Jackson Pollock's 'Number 1 (Lavender Mist)' will be featured in the Clark Art Institute exhibit that opens on Saturday, Aug. 2.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Call it the Clark Art Institute Phase 2.1.
The original plan for the museum's expansion called for a grand opening that featured two exhibits in the Clark's new special exhibition spaces along with renovated and improved gallery spaces devoted to 19th century and Old Masters paintings and the decorative arts.
That plan got scaled back when the Clark and the National Gallery of Art decided to delay the opening of a traveling exhibit of abstract expressionism.
On Saturday, the new Clark finally presents "Make It New: Abstract Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, 1950-1975."
Last month's opening of the rest of the Clark's expansion was plenty to take in, but on Saturday the true capabilities of the new Clark Center will be utilized as the works of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and more take over the subterranean gallery in the Tadao Ando designed building.
The exhibition is co-curated by the curator of modern art at the Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Harry Cooper, and David Breslin, the Clark's associate curator of contemporary projects.
Breslin's title alone is indicative of the Clark's expanded scope, an expansion that the physical expansion unveiled this summer allows the museum to explore.
"I think if you would have asked me five years ago and we were doing the Juan Munoz exhibit, people would have been very surprised that the Clark had a curator of contemporary projects," Breslin said earlier this summer. "But I think people are getting used to the idea that with this new architecture it brings us opportunities to not change our mission but expand it."
Breslin said it's a sign of how seriously the Clark takes its new direction that it created a position to shepherd exhibitions like "Make It New."
And he thinks Clark patrons more familiar with Renoir than Rothko have accepted the museum's exploration of 20th — and even 21st — century art at the Lunder Center at Stone Hill.
Thousands of those patrons have come back to the Clark after a two-year closure of the 1955 original museum to see Impressionist works that went on a world tour during the renovation.
Breslin said those patrons may not think of the Clark as a bastion of modern art, but they are open to the possibility.
"As a place for research, it's not that very different from what we've done before," he said. "Given the seriousness of the artists we work with and the seriousness on our part of bringing in great people like Cooper and Michael Brenson [essayist on the catalog to the David Smith exhibit at Stone Hill this summer], people are like, no, that makes sense that you're doing that now."