The Blanton Museum of Art re-opened its doors on Feb 12, 2017 to a completely reimagined presentation of its galleries and permanent collection. In its new incarnation, the ancient American and Latin American galleries have been enriched by the addition of The Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) on loan from the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the breadth and depth of the collection spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration.
“Many people in Austin know that the Blanton was a pioneer in the field of Latin American art, but for the last decade, visitors have only had a glimpse of that interest, through temporary exhibitions and programs,” says Curator of Latin American Art Beverly Adams to the Austin American-Statesman. “The new installation of the permanent collection will be the first time in our current building that major movements and ideas in Latin American art have been represented.”
The Art and Art History Collection ranges from early Pre-Columbian ceramics to twentieth-century hand-crafted textiles, from small lithic bifacial points (ex. hand axes, spear points) to life-size wooden sculptures. Supplemented by cultural holdings from the Texas Memorial Museum and objects from Duncan and Elizabeth Boeckman of Dallas, Texas, the most substantial holdings of the collection pertain to the Pre-Columbian cultures across the Americas.
The process of integrating the long-term loan of the AAHC into the new Blanton galleries offered yet another opportunity for the department and the museum to intersect through the work of the Mesoamerica Center and art history undergraduate and graduate student assistants. “As someone interested in museum work and ancient American art, it was an amazing opportunity to assist with the installation,” writes art history master’s degree candidate Kendyll Gross. “I came to The University of Texas at Austin as Art History Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Mesoamerica Center Dr. Astrid Runggaldier and the Blanton were creating a plan of action, so I have been active with the project from the very start.”
“The first thing that awed me about the collection was its diversity and sheer size. There are over a thousand objects hailing from different regions and time periods of Latin America,” writes Gross. “I loved scanning through everything we could choose from. I would research items from the collection and compare them to similar objects in museums across the country. I would flip through the Metropolitan or LACMA’s online databases and think ‘Wow, we have something just like that here at UT!’
A vital resource for the student and scholarly community as well as the greater community of Austin, a selection of The Art and Art History Collection objects and textiles can be viewed in the new Blanton gallery devoted to the art of the Ancient Americas, and in the gallery of Native American art.