Although the Yale Center for British Art is scheduled to close for renovations in January, it will continue to display some of its most famous works by collaborating with the Yale University Art Gallery.
Expanding on the first phase of the Center’s “Building Conservation Project” that took place in the summer and fall of 2013, the upcoming renovations will begin this winter and involve refurbishment of the building’s lecture hall and gallery spaces on the second and fourth floors. The project will also include various infrastructural improvements, such as upgrades to electrical, mechanical, plumbing and telecommunications systems. Constance Clement, deputy director of the center, said that the project will encompass renovations on a larger scale than anything previously undertaken at the center.
“It’s a really complex and comprehensive project,” Clement said. “It’s going to be challenging, but everyone is excited about the fact that we’ll be able to completely rehang the collection when it’s all over, and to see the collection in new ways.”
The center will be closed to the public until the project’s scheduled completion in February 2016, though select access to certain collections and resources will continue on an appointment-only basis. Through collaborations with the gallery, visitors will also be able to view a number of objects from the YCBA collection that will be featured alongside pieces from the gallery in an exhibition titled “The Critique of Reason: Romantic Art, 1760–1860.” In addition, several dozen center-owned works will be incorporated into the YUAG’s European Painting galleries.
Lisa Hodermarsky, a curator of prints and drawings at the YUAG who worked on assembling the “Critique of Reason” exhibit, explained that collaboration between the two institutions began with discussions of ways to keep much of the YCBA’s core collection on view, amid the center’s need to close for renovations.
“A lot of our ‘greatest works,’ including works by Turner and Stubbs and Constable and Blake, will be in [‘The Critique of Reason’],” said the YCBA’s Deputy Director of Collections Scott Wilcox.
Opening in March, “The Critique of Reason,” will be the first-ever major exhibition co-organized by the two institutions, Hodermarsky said, adding that the show will bring together over 350 objects across a wide variety of media, including medals, lithography and examples of early photography. Cassandra Albinson, the YCBA’s curator of paintings and sculpture and another of the exhibition’s curators, added that roughly 70 paintings and an approximately equal number of “works on paper” from the center’s collection will also be featured in the exhibition. Artists represented will include Joseph Mallord William Turner, William Blake and Francisco de Goya.
Jock Reynolds, director of the YUAG, said that the gallery’s recent renovations have given them an understanding of the challenges involved in keeping collections on display while exhibition spaces are under construction. He added that several of the gallery’s curators suggested that a collaborative exhibition could combine some of the most important works from both institutions.
In addition to those works featured in “The Critique of Reason,” a collection of approximately two-dozen objects from the center will be integrated into the YUAG’s galleries of European painting, said Laurence Kanter, the YUAG’s chief curator of European art. He noted that though the list of objects to be featured in the galleries has not yet been finalized, it is likely to include works by Peter Paul Rubens, George Stubbs and Thomas Gainsborough. Kanter added that if the YCBA’s conservation project remains on schedule, works from the center’s collection will be on view at the YUAG through November 2015 before moving back to the YCBA for reinstallation.
Wilcox said he thinks that integrated display of pieces from both collections could change the way visitors typically experience objects from the YCBA’s collections, adding that because the center specializes in art from a single national school, it often looks for ways to present its objects in a broader context.
“Our French paintings always hang more or less next to one another, and the YCBA’s British paintings always hang more or less next to one another, and so by virtue of this hanging in a new context, we hope people will come away with a new way of looking at and thinking about these objects,” Hodermarsky said.
YCBA Director Amy Meyers said she hopes that the partnership between the two institutions will lead to future collaborations.
“The Critique of Reason: Romantic Art, 1760–1860” will open on March 6, 2015.