Works by Matisse make a comeback

BMA: Cone Collection reopens with new layout, futuristic tour of past, and 20th-century art.

April 20, 2001

FOR TWO YEARS the most popular part of the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Cone Collection of early modern art, has been closed, its gems on tour.

With other parts of the BMA closed for renovation and much of the Walters Art Museum closed for the same purpose at the same time, museum-hopping, museum membership and museum reverie have been in sad decline in Baltimore. Fortunately, that's over.

The Walters Art Gallery helped prepare for its comeback, still awaited, by renaming itself Walters Art Museum, which is deemed more informative.

The BMA is proclaiming with a bang that it is open for business. The bang is the reopening on Sunday of the Cone Wing after two years of closure caused by the need for a new roof.

The exhibition of the collection of Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone, open since 1957, had been renovated in 1974 and 1986. But this is more fundamental, down to the room layout and hardwood floors.

The result is a more intimate focus on the same two subjects as before. They are the art of Henri Matisse, of which this is the premier collection in North America, and the collecting of two Baltimore sisters who helped establish 20th-century taste and patronage. For habitues of the BMA, this is seeing old friends in new light.

Most of the 3,000 objects and 500 works by Matisse left to the museum by Etta Cone cannot be on display at any one time. One of the welcome innovations is a gallery showing temporary exhibits from this collection.

The other grand innovation is a virtual tour of the Cone sisters' homes at the Marlborough Apartments, 1701 Eutaw Place, with their collection as it was.

The touch-screen exhibit was created by the Imaging Research Center of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) from 37 photographs taken in the 1930s and 1940s. It's a show in itself.

Anyway, it's good to have the art of Henri Matisse and the taste of Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone back home where they belong.

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