Current & Coming  |  By ANTIQUES Staff

Chrysler Museum reopens

May 9, 2014  |  Visitors approaching the grand front entrance of Norfolk, Virginia's Chrysler Museum of Art on its reopening on May 10 could be forgiven for not realizing that a major transformation has taken place. So seamlessly have the flanking wings been enlarged and the gardens in front of them so surreptitious­ly moved forward that it is on­ly when inside that the impact of the seventeen-month reno­vation and expansion becomes evident. In its new spaces and reconfigured galleries the mu­seum presents a fresh look at its collections, with its long­standing strengths in glass and European and American paint­ing and sculpture as well as newer areas, such as contem­porary art. 

Within a broadly chrono­logical progression of paint­ing, sculpture, and decorative arts the curators have creat­ed several provocative "inter­ventions": in a gallery devoted to seventeenth-century Italian art, a 1954 Robert Richenburg Pieta so abstract that it takes some looking to discern the image of the dead Christ with his mother; in the American West gallery, a horse by con­temporary sculptor Deborah Butterfield. Albert Bierstadt's glorious Emerald Pool will be presented as it might have been originally, within a wall-filling theatrical frame surrounded by velvet drapes. Pablo Picasso's mural, Composition for a Mardi Gras Ball, not seen in more than three decades, has been restored and rehung in the European modernism gallery.

The glass collection, too, has been reinstalled in larger quar­ters, both to highlight its many masterpieces and to explore various themes, such as the in­fluence of non-Western art on glass design, and the use of glass to document historical figures and events with imag­es taken from prints, drawings, or paintings, such as plates embossed with portraits of Washington and Lafayette and vessels that take on issues like slavery and the political inde­pendence of Poland. In addi­tion, a direct video feed from the museum's nearby glass blowing studio, opened in 2011, provides live demonstra­tions of various techniques key to the creation of this art.

Home to the largest U.S. Navy base in the country and one of America's oldest and bus­iest ports, Norfolk has long been a hub of international and cultural activity. Besides the Chrysler Museum (and its historic house properties), it boasts a wonderful botanical garden (the airport is practical­ly in it); the Hermitage Museum and Gardens, an early twen­tieth-century arts and crafts estate housing a wide-rang­ing collection of Asian and Western art; the Hampton Roads Naval Museum; and a maritime-themed museum called Nauticus. It's little won­der that Walter P. Chrysler Jr. thought the city an excellent permanent home for his col­lection-and the museum that continues to grow around it.

Chrysler Museum of Art, Nor­folk, Virginia • reopens May 10 •

From top: Composition for a Mardi Gras Ball by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), 1923. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, gift of Walter P. Chrysler Jr.  Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), NewYork.

The Chrysler Museum's rich holdings in American impressionism rein­stalled in the Richard D. and Shirley H. Roberts Wing. Photograph by Ed Pollard.

The museum's renowned collection of glass by Louis C. Tiffany is show­cased in a special gallery.  Pollard photograph.

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