Museum reopens galleries after years of renovation
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art reopened Sunday after a $50 million renovation spanning six years of the museum’s now eight decades of curation.
Museum staff controlled the flow of visitors, requiring reservations. Families, friends and individuals filled the galleries.
The closer areas are to Ludington Court, the two-story entry and connecting point between wings, the busier they were Sunday.
Galleries deeper into the museum offered stillness, and visitors seemed to move more slowly between the works.
The renovations targeted structural demands of the museum’s original 1912 building and another section around 75 years old. Larry J. Feinberg, SBMA Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Director and CEO, says the structures are “probably the safest buildings in town.”
The most important thing, he says, is what you can’t see. A close second is the added square footage.
“We have much more of our collection on view than at any time in the museum’s history,” he told the News-Press. “We’re able to show off more than ever the diversity of the collection. We want to present as many different cultures and centuries and voices as possible.”
African masks stagger up tall walls across from the Candace Dauphinot Grand Staircase.
Previously, visitors may have missed the second level. Kupiec Architects PC designed a staircase that guides this new wave of guests to the new contemporary art gallery.
The new space, dedicated to contemporary works, sits atop the McCormick Gallery. The square footage is brand new and light-filled, as softened skylights bring light from above.
Throughout the museum, old fixtures have been swapped for LED lighting. The change is both energy-efficient and optimum for art viewing.
SBMA has always curated photography, but the renovations have provided dedicated gallery space for photographs.
Museum staff decided to seal off a balcony that was open to Ludington Court. The skylight above the court restricted what type of art was possible to display on the balcony’s walls.
As a gallery space, photographs line three walls, and a photography exhibition on Inge Morath is around the corner.
Also upstairs is the Ala Story Gallery, filled with new media. The gallery is filled with videos and cutting-edge artwork featuring technology.
The acquisition of new works did not stop during the renovation. To celebrate some of SBMA’s latest pieces, staff set up “In the Meanwhile…Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art.”
The exhibition, located across from the main entrance, is a colorful mix of sculpture and canvas acquired by former SBMA curator Julie Joyce.
The artifacts and antiques are also well-represented in the renovated spaces.
Ludington Court features European pieces centered around the “Lansdowne Hermes,” a marble sculpture on a six-foot elevated platform.
The paintings, many surrounded by gilded frames, are hung salon-style — a new treatment for this space.
The court is surrounded by the building’s original arches, inviting guests to stroll to the adjacent galleries.
“The spaces are not so compartmentalised because they had been. It’s much more open and there’s a flow of space and light and air,” Mr. Feinberg said.
The climate control and HVAC systems are upgraded, creating a healthier environment for the art and guests.
Mr. Feinberg was “thrilled” to see many visitors enjoying the museum Sunday.
“The museum belongs to the community; we want them to enjoy it,” he said. “This artwork belongs to the community, so it’s great that they can see as much of it as possible — more and more than they ever could before.”
There are more galleries to SBMA’s 25,000-piece collection.
Staff are preparing for more renovation but have a big exhibition planned soon.
“Through Vincent’s Eyes: Van Gogh and His Sources” will be on display from February 27 to May 22.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is open every day except Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with hours extended Thursdays until 8 p.m.
For more information, go to sbma.net.