BUILDING EXPECTATIONS

By Mindy Wilson, UMFA marketing and communications director

The usually picture-perfect galleries of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts look more like artist’s studios these days, with preparations in full swing for the museum’s late August reopening.

Conservator Robyn Haynie assesses “Seer Bonnet” (2010) by Angela Ellsworth before installing it in the museum’s modern and contemporary gallery. The object, one of three such bonnets that will be on view, is made of 17,214 pearl corsage pins, fabric and steel.

Metal carts and gurneys sit piled with tools and gallon paint cans, empty cases and mounts await objects and some walls display little more than new paint colors and picture hangers —evidence of the most comprehensive reinstallation of the UMFA’s permanent collection since the Marcia and John Price Museum Building opened in 2001. The only steady visitors are purple-gloved collections staff, curators and the security guards who’ve been protecting the UMFA’s nearly 20,000 objects through fifteen months of building upgrades and remodeling.

By the last weekend in August, this work in progress will be ready for campus and community visitors to enjoy once again. The UMFA will host a two-day reopening party during Welcome Week on Saturday, Aug. 26 and Sunday, Aug. 27, the first weekend after fall classes begin.

“We’re excited to welcome everyone back,” says Gretchen Dietrich, UMFA executive director. “The changes we’re making in how visitors engage with the art and the museum’s unique spaces will make the UMFA more relevant than ever in the lives of our campus and community audiences.”

Nearly half the objects in the galleries will be new on view, including a giant 17th-century French tapestry, objects from the museum’s African collection and recent acquisitions of regional, modern and contemporary art. Thanks to months of research and re-envisioning, most of the galleries have been reorganized along fresh storylines to give viewers new, more engaging ways to experience and interpret the objects.

While much of the reopening weekend will focus on the new permanent exhibitions, two temporary shows will also open. “HERE, HERE” by Las Hermanas Iglesias will debut in the UMFA’s new ACME Lab, a flexible space for creative exploration and exhibitions housed in the museum’s Emma Eccles Jones Education Center. Contemporary artist Spencer Finch’s site-specific installation in the Great Hall will also be completed in time for reopening.

The Museum Café and Museum Store are already open to the public, along with the Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium, where the museum hosts artist talks, films and campus events. The UMFA has been closed since mid-January 2016 while contractors replaced the building’s vapor barrier, essential for the efficient maintenance of appropriate humidity levels.