Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

The Welcoming Party: A Van Gogh Returns

Today we at the DMA are excited to welcome home after a “sabbatical” in Paris one of our masterpieces, van Gogh’s work on paper Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. On tour at the Musée d’Orsay, this magnificent work of art was one of only seven drawings featured in Van Gogh/Artaud: The Man Suicided by Society. This exhibition was seen by nearly 655,000 visitors over the course of four months, making it the highest-attended exhibition in Musée d’Orsay history. Now prominently and proudly on view in our special exhibition Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne, Café Terrace on the Place du Forum joins other masterworks by van Gogh’s peer artists including Manet, Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir. Say “bonjour” and see it now through October 26 on a visit to Mind’s Eye.

Painting Without the Point: Pissarro’s “Apple Harvest” Unvarnished

A long-time favorite in the DMA’s European galleries, Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest of 1888 has returned to view this month after a visit to the Painting Conservation Studio.

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888), on Mark Leonard’s easel, in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888) on Mark Leonard’s easel in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process.  Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process. Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

The painting, which has been at the Museum since 1955, is in very good condition, but it was brought to Chief Conservator Mark Leonard to determine whether it was in need of cleaning. He opened a small “cleaning window” along the right side of the canvas, removing the layer of protective varnish. The bright pigments revealed by this small test confirmed that the varnish had become dark and yellowed over the past half-century, masking the true colors of the painting. It needed to be removed. The painting was carefully cleaned and its original vibrant tonality has been rediscovered.

 

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Pissarro actually made three different paintings of this subject: a group of peasants gathering apples in the shade of an apple tree. The first version dates back to 1881, when Pissarro was one of the leaders of the impressionist group, and is painted in a classic impressionist style, with open brushwork describing the dappled sunlight that falls on the figures.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

The same year, Pissarro started another, larger version of the subject, but did not complete it until 1886, when he showed it at the eighth and final impressionist exhibition.

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

At that exhibition, Pissarro championed the participation of the young pointillist painters, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and Seurat showed his “manifesto painting,” A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte1884.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Pissarro had recently adopted Seurat’s neo-impressionist method as the approach to painting that was “in harmony with our epoch” and an evolution from the older, “romantic” impressionism of artists like Monet. When he began work the next year on the DMA’s Apple Harvest, Pissarro was returning to a familiar subject, but armed with the new, “scientific” principles he had learned from Seurat.
Pissarro prepared the painting with a number of drawings, oil studies, and a full compositional watercolor, which he squared for transfer.

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), Whereabouts unknown

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), whereabouts unknown

In one drawing for the apple tree, Pissarro carefully noted the local colors he observed in the grass while sketching in the apple orchard: “yellowish red-orange,” “green,” “violet,” and “pink.”

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

In the final painting, these colors were evoked optically through a flurry of carefully selected and painstakingly applied flecks and dots of pure, unmixed color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

The pointillist method was a source of ongoing internal debate for Pissarro during these years. Despite his methodical preparatory studies, Pissarro placed a very high value on freedom and improvisation in painting. In September 1888, around the time he was completing work on Apple Harvest, he wrote to his son Lucien, a fellow neo-impressionist: “I am thinking a lot here about a way of producing without the point,” he reported. “How to attain the qualities of purity, of the simplicity of the point, and the thickness, the suppleness, the liberty, the spontaneity, the freshness of sensation of our impressionist art? That’s the question; it is much on my mind, for the point is thin, without consistency, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple.”

In Apple Harvest, Pissarro went to great lengths to avoid the monotony of pointillism, and his dots are surprisingly active and diverse, fracturing and curling to define form as well as color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

Robert Herbert, one of the great 20th-century historians of impressionism, described Pissarro’s complex approach to describing the deep shadow under the apple tree at the center foreground of the painting with a myriad of colored points: “The shadow has brilliant red, intense blue, intense green as well as pink, lavender, orange, some yellow, and subdued blues and greens. The pigments were not allowed to mix much together, and preserve their individuality which, because of the high intensity, results in an abrasive vibration in our eye that cannot be resolved into one tone. In order to make the contrast still sharper, Pissarro strengthens the blue around the edges of the shadow, a reaction provoked by the proximity of the strong sunlit field.”

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

By February of the next year, Pissarro informed his son that he was still “searching for a way to replace the points. Up until this moment, I haven’t found what I desire; the execution doesn’t seem to me to be quick enough and doesn’t respond simultaneously enough to sensation.” Pissarro sought nothing less than translating the immediacy of his optical sensations into the solid fact of paint on a canvas. Throughout the late 1880s, he was testing the capacity of the neo-impressionists’ methods to sustain this personal artistic goal.

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

The first critics who saw Apple Harvest in 1889 and 1890, when it was shown at important exhibitions in Brussels and Paris, were profoundly impressed with how Pissarro managed to convey the experience of sunlight using the pointillist approach. One early critic wrote, “Truly, the canvases of M. Pissarro are today painted with the sun.” Later writers have agreed, pointing out how Pissarro “directed the light so that it appears to radiate from the depths of the scene, to activate with color everything along its path and then to issue forth in to the viewer’s space.”

How, then, does the painting’s recent cleaning alter our understanding of Apple Harvest? For many decades, the painting has appeared more yellow than Pissarro intended because of the darkened layer of varnish on its surface. This change has no doubt influenced viewers of the painting who noted the “warm” palette of the canvas, which “positively throbs with the heat of a late summer’s afternoon.” The intensely sunlit effect of the painting was, it seems, given an additional golden glow by the amber hue of the darkened varnish. But, the dazzling luminosity of Apple Harvest—its “powerful fiat lux,” in the words of one early critic—was no accident of time. It was apparent to viewers as soon as the painting left Pissarro’s easel, and now, 125 years later, the painting’s brilliant colors and lighting effects have been restored to their original, white-hot intensity.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Celebrate Camille Pissarro’s birthday on July 10 with a visit to the newly conserved work on Level 2.

Heather MacDonald is The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA.

Keeping It Cool

The weather is heating up outside but it’s a cool, comfy, and constant 70 degrees (or thereabouts) at the DMA, where our temperature and humidity is monitored 24/7. More than 220 sensors are hidden throughout the Museum, and they help us record and regulate our internal environment.

With our encyclopedic collection and a vast array of media, 70 degrees with 50% humidity is the museum gold standard to best protect and preserve the precious objects entrusted to our care. If conditions are too dry, our wooden sculptures could crack; too humid, and other objects could start to mildew. What we try to avoid most are dramatic fluctuations in temperature and humidity, which could cause materials to expand and contract.

Artworks that are particularly vulnerable to climatic conditions are sometimes monitored in their cases. Wandering through our galleries, you may spot these tiny devices (just 1 x 2 inches) lurking in the corners. These hygrothermographs are temperature and humidity sensors that give us real-time environmental readings.

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Lacquer in particular, such as these works from our Asian collection, is susceptible to fluctuations, which can cause the material to lift and crack. For objects needing lower humidity, we sometimes hide the desiccant silica gel inside the casework (under decks and mounts) to create special microclimates.

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So as temperatures and humidity soar in the Dallas summer, come cool off in the Museum, where general admission (and air conditioning) is always free.

Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar of Exhibitions at the DMA. 

Smartphone Learning Lab

As part of our partnership with our neighbor Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, DMA educators co-teach Learning Lab, a class for seniors in the visual arts cluster. This group of bright and talented young artists walks down Flora Street to the Museum about fifty times during the academic year. Besides spending quality time with, discussing, and responding to works of art in the DMA’s collection and special exhibitions, this year the students also had the opportunity to meet artists Jim Hodges and Stephen Lapthisophon and ask them questions about their DMA exhibitions.

For their final project, pairs of students capped off a great year of projects and discussions by creating smartphone stops for a work of art of their choosing in the exhibition Never Enough: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art. They were given the option of producing a three-minute audio recording or video for their chosen work. They were asked to design their audio or video clip to either facilitate a visitor’s understanding through contextual information about the artist and his/her work, or to provide visitors with an alternative perspective or interpretation through which to view the work. They were also encouraged to exercise their creativity.

All of the pairs’ submissions were fantastic. Below are two smartphone stops created by the students:

This smartphone stop is a video inspired by Will Benedict’s 1 800 Bad Drug.

Will Benedict, 1 800 Bad Drug, 2013, gouache on board and canvas, aluminum frame with glass, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Will Benedict, 1 800 Bad Drug, 2013, gouache on board and canvas, aluminum frame with glass, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, (c) Will Benedict

This smartphone stop is an audio clip related to Sara Cwynar’s Corinthian Temple (Plastic Cups).

Sara Cwynar, Corinthian Temple (Plastic Cups), 2012, chromogenic print, mounted on Dibond, framed, Dallas Museum of Art, Susan Mead Contemporary Art Fund

Sara Cwynar, Corinthian Temple (Plastic Cups), 2012, chromogenic print, mounted on Dibond, Dallas Museum of Art, Susan Mead Contemporary Art Fund, (c) Sara Cwnar

Thanks to the BTWHSPVA Learning Lab students for a wonderful year and congratulations on graduation!

Andrea Severin Goins is the Interpretation Manager at the DMA.

Conservation Time Travel

Uncrated recently caught up with the DMA’s  associate conservator, Fran Baas, who joined the Museum in November. This summer, you can find her working on the 1908 Viennese Wittgenstein silver cabinet, pictured below.

FranBaas

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
My title is Associate Conservator, and I oversee the activities involved in the long-term preservation of the DMA’s permanent collection of objects and textiles. This comprehensive approach includes treatment, research, and analysis, and the preventive care of the collection.

What might an average day entail?
Each day is very different and has me running around all over the Museum. I might be assessing objects as potential loan candidates, responding to e-mails, writing reports, and doing actual benchwork. 

For example, recently, over the course of two days, I treated three plaster “pears,” dehydrated a SCOBY (a colony of bacteria/yeast that is part of a contemporary piece), conditioned silica gel, cleaned a few inches of an intricate early 20th-century Viennese silver piece, discussed with curators and collections staff the “inherent vice” of an extremely fragile piece, helped identify materials in an African headdress, and assisted in the treatment of some large oversized paintings. My job keeps me hopping across decades, centuries, and millennia . . . not to mention across the world geographically!

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
 I absolutely love my job. It’s a huge responsibility, but a privilege that I do not take lightly. The biggest challenge is never having enough time!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
For a long time, I struggled with where I fit. I am very “left-brained, right-brained,” as they say. Not only do I love working with my hands and looking at art, but I love science and the process of discovery. It took me awhile to find a profession that combines art and science. Conservation is a field where I get to do my favorite things in an effort to preserve art and artifacts for future generations to appreciate. I have the best job in the world.

Do you have a favorite work in the DMA’s collection yet?
As cliché as this sounds, I fall in love with whatever piece I am currently working on. Getting to work with a piece up close, in conjunction with the material analysis and background historical research, allows me to really “get to know” a piece . . . and as a result fall in love.

What are you looking forward to in your future here at the DMA?
I look forward to getting to know each and every object and textile in the DMA’s encyclopedic collection!

The Museum is History

This weekend, explore works from the Museum’s modern and contemporary collection in a new installation by the DMA’s new Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art, Gavin Delahunty. The Museum Is History: Modern and Contemporary Art from 1950-1990 installation, featuring work by Jackson Pollock, Atsuko Tanaka, John Chamberlain, and more, will be on view through November and it is included in the DMA’s free general admission.

 

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Overseas Adventures of an Artwork Courier

In the art museum world, couriers are often sent to accompany artwork in transit for loans. At the DMA, we elect to send an escort if the artwork is of high value, particularly fragile, and/or difficult to install. Couriers oversee the artwork every step of the way, ensuring its safe packing, transit, and installation. Oftentimes, these trips are not as glamorous as they initially appear, as they mean many long hours of waiting, uncomfortable travel conditions, and little sleep (but, sadly, no being handcuffed to a briefcase like in the movies). Nevertheless, they can sometimes be quite the adventure. Here is a timeline of a trip I recently took as a courier with our Matisse collage, Ivy in Flower, to the Tate Modern in London:

April 1, 2014
10:12 a.m. – Unified Fine Arts delivers the crate to the DMA. Due to the large size of the artwork, it was necessary to build an A-frame crate with a steel support structure. The artwork travels at an angle; otherwise it would be too tall to fit inside a truck or airplane cargo hold.

Art handlers strap the crate to the forklift so it can be upright for packing. Thankfully, it clears the ceiling with just an inch or two to spare.


Brackets on the artwork’s frame are used to attach it to the interior travel frame, which then fits snugly into the foam-lined crate.


12:17 p.m. – Although there is no room inside for the custom-built cradle used to maneuver the heavy artwork, the preparators screw it to the outside of the crate to be kind to the backs of their counterparts on the other end.

April 3, 2014
1:45 p.m. – The loans registrar and I learn that the cargo flight is delayed and will depart early the next morning rather than that evening as scheduled. After quickly consulting with our conservator about the climate conditions in the airport warehouse and confirming that there will be on-site security, we decide to proceed with loading the truck as planned.
3 p.m. – Lots of manpower, strategically placed dollies, and careful angling are used to load the crate onto the high-cube tractor trailer truck via the narrow dock plate.


3:42 p.m. – I climb into the backseat of a follow car that tails the truck carrying the artwork to the airport.


5:07 p.m. – The wider dock at the airport cargo area makes it much easier to offload the crate. A few more gray hairs appear on my head as I watch three forklifts, operating in tandem, raise the crate so a pallet can be slid underneath.


8:53 p.m. – Artwork couriers are very well acquainted with the “hurry up and wait” concept, as it is several hours later that additional cargo arrives to be loaded onto the same pallet. The entire structure is then wrapped in plastic (to protect from the elements) and secured via netting. It is a courier’s responsibility to make sure that cargo added to the artwork’s pallet does not contain live animals, anything perishable, or hazardous materials.


9:56 p.m. – After verifying the pallet was properly packed, security surveillance is in place, and paperwork is in order, I crash at a nearby hotel.

April 4, 2014
6:56 a.m. – My chariot awaits (bright and early!)—the customs agent from Masterpiece International drives me from the hotel to the DFW cargo hanger.
8:27 a.m. – The pallet is loaded and I board the cargo plane. Rather than the usual flight attendant spiel on how the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device, the pilots point out three possible escape hatches. As the only passenger, I settle into a row of business-class seats.


9:15 a.m. – Flight departs Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.


11:02 a.m. – Flight arrives in Chicago to take on additional cargo. I experience a minor moment of panic when I overhear the load supervisor say, “The animal’s not breathing and you have to sign all these papers and a waiver for them to do CPR.” I breathe a sigh of relief when I realize he is on the phone talking about his girlfriend’s cat (having ridden on planes with horses, chickens, and monkeys, you just never know).
1:01 p.m. – I inspect the pallet to make sure it is still secure after the extra cargo was loaded (thankfully no monkeys in sight).
2:15 p.m. – The pilots invite me into the cockpit for takeoff from Chicago.


9:46 p.m. Dallas time/5:46 a.m. local time – The plane touches down in Luxembourg (while London is my final destination, its airports don’t accept large cargo planes).


The airport is deserted at this early hour, and the pilots have to call for customs clearance. A bleary-eyed agent comes out of a nearby office, unceremoniously takes a stamp out of his pocket, marks our passports, and we are on our way. I manage to find a much-needed caffeine fix.


6:20 a.m. – Representatives from the art-freight forwarders Hasenkamp drive me to the cargo area and help secure my clearance (an ID badge affixed to a sexy green vest). Two drivers from the British fine art company MOMART meet us to help with the depalletizing and loading the crate onto their truck.


8:03 a.m. – The paperwork is finalized, the truck is locked and sealed, and we set out on the road to Calais, France.


8:40 a.m. – I pass into my third country of the day as we cross the border into Belgium.


12:53 p.m. – We drive into France and I jam with the drivers to Pharell Williams’ “Happy” and Elton John songs on the French radio.
1:39 p.m. – The customs agents in Calais ask for copies of all my documentation, including my e-ticket for the return trip to Dallas.
2:07 p.m. – MOMART drives the truck onto the Eurostar train flatbed, the wheels are locked, and the drivers and I board a bus for the passenger car. The drivers warn me of the potential stench of the train car and its scary bathrooms. I’m not sure what the warning instructions are about on the seat back—possibly what to do in the event of a nuclear holocaust or alien invasion.


2:54 p.m. French time/1:54 p.m. local time – The train arrives in England via the tunnel under the English Channel.
2 p.m. – While we are waiting to clear customs at the truck stop, we are engulfed by a tidal wave of drunk college students in body paint and various states of dress (or lack thereof), apparently en route to a big sporting expo. I am grateful for “Horatio Hornblower” on the lounge television . . .


4:30 p.m. – Customs are finally cleared and we depart for London.


6:15 p.m. – The Tate Modern loading dock is a most welcome sight. The crate is taken up in a massive elevator to be stored in the exhibition gallery because it is too large for their storage facilities.


7:10 p.m. – A taxi spirits me away to my hotel for a much needed shower and night’s sleep.

April 6, 2014
Acclimatization day (24 hours’ acclimatization is the museum standard to allow artworks to adjust to their new surroundings before they are unpacked. We couriers are grateful for these days so our bodies can also “acclimatize” and recover from jetlag.)

April 7, 2014
8:30 a.m. – I report to the museum for my unpacking appointment. The technicians clamp the crate to the forklift for extra stability and security. The cradle is used to slide the collage through the galleries, since (naturally) it is to be installed in the last one.Preview


9:50 a.m. – Sir Nicholas Serota (Tate Modern’s director) and Nicholas Cullinan (exhibition curator) work with the art handlers to place the artwork.


10:03 a.m. – I thoroughly examine the collage with the Tate’s conservator for the condition report and to verify it traveled safely overseas. The artwork is compared to the outgoing report and the photos taken before it was packed at the DMA.


11:28 a.m. – The frame is lifted into place and hardware is attached to secure it onto the wall.


11:52 a.m. – I request that a reading be taken with a light meter since there are skylights in the galleries. Works on paper are very susceptible to light damage, but thankfully the levels were low enough to meet our standards.
12:09 p.m. – I can now breathe a sigh of relief that everything is as it should be and set out to explore London.
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Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar, Exhibitions, at the DMA.

In the Stacks

This week is National Library Week, which makes it the perfect time to meet the Mayer Library’s new librarians, Jenny Stone and Kellye Hallmark.

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Jenny Stone, Librarian

Describe your job in fifty words or less. 
I’m the Librarian in the DMA’s art research library, a.k.a. The Mayer Library. I manage the day-to-day activities of the library, handle our interlibrary loan service, and help answer questions from staff and the public.

What might an average day entail?
On any given day, I might have reference e-mails to answer,  hunt down materials for research projects, purchase books, give a library orientation to a new staff member, or problem solve with Cathy Zisk, our cataloger, on how to handle an odd-shaped book.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges? 
The best parts of the job are the books!—and the cool things I learn about the collection and the Museum from various projects and questions we get. The biggest challenge: describing to visitors how to get from the Library to the European galleries.

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum? 
I come from a family of librarians, so it was pretty much inevitable. And I can’t think of a better place to come to work every day than an art museum.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
If I could stare at anything in the collection all day, it would either be Tatsuo Miyajima’s Counter Ground or Edouard Manet’s Vase of White Lilacs and Roses. Ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a different answer!

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?
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier was probably the most exciting and fun exhibition. The Mourners really opened my eyes to something new and unusual and beautiful, and Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World is very similar in that way.

Kellye Hallmark, Assistant Librarian

Describe your job in fifty words or less.
You can generally find me at the reference desk, where I assist both staff and visitors with locating materials, research, and a variety of questions associated with the Museum and our collection. Recently a PhD student from the University of Montana wanted to know what ancient sculptures we have that are made of serpentine or greenstone, and an ancestor of John Pratt had just discovered her lineage and called the library to see if his portrait by Ralph Earl was on view and to learn more about the work. I also manage our serial collection, as well as maintain and create artist files.

What might an average day entail?
Each day holds a new project or a new reference question, so it varies, but it is always something fun and interesting. Generally I am checking in new serials, scanning the papers for museum- or art-related news, and working on a special project, like researching Islamic art books for purchase.

How would you describe the best part of your job and its biggest challenges?
The best part of my job is being able to look at all of the new books and serials that arrive almost daily. I’m constantly learning about new artists, new shows, etc., and that is really fun. The biggest challenge is making myself put down all of those new books and serials—there just isn’t enough time to read it all!

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
I always knew I would work in an art museum. I got my BA in Art History fully expecting to pursue a career as a curator, but my focus and passions changed and they led me to art librarianship, and I couldn’t be happier.

What is your favorite work in the DMA’s collection?
I’ve always loved San Cristoforo, San Michele, and Murano from the Fondamenta Nuove, Venice by Canaletto. I love his perspective and how so much of the painting is the sky. I love the Sculpture Garden as well; it’s such a great place to spend your lunch break and to see little kids play.

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?
Being fairly new, I have to say that the Edward Hopper exhibition that just closed was definitely a stand out—it was fantastic. I was also blown away by the Nur exhibition, and I can’t wait to see the Michael Borremans exhibition next year.

The Mayer Library is located on Level M2, and is open to the public Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday noon-4:30 p.m.

Hillary Bober is the digital archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Installing Light

Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World is opening this weekend and the DMA is the only venue outside of Europe to host this exhibition featuring rarely seen objects from around the world. We’ve been preparing for weeks for Sunday’s opening, as you can see in the photos below,

Learn more about the exhibition and the artistic techniques used to enhance the effect of light found in the objects on display in Nur from the DMA’s senior advisor for Islamic art, Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir. And on Thursday, April 3, your lecture ticket will also include admission to Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World!

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Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA

Words with Friends (and owls, mohels, etc.)

For the exhibition Never Enough: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, New York-based artist Darren Bader visited Dallas to help us realize a unique work recently purchased by the DMA. Bader is known for his innovative and unconventional use of materials that push the boundaries of sculpture and activates environments with unexpected pairings and phenomenological experiences.

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For example, in the 2012 exhibition Darren Bader: Images at MoMA PS1, the artist presented a room filled with a newly upholstered couch and several live housecats, all of which were available for adoption by museum visitors. Elsewhere the artist installed a selection of vegetables, each on its own wooden pedestal, that was made into salad for gallery visitors by a museum staffer twice a week. While these works all had a social dimension, for the artist these elements are understood to be sculpture of one form or another, albeit in the most expansive definition of the word.

Bader’s work also frequently employs double-entendres and wordplay, as is readily apparent in the series of rhyming couplets that make up the recent acquisition at the DMA, and which is now on view: obi and/with SCOBY; oak with/and smoke; owl and/with towel; oar with/and store; oil with/and mohel; oat and/with note; orc with/and fork. Generally, when a museum purchases a work it has a set physical form, but in this case the work itself consists solely of the words listed in the title above and the conceptual potential for realizing these couplings. These absurd combinations can be realized in physical space (e.g., placing a rowing oar in the DMA store) or in the form of photographic or video documentation to be displayed in the galleries. Contractual agreements like this have a long history within the canon of conceptual art, including works by Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein, Hans Haacke (with the aid of dealer Seth Siegelaub), and Andrea Fraser, among others.

As the curator for this exhibition, I was tasked with coordinating and/or sourcing the various elements needed to realize this work, including an obi and SCOBY, owl and towel, and even a mohel (more on that in a later blog post). In order to find an owl, we got in touch with Kathy Rogers from Roger’s Wildlife Rescue down in Hutchins, Texas.

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Kathy and her team run an amazing facility that rescues, rehabilitates and houses hundreds of birds of all varieties. For our project, Kathy had three types of owls available—Barred, Barn and Screech—and ultimately we decided to go with Forest, the Barn Owl. Forest was born in captivity, so he is very comfortable around humans and was more than happy to be filmed by the DMA’s crew.

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Next we had to find a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to go along with the obi (a traditional Japanese sash used with a kimono) we purchased from eBay. Lucky for us, the wonderful people at Holy Kombucha in Fort Worth were more than willing to provide us with a grade-A large SCOBY. While the SCOBY itself is naturally slimy and smelly, it is probiotic, and when used in kombucha it makes for a very tasty health drink; however, in order to exhibit the SCOBY our Objects Conservator dried it in an oven for several hours until it became a tissue-paper thin wafer.

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For those that are curious, the SCOBY will be on view in the Stoffel Gallery, along with video clips representing other pairings from the Bader piece scattered throughout the galleries (included in free general admission!). We have also staged two small interventions outside the gallery spaces that you might encounter on your next trip to the DMA. So if you find an oar in the DMA store, or oats in the DMA donation box, don’t be alarmed . . . it’s only art.

Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.


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