On January 27, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art held a preview reception for not one, but three new exhibit openings: Brought to Light: Revelatory Photographs in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Collection, Crosscurrents: The Painted Portrait in America, Britain, and France, 1750-1850, and Crosscurrents: American and European Portrait Photographs, 1840-1900.
An exclusive VIP reception for major donors, trustees, and other special guests was followed by a reception for all museum members, which together drew about 375 guests. Curious guests eagerly checked out the sprawling, interesting exhibits while mingling and enjoying drinks and appetizers.
In the short program, Director and CEO Larry Feinberg welcomed the guests and introduced the “man of the hour,” Curator of Photography and New Media Charles Wylie, who curated the Brought to Light exhibit. Wylie shared how this was his largest exhibit to date and thanked the donors who made the exhibit possible, including Joan Almond, who has donated 66 works to the museum, a handful of which are in the current exhibit. Wylie explained that the exhibit shows unusual examples of artists whom we think we might know very well and works, both new to the collection and older ones, that have not been seen before. To create the exhibit of 60 photographs, Wylie culled through the museum’s collection of nearly 8,000 photos. By showing lesser-known and unusual images of artists, the exhibit seeks to reveal new insights into the artists’ work.
One of the other new exhibits, Crosscurrents: The Painted Portrait in America, Britain, and France, 1750-1850, explores the dynamic dialogue among artists in these countries that endured despite the political antipathies during this time. In this pre-photography era, painted portraits were of utmost importance. The other new exhibit, Crosscurrents: American and European Portrait Photographs, 1840-1900, assembles 100 striking works from the museum’s collection. It reveals how during this period, photographic portraiture evolved from mimicking portrait painting to emphasizing technical properties of the medium itself. The underlying premise of this evolution was that photography was an art form in its own right.
All three exhibits opened to the general public on January 28. Brought to Light runs through April 22; the others run through May 27. The museum continues to offer two other exhibits: Highlights of the Permanent Collection (ongoing) and Story-Telling: Narrative Paintings in Asian Art (through February 25).
The museum is offering free admission through February 28 in the belief that the power of art will provide solace, healing, and a source of inspiration in these trying times. A huge thank-you goes to Clay Tedeschi and the Charles Bloom Foundation, whose gifts make this possible.
The museum is in the midst of a massive, $50 million renovation project that will address critical needs of the facility, including seismic retrofitting and replacing aging roof and mechanical systems. The existing footprint will largely be kept, but the renovation will increase gallery space by 25 percent by making more efficient use of the space. It will allow the museum, for the first time, to include permanent photography galleries. The capital campaign has raised an impressive $33.2 million, but that still leaves nearly $17 million to raise. While the museum will remain open throughout the renovation, the State Street entrance is temporarily closed, with entry still open through the Museum Store on State Street and through the park entrance (near the library).
For more info about the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, go to sbma.net.