What‘s New?

What‘s New?

At the Yale Center for British Art—which reopens to the public today after a 16-month closure, signaling the end of a broader conservation and renovation project begun in 2008—the answer to the title’s question is nothing, and everything.

White oak, Belgian linen, English wool and travertine, for examples, have been critical design elements since the center first opened to the public in 1977. Over the past 16 months, those materials have been replaced, restored and re-upped, as applicable. Where well-trafficked synthetic fibers once blanketed the floors of the YCBA’s galleries, there’s now a pristine wool expanse—one that, if memory serves, is lighter and more uplifting than its predecessor. The center’s pogo walls—the floaters that give the galleries more hanging space and generate series of layered rooms and passages—are likewise pristine, covered in fresh, taut weaves of linen.

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Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Lash - New Haven Symphony Orchestra

Many of those pogos have been reoriented to accommodate major shifts in the way the YCBA’s permanent collection, touted as the largest assemblage of British art outside the UK, is displayed. Thanks to a selective but increased embrace of the denser “salon-style hang” technique—where paintings are clustered together, in a fashion that’s punchy and sensational and, in a good way, threatens to overwhelm the senses—past visitors will find there’s simply more art to enjoy. By far the most dramatic and sustained of the new salon-style hangs happens in the fourth floor’s “long gallery,” which is just what it sounds like: a long room filled with art. Open except for the occasional stand of sculpture, paintings of various sizes have been fitted together like pieces of a priceless jigsaw puzzle, cascading down opposite walls.

Of course, that puzzle, as significant as it is, is only a piece of the much larger one the YCBA’s been managing over the past eight years, which spans much more than what’s mentioned or pictured here. Today’s a good day to visit and put the rest of those pieces together. This Saturday—when the YCBA’s “Community Day” promises a festive and thoughtful atmosphere thanks to concerts, tours, special arts activities, a photo booth and a film screening about the conservation project—is a good day as well.

For an institution that makes a strong commitment to public access, with collections and exhibits that have been visitable for all but 16 months of the past 39 years, a Community Day seems a fitting final piece of the process—and a fitting beginning to what we can all hope is another long run of uninterrupted access to the wealth of the YCBA.

Yale Center for British Art
1080 Chapel St, New Haven (map)
Special Extended Hours (today only): 10am-8pm
Regular Hours: Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun noon-5pm
(203) 432-2800

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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