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Take a Look Behind the Scenes, Behind the Canvas and Behind the Paint at the Currier Museum of Art
Preparators Jeff Allen (left) and Sky Shaw (right) unpack a work of art from its special crate, and prepare to hang it in storage.

MANCHESTER, NH.- 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 Currier’s own collection of art along the way.

Imagine following the journey of a painting beginning from its first showing at a gallery in the 1930’s, as it travels around the country to its final home at the Currier. Georgia O’Keeffe’s 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 Stieglitz’s gallery An American Place in 1935. The labels serve as a visual record of the painting’s growing acceptance as a major work by one of America’s 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 Rothko’s 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. Grokoest’s generosity, the Currier might not have a work by this renowned Abstract Expressionist painter of the mid twentieth century.

Often the artist’s 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 artist’s 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 object’s history and the artist’s working methods.

It’s 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 Gossart’s 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 Gossaart’s 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 painting’s 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. It’s not a secret anymore!

Currier Museum of Art | The Secret Life of Art | Mysteries of the Museum Revealed |

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