Spotlight On St. Louis: The Saint Louis Art Museum

I think it’s safe to assume you’d agree with me that we have a citywide (and national) treasure in the Saint Louis Art Museum, but for some reason we generally move on after acknowledging this. How often do we revisit the paintings and other pieces of art displayed in the galleries of the Cass Gilbert designed building? Until recently, at least I rarely did, yet as a kid it was a regular field trip (5 year-old Amanda was going to be an artist the likes of Monet – big dreams, eh?).

But inside the walls, we find marvels of so many shapes and sizes – from modern art to photography to furniture from all periods and styles. We find works from Ancient Chinese scrolls and Egyptian metal work to glassware to arms and armor – just part of a collection that includes 33,000 works.

The newest special exhibit “Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade” is gaining the museum, and their impressive impressionist collection, the national spotlight with articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as well as a segment on CBS Sunday Morning.

The exhibit displays a variety of impressionist paintings from Degas, Cassat, Renoir and more depicting the millinery trade and those who patronized it. Some of the Degas works have never been publicly displayed in the United States before. Alongside our museum’s rich collection of paintings, the exhibit strategically places fantastically detailed and embellished period hats and period publications.

The exhibit, located in the new wing of the Art Museum, is worth a visit for anyone interested in art, impressionism, fashion or history. You can learn more about the segment from our recent Scope piece at hectv.org.

Scope has also profiled a private collection of Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks that will be on display until July 30, 2017. “Learning to See: Renaissance and Baroque Masterworks from the Phoebe Dent Weil and Mark S. Weil Collection” features pieces from 150 works promised to the museum by the Weils.

When the pieces enter the collection, the Saint Louis Art Museum will have one of the strongest collections of Renaissance terracotta anywhere. The exhibit explores intellectual and spiritual themes of European sculpture, prints and paintings from the 15th to the 17th century and includes many mythical and religious subjects and themes.

The exhibit was the inspiration for the museum’s most recent SLAM Underground event, which featured the exhibition and other activities related to the Renaissance. Never have I seen so many millennials present, or even seen the museum so crowded, as at this monthly night of live music, cocktails, art projects and scavenger hunts around the museum – with the exception of big events like Art in Bloom, of course (if you missed it, Scope has a beautiful look of this year’s displays).

Certainly, there is much to the Saint Louis Art Museum that we don’t see in the galleries and through their regular events. The museum has an extensive archive of work it either can’t display at the moment, is loaned out, or is restoring. They also hold further information, letters and historical documents about the artists whose work grace the walls, and on its historical and architecturally significant building. Further, the museum offers classes and gallery talks for children and adults and engages in numerous other forms of outreach.

And they have a new installation. Shimon Attie’s “Lost in Space (After Huck)” opened on April 1st, and will remain open through June 25th in Gallery 210 of the main building. The site-specific installation creates an immersive experience that asks the attendee to reflect on local culture and social issues. You can find an interview with Attie about the piece at hectv.org.

Regardless of what type of art or what special event or exhibition may attract you, it may be worth making another visit to Louis IX and the building he guards.

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