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Speed Art Museum Conducts Collection Review & Expansion Planning
Alfred Sisley, Hilly Path, Ville d'Avray, 1879. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase, by exchange, and Gift of the Charter Collectors. Photo courtesy of the Speed Art Museum.

LOUISVILLE, KY.- The Speed Art Museum is mounting a variety of initiatives in the coming year to enhance the experiences it provides to its visitors, deepen its engagement with the community, and build on the success of its ongoing programs. Plans include a comprehensive analysis of the Museum’s collection, the continuation of plans for expanding and revitalizing its facility, and new exhibition and programming strategies.

Director Charles L. Venable, along with the Speed’s curatorial staff, a team of eminent art historians and scholars, and in consultation with Trustee leadership, is in the midst of a comprehensive and systematic review of the Museum’s 14,000-piece collection. To date, they have examined nearly half of the collection. Their scholarship is shedding new light on the significance of key pieces, leading to the reattribution of works, revealing collection strengths not previously fully recognized, and yielding new perspectives on the history and development of the Museum’s collection.

The Speed has embarked on its unprecedented analysis to identify key areas for collection growth and refinement, with the goal of strengthening the Museum’s holdings and making the collection more relevant and meaningful for the community it serves. A range of approaches are being explored to enliven the collection and visitors’ experience of it—including acquisitions, gifts, long-term loans, and partnerships with other museums. The Speed will be deaccessioning works that are in poor condition, of lesser quality, have been discovered to be modified, or are inappropriate for an art museum—these later pieces range from natural history objects to photo mechanical reproductions. Funds obtained from deaccessioned works will be used for the acquisition of new works of art to further strengthen the collection.

The Speed has entered into an agreement with Christie’s to auction the works it will deaccession. To ensure transparency in this process, the Museum will post information on deaccessioned objects on its website beginning this spring. The Museum is developing a searchable online database of its entire collection, which will include information on deaccessioned works. The first phase of the full collection database is scheduled to launch this fall.

“In my first three years at the Speed one of my most gratifying and exhilarating experiences has been to examine the Museum’s collection in great detail,” said Dr. Venable. “Together with our curatorial team, in collaboration with experts from outside the Speed, we have made intriguing discoveries about many objects in our collection and have a deeper appreciation of both individual works and the range and history of the collection as a whole. Going forward, I see our task being to refine and balance the overall collection with a special focus on strengthening our modern and contemporary holdings, our Kentucky art collection, and other exceptional artworks to share with our community. Quality will be stressed over quantity in every case. I look forward to continuing this fascinating process and to realizing our vision to create a dynamic new facility filled with exceptional works of art to welcome Louisvillians and travelers from around the country.”

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