Completing the Collection

Henry Moore British, 1898  1986 Reclining Figure: Angles, 1979 Bronze 48 9/16 × 90 7/16 × 61 13/16 in. (123.3 × 229.7 × 157 cm.) Gift of Sara Shallenberger Brown in memory of her husband W. L. Lyons Brown  1981.21

Henry Moore
British, 1898 1986
Reclining Figure: Angles, 1979
Bronze
48 9/16 × 90 7/16 × 61 13/16 in. (123.3 × 229.7 × 157 cm.)
Gift of Sara Shallenberger Brown in memory of her husband W. L. Lyons Brown 1981.21

It’s undeniable that excitement is building exponentially for the reopening of the Speed Art Museum on March 12, 2016. Since The Speed Art Museum Board of Trustees announced in late 2011 that the museum would be temporarily closing to allow time for the expansion, the public has been eagerly anticipating the unveiling of the new space. And now, on the brink of reopening, they surely won’t be disappointed due to the glorious aesthetic of the renovated building and the unparalleled collection of art the museum will feature.

And they won’t just see the work; one of the major hopes of the expansion has been that the art pieces spark conversation and introspection in regards to themselves and the modern world. “People may wonder what objects made on the other side of the world or 2,000 years ago have to do with me and my life,” says Kim Spence, curator of prints, drawings and photographs, “but art is an expression of the human experience. Many of these objects convey common themes that we all can relate to, whether it’s honoring your loved ones in life and death, or how our spiritual beliefs affect our daily lives.”

But it’s not just art from 2,000 years ago that can accomplish such feats. The Speed’s dazzling contemporary art collection will be on full display in a 9,000-square-foot gallery located inside the museum’s new North Building. Prior to the renovation, the Speed was not able to showcase the collection as much as some would like, but thanks to the updates, that won’t be a problem anymore.

“One of the key goals of our entire expansion and renovation project was to provide space to share our collection of contemporary art,” affirms Scott Erbes, Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. “In the past, we really did not have sufficient space for that, and now we do. So it’ll be the first time that significant parts of that collection are able to be shown simultaneously. We’ve always had to do it in bits and pieces in the past. I think this is going to be a much more broad and immersive experience for our visitors.”

French, 1656  1746 Portrait of Mademoiselle Duclos  in the Role of Ariadne, about 1712 Oil on canvas 64 1/4 × 51 1/2 in. (163.2 × 130.8 cm.) Museum purchase, Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler Fund Conservation funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency  1966.15

French, 1656 1746
Portrait of Mademoiselle Duclos
in the Role of Ariadne, about 1712
Oil on canvas
64 1/4 × 51 1/2 in. (163.2 × 130.8 cm.)
Museum purchase, Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler Fund
Conservation funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency 1966.15

In addition to the expansive spaces inside, contemporary art will be featured outside at the Elizabeth P. and Frederick K. Cressman Art Park. The park is completely free and includes sculptures by Henry Moore, Deborah Butterfield and Mark Handforth. There are also multi-media installations, including work by sound artist Susan Phillipsz. For Erbes, this amalgamation of mediums is precisely what will make the park so uniquely engaging.

“Part of [Contemporary Art Curator Miranda Lash]’s plan, which I think is brilliant,” he describes, “is that we treat part of the Art Park outside as contemporary space where we have an installation up for a month or a year, and then it goes away and something else comes into the space as opposed to a more traditional sculpture park, where fixed, three-dimensional things go into that space and are there for many, many years. We’ll have a mix of both.”

Back inside, a 5,600-square-foot space will be the new home to the Kentucky Collection. Such mediums as painting, sculpture and decorative arts – all created by Kentuckians from 1800 through the 1940s – will be on display. “The Speed is the state’s oldest and largest art museum,” Erbes explains, “and we really feel like we have a responsibility to share the artistic heritage of the state with our visitors.”

Chinese, Tang Dynasty Foreign man, about AD 700  756 Earthenware, pigment 16 1/4 × 6 × 5 3/8 in. (41.3 × 15.2 × 13.7 cm.) Gift of the William S. Kahnweiler Collection, presented by his wife, Mary Steele Tillman, bequest  from the Preston Pope Satterwhite Collection, bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler, by exchange,  and the gift of Abby and Fairleigh Lussky  2001.16

Chinese, Tang Dynasty
Foreign man, about AD 700 756
Earthenware, pigment
16 1/4 × 6 × 5 3/8 in. (41.3 × 15.2 × 13.7 cm.)
Gift of the William S. Kahnweiler Collection, presented by his wife, Mary Steele Tillman, bequest
from the Preston Pope Satterwhite Collection, bequest of Mrs. Blakemore Wheeler, by exchange,
and the gift of Abby and Fairleigh Lussky 2001.16

Meanwhile, the revered permanent European and American art collections have been totally reinstalled in revitalized gallery spaces. “In the newly installed European and American galleries, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a wide variety of histories,” describes Erika Holmquist-Wall, Mary and Barry Bingham, Sr., Curator of European and American Painting and Sculpture. “My goal is to provide a number of ‘aha’ moments throughout the galleries – I want the artworks to be triggers for a conversation or experience. It’s really important to create several entry points for our audiences and show them something they can either immediately relate to – or create a desire to understand and learn more.”

Dean Otto, curator of the Speed’s new film collection, similarly looks forward to using his specialty to encourage broader discussion: “Everything will look and sound its best technically, and I’ll be enhancing the programs with introductions, extensive program notes and post-screening discussions,” he offers.

But The Speed is also interested in being a one-of-a-kind experience for artists as well as guests. “Our goal is for the Speed to become a laboratory for artists to experiment, create new work and bring new ideas to Louisville,” contends Contemporary Art Curator Miranda Lash. “Visitors can expect to be surprised, challenged and encouraged to ask questions about what defines art, and how art can change with our understanding of our local community, and other communities around the world.”

Regardless of individual classifications, however, one of the most tremendous things about the Speed is that its work spans the gamut of the creative spirit. “One of the things the visitors will see in various spaces … is where all the curators have come together and put together galleries that span the whole of the collections – that bring together everything from Ancient Roman material to contemporary art – really to show that the spirit of human creativity transcends time.”

And with material that covers 6,000 years of creativity and a whole new architectural design, the collection of pieces both new and old will be more accessible than ever before. VT

Photos courtesy of The Speed Art Museum