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Thirteen stolen artworks from the Gardner Museum and video on view at the Mead Art Museum
The Amherst College European Art Collection on view at the Mead Art Museum. Photo: Bob O'Connor.

AMHERST, MASS.- The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College presents "Rotherwas Project 2: Kota Ezawa, Gardner Museum Revisited." This exhibit presents thirteen stolen artworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Mead's historic Rotherwas Room.

Over twenty-five years ago, on March 18, 1990, two thieves posing as Boston police officers stole these works in the middle of the night. In his "Gardner Museum Revisited," Kota Ezawa has given the disappeared Gardner artworks new life in the form of dynamic and colorful drawings set in glowing light boxes. Included are Ezawa's unique cartoon-like versions of paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Manet, drawings and sketches by Degas, and a single antique Chinese vase. These stunning 21st century reimaginings are displayed to scale in the 17th century, wood-paneled Rotherwas Room, along with an image of an empty frame left behind after the theft and Ezawa's six-minute animated film of the security tape recorded the night before the largest unsolved art heist in American history.

"Rotherwas Project 2: Kota Ezawa, Gardner Museum Revisited" is part of a series of exhibitions, Mead Reimagined, Take 2. The exhibitions engage audiences with the dynamic relationship of contemporary and historic work, feature a new video room, showing Peter Fischli and David Weiss's enchanting video, The Way Things Go (1987), and present new gallery rotations with a fresh perspective on the college's art collection.

The central mission of our exhibitions is to encourage deep and immediate visitor engagement with several centuries of world art in a range of media. "The Mead's flow of reinstallations are an opportunity to show the full breadth of our collection," says David E. Little, Mead director and chief curator, "allowing us to engage students, professors and the public to come to the Mead on a regular basis and find new gems and relationships of art on view."

New video room and "talking heads" in main gallery
The Mead's main gallery, Fairchild Gallery, now features a new video room situated within a bright, expansive and contemporary space. The exhibition, "Accumulations: 5,000 Years of Objects, Fictions, and Conversations," showcases a selection of artworks and cultural objects from the Mead's wide-ranging collection. It underscores how museum collections are built, in part, by chance, creating an accumulation of diverse art spanning centuries, largely thanks to the individual collecting passions and generosity of supporters.

New this spring is a thought-provoking installation of twelve sculptured heads from around the world and across time. "Talking Heads" reveals the unexpected stories every object can tell.

"Works are displayed in a space that situates visitors as active 21st-century viewers and interpreters," Little says. "In the spirit of the liberal arts, we want to create a museum that sparks the imagination and inspires debate."

African, American, European and Russian collections on view
The remaining galleries feature curatorial reinterpretations of the Mead's well-regarded holdings of African, American, European and Russian art.

"Art From Africa: A Selection of Works Given by Amherst Collectors and Scholars" presents an array of African art, including many ritual objects used in divination rites in Central and West Africa. The majority of the works on view were gifts of two brothers, both Amherst alumni, who collected African art: Barry Maurer, Class of 1959, and Evan Maurer, Class of 1966. Evan Maurer, the former Director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, is a respected scholar of African and Native American art.

American art, the foundation of Amherst's collection, is showcased in "The American Collection: Two Centuries of Art at Amherst College." Amherst's American art collection actually predates the Mead, says Vanja Malloy, curator of American art. "George Dupont Pratt and Herbert Lee Pratt, two Amherst alumni who were brothers, donated hundreds of significant American artworks to the College in the 1930s and '40s," Malloy says. "The Mead opened to house those works, and hundreds more, in 1949." Representing over two centuries of American art and artistry - and of changing culture, artistic styles and perspectives - the works on view chart the early days in the building of a nation, and a museum.

The founding of museums is also a theme of "Precious: Finding the Wondrous in the Mead's European Art Collection," organized by Nicola Courtright, William McCall Vickery 1957 Professor of the History of Art. The exhibition looks at how, in the past, European princes, scholars and merchants gathered objects that fascinated them. From these private collections, museums as we know them today emerged.

Russian art is the focus of "From Russia With Love: Selections from the Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937, Collection of Russian Art." Owing to his knowledge of Russia and the Russian language, Thomas P. Whitney got a job in the foreign service that brought him to Russia during World War II. "His experience of life in the Soviet Union and his encounters with Russia's cultural elites planted the seed of his collection," says Bettina Jungen, Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937, Curator of Russian Art. Late in the twentieth century, Whitney gave most of his collection of art, books and manuscripts to Amherst College.

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