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Seattle curator to address Decorative Arts Symposium

| Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008

Excitement is building in the local arts community for the reopening next fall of Carnegie Museum of Art's Ailsa Mellon Bruce galleries, which house the museum's decorative arts collection of more than 7,000 treasured pieces.

Jason T. Busch, the museum's curator of decorative arts, promises to give a sneak preview of his plans for the much-anticipated reinstallation at "Past Meets Present: Innovative Installations of Decorative Arts," at the 31st annual Decorative Arts Symposium presented by the Women's Committee of the Carnegie Museum of Art on Oct. 23.

"We're not ready to reveal it quite yet, but we will give a sneak preview presentation of how we're preparing ourselves. We're so thrilled to be able to use this symposium to reveal what we've been working on the past several years," Busch says.

The curator says he is inspired by the work of Julie Emerson, the curator of decorative arts at the Seattle Art Museum, who will be the featured speaker at the Carnegie symposium. Emerson earned national acclaim for her innovative treatment of Seattle's Porcelain Room, one of several decorative arts galleries she reinstalled as part of a major museum expansion, which opened in May 2007.

She modeled the room after exquisite porcelain arrangements that were typical of 17th-century European royalty, rather than what she calls "the old boring museum approach" of grouping decorative pieces by historical time period or by country of origin. With attention to detail, she designed the gallery space in floor-to-ceiling design with gilding on display brackets, ornamental mirrors and a covered ceiling with a highly decorated Tiepolo fresco to showcase the collection.

"I was sick to death of setting tea tables and cases where people never stopped to look," she says. "Today, almost no one strolls by the room. They walk in, including families and young people. It is the most requested destination at the Seattle museum. Who would have guessed that porcelain would be such a major attraction?"

Busch says Emerson's contemporary installation at the Seattle museum represents a thought-provoking way of looking at decorative arts that not only is visually stunning, but also is engaging, and Pittsburgh's Carnegie is one of many museums that are reexamining the way they display their decorative arts.

"Decorative arts have always been important to this institution and will continue to be," he says. "The point of the symposium is to highlight this innovative installation. We hope this will be the catalyst for interest in the decorative arts. These are objects, an art form, to be celebrated."

In addition to her work at the Seattle Art Museum, Emerson will focus her talk in Pittsburgh on the Oriental Porcelain Gallery in the Zinger Palace, Dresden, Germany, which opened in 2006, and the European trend in porcelain rooms in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Debbie Dick, first vice president of the women's committee and event chair, says that for the first time in its history, the Decorative Arts Symposium will be held in the evening in an effort to appeal to more people.

The evening will begin with registration and light refreshments at 6 p.m. in the main lobby, and will move to the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater at 6:30 p.m., where Busch will give the welcome and introduce Emerson. Following her talk, scheduled from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m., drinks and dessert will be served on the museum's main staircase.

Susanne Wilkinson, women's committee president, says her organization has proclaimed 2008 the "Year of Decorative Arts" to focus on opportunities to learn more about the genre in anticipation of the reopening of the galleries next year.

Additional Information:

Past Meets Present

'Past Meets Present: Innovative Installations of Decorative Arts'

What : 31st annual Decorative Arts Symposium presented by Carnegie Museum of Art's Women's Committee

When : 6 p.m. Oct 23

Admission : $35. Registration deadline is Thursday.

Where : Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland

Details : 412-622-3325

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