On Friday, May 29, the Toledo Museum of Art will close its decorative arts galleries and period rooms for renovation. This is part of a larger plan to update sections of the Museum’s west wing over the next five years.
The galleries contain decorative arts objects, some of which will be integrated into the permanent collection galleries. Other objects will be placed in temporary storage. Two period rooms, which can only be accessed through the decorative arts bays, The Room from the Villa Solitude (known as The Swiss Room) and The Room from the Chateau de Chenailles, will also close to the public. During the closure, The Room from the Chateau de Chenailles will undergo extensive restoration that will take a minimum of three years to complete, according to Curator of Glass and Decorative Arts Jutta Page.
The work will begin with the Museum’s own conservation team providing an initial treatment so the room can be disassembled without damage to the paintings and gilded walls. The components will then be shipped to an outside painting conservator for restoration to include repair of paint and re-gilding of the paneled walls. Both rooms will be reinstalled in the future, but their exact locations have not been determined. Page has been researching the Swiss Room’s origins in order to better tell its story and provide context to the public; that research will continue.
“What many people do not know is that there are 7,000 square feet of undeveloped gallery space within the Museum behind the decorative arts galleries and period rooms,” noted Brian Kennedy, director of the Museum. “That space has up to now been used for storage, but our intention is to create additional galleries on the main level of the Museum and consolidate art storage downstairs.”
Visitors can get a glimpse of that raw space during the current exhibition Play Time as Jillian Mayer’s Swing Space installation is located there.
“It is our hope that the public, and most especially our Museum supporters, will become excited when they see the potential of this space.” Kennedy said. “It is only through the generosity of the community that the Museum is able to make these improvements to better showcase our world-class collection.”
One donor has already left a legacy in the form of an endowment to fund improvements to Gallery 29, currently home to The American Civil War: Through Artist’s Eyes. After that exhibition comes down July 5, Page and Larry Nichols, William Hutton senior curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900, will team up to oversee a renovation and reinstallation of the gallery, which houses early American art. This will include removal of dated wall fabric, lighting upgrades, new casework, baseboards and plaster work on the walls.
The work will close the gallery for up to six months, but when re-opened, it will serve as a model of what all the west wing galleries could look like as funds for refurbishments become available. In addition to the unfinished space and decorative arts galleries, the Levis Galleries – the carpeted galleries located on the far west end of the building – are high on the Museum’s priority list for renovation.
“The works in those galleries are of the highest quality,” Kennedy said. “They deserve to be showcased in spaces that are reflective of their reputation.”
The Museum will provide regular updates on the progress of renovation work and the status of gallery closures on its website, toledomuseum.org.