Friday, May 18, 2012


LONG time no blog, readers! I hope you're still out there. You should be pleased to know that, thesis aside, I have completed my Master's degree! Makes me a feel a little more official when sharing with you now. :)
For those of you who don't know, today is Art Museum Day! So, this seemed like the appropriate opportunity to share the love on some of my favorite art museums, and hopefully hear about some of yours in return. Art museums are some of the most exceptional cultural institutions we have at our fingertips, and they need our support. If you have an opportunity, visit one this week! You'll be glad you did.

Though I'm only going to talk about 5 today, I can personally, absolutely, and highly also recommend visiting the Art Institute of Chicago Museum (Chicago, IL), the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH), the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin, TX), the Bob Jones University Museum (For medieval/religious art -Greenville, SC), the Georgia Museum of Art (Athens, GA), the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, (Quebec, Canada), the Louvre (Duh), the Picasso Museum (Barcelona, Spain), the Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid, Spain), and the Museo Centro de arte Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain).

1. The Prado, Madrid, Spain
Where I officially became an Art Historian for the first time. This is where I first met Peter Paul Rubens through his Judgment of Paris, and truly fell in love with Diego Velazquez. My Art History and Civilization class would come to the Prado almost every Friday to tour the galleries, and this was before they renovated and added a whole new wing to Velazquez (and I left before I could see it!).

I still remember when we walked in to see the former Velazquez "gallery" for the first time. My friend Liz (the first and best Art Historian I've ever met) laid eyes on Las Meninas, her favorite painting, immediately, and started to cry. It was the first time that the emotional effects of art really became understood to me, and just how powerful it could really be.
My favorite, most exceptional memory from the Prado involved Francisco Goya's Tres de Mayo, 1808, pictured left. For extra credit, Liz and I offered to do 15 minute presentations to our class in front of the painting of our choice. In Spanish. In the Prado. She presented on Velazquez's Las Meninas, and I spoke about Tres de Mayo. Other visitors touring the museum even stood to listen to my presentation. It was such an incredible challenge, speaking about a painting in front of said painting in a foreign language. It was a really proud moment for me.

2. The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

The High Museum is the first art museum I'm sure I ever went to, given that its largest art museum in my home city/state. As you can see, even the building is super dynamic...especially with the Calder in the front yard. After the renovations and cooperative exhibitions with the Louvre during the 2000s, it has become a world class art museum. I have seen exhibits for works from the Louvre, Titians from the National Museum in Edinburgh, the Terracotta Warriors from China, Leonardo Da Vinci, Allure of the Automobile, and Salvador Dali.

Whatever the High is doing and whoever they're talking to, they truly have the "in" for exceptional traveling exhibitions. I believe Andy Warhol is there right now!
Of their own collection, I'd say that the contemporary arts are their greatest strength. However, they have amazing marble sculptures, Tiffany glass, Monets, and more than cannot be overlooked! The wet drapery marble sculptures are my favorite (sorry this photo is so dark).

They also have a really impressive array of programming that will have something for every age. I've been for "Wine Night" during the Da Vinci exhibit which was a lot of fun, especially as a Mother-Daughter date night!

3. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA
Okay. So. I've never been to the Gardner Museum. This is my "Art Museum Fantasy" right now. Can you blame me?
A) THAT is what it looks like --->
B) They house Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocente X and King Philip IV of Spain, Titian's Rape of Europa (That in itself is worth a trip!), works by Anders Zorn, James McNeill Whistler, and Rembrandt, and basically, they have a phenomenal collection.

Main reason I want to go to the Gardner Museum (besides for the Titian :)) is to see John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo: Danse de Gitanes.

I have now written not one, but two papers that discuss this painting, and I feel a great attachment to is, for all of that research. I think it is a masterful painting, and Mrs. Gardner had its current location specifically made for it to be housed there. Bottom line: It would be a dream to see it, after working with it so much over the past year. It might be for me what Las Meninas was for Liz.

4. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN

The IMA is easily one of the most beautiful art museum campuses I have ever been on. In addition to their amazing 4 story museum, there are a host of walking trails, two historic homes/event spaces, luscious gardens, a lake, and a greenhouse to fill your day. It is a beautiful summer retreat, so I highly recommend you go. Right now. And we haven't even discussed the art opportunities yet!

My favorite collection at the IMA is, well...the entire first floor (second of the building). This floor houses the American/European paintings, and folks, I am a "painting person." They also have one of the larger collections of ceramics/furniture than I have personally seen in my art museum tours. My favorite paintings of theirs include Frederic Church's Our Flag (1864), Whistler's Harmony in Pink and Grey: Lady Meux (1881), Camille Pissarro's The House of the Deaf Woman and the Belfry at Eragny, and the two Monets.

To the right is Monet's The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1908. A spectacular painting. Monet actually uses a great deal of warm pink and gray blue tones in this painting and its IMA sister, Charing Cross Bridge, 1900.

Now, besides all of the paintings, the IMA has a great contemporary art exhibit (there's a Chihuly glass sculpture on display! And this awesome mylar...bubble...ball...sculpture-installation thing that is really fun!), African and Asian art galleries, and a temporary fashion installation right now. Those fashion exhibits are always so neat.  Worth it. Go now.

Yes, I am super biased with this one, but I don't care! Biases aside, the IU Art Museum is an incredible art museum, even when compared outside of univerity settings.
There are 1,400 works on display across the three floors of permanent collection galleries, and around 40,000 works in the museum's collection. They have Picasso, Monet, Stuart Davis, Franz Marc drawings, an original publication of Goya's Los Caprichos, Kandinsky, Carracci engravings...and that's all just from the Western art collection! The African art collection is one of the top 5 in the entire country, and is so diverse and absolutely incredible. There are some wonderful Ancient vases, marble sculptures, and jewelry. The Asian art collection is small but inspiring. There are rotating special exhibitions every fall and spring that have addressed Andy Warhol, Iranian war posters, instruments from the Silk Road, Perle Fine...a distinct variety in just in the two years I've been here.
The picture at right is my friend Kate with Emmi Whitehorse's Rushing Water, part of our Contemporary Native American artist rotation in the first floor gallery. I love, love, love this painting. This could be because I've always identified with warm colors or maybe the fact that it portrays water out in the Southwest, and yet its done in the colors of fire. I love that interplay.
And then of course, one of my favorite parts of the museum which I have discussed before:
The Light Totem.
Light Totem Photo by Matt James.
Admission to the IU Art Museum is always free, and there is a great cafe and gift shop on the second floor for you to browse as well. They also have a student-run blog so you can follow called Art from All Angles. I'm going to be really sad when I am not able to visit this museum every day, but hopefully this post has inspired you to visit and begin an art museum love affair yourself. :)