The University of New Mexico Art Museum (UNMAM) is unveiling its newest virtual exhibition, “Hindsight/Insight: Reflecting on the Collection,” which is now available on the UNM Art Museum website.
“The virtual exhibition provides viewers with opportunities to learn about the artwork in ways physical exhibitions cannot,” says Mary Statzer, curator of “Hindsight/Insight.”
“Hindsight/Insight: Reflecting on the Collection” highlights over 30 artworks acquired since the museum was founded in 1962. This is the first in an ongoing series of exhibitions and programs celebrating The University of New Mexico Art Museum’s dedication to developing a teaching collection.
“Broadly speaking, we are motivated by a desire to increase awareness and engage faculty and students with this valuable resource,” said Statzer.
This virtual exhibit is the first to feature UNMAM’s permanent collection of over 30,000 objects on a digital platform and is the first time UNMAM has utilized virtual exhibits. While the pandemic forced the museum administration to make exhibitions available virtually, they embraced the challenge and opportunity to make the online experience distinct from the in-person one.
“There are many reasons to continue creating virtual exhibitions. First, they are a great way to extend the reach of our exhibitions and broaden our audience beyond the Albuquerque area, nationally (Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Minneapolis) and internationally (Mexico, Germany, the UK, Canada, the Philippines). They are also a great tool for archiving exhibitions, extending our typical three-month exhibition cycle. Virtual exhibitions have proven useful beyond our expectations,” said Statzer.
The exhibitions have garnered more than 6,000 views, in comparison to the 3,800 people estimated to have viewed in person in the same amount of time.
“Hindsight/Insight: Reflecting on the Collection” focuses primarily on international art movements of the 1960s and 70s including Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and California Funk. Visitors will discover the museum’s rich holdings from this era by artists such as Robert Arneson, Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Bridget Riley, Robert Ryman, and De Wain Valentine.
“When I first arrived at UNM and was learning the collection, I was struck by the excellent examples of art made during the Museum’s founding decade, the early 1960s and ‘70s. I thought it would be interesting for our audiences to think about what was being made when the museum first opened. That includes Minimalism, Conceptual art, Pop Art, and Bay Area Funk. We have some of the best examples in the state of New Mexico,” said Statzer.
Also on view are modernist works by artists who have strong connections to The University and New Mexico. The selections by Rebecca Salsbury James, Raymond Jonson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Pelton, Florence Miller Pierce, and Horace Towner Pierce acknowledge the contributions these artists made to New Mexico’s artistic heritage.
Though the historical importance of the objects in “Hindsight/Insight” is noteworthy, this exhibition also encourages critical thought and conversation on the role of university museums and the practice of art collecting. It is an exhibition that asks where art objects come from, why they look the way they do, and how they earned their place within the museum walls.
Admission to this virtual exhibit is free to everyone.
“Our virtual tours use 360-degree views of the physical exhibitions that are plugged into Kuula software. Visitors can navigate through the space at their own pace and click on “hotspots” to access additional information. This includes wall label texts, still photographs of the artwork and people interacting with the exhibition, as well as short videos by the staff that go behind the scenes or provide additional commentary. Kuula works well on a tablet, laptop, desktop, or smartphone,” said Statzer.
The virtual tour is available by going to the UNMAM website, clicking on the “Discover” tab, and accessing the “Exhibitions” section. Now that “Hindsight/Insight” is up and running, there are four virtual exhibitions available.
During the pandemic, the Center for the Arts, which houses UNMAM, has been closed to the public. Museum staff, except for collections staff, has had to work from home.
“We immediately pushed our exhibition schedule back, ramped up our outreach on social media, and moved programs to Zoom and Facebook Live. We also began transforming the physical exhibitions, which had only been open for a few weeks before the pandemic closed things down, into virtual ones,” said Statzer.
Over the summer, one gallery of the museum was converted into a study room with social distancing protocols. In this space, UNM students and faculty can request to see works from UNMAM’s collection. The staff and artists in residence have also offered virtual class visits on Zoom, utilizing PowerPoints and virtual exhibitions.
Later this month, UNMAM is launching an online project titled “There Must Be Other Names for the River”. It is a web-based sound installation designed by three artists from the UNM Department of Art’s MFA program that guides visitors along the length of the Rio Grande. Also, work has begun on a portal for the website, featuring the life and work of Raymond Jonson.
“We have some exciting things coming up...UNMAM holds over six hundred paintings by Jonson as well as his archives. We are excited about increasing awareness for this wonderful but underrecognized artist,” said Statzer.
Looking out further, UNMAM is developing a unique virtual project with New Mexico’s own Rose B. Simpson that will launch during the Fall 2021 semester.
“If the pandemic cooperates, we hope to welcome visitors back to the museum in the Fall with a show from the permanent collection. This time next year we are planning an immersive exhibition featuring intricate light installations by Anila Quayyum Agha,” said Statzer.