Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will open its newly redesigned Early American Art galleries on Friday (March 16), marking the first reinstallation for the galleries since the museum opened in November 2011. The permanent collection spaces have been closed since January while the updates were being made.
“Two years ago, Crystal Bridges began conversations with our community and peers about making our galleries more inclusive and engaging” Rod Bigelow, the museum’s executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a statement “We’re excited to share these renovated and reinstalled spaces that better reflect the complexity of the American story — and we look forward to ongoing dialogue and discoveries as new connections with historic American art are revealed.”
The Early American Art galleries feature 185 objects, primarily from the museum’s permanent collection, including many works that will be on view for the first time. Information will be presented in both Spanish and English, as well as through new digital experiences.
The reinstallation unfolds chronologically through three different time periods and thematic groupings, according to the museum. The first, Networks and Power, explores the formation of the visual identity during early nation building. The addition of Spanish Colonial painting (including a rare portrait from colonial Cuba on loan from the Denver Art Museum) and American folk art provide a more nuanced look at the way art reflects and shapes nations and communities.
People on the Move reflects on the mid-nineteenth century and the extraordinary social transformation taking place as Americans moved from farms to cities and new transportation systems, such as steamships, trains, and bicycles. Object descriptions will point out the ways paintings from this time period contained hidden meanings for their contemporary audiences.
The last section, Painters of Modern Life, focuses on art related to emerging modern life, including themes of labor and leisure. Contemporary sculpture and painting playfully inserted in the installation draws attention to the fast-paced changes in art and life continued throughout the twentieth century. At the conclusion of the Early American Art galleries, a dramatic installation of over 40 works are hung in the Paris Salon style, where artworks were installed tightly together, allowing for more art to be on view. This salon-hang display, addresses notions of beauty and artistic style toward the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.
Admissions to the museum’s permanent collection is always free, sponsored by Walmart.