The High Museum’s recent acquisition, The Jubilant Martyrs of Obsolescence and Ruin by Kara Walker, has not been shown in Atlanta yet. The piece is nearly 60 feet long by 14 feet high, and it will have a prominent place in the upcoming redesign of the High Museum. (2015, cut paper on wall, courtesy the artist/High Museum of Art)
ArtsATL > Art+Design > News: High Museum to undergo major changes to highlight diversity, encourage inclusivity

News: High Museum to undergo major changes to highlight diversity, encourage inclusivity

A major reworking of the High Museum of Art this year will change the galleries to highlight the collection’s diversity by featuring more works by women artists and artists of color.

“As the Atlanta community and the Southeast have grown and changed in the years since the Museum’s expansion, so has our collection,” says High director Rand Suffolk of the upcoming reinstallation. “It is essential that our galleries recognize and reflect those changes and celebrate the diverse artistic achievements represented in our holdings, drawn from across the region and well beyond.”

The exterior of the Stent Wing of the High Museum of Art (Photo courtesy High Museum of Art)

The reinstallation, involving all seven of the High’s curatorial departments, is slated to debut in October 2018. The new gallery organization will utilize a combination of interlinked chronological, subject and thematic constructs with dedicated spaces to explore connections across genres and time periods. In addition to featuring key works by artists of color and women artists, the galleries will incorporate selections from the High’s holdings of works related to the Southeastern United States, from historical decorative arts and American paintings to civil rights photography.

The project marks the first comprehensive revision of the galleries since the High’s major expansion in 2005. Since that time, the High has added nearly 7,000 artworks to its collection, now totaling more than 16,000. The reinstallation will feature familiar works and recent acquisitions across departments, including artworks never on view before at the High, such as Kara Walker’s monumental cut-paper installation The Jubilant Martyrs of Obsolescence and Ruin and paintings and sculptures from the 2017 Souls Grown Deep Foundation acquisition of folk and self-taught art.

Concurrent with the collection reinstallation, the museum will double the footprint and complete a total redesign of the Greene Family Learning Gallery in collaboration with Roto design firm.

“From design to interpretation, these new presentations will embrace equity, diversity and approachability throughout,” says High chief curator Kevin W. Tucker. “A museum collection is dynamic — always growing and evolving — so this opportunity has allowed us to thoughtfully revisit our existing presentations to reinstall the works in ways that resonate anew with our audiences.”

Annabelle Selldorf is the founder of Selldorf Architects. The firm will oversee a major revision of the High’s collection galleries. (Courtesy Selldorf Architects)

The museum is working with internationally renowned architectural firm Selldorf Architects to develop all aspects of collection gallery design and space planning. Selldorf Architects, founded by Annabelle Selldorf in 1988, has an international practice with a special emphasis on cultural institutions.

Architectural Digest India profiled lead architect Annabelle Selldorf in 2017, naming her “the art world’s favorite architect” and a “master of minimalism.” In 2017, art website Artsy.net named her as one of several architects “transforming the way we experience art.” Clients include the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA; the Frick Collection in New York; UMA Arles, a contemporary art space in Arles, France; and le Stanze del Vetro, a museum dedicated to contemporary glass in Venice, Italy. The firm has designed spaces for New York art dealers such as David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth, and has designed exhibitions for the Whitney Museum and the Venice Art Biennale.

Gallery improvements, changes and collection highlights planned for the reinstallation include:

  • Revised wall configurations in the Stent Family Wing to create new pathways and improve sight lines;
  • Light abatement and system upgrades throughout the facilities to better protect light-sensitive artworks;
  • A new special exhibition space on the Stent Family Wing second floor, which will feature a rotating schedule of exhibitions organized by the High that highlight various aspects of the High’s collections;
  • A new photography gallery location in the Wieland Pavilion lower level, which will provide additional space to present exhibitions from the growing collection of more than 7,000 works;
  • A new Works on Paper gallery in the Wieland Pavilion lower level; and
  • A black box space on the top floor of the Anne Cox Chambers Wing for the museum to present works from its new media collection.

The High’s education department is also working with Roto design firm to create two new distinct spaces for the Greene Family Learning Gallery based on a set of goals, which were informed by years of visitor observation, community expert input and research. Each space will be a child-centered and child-directed environment with age-appropriate activities for children from infancy to 8 years old. The open-ended, intuitive, multisensory elements, designed to be inclusive for all, will combine cutting-edge technology with hands-on activities. The current Greene Family Learning Gallery space will become “CREATE,” a bright and open studio devoted to developing childrens’ art-making skills. The newly created second Gallery space, “EXPERIENCE,” will be an immersive gallery that enables visitors to explore “what art means, how it feels and where it can take us.” Each gallery space will feature a “quiet room” with activities designed for reflection as well as an area specifically for toddlers.

Gallery closures for the reinstallation have begun and will continue through the end of April. The museum will close the Stent Family Wing, the High Café and the Greene Family Learning Gallery on May 20, 2018. Special exhibition galleries will remain open for the duration of the reinstallation, and the museum will continue to present public programs including First Fridays, Friday Jazz and Second Sundays.

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