Athens, Ga. – When the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia opened its permanent collection wing in January 2011, its staff had no idea that collection would grow by 25 percent in only five years. Due to that growth as well as a variety of other factors, the museum’s curators are working together to tell the story of art history in a fresh way, which means closing eight galleries for the summer. Visitors who want a last look at the current version of the galleries have through June 12 to experience it. After that date, two-thirds of the new wing will be closed to the public until it reopens in mid-August.
Currently, the permanent collection galleries separate American and European artists, but some artists, like Mary Cassatt, could fall into either category. The plan is to eliminate geographical barriers and allow visitors to make connections among artists of diverse backgrounds in a single space. Those galleries have long included works of decorative art from similar eras and aesthetics to the more traditional fine art on the walls, and visitors can expect even more.
The white walls will get some colored paint, and removable walls will create defined spaces within the galleries. Although works will be shifted around, the most well-known ones will still be on view. More works by African-American artists, especially those from the collection given by Brenda and Larry Thompson in 2012, will also join the story, creating a richer narrative of art history.
The museum also has a strong collection of works on paper. More prints, watercolors and photography will be on display. These fragile, light-sensitive objects have to be changed out regularly to minimize damage. The upside of their rotation is that the look of the galleries will change frequently, rewarding return visitors with new discoveries.
Finally, new wall text and redesigned labels will seek to make some of these connections clear, explaining why particular works of art are grouped, in simple, direct language. The museum’s education staff is working on providing translations of this information in both Spanish and Braille.
The north side of the permanent collection galleries will remain open, with two galleries dedicated to decorative arts, a temporary exhibition of recent acquisitions on view July 16-Oct. 9 and the exhibition “Turned and Sculpted: Wood Art from the Collection of Arthur and Jane Mason” on view through Aug. 7. Tours focusing on the permanent collection will continue, shifting their emphasis to the galleries that are still open. In addition, the exhibition “Paper in Profile: Mixografia and Taller de Gráfica Mexicana” will be on view from June 4 to Aug. 21, with more than 130 sculptural fine art prints from many of the biggest names in the art world.
Several events are planned to celebrate the reopening of the galleries, including an evening event on Aug.13 at 5:30 p.m., a Family Day on Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to noon, a public tour with curator of American art Sarah Kate Gillespie on Aug. 31 at 2 p.m. and a public tour with museum Director William U. Eiland on Sept. 14 at 2 p.m.
Partial support for the exhibition and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on UGA’s East Campus. The address is 90 Carlton St., Athens, Ga., 30602-1502. For more information, including hours, see georgiamuseum.org or call 706-542-4662.