press release

In the Company of Artists: 25 Years of Artists-in-Residence
October 17, 2019–January 20, 2020

In the Company of Artists: 25 Years of Artists-in-Residence is an exhibition celebrating the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s legacy of inviting artists to live on-site, explore the collection, and create new works inspired by their experience. The exhibition features work from Artists-in-Residence including Sophie Calle, Bharti Kher, Luisa Lambri, Laura Owens, Rachel Perry, Dayanita Singh, and Su-Mei Tse. In selecting seven women artists for the exhibition, the Museum recognizes and furthers the legacy of its founder—a woman with a bold creative spirit, who championed the artists of her own time.

“In the Company of Artists reminds us that Isabella’s tradition of inviting artists to experience the collection and beauty of the Museum lives on here every day,” said Pieranna Cavalchini, the Tom and Lisa Blumenthal Curator of Contemporary Art. “We call it the gift of time: time to draw, write, and imagine new work. Artists who live on the property have a unique perspective on the Museum and are given special access to the collection and inner workings of the institution. Bringing different minds from many cultures and using the Museum—what many have called Isabella’s total work of art—as a building block for new thinking and creative engagement is a unique part of the Gardner legacy.”

Many of the artists in the exhibition drew inspiration from the Gardner itself—its collections, environment, and history. Laura Owens’s watercolor and pencil work reinterprets a 17th-century Spanish embroidery; Sophie Calle’s What Do You See? series responds to the infamous 1990 Gardner Museum theft; and Rachel Perry’s Halos is inspired by the Museum’s abundance of religious paintings and sculptures. Other artists have been re-energized by their time at the Museum. Their residencies and the immersive environment of the Museum led to creative renewal for Bharti Kher, Luisa Lambri, Dayanita Singh, and Su-Mei Tse.

The Gardner is one of the only museums in the world to welcome artists to live and work in apartments on-site so that they may experience the collection in personal and intimate ways. Since its inception, the Gardner Museum has been a haven for artists of all disciplines. In her time, Isabella Stewart Gardner nurtured and supported many creative minds—inviting them to activate the galleries through their work, ranging from painting to performances of music and dance to literary readings. John Singer Sargent is considered the Museum’s first Artist-in-Residence, since Isabella Stewart Gardner invited him to live at the Museum and use the Gothic Room as his studio in 1903. In 1992, the Museum’s then-Director, Anne Hawley, started the Artist-in-Residence program as a way to connect more directly with artists and re-energize the Museum with the founder’s creative spirit.

“During Isabella’s lifetime, she surrounded herself with artists of every discipline and saw her Museum as a vibrant space for concerts, performances, salons, and creativity in many forms,” said Peggy Fogelman, the Museum’s Norma Jean Calderwood Director. “This exhibition celebrates her legacy and 25 years of our Artist-in-Residence program, which has become an incredibly rewarding partnership between the Museum and artists from around the world.”

In addition to the exhibition on display in Hostetter Gallery, the Museum will host a three-day film series.