The University of Virginia Art Museum
When the University of Virginia Art Museum in the Bayly Building opened its doors on Sept. 12 after a five-month renovation, visitors were in for a surprise.
Hanging in the entry gallery is a mobile sculpture created by Alexander Calder, one of the most innovative sculptors of the 20th century. The piece, called “Untitled 1976,” was installed just days before the doors opened.
“Calder’s untitled mobile provided the finishing touch as we reopened the U.Va. Art Museum,” Museum Director Bruce Boucher said. “Its loan is a sign of enhanced possibilities offered by the renovation of the Bayly Building.”
The mobile, almost 12 feet across, is made of sheet metal, rod and wire painted black. It moves and sways with changing air currents generated by the museum’s new climate control system.
Boucher said the location was chosen because the mobile is contemporary with several nearby pieces, including Frank Stella’s “Jerdon’s Courser” (1976), Willard Midgette’s large, figurative canvas “Lobby” of 1973, and Aboriginal bark paintings from the 1990s with their aerial perspectives of color. “They are all variations in abstraction,” he said.
Calder’s work has been described as “drawing in space,” and the mobile casts shadows that constantly transform the surrounding atmosphere.
“He created a new form, a new genre that works with space and kinetics,” said Elizabeth Hutton Turner, U.Va.’s vice provost for the arts. “His work exemplifies a leit motif University-wide for explorations across the arts and science disciplines.”
Calder introduced the mobile and stabile genres to the sculpture form. With his training as an engineer coupled with a visual language of form, color, line and abstraction, he created sculpture that seems to defy gravity. This 1976 work is among the last he made before his death that same year.
The Calder Foundation’s one-year loan of “Untitled 1976″ to the U.Va. Art Museum is part of an ongoing relationship between the institutions. The new mobile joins another of the artist’s works at the University. In March, his 1974 stabile, “Tripes,” also on loan from the foundation, was installed in front of Peabody Hall as part of a University public art project.
Museum staff moved back into the museum in late August and began staging three exhibitions: “Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village: The Creation of An Architectural Masterpiece,” “The Expanding Eye: Art Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe” and “Abstract Photography: Selections from Glenstone.” All will be on view through Jan. 3.
Complementing the museum’s rich exhibition schedule is a full slate of lectures, tours, symposia, gallery talks, workshops, and readings, as well as presentations of music, film, and dance in the galleries. The museum’s educational and outreach programs benefit thousands of schoolchildren throughout the region, particularly disadvantaged youth. Volunteer and membership activities have transformed the museum into a vibrant hub of University and community life.
Achieving national accreditation in 2000 and now welcoming more than 30,000 visitors each year, the museum presents exhibitions, public programs, and outreach activities that engage a broad spectrum of participants and volunteers.
The museum maintains a collection of more than 10,000 objects, including American and European art from the fifteenth century to the present, ancient Mediterranean art, Asian art from ancient times to the twenty-first century, and collections of pre-Columbian, Native American, African, and Oceanic art.
In addition to the renovation of the Bayly Building, a five-level, 20,000 GSF addition is planned for the west side of the current building.