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Kimbell Art Museum Creates iPad App Featuring Permanent Collection

The Kimbell Art Museum announces the creation of a new iPad app that features conservation information on 32 works in the Museum’s esteemed collection. The free app will be available on 20 iPads, which Museum visitors can borrow and use in the galleries during the anniversary exhibition The Kimbell at 40: An Evolving Masterpiece, opening on October 7, 2012. “Conservation is one of the most important and fascinating things we do here at the Kimbell, and it’s so rare that we have the opportunity to share this type of behind-the-scenes information with our visitors,” commented Eric M. Lee, the Museum’s director. “With the iPad app, we’re able to deliver in-depth research, descriptive images and intriguing discoveries too extensive to be included on the gallery wall labels, in an innovative format that allows for personalized exploration of the collection.”

In addition to the restoration of paintings carried out by Claire Barry, director of conservation, and her colleagues, extensive technical studies have been conducted on many of the works in the Museum’s collection. For Instance, when they examined Guercino’s Christ and the Woman of Samaria, artist’s changes (pentimenti) in the position of Christ’s outstretched hand, discovered through X-radiography, revealed the artist’s characteristic preoccupation with the placement of this significant gesture. “Seeing evidence of Guercino’s repainting of Christ’s hand underscores the importance of gesture for the artist. It also establishes the Kimbell’s painting as Guercino’s prime version of this important composition,” said Barry.

An impressive selection of conservation discoveries are featured on the app, including insights into artists’ techniques and materials, pentimenti, and earlier restoration efforts, which have all been revealed through X-radiographs, infrared reflectograms, and close-up examinations of paintings’ surfaces. In addition, stamps, labels, and signatures that provide details regarding a painting’s history or confirm its attribution are also explored. For each featured artwork, between three and eight large, zoomable images accompany the text describing the conservation discoveries; many of these demonstrate the transformation of restored Kimbell works with before-and-after photographs.

As visitors walk through the galleries, they can look for magnifying-glass icons printed on the labels of selected works of art and, while standing in front of the featured masterpiece, access the corresponding entry in the conservation app. The app will feature 31 paintings—including works by Caravaggio, Monet and Picasso, as well as recent acquisitions by Michelangelo, Bonington, Guercino and Poussin—and one sculpture, a striking Pre-Angkor stone image of the Hindu god Harihara from Cambodia.

The iPad app was developed by Level Ten Interactive in Dallas, Texas.

Conservation at the Kimbell

From the very start, the founders of the Kimbell Art Museum envisioned a conservation program to “preserve for future generations what has been entrusted to its care.” In 1971, Rick Brown, the Museum’s first director, hired Perry Huston as the Kimbell’s first paintings conservator. Huston advised on the final layout of the studio and cared for the Kimbell collection over the next 12 years. In 1984, Claire Barry, a protégé of John Brealey at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was appointed the Kimbell’s first full-time paintings conservator and today is the Museum’s director of conservation. In 1992, the Kimbell Art Museum partnered with the neighboring Amon Carter Museum of American Art to initiate a joint paintings conservation department based in the Kimbell conservation studio that continues to the present day. Because Kahn designed one of the first museum conservation studios to be visible to the public, visitors to the Kimbell’s east gallery can sometimes glimpse the professionals at work through the glass walls that surround the adjacent courtyard.

The Kimbell at 40: An Evolving Masterpiece is on view at the Kimbell Art Museum from October 7 to December 30, 2012. The Kimbell will showcase the largest-ever display of its world-renowned permanent collection as part of a three-month-long commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of its building, Louis I. Kahn’s modernist masterwork, on October 4, 1972. For this milestone exhibition, more than 220 masterpieces from the collection will be displayed in a unique exhibition throughout the Museum’s galleries. Admission is free.

The Kimbell at 40: An Evolving Masterpiece is organized by the Kimbell Art Museum.

The exhibition is sponsored by The Beck Group, the general contractor for the current Kimbell expansion. In celebration of the Kimbell’s 40th anniversary and Beck’s 100th anniversary, Beck is also providing 40 free buses to transport school children from around North Texas to the Museum during the exhibition. Additional support is provided by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Promotional support is provided by American Airlines, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and NBC5.

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