If you’re expecting some “Night at the Museum”-style shenanigans at the New Orleans Museum of Art’s annual Louisiana Late Night event on Friday, Aug. 14, you’re going to be disappointed.
The suit of Japanese armor on the third floor isn’t going to come to life and march downstairs for a cocktail, and an animatronic Marie Antoinette isn’t going to step out of her ornate gold frame in the 18th-century, French paintings gallery and offer visitors a piece of cake.
But there will be plenty of other great things going on in this celebration of Louisiana art and culture.
In addition to a full schedule of music, gallery talks, tours, family art activities and a film screening, the open-til-midnight event will serve as a showcase for “A Louisiana Parlor: Antebellum Style and Context.”
The exhibition, which opened in late June, focuses on an elaborate and remarkably preserved 19th-century room from the Butler-Greenwood plantation in St. Francisville along with material about its conservation and greater sociological significance in the pre- and post-Civil War South.
For Mel Buchanan, NOMA’s new RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Louisiana Late Night is a perfect occasion for visitors to explore the richness and depths of its decorative arts collection as a whole.
“Many people in New Orleans already know that NOMA has a fantastic decorative arts collection,” Buchanan said. “What we’re trying to do here now is find new ways to display it to better tell the stories behind the works.”
Those methods, Buchanan said, involve creating new galleries (NOMA’s new decorative arts galleries, currently under construction, are scheduled to open in 2016), as well as juxtaposing objects with similarly-themed paintings and other artworks in other spaces throughout the museum. (The excellent “Orientalism: Taking and Making” installation on the museum’s second floor, which explores the complex and often problematic layers of artistic influence and cultural appropriation in the 19th-century Western vogue for all things East Asian and “exotic,” is an example of the latter.)
Visitors to NOMA on Louisiana Late Night — or any other time, for that matter — can begin to explore the museum’s decorative arts collection through five key objects that Buchanan has chosen as a self-guided tour for Advocate readers.
“There are so many wonderful things in this collection,” Buchanan said. “And I hope the parlor can serve as a starting point for getting to know more about them.”