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The Director

February Director’s Message

Dear Friends,
Newly opened at the Atheneum is a jewel-like project that may surprise and challenge your expectations. Three abstract neon sculptures by American artist Keith Sonnier were part of a major donation to the Wadsworth Atheneum in 2004 by the Castelli family in honor of Leo Castelli, the preeminent SoHo art dealer. The wall-defying nature of each piece–they wrap corners, invade the viewer’s space, and play with planes–unites them, though each comes from a different sensitivity. Indeed, they are from three distinct series, spaced a decade apart (1969, 1979, 1988).
The next project of MATRIX, our groundbreaking contemporary art series, is an intervention with our collections and spaces orchestrated by Valeska Soares. Curious about our comprehensive collection of furniture from early New England, she developed a pair of responses in the Avery Memorial that open this week. In the center court of that International Style building, surrounding Pietro Francavilla’s Venus with Cupid and Satyr (1600), are now arranged 31 tables of various styles, each covered with colored felt. When we sat together earlier she told me she looks to create a loose narrative that is an open invitation to viewers to imagine about the past, and even to provoke musing about the artist and what she was thinking. Valeska told me, “especially today, I want you to trust your eyes and instincts,” even when the juxtapositions seem whimsical or bizarre. Come have a look and let the installation unleash your imagination.
If you were not among the early crowds that inaugurated Utamaro and the Lure of Japan a few weeks ago, I hope you’ll be by soon. Make a date to see the exhibition (which The Wall Street Journal claims, “…begins an exciting journey of discovery”) around a number of related programs–a Japanese film series, a printmaking demonstration, and our Wadsworth “Izakaya”–to name only a few.
And finally, I want to recognize all of you who took part in the Annual Appeal this past December. Your generous support of the Wadsworth Atheneum makes the institution stronger and enables much of the impact the museum makes in this community. Thank you!
Looking forward to seeing you soon,

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Thomas J. Loughman