BMA to open expanded African and Asian galleries

On April 26, the Baltimore Museum of Art will open their dramatically renovated African and Asian galleries. The first-floor galleries will greatly expand the space that previously housed the artworks. Alongside the re-opening of the galleries, there will be events to celebrate the newly unveiled gallery space.

The project follows the celebration of the BMA’s 100th year, which culminated in the unveiling of the Merrick Historic Entrance and Dorothy McIlvain Scott American Wing in Nov. 2014. It is yet another part of the $28 million renovation that began with the opening of the contemporary wing in 2012.

Both the Asian and African galleries will offer visitors a more representative environment for the pieces. The state-of the-art lighting and additional space will allow for an enhanced experience and understanding of the artworks.

‘Gbekre’ monkey figure by the Baule People of Cote d’Ivoire. Photo courtesy of Ann Porteus, under a Creative Commons License
‘Gbekre’ monkey figure by the Baule People of Cote d’Ivoire.
Photo courtesy of Ann Porteus, under a Creative Commons License

The Alan and Janet Wurtzburger African Art Gallery triples the museum’s gallery space for African art. Higher ceilings and more options for display in the round means viewers will see the artwork in new and exciting lights.

The Wurtzburger Art Gallery was curated by former BMA Associate Curator for African Art Kathryn Wysocki Gunsch, who explained in the museum’s press release the importance of the changes in the gallery space.

“The BMA’s new galleries for African art demystify the works in this renowned collection by emphasizing the relationships between objects and the lives of the people by, and for whom, the objects were made,” Gunsch said. “We look forward to sharing this collection in a way that supports fresh connections to these incredible artworks and to the social, political, and cultural history of the continent more broadly.”

The Julius Levy Memorial and Newly Renovated Gallery of Asian Art is twice as large as the previous space. The opening exhibit will focus on China—displaying examples of paintings, furniture, ceramics and more from the 2nd century BCE through modern day. In the same press release, BMA Associate Curator of Asian Art Frances Klapthor expressed her excitement to see more of the collection on display.

“The two new galleries […] provide us with the opportunity to better showcase the beauty and strengths of this collection,” Klapthor said. “This reinstallation wonderfully expands the aesthetic scope of the museum’s presentation of Asian art.”

Beyond the galleries themselves, the BMA will celebrate by hosting two separate day-long events of African and Asian cultures. On April 26, the day when both galleries will be opened to the public, there will be African music, artist demonstrations, storytelling and hands-on mask making. The performers will include Elikeh and Amadou Kouyate, who blend traditional songs and Togolese rhythms with blues and jazz riffs. The Asian celebration on June 28 will feature musicians, calligraphy demonstrations, origami, and a manga drawing activity.

After a series of impressive renovations, it will be wonderful to have more of the museum’s many galleries accessible again. Whether or not visitors come for the cultural celebrations, the new Asian and African spaces are bound to bring new perspectives on the BMA’s impressive collection.