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Spring 2016 Director’s Letter
When you next visit the Gallery, you will discover two new plaques by the master stone carver and 2010 MacArthur Fellow Nicholas Benson. The first plaque simply reads, “Louis I. Kahn · Architect.” We commissioned this work to reside directly below a photograph of Kahn looking up into the tetrahedral ceiling of the building he designed at the Gallery, his first major building project, as it opened, in 1953.
Not a day goes by now when architecture students, architects, or visitors from all over the world don’t pause in Kahn’s vestibule to begin a visit that, for many of them, is a pilgrimage. The distinctive elements of Kahn’s design—his innovative use of light and geometry and construction of cast concrete, steel, glass, masonry, and wood—are immediately evident to guests and produce pure pleasure. As visitors view art on the four floors of galleries, they will also find spaces outfitted with Kahn’s swiftly movable, interlocking “pogo walls,” which can be adjusted to accommodate new exhibitions and installations.
The second plaque, affixed above Kahn’s portrait, is carved with the concise message, “Look · Learn · Linger.” These words comprise an invitation to all of the Gallery’s visitors to fully enjoy its broad array of artistic treasures and educational resources. Looking closely is at the heart of all we do. Many of us who teach here take particular pleasure in watching students spend a significant amount of time in front of a single work of art. As they look closely and discuss what they see, their conversation inevitably becomes lively and meaningful to them. Close looking like this is especially important for seeing an exhibition such as Meant to Be Shared: Selections from the Arthur Ross Collection of European Prints at the Yale University Art Gallery, in which the details of the extraordinary prints on view can best be understood through long and in-depth study.
Learning in the galleries takes many different forms. The K–12 students from nearby schools begin their visual literacy training with our Wurtele Gallery Teachers, while Yale and other college groups learn to trust their eyes the more they see and the longer they look. During their time at the museum, they close their textbooks and instead analyze the details of a work of art in front of them, be it the brushstrokes, texture, and depth of a painted surface; the artist’s manipulation of clay; or the evidence of the work’s history and previous owners. I encourage all of our visitors to let their eyes guide them, to pause before a single work and gain a sense of the mind, hands, and effort that went into its creation. In the exhibition Everything Is Dada, you will find works by artists that exhibit humor and sometimes criticism of the society of their time. The exhibition and its related programs explore this pivotal movement in twentieth-century art.
At the Gallery, we encourage lingering in the most positive sense of the word. You will not be hurried, pushed aside by crowds, or interrupted by ringing cash registers. Since we offer free admission and free membership, you can come for a few minutes to simply visit a favorite work or spend hours discovering something you haven’t seen before. In that spirit, I hope you will visit the new Happy and Bob Doran Tea Gate, designed by Zen architect Paul Discoe. The Tea Gate is located outdoors, adjacent to the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Lecture Hall, and provides a new space in which, for a few moments, you can leave the busy world behind for quietude and contemplation.
Kahn had these qualities in mind as he was designing his two buildings on Chapel Street: at the Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art. Visitors to Yale’s downtown arts area will once again be welcomed to the Center when it reopens in May 2016, following a building conservation project. Kahn’s masterpieces, two architectural treasures of Yale, are part of the University’s continuing commitment to filling the campus with works by leading architects. Students and visitors engage with and actively learn from the myriad artworks and materials in the University’s museums and libraries, but they can also learn from the buildings created by Kahn, Gordon Bunshaft, Norman Foster, Charles Gwathmey, Cesar Pelli, Paul Rudolph, Eero Saarinen, and Robert A. M. Stern, as well as Deborah Berke, the newly appointed Dean of the Yale School of Architecture.
Next time you enter the Gallery, or any museum, think to yourself, “Look, learn, linger.” This mantra will guide you to a richer experience of the works of art and architecture you encounter—an experience that this venerable teaching museum wishes to support in every way it can.
The Henry J. Heinz II Director
Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director