On October 2 the Currier Museum of Art
launched The Secret Life of Art: Mysteries of the Museum Revealed, an exploration of the life of an art museum. The exhibition gives a glimpse into the world of museums, unlocking secrets from the Curriers own collection of art along the way.
Imagine following the journey of a painting beginning from its first showing at a gallery in the 1930s, as it travels around the country to its final home at the Currier. Georgia OKeeffes Cross by the Sea, 1932, has 22 paper labels attached to back of the painting that document its exhibition and ownership history from its first presentation at Alfred Stieglitzs gallery An American Place in 1935. The labels serve as a visual record of the paintings growing acceptance as a major work by one of Americas most important modernist artists. The painting will be mounted so that both front and back will be visible and text accompanying the painting will decode the labels to give a complete picture of its history.
A simple childhood memory can lead to an extraordinary gift of art to a museum. Such is the case with Mark Rothkos Untitled, Red over Brown, 1967. This painting was inscribed on the reverse, To my friend Dr. Albert Grokoest with gratitude Mark Rothko 1967 by the artist when he gave the painting to his physician and friend Dr. Albert Grokoest. Grokoest was a New Hampshire native, and he bequeathed the picture to the Currier in appreciation of the role the museum played in his childhood. Without Dr. Grokoests generosity, the Currier might not have a work by this renowned Abstract Expressionist painter of the mid twentieth century.
Often the artists original concept and the final work of art change during the creative process. The Secret Life lets you take a look under the paint using scientific analysis, like infrared photos. Such photos of the seventeenth-century Dutch panel painting Card Players, about 1635, by Jan Molenaer, reveals the artists under-drawing and changes he made to the composition as he created it. Card Players will be displayed with a full-sized enlargement of the infrared image and text that will help visitors understand how technology has aided curators and conservators in understanding this objects history and the artists working methods.
Its widely known that the Currier borrows art for special exhibitions, but did you realize the museum also loans art from its own collections to other museums? Jan Gossarts Self Portrait will be on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery, London for the exhibition Man, Myth and Sensual Pleasures: Jan Gossaarts Renaissance from October, 2010 through May, 2011 which overlaps with The Secret Life of Art. We will document the packing of the painting in preparation for its shipment and a regular blog post will chronicle the paintings travels and update visitors on the how and why of object travel.
These and many more stories in The Secret Life of Art: Mysteries of the Museum Revealed comprise an exhibition unlike any other at the Currier, integrating public input in the planning and throughout the exhibition, while giving visitors a behind-the-scenes view of the museum. Its not a secret anymore!