Norton Museum of Art grand re-installation underway

Closed until September 17, 2013

Priceless works of art sit in frame thrones at the Norton Museum of Art, but they are shuffled and moved in a dynamic flurry throughout the year.  During a two-week period every September, there is a major metamorphosis. 

James Hall, Deputy Director, explained, "We sort of hatch and plot and scheme, things that we think will make the visitor experience better."

The Norton Museum is closed until September 17, 2013.  The two weeks prior, galleries are shifted and spun and new works are put on the walls from storage. 

Ellen Roberts is the Harold and Ann Berkley Smith Curator of American Art and she is in charge of shuffling the deck of pieces. She must decide how many pieces can be displayed in a room, in what order they should be placed, and in what historical or categorical grouping.
"A flat thing is, in a way, more straight forward, there's only so many ways you can put it on the wall.  But a sculpture can be put in so many different positions in a gallery," she explained. 

Wall paint colors must be chosen to complement the many different pieces, represent the time period in history, and also be seen as beautiful when a visitor looks through door openings from one room to the next.

"In this case we kind of have the more realist and the more abstract works in the same gallery.  So, we're going to use a deep blue that I think will make all of these works really pop," Roberts said.

The pieces are priceless and are cared for as such. 

"We're not taking care of them for now, or for the next twenty years, we're taking care of them for eternity, so we have to be very, very careful with those things," Hall explained.

Climate is carefully controlled, and dust and smells must be kept from rooms where the art is stored or displayed.  Meanwhile, the lobby installation has a temporary lifespan of one years. 

"We are actually bound contractually by the artist to destroy this," Hall explained. 

Hall says the artist who creates a temporary installation wants all of it to be wiped out at the end, and that no part should be saved, no matter how beautiful.

"This was conceived specifically for a specific moment in time, in a specific place, and it's not meant to be universally applicable," he said.

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