Get a peek inside the art museum’s archives

Step inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art to get a "First Look." Credit: B. Krist for GPTMC
Step inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art to get a “First Look.”
Credit: B. Krist for GPTMC

For every masterpiece hanging on the walls of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, there are countless other works of art sitting in the museum’s archives waiting for the right opportunity, with more constantly coming into the collection. In the past five years alone, more than 8,500 pieces have been acquired, many of which have yet to be displayed to the public.

“First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia,” which opened yesterday, is a new exhibition that presents just over 100 of those new works and concentrates not on an artist or an era or a style but on the manner in which art comes into the PMA’s collection. The items range from craft objects to important additions to the museum’s key collections of works from artists like Cezanne and Monet. To bring home the decision-making process behind museum acquisitions, visitors are asked to vote on which of two pieces by hard-boiled photographer Weegee the museum will purchase for its permanent collection.

“The exhibition represents the entire range and diversity of the collection,” said Alice Beamesderfer, deputy director for collections and programs at the museum, during a tour of the exhibition. “Photographs, design objects, crafts, paintings, costumes — there’s something for everyone to see here.”

That sheer range of acquisitions made the work of arranging and displaying the pieces in a coherent manner particularly difficult, Beamesderfer explained. “The challenge of doing an exhibition like this is that there’s such a great diversity of objects, because I really wanted to reflect every aspect of the museum’s collection. So then you’re faced with the issue of how to put it together so that it doesn’t look like a big hodge-podge. We decided to organize the exhibition by big, universal themes in art. We wanted to put things together that we thought rhymed with each other and also invited our visitors to look at their similarities and their contrasts.”

That approach leads to some startling juxtapositions that spotlight the ways in which different generations of artists have approached similar broad themes in vastly different ways. The first room, which focuses on portraits and landscapes, features a video diptych by Bill Viola on a pair of plasma screens just around the corner from an 1819 portrait of a Muslim former slave by renowned Philadelphia portraitist Charles Willson Peale. One section of the second room, which concentrates on images of nature, includes works from Switzerland, India, Japan, Korea and the Pennsylvania Dutch, with a 19th-century English Mummers costume nearby.

“First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia”
Through Sept. 8
Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street & Ben Franklin Pkwy.
$14-$20, 215-763-8100
www.philamuseum.org


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Local

Tsarnaev defense lawyers in court Wednesday, seek family…

Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are due in court Wednesday to ask a judge to order prosecutors to hand over more information on the defendant's family.

News

Explosions in new Boston Marathon bomb panic, 'twisted'…

A fresh Boston Marathon terror alert, which caused Bomb Squad officers to order an evacuation while two controlled explosions were carried out, was today being…

Local

Bomb squad detonates backpacks left at Marathon finish…

The Boston Marathon finish line has been evacuated and the Copley Square T station has been closed as police investigate a suspicious package, WBZ is reporting.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, April 15: 'New Girl,'…

'New Girl' Nick and Jess are hiding their breakup from the other loft residents. And Winston passes the police academy exam! That guy needed some…

Television

'Orphan Black' is back with 'crazy clone shenanigans'

“Orphan Black” is the little show that could. It had a few things working against it: a sci-fi premise, attracting an audience who had never…

The Word

Kelly Osbourne and Paris Hilton fight over a…

Paris Hilton and Kelly Osbourne, both members of famous families and natives of the reality boom of the early aughts, should be great friends. And yet.

MLB

MLB video highlights: White Sox beat Red Sox…

Red Sox fall on walk-off error to White Sox

NBA

NBA Draft Lottery day is May 20: Celtics…

NBA Draft Lottery day is Tuesday, May 20: Celtics percentage odds for a top overall pick

MLB

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be…

Opinion: Major League Baseball replay system shouldn't be dumped just yet

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready…

Bruins - Red Wings preview: David Krejci ready to erupt once again in playoffs

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Victoria's Secret Fashion Show moving to England

It will still broadcast on CBS this fall.

Tech

Google Glass finally goes on sale for regular…

The Google Glass finally went on sale for regular people. It only costs $1,500.