Last week, I got the opportunity to go to the Michael C. Carlos Museum on a class trip. We we’re taken around the museum by Amanda Hellman, who is the curator of African Art, and shown the new and improved African Art exhibit. We we’re able to see new items that had just come to the museum, as well as things Amanda had been waiting to put on display for a long time. She explained how the exhibit only shows 20% of the art in storage at a time so that there is more rotation and variety. We were taking through the museum and saw how much of a maze it was. Amanda explained that the museum was built to house very few works of art, so there are large columns and small rooms to make the visitors feel as if they are getting the same experience as, say, the High Museum. Since they now have more art, and I mean a lot more art, there has been many renovations with nooks and crannies that are full to the brim with sculptures, sarcophagi, photographs, artifacts, and more. We even got to see a prayer room across of an exhibit on a collection of Tibetan artifacts in the form of an alter. Some students and a local religious group regularly use it as well.
The Michael C. Carlos Museum is a museum that I regret not going to sooner. I first heard of it my freshman year by my wonderful Art History professor, and never took the opportunity of a free ticket. I regretted it the most when we breezed through the other art on display, both permanent and temporary. My favorite had to be ‘Family Album’ by Gonkar Gyatso, which was a photographical journey through his family tree. It was beautiful the way he posed his nephews and aunts, to show a contrast between the modern world and traditional Tibetan life, as well as celebrate the culture. It was very interesting, and I considered choosing his work to show in my exhibition.
Speaking of which, This trip also had a lot of valuable tips for our collection project due at the end of the semester. Amanda explained the process of her choosing to line the trim of the platforms with african wood to make it more authentic in it’s cultural ties. One of the most interesting things she explained about her process of setting up the African Exhibit, was the addition of tablets. The tablets serve as a tool a visitor can use to get a detailed look at a work of art. She told us of how the tablet stands today are very expensive, so to cut costs she asked a coworker who is also a carpenter to build wooden stands out of African Wood for a much more affordable price.
It is very clear that Amanda Hellman cares for the work that she does, and seems to know almost everything about every piece we saw that day. Granted, it was only an hour, but it was very enriching. I’ve already scheduled a time to go back.