By Julia Park
When Senior Curator Sarah Schroth came to speak to my Nasher Museum Intern class, she told us about how the open space and the lack of permanent walls in our pavilions allowed the curators to customize the wall layout for each exhibition. After the floor layout is planned, small details like the wall color and lighting were also customized for each exhibition to present the works of art in the best possible way. For objects on display such as jewelry and sculptures, the showcases are also custom made in consideration of the best height for each of the objects (Is it best to look down upon it, or at eye level?). The combination of these small details makes the Nasher Museum’s exhibitions more personal and catered to our space.
Our most recent opening, the Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore exhibit, is a wonderful example of how the Nasher Museum’s unique approach allows for an optimal floor plan. The first section of the exhibition is devoted to early Matisse works as well as other pieces from the sisters’ early purchases, including a Delacroix painting that Gertrude Stein found particularly appealing. Next there are a series of rooms devoted to Picasso drawings, textiles, and jewelry as well as a few pieces of Japanese art. At the center of the entire exhibition, there is a small hexagonal room with noted works by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Picasso on each side, joined by another section that is devoted to the Cone sisters’ biography. What is remarkable about this floor plan is that the artwork is distributed throughout a series of these small rooms, an intimate experience that imitates the experience of walking through a well-decorated apartment, à la Cone.
Aside from the marvelous art pieces that are on display, my favorite aspect of the exhibition (and one that does not seem to gather enough traffic, judging from my four visits to the exhibition) is the media room playing the 20-minute segment of the BBC documentary on the Cone sisters. I had not stopped by until my last visit, and immediately regretted that I did not watch the documentary on my first tour. It is a truly entertaining and informative complement to the exhibition, and artworks come to life as you are taken to Picasso’s studio and the sisters’ apartment.
The wonderful thing about art and exhibitions is that you get a completely different experience with every visit, depending on what details you focus on. If you have already seen the Matisse exhibition, I challenge you to come visit again and see how your second visit can differ from the first! If the layout and art are not enough to tempt you, there are also various upcoming events associated with the exhibition such as “Sketching in the Galleries” and “French Wine Tasting.”
Photo by J Caldwell