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 • chrysler.org
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.