Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Museum Project

- What is a collection? What kinds of things do people collect – and why?
- What does a museum collect?
- Why are museums important?

Throughout the school year, the Addison’s Education Department will be working with the Kindergarten Prep class at the Children’s Place, a Bright Horizons child care and early education center located on the campus of Phillips Academy, to explore these ideas. In addition to learning about the Addison Gallery, the students and parents of Kindergarten Prep will be visiting the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology at Phillips Academy, and the Andover Historical Society, in order to connect an understanding of the value of museums to the cultural value of their own collections and to learn how to communicate these values to others through display and interpretation.

The Kindergarten Prep class started off their year with an exploration of trucks and construction. After reading books about construction and exploring photographs of the Addison’s construction site, it was time to kick off our Museum Project by visiting the Addison’s museum-in-progress. On a Friday morning in September, we ventured with Kindergarten Prep students, teachers, and parents to the Addison Gallery construction site, noticing the construction signs and a backhoe along the way.

We stood in the Addison driveway watching the workers create clouds of billowing dust from sawing new counter tops. We peered through the green fencing along the front of the museum and discussed why it was there. The students noticed that if you stood far enough back, you could see more than you could when you’re standing close, so we experimented with the views from different distances. We discussed the building materials we could see and how the newly constructed metal and glass section compares to the original brick building.

Back in the classroom, the students have turned their block area and their sand table into construction zones, complete with a fence to keep everyone safe! They will soon be sharing their own collections from home that they are documenting with their parents.

Other classes have expressed interest in joining in on the exciting and educational exploration of collections and museums – also the theme of our fall professional development workshops with teachers.

Stay tuned for updates as the classroom projects and Addison building progresses.

For more information about the Addison’s FREE education programs, click here or contact Jamie Kaplowitz at jkaplowitz@andover.edu or 978-749-4037.

For more information about the Addison building project, click here.

Posted by:

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Update on the Addison Expansion and Renovation

The metal scrim gives the addition its final appearance.I had the privilege to walk through the museum and work site (see left, click images to make them larger) recently and found myself stunned and amazed at how much progress had been made in the Addison's renovation and expansion.

Brickwork lining the new ramp to the loading dock is put into place.The outside of the building is coming together. Brickwork is nearly complete on all exterior surfaces, including the new truck and accessible staff entrances on the north side of the addition (see right). Chapel Avenue has been reconfigured to allow tractor-trailers to easily turn and back into our new loading dock. The front steps have been reinstalled and are now sitting on a waterproof base that should keep them well-supported for years to come. The entrance to the new accessible lift in the facade is being finished off with materials to match the existing stone and brick (see below, left). And, most importantly, the metal scrim that surrounds the glass walls of the upper part of the addition is in place. With that, and with grading around the foundation nearly complete, we can now see how the final museum and addition will look like.

The new handicapped accessible elevator in the facade is installed.  Note the front steps on the right.Inside, workers continue to run miles of wires, conduit, and pipes before the drywallers come in behind them and close up the walls. The bathrooms are being tiled. Compact storage systems, some new, some utilizing equipment we used before the renovation, are being installed in the art storage vaults (see below, right). The new super-chilled color photography storage vault has been built to protect our most fragile collections. Shelving has been delivered for the new art library space and the Museum Learning Center. Doorways have been reconfigured leading into the library, the Education offices, and the Visitor Services area, again, with materials that match the existing stone. And, in a true sign that we're nearing the end, the galleries are being painted with the colors chosen for our opening exhibition!

New compact storage systems are installed in the vaults.Just as on the exterior, glimpses of the final look of the interior are emerging from the dust and debris of construction. I felt very excited to stand in the spot where my future desk will be and get a feel for the new space I'll be working in. We can't wait until we can fill our spaces with visitors again and show off our new building. Keep watching Blog Addison for updates on the project and our reopening date!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coming of Age – Coming Home to Andover

Posted by Brian T. Allen, The Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director

With the Addison construction project nearing its close, so, too, is the Addison’s traveling exhibition, Coming of Age, which features seventy of our greatest paintings and sculptures. The show’s “grand tour” began at the Addison in the fall of 2006 and subsequently traveled to the Meadows Museum in Dallas, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. The show is currently installed at its final venue, the Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec City, where it closes on September 7th. A richer tour is hard to imagine.

The show was a landmark in so many different ways – as the most visited summer show in Italy last year, the first survey show of American art in Quebec, and the United Kingdom’s first true retrospective of American art made from the mid-nineteenth century through its triumph on the international stage a century later. Coming of Age provided tremendous publicity and visibility for us while our doors in Andover were closed.

Strong reviews for Addison show in LondonOnly a few days after it opened in London, all the major London papers – the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Times, the Financial Times, the Independent (see right) – devoted lavish and positive reviews to the show, some running a full page. This was amazing given all the things happening in the London arts scene. Many of the critics seemed genuinely surprised to find so much that was new and original about American art. Only Brian Sewall, the art critic for the Evening Standard, veered from the consensus that the show was truly wonderful and a revelation. Sewall’s review was so invective-ridden that I found myself chuckling by the time I finished it. He is a notorious contrarian and I suppose he needed to tell the other critics why they were all wrong. Even a bad review has its upside, though, since the full page of illustrations brought even more people to see the show.

The opening in Venice attracted over a thousand peopleIn Venice (see left), though the show ran during the design biennial and the film festival, the audience was not strictly international tourists. The bulk of the visitorship was Italian, and the show’s biggest impact for Italian audiences came from the landscapes and seascapes, especially the Homers, the Hudson River pictures, and the American Impressionists we sent. Many Europeans feel the land and the sea tell the story of the American experience best. This reflects in part a significant difference between Americans and their cultures, which they often consider more consciously urban and more heavily touched by human history.

Italians enjoy the Addison’s treasures in VeniceAnd, I still hear stories when speaking with Addison supporters (see right) who walked into the Peggy Guggenheim Collection not realizing the Addison’s treasures had travelled there as well. They were very surprised indeed!

The show was beautifully installed in every venue. It was great to see our things installed by different curators in different ways, and each installation expressed the vision they saw in the show, different audiences, different spaces, and varying design sensibilities. When the art is great, there are infinite ways to interpret it.

The Addison show was the major summer arts event in Quebec CityI saw the show this past weekend in Quebec City (see left). When I walked toward the museum, I noticed that no more than a hundred feet from the entrance marked the spot where General Wolfe died during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, shot moments after hearing that his British troops had routed the French. This battle signaled the defeat of France by Britain in the French and Indian War, and the collapse of the French colonial empire in North America. Inside the museum, the Addison’s objects told a story curiously relevant to the violent events that occurred on what is now a placid park. American art in the nineteenth century is often represented as an idiosyncratic interpretation of British art. This influence is a legacy of Wolfe’s victory over Montcalm in 1759 and the triumph of British culture in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America, much as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham marked a military victory of one colonial power over another. And yet, the Addison show continues to tell the story of America’s reception of the art of other nations as well. A major part of this story is the American embrace of French avant garde art starting with Impressionism in the 1890s and then leading to the very French-inspired movement of American Modernism in the 1920s and beyond. Some might say French culture seems to have gotten the last word after all.

And so the great Homers, Eakinses, Hoppers, the remarkable Pollock, Stella and O’Keeffe will soon be taken off the walls in Quebec, packed and on their way back to Andover, in time to join the other wonderful objects in the Addison’s permanent collection on view at the gallery’s public reopening celebrations next year. I am looking forward to seeing you there!