3 is a Magic Number
NOMA greets its record-breaking 300,000th visitor in 2018
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) set a new visitation goal in 2018, and on Sunday, Dec. 9, it achieved that goal and welcomed its 300,000th annual visitor during the city’s Tricentennial Year.
That achievement marks three consecutive years of surpassing visitation goals for the museum. Attendance increased from 240,000 visitors in 2015 to nearly 260,000 in 2016. In 2017, annual attendance rose by 12 percent to 291,000 visitors. The guests to date in 2018 top 300,000 and come from more than 60 different countries.
“I want to honor and thank everyone who has visited NOMA, and as a result, supported this important institution,” said Susan Taylor, NOMA’s Montine McDaniel Freeman director, in a press release. “You are making certain NOMA will remain a critical community asset by presenting exceptional exhibitions and fulfilling the role of cultural convener in our city.”
It’s nice to be honored and thanked. I visited NOMA multiple times this year, as I do every year, and I was especially impressed with the 2018 exhibitions. The museum presented 18 exhibitions in 2018 in addition to its permanent galleries. It also increased its programming in order to attract new and returning audiences. NOMA’s event calendar was filled with film series, gallery talks with featured and visiting artists, and small talks led by NOMA’s expert staff, curators and docents.
My favorite exhibition was "Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories." It showcased seven contemporary artists, each encouraging the viewer to see New Orleans through a range of perspectives. The immersive rooms allowed for thoughtful exposure to the works. I particularly loved Lesley Dill’s "Hell Hell Hell / Heaven Heaven Heaven: Encountering Sister Gertrude Morgan," which celebrated the New Orleans’ preacher’s words with larger-than-life text. Skylar Fein’s "Remember the Upstairs Lounge" pulled at the heartstrings and shared the stories of those who perished in the French Quarter fire, while reminding us that the fight for social justice goes on. Then, installed in the Great Hall where no one would miss at least some of the images, were photos from L. Kasimu Harris’s ongoing work, "War on the Benighted." Featuring actual students in New Orleans, the images wove a narrative of revolution, agency and empowerment, communicating the ongoing challenges in access and education in New Orleans.
Another innovative and popular exhibition was "A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes," which included more than 50 international fashion designers and over 100 pieces. The installation asked viewers to investigate symbols of womanhood and see the avant-garde pieces as wearable art.
A gorgeous exhibit of Carlos Rolòn called "Outside/In" brought Latin American and Caribbean gardens, architecture and street scenes into NOMA. The installation was a wonderful addition to the year and informed guests about many of the close connections New Orleans shares with our neighbors to the south.
Unfortunately, all of those exhibitions have closed. But visit NOMA before Jan. 27, 2019 and you can still see its capstone Tricentennial event, "The Orléans Collection." The first of its kind, the exhibit presents pieces on loan from the renowned collection of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who lived from 1689-1723. The Duke was the namesake for our fair city, the result of a calculated move by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to name the new French outpost after his Regent. Being royal has its privileges, and Philippe II amassed a collection that includes paintings by Vasari, Veronese, Poussin, Rubens and Rembrandt. We plebeians can benefit from the exhibition and the new scholarly catalogue that was created to accompany it.
Next year, NOMA will herald the opening of the expansion of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which will increase from five to 11 acres of outdoor sculptures set amid beautiful landscaping. New structures will also be part of the expansion and visitors can look forward to an outdoor amphitheatre, bridges and walkways, a sculpture pavilion and an outdoor learning environment.
Also in 2019, a new exhibition by conceptual artist Keith Sonnier called "Until Today" will open in March, and I’m really excited to see the exhibition of tintype photography by Timothy Duffy called "Blue Muse" that will premier in April.
Visit NOMA’s website for admission information and museum hours. Admission is free every Wednesday to Louisiana residents courtesy of The Helis Foundation.