Thursday, June 01, 2006

Baltimore Fine Arts Museums Open Wide Their Doors To Citizens; Will The Baltimore And Other American Symphony Orchestras And Opera Companies Follow?

"The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum announced yesterday that both museums are eliminating admission fees, a step made possible by an $800,000 gift from the city and county.

Anne Arundel County also gave each museum $30,000 for the effort.

Free admission starts Oct. 1 and marks a return to a time 24 years ago when it didn't cost anything to get into the two museums. In recent years, they charged $10. The directors acknowledge they are taking a risk in financially tight times, but said they wanted to make the museums cultural destinations for locals and out-of-towners, as well as to increase diversity. "We wanted to do something innovative," said Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum.

The Walters teamed with the BMA to convince Baltimore and Baltimore County officials that it was the right time for the unusual subsidy. Government money usually goes to buildings and repairs.

"For the BMA, it was identified as a bold idea in our strategic planning process. We wanted to throw the doors open," said Doreen Bolger, the museum's director. "We underscored the importance of the museums to the cultural life of the area and how it attracted the tourists."

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley applauded the idea: "This significant investment will provide many more people with the opportunity to experience the beauty, creativity and significance of art in our lives.""

Jacqueline Trescott "Art Museums In Baltimore To Drop Fees" Washington Post June 1, 2006.


The Walters Art Museum: Experience Fifty-Five Centuries of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art


Letter of January 1, 2006 by the Director of the Walters Art Museum, Gary Vikan, on that Museum's relationship to Slavic and Slavonic Cultural Studies:

Dear Friends,

For me, Novgorod has long been a city of myth and magic. It began in graduate school, with my first viewing of Sergei Eisenstein’s famous epic Alexander Nevsky and hearing Prokofiev’s powerful score. Later, as a Byzantinist at Dumbarton Oaks [in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.], I came to know an equally exotic Novgorod, as that medieval city unique in the Orthodox world—that “bog town on the Volkov”—where all the stuff of daily life was perfectly preserved in layers of airless black mud, from birch bark love letters, to elegant leather riding boots, to little wooden horses on wheels for children’s entertainment. Then finally, as a Walters’ curator, I became acquainted with the sublime beauty of the Novgorod of sacred art—the oldest of Russia’s great cities which nourished the first Golden Age of Orthodox icon painting outside of Byzantium. But it was not until some years after the collapse of the Iron Curtain that the myth and magic of Novgorod finally came into my reach. A chance encounter with Stephen Neal Dennis, then Novgorod Cultural Tourism Project Director, at the opening of Land of the Winged Horsemen, our 1999 exhibition from Poland, led to a visit to Russia the following October. Then, all that I had imagined about “Veliky Novgorod” was confirmed as I walked through the iron gates of the Kremlin and for the first time saw the soaring domes of St. Sophia Cathedral and heard the great chorus of her medieval bells. So it is with special pride that I welcome to Baltimore and the United States the exclusive showing of Sacred Arts and City Life: The Glory of Medieval Novgorod. Organized by Griff Mann, Walters Co-Director of Curatorial Affairs and Robert and Nancy Hall Associate Curator of Medieval Art, this groundbreaking exhibition explores, for the first time, the intersection of Russia’s most profound spirituality, as expressed in her sublime icons, with the stark reality of what it was like to live more than 500 years ago in the forested, often frozen expanse of the Slavic north. I have no doubt that you, too, will be transported in both mind and spirit to this magical, mythical land.

Yours Sincerely,

Gary Vikan

Ivory Relief of Virgin and Child
Early Byzantine, Egypt
6th-7th century
Height: 10 1/4 in.
Acquired by Henry Walters, 1905

This endearing image made of ivory shows the Christ Child embracing his mother in a pose of tender intimacy. The artist has skillfully used the naturally curved form of the elephant tusk. Mary's wide eyes and large face are an early example of what in later Byzantine times was called Eleousa, or "Virgin of Tenderness." The relief was likely to have been used in a home for private devotion as a form of icon (Greek for "image").

Icon of Christ
Russian, Moscow
16th century
Tempera on wood and gilded silver
11 3/4 x 9 1/4 in.
Acquired by Henry Walters, 1930

Christ, seen in the pose of the Just Judge, holds a Gospel book open to John 7:24: "Judge not according to appearance...." Above and below are bright seraphim, while at the sides are the venerating figures of Saints Peter and Paul and two archangels. Surrounding them is a rich, gilded silver revetment (known as an oklad or cover), densely patterned with scrolls and leaves. This vividly colored icon forms the center of a Deësis, an arrangement in which the figure of Christ is flanked by panels of the Virgin on the left and John the Baptist on the right.

Image and caption credits: (c) The Medieval World, Walters Art Museum. With thanks.


Post a Comment

<< Home