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BCMA exhibition illuminates Wyvern Collection

October 2, 2020

Bryant Ung
Medieval Times: On Wednesday, the BCMA held two events dedicated to its recent exhibition, “New Views of the Middle Ages: Highlights from the Wyvern Collection," which features pieces from one the world's most important medieval art collections.

On Wednesday, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History Kate Gerry gave two talks about her recent exhibition on the Wyvern Collection—one of the most important privately owned  medieval art collections in the world. The Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) secured a long-term loan of 100 of its objects through an anonymous lender.

“I think that the owner of the collection recognizes that Bowdoin could provide access and an opportunity to contextualize those objects, both in terms of what is already known about them and the era, but also in terms of facilitating new research into them,” said Anne Collins Goodyear, co-director of the BCMA, in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Gerry is the curator of the current BCMA exhibition, “New Views of the Middle Ages: Highlights from the Wyvern Collection.” The exhibition has both physical components at the Museum and virtual components on the BCMA website, as the Museum is currently closed to the public due to social distancing regulations at the College. The pieces are almost entirely from the Wyvern Collection, with the exception of four pieces owned by the Museum that were selected to  contrast with the other items.

The Wyvern Collection was first highlighted in a pop-up show during graduation festivities for the class of 2019, but “New Views of the Middle Ages”  is the first full exhibition featuring the Collection.

While the Museum is not open to the general public, members of the community can interact with the Museum through many initiatives created by Museum staff and students of the College—from online exhibitions to  live-streamed lectures.

Claire Traum ’21 and Lucy Siegel ’22  moderated a short discussion with Gerry on Wednesday about her work with the Wyvern Collection. This was the second installment of the “Art Up Close” webinar series. Traum and Siegel, who started the series, intend to give the Bowdoin community an opportunity to focus on specific pieces from the Museum’s extensive collections.

“The first webinar went really well, so we’re excited to continue them with more student leaders,” said Siegel in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

“We’re trying really hard to keep them short, 15-30 minutes, because we know people have Zoom fatigue,” added Traum in a Zoom interview with the Orient “Overall, we’re on track for the semester and hope more students come over time. I’m really excited for the webinars to come, all led by students.”

During the webinar last Wednesday, Gerry gave a short introduction to the exhibition and then focused on a heraldic coat of arms on an Armorial Gemellion, which provided her an avenue to discuss some of the exhibition’s main themes: material and technique, trade and the global network of the medieval world and art as a tool for defining, expressing and even creating one’s identity.

“One of the things that I think is really nice about the show is that pretty much all of those themes can be elucidated in all of the works of art,” said Gerry in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

In an hour-long event hosted by the BCMA later Wednesday evening, Gerry gave a deeper analysis of the exhibition. This discussion, moderated by Goodyear, gave a more thorough breakdown of the exhibition, such as the use of metal and stone in Collection pieces.

“It has been a huge pleasure to be part of a multi-faceted collaboration on this exhibition—and that show represents an opportunity to think on and different innovative ways about how to introduce the art and culture of the medieval world,” she said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Throughout both discussions, Gerry highlighted student contributions to the exhibition—most notably from an Art History seminar in the fall of 2019, for which students contributed short essays to the “New Views of the Middle Ages” exhibitions catalog.

The next “Art Up Close” webinar will be led by Brooke Wrubel ’21, an art history major, on Wednesday, October 28, in which she will discuss her work within the Edward Perry Warren Collection.


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