Reopened Eskenazi Museum a treasure for printmaking

After what seemed like forever, the beloved Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University reopened this week. For a town that hovers on average at 100,000 people, we are spoiled to have a free, world-class museum just minutes away. I was fortunate to be among many volunteers that welcomed visitors back in to see the newly re-imagined space.

Formerly the Fine Arts Library, this space on the third floor hosts the Center for Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

The museum was designed by I. M. Pei and completed in 1982. When I was taking classes at IU, I frequently used the Fine Arts Library, which was housed in a small triangular building on the second floor with a funny third floor of books and folios. The reading room has soaring views out into the museum atrium, but the space was mostly filled with empty desks and carrels for graduate students. 

A gift from Lois and Sidney Eskenazi allowed IU to have architect Susan Rodriguez (Cornell Architecture, 1981) reimagine the interior spaces of the museum. The most dramatic change was the transformation of the library into education space on the second floor, and the addition of a cat walk and the Center for Prints, Drawings and Photographs on the third.

View from the new third-floor cat walk.

For the first time, there is a gallery solely for works on paper. It has lowered lighting and no windows. A study room allows curators to display works vertically, rather than flat on a table. I was amazed at the breadth of the collection that was on display last night. From Picasso, Munch and Cassatt to Ansel Adams, to Hokusai and Hiroshige. Anyone can request to see works from the collection, which is housed right next to the study room. 

New delights in the Asian Art gallery

Anila Agha, Flight of a Thousand Birds. Polished laser-cut stainless steel, 2012.

In addition to the paper delights I saw, I was most impressed with the Asian Art gallery, where ancient treasures were exhibited alongside current artists. IU Herron School of Art faculty member Anila Agha’s installation evokes hints of ancient patterns of her Pakistan birthplace, as well as Escher’s many bird-inspired prints.  This treasure is hiding toward the back of the gallery. When you are there, take a peek into the new Center for Conservation to see older artworks being restored.

Morigami Jin, Flying Dragon III, Mandrake and rattan, 2007.

Morigami Jin’s arresting woven sculptures were what first drew me in to this space. It is deliciously tempting to reach out and touch these forms, to see if they are rigid or not. (Do not do this, however.) I have caned a canoe seat, and know how difficult this is. I am completely baffled as to how this was made, and could spend hours enjoying it from different angles.

And the good news is that this museum is FREE and open to the public: Tuesday – Friday (10am – 5pm); Saturday (10am – 7pm) and Sunday (Noon – 5pm). The galleries are closed on Mondays. The second floor cafe has food and drink options and is open the same hours.

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