Since February of 2017, the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones University seems to be fast asleep. The news of its temporary closure surprised and disappointed friends and supporters. But while the M&G building may appear dormant, its staff has been more active than ever before. They have recently embarked on a new mission to expand the impact of the M&G’s Collection by loaning the art to other museums.
Continuing the tradition of loaning artwork
While M&G undergoes renovations, museum director Erin Jones has continued loaning paintings to museums in the United States and in foreign countries. Jones reported that the Museum & Gallery will be loaning out paintings to the Greenville County Museum of Art. The pieces will be in the exhibition “Sampling the Old Masters: Highlights from the Bob Jones Museum” (June 13–Dec. 30). Jones and her team are also evaluating possible large loans to museums in Georgia and Washington, D.C.
Internationally, the Paris-based Musée du Luxembourg currently shows the Collection’s Tintoretto piece The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon as part of an exhibition honoring the 500th anniversary of the birth of Tintoretto until July 1.
Jones emphasized that M&G should uphold “a physical presence [in the South Carolina Upstate] to maintain M&G’s relationships with the diverse communities we serve.” Hoping to expand M&G’s opportunities, Jones and her team have continued loaning paintings. Visit the M&G website to learn more about the Collection’s travels.
Additionally, M&G has displayed pieces on the BJU campus. Massive, breathtaking Martin Luther and Reformation paintings are featured in the Atrium of the Gustafson Fine Arts Center. Ancient Egyptian, Roman and Hebrew antiquities are also currently on display in the Mack Library.
Jones reported that after relocating paintings on campus, she contacted the institutions she knew were willing to show M&G artwork. “We’ll continue [loaning artwork] until we’re able to reopen in a new building,” Jones said.
The duration of loans varies from museum to museum. The timing depends both on the Museum & Gallery’s schedule for reopening and on each museum’s exhibition schedule. Jones said that some paintings are scheduled to be on loan for one to two years. Others are scheduled for only three to six months.
Preserving the mission of M&G
“M&G desires to continue [preserving the Collection] to transform lives through fine art by reaching the whole person—heart, mind, and soul,” Jones said.
The Collegian, the student-run newspaper at BJU, reported that M&G served over 46,000 people throughout 2016. Jones is right when she says M&G is reaching people—tens of thousands of them—through art.
M&G’s Collection spans 45 centuries in total, from the infant stages of the Egyptian civilization to the zenith of Britain’s power during the Victorian era. “The art represents thousands of stories and meaningful links to people’s lives and every subject imaginable,” Jones said.
Allowing the artwork to speak for itself
Jones described the art in the Collection as an encounter with beauty. In the rush and self-focus of today’s society, Jones said that people have forgotten to pause and reflect. Art, however, counterbalances this attitude. “Beauty gracefully forces reflection on us,” Jones concluded.
Given the religious nature of M&G’s Old Master paintings, Jones claimed that denying the “spiritual value of the works” is impossible. Jones puts it this way: “[Beauty] is present not only in the physical composition of the painting and artist’s skill of execution, but in the universal messages of the subject matter and symbolism.” Jones also said that the “beautiful messages in paint arrest people’s attention and often confront them with questions needing an answer.”
Following the Creator’s model, Jones said she and the M&G staff want to “allow the art an opportunity to speak for itself because it will make an impact and open doors of witness and opportunity that we couldn’t open for ourselves.” God uses His creation—His artwork—to speak truth. In the same way, the Museum & Gallery uses its artwork to communicate biblical messages in art.
Reaching out through art
As art handlers carefully unpacked a Francesco Granacci panel painting at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., a small crowd gathered around the handlers to observe the process and gasped in awe of the painting. She was able to have conversations with many struck by the beauty of this panel.
“Wherever these works are loaned, the art draws [viewers] back to M&G out of curiosity and a desire to see and know more,” Jones said. This transition has been challenging for the M&G staff. But Jones has good reason to believe that moving the art will help expand M&G’s influence and impact in the following years. To learn more about the Museum & Gallery collection, online resources, and public programming, visit bjumg.org.