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Volume 24, Number 10 — November 2017

VMFA's Mellon French Impressionist, British Sporting Collections to go on tour

Tropical Landscape: an American Indian Struggling with a Gorilla, 1910, Henri Rousseau (French, 18441910), oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo: Travis Fullerton  Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Tropical Landscape: an American Indian Struggling with a Gorilla, 1910, Henri Rousseau (French, 18441910), oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Photo: Travis Fullerton Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

October 31, 2017

The esteemed French Impressionist Art and British Sporting art collections at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts embark on national and international tours during the next two years, creating opportunities for more people to view these important paintings and sculptures that were donated to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.

While the Mellon collections are on tour, VMFA will renovate and refurbish its Mellon Galleries, located on the second and third floors of the museum's 1985 West Wing. The renovations will include the installation of new wall materials and flooring, as well as updated air-handling systems, all aimed at ensuring the best possible long-term environment for displaying these collections. The Mellon Galleries will close to the public Jan. 2, 2018, and reopen in 2020.

"The Mellon French Impressionist and British Sporting Art collections are among VMFA's greatest treasures, and the galleries that house them are popular destinations for our visitors," said Alex Nyerges, VMFA's Director. "Each of these collections tells an important story, and we're delighted to share these incredible works of art with art lovers in different parts of the United States and abroad, many of whom have never visited VMFA before. This opportunity allows us to complete necessary renovations that will protect these significant works in the future, while also keeping the collections on display to the public, which was always so important to Mr. and Mrs. Mellon."

Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the European Art Department at VMFA, selected the works for the French Impressionist and British Sporting Art traveling exhibitions, which will both include more than 70 works of art. VMFA will publish a fully illustrated catalogue for each exhibition; those catalogues also will be available in the VMFA Shop when the tours begin.

About the renovations
The renovation and refurbishment of the Mellon Galleries will cost $3.5 million and is funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The galleries total 16,464 square feet across two floors in the 1985 West Wing addition. This space will be sealed off from the rest of the museum to protect other works of art that will remain on display, and the Marble Hall will continue to be accessible during the renovations.

New plywood and drywall necessary to meet today's museum industry standards will be installed on the walls, and flooring will be installed on top of the cement slabs. The 1985 air-handling systems have reached the end of their natural life, and two new HVAC systems will be installed to ensure a stable environment for art on display.

VMFA will not redesign the general footprint of the galleries, but it will include some updates, such as new lighting tracks and casework. The museum is also creating a new dedicated space for the permanent display of works from The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger, which debuted in a special exhibition at the museum in spring 2017 and is also set to travel on a national tour over the next two years.

Select pieces from the Mellon American collection will be installed for viewing in the museum's James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin American Art Galleries during the renovation period.

A! ExtraTopics: Art