Archive for April, 2011

Acquiring Minds

Bojan Šarčević, "She," 2010, onyx, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2011.4, © Bojan Šarčević, courtesy of the artist and STUART SHAVE/MODERN ART

We’d like to introduce you to She, a sculpture by Bojan Šarčević that will make its DMA debut on May 29 in the Silence and Time contemporary art exhibition. And “she” is a recent acquisition. So that got us thinking: how do works of art enter the Museum’s collections?  We spoke with Carol Griffin, our Associate  Registrar and the Museum’s point person on the acquisition process, to get some answers.

To begin, DMA curators look specifically for objects based on aesthetic quality, ability to be exhibited, potential for research and scholarship, and relevance to the Museum’s mission and current holdings. They are always searching for works of art to fill certain “gaps” or to complement works that are already in our collections. They find these objects by talking to knowledgeable collectors and art dealers, visiting galleries, and attending art auctions and fairs. Not all acquisitions are purchases, she points out. A significant number of works are acquired by gift and bequest. In many of these cases, curators actively seek the objects; in others, donors serendipitously initiate the offer.

But when a curator has ID-ed something for potential acquisition, he or she will discuss the opportunity with colleagues and advisors, including fellow DMA curators, trustees, and, of course, the Director. Certain works must be examined by a conservator and, perhaps, other experts to verify condition or authenticity. Once these people have signed off, the curator presents a proposal about the work to the Museum’s Committee on Collections, which is made up of trustees and members of the community and meets several times a year. The committee takes into consideration opportunities to strengthen the DMA’s collections, and its members discuss potential issues like storage and maintenance for the proposed works. The artworks under consideration are present at each meeting so that the Committee can see them rather than make judgments based on photographs. Only after all of these steps are completed can a work of art be acquired by the Museum.

Next up, in order for each object to travel to the Museum and be housed safely, the DMA’s team of registrars develops a plan to address logistics—including crating, transportation, insurance, and storage, and dealing with customs regulations if a work is coming from overseas. Each crate is usually custom made, with special material precautions, to best protect an individual object. For example, an ancient marble sculpture needs different packaging than a quilt, a wooden mask, or a painting. Once the work of art arrives at the DMA, our registrars and conservator thoroughly examine its condition, making notes and taking photos to document its present state. The artwork is then catalogued with an acquisition number based on the year and the order in which it was acquired, and a file is created for relevant information and research about the object. Some of this information is included on the label that accompanies a work of art in the galleries and can also be found in the Collections section of the DMA website.

So, what else has the Museum purchased recently? Next time you visit, look for Gustav Stickley’s linen chest from 1903 (currently featured in the exhibition Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement), which was acquired by the Museum in 2008. In the European galleries, check out the painting Chestnut Trees by Edouard Vuillard, acquired in 2010, and on Level 3, see the gold linguist’s staff (okyeame poma) in our African galleries, which was also acquired in 2010.

Linen chest, Gustav Stickley, attributed to John Seidemann, maker, United Crafts or Craftsman Workshops, manufacturer, Eastwood, New York, 1903, oak and iron, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., facilitated by American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation, 2008.22.McD

Edouard Vuillard, "Chestnut Trees, a Cartoon for a Tiffany Stained-Glass Window," 1894–95, glue-based distemper on cardboard, mounted on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, 2010.15.McD

Linguist staff ("okyeame poma") (detail), Ghana, Asante peoples, first half of 20th century, wood and gold leaf, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2010.1.McD

Stefanie Kae Dlugosz is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Decorative Arts and Jacqueline Lincoln is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Experiences.

Fit for a Prince (and His Future Princess)

Millions of people around the world will watch as Prince William marries Catherine Middleton on Friday in Westminster Abbey, but only 1,900 lucky guests received invitations to attend the service, including members of the British Royal Family, religious leaders from the Church of England and other faiths, and international dignitaries. Did you receive that coveted gilded invitation from the Queen and need something special to wear to the wedding of the century? Let the DMA’s collections offer some wardrobe inspiration . . .

Etruscan, Pair of bauletto earrings, 6th century B.C., gold, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

No Royal Wedding outfit would be complete without glittering jewelry, and these ancient Etruscan earrings (from the 6th century B.C.) would complement a smart spring suit or frock. Known as bauletto (or “little bag”) for their cylindrical shape, these earrings originally would have been suspended on hooks. Each earring is decorated with an elaborate floral motif, created by fine gold filigree wire and tiny gold globules.

Yotoco period, Headdress ornament with heads flanked by crested crocodiles, c. A.D. 1-700 (?), gold, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison

This extravagant headdress would have been only one component of ceremonial regalia worn by men in the Calima region of Colombia about 2,000 years ago. Imagine the gleaming image of a wedding guest outfitted from head to toe in gold – including ear ornaments, pectorals, bracelets, and anklets. This ornament probably would have been attached to a cloth headdress, like a turban, and its gold dangles produced a soft ringing as the wearer moved.

Charles Willson Peale, “Rachel Leeds Kerr”, 1790, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

Both Catherine Middleton and her future grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, are well known for their shared taste in glamorous hats (compare their recent looks and vote on your favorite here). Whether the bride will wear a hat, tiara, or flowers on her wedding day remains a secret, but we can surely expect a parade of fanciful millinery from the guests at Westminster Abbey. This elaborate hat must have been a favorite of Mrs. Rachel Leeds Kerr, as she wore it when sitting for her portrait by leading American artist Charles Willson Peale in 1790. Wearing this sumptuous topper would signify Mrs. Kerr’s wealth, fashionable taste, and high social status—just as a fabulous hat does today.

Abraham Portal, Huntingdon wine cistern, 1761-1762, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Patricia D. Beck

Guests to the Royal Wedding have more to think about than clothes, jewelry, and accessories; a wedding gift for William and Catherine is an equally important consideration. Silver serving pieces are often cherished wedding gifts for any bride and groom, but buying for royal couples demands something truly special, such as the monumental Huntingdon wine cistern. In fact, this magnificent piece was used to hold ice and chill wine in the home of Frances Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, who was appointed to the cabinet of the King of England in the late 18th century. Weighing more than eighty pounds (empty!), it would be the perfect centerpiece at any royal party. If we could, we would fill it with bottles of champagne to toast William and Catherine on their wedding day.


Lisa Kays is Manager of Adult Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Seldom Scene: Fancy Dancing

On Saturday we welcomed hundreds of visitors to our Art of the American Indians Family Celebration, a day of fun activities, performances featuring the Oklahoma Fancy Dancers, art, tours, and a special sneak peek of the exhibition Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection. Below are a few pictures from the day. Join us on Friday, May 20, to celebrate this exhibition during Late Night.

Photos by Chad Redmon, Photographer at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Artfully Green

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. As Earth Day rolls around, we’re reminded of our impact on the environment. But what are we doing at the Dallas Museum of Art to be green? Uncrated went on a search to find out.

Each year, over half a million visitors step through the Museum’s doors, and our large building is 500,000 square feet, taking up two city blocks in downtown Dallas. Our global collections span over 24,000 works of art, and we produce an average of eighteen exhibitions each year. We have an underground parking garage, a cafe, a store, and over two hundred employees.

With this large footprint, we were excited to find out about some long-standing practices and a few new ones that the DMA is using to reduce its impact on the environment:

  • Three years ago, The City of Dallas and the DMA retrofitted the building’s entire energy management systems in order enhance energy efficiency. Efforts included replacing our boiler and chillers, adding eco-friendly light bulbs, low flow toilets and water fixtures throughout the museum. As a result, utility consumption has been reduced over 50%.
  •  The Museum has a water management system throughout the building. It is a smart system with rain sensors for our hardscape and landscaping.
  •  We added healthier, more drought-tolerant trees along the Museum bordering St. Paul Street.
  •  All chemicals and cleaning agents used at the DMA are eco-friendly.
  •  DMA employees are offered a discount to ride the DART system to work. There is a bicycle rack located on Ross Avenue Plaza.
  •  When layouts of our galleries are changed for new exhibitions, we reuse studs and building materials. All crates and art packing materials are reused and/or recycled.
  •  The DMA participates in a recycling program with the City of Dallas. The profits the City makes are sent into the general fund for City programs such as Park and Recreation projects and Fire Department equipment.
  •  All copy paper used at the Museum has a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste content.
  •  All of the printed materials produced by our Creative Services team are printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper, using an FSC-certified paper distributor, and 95% of the commercial printing (100% local) that the Museum does uses an FSC-certified printer.
  •  The admission tags that visitors receive when they visit the DMA are collected and reused. Look for boxes at the Visitor Services Desk to recycle your tag when leaving.
  •  The Museum Store features products from many local artists and craftsman and also has a wide variety of eco-friendly products.
  • Our cafe uses compostable or biodegradable disposable containers and recycles all plastic, glass bottles, paper, cardboard, wine corks, and cooking oils. This summer, we will begin working with a food composting company.
  •  The cafe menu consists of locally purchased organic produce, sourcing through local vendors within a two hundred-mile radius. Soon, the cafe will implement new infused water stations and glass-bottled waters, phasing out plastic-bottled water.

The DMA is working with the U.S. Green Building Council to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for these efforts. We hope to have our designation by August 2011.

For a selection of works on view at the Museum that incorporate recycled materials, visit our sister blog, We Art Family, for their Earth Day post. And for eco-friendly activities, emerging green technology, and thought-provoking ways to think, work, and live green in Dallas, join us today and tomorrow in the downtown Dallas Arts District for the free Earth Day Dallas Festival (the DMA will have FREE admission on Saturday, April 23, 2011!). To reduce your carbon footprint, ride DART to Pearl Station and walk to the Arts District.

Happy EARTH Day!

Mandy Engleman is the Director of Creative Services at the Dallas Museum of Art

Designing Stickley

Hello, everyone! DMA resident exhibition designer Jessica Harden here to give you a short and sweet behind-the-scenes snapshot of where some of our inspiration for exhibition design comes from. The Gustav Stickley exhibition was fun to work on because I had lots of great resources, including original photographs and The Craftsman catalogues, which Stickley published with drawings of many of his architectural and interior designs and finishes . . .

as well as records of popular colors of the time. We chose paint colors for the exhibition based on the Sherwin-Williams Arts & Crafts palette. BTW, drawing up plans for the exhibition is also part of my job . . .

as is producing construction drawings.

But back to inspiration and resources—this is a photograph of a model dining room created to show Stickley’s furniture in 1903.

. . . and this is our gallery at the DMA that we designed and built to replicate the original.

In fact, if you look around the Gustav Stickley exhibition galleries, you might notice a number of details that were inspired by Stickley’s original designs. Here, we were inspired by how Stickley used interior cut-outs to define spaces and create interesting thresholds to transition from one room to the next.

We also took inspiration from Stickley’s use of simple trim work on walls to help us define spaces and create a more residential environment for the exhibition. This included using a cap rail to imply a lower ceiling height in our 14-foot-high exhibition galleries.

And just to have a little fun, we took a few chances to let visitors discover glimpses of upcoming galleries and objects along the way.

Even some of the smallest details of the exhibition were inspired by Stickley. Here you can see that the mount for this lamp was modeled after drawings from Stickley interiors and was fabricated by our extremely talented preparators and carpentry staff. They even made new heads for the screws to match the originals!

Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art until May 8, when it will travel to San Diego to open on June 18.

Jessica Harden is Exhibition Design Coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art.

20/20 at the DMA

We have reached 20,000 fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter! To thank every one of you we are offering 20% off adult general admission and 20% off new memberships*  from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2011. Just tell the Visitor Services Desk, or visit the Membership desk on Level 1, that you follow the DMA on Facebook or Twitter to get your 20% discount.

* not available with any other offer

Seldom Scene: Readying the Show

Uncrated went behind the scenes in our Chilton Galleries last week to capture the installation of our newest exhibition, Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection, which opens this weekend.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, Marketing Assistant, Dallas Museum of Art

Riding That Train

'Afternoon Train' (1944) by Doris Lee, a print in the DMA collection.

While famous songs about trains by Gladys Knight, the Grateful Dead, or Bob Marley* might not exactly bring to mind Dallas’s DART system, a quick, easy, and scenic trip to the Museum by light rail or trolley does offer much to sing about.  The DMA is a short walk from DART’s St. Paul Station, and the McKinney Avenue Trolley lets off visitors right at our front door.

Every day, more than 220,000 passengers ride trains, light rail, and buses to move across our city. Whether they’re on their way to the DMA and the Arts District or to another destination, everyone who rides DART encounters works of art. Through the Station Art & Design Program, local artists are commissioned to envision the design concept and theme for every DART station and to lead teams consisting of architects, engineers, designers, and contractors to create unique installations and environments at each stop. In addition to site-specific works of art—including mosaics, sculpture, and photography—the artists also design structural and functional elements like columns, pavers, and windscreens unique to each station.

Hatcher Station. Artist: Vicki Meek. Image: Courtesy DART

Lovers Lane Station. Design Artist: Pamela Nelson. Photo: Courtesy DART

Southwestern Medical District/Parkland Station. Artist: Susan Kae Grant. Image: Courtesy DART

If you travel through one of DART’s fifty-five stations, look for the work of some well-known members of Dallas’s artistic community, such as Benito Huerta, Vicki Meek, Susan Kae Grant, and Pamela Nelson, among many others. You might also encounter works by artists who are represented in the DMA’s collections. Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, for example, were individually commissioned by DART for several stations. Orr was the station artist at DART’s Bush Turnpike Station, which is surrounded by both a large freeway as well as open, green space. To respond to the location of the station, he designed large steel and wire columns that were planted with vines to create large-scale topiaries.

Tom Orr's Installation at the Bush Turnpike Station. Image: Courtesy DART

Frances Bagley served as the station artist for Union Station, Convention Center Station, and Cedars Station (all along the Blue and Red DART lines); on each project, Bagley collaborated with other artists to create installations that reflect the particular site of each station.

In 2009 Bagley and Orr collaborated on a gallery-scaled installation that was included in the DMA’s special exhibition Performance/Art. The piece was based on the pair’s design for the Dallas Opera’s 2006 production of Verdi’s Nabucco. The installation recalled the setting for the opera’s biblical story and portrayed the artists’ interpretation of the Euphrates riverbank, the idol of Baal, and the Hanging Garden of Babylon.

Mural Detail from Union Station. Image: courtesy DART

Tom Orr and Frances Bagley's Installation in the DMA's "Performance/Art" exhibition.

Take advantage of this great spring weather and DART to the art . . . but don’t forget to explore the works of art along the way. Use DART’s guides to learn more.

* Take a look at this list of one writer’s Top Ten Train Songs.

Lisa Kays is Manager of Adult Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art

Art and Amps: Getting Media Works Up and Running

Uncrated tracked down DMA staffer Lance Lander to talk about his job at the Museum, which often involves climbing in and out of holes in the sheetrock of our gallery ceilings and walls.

Describe your job in fifty words or less.

I am the Collections Media Technician and an Assistant Preparator. I design, install, manage, and maintain all of the technology hardware used within the galleries. Additionally, I provide support to the preparators in all facets of art handling.

What might an average day entail?

For me there is no average day. One day I am hanging paintings in a gallery and the next day I am running cables through the ceiling. There are days that I work in the Carpentry Shop building crates, and then there are days that I spend programming computers.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?

The best part of my job is the team of people I work with directly (Martha, Elia, Mary, Vince, Brian, Doug, John, Mike, and Russell). Everyone is extremely talented and supportive of one another. Each person has his or her own niche or skill set and together as a group we are very strong. We all work well together and have a lot of fun at the same time.

The biggest challenges are dealing with so many forms of technology and keeping the equipment running. I deal with technology ranging from the 1960s to the present day. Some of the works in our collections rely on the equipment they were created with. We can’t just upgrade and “digitize” a work of art. We must maintain the integrity and aesthetic of the work. Technology changes at such a fast rate that it is hard to balance between our needs today and our needs for the future. We have started adding high-definition videos to our collections, so the equipment we use on current works won’t accommodate these new ones. The Museum is open fifty-two hours a week and sometimes more, so I need industrial equipment and creative ways to automate everything.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?

Growing up I always wanted to be a recording engineer and producer. That’s what got me interested in technology. I loved recording music on jam boxes and then four-track cassette recorders. I would spend hours experimenting with sounds and recording techniques. I would take apart electronics just to have a peek inside. I studied music and engineering, and I worked in several studios and made some really nice-sounding records. I was lured to the DMA as a live sound engineer when they began the Late Night program.

What is your favorite work in the Museum’s collections?

That would be Ave, by Mark Di Suvero. It is powerful, poetic, simple, and elegant. The sculpture was made the year I was born and I have a strong affection for it. Last year someone cable locked his bicycle to it and I was the one who cut the lock!

Is there a past exhibition that stands out in your mind as a favorite, or is there a particular upcoming show you’re looking forward to seeing?

Fast Forward was the exhibition that made the Exhibitions and Collections departments realize the importance of having a Media Technician. I was working in the Audio Visual Department and gallery installations were just a side part of that job. The media installations were just thrown together with little or no concern for aesthetic or function. Fast Forward was my chance to show everyone that media installations could be better. I always strive to show an artist’s work as best I can because I know it will enhance the visitor’s experience. But for me, personally, the world won’t listen by Phil Collins was the most rewarding installation. There were many challenges and problems to solve, and right at the end everything came together. It was a beautiful installation and people really loved it. It will probably be awhile before we take on such a large-scale video installation. As far as future installations, I would like to see the Museum install Bill Viola’s The Crossing. I installed it a few years ago in Palm Springs, and when everything is set and you play it for the first time it is a chilling experience. I remember coming to the DMA in 1998, when the work debuted, but at that point in time I never knew I would work here or be responsible for such a magnificent work of art. I believe it is the strongest video in the DMA’s collections and I hope to install it soon.

Seldom Scene: Checks and Balances

Do you have everything ready for Uncle Sam on April 18? We think this work by DMA staff member Robert Ramirez—our accounts payable coordinator—sums up the task. You might have seen it on view during our recent exhibition Insourced: Works by Dallas Museum of Art Staff exhibition.

Robert Ramirez, My Love to Rinna, 2010

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