Wellesley College’s Davis Museum Unveils the Davis. Rediscovered—New Permanent Galleries, More Than Doubling Art on View
Result of Three-Year Project to Reimagine and Transform the Museum and its Educational Value
Article ID: 661042
Released: 19-Sep-2016 12:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Wellesley College
Newswise — WELLESLEY, Mass. –On September 28, 2016, the Davis Museum at Wellesley College will unveil the Davis. ReDiscovered, a total transformation of the Museum’s permanent collections galleries, reshaped and reconceived to present the breadth and strength of the Museum’s encyclopedic holdings. This complete reinstallation project brings renewed attention to geographic and chronological specificity and context, while more than doubling the works of art on view. The Davis. ReDiscovered is the most ambitious project of its kind since the Davis Museum building, designed by renowned Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, opened in 1993.
To celebrate the unveiling of the new permanent collections galleries, the Davis and the Wellesley College community will host a festive reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. the day of the reopening. The event will launch the fall special exhibitions: Charlotte Brooks at LOOK 1951–1971, Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson, and Anni Albers’ Connections. The event will take place in the Davis Museum lobby and on the Davis Museum Plaza, and will include hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and a DJ. Admission is free and open to the public.
“Over three years in the making, the reinstallation demonstrates the pedagogical innovation, the bold approach to curatorial practice, and the aesthetic flair that distinguish today’s Davis,” said Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. “This project showcases the many stories, both local and global, that animate the objects in the Davis collections. It also reveals a collection that supports the legacy of Wellesley’s pioneering approach to teaching art history, as well as inspires a long-standing commitment to the value of learning.”
She added, “We want to reintroduce our community to the hidden gems in our collections, to honor Wellesley’s legacy of teaching through firsthand encounters with art across cultures, and to celebrate the power of giving that has built these extraordinary collections and the building that houses them.”
In addition to the opening reception, other events will honor the Davis’s newly installed permanent collections galleries, including a film series that will let viewers uncover the secret life of museums (October 12 to November 30; all films will start at 6:30 p.m.); a “Family Day” that takes visitors through time and around the globe via an experience designed for all ages (November 5, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.); and “The Davis Reimagined,” when the exhibitions will be paired with performances, talks, art making, and workshops (November 12, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.). See the calendar of public programs for full details.
About the CollectionsWith three floors and 11 galleries, the Davis has more than doubled the number of works of art that will be on view, from approximately 300 to more than 620 objects. In total, its holdings have grown to include nearly 13,000 objects, with areas of strength in painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, and decorative objects, from antiquity to the present day.
The galleries are structured to highlight the Museum’s finest objects from across the world, spanning more than four millennia of civilization, from recently conserved Mycenaean vessels to new acquisitions of art created in the 21st century.
Organized into “collections,” the galleries, some of them jewel-toned, offer many surprises for even the most familiar visitor. The second level presents art of the Ancient Mediterranean, Ancient Americas, South Asia, East Asia, Oceanic Art, and Africa; the Study Gallery, devoted to supporting specific research and teaching interests, selected by faculty each semester; and “Wellesley Collects,” which outlines historical highlights and major figures. Among them, beloved objects like the Roman classical sculpture known as the “Wellesley Athlete” stand alongside lesser-known works and recent acquisitions—some of which will be shown in the galleries for the first time. Also on this level, visitors will encounter the Antioch Mosaic, which was recently moved, in a feat of engineering and fortitude, via large cranes from the wall mount on the fifth level, where it had hung for more than 22 years, to the second level, where it is displayed in its original orientation as a floor. The move took two years of planning with a team of structural engineers, a rigging company, and conservation specialists. The second level also contains the Morelle Lasky Levine ’56 Works on Paper Gallery, the Joan Levine Freedman ’57 and Richard I. Freedman Gallery, the Robert and Claire Freedman Lober Viewing Alcove, and the Friends of Art Gallery, which continue to house temporary exhibitions.
The fourth level’s collections include Medieval, Renaissance, Southern Baroque, Spanish Colonial, Northern Baroque, Continental Rococo, British portraiture, Colonial American, 19th century American landscapes, 19th century Native American, 19th century European, and American artworks. In these galleries, visitors will encounter many more highlights from the Museum’s collections. An example is Dutch marine painter Willem van de Velde the Elder’s work Two Boeier Yachts Close in to the Shore with a Flagship Coming in to Anchor. Perhaps the best example of the artist’s “pen painting” in a U.S. museum, the work was recently rediscovered, tucked away in storage; it underwent conservation treatment and technical assessment by several specialists to reveal its impeccable condition.
Masterpieces of late modern and contemporary art are grouped together on the fifth level. Visitors will see George Bellows’ last painting, as well as exceptional works by Oskar Kokoschka, Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Willem de Kooning, Jules Olitski, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Liliana Porter, Sara Rahbar, Chakaia Booker, Lynda Benglis, Radcliffe Bailey, Francis Alÿs, Eddie Martinez, Louise Nevelson, and Alexander Calder.
The Davis has been very active in collections growth over recent years, so in addition to highlighting well-known favorites, the new galleries will present recent purchases and gifts for the first time. For example, the recent acquisition of Kara Walker’s Nat Turner’s Revelation (2002), an installation of projected light, painted glass slides, and a signature hand-cut silhouette, will be on view in the Freedman “Black Box” Gallery. This dramatic narrative installation was inspired by the life of Nat Turner, a self-made preacher born into slavery at the turn of the 19th century.
Newly refurbished and repurposed interstitial spaces at the core of the Davis building’s staircase create opportunities for unexpected encounters; designed to surprise and delight, three landings feature portraits of women whose “female gaze” encompasses the galleries in their purview. Other spaces present rotating selections from the Davis’s exceptional photography collection.
The lower level will continue to host temporary exhibitions, which, as mentioned above, in the fall will include Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr Jr. and Philip Johnson and Anni Albers’ Connections.
New mobile app to enhance the visitor experienceThroughout the newly installed galleries, visitors will encounter stories of how objects came to the Davis and learn about the key directors, curators, scholars, educators, donors, and collectors who have shaped the collections and created a home for art at Wellesley College. This information is presented through traditional wall text panels, as well as via a new mobile app from Cuseum that provides online tours, mobile notifications based on a visitor’s proximity to an object, and way-finding tools. the Davis. ReDiscovered and related programs are supported by generous individual gifts from Mildred Cooper Glimcher ’61 and Arnold B. Glimcher, Amy Batchelor ’88, Kathleen B. Bissinger ’57, and Carol Grossman ’66; and by the Mellon Endowment for Academic Programs at the Davis Museum, the Mildred Cooper Glimcher ’61 Endowed Fund, the Kemper Curator of Academic Programs at the Davis Museum Fund, Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis, the Helyn MacLean Endowed Program Fund for Contemporary and South Asian Art, the Alice S. Acheson Fund, the Wellesley College Museum Program Fund NEA Challenge, the James Wilson Rayen Gift, and in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
About the Davis Museum One of the oldest and most acclaimed academic fine arts museums in the United States, the Davis is a vital force in the intellectual, pedagogical and social life of Wellesley College. It seeks to create an environment that encourages visual literacy, inspires new ideas, and fosters involvement with the arts both within the College and the larger community.Museum Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Closed Mondays, holidays, and Wellesley College recesses. Admission is free and open to the public.Location: Wellesley College, 106 Central St., Wellesley, Mass. Telephone: 781-283-2051Website: www.theDavis.org
About Wellesley College and the ArtsThe Wellesley College arts curriculum and the highly acclaimed Davis Museum are integral components of the College’s liberal arts education. Departments and programs from across the campus enliven the community with world-class programming—classical and popular music, visual arts, theatre, dance, author readings, symposia, and lectures by some of today’s leading artists and creative thinkers—most of which is free and open to the public.
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to some 2,400 undergraduate students from 49 states and 58 countries.
High-resolution images and interviews available upon request.