Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have noticed that Austin is changing. Rapidly. Sitting in traffic is now officially Austin’s #1 pastime ( “tweeting about sitting in traffic” comes in at a close second). You can’t swing a cat without hitting a craft brewery or fair-trade coffee “haus.” New start-ups are everywhere, taxing Austin’s hard-working foosball table manufacturers. Cat-swinging is inexplicably in vogue. And now $9 million is suddenly a totally reasonable amount to spend on advertising for a single ballot initiative. Sure.
Given that the Blanton is at least as Austin-esque as backyard chickening, it’s only natural that we change too. On July 5th, we’ll be embarking on the first major changes to the Blanton’s second-floor, permanent collection galleries since we opened our building to the public in 2006. These changes will involve a complete re-configuration of our galleries and will feature artworks that have been recently acquired or that have rarely or never been on display, new labels in the galleries to help provide better context, new doorways to improve the flow between galleries and new signs to help you get around. Think of it as like the MoPac Improvement Project, but under budget and with somewhat less of an impact on your morning commute.
What does this mean for you? A lot, actually. In the short term, it means that from July until February 2017, our upstairs galleries will be closed. We will still have three mind-expanding exhibitions downstairs, and our usual spate of top-shelf events and programming. But some of Austin’s old favorites, including Cildo Meireles’ How to Build Cathedrals, Joan Mitchell’s Rock Bottom, and pretty much everything else you normally see upstairs will be off view until February of next year. During this period, our admission fees and hours will remain [exactly] the same—no worries about figuring out weird hours! We’ll still be open Tuesday – Sunday for your viewing pleasure. However, for a short period in early 2017, the entire museum will be closed to the public while we put the finishing touches on the new Blanton (don’t worry, we’ll let you know well in advance when this will be happening so you can add reminders to your Apple Watch or whatever). In the long term, these changes mean that Austin will have unprecedented access to a world-class collection of art, presented in a way that we can say, without hyperbole, will be literally the greatest thing you will ever see in your entire life.
Why are we doing this? Well, frankly, it’s time. Museums are always acquiring new artworks, learning new things about those artworks, and re-thinking the best ways to present them. The Blanton is no exception. Our permanent collection (that’s the term that museums use to refer to the objects they own and are responsible for caring for), as it is displayed upstairs, has remained mostly unchanged since the Blanton opened to the public in 2006. We felt that many of our signature artworks could be presented better, and that many of our strongest collections (such as our Latin American artworks) were difficult for visitors to find. This re-imagining of the museum will allow us to finally present our collection in a way that makes more sense to visitors.
Our recommendation? Make sure to visit in the next two weeks to get a final look at what’s on view right now. While many artworks will still be there when we reopen, a few fan favorites will be rotated out of the galleries for the time being (most notably, Progress II by Luis Jímenez). Pick a day, drop by, climb the stairs, and take one final look around—everything will be totally different starting next year. And while change is hard, it’s also good—and we promise that this new version of the museum will make the Blanton better than ever.
Make sure to follow the Blanton on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as we share more information about this project over the coming months, including a behind-the-scenes look at what will be changing in the museum.