Grand reopening planned for summer
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s permanent collection is back on display after a partial reopening Tuesday.
The museum, which is currently undergoing extensive renovation, will hold a grand reopening this summer.
The construction was years in the making and with the museum closed anyway, staff took the opportunity to reconfigure some of the galleries and rehang the art.
“We needed to do extensive work. But we thought as long as we were going to do such an extensive project, we might as well do other things we wanted,” Larry Feinberg, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz director and CEO, told the News-Press Tuesday.
The renovations mainly focused on the structural integrity of the building, sealing it from leaks and replacing its temperature and humidity controls. The newly renovated galleries have LED lighting, natural light from skylights and a fresh flow of air.
A new contemporary art gallery and the reconfiguration of Ludington Court will allow curators to display works that have “not seen the light of day in decades,” Mr. Feinberg said.
“There will be more of the museum’s permanent collection on view than (at) any time in the museum’s history,” he said.
This year, which commemorates the museum’s 80th anniversary, is dedicated to the permanent collection.
“People will really be able to see the range and depth of our collection,” he said.
In the meantime, visitors can get a sampling of the museum’s diversity. Less than half of the gallery space is currently open.
“This museum is varied in terms of having pieces from Japan, China, all over the world and, of course, the European paintings and American paintings,” Deborah Kerner, who was visiting the galleries, told the News-Press.
Ms. Kerner and her husband Richard Waxberg, both artists from Ojai, came to see the museum Tuesday after more than a year since their last visit. The couple said it is one of their favorite art museums.
They’ve previously seen the works currently on display, but they enjoy viewing the art periodically.
SBMA opened in October for a few weeks when the county was in the red tier but had to close again when the county was demoted to the purple tier. Otherwise, community members have had online galleries and resources available.
The online programs, both for kids and adults, have drawn a larger audience than previous events held in person. In the future, the museum may simulcast programs, Mr. Feinberg said.
Despite the success of online events, he said viewing art online is “just not the same.”
“Just the quality of presence, it’s just like the difference of being in the presence of a person and talking to a person online. It’s dramatic,” he said.
Edward Morenz, a Ventura resident and SBMA member, calls the museum a “getaway.”
“I’ve always loved this museum ever since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve seen so many beautiful pieces and works of art, and I’m glad it’s finally back open. I can hardly wait for them to open the whole museum.”
Some canceled their memberships during the pandemic but others waited patiently.
Individual donations and Paycheck Protection Program loans kept SBMA from laying off employees. Mr. Feinberg predicts more members will re-enroll soon.
“I’m pretty confident that the museum itself, which has really been much transformed, and the really exciting shows will bring people back,” he said.
In February 2022, a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit will be on display.
The exhibit was delayed during lockdown, but pushing the date back worked out well for the museum. More Van Gogh paintings have become available, and the newly renovated museum will be ready to display them.
Tickets are free for both members and nonmembers and can be reserved at tickets.sbma.net.
Museum staff highly recommend making a reservation as SBMA operates at 50% capacity.
The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays with hours extended until 8 p.m. Thursdays.