Big changes are coming to the Spencer Museum of Art. We are proud to share details about this exciting new initiative. Be sure to check back frequently for the latest news!
In Fall 2010 the Spencer Museum of Art (SMA) will begin Project Redefine, a bold experiment that endeavors to expand understanding and appreciation of the museum’s diverse permanent collection through new, broadly conceived thematic installations. Our present galleries, formulated in 1978, focus primarily on Euro-American painting and sculpture and are divided according to a progression of time periods: Antiquity, Medieval, Renaissance, and 17th through 19th centuries, with a separate gallery devoted to Asian Art. Project Redefine aims to change the frameworks through which our permanent collection is viewed by creating new thematic installations.
These long-term exhibitions tie together works from diverse eras and places with fundamental concepts related to art and the human experience: body, place, things and ideas. Through intense dialogue and research lead by the SMA curatorial team with input from voices across the community, the new installations will highlight the strengths of the collection. Through this reinstallation effort, Project Redefine will showcase the artistic excellence of the Spencer’s collection, and incorporate a range of interpretations, experiences, and approaches to history, world culture, and art across time and space. This project is designed to attract new audiences and encourage deeper engagement from existing ones.
Sharing the process for Project Redefine is very important to us. With over two years of planning and research, this section offers a glimpse into our methods through several important documents.
The big picture first came into focus in 2008 when we agreed to centralize the long-term collection on the upper 4th floor and transform the main entrance of the museum on the 3rd floor into a series of interconnected temporary exhibition spaces.
We complemented this proposal by convening a diverse range of focus groups. The focus of this study was a survey that helped us gauge the interests of various interest groups.
The decision to formulate a series of thematic, interrelated long-term exhibitions of the Spencer’s collections came after several months of curatorial workshops.
As part of this vision for the new Spencer Museum of Art we have produced several video animations offer the viewer a preview of potential changes.
Building on the momentum of the 20/21 reinstallation, the remaining permanent collection galleries will be reinstalled according to a staggered schedule. This allows Museum visitors to continue to enjoy our collections while we work on reinstalling the galleries. It will also give us a chance to evaluate the ongoing success of the project and adapt it as necessary.
The first installation focuses on two important collections at the Spencer Museum: Asian art, and the indigenous arts of the Americas, Africa and Oceania. On the north balcony, Roots and Journeys will provide the first dedicated exhibition space for the display of our diverse collections of American Indian, Latin American, African and Oceanic art, which have been collected at the University of Kansas since 1890 and were transferred to the care of the Spencer in 2007. The south balcony will feature the arts of Asia in a thematic installation Nature/Natural and will highlight many never-before-displayed artworks collected by Sallie Casey Thayer, whose generous gift of 7,500 objects created the first art museum at KU in 1918. These two installations together will delve into human interactions with the environment and the cultural construction of place.