Take a New Look at the Permanent Collection Galleries

If you have been to the Museum in the past two weeks, you will have noticed that some of the galleries are closed. That is because, for the first time since 2011, we are reinstalling our permanent collection galleries. Ackland staff have already begun reconfiguring the galleries by tearing down and building walls and researching and writing new interpretive materials for the reopening of the galleries on Saturday, December 1, 2018.

While reinstallations like the one we are undertaking are not uncommon for a museum, our curatorial staff has identified three areas of focus:

Focus One – Art After 1950

While many of our special exhibitions include artworks after 1950, the Museum feels strongly that there should be a dedicated space for these works in the permanent collection galleries. Two works included in the new installation are George Segal’s The Legend of Lot and Nam June Paik’s Eagle Eye. Segal’s piece was shown in the Ackland’s 2008 exhibition Circa 1958, which celebrated the Ackland’s fiftieth anniversary. Featured in the Ackland’s 2015 exhibition Testing, Testing, Paik’s Eagle Eye was inspired by an eye chart in an antique store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus Two – African Art

African art is becoming a major programmatic emphasis at the Museum. This is due in no small part to the strength of the Art History Department and the increasing number of graduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill in this field, as well as some special acquisition opportunities. The reinstallation will offer much more space and prominence to our African art collection.  It will also have a special wall for temporary installations with loans from private collections. The first special installation will display a group of Nigerian Ikenga figures from the distinguished collection of Rhonda Wilkerson, a former UNC professor.

Focus Three – Works on Paper

Of the Museum’s 18,000 works of art, the majority are works on paper. The reinstallation will offer a more flexible space for works on paper. Currently, the Museum features a rotating series of installations titled Focus on the Peck Collection, which highlights works from the 2017-Peck gift along with other works in the permanent collection.  The reinstallation will also allow the Museum to include rotating installations of prints, drawings, and photographs for European and American art from about 1900 to the present.  Not only is this an opportunity to display work of art that have not been on view frequently; it is also an opportunity to highlight our conservation efforts. An example of this can be seen in Charles-François Daubigny’s Pond at Corbigny (L’Etang de Corbigny). Look closely at the differences in the colors and richness of details in the below images.

 

 

 

 

Our hope in reinstalling the permanent collection galleries is that you will reexamine old gems in new contexts, reimagine our collection strengths, and discover new favorites that encourage you to look close and think far.

Image credits

Art after 1950
George Segal, American, 1924 – 2000: The Legend of Lot, 1958; plaster, wood, burlap, chicken wire and oil on canvas. Other (figure): (182.9 cm). Other (canvas): 182.9 x 243.8 cm, installation: 188 x 243.8 x 167.6 cm. The William A. Whitaker Foundation Art Fund and Gift of The George and Helen Segal Foundation, Inc. 2009.1
Nam June Paik, South Korean, active in the United States, 1932-20: Eagle Eye, 1996; antique slide projector, aluminum, computer keyboards, eye chart, neon, 9 five-inch televisions, 2 nine-inch televisions, dvd player, dvd, 169.4 x 219.4 x 62.2 cm. Ackland Fund, 99.8

African art
Unidentified artist, South Africa, Zulu culture: Purse, 19th century; beads and reeds. Ackland Fund and Gift of Norma Canelas Roth and William Roth, 2017.19.62017.19.14

Works on paper
Jean Restout, French, 1692-1768: Christ at the Pool of Bethesda, c. 1725; oil on canvas, 99.7 x 122.2 cm. Ackland Fund, 87.31.36
Charles-François Daubigny, French, 1817-1878: Pond at Corbigny (L’Etang de Corbigny), n.d.; Oil on canvas, Canvas: 31.1 X 74.6 cm, Frame: 47 x 90.2 cm. Bequest of Charles and Isabel Eaton, 2009.31.36

The Love of my (Art) Life: An Ackland Student Guide Story

By: Paige Nehls

When I accidentally came across the Facebook post calling for student guide applications, I was thrilled. I love museums, but I particularly love the Ackland Art Museum. As an Art History major, it has become like a second home to me.

The Ackland is a haven for the intellectually curious and the aesthetically hungry. It’s always free and always welcoming.

I based my entire tour on Princess with a Musical Instrument in the Ancient Gallery, from the New Kingdom period of Egypt. Encapsulating so much of what drew me to art history in the first place, it is the love of my art life.

For one, it is amazing to me every day that here in Chapel Hill we have a relief sculpture that was carved in a workshop for an Egyptian pharaoh millennia before they knew this continent existed. It is incredible that I get to see it and study it, so far from its home, so long after it was created. I want to share that awe with my community! I think that everyone should be able to connect with art the way that my fellow student guides and I have been able to do.

When I speak like that about art, I usually get the “Yes, because you’re an art history major” eye roll, and yes, I am. However, the appreciation of and connection to art transcends academic categories. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a student guide has been connecting with other students of other ages, majors, and backgrounds. It’s given me an enlightening perspective on art and how it resonates with different people.

Some of the best advice I got while working on my tour came from my colleague and friend, Christina Barta, who is a first-year Computer Science major. For a while, I was stuck on how to present the objects in my tour. One day, Christina just looked up at me and said, “Change the order.” That seems so simple, and comical in retrospect, but I was so involved in my own tour I couldn’t see the forest for the trees

Growing up in ballet, I was trained to look for lines, for beauty, and for aesthetically pleasing forms. The lines that the artists use to create shapes in their works are very telling of the culture that produced both the artist and the work. When I was creating my tour, I viewed each object as a snapshot of the past. We can take one object and figure out what was going on at the time, why, who produced it, what they valued, and the list goes on and on.

The tours that my fellow student guides and I have created are fun, interesting, and rewarding. It is rare to watch people absolutely fall in love with what they are doing, but you see it at the Ackland every day. These tours are a learning process for everyone involved, including the guides, and that is what makes it such a remarkable experience.

Paige is a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill seeking a degree in Art History. Her interests include, “Egypt. Just Egypt. Only Ever Egypt”.


Relief of a Princess with a Musical Instruments (Sistrum), c. 1360-1350 BCE: White sandstone, 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 1 1/4 in. (15.9 x 11.4 x 3.2 cm). Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ackland Fund. 67.29.4.

Exposure and Conservation: Presenting the Peck Collection in Perpetuity

The theme of the second in our ongoing series of selections from the recently donated Peck Collection of Dutch and Flemish drawings is “Ruins.” The topic of transience and decay seems an appropriate prompt for a quick discussion of the effects of time and exposure, not only on the grand structures of the Dutch and Roman past but also on 17th-century drawings themselves.

At the Ackland, we are often asked why the Pecks’ wonderful gift is not permanently on view in its entirety. Are we not proud and thrilled at this extraordinary enrichment of the Ackland collection and the cultural landscape of North Carolina? Indeed we are – so much so, in fact, that we not only yearn to show everything to everybody, but we add another dimension to that wish: everything to everybody, forever.

It is this last word, “forever”, that provides a clue to the answer as to why our visitors cannot see all 134 Peck Collection drawings, including the seven by Rembrandt, all the time. When museum folk think about the institution’s audience, we think not only of our many and diverse constituencies visiting in 2017, but also of all the possible visitors of the year 2117, or 2217, and beyond. Our commitment is to preserve masterpieces of human creativity for as long as humanly possible (you’ll sometimes catch us uttering the phrase “in perpetuity”).

To achieve that, works of art that are sensitive to the effects of light must be protected from over-exposure. Light can fade inks and darken paper; it can even, in the worst case, make a work of art disappear. Therefore, we carefully control not only the level and type of light that all drawings in our collection are exposed to, but also the length of time they are on exhibition.

We are hard at work on a website that will showcase all the Peck Collection drawings in very high resolution digital images, with commentary and information. We will also present a full-scale exhibition of the entire gift, with a scholarly catalogue, as soon as we can – probably in four or five years. Until then, I encourage you to return to the Ackland regularly, as our focused selection of works from the Peck Collection will change every few months, offering fresh perspectives, themes, and questions. And I invite you to peruse the collection on our current public database.

The Peck Collection offers us exquisite examples of human creativity, “rescued” by the collectors from the contingencies of history and time. It is our job to ensure that these well-preserved masterpieces do not themselves become ruins, unavailable to future generations in their full glory. Your grandchildren and great grandchildren and on “into perpetuity” will silently thank you for your understanding.

Hendrik Hondius the Elder, Dutch, 1573-after 1649: Ruins of Castle Spangen, n.d.; Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over black chalk on paper. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Peck Collection, 2017.1.45.

Something Old, Something New at the Ackland

DSC_0550Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 31 July 2015.

Dear Friends,

Because of our commitment to engage the Ackland’s permanent collection, I cannot resist mentioning the excitement around our current exhibition highlighting and rethinking our holdings of painting and sculpture since 1960.

“It changed the way I think,” said one visitor from the Galloway Ridge retirement community in Pittsboro.

“Amazing selection of wonderful works. The Sean Scully painting is sublime – just one of many surprises!! Many unknown names, at least to me, producing fascinating work!! I’ll be bringing friends many times!!” wrote a former museum director from the area.

My thanks to all of you for talking about the Ackland! Because of you Testing Testing is rapidly becoming the exhibition to see and comment on!

7746d294-b23b-4986-a616-0a956a0d8034But my main focus today is on a very different, but no less important part of the collection: Art of the Ancient Mediterranean. I am thrilled to announce the publication of a full scholarly catalogue of 227 works of art from many parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, including works from Egypt and the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Iran, Cyprus, Greece and Italy and ranging in date from around 5000 BCE to 1100 CE. An appendix documents the recent gift of an additional 211 ancient coins. Beautifully illustrated with gorgeous new color photography, this catalogue showcases a significant and valuable collection as never before. Our author is Professor Mary C. Sturgeon, just retired from a most distinguished career as Professor of Classical Art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has triumphantly brought to a conclusion a project that began well over a decade ago in seminars with graduate students researching these Ackland objects. The publication, with 344 pages and 727 color plates, is now available at the Ackland Museum Store ($80 for members, non-members $100). Continue reading

On “Refreshment”

This essay by Peter Nisbet was originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 16 March 2015.

Today’s word is refreshment.

Over the past several months, I have been thinking especially about a project that might be called “Ackland Refreshed”: imagining and implementing ways to make the art on display look even better and our museum visitors feel even better. After rearranging and reinstalling the collection, as well as switching to LED lighting (enhancing the visibility of our art, all the while saving money and energy), we have just finished repainting our galleries, adding carefully-chosen, art-enhancing colors to the walls. I have had many visitors tell me that the galleries have never looked so welcoming and elegant, and I invite you to experience these refreshed spaces for yourselves.
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Glimpse into the Collection: Reading All Night Long

The Bookworm, 1920In honor of staying up way-way-way too late yet again to finish a book, I give you The Bookworm by Arthur Paunzen. Something about the enormous stacks of books crowding the figure just speaks to me. Also his complete disregard for the huge spider over his head. Now that I would likely notice.

I will endeavor to go to sleep earlier from now on, but I’m sure some book will inevitably keep me up.

Arthur Paunzen, Austrian, 1890-1940: The Bookworm, 1920; drypoint. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.1774.

Glimpse into the Collection: Old Well in the Spring? (We say, “Yes!”)

Old Well

Edward Carrick, British, 1905-1998: “Christmas Greeting Card,” 1930; wood engraving. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2389.

Diane Davis is the project photographer for the Ackland Art Museum’s IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Since 2010, she has been producing master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years, she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

As each of us on the digitization team has discovered this print, we’ve imagined it was made in Chapel Hill and depicts the Old Well on UNC campus in the spring.

It seems equally fitting for Easter, with the little bunny in silhouette in the foreground, doesn’t it?  It took me a number of viewings to even notice that there is a second bunny in the middle of the “valley”. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the viewers eye is compelled to travel in the circular spiral of this composition…full of new growth bursting from the grass to the tree tops. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “A Hint of Spring”

Dana Brand is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She’s a self-described “Army brat” who landed longest in Winston-Salem, NC, before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill for both her Bachelor’s (English and Media Studies) and Master’s (Information Science) degrees. Dana first got into digitization, and metadata in particular, as an intern at the Digital Production Center in Wilson Library while in graduate school. 

This small series of prints just lifts my spirits and I wanted to share!

Bleriot

Ghislain Bleriot, French, born 1951: “Herbal: Impatiens” (“Herbier: Impatientes”), n.d.; drypoint and sulfur tint, printed in color. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Joseph F. McCrindle Collection, 2010.3.50.

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Glimpse into the Collection: “Creatures of Poictesme”

Abigail Wickes is a digital image technician at the Ackland Art Museum, and is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She became interested in digital image cataloging during an internship at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center while she was working towards her Master’s in Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill (2012).

Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s

Frank Cheyne Papé, British, 1878-1972: Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s, color line block.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2254

I found this beautiful map in my queue a few weeks ago, and I love all of the fantastic creatures it depicts. The Wikipedia page for Poictesme describes it as “a fictional country or province…roughly in the south of France” in which many of the fantasy works of James Branch Cabell take place. I’ve never read any Cabell, but apparently his work in fantasy fiction was a tremendous influence on many authors I love, including Neil Gaiman. Wherever Poictesme may be, it evidently has oceans with mermaids and sea serpents and forests with unicorns and hags. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “In the Fields”

Diane Davis is project photographer for the IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Beginning in 2010, she produces master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections.  Previously, Diane was a professional photographer in Charlotte, NC who served on boards at The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography & Film, Women in Communications-NC Chapter, and NC Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years,  she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

Since I’ve been on the Ackland’s digitization project the longest of our team of three, I’d like to kick off with an image that inspired me to start putting images into my “favorites” folder.  It was on November 24, 2010, and I had been photographing works on paper at the Ackland for less than a month. I came across a print by Wharton Esherick entitled Harvesting. I remember thinking, “This print is too fabulous not to save somewhere! How will I ever remember it after five months, a year, or two years of viewing such quantities of artwork?”

Esherick_Harvesting_whole_with_signature

Wharton Esherick, American, 1887-1970: “Harvesting,” 1927; wood engraving.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.1669.

And so it began. Esherick’s print started my “In the Fields” folder. That phase of the project included a lot of artworks that depicted agrarian activities — different cultures, different mediums, and different views of what it meant to the artists to reflect on their surroundings. But this one — how spectacular is this!?!

Note the writing below the image (click it to enlarge). The collector, Burton Emmett, often made notations about his purchases directly on the pieces themselves. This one indicates that he bought the print from the Weyhe Gallery in New York for $10 in 1929. The piece was part of the “50 Prints of the Year” exhibit sponsored by the American Art Dealers Association.

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