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This fall, the Harvard University Art Museums present three special exhibitions that highlight their increased commitment to the ﬁeld of contemporary art. Each of the three art museums — the Fogg Art Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum — currently has an exhibition of contemporary works on view. Together, these exhibitions represent a diverse range of media, objects, and geographical classiﬁcations. The exhibitions reﬂect the Art Museums’ initiative to increase their capacity to show and collect contemporary art by expanding their holdings of these works, while planning for future facilities in Allston Brighton where gallery space will be designed primarily for modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
Nominally Figured: Recent Acquisitions in Contemporary Art, on display at the Fogg Art Museum through February 25, 2007, represents the most recent acquisitions of contemporary works by the Harvard University Art Museums. The installation reﬂects an emphasis on work using the body, body parts, schematic notation, or ﬁgures of speech and text. While the dialogue between ﬁguration and abstraction dominated much of the discourse around mid-20th-century art, this exhibition features works with an expanded notion of the ﬁgure as an artiﬁcial construction that is evident in most art today. The installation includes drawings, sculpture, paintings, photographs and video by such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Carl Andre, Liz Larner, Richard Artschwager, Frank Egloﬀ, Paul Feeley, John Wesley, Mel Bochner, Paul McCarthy, Dennis Oppenheim, David Hammons, Steve McQueen, and Bruce Nauman. The exhibition was organized by Linda Norden, former associate curator of contemporary art, and will be installed in two rotations. The ﬁrst rotation runs through October 15, and the second will run October 21, 2006 through February 25, 2007.
German Art of the 1980s from the Heliod Spiekermann Collection is on view at the Busch-Reisinger Museum through December 3, 2006. Over 25 years ago, Heliod Spiekermann began collecting art by her contemporaries, becoming a deeply involved, passionate, and acute observer especially of the rise of Cologne as an art center in the 1980s. Getting to know artists through extensive studio visits and as patients in her dentist’s chair, she has gathered a distinguished personal collection that provides an ideal starting point for looking back at the art of a decade currently undergoing renewed scrutiny and reevaluation. This exhibition of generous loans presents ﬁve major paintings and sculptures by Georg Baselitz, Georg Herold, Albert Oehlen, and Rosemarie Trockel. The focus is strongly on the individual works, although these artists also stand for important tendencies of the 1980s: Baselitz for the revival of expressive, gestural art making marked by the persona of the artist; Oehlen and Herold for a spirit of neo-Dadaist skepticism about art, style, and ideology; and Trockel for the emergence of a rigorously intelligent art prompted by feminist concerns. The exhibition was organized by Peter Nisbet, Daimler-Benz Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum.
The New Chinese Landscape: Recent Acquisitions, an exhibition showcasing the Harvard University Art Museums’ most important contemporary Chinese acquisitions to date, is on display through November 12, 2006 at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. This tightly focused exhibition of six paintings and one sculpture represents an often overlooked category of works that push the boundaries of what the term “contemporary” means in non-Western contexts. Identiﬁed as contemporary Chinese ink paintings, these works are characteristic of both classical ink landscapes and contemporary art. In some instances, it is an entirely new approach to the Chinese landscape. In others, it is a newly invented type of brushwork or a reliance on classical Chinese models diﬀerent from those sanctioned by earlier generations of traditional artists. The artists’ use of new techniques, styles, and both Western and Chinese sources of inspiration, while working within the framework of traditional materials, formats, and subjects, clearly sets their works apart from traditional Chinese ink paintings and distinguishes them as contemporary. The exhibition was organized by Robert D. Mowry, Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Asian Art.
As announced this past February, The Harvard University Art Museums have unveiled a comprehensive master plan to transform its facilities for teaching, research, and presentation of its renowned collections. A core goal of the plan is to improve the ability of the Art Museums to exhibit contemporary works of art. To achieve that goal, the plan calls for the renovation of the historic 32 Quincy Street site in Cambridge, the current home of the Fogg and Busch-Reisinger Museums, and the development of new facilities in Allston Brighton. The planned Harvard University Art Museums Allston Brighton Center will house public galleries primarily for the exhibition of the Art Museums’ growing collection of modern and contemporary art, the scale and nature of which frequently requires larger and/or more ﬂexible exhibition spaces than are available in their current facilities. The Allston Brighton Center will also include spaces for public programs, a study center, teaching and research facilities, conservation laboratories, collections, and oﬃces for staﬀ. During the renovation of the Quincy Street site, the Art Museums will maintain a campus presence in Cambridge with highlights from its three museums on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, located on Broadway adjacent to Quincy Street.
“We envision a future when the Harvard University Art Museums can exhibit contemporary works of art in facilities that are speciﬁcally designed for that purpose. A large part of our current planning has developed with that objective in mind,” said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums. “As we look forward to new facilities in Allston Brighton, we are building our collection of modern and contemporary art and enhancing our programming in that area. These three exhibitions are an indication of our commitment to oﬀering our students and visitors the chance to study and interact with a wider range of visual art.”