At the Art Institute, it has been very exciting, as we close in on our museum-wide reinstallation program, to see a familiar space transformed into something new and different. The new Roger L. and Pamela Weston Wing and Japanese Art Galleries are just that. The galleries opened on September 26, with their physical layout fluidly reorganized around certain focal points. They feel incredibly elegant and feature many recent acquisitions. The space was designed by Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY Architecture and Planning; fans of Tadao Ando’s gallery of pillars will be happy to learn that Ando was Yantrasast’s mentor, so the slight renovations to the lighting in the Ando gallery were in good hands. The new galleries are subtly beautiful, with details like plush carpeting, diffused lighting, and cool wall colors. These touches complement curator Janice Katz’s selection of objects, which include ceramic tomb figures dating back to 12,500 BCE, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, objects related to the tea ceremony, paintings from the Edo period, and contemporary ceramics and prints.
As an educator, I am most excited about the fact that the new galleries are spacious enough to accommodate groups with gallery stools! This means that docents can return to objects that are perennial favorites with kids and adults alike such as Shukongo-jin, the Thunderbolt God.
The new installation weaves together traditional and contemporary art in very interesting ways, and the inclusion of twentieth- and twenty-first-century works throughout the galleries makes a clear statement that Japanese art is a living tradition that is still unfolding. I especially like the special exhibition of contemporary Japanese prints, The Jack D. Beem Collection: Emerging Japanese Print Artists of the 1960s, 70s, and Beyond, on view within the Japanese art galleries through January 9.
On your next trip to the museum look out for more gallery re-openings coming soon. On deck are new textiles galleries in November, followed by new galleries for African and and Indian Art of the Americas in February.