Archive for February, 2011

Insomniac Tours: A History

Roslyn Walker, DMA curator, leading a Late Night tour.

Have you ever wondered what happens in the Dallas Museum of Art after the sun goes down? Do the paintings look different at night? Does the Museum have a different feel to it? Well, there’s one way to find out.

Late Nights at the Museum feature a variety of programs and activities, including the Insomniac Tour. The Insomniac Tours started informally in 2004, thanks to our Director, Bonnie Pitman, and her night-owl disposition. When the DMA turned 100 we stayed open for 31 hours, and Bonnie led tours into the wee hours of the morning for anyone who wanted a more personalized Museum tour. With the launch of Late Nights, the tours continued, and their name was coined.

Bonnie is not the only one who gives the Insomniac Tour, although she tries to attend as many Late Nights as possible. Other guest tour guides have included artists Krystal Read and Jim Lambie, DMA curators Heather MacDonald, Roslyn Walker, and Jeffrey Grove, and local art critics such as Christina Rees. When Director of Collections Management Gabriela Truly gives the tour, she talks about the art that’s not displayed, and where it is stored. These different speakers give visitors a chance to learn new things about the works of art through multiple perspectives.

The best part about Insomniac Tours is that no two tours are the same. The tour guide will take a poll every Late Night to see how many people have taken an Insomniac Tour before, and will ask for input on what members of the group want to see. If the group is full of newcomers, the tour guide will give a “best of” tour, highlighting some of the most unique parts of the DMA’s collections. Repeat visitors can get a tour of more obscure works, or focus on a certain exhibition or movement.

Since the DMA is such an expansive museum, it can be intimidating for visitors to know where to begin. Joining an Insomniac Tour allows visitors to receive a customized tour with some of the leading art experts. So check it out the next time you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night, and see how art can come alive after dark!

Join Olivier Meslay, Senior Curator of European and American Art and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art, when he leads his first Insomniac Tour during the February Late Night.

Friday Photos: Mystery Artwork

Last Friday, I presented clues to the first mystery artwork. I hope you enjoyed searching online or visiting the museum to find the answer.
The mystery artwork is…….
Eros lamp holder

Date: early 1st century B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 22 1/4 in. (56.515 cm)
Medium: Bronze
Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Anne Bromberg’s 30th anniversary with the Dallas Museum of Art.  

Click here to learn more about the Eros lamp holder.

I present to you the second mystery artwork.

Take a closer look and you will see coils of fiber and metal hooked together.

Mystery Artwork #2

  1. I increase in size from top to bottom.
  2. I can only be worn by chiefs.
  3. I can also be seen with a wavy-edged scepter.
  4. My name means to sing.
  5. The presence of metal disks signifies wealth and prestige.

What am I?

You have one week to guess! Click on collections and begin your search. We also invite you to join us tonight as we celebrate our romance-inspired Late Night event.

Best Wishes,
Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

Staff Reading Group Update

It’s been a while since we blogged about our Staff Reading Group

January’s reading group featured several special guests.  We were joined by colleagues from the Crow Collection of Asian Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Rachofsky House for a conversation led by Nina Simon.  Nina is an independent experience designer, author of The Participatory Museum, and author of the Museum 2.0 blog which also appears as a column in Museum magazine. 

Nina selected our reading: a keynote address from the 2008 Australia Council Arts Marketing Summit, given by US philanthropy expert Diane Ragsdale, and titled: “Surviving the culture change.”   Ragsdale’s address (to greatly simplify) challenges arts organizations to adapt and to rethink their audience—what they need (and what they might not know they need), and how we can engage them in order to stay relevant.

The reading was provocative and timely, and led our group to consider behaviors and attitudes of museum visitors and to reflect on our own tendencies as museum-goers.  Why is it that we only go to concerts, museums, or the zoo once in a while if we really enjoyed the experience?  How can we make museum-going a habit—something we integrate in our lives, like an exercise class?  One of the great ideas that came from our session was that we think of going to museums/concerts/etc. like we do going to yoga—an activity that’s regularly on our calendars and prioritized in our lives. 

Ragsdale, in suggesting ways arts organizations can change in response to questions like these, shares truly inspiring examples of progressive, visitor-centered programming already in place in museums around the world.  Here at the DMA, we are pushing on our own ideas of ways to adapt programs to further visitor involvement.  We are currently in the process of refreshing Late Nights with the help of visitor voices and museum-world consultants—Nina, among them.  So look for new and exciting things to come!

And in the meantime, check out Nina’s blog to read more about great programs and experiences happening in museums.

Amy Copeland
Coordinator of Go van Gogh Outreach

Exit Through the (Stickley) Gift Shop

Take home a bit of Americana inspired by the age of Gustav Stickley in the exhibition store.   


Artist Spotlight: Emile Bernard

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with our docents about two paintings within the collection by 19th-century, French artist Emile Bernard (1868-1941).  Both of these works feature Breton women (from the region of Brittany in France) in traditional festival attire.  In the late-19th century, the villages of Brittany, like many other rural sites outside Paris, had become the center of various artist colonies.  The most well-documented of these sites is the city of Pont-Aven, which between 1886 and 1894 became the stomping ground of notable artists such as Paul Gauguin, Paul Serusier, and Emile Bernard.  This cast of characters, along with an international array of artists from countries such as Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, became known as the Pont-Aven School and triumphed a pared-down aesthetic that departed from the naturalism of Impressionism and emphasized a synthesis of the impressions of nature and abstract forms that underlined emotional experience. 

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Brittany was fertile ground for the Pont-Aven School artists because of its association with an exotic aesthetic that played up the primitivism of the picturesque peasants and overlooked the industrial developments and spread of Parisian taste and sophistication to the not-so-remote villages.  In this sense, what the artists left out–factories, commericalism, and modern advancements–become just as much the subject of the work as what they included.

Bernard first visited Brittany in 1886 and would return to the region the next four summers.  In 1888, he worked closely with Paul Gauguin, and together they launched the Synthesist style that characterized much of the work coming out of Pont-Aven.  Bernard was inspired by Medieval cloisonne, or the technique of applying enamel partitions within stained glass.  He and Gauguin, like many artists of the period, also looked to Japanese prints for inspiration and a means to rejuvenate the European style. 

The two DMA paintings by Bernard are dated 1891 and 1892 by the artist in the lower right-hand corner of the canvases next to his signature.  In 1893, he left for a ten-year soujourn in Egypt and would not return to Brittany until 1910 for a brief stay and 1939-1940 for an extended stay the year before his death.

“Othering” is the act of creating an uneven power hierarchy through the myth of a binary of “us” and “them.”  This serves tp emphasize the percieved weaknesses of “them,” or the marginalized society, as a means of underlining the superiority and right to power of “us.”

These works of art can be used with students at the Museum or in the classroom.  They are a great jumping off point to think about exoticism and its role in art.  Exoticism is typically associated with well-known works by Orientalist painters such as Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres and primitivists like Paul Gauguin.  The Pont-Aven School works embody similar ideas of “othering,” except that the exotic projections take place within France and become a sort of internal othering.   What other examples of othering, based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc. can you think of in art and popular visual culture?

Ashley Bruckbauer
McDermott Intern for Teacher Programs and Resources

Seldom Scene: Love Designed

A Date to the DMA:

The Center for Creative Connections invites you this spring to explore the Encountering Space exhibition with a fresh perspective inspired by designed spaces. Experience changes on view March 12 – September 30, 2011 throughout the Center including two additional works from our Decorative Arts collection shown below. Get involved and share your own photographs of designed spaces on Flickr,

Chair, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1956

Hall chair, c. 1850-1860

Reader Pick: Love in the DMA's Collection

February is a month known for love. To celebrate love in the DMA’s collections, I would like you, the reader, to choose a work of art that best exemplifies love from the below objects. After selecting a work of art, leave a comment as to how you think it relates to love. Next Tuesday, I will let you know which work of art received the most votes. Let the voting begin!

Amy Wolf
Coordinator of Gallery Teaching

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