On Wednesday afternoon, yours truly was invited, on behalf of The Brunswickan, to visit the new expansions at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, set to open this weekend.
Now, a confession: before arriving at the Gallery for my private tour, I had never stepped foot inside the museum—to which I must now say “Shame on me! What a beautiful place!”
The building is particularly impressive with all its new additions; over the last few years, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery has been undergoing construction, adding to the building’s east side. This 14,000-square foot pavilion encompasses several new galleries, which I was guided through by senior curator Jeffrey Spalding.
We began our tour in the International Wing, a long hallway branching off on both sides into various displays. Conceived and realized by Spalding, this new section of the gallery will showcase the Beaverbrook collection’s many “masterworks,” offering a permanent place for the museum’s most prized pieces (including, I noticed, a pair of Warhols!)
In previous years, many of these pieces have been rotating in and out of public display, such that visitors could never be sure what would be visible. Now, however, art lovers can rest assured that they will always be able to find their favourite work in its familiar spot each time they visit. Several of the pieces have been arranged such that historical works are displayed directly alongside contemporary works they’ve inspired, reminding visitors of the ongoing collaboration between both past and present.
The International Wing leads into the Jean E. Irving River Gallery, a spacious and bright room with gorgeous views of the Saint John River. This gallery space will rotate exhibits, and is currently presenting a collection of large-scale photographs by Thaddeus Holownia, entitled 24 Tree Studies for Henry David Thoreau, 2001-2003. The current display feels well-suited for the room, with the natural beauty visible through its large windows perfectly complimenting the natural beauty captured by the pieces.
The Jean E. Irving River Gallery bleeds seamlessly into the Elizabeth A. Currie Gallery on the Green, another rotating room currently presenting Masters of Modernism: Selections from The Currie Collection. The gallery’s tall ceilings give it a cathedral-like feel, which is appropriate for the large-scale piece it houses in a corner offshoot: Salvador Dali’s Santiago el Grande, a gigantic portrait showcased in this specially-built section of the new pavilion. This shrine to Salvador is set to stay—perhaps in part due to the sheer logistical nightmare it would be to move the massive piece—and it’s such a treat to see in (sur)real life that I suspect the piece will soon become one of the museum’s most popular attractions.
Downstairs, the new additions continue: there’s a studio for Artist-In-Residence Timothy Adam Hogan where visitors can watch him at work, the RBC Learning Centre, which can host indoor and outdoor events throughout the year—and a new cafe run by the Chess Piece Patisserie, which has a separate entrance for any Frederictonians who simply want to grab a coffee or macaron.
The museum is celebrating the launch of this new pavilion with a free day of activities this Sunday, Oct. 15, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be workshops, demonstrations and performances throughout the afternoon, and the entire gallery will be open to the public. However, UNB and STU students will be pleased to know that this free admission carries through the entire year: all you have to do is show a student card and you’re in!
That’s right: Free. Admission. All. Year!
Honestly, though, this makes me feel all the more guilty for having never visited before. I’m certainly no exhibition connoisseur, but the new and improved Beaverbrook Art Gallery, right here in Fredericton, truly is world-class and seems just as impressive as any museum I can imagine; frankly, you can keep your Louvres and MoMAs!