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Smart Museum reopens, expands

link to: Chicago JournalIt's been a season of change at the University's David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, where a renovation has altered the museum itself and a surprise donation will be used to increase its holdings.

After closing in April for a $2-million, eight-month renovation, the Smart Museum reopened in November with new special exhibition galleries; more extensive displays of its modern, contemporary, and Asian collections; and a thematic presentation of rotating selections from the Smart's antiquities and Old Master collections. The museum also has new storage facilities and a new education and study room. Chicago architect John Vinci of Vinci/Hamp Architects, Inc., designed the renovation.

"Since the museum opened in 1974, its collections have more than tripled, and the scope of activities and programs has increased dramatically," explains Kimerly Rorschach, the museum's Dana Feitler director.

The Richard and Mary L. Gray Special Exhibition Gallery debuted with "Surrealism in America During the 1930s and 1940s: Selections from the Penny and Elton Yasuna Collection." Organized by the Salvador Dali Museum in Florida, the exhibition features 73 sculptures, paintings, drawings, and photographs by Alexander Calder, Man Ray, Mark Rothko, and 53 other artists. It remains open through March 12.

"The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe" inaugurated the Old Master Gallery. Drawn primarily from the Smart's collection, the exhibition includes about 65 paintings, drawings, sculptures, decorative arts, and books that explore the Renaissance impulse to find inspiration in the ancient past. Art history professor Ingrid Rowland and U of C graduate students organized the exhibition, open through February 29.

The Smart Museum's collection will soon be expanding, thanks to a $5-million bequest--the largest single donation ever made to the museum--from Paul Kirkley, PhB'24, who died in 1993, and his wife, Miriam Kirkley, who died this past August. The gift will establish an endowment, with the income dedicated to acquiring more art.

"This gift will transform the Smart Museum," said Richard Gray, who chairs the Smart's board. "It catapults us into the top 5 percent of art museums nationwide in terms of acquisition endowments." The Smart collection currently includes more than 7,500 works of art. --K.S.

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