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For the first time since the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden opened its doors 40 years ago this fall, the third-floor ring of galleries has been completely renovated. The first exhibition to open in this new space, “At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection,” breaks with Hirshhorn tradition by presenting 50 works of modern and contemporary art by theme rather than by artist or era. The exhibition, which opens Oct. 16, is part of the museum’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration.
“Organized around themes such as history and memory, personal symbolic systems, the overlap of pop and minimalism and the classical figure, ‘At the Hub’ reflects the vision of our founding benefactor, Joseph H. Hirshhorn, as well as many other generous donors who have contributed new art to the museum since its founding in 1974,” said Melissa Chiu, the Hirshhorn’s new director.
The “Hub” exhibition is installed in the outer ring of exhibition spaces on the third floor of the museum, which has been closed since January for a renovation of the ceilings, floors, walls, lighting and security systems. The removal of carpet will permit the display of a much wider range of contemporary sculpture and installation art, much of which is meant to sit directly on the floor. The removal of drop ceilings and spur walls restores the spaces to architect Gordon Bunshaft’s original design, allowing the galleries to flow in a sweeping continuum.
More than 40 well-known artists are represented in the exhibition, including Janine Antoni, Alighiero e Boetti, Louise Bourgeois, Cai Guo-Qiang, Alexander Calder, Hanne Darboven, Spencer Finch, Lucian Freud, Katharina Fritsch, Isa Genzken, Robert Gober, Marsden Hartley, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Claes Oldenburg, Martial Raysse, Mark Rothko, Yinka Shonibare and Paul Thek. Many of the works on view have not been displayed in a number of years, and Joseph Cornell’s “Untitled (Aviary with Yellow Birds)” (c. 1948), a new acquisition, will be on view for the first time.
The exhibition borrows its title from one of the featured works, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture “At the Hub of Things” (1987), a symbolic representation of the blue-skinned goddess Kali, the deity of time and change, that the artist has described as “a hole in space.” With this title, the exhibition “accentuates the museum’s role as a hub where diverse ideas converge and new connections are made,” said curator Evelyn Hankins.
A gallery devoted to landscape, for example, explores this traditional subject in unconventional ways. Marden’s “Cold Mountain 2” (1989–91) draws on Chinese scroll painting and calligraphy and the allover painting of Jackson Pollock to create a personal abstract language. Jan Dibbets’ “Tide” (1969) turns photography to conceptual ends, chronicling the erasure of a channel in the sand by the rising water. Another approach to landscape is seen in a drawing by Cai, made by burning trails of gunpowder, and a Richard Long sculpture that is composed of rocks collected on a solitary walk.
The exhibition opens with a gallery examining two different takes on air and sky. Above the escalators is a newly expanded installation of Finch’s “Cloud (H2O)” (2006). The hanging sculpture renders a cloud of water vapor as carefully balanced clusters of small light bulbs, turning electrical components into a molecular assemblage. Yoko Ono has also employed store-bought technology to produce a poetic meditation on natural form. Her “Sky TV for Washington” (1966/2014) continuously displays a closed-circuit image of the sky outside the museum, bringing into the gallery space a universal symbol of hope and refuge.
Although much of the exhibition will remain on long-term view, one gallery features a rotating series of installation works. Neto’s “The Dangerous Logic of Wooing” (2002), an installation designed for this space 12 years ago, will return with its bulbous, drooping, counterbalanced forms made of Lycra and filled with Styrofoam and rice, hanging from the ceiling. It remains on view through Feb. 22, 2015. The next installation in the space is a room-sized tray of blue pigment by Yves Klein, which will be accompanied by his painting “Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 100),” 1960.
Two works by artist Lawrence Weiner have been installed in the Lerner Room, also located on the third floor. The conceptual pieces, which consist of simple texts, can be produced in any color, size or typeface and location, yet the words remain the same. For this exhibition, the artist has rendered the title phrase of “A RUBBER BALL THROWN ON THE SEA, Cat. No. 146” (1969) in 3-foot-tall blue letters, punctuating the walls of the gallery, while on windows overlooking the National Mall smaller red letters repeat the word “REDUCED.” On every other window, the word appears reversed, rendering it legible from the street outside.
“At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection” is organized by Hankins and assistant curator Melissa Ho. The exhibition is made possible in part by support from the Estate of Frank B. Gettings in memory of Nancy Kirkpatrick and Frank Gettings, the Holenia Trust and members of the Hirshhorn Annual Circle Program.
A second 40th anniversary exhibition, “Days of Endless Time,” also opens Oct. 16. It presents recent works of moving-image art that go against the tide of the accelerated media age.
Related Public Programs
A series of public programs complements the exhibition.
About the Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, has nearly 12,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media installations, works on paper and new media works in its collection. The Hirshhorn presents diverse exhibitions and offers an array of public programs that explore modern and contemporary art.
Located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission to the galleries and special programs is free. For more information about exhibitions and events, visit hirshhorn.si.edu. Follow the Hirshhorn on Facebook at facebook.com/hirshhorn, on Twitter at twitter.com/hirshhorn, on Tumblr at hirshhorn.tumblr.com and on Instagram at instagram.com/hirshhorn. Or sign up for the museum’s eBlasts at hirshhorn.si.edu/collection/social-media. To request accessibility services, contact Kristy Maruca at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 633-2796, preferably two weeks in advance.
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