Art Gallery shares collection, expands research

The Yale University Art Gallery will lend 100 pieces of art to Dartmouth and Williams colleges for a period of one to three years.
The Yale University Art Gallery will lend 100 pieces of art to Dartmouth and Williams colleges for a period of one to three years. Photo by Christopher Peak.

A portion of the 185,000 pieces in the Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection is making its rounds at college campuses around the country.

The gallery is in the process of lending nearly 100 pieces to the art museums at Dartmouth and Williams colleges. It is just one of the gallery’s many collaborations with other art institutions. And today, “Embodied: Black Identities in American Art,” a show curated as a joint effort between students at Yale and the University of Maryland, will open for a four-month run in New Haven.

Dartmouth College
Williams College Museum of Art

The partnerships are part of the Yale University Art Gallery Collection-Sharing Initiative, a program funded last May by a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In the initial year of the program, the Art Gallery has partnered with six college art museums, which have received works of art on loan from Yale’s collection for use in teaching, research, and museum programming.

“It’s a matter of letting people see Yale’s collection,” said Pamela Franks, the Art Gallery’s Director of Collections and Education. “Part of our mission is to provide meaningful access to the art and learning opportunities.”

The Art Gallery chose to partner with six colleges that have strong teaching programs and art museums but which do not have the depth of Yale’s art collection, Franks said. To take advantage of the collaboration, the Williams College Museum of Art selected 50 pieces from Yale’s collection for an installation entitled “Reflections on a Museum,” which will open over the course of the next few months. Individual works will remain at Williams for between one and three years, depending on the need for the piece both at Williams and in Yale’s reinstallation, Corrin said.

“In this teaching environment, one has objects that are very good, but you might want an extra piece for comparison,” said Katherine Hart, the director of Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art. “We don’t have anywhere near the richness of the collection Yale does.”

With Yale’s Art Gallery under construction, only a fraction of the University’s art holdings — nearly 200,000 works — can go on view at one time, Franks said. Lending to other art institutions allows the public greater access to pieces of art that might otherwise be in storage, she said, like the collection’s drawings by Arshile Gorky.

Aside from public edification, the Collection-Sharing Initiative is meant to contribute to classroom teaching at the partner institutions, Franks said. The Hood Museum borrowed around 35 ancient Mediterranean objects in January, for use in a number of undergraduate courses.

Lisa Corrin, director of the Williams College Museum of Art, said that having firsthand access to pieces from Yale’s collection has allowed professors to focus their classes in certain ways that would not have been possible otherwise. Both faculty members from the college and staff members at Williams’ museum helped select the borrowed works, which range from sculptures to drawings and Japanese scrolls.

But this academic advancement is a two-way street, Franks said: Yale’s understanding of its own collection will be advanced by the research done by professors and students at the partner institutions.

“We are really learning from our colleagues in the field,” Franks said. “They can borrow a large group of works, and that is a catalyst for their thinking. They are doing innovative teaching around [Yale’s] collection, and we learn from their experience.”

The Collection-Sharing Initiative has also partnered Yale with art museums at Bowdoin, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Oberlin colleges.

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