Last Thursday, I walked into the Yale University Art Gallery, put my stuff away in a safe, introduced myself to the fellows of my residential college and, while waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, sort of jumped around in my head out of excitement for what I was about to see. Maybe the other students and fellows were jumping along in their heads with me. (Quiet elderly gentleman with the glasses, I saw the twinkle in your eyes. Definitely a jumper.)
After all, we had different reasons to be excited for this private tour of the almost-complete gallery. Some of us might have been pre-renovation YUAG regulars who wanted to see the transformation in architecture, others might have been curious about the 180-year-old gallery’s new collections and, well, some of us might have helped pay for the project. (Quiet elderly gentleman, is your name somewhere on this building?) Personally, I was there to check out the new displays, smell some fresh paint and bask in the glory of being a VIP with behind-the-scenes access for an afternoon — the works.
We were led on a whirlwind promenade through the new space, a seamless stroll through three different phases of architecture: the old Yale Art Gallery, Street Hall and the Louis Khan Building. The transitions from building to building were remarkably smooth and barely noticeable. (To be honest, I had to rely on looking out of the windows to the street at various parts of the tour to orient myself as I made my way around the place. It’s just so big. I caught drafts for maps on the walls, though. Exhales all around, right?)
We were also going at a pace much faster than that of a traditional day at a museum, just to get a general idea of the finished structure. There was no time to stop to look at individual collections, but here’s a preview: I’m talking about a new Indo-Pacific art installation, 19th-century ceilings taken out of Manhattan mansions, a twist on stained-glass windows, long-stored collections on display for the first time, eggplant-color walls, yet another Sol LeWitt wall drawing, a new elevator and staircase (made of frosted glass or some other equally fun material), iPads, skylights and more. A personal favorite of mine was the Modern and Contemporary Art section. With a couple of paintings rearranged and a couple added on, I found that the collection became an entirely new, even richer experience. It also left me wondering about other museums that had to return some of their blockbuster paintings to us. Sorry we’re not sorry.
“You know, this will put the Art Gallery on the map for sure,” said a Jonathan Edwards Fellow standing next to me at the end of the tour. Yes, it will. You better be there on Dec. 12 — take a friend, make them feel shitty about their room décor.