22 June 2010 @ 04:49 pm
Visited the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston today with my mother, who is in town. I had been away from the museum for a long time after I worked there and I hadn't ever fully explored the new building. I'd gone to special exhibits but never taken the time just look at the permanent collection in its new digs. What a doofus.

Back when I worked there, the MFAH was a day trip. You could see everything on display within a day. The bulk of the museum's collection was in storage; one perk of being an employee in my position was that I had access to art storage and could go in and actually see the artwork so rarely, if ever, got hung in galleries. Today, we spent 6 hours looking and covered a fraction of the space. The art has room to breathe; you can walk around sculpture and you're not elbow-to-elbow with the person looking at the next piece. The experience is what I expect from a world-class art museum. Love the new building.

The current curator and curatorial assistant for the ancient collections (Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Etruscan, Assyrian, Mesopotamian, etc.) are doing an amazing job. The collections are...thin...but they've done an excellent job of including interesting information on the wall tags. A few short paragraphs gave a good feeling for each piece. They paired pieces nicely. For example, a bust of Caligula with a coin showing Caligula's profile. One thing I never liked about the coin displays at the Met was it was just a sea of ancient coins and I tended to glaze over looking at them. Pairing a coin with the bust encouraged me to really look at the coin. They might not have the best quality pieces or even breadth in the collections but they've done an excellent job of presenting everything they have. I cannot praise their work enough.

The museum's holding in European and American paintings from the early Renaissance through Remington are still quite good (the addition of two amazing Rembrandt paintings since I was there was a happy surprise) but the label text is still just as wretched as it was a decade ago. Coming from galleries with engaging wall text and use of little photos of the pieces rather than numbers, it's a huge let down to see tombstone labels on pieces that *I* know are iconic and important only because I worked at the museum. Very sad. Regardless of the lack of info, the pieces themselves are amazing and they are presented well within their various galleries.

We spent 5.5 of our hours in just those areas. We didn't even finish the European/American painting and sculpture. The last half hour, I took Mom to see the gorgeous Tiffany triptych window that the museum had acquired while I was still there. They've mounted it on a light box so the light comes through and it's perfect for showing it. I remember staring at the photography when it came over my desk and loving it. It's even more mind-blowing in person. Love that window. It's installed at the end of a hall of more modern art, Klines & Pollacks & to my great joy, the Oldenburg Giant Soft Fan (Ghost Version) is hung again. It was off display for years due to condition issues. I love the whimsy of the piece.

And, of course, I had to take Mom to see Turrell's light sculpture that is the tunnel between the old building and the new.

These are NOT my photos. I've scavenged them from the internet. I plan to go back with my camera and get some photos of my own. I couldn't find any photos of the ancient installations that so captured my imagination.

Claes Oldenburg, Giant Soft Fan (Ghost Version) - you can see a little bit of the Tiffany Window installation in the corner of the photo

Turrell's Light Sculpture in the MFAH tunnel between buildings.

On the downside, the gift shop is still as frustrating as ever. It's light and airy and so much nicer than it used to be but they still carry artsy items that don't really relate to what you've just seen in the galleries. Mom and I were looking, hoping to find something resembling some of the ancient vessels we'd seen upstairs and loved, but there was nothing. But that's a quibble. I have fallen in love with the new building and can't wait to go back.
Current Mood: impressed
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