The Newark Museum has received a $750,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to expand and reinterpret its permanent galleries of American art and to document the collections through two new publications.

“The Henry Luce Foundation is proud to provide major support to The Newark Museum for this new work to reinterpret and revitalize their extraordinary American art collections, and to assure that they remain a lively cultural resource for communities in Newark and beyond,” said Teresa A. Carbone, Program Director for American Art at the Luce Foundation.

The two-year grant will support the American art collections in the Museum’s recently renamed Seeing America galleries, previously named Picturing America. Works from the Native American collection and a diverse selection of African-American, Latin American and European-American art will be showcased with new interpretation in a series of fully renovated galleries on the second floor of the Museum’s north wing. The grant will allow for a thorough conservation review of Newark’s twentieth century painting collection. The physical renovations in the galleries will include upgraded lighting and new flooring throughout the second floor, and the redesign of key galleries to expand wall space and improve site lines. One of the highlights of the renovation will be a new thematic gallery that explores important intersections between the indigenous arts of the Americas and modernist painting and sculpture.  From John Sloan to Louise Nevelson, Adolf Gottlieb, and Leon Polk Smith, many American artists studied and collected indigenous art. Placing modern and contemporary works from North and South America in context with Pueblo watercolor paintings and other rarely exhibited works from the Arts of the Americas collection will bring this rich history to life for visitors.

“Sixteen years ago, the Henry Luce Foundation supported a bold reinstallation and reinterpretation of our American collections,” said Steven Kern, the Museum’s Director and CEO.  “Since 2001, Picturing America has attracted visitors from around the world, supported family programs and provided an object-based foundation for educational programs for hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. This new grant offers a transformative opportunity as the museum calculates a new future that increases accessibility and deepens [the] understanding of our rich collections for the global community.”  

Beginning in August 2015 and continuing through October 2016, several new permanent installations were integrated within the Modern and Contemporary galleries, drawing on collection strengths as well as identified areas for development in the future. Highlights include The Harlem Renaissance and The City in the Machine Age, Latin American Abstraction and Civil Rights and the Art of Identity.

In October 2016, the Museum opened the exhibition Native Artists of North America, relocating the permanent installation of Native American art to the entrance of the Seeing America galleries.  Native Artists reasserts a practice pioneered by the Museum at its inception: exhibiting Native American art and craft as art.

The Native Artists reinstallation will be a highlight during a period of transformative Museum projects, among them being the reopening of the Washington Street entrance. After having been closed for nearly 20 years, the doors facing Washington Street will be renovated and reopened this year in accordance with ADA compliance standards, providing entry to a new state-of-the art welcome area. To coincide with this effort, the permanent galleries of African art will be relocated to the first floor of the Museum, while a new 5,000 square-foot special exhibition space will be fabricated on the second floor.

Opening in February 2019, the reinstalled Seeing America galleries will feature an installation of new work by Los Angeles-based artist Matthew Brandt. Brandt’s photographic practice engages directly with landscape art, natural science, history and the altered environment. As part of the Museum’s Artist in Residence program, Brandt will research the city of Newark and the surrounding environment as he develops new work for this show, which will be installed as a special exhibition in the American Contemporary galleries.

“We are completing the transformation from Picturing America to Seeing America with beautifully renovated galleries, some exciting new works coming out of storage, and new interpretation. This broader view of American art does justice to the diversity and scope of these collections,” said Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator of American Art.

As part of the Luce Foundation grant, the Museum will produce two highlights catalogues to coincide with the reopening of Seeing America in 2019. One collection-based work will be dedicated to the Native American collection, bringing together the wealth of original interpretation, rediscovered masterworks, important reattributions and diverse scholarship that emerged from Native Artists of North America. The second volume will explore highlights of abstract art from the collection, revealing the diversity of American abstraction across painting, sculpture, and installation art from the early twentieth century to the present. This volume will showcase the Museum’s extraordinary holdings of abstract art, which spans from early modern abstract paintings by Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keeffe and Max Weber to Minimalist and post-Minimalist sculpture by Sol LeWitt, Martin Puryear, Chakaia Booker and Gabriel Dawe.

“We are so proud to receive this kind of significant funding from an institution like the Henry Luce Foundation, an exemplary foundation with the highest standards for grant making and a long history of enhancing American art history and scholarship,” said Christine Gilfillan, Co-Chair of the Newark Museum Board of Trustees.

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