The new art season will bring us Greek gold and Monet, terrorism and technology, and maybe even a building boom. It seems sure that the coming year will see one new museum building in the works, and if everybody's hopes come true there could be three.
Baltimore Museum of Art director Arnold Lehman says construction will begin about Feb. 1 on the museum's wing for 20th century art. The $7-million-plus project, combining the new wing with renovation in the existing structure, will add about 50,000 square feet of space, including about 25,000 of gallery space, and is projected to open in the spring of 1994.
A site for the American Visionary Art Museum -- to be devoted mainly to works by those outside the mainstream of art and life, such as the mentally ill and disabled -- has been located on Key Highway at the Inner Harbor. And Baltimore's Rebecca Hoffberger -- whose brainchild the museum is -- has raised $3 million toward its expected $7.5 million cost. Construction start depends on finding a "major donor," Ms. Hoffberger says; if she finds such an "angel" soon, work could possibly start "any time after the end of November."
The Heritage Museum of Art, to exhibit the works of several minority cultures, is the dream of Baltimorean Steven Lee. It's just beginning to be more than that, but the curator and educator plans to launch a $3 million campaign this fall. Ideally, he would like to find a building, either the Pier 4 Power Plant or another Inner Harbor site, by January.
The Walters Art Gallery won't add another building, as it did in May with Hackerman House, but its collections will expand later this month when the bulk of the Alexander Griswold collection of Southeast Asian art is moved to the museum from Mr. Griswold's estate, Breezewood, outside of Baltimore.
The collection, which includes the most comprehensive holdings Thai art outside Thailand, has been promised to the Walters, and about 50 pieces were transferred to the museum earlier. For the present, says Asian art curator Hiram W. Woodward, the remaining 240 pieces will be on loan from Mr. Griswold's Breezewood Foundation.
As for the exhibit season, "Claude Monet" at the Baltimore Museum of Art (opening Oct. 13) promises to be the blockbuster, in popularity if not in number of objects. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is lending the BMA 32 paintings by the impressionist in exchange for 50 works from the Cone collection. The Monets will cover most of the artist's career and will include such well-known subjects as Rouen Cathedral, grainstacks, water lilies and gardens at Giverny.
The BMA will also have a show of works by Jacob Lawrence (Nov. 26), concentrating on his series of narrative paintings about Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman; "Marking the Decades" (Feb. 23), more than 150 contemporary prints from the museum's holdings; "Anne Truitt" (Feb. 4), a dozen works by the Baltimore-born sculptor/painter; and "Gold of Africa" (Sept. 24), more than 200 objects from Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Senegal.
The Walters will have gold, too, "Gold of Greece" from the Benaki Museum in Athens. The 200 works will range from about 1500 B.C. to about 1500 A.D. and highlight the technical aspects of working gold.
Also at the Walters is "Empires Restored, Elysium Revisited: The Art of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema" (Feb. 16), the first major exhibit in the United States for the 19th century painter who specialized in scenes from antiquity. And later in the spring, "Masterworks of American Impressionism from the Pfiel Collection" (April 26), including works by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, J. Alden Weir and others.
The Walters' floor of 19th century painting is currently being reinstalled and is expected to reopen sometime this season, perhaps late fall. Curator William R. Johnston says the installation will concentrate on the collection's holdings of major artists such as Delacroix and Jean-Leon Gerome.
The Maryland Historical Society will have a major exhibit of duck decoys, "History of Waterfowling on the Chesapeake Bay" (Sept. 27); "The Founder's Art: Baltimore Cast-Iron Architecture and Ornamental Ironwork" (Feb. 7); and, in an intriguing departure, .. next spring the MHS and the Museum for Contemporary Arts will cooperate on an exhibit: New York artist Fred Wilson will select items from the MHS collection and create an exhibition at the Historical Society exploring how museum installations reinforce cultural stereotypes.
The Maryland Institute's most interesting exhibit looks to be "Beyond Glory: Re-Presenting Terrorism" (Jan. 24), which will study violence and political repression as seen by artists.