19th-century sculpture collection gallery; Photo: Tom Little, 2012

Carnegie Museum of Art Reinstallation an Act of Storytelling

Newly-reinstalled 19th-century galleries highlight major works

Pittsburgh, PA…On September 14, 2012, Carnegie Museum of Art will open its newly-reinstalled 19th-century galleries of European and American art. These four galleries have been closed since May 2012. Visitors to the galleries will discover a shift in the way that the museum presents this particularly strong part of its permanent collection.

Bright, skylit spaces will showcase some of the museum’s most significant works, with galleries organizing artworks around the social and historical contexts from which they arose. “Each collection—great and small—gives us a part of the larger history of art, and tells the unique story of its own development,” said Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art. “CMA’s new installations will emphasize our uniqueness, highlight major works, and attempt to make the art as accessible and compelling as possible.” Among the changes, art will hang in a less-dense arrangement than in some of the previous salon-style galleries, and the thematic arrangement of artworks is a departure from the prior chronological approach.

Each gallery encompasses a view of the museum’s 19th-century collection strengths: sculpture, Impressionism, the Aesthetic movement, and realist works. New walls subdivide galleries, grouping works into close-knit themes. Wall texts written collaboratively by a group of curators, and educators explore these themes with an eye to history, ideas, and attitudes shaping the visual language of the period. New lighting and casework will allow for more flexible display of photography and works on paper—a welcome change that will better-integrate the museum’s recently-created Department of Photography. “The redesign of our core permanent collection galleries provides an engaging integration of paintings, sculpture, photography, and decorative arts,” said Jason Busch, Chief Curator and The Alan G. and Jane A. Lehman Curator of Decorative Arts. “This approach has been informed by visitor response to the Carnegie collection and the museum’s vision, balancing our rich history and aspirations.”

According to longtime curator of fine arts Louise Lippincott, “This is the fourth time I have reinstalled the collection. Each time, the growth of the collection, new perspectives on art history, and innovations in the museum field have stimulated a fresh approach.”

Each object has its own story to tell, and the object texts will provide visitors with fascinating background information on the object’s context and often how the work came to the museum. As a whole, these reinstalled galleries display more than art—they tell the story of a major institution and its collecting history. “They take us back to the origins of the museum in the ethos of the 1890s,” says Lippincott, “reflecting Pittsburgh’s industrial wealth and the philanthropic ideals of Andrew Carnegie.”

The reinstallation is the first step in a larger examination of Carnegie Museum of Art’s extensive collection. In the spring of 2013, the museum’s modern and contemporary art will be reinstalled and reinterpreted for the public in connection with the upcoming 2013 Carnegie International, which opens in October 2013.

Scaife Galleries

  • Architect: Edward Larrabee Barnes
  • Opened in 1974, adding 155,000 square feet of gallery space – the reinstalled galleries total 11,000 square feet
  • Major renovation completed in August 2003, including replacing skylights, improved climate control, and updated security systems and technology infrastructure
  • The four newly reinstalled galleries feature  150 works of painting, sculpture, photography, and decorative arts


The Scaife Galleries at Carnegie Museum of Art house the museum’s important permanent collection, emphasizing 19th-century French and American painting and sculpture, works of modern and contemporary art, and selections from the decorative arts collection, which is chiefly housed in the museum’s Ailsa Mellon Bruce Galleries. The Scaife Galleries also include Gallery One, a space designed for exhibitions of light-sensitive works on paper.

This addition to the museum’s 1907 Beaux-Arts building was a Gift to the Carnegie Institute by the Scaife Foundation in memory of Mrs. Sarah Mellon Scaife.

Support for the reinstallation and reinterpretation of the Scaife galleries was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.