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Major Survey of the Harvard Art Museum Collections to Open in September 2008

CAMBRIDGE, MA.- A comprehensive selection of works from the Harvard Art Museum’s three constituent museums—the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum—will be shown together for the first time in the exhibition Re-View, opening September 13, 2008 at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The Harvard Art Museum holds one of the country’s preeminent art collections, and Re-View reflects the diversity and richness of these holdings. The survey features Western art from antiquity to the turn of the last century, Islamic and Asian art, and European and American art since 1900. With a varied sequence of installations—some traditional and some surprising—the exhibition offers a new way of looking at the collections, which have historically been exhibited in separate facilities.

The works on display in Re-View were selected by the curatorial staff of all three museums, working both independently and collaboratively. The exhibition represents a powerful distillation of the collection, balancing a wish to make available major works, familiar works, and works integral to the Art Museum’s core mission of teaching and research. As a result, unique groupings of objects are being re-presented in new spaces with new and interesting juxtapositions. A mix of beloved objects will be intermingled with works that have not previously been on display or have not been on view for many years.

The Art Museum’s historic building at 32 Quincy Street—current home of the Fogg Museum and Busch-Reisinger Museum—closes on June 30, 2008 for a major renovation and expansion project designed by architect Renzo Piano. During the renovation, Re-View will be on long-term view at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway to provide an ongoing display of the Art Museum’s collection. The 32 Quincy Street renovation and expansion project is scheduled to be completed in 2013 and will unite all three of the museums in one state-of-the-art facility.

“The reinstallation of the Sackler galleries marks a visible step toward our goals of transforming our facilities, integrating our collections, and making them far more accessible,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museum. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to provide a teaching environment by keeping a portion of the collection on view and accessible to students, scholars, and the public, all while we are working to build new facilities that will vastly improve our ability to use all of our collections to their fullest potential.”

Works on View
The ground floor gallery of the exhibition is devoted to European and American art since 1900, and is the result of a collaboration between the Fogg Museum’s modern and contemporary department and the Busch-Reisinger Museum, whose collection consists of art of the German-speaking and related cultures of Central and Northern Europe. The works on view illustrate artists’ challenges and reconsiderations of long-standing traditions of representation in art, such as the genres of landscape and portraiture, and recent experimentation with nontraditional materials. Works on view from the Busch-Reisinger collection include Max Beckmann’s oil on canvas Self-Portrait in Tuxedo (1927), Joseph Beuys’s cast iron multiple Back Support for a Fine-Limbed Person (Hare Type) of the 20th Century AD (1972), and the Museum’s recent acquisition of Rosemarie Trockel’s sculpture Shutter (c) (2006). Glenn Ligon’s neon sculpture Untitled (Negro Sunshine) (2005), one of Jackson Pollock’s signature “drip technique” paintings No. 2 (1950), and Franz Kline’s abstract black-and-white oil on canvas High Street (1950) are among the works on view from the Fogg collection.

The second floor galleries showcase the Sackler Museum’s collections of Asian and Islamic Art from 5000 BC to the present. The installations highlight regional and cultural styles, but also demonstrate relationships and commonalities, such as the long ceramic dialogue that engaged potters across East Asia, West Asia, and Europe, and the widely felt need to give visual expression to religious experience. Among the objects on display are the Large Bowl with Hadith Inscriptions in Black and Red (10th century), a superb example of an earthenware vessel with a quotation attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions written in Arabic script, and the bronze sculpture Standing Rama Wearing a High Headdress and Dhoti (13th century), a processional image which was made for use in a South Indian temple. The evolution of Buddhist sculpture across India, the Himalayas, China, Korea, and Japan is also examined; among the works in this installation is a recently acquired elegant Korean gilt silver Buddhist Triad: Seated Buddha Sakyamuni Flanked by Two Standing Bodhisattvas (mid-15th century). Subsequent galleries feature East Asian painting, Chinese and Korean ceramics, including imperial wares, and the Standing Saddled Horse with Roman-Style Bridle Ornaments (probably 2nd century), a near-perfect example of an earthenware sculpture that was made expressly for burial in a tomb. Also on view are the Sackler Museum’s renowned holdings of archaic jades and ritual bronze vessels, including the famed cast bronze Chinese Ritual Wine-Pouring Vessel (Guang) with Tiger and Owl Decor (13th century BC) and the nephrite Configuration of Dragon, Bird, and Snake (4th–3rd century BC).

The fourth-floor galleries present painting, sculpture, and other objects, mainly in the Western tradition, from antiquity to the late 19th century. The galleries on this floor are generally arranged in chronological order. In several instances, however, works from different periods are juxtaposed, drawing attention not only to technical and stylistic innovations, but to continuities and revivals of themes and styles, such as those derived from Greek and Roman antiquity. In addition to highlighting the continuing strength of the classical tradition, the installation also places art from Europe and North America alongside works from other societies with which people of European heritage came into contact (Near Eastern, Egyptian, Asian, Islamic, indigenous American, African), emphasizing both different approaches and artistic interconnections. Highlights from the Sackler Museum’s ancient collection include a recent acquisition of a Greek terracotta Red-Figure Bell Krater: Phlyax Scene (c. 370 BC), a marble Roman copy of a 4th-century BC Greek Statue of Meleager (late 1st–early 2nd century AD), and two Egyptian bronze Enthroned Lion-Headed Deities (c. 664–525 BC). Works from the Fogg Museum’s collection of European art include Orazio Gentileschi’s The Virgin with the Sleeping Christ Child (c. 1610), not on view for many years; Rembrandt van Rijn’s oil on oak panel Bust of an Old Man (1632); Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s Odalisque with a Slave (1839–40); and Jean Frédéric Bazille’s Summer Scene (1869), a painting of young men bathing in the South of France. Also on exhibit are works from the Fogg Museum’s American art collection, among them Sarah Miriam Peale’s oil on panel Still Life with Watermelon (1822), a recent acquisition depicting an intensely naturalistic arrangement of sliced melons and grapes on a tabletop; Winslow Homer’s painting of Civil War soldiers playing a game in Pitching Quoits (1865); and Albert Bierstadt’s luminous oil on canvas landscape In the Sierras (1868).

The majority of the Fogg’s celebrated Maurice Wertheim Collection, an important collection of impressionist and postimpressionist paintings, sculptures, and drawings, is also on display. The paintings and sculpture on view include Pablo Picasso’s oil on canvas Mother and Child (c. 1901) and works by other artists such as Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Matisse, and van Gogh.

Throughout the duration of the exhibition, light-sensitive works, such as textiles and works on paper, will change periodically. In addition, a special teaching gallery on the fourth floor will feature three or four temporary installations annually, tied primarily to university courses, as well as other special installations.

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