"European galleries reopen
Last weekend, with its reopening of the European galleries, the Indianapolis Museum of Art welcomed back a few old friends: among them, its formidable collection of Neo-Impressionist works, said to be the most comprehensive in the U.S. Now, renowned works by Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro and other big name Neos have broader confines in which to entrance viewers. But this doesn’t diminish the intimacy of the spaces that mark the “new and improved” galleries. Last week’s media opening allowed for a generous (and uncrowded) viewing of the galleries’ reinstallation, including, of course, additional space for hanging ever more work and more special exhibitions.
Years before the IMA was even thinking about the major overhaul it has now officially completed, I experienced an evolving partiality to the European galleries. In my mind, a few well-selected works of art can be more rewarding than a plethora of them. On the other hand, with more space, the IMA can strut its stuff in a way it couldn’t before. Its renowned collection of the School of Pont-Aven, a collection of paintings by Paul Gauguin and his followers in late-19th century Pont-Aven, France, now has a permanent place to hang — and this one does it justice.
The gallery’s gold-tinged mustard walls play upon the lights and subdued tones of the Pont-Aven painters whose hints at abstraction involved a quilt-like palette of subtle tones and textures that are at once fiery and alive. And this collection is another star among the IMA firmament: Acquired from the Samuel Josefowitz Collection, these are considered the strongest such works in the country.
Nearby in the modernist gallery, IMA senior curator Ellen Lee has displayed other familiar museum favorites — works by Chagall, di Chirico, Picasso and others hang alongside borrowed and new works: among these, two paintings by Wassily Kandinsky (one characteristically presaging minimalism and the other reflective of an earlier, still somewhat figurative sensibility). Gems such as these are enhanced by a temporary exhibition in a new rotating gallery: Prints from Paris: Vollard Editions, including works by Picasso, Vuillard, Chagall, Merisot, Gauguin, Cezanne and others.
These are by no means the only highlights. The existing and added spaces offer a more instructive bent with more explanatory text, reflecting a larger trend in museums (if you’ve ever wondered how porcelain is made, you’ll find a lengthy description in the decorative arts galleries, incidentally painted powder blue).
Among the existing spaces reopened in all their former glory, the J.M.W. Turner collection, another of the museum’s strengths, remains largely untouched. And then there’s that Rembrandt, an IMA signature, now hanging above the fireplace in the Clowes Pavilion. A final mention must go to the stunning “Heroic Torso” (100-25 B.C.), a marble wonder among the museum’s small but lovely collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. I’ve made a new friend indeed.
Visit the new European galleries during regular gallery hours; beginning in January, admission is free. The IMA is located at 4000 Michigan Road, 317-923-1331 or www.ima-art.org.