Two new galleries showcasing the Memorial Art Gallery
s ancient art collections will open December 16. Renovation and reinstallation of the second-floor galleries, which began this summer, was made possible by one of the largest gifts in Gallery historya $1 million donation from long-time MAG friend and supporter Helen H. Berkeley.
The Helen H. Berkeley Gallery of Ancient Art will bring together works from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, including objects never before on view. Among its highlights are two of the most important acquisitions of recent yearsthe rare pair of fourth-century Egyptian coffins that were until recently in MAGs Gill Discovery Center. A few steps away, At the Crossroads features works from the ancient Middle East and the Islamic world, among them a medieval Quran, a large architectural frieze from northern India and ceramics on loan from the Buffalo Museum of Science.
The Berkeley gift put into motion a project that has been in the planning process for a number of years: the reinstallation of the oldest objects in the Gallerys collection in the most up-to-date museum environment, says Nancy Norwood, curator of European art. The opportunity to present these significant works of art within the context of new research and interpretation continues the Gallerys mission of bringing the world within reach of our visitorsa group that includes the many students and teachers who make extensive use of this part of the collection.
Additional support for the project was received from the National Endowment for the Arts and through State funds secured by New York State Senator Joseph E. Robach.
Helen Berkeley served as president of the Gallery Council, an all-volunteer fund raising organization, from 1990 to 1992. She has been a member of the Gallery for more than 30 years, most recently as a member of the Directors Circle, and was a donor to Let the Art Live On, the MAG endowment campaign that concluded in 1997.
In 2008, Mrs. Berkeley was a sponsor of the major traveling exhibition "American Impressionism: Paintings from the Phillips Collection". She is a member of the Board of Directors at Graham Corporation, where her late husband, Frederick D. Berkeley III, served as CEO.
Helens magnificent and visionary gift honors the Gallerys collection, mission and near 100-year legacy, says director Grant Holcomb. Her generosity and personal commitment underscore the community-based support that has made the Gallery one of the finest regional art museums in the country. Adds Andrew Gallina, president of the Gallerys Board of Managers, We are pleased and fortunate to receive this level of support, which will help the Gallery to further its mission in our community.