Reopening date: October 30, 2007
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Wrightsman Galleries, currently undergoing
extensive renovations and reinstallation, will reopen on October 30. The
spectacular 18th-century rooms, which include the De Tessé Room, the Cabris
Room, the Paar Room, the Varengeville Room, the Bordeaux Room, and the
Crillon Room, house the Museum's renowned collection of French furniture and
related decorative arts. Named for Jayne and Charles Wrightsman, who amassed
one of the finest private collections in America of the decorative arts of the ancien
régime, the galleries opened to the public between 1969 and 1977. The
Wrightsmans' splendid gifts strengthened the Museum's already important
collection of French 18th-century interiors and furnishings. Mrs. Wrightsman, a
Trustee Emerita, continues her generosity to the Metropolitan Museum to this day,
and has made these renovations possible.
The galleries also include a number of significant donations from other collectors. The 1958 gift by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation of 17 porcelain-mounted pieces
of furniture made the Museum the greatest repository of this material in the world.
Together with Sèvres porcelain objects given by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, R. Thornton Wilson, and Mr. and Mrs. Wrightsman, this important collection has moved to the central access gallery. With additional built-in showcases, the new location permits more of the collection to be seen than ever before. A new case established in an alcove adjacent to the Sèvres objects affords the opportunity to triple the previously exhibited number of gold boxes and objets de vertu, many of which came from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan in 1917. In turn, the displacement of the porcelain allows the department to include many more silver objects from the famed Catherine D. Wentworth Collection in existing cases that have been refit for the purpose. One of the distinctions of the Museum's furniture collection is the royal provenance of a large number of its pieces. These furnishings came to the Museum through the generosity of such well-known collectors as J. Pierpont Morgan, Jules S. Bache, Anne Payne Blumenthal, William K. Vanderbilt, Susan Dwight Bliss, and of course the Wrightsmans.
The renovations include new lighting that will greatly enhance the collection, as well as improved climate control and new fire suppression systems, and they
incorporate numerous decorative changes and alterations in the display. All of the 18th-century boiseries have received extensive conservation and cleaning, and several pieces of seat furniture have been re-upholstered with modern re-creations of the original show covers. A large number of objects has received conservation treatment and the galleries will also include important works previously not on view, such as a late-18th-century carved and gilded state bed.
Following the Museum's major 2004 exhibition Dangerous Liaisons: Fashion and
Furniture in the 18th Century, which took place in The Wrightsman Galleries,
several aspects of the galleries that could be updated were identified: lighting;
placement and presentation of the objects; conservation and upholstery of furniture; more appropriate curtain and window treatments; and better climate control and new fire suppression and security systems. At Mrs. Wrightsman's suggestion, the artist and opera designer Patrick Kinmonth was engaged to advise on the project after having served as Creative Consultant on the Dangerous Liaisons exhibition. With Mrs. Wrightsman's and Mr. Kinmonth's participation, a plan for the reinstallation of the galleries was completed.
Principal lighting designer Larry French, of the Auerbach Glasow lighting design firm, has replaced all lighting throughout the galleries with a dimmable system incorporating advances in technology to redirect light on the furniture instead of on the ceilings and walls, as well as to suggest different times of day in the various rooms. All the candle bulbs in the 17 chandeliers and many wall sconces have been replaced with bulbs to give a sense of true candlelight. In addition, specialists have worked in tandem with two conservators and an assistant hired for the project to clean the gilt bronze and rock crystal of the chandeliers for the first time in decades.
Other conservation projects include the weaving and embroidery of historically accurate or appropriate covers for several key pieces of furniture, including a daybed, fire screen, and bergère once owned by Marie Antoinette. New damask
hangings were woven for a state bed, and its gilt wood frame by Georges Jacob has been restored. This will be a new addition to the gallery formerly known as the Sèvres Gallery, transforming it to a proper period room. Restoration work has also been carried out on the important Bernstorff suite of furniture, and the curtains have been replaced with historically appropriate hand-stitched ones. New
panes of hand-blown glass have been installed in the French doors throughout the galleries.
The renovations of The Wrightsman Galleries have been overseen by Ian Wardropper, Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Chairman, and Daniëlle O. Kisluk-
Grosheide, Curator, with support from Curator Jeffrey Munger and Assistant Curator Melinda Watt, all of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. Additional design work has been provided by Michael Langley, Senior Exhibition Designer; graphics are by Barbara Weiss, Senior Graphic Designer; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Senior Lighting Designers, all of the Metropolitan Museum's Design Department.
A variety of education programs will be offered in conjunction with the reopening, including an evening for educators on January 18. A symposium about French period rooms will be held in honor of the reopening of The Wrightsman Galleries on February 15.
October 29, 2007