The former Snite Museum of Art will be reborn as the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art on Nov. 30. Classically designed by the award-winning Robert A. M. Stern Architects, the 70,000-square-foot facility will allow for innovative exhibition strategies and encourage ongoing dialogues with works of art. The November opening will mark the completion of the first phase of the two-part building project.
The new museum’s location will serve as a gateway to Notre Dame’s expanding arts district, joining the Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Matthew and Joyce Walsh Family Hall of Architecture and O’Neill Hall of Music.
“The opening of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art promises to be a transformational experience for the University as well as the entire region and national arts audiences,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art. “The storied and celebrated collections have been thoughtfully addressed and reinstalled in a majestic new home where tradition and innovation, the classic and the contemporary meet.”
The state-of-the-art galleries will promote a culture of learning and discovery with reimagined perspectives on the museum’s collections and significant new acquisitions by acclaimed international artists that will be announced in early fall. The museum will present its holdings in fresh ways that will speak to the history of art across the globe while furthering a broader and more diverse understanding of contemporary culture.
“Great art has through the ages expressed what is highest in human experience, provided insights and offered a pathway to the divine,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art brings to our campus and to our region a home for great works of art that will inspire, instruct, challenge and lead us to God.”
Raclin Murphy’s historically thematic galleries unfold around a multi-level atrium that rises to a central skylight. On the main level, visitors will experience the theme of “Time: Nature” through European and American art created between 1700 and 1900 and encounter a diverse collection of African art dating from 2000 B.C. to the present day. Additional highlights of the main level include decorative arts, a teaching gallery, learning commons for K-12 audiences and families, a cafe and a bookshop.
An important feature is a suite of galleries devoted to the Indigenous Art of the Americas. The Mesoamerican collection is one of the museum’s flagship holdings. Among the strongest collection of objects from the Formative period (1800 B.C. to A.D. 200) in the United States, it features works by Olmec, Tlatilco, Chupícuaro and West Mexican artists, significant pieces by Teotihuacano and Maya artists, and contemporary artists who draw inspiration from ancient cultures to emphasize the impact of the past on today’s world. The Native North American gallery highlights historic and contemporary voices and visions.
The galleries continue on the second level and feature art from Europe and the Spanish Americas from the 14th through 17th centuries organized around the theme of “Spirit: Matter.” Surrounding a chapel named Mary, Queen of Families, the galleries are divided into four sections: worship (public and private devotion), tenets of Christian faith, morality and evangelization. Vincenzo Spisanelli’s monumental canvas “Noli Me Tangere” (1640), the only example of the artist’s work in a public collection in the United States, is the centerpiece of the tenets of Christian faith gallery.
A transitional space connects the European suite to Indigenous Art of the Americas, sparking dialogue about the confluence of cultures and its impact on art. The second level also includes spacious galleries for temporary exhibitions.
The museum’s lower level introduces visitors to international modern and contemporary art. Iconic works from Joan Miró to Zhang Huan and Grace Hartigan to Magdalena Abakanowicz are featured. A unique feature at the center is a multi-story sculpture court. The third level will house education and research spaces and an art makers studio.
Located in the nine-acre Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, the building is situated to harmonize with the landscape and allow for the continued growth of the museum’s outdoor sculpture collection. The park installation will feature new acquisitions by Sir Anthony Caro, Dietrich Klinge, Clement Meadmore, Louise Nevelson, Beverly Pepper and Ursula von Rydingsvard among others and provide a new environment for works by Deborah Butterfield, Peter Randall-Page and George Rickey. The park’s designer, Michael Van Valkenburgh, has been retained for the horticultural design to ensure integrity and harmony in the relationship of the museum to the environment.
“The new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art nurtures an ongoing culture of learning through art. The museum provides a vibrant new home for permanent collections together with space for events and temporary exhibitions that will bring the campus and community together. Unique among university museums, the visitor experience includes a fluid dialogue between the Raclin Murphy’s exhibits and the outdoor works displayed in the adjacent Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park,” Melissa DelVecchio, partner at Robert A. M. Stern Architects, said.
The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art’s second phase will be a 62,000-square-foot complex dedicated to research with additional galleries and space for teaching, a works-on-paper study center, administrative and curatorial offices, open collections storage and an auditorium. Timing for construction of the second phase is to be determined.
The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art makes an essential contribution to Notre Dame’s strategy as a global Catholic research university for the 21st century,” John T. McGreevy, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, said. “The stunning exhibition spaces and the luminous works of art they contain will captivate us with their beauty, spark important conversations in the classroom and beyond and enable us to think in new ways about our past, present and future. Located at the entrance to our storied campus, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art will attract new visitors from across the country while continuing to enrich the lives of our community members, our students and our faculty through the transformative power of art.”
The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art’s historically important holdings are among the largest and most significant collections of any academic museum in the United States and serve as an important resource for students, faculty and visitors from across the country. Nearly 11,000 K-12 students and 12,000 Notre Dame students visited the Snite Museum of Art each year, with 91 percent of the 2022 graduating class stating that they had used the museum for a class, research project or program. The new Raclin Murphy building will allow additional space and opportunities for enhanced learning.
Ernestine Raclin and her daughter and son-in-law Carmen and Chris Murphy are the lead benefactors of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art.
Like the Snite Museum of Art, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art will be free and open to the public and continue to host a broad array of temporary exhibitions. For more information, visit raclinmurphymuseum.nd.edu.
Originally published by ndworks.nd.edu on July 10, 2023.at