St. Louis tries new approach in museum expansion

Mon Feb 6, 2012 12:02pm EST
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By Bruce Olson

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - The St. Louis Art Museum is rearranging galleries by theme rather than time period, seeking to make them more accessible to visitors as part of a $162 million expansion.

Galleries that once covered the 18th Century, for example, now focus on "The Modern Body" with nudes from different eras, or "The American Scene."

It's an approach already in use at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum and the Cincinnati Art Museum, as more museums try to connect art to visitors' personal experience, said Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews.

"Themes like food and eating or similar approaches are a way to get into other cultures or past culture so we see the commonalities with our own daily lives," Cembalest said.

So far, 18 galleries with 275 works have been installed with three more to go at the St. Louis Art Museum, which has one of the most comprehensive collections in the U.S. Midwest.

The redesign started in November and will be completed in March. A similar thematic approach will be followed in a new building, which will be completed next year and feature art produced after 1950.

"We have created some thought-provoking juxtapositions in the museum, bringing a real coherence to the displays that should be make them more accessible," curator Simon Kelly said.

"People are happy with the new way," Kelly said. "This is a work in progress and we will continue this approach throughout the new building."   Continued...

<p>The Milliners, c. 1898; by Edgar Degas, part of the St. Louis Art Museum's collection, is pictured in an undated handout photo obtained by Reuters January 3, 2012. REUTERS/St. Louis Art Museum/Handout.</p>