By Caroline Ryan
The Steinberg Museum of Art moved out of its prior home on the second floor of Hillwood Commons in September 2016, and was replaced by the campus bookstore. Although a move of the museum to the lower level of the library was announced, the museum remained closed during the 2016-2017 school year. Plans to reopen the museum this semester are now underway.
Barbara Applegate, director of the Steinberg Museum, hopes the museum will be ready for a soft opening in November for the gallery space itself, and that the entire museum will be fully operating by mid-December. The museum will hold different exhibitions throughout the year.
Steven Breese, the new dean of the College of Arts, Communications, and Design, is looking forward to the museum’s reopening, “Original works of art are ‘primary texts’ and ‘reading them’ offers us new ways to think about and to view the world,” Breese said. “Museums are built for learning, but not through hard, laborious work. Instead, Art & Museums engage in a special kind of pedagogical magic — through luxurious, critical observation,” he said.
Construction for the museum began at the end of June, after months of meetings, analysis of blueprints, and creation of a design layout. Applegate hopes the initial construction will be completed by Sept. 25. Custom furniture and custom glass will be placed inside, after the renovation is complete.
In addition to the museum itself, the university will be moving about 4,000 pieces of artwork, including African sculpture and various types of pottery, from the storage room in Hillwood Commons to a visible storage area in the lower level book stacks, attached via a shared entranceway inside the museum. Moving such fragile artwork will take a five person crew 30 days.
Applegate, has spent much of her time over the past year designing the look for the museum based on other museums she has visited. Her plan for the museum is for it to be an uninterrupted space, with nothing distracting the eye from the artwork.
Renovations to the museum include removing the marble walls and replacing them with pure white paint, special museum lighting in the ceiling, proper heating and ventilation to ensure the proper climate for the artwork, and the installation in the portico of chandeliers purchased by Mary Lai, at the World’s Fair in 1965. Also, for the first time since the 1960’s, the front of the library, (facing Northern Boulevard) will be open as an entrance. For many years, the library’s front entrance has been closed.
The first planned exhibition at the museum, “Abstract Expressionism Behind the Iron Curtain,” will be in November. “The exhibit will examine artwork in a communist world. “These works are made in an oppressive state, but it speaks to that notion that artists are compelled to make regardless of what the state says,” Applegate said. “For many of these men, this is the first time their artwork has been shown in the United States; some of their work has already been shown at the Museum of Modern Art,” she added.
Applegate plans each exhibition years in advance. She likes students who are on campus “to see different things across those four years,” Applegate said.