spacious and newly named Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith and Charles B. Benenson galleries, honoring two Yale governing-board members who have gifted important collections to their alma mater’s teaching museum. Numbering more than 100 works, the Benenson collection of modern and contemporary art, donated in 2006, includes modern masterworks by artists such as Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Pablo Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters.

A selection from the Benenson collection is on view in the new installation, which also features major works by Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Stella, Wayne Thiebaud, H. C. Westerman, and others. The installation additionally highlights a selection of recent gifts and purchases of Yale alumni artists, such as Dawoud Bey, Chuck Close, Nancy Graves, Peter Halley, Eva Hesse, Roni Horn, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Brice Marden, Judy Pfaff, Clifford Ross, Richard Serra, and Jessica Stockholder. Recent acquisitions are also included in a special exhibition of contemporary sculpture.

The above are presented alongside many other stellar works from the Gallery’s modern and contemporary holdings, including those from the Société Anonyme Collection, an exceptional anthology of European and American art of the early 20th century. Other works from the Société Anonyme Collection are presented in a special exhibition, Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, timed to the Gallery’s opening.

Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Visitors will find many works on paper throughout the museum, in the modern and contemporary, American paintings and sculpture, American decorative arts, and Asian art galleries, where they will be presented on a rotating basis. New acquisitions on view include selections from Kara Walker’s Harper’s Pictorial History of the War (Annotated), in the contemporary galleries, and John La Farge’s preparatory watercolor study for the Good Knight stained-glass window, in the American decorative arts galleries. Three newly acquired and realized wall drawings by Sol LeWitt, including Wall Drawing #786A, featuring arcs in white crayon laid out against a black background, are also on view. In addition, a special gallery dedicated to photography will feature rotating installations, beginning with a selection of 20th-century American masterworks by photographers such as Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, and Dorothea Lange.

The Yale University Art Gallery | Jock Reynolds | Benenson Collection |

Today's News

December 13, 2012

Yale University Art Gallery reopens $135 million renovated and reinstalled galleries

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