We’ve recently reinstalled this historic entry space for the first time in more than a decade. Whereas Alumni Memorial Hall previously displayed only European and American paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our new installation, Collection Ensemble, surveys the remarkable breadth of our holdings, showing off works rarely seen, and gathering art from distinct time periods, places, and media into thematic groupings. The reinstallation of the Apse is the first phase of a much larger transformation of the Museum, called Openings, that will unfold in the galleries and in public programs over the next two years.
Displayed along the perimeter of Alumni Memorial Hall is a panorama of art organized into nine dynamic groupings. At its center is a photograph by Candida Höfer displaying the interior of a strikingly empty monumental Baroque church. Höfer writes about her work, “What people do in these spaces—and what these spaces do to them—is clearer when no one is present, just as an absent guest is often the subject of a conversation.”What people do in spaces, and what spaces “do” to people are the loose topics of the groupings of art to either side of Höfer’s photograph: How does architecture and its aspects—light, scale, ornamentation— influence our experience of these spaces? Other sets of objects share a subject—water, or the cosmos—but little else: they vary in material, point of view, and purpose. Juxtaposed this way, these arrangements remind us that works of art can change in meaning and affect when placed next to different things. Near our main doors, the installation becomes more casual and domestic: works of art complete our new living room spaces, designed to humanize our entryway, and offer a relaxed, social experience with the collection. The art in these areas will rotate, along with books and photo albums related to the Museum.
Collection Ensemble recasts the role of the collection as an active, creative, sometimes startling source of material and ideas, open for debate and interpretation. It includes forty-one artworks that span the globe, ranging from the fifteenth century to the present day, and representing the work of a broad diversity of artists, including Christo, Theaster Gates, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Dinh Q Lê, Charles Alston, Kara Walker, and others. Taken together, these nine distinct gatherings become scenes of a non-sequential play in which the artworks take on the characters, Alumni Memorial Hall presents the stage, and you, the viewer, decide the meaning.