Out from storage and into the new Robert O. Anderson Building came the County Museum of Art's modern artworks last fall in an inauguration that drew international attention. Thursday, the museum goes at it again. Though certainly with less fanfare, the Wilshire Boulevard institution will unveil two new, expanded galleries for photography and prints and drawings.
The double debut is part of the museum's ongoing master expansion plan, which has thus far included, among other projects, the opening of the Robert O. Anderson Building for 20th-Century art and the Doris Stein Research and Design Center for Costumes and Textiles.
"The photography department had a very small gallery in the Ahmanson wing which could only accommodate a small, one-person show," said Kathleen McCarthy Gauss, the museum's photography curator. "It had walls essentially only on one side. This will enable us to do large exhibitions, retrospectives and group shows."
The new 3,000-square-foot photography gallery is adjacent to the new prints and drawings space on the third floor of the museum's Hammer wing.
"It's an excellent location for both galleries," Gauss said. "Neither department is specifically limited to one historical time period and now they'll physically occupy places near 19th-Century painting galleries as well as the modern art in the Anderson--which will be good for comparisons."
Victor Carlson, curator of prints and drawings, said he is "overjoyed" with the new habitat. At 4,200 square feet, the gallery offers about 1,200 more square feet for a 25,000-piece collection that was formerly housed next to the original photography gallery.
"Certain exhibitions we've done in the past have simply not been seen to optimum advantage because the gallery space was too small," Carlson said. "For instance, the artworks in this spring's Frank Stella show were installed in an area too small to look as good as they should have. Now that we have more square footage and more wall space, we can display large-scale exhibits and larger works of art to better advantage."
"Inventories and Transformations: The Photographs of Thomas Barrow," a 160-piece retrospective running Thursday through May 10, will inaugurate the photography galleries.
The works by Barrow, an influential American photographer, will date from the early 1960s to the present.
"What's important about his work," Gauss said, "is that it illustrates the vast potential of photography to transcend its sort of literal route or unitary image and to allude to much wider kinds of things that relate to our culture. It really is kind of documentary work, but it's also quite radical. It's challenging and requires a careful analysis."
"Nineteenth-Century French Drawings from the Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen" will inaugurate the prints and drawings space. Carlson said that highlights from the exhibition will include drawings by Van Gogh and Ingres, and watercolors by Matisse and Delacroix. The 100-piece show will be on view Thursday through April 12, along with an exhibit of 18th- through 20th-Century European drawings and watercolors from the museum's collection, ending May 10.
The Windy City is about to add a blast of its own to the current museum boom.
On April 21, the Terra Museum of American Art, now in the suburb of Evanston, Ill., will open larger quarters about a mile from Chicago's downtown.
The museum, which houses one of the country's finest collections of American art, holds an 800-piece cache with masterworks from the 18th to 20th Centuries by Copley, Morse, Bingham, Whistler, Homer, Cassatt, Wyeth and others. The works were amassed by museum founder Daniel J. Terra, 75, who opened the original repository in 1980.
Terra, president of Lawter International Inc., an Illinois-based chemical company, and the administration's ambassador-at-large for cultural affairs, acquired the new venue for two reasons, said a museum spokeswoman.
"One, the permanent collection outgrew the first space," Linda Matsumoto explained, "and two, the visitation was so large--and kept growing--that Terra realized a need for a location in the heart of the City of Chicago."
The new museum will be on North Michigan Avenue in a busy, upscale shopping area which Matsumoto likened to "your Rodeo Drive."
"After New York City," she said, "North Michigan has the nation's highest rate of pedestrian foot traffic."
The new 60,000-square-foot museum, with galleries and office space to be split between two existing buildings, is about four times larger than its predecessor, Matsumoto said. Its opening is the first part of a three-phase, $75-million expansion project.
An exhibition featuring two centuries of American art dating from 1805 will inaugurate the new museum, whose primary strength lies in American Impressionism from the early 19th Century.