Our city needs little excuse to host a celebration. The year 2018 gave great cause for festivity as New Orleans marked the 300th anniversary of its founding. Three centuries ago, the site of today’s New Orleans Museum of Art was a intersection of high-ground portages, a few miles inland from a fledgling French-colonial outpost, where peoples from multiple continents, representing the greatest array of ethnic identities, crossed paths. Their daily interaction unwittingly laid the foundation for a city that would become one of the world’s great cultural capitals. Today, NOMA serves as a nexus of another sort, where the inheritors of that long-ago melding of traditions can gather to share the common bond of creative expression.
2018 gave NOMA the opportunity to revel in the joie de vivre that defines our free-spirited community while also reflecting on more somber chapters of the past. Our lineup of major exhibitions began with A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, a flamboyant display of fashion—a first for NOMA—with underlying themes of feminism, body positivity, and environmentalism.
Couture gave way to a historical tableau of installations in our summerlong exhibition, Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories. Seven contemporary installations, most of them drawn from our permanent collection or commissioned to emerging and established local artists for the occasion, focused on forgotten or marginalized histories of the city. The thematic stories ranged from the UpStairs Lounge arson of 1973 and the alteration of a historically African American neighborhood during the construction of Interstate 10 to the life and work of evangelist, musician, and artist Sister Gertrude Morgan and a photo series symbolically depicting aspirations to overcome inequality in education.
We capped off the year with one of NOMA’s most ambitious curatorial feats — a first-ever reunion of paintings and sculpture formerly in the possession of Philippe II, the Duke of Orléans and namesake of New Orleans. Hailed as one of the greatest assemblages of Western art and showcased in the Duke’s Parisian palace for much of the eighteenth century, the heir to this unrivaled trove of masterpieces liquidated the collection in the 1790s. More than 700 works have since been globally dispersed to private and public hands. NOMA undertook a multiyear effort to bring 40 works to New Orleans, loaned from 38 institutions, by such luminaries as Rembrandt, Rubens, Veronese and Valentin, many of which had never before been displayed outside of Europe. The Orléans Collection drew international acclaim and helped boost our attendance numbers, which topped 300,00 by year’s end, the third highest in NOMA’s history.
Beyond our galleries, other exciting projects were launched in 2018. NOMA+, a mobile, custom-designed “museum without walls” debuted following input from numerous stakeholders. With the goal of offering encounters with art and hands-on workshops in locations across the metro region, NOMA+ energizes public perception of the role of NOMA within the community. Meanwhile, on six acres surrounding a lagoon to the immediate north of the museum, an expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden got underway, marking the largest capital project for NOMA in more than 15 years. Before
construction crews arrived, a meticulously detailed study of environmental sustainability was commissioned, ensuring that these six acres would be home not only to 27 new works of art but also a thriving native Louisiana ecosystem.
From a mere nine paintings collected for the Museum’s opening in 1911, NOMA’s permanent collection has grown to surpass 40,000 objects. Acquisitions in 2018 included Willem van Mieris’s An African Woman, made possible through the Alvin and Carol Merlin Acquisition Fund, and Angelique, a rare painting by New Orleans-born artist Leopold Burthe, acquired through the generosity of Michael and Susie McLoughlin. Our Latin American collection was greatly enhanced by the donation from Nia Terezakis of more than 40 works. The photography collection added 345 prints by Bruce Davidson spanning five decades, from 1958 to 2006, along with works by such renowned photographers as Birney Imes, Gordon Parks, Holly Lay, and Yasuhiro Ishimoto. Our vibrant decorative arts galleries were redesigned to showcase art and design across a variety of materials and centuries, including, for the first time, 20th century contemporary design, including newly acquired chairs by Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen. New acquisitions formed the basis of several exhibitions, including works by under-represented contemporary artists in Ear to the Ground: Earth and Element in Contemporary Art and Edo-period paintings in Teaching Beyond Doctrine: Painting and Calligraphy by Zen Masters.
With a mission of “creating community,” the calendar was filled with a variety of events appealing to the broadest range of cultures, communities, and age groups. NOMA’s imaginative team in the Learning and Engagement Department scheduled fashion shows, a “Hamiltunes” singalong based on the Broadway sensation Hamilton, artist talks, indoor and outdoor theater productions, book discussions, youth summer camps and studio workshops, dance lessons, mindfulness classes, and movie/documentary series focusing on female Spanish and West African filmmakers, the history of collecting, and cultural practices unique to New Orleans. The Helis Foundation generously supported free admission for teens, along with free Wednesdays for Louisiana residents. Outreach to our youngest visitors included the Mini Masters, a collaborative arts integration program for pre-kindergarten students featuring works of art from our collections and exhibtions, and Baby ArtsPlay!, a series workshops for caregivers and children, ages newborn to 3, that foster developmental growth.
From art acquisitions and the mounting of exhibitions to thoughtfully designed programs, all of our operations were made possible by the generosity of our community. Donors gave more than $640,000 to support our three major exhibitions. The NOMA Volunteer Committee (NVC) raised more than $1.17 million in support for NOMA, and we witnessed a 10 percent increase in the number of member households. A full list of donors may be found within this digital record.
2018 was indeed a history-making year for both the Museum and our city. My introduction is but a brief overview, and I invite you to visit all the pages of our Annual Report for the reasons behind our pride and our current status as we look forward to the future.
Susan M. Taylor
The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director
From its very founding more than 300 years ago, New Orleans has been a city of visionaries. The audacity of establishing a trading post in a swampy wilderness along an untamed river required founders who believed in defying the odds. That undaunted resolve to pursue grand goals has come to define our community, and nowhere is that more evident than at our city’s flagship arts institution. It was my honor to serve as President of the Board of Trustees for the New Orleans Museum of Art throughout the Tricentennial year of 2018, a time when the museum sought to reflect upon our shared past while charging ahead with bold ideas for the future.
In this first-ever solely digital Annual Report for the Museum, you will find ample evidence of an auspicious year gone by, from the acquisition of treasures to be preserved for posterity and exceptional exhibitions that drew record crowds, to the debut of an innovative mobile museum that served audiences beyond our walls. Work began to double the size of the renowned Besthoff Sculpture Garden,
creating a yearlong anticipation of great things to come. After more than a century of operation, NOMA is selectively expanding its collection of more than 40,000 objects to more broadly reflect the community the museum serves. Our partnerships with numerous entities across the city led to increased diversity of programming, allowing all visitors to find a connection to their heritage and the invigorating power of artistic expression from ancient times to the present day.
Gratitude is extended to generous donors who gave of their time, expertise, art, and philanthropic support to ensure that NOMA maintains an unrivaled collection in a world-class facility within a city known around the world for its free-spirited creativity. As we close out the second decade of this century, 2018 will be remembered not only as a year of marking a civic milestone, but one that set the stage for new ways of connecting a museum to a city, with each drawing inspiration from the other.
Michael J. Siegel
2018 President of the Board of Trustees