Opening April 2, 2019, the reinstallation Collection Ensemble highlights the breadth and variety of the Museum’s collection and juxtaposes works of art from different artists, periods, areas, and media.
The display, set against black walls, uses the dramatic quality of the Greek revival architecture of Alumni Memorial Hall. The installation is organized around a very large photograph of a Baroque church by Candida Höfer (Basilica do Palácio Nacional de Mafra III 2006). From this centerpiece, the works of art are grouped in scenes between and around the tall white columns of the entry, and the entire installation becomes a series of distinctive vignettes leaving open for the visitors a range of interpretations. The didactic explanations are deliberately kept minimal.
Collection Ensemble exchanges Alumni Memorial Hall's previous exclusive focus on 19th and early 20th century European and American painting for a broad mix of American, European, African, and Asian art from across media. The reinstallation doesn’t adhere to either chronological or geographic boundaries.
Collection Ensemble was curated by Vera Grant, UMMA’s Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Of this installation, she says: “The exhibition recasts the role of the collection as an active, creative, sometimes startling source of material and ideas, open for debate and interpretation. The arrangements remind us that works of art can change in meaning and affect when placed in new contexts.”
The exhibition displays 41 works by 41 famous and not so famous artists, many of them artists of color and women –including Charles Alston, Khaled al-Saa'i, Norio Azuma, Christo, Theaster Gates, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Dinh Q Lê, and Kara Walker (complete list below). The reinstallation in the iconic and beloved museum’s space is emblematic of the re-thinking of the role of UMMA on campus. Christina Olsen, UMMA’s director, explains: “We love Alumni Memorial Hall and its history, but for the last ten years, its display has been static and narrow in scope. There was no art by living artists, and no art by anyone outside Europe and the United States. We wanted our diverse public to see the breadth and complexity of what we have and to also see work by artists of color and women. When I first arrived to UMMA, many students and visitors told me that they felt excluded from the Museum, and that the art on view was very removed from their life or concerns. I wanted to change that.”
Collection Ensemble's rational is part of a larger movement among American art museums that are rethinking their collection displays, including the Whitney Museum, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the forthcoming MoMA reinstallation. The goal is to tell a more expansive and mutable history of art, one that shows that art has powerful connections across media, politics, and culture. As a campus museum, Olsen wants UMMA to be a vital hub for new ideas and exchanges. “Museums on campus should be bursting with new thinking, debates, and connections between things. They should remind you how exciting and surprising art is,” says Olsen.
The University of Michigan Museum of Art seeks to transform individual and civic life by promoting the discovery, contemplation, and enjoyment of the art of our world. We do that by making dynamic exhibitions and programs about our encyclopedic collection, and by inviting artists, scholars, students and others to collaborate with us. The Museum and its events are always free and welcome all.
COMPLETE LIST OF THE ARTISTS REPRESENTED IN COLLECTION ENSEMBLE: al-Saa’i, Khaled; Alston, Charles; Avedisian, Edward; Basquiat, Jean-Michel; Beshty, Walead; Bochner, Mel; Bond, Howard; Christo; Clarke, John Clem; Eagles, Jordan; Evans, Frederick H.; Flemish unknown artist; Gates, Theaster; Haas, Ernst; Höfer, Candida; Holzer, Jenny; Hopkin, Robert; Horn, Roni; Hoyer, Todd; Laughlin, Clarence John; Lê, Dinh Q.; Lopez, Carlos; Meyerowitz, Joel; Morgan, Barbara; Picart, Bernard; Renouf, Edda; Rogers, Randolph; Scully, Sean; Shonibare, Yinke; Suh, Do-Ho; Winters, Terry; Wyatt, Richard James.