Salon Wall Display Increases Amount of Work on View

The Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art has over 3,000 pieces of art in its collection and, like most museums, is only able to exhibit a fraction of it at one time. As a way to share more of the collection with visitors and to incorporate works outside of the collection’s primary focus of American art, in 2021 the AKMA created a new exhibition area after reevaluating the permanent collection exhibition. This led to the creation of the Salon Wall near the entrance to the museum.

This style of display draws on a historical tradition. Salon-style hanging got its name from the Royal Academy salon in 17th-century Paris. Using as much wall space as possible, works by students and masters of the Academy filled great rooms. Walls covered floor to ceiling allowed the display of the maximum amount of work, but sometimes led to disagreements and feuds as artists argued over whose work received the best wall space. This method of display was predominant in European academies and museums until the beginning of the 20th century, when modern artists and curators began hanging artworks only at eye level and more widely spaced.

On view for a year at a time, this space features 35-45 artworks drawn from all areas of the collection and includes pieces of diverse geographical origins, media and subject matter. Visitors are given the opportunity to see works that may not have been on view for years. Interesting connections are developed when works as varied as Japanese prints, contemporary American watercolors and modern Native American masks are juxtaposed in unexpected ways. The entire museum staff participates in selecting artwork each year, allowing it to reflect a range of individual interests and preferences.

The current Salon Wall opened in November 2023. Among the 37 works are etchings by Jamie Wyeth and Austrian printmaker Ludwig Michalek; an abstract acrylic by Dan Christensen; architectural studies from Edmund Eckel; and a watercolor painting of Jesse James’ home by St. Joseph artist Harrison Hartley. Visitors can compare mid-20th-century landscapes by Mildred Hammond, John William Hilton and Nikolai Timkov. The wide variety of work on view has been an asset for educational programs. Alex Asher, Director of Education, commented, “We use it a lot in Collection Connection classes. Whatever we are studying is represented there.”

The Salon Wall also helps to encourage new ways of looking at the museum as a whole. “We find visitors taking time to compare works to find a favorite, share thoughts with friends, and engage deeper,” observed Executive Director, Eric Fuson. “The location at the front of the gallery helps set this slower pace for their entire museum experience.”

To learn more about the AKMA’s permanent collection and upcoming exhibitions, visit www.albrecht-kemper.org.

Financial assistance provided by the St. Joseph, Missouri Visitors Bureau.

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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