Message from Emily Talbot, Chief Curator

Modern wing reinstallation

Modern wing reinstallation, photo by Elon Schoenholz

Dear Members and Friends,

I write with New Year’s greetings from the Norton Simon Museum, and to offer a glimpse of what we have planned for the year ahead. Recent visitors to the galleries will have noticed our refreshed and reinstalled modern wing, which reopened in November after a two-week closure. The new installation includes many of our most iconic works of art, as well as a number of newcomers that have been off-view for some time. I am excited to reintroduce Donald Judd’s four-part aluminum sculpture (1966) to the permanent galleries, last seen in our 2013 exhibition Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture, as well as Ellsworth Kelly’s five-panel painting Red Orange White Green Blue (1968). In 2023, the Ellsworth Kelly Studio celebrated the centennial of the artist’s birth, and we were delighted to be one of a number of museums to be recognized with a grant and gift of art from the Studio’s collection, along with a related donation of lithographs by Kelly from the famed print workshop Gemini G.E.L. We look forward to exhibiting these new acquisitions in the years ahead.

In January, the J. Paul Getty Museum will debut the magnificent results of a multiyear conservation project to treat the Norton Simon Museum’s panel paintings of Adam and Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder. In a focused display on view between January 23 and April 21, 2024, Getty staff will elucidate the history and recent conservation treatment of the panels. A complementary public program, scheduled for February 4, 2024, will give attendees an opportunity to hear from the curators and conservators involved in this project directly, as they detail the complex structural and surface treatments undertaken on both panels, as well as the surprises they encountered along the way. After the paintings return to the Norton Simon Museum in May, we will install them in their usual place in the Renaissance galleries, with updated didactics that address the conservation work as well as the process of commissioning the paintings’ new frames.

In the spring of 2024, we turn over the temporary exhibition spaces on both the upper and lower floors to an in-depth presentation of the art and legacy of the celebrated Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. Downstairs, the Museum will exhibit the artist’s four major print series—Los Caprichos, Los Desastres de la Guerra, La Tauromaquia and Los Disparates—in their entirety. As described by curator Gloria Williams Sander on page 3 of this newsletter, such a comprehensive display of Goya’s achievement as a printmaker is the first of its kind on the West Coast, and—perhaps most astonishingly—it draws entirely from the Museum’s unparalleled holdings of the artist’s work. The impact of Goya’s themes and style on artists in the modern period will be addressed in a related exhibition in the focus gallery off of the entrance lobby, enriched by generous loans from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College. I Saw It: Modern Artists Respond to Goya (April 19–August 5, 2024) features works on paper by Enrique Chagoya, Yinka Shonibare, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, which are inspired by the Spanish artist’s complex interweaving of fantasy and reality and his trenchant social critique.

In the second half of the year we anticipate the publication of the latest volume in our series of scholarly catalogues dedicated to discrete subsections of the Museum’s collections. Authored by Amy Walsh, with technical entries by Rosamond Westmoreland and others, Northern European Art in the Norton Simon Museum traces the histories of 95 extraordinary paintings and drawings, shedding light on the artistic significance and material histories of works like Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait (c. 1636–38), Dieric Bouts’s Resurrection (c. 1455) and Lucas Cranach’s Adam and Eve (c. 1530). Deeply researched, with new, high-resolution photography and detailed technical analyses, this volume offers a closer look at some of the Museum’s most admired works.

Throughout the fall, museums and galleries across Southern California will mark PST ART: Art & Science Collide, the third in a series of Getty-led exhibitions and research initiatives that focus on cultural production in the region. To complement this year’s theme, the Norton Simon Museum is organizing an exhibition entitled Plugged In: Art and Electric Light (September 20, 2024–February 17, 2025). Featuring 11 objects produced in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, this project will turn attention to the ways that mid-century artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Dan Flavin and Walter Askin employed electric light in their art—often by working collaboratively with scientists and other technicians—and the fascinating questions (and challenges) that these works pose for the Museum’s staff today. We are excited to share what we’ve learned in various programming initiatives next fall.

With the return of evening hours and Free Fridays this past year, it has been extremely gratifying to see the galleries and garden bustling once again. From all of us at the Norton Simon Museum, thank you for your dedication to the Museum, its collections and events. We look forward to starting a new year together.

–Emily Talbot, Chief Curator
This article first appeared in the Museum’s Winter 2024 Newsletter.