On Wednesday evening, patrons of the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, got a sneak peek at the museum’s newly renovated permanent collection galleries. The project breathes new life into the spaces that house the MFA’s time-spanning collection of art, from antiquities to contemporary works.
The general public can check out the museum’s new look for free on Saturday, Sept. 28, during Arts Alive Free Museum Day.
Museum designer Jeffrey Daly, a former exhibition designer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, oversaw the project. Refurbishments include the replacement of floor coverings and ceiling tiles throughout the galleries, and the fabrication of new display cases for many objects. Along with the introduction of hardwood floors in some areas, remarkable changes include the use of vibrant, color wall paint in galleries devoted to arts of ancient Greece and Asia.
The works of art themselves have been re-situated with an eye to some creative juxtapositions. In one room, contemporary ceramic sculptures are displayed side-by-side with antique vessels. A 360-degree view from the foyer of the Marly Room lecture hall, also rehabbed, offers glimpses of works by 18th century artist Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Impressionist painters and Andy Warhol, whose portrait of Mao Zedong is on display in a gallery devoted to modern art.
“This is what’s fun about art — it talks across years,” says museum director Kent Lydecker says. “If you could take the whole history of art and dump it out on the floor, and then put it back. Well, how do you put it back? You can default to your traditional cultural chronological thing, but there’s so many other ways you could do it.”
Lydecker estimates the renovation cost between $600,000 and $750,000. The project was financed partly by a grant from the State of Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and partly by donations from individuals.
The MFA will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015.