Following seven months of comprehensive renovations, on October 6, 2000, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will reopen its Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art with a striking installation that newly presents one of the most important collections of 20th-century art in the world. Occupying some 20,000 square feet on the Museum's first floor, the galleries have been closed for renovations since March 2000. Their reopening will be celebrated on Sunday, October 8 with a day of free admission to the Museum, made possible by a generous grant from the investment management firm of Neuberger Berman.
Renovations to the Museum's Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art have been supervised by Richard Gluckman of Gluckman Mayner Architects, New York, a firm that specializes in the design of handsome spaces for the exhibition of art. The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh is among its acclaimed accomplishments, and Mr. Gluckman previously worked with Philadelphia Museum of Art curators to design the installation of the 1995 Brancusi and 1996 Cézanne exhibitions. The renovations will produce a receptive, state-of-the-art setting that emphasizes the many fine details and expansive space of the vintage-1928 Museum building's interior architecture: all-white, day-lit galleries, flooring restored to its original polished-cement finish, and other newly streamlined display surfaces. Original, architecturally distinctive light fixtures have been preserved, and will be combined with updated systems utilizing the latest technology. Provisional architectural modifications installed over past decades will be removed, returning the gallery space to its original configuration. Presented in the renovated galleries will be a reinstallation that explores the diverse strengths of the Museum's permanent collections of Modern and Contemporary Art. Individual galleries will present rotating installations devoted to single artists, art-historical movements, or themes. Newly flexible spaces will allow the Museum to incorporate a selection of works by Philadelphia-based artists. Updated interpretive materials will be featured throughout the galleries.
Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Museum, said, "The Museum's profound involvement with the art of its time was first heralded in the 1930s with acquisitions of major works by Picasso and Brancusi, and reached spectacular proportions in ensuing decades with the great gifts from Walter and Louise Arensberg, and A.E. Gallatin--visionaries who had formed two of the most significant collections of modern art in the United States. The sense of imagination and invention that these collections embody has inspired fresh innovation in younger artists. Today, we look forward to the Museum's 125th anniversary in 2001 and are, therefore, especially delighted to unveil the renovated Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art, and to welcome visitors to architectural spaces that are in keeping with the remarkable works of art they contain."
Ann Temkin, The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, explains, "This renovation has provided a long-desired opportunity to reassess the collection and its display. We look forward to introducing visitors to works they may have never seen before, and to experience anew familiar pieces that look better than they ever have. We are also delighted to reaffirm the beauty of the modernist context in which so many of these masterworks were originally seen."
The Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art are home to two especially treasured spaces in the Museum: the unparalleled installation of sculpture by Brancusi in the serene, chapel-like space it has long occupied (Gallery 188), and the adjacent Duchamp Gallery (182) are points of pilgrimage for modern-art enthusiasts the world over. The Duchamp Gallery will include those works by Duchamp given to the Museum by the Arensbergs, who assembled their collection with the assistance of the artist, as well as later additions, including the porcelain Fountain produced by the artist as a re-creation of his of his famous "readymade" urinal with which he provoked the New York art world in 1917.
Situated in precisely the spots selected for them by Duchamp are the monumental painting on glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23), and Etant donnés (1946-66), the enigmatic environment to which the artist-provocateur devoted himself during the final decades of his life, and which was given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art shortly after his death. The Duchamp Gallery reinstallation will be its first in 30 years. Ms. Temkin notes that "An especially happy result of the renovation process is a clear, spacious, and beautiful Duchamp Gallery that accommodates growing collections and respects the artist's own spare elegance."
Completing the trio of large, monographic installations at the north end of the galleries is Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam (1977-8), a ten- part painting cycle that illustrates what is perhaps the definitive narrative in Western literature: Homer's Iliad.
A group of long-term loans from the artist Jasper Johns has made the Philadelphia Museum of Art the primary public repository of his exceedingly rare sculptural works. Presented in Gallery 171 will be an overview of Johns's accomplishments, ranging from early images of "things the mind already knows" such as numbers, letters, and the American flag, to more allegorical and compositionally complex paintings from recent years. Visitors will have the unique opportunity to view masterworks such as Painting with Two Balls (1960) accompanied by enigmatic objects such as Painted Bronze (Savarin Can with Brushes) (1960).
The reopening of the Galleries will coincide with the Museum's publication of a handsome new book, Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, featuring a fully illustrated selection of 135 works from the collection accompanied by lively descriptive notes and essays by Ms. Temkin, Assistant Curators Michael Taylor and Susan Rosenberg, and Research Assistant M. Rachael Arauz. Support for the 162-page book was provided by Neuberger Berman.
"Contemporary art helps us look at our world with a fresh perspective," said Jeffrey B. Lane, Chief Executive Officer of Neuberger Berman. "Neuberger Berman has been a contemporary art supporter since the firm was co-founded in 1939 by legendary art collector Roy Neuberger. We are enormously pleased to support the reopening of the Museum's newly renovated Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art."
The Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art showcase what many specialists and art-lovers regard as one of the foremost public collections to embrace Cubism, Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism, as well as provocative work of the last two decades. Notable among the masterpieces of early modern art are Picasso's Self-Portrait (1906), Léger's The City (1919), and Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg (1914) by Matisse. Accompanying their European counterparts are works by the American modernists, including Marsden Hartley, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler, as well as major examples by the visionary Horace Pippin, and the evocative realism of Andrew Wyeth. Also presented are seminal Abstract Expressionist canvases by Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, among others, and post-World War II masterworks by Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Eva Hesse, among others.