Rarely do people enter an art museum hoping to see art being made, but rather they venture in to see the completed masterpieces. At least not until recently, that is. Ryan McGinness: Studio Visit is a full-blown recreation of contemporary artist (and VMFA favorite) Ryan McGinness’s New York loft studio, right inside the museum. This exhibit celebrates the bright, splashy colors and clean iconography of the master behind Art History is Not Linear (VMFA), the 32-foot-long, 8-foot-tall piece that welcomes—in a bright, contemporary way—everyone who steps through our front doors. Made especially for the museum, this 16-panel painting contains 200 icons inspired by works from our collection. Essentially, it is art about art.
Considering we have devoted an entire exhibition to his creative process in creating this work, we clearly find the methods of McGinness to be pretty darn exceptional. We love that we can celebrate not only the piece, but also the process. In this exhibition, we have shown his movement from sketches to designs to screens and finally to his prints.
We have also extracted some of the works from our collection that McGinness used for inspiration and placed them side by side with their “McGinness-ified” iconic representations. Our aim is to show visitors how McGinness transformed their art into a gigantic pop-style roadmap of the museum. Or perhaps rather than “roadmap,” the better term is a web of the museum. As the title connotes, the icons are in no way arranged by period or style. As stated by the artist himself, “Art history is not linear, although it is often taught as such. Culture is a multidimensional network that feeds and builds upon itself in a mash-up that transcends time.” To help decipher this hyper-informative web, we have created a little thing we like to call a “gallery hunt.”
Suitable for all ages, the gallery hunt gives visitors a map of our collection and eight fabulous clues to send participants sleuthing through our galleries. Each textual clue is accompanied with the graphic icon created by McGinness. The aim is to help visitors match a handful of these icons to their original works in a fascinating adventure of seek-and-find. The experience, along with the exhibition, help bring to light the masterful juxtaposition that McGinness creates between the intricate original works and his modern graphic representations. Just as you can weave your way through the imagination of his fabulous creative gem Art History is Not Linear, we want you to weave through the collections that inspired it.
The McGinness gallery hunt guide is only one of the many gallery hunts that we’ve produced to help make the museum less intimidating to new visitors . . . and a whole lot more fun!
–Kate Colver, marketing and communications intern