Monday, December 22, 2008

New Orleans 1885: Art Hall.....

Located on the east side of Live Oak Avenue, south-east of the Main Building, Art Hall was a fire-proof structure constructed entirely of iron, and measured 200 feet wide by 100 feet deep. Originally planned to be slightly larger, with decorative panels on the exterior walls and an octagon-shaped cupola on the roof, time and budget constraints ultimately forced the construction of a smaller and simpler structure. Numerous delays in construction, and arrival of exhibits, prevented Art Hall from opening until February 15th, 1885. Unfortunately, the building’s exterior lacked visual appeal; with a plain column-supported portico at the entrance, and walls of unadorned corrugated sheet-iron. A critic described the building as conveying an impression of substantial strength, rather than of architectural grace. Despite Art Hall's exterior drabness, the spacious interior contained vast amounts of wall area for the display of paintings and other artwork, illuminated by an enormous glass skylight. The abundant natural lighting was supplemented, when necessary, by more than 1,200 Edison incandescent electric lights. The hall's 20,000 square-foot floor-space was partitioned into four areas.....Statuary Hall, Belgian Gallery, Mexican Gallery, and Main Gallery. Located immediately inside the entrance to the building, Statuary Hall contained numerous American and foreign works of art, of bronze and marble. To the left and right of Statuary Hall were located galleries containing art exclusively from the nations of Belgium and Mexico. The Belgian Gallery displayed 130 modern paintings, representing artists from the Brussels Schools and the Belgian Society of Artists. The Mexican Gallery featured 69 historical paintings, covering three centuries of Mexican art, divided into twenty-five year periods. Located in the rear portion of the building was the two-hundred foot-long Main Gallery, in which were displayed 380 contributions from both American and European artists. Altogether, Art Hall contained nearly 900 works of art, consisting of oil-paintings, water-colors, pastels, and charcoals; with sculptures of marble, bronze, plaster, and terra-cotta. The paintings exhibited in Art Hall were selected by a critical art commission from over 2,000 pictures submitted. Critics were favorably impressed by the artworks displayed, and judged Art Hall to be one of the major successes of the exposition.

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