At Large  November 5, 2021  Anna Claire Mauney

New BMA Matisse & Drawings Study Centers to Boost Access to Collections

Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Art.

Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs rendering. Quinn Evans Architects.

On December 12, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) will open the doors of two new study centers—The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies and The Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Both have been designed to increase access to and engagement with two very special collections held by the museum. 

The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies will be located on the first floor of the museum. The 2,500 square-foot space will serve as a hub for research on and the presentation of the BMA’s 1,200 artworks-strong Matisse collection—the largest public collection of the artist’s work in the world.

Designed by Quinn Evans Architects, the center itself cost around $5 million to create. Additional funds will go towards everything from staff to an ongoing effort to fully digitize the collection. The center will open with the inaugural exhibition, Matisse: The Sinuous Line, and an unveiling of three enormous stained-glass windows designed for the center by artist Stanley Whitney.

Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Art.

Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies rendering. Quinn Evans Architects.

The BMA has made surprisingly few announcements regarding specific research goals, and possible impacts thereof. Though this does leave something to be desired, the rich history surrounding the BMA’s Matisse collection thus far is quite promising in and of itself. For example, the collection started when the holdings of Etta Cone—close friend of Matisse—and her sister Claribel were bequeathed to the museum. Decades later, Jay McKean Fisher, who will serve as the namesake of the center’s new gallery space, independently oversaw a near doubling of the BMA’s Matisse holdings during his forty-five-year-long career at the museum.

Announcements concerning The Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs have been a bit more specific—and all the more exciting as a result. Also designed by Quinn Evans Architects, this approximately 7,000 square-foot center wound up costing about $10 million to create—twice as much as the new Matisse center. It will house 67,000 works on paper that span from the fifteenth century to the present day. Additionally, the center will feature a large exhibition gallery, study room, preparatory room, new offices, and improved storage.

Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Art.

Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs rendering. Quinn Evans Architects.

In a BMA press release, a museum representative stated that, in creating this new center, they are “bringing together in one space the core functions of the museum—preservation, study, preparation, and exhibition—and making them transparent to the public.”

The preparatory room, in particular, embodies this claim as it will allow visitors to obtain an inside, real-time look at the processes museum staff use to evaluate incoming artworks, execute conservation assessments, and select works of art for future exhibitions. This room will also feature a space dedicated to the ongoing digitization of the prints, drawings, and photographs collection. A mere three years ago, only five percent of the collection was online. By this December, the museum has stated that fifty percent of the collection will be accessible online.

The study room will be similarly innovative in terms of accessibility as it will eventually be open to scholars, classes, and casual museum-goers. The room's entrance will be framed by a couple-centuries-old stone archway sculpted by Giuseppe Franzoni (1779–1815). Although the center as a whole will open on December 12, the study room will not be available to reserve by appointment until the Spring of 2022.

This center’s inaugural exhibition, The Rembrandt Effect, promises to explore the famed artist’s lasting impact on printmaking and will feature more than eighty works from the collection. As is the case with many artists from centuries past, Rembrandt’s paintings are generally more well-known than his works on paper. But, to any art historian worth their salt, the artist’s prints are an exciting and integral piece of the art historical timeline.

And, lastly—in an impeccably timely move, the BMA will open all gender restrooms—the John Waters Restrooms—to their visitors in conjunction with the premiere of these two new centers.

About the Author

Anna Claire Mauney

Anna Claire Mauney is the former managing editor for Art & Object. A writer and artist living in North Carolina, she is interested in illustration, the 18th-century, and viceregal South America. She is also the co-host of An Obsessive Nature, a podcast about writing and pop culture.

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