During his lifetime our founding benefactor, Armand Castellani, often said he wanted the Castellani Art Museum to be known as “the education museum.” He intended that the museum’s distinguished collection of artworks would serve as an educational resource for both Niagara University and the communities of the Greater Niagara region. Currents: Movements in Western Art Since 1830 marked an important first step toward this vision.
Currents reintroduced the riches of the museum’s collection to our audiences while highlighting the major trends in modern and contemporary art. It provided both a stunning visual experience for visitors and an opportunity to celebrate the permanent collection’s importance as an educational resource that can be used to teach about a broad range of artistic movements and styles.
To facilitate this large undertaking, three of our museum staff members worked together as the exhibition’s curatorial team. Kathleen Fraas, our registrar, has an intimate knowledge of the permanent collection like no other. She worked side by side with Mr. Castellani to create the first online inventory of the collection. Her deep understanding and appreciation of the collection has greatly facilitated the selection process for the 150 artworks included in Currents.
Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Michael Beam, also worked on the selection process and is responsible for the exhibition’s unique look. Through Beam’s imaginative vision, the exhibition served as a piece of installation art in its own right. Works were hung salon-style in an exuberant wave-pattern on all three walls of the museum’s monumental central gallery. This approach to the installation suggested the energy and excitement felt by art lovers, and salon-goers, during the emergence of modernism.
Many visitors experienced the exhibition on a purely visual level—as a tidal wave of art. Others took advantage of the printed materials created by Beam and our Education Coordinator Marian Granfield. Visitor handouts will provide an introductory summary of twenty-two art movements for visitors who would like to explore the worlds of modern and contemporary art a bit further. Over the next several years, the CAM planned exhibitions that explored a number of artists, artistic movements, and concepts introduced by Currents.
This exhibition featured over 150 works from the Castellani Art Museum’s permanent collection installed in a chronological timeline, highlighting significant art movements and visual trends from the 1830s to today. A world-class collection such as the Castellani Art Museum’s, is the sum of all its parts. The scope and range of the collection, established by Armand and Eleanor Castellani, expanded by the Castellani family, and enhanced by the generosity of numerous donors offers the opportunity to present this exhibition on a grand scale.
The salon-style installation showcased a significant number of artworks on view simultaneously. The richness of this visual experience presentd visitors with a fresh approach to modern and contemporary art and an innovative way to look at art history. Currents featured works from the collection not previously, or not recently, shown. Exhibiting rarely seen works provides our museum audiences with a powerful sense of the wide scope of the museum’s holdings. Accompanying the exhibition were visitor handouts featuring twenty–two significant periods in art history; from Impressionism and the Hudson River School to Contemporary and Post-Modern art trends.
Our society is faced with a crisis of culture. Economic fluctuations and shifts in cultural priorities have left the arts, visual and otherwise, in the back seat. Opportunities to gain exposure to the arts and explore creativity are in steep decline. With this exhibition, the Castellani Art Museum invited audiences to revisit the visual arts experience.
This exhibition was made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency; and generous support from the Castellani Family.
Click here to access a digital copy of the exhibit catalog.