Do you remember us?

25 06 2009

While Before & After has always reflected the intriguing, unique and general awesome happenings at After Hours, we admit that we don’t always update it. Our bad,  BUT we’ve gone back to the drawing board and we’re coming at you with new-found commitment and resolve, devoted to making this blog a one-stop shop for all things AH related, plus some. That being said, we are happy to announce that After Hours will be continuing through the summer! We aren’t quite sure why we stopped in June last year (something about people being away on vacation?) Anyway, we’ll be here all summer and hope you’ll join us on those nights!

A look at what’s in store:

July 16: “Legends”

Get groovy as Soul Clap spins from the Courtyard all night long–summer-style.

AND, join us for game time with True or False: See how well you know the Gardner, what’s myth, what’s reality? Did Gardner really walk lions down the street?

August 20: “Summer Night”

We’re celebrating summer and our new exhibition Su-Mei Tse: Floating Memories tonight! Courtyard Music, gallery talks on the exhibition, sketching and more.

And, if all of that isn’t enough to entice you, the outside gardens will be open as well (weather dependent). Take your drink outside and chill, Gardner style.

Lilly O’Flaherty is the fabulous After Hours Social Director (um yes, that’s her official job title!) at the Gardner Museum. A quirky brainiac style-maven , Lilly is editor-in-chief of Lux magazine (produced by UMASS Boston) and just started Dearborne – a clothing design studio that explores the psychology and transformative power of fashion. Not sure what to wear to the next After Hours? You can reach her at

Some Kind of Blue — from the museum archives

14 01 2009

bardini-blue-paint-sample-sm2By 1900, as Fenway Court slowly emerged along the Emerald Necklace, Isabella Gardner obtained a charter to form a museum corporation “for the purpose of art education, especially by the public exhibition of works of art.” She thought carefully about the placement of her collection from the very beginning of the construction process, marking the galleries on the architectural plans with the names of paintings and specific architectural elements. Arrangement of the galleries had to include a suitable backdrop on which to display her works of art and Gardner had very specific ideas for wall color. In March 1900 she wrote to art dealer Bernard Berenson, asking “…will you please some day, get on a piece of paper the blue colour that Bardini has on his walls. I want the exact tint. Perhaps some little person can paint it on a piece of paper.”

Stefano Bardini was a popular 19th century art dealer based in Florence, Italy, offering furniture, paintings and sculpture to buyers such as architect Stanford White and the Louvre Museum. Gardner purchased objects and furniture from Bardini and seems to have admired his own particular approach for displaying his collection which included sculptures by the della Robbia brothers and 15th century polychrome stuccoes. Bardini chose several shades of blue for his rooms, which inspired visitors to call his house – now a museum – the “Blue Museum.”*

Gardner wrote again to Berenson later in the year, “…When you get there (you are there) please do get me a piece of paper painted with the blue of Bardini’s walls. You know you promised me before. I am working hard over my new house.” Berenson writes back right away:

“I was most sincerely pleased to hear from you , after so long a silence – even tho’ you mildly scolded me for not having gotten you a sample of Bardini’s blue. The truth is that when you wrote about it last year, I saw Bardini about it directly. He solemnly assured me he would send it [to] you in a day or two….This time I went down and approached him. He was profuse in apologies, and to make sure that now you really got it, I told him to give it to me. I enclose it, the sample, and with it, the receipt for preparing it…” Here you see the original recipe and paint sample received by Gardner.

She was unrelenting in her pursuit of the right color, wondering if the paint chip was the correct color. “Did you compare them [the paint chip and wall]? In case you have not, will you kindly do so. I enclose a piece. The important [thing] is to get the tint exactly…”
Berenson assured Gardner that the color was the exact shade on Bardini’s walls and, to this day, the museum has continued to follow a similar formula (with the help of Benjamin Moore), in keeping with Gardner’s intent. Take a look at the wall treatments as you pass through the galleries…how do they suit the works of art displayed within each room?

*The Bardini Museum will reopen in March after being closed for a decade.

After Hours is back!

8 09 2008

We can hardly believe we’re entering into Year 2 of After Hours and we’re psyched you guys are along for the ride!

We made a few tweaks and adjustments to this year’s program – most notably another fabulous artist commission by Danijel Zezelj (see below)! We just loved Zezelj’s work – so strong and bold. He was also an Artists-in-Residence at the museum back in 2005 and later went on to have a really incredible exhibition with us called Stray Dogs which still exists online for those of you who want a look!

Danijel Zezelj, 2008

Danijel Zezelj, 2008

Time change – yes, yes, I know folks want us to stay open later, but baby steps! For now, we’re extending hours until 9:30pm, so it’s still not a late for some, but can be first stop for those who are bit more nocturnal!

More on Mahanthappa

21 02 2008

Okay, so we’re a little late. At this point, if you don’t already have tickets, you’re not going to be able to see the Rudresh Mahanthappa Quartet’s concert in the Tapestry Room tonight, because we’re completely, utterly beyond sold out. But, if you’re the plan-ahead type and you do have those tickets already in hand, we thought you might enjoy a couple interviews with Rudresh that came out in the past week, in the Boston Globe and Boston Phoenix. A few quotes are probably in order:

He’s a self-described egghead, a numbers nut who could have become a mathematician or economist. He’s a science-fiction fan who loves William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” and is liable to zone out to sci-fi reruns on TV. But when Rudresh Mahanthappa takes the stage, it’s with an alto saxophone, not chalk and blackboard, that he burrows into theorems and explores alternate planes, in a musical language so vivid and complex that hard-bitten jazz arbiters have dared to compare him to Ornette Coleman or John Coltrane. (Read more from Globe writer Siddhartha Mitter.)

“If you look at what a lot of composers in the 20th century did — Bartók, Schoenberg, Webern — what I’m doing on Codebook is not particularly groundbreaking.” But Mahanthappa is drawn to his puzzle problems as a way of thinking outside the box at the same time that he delves into material that really interests him. And he’s drawn — like earlier modern composers — to creating his own self-contained systems. “Say you decide that the piece is always going to go minor third, half step, major third, in any direction. Some really amazing music can come out of that because each note carries more weight — whether to go up or down becomes much more serious than in another circumstance.” (Read more from Phoenix editor Jon Garelick.)

But don’t take our word for it. After the concert tonight, ask Rudresh your questions about his music yourself. He’ll be signing CD’s downstairs in the museum’s Spanish Cloister after the performance, starting at about 8:30. Whether or not you were able to track down one of those elusive concert tickets, you can catch a glimpse of Mahanthappa and his quartet there, and maybe even talk string theory over a cocktail or two. Free gallery talks, a funky new self-guided tour focused on cross-cultural exchange in the Gardner collection, and some awesome fusion food in the cafe will keep you busy enough until then.

Happy 1903!

28 12 2007

Opening Night 1903Mrs. Gardner was well aware of the curiosity the building of her museum as well as its architect (herself) aroused in the citizens of Boston, and she collected news clippings that described reactions to both. Click on the scan at left to zoom in and read the original story of the museum’s opening celebration.

While a select few were offered the privilege of visiting the museum during its earliest days, its official opening was on New Year’s Eve, lasting into the first wee hours of 1903. Invitations were sent to 200 friends and acquaintances. Arrangements were made for members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to play under the direction of conductor Wilhelm Gericke accompanied by nine singers from the local Cecilia Society. Mrs. Gardner received her guests in the Music Room (later rearranged to form the Tapestry Room) dressed head to toe in black. After the concert, mirrored doors were pushed aside to reveal the lush courtyard, lit from every balcony by round flame-colored lanterns. Just imagine the reaction of those first visitors as they stepped into the magical, never-before-seen, space – an escape from the wintry cold outside. One of her guests described his reaction nicely, in a letter of thanks:

“Has the music-room dissolved, this morning, in the sunshine? I felt, last night, as though I were in a Hans Anderson Fairy Tale, ready to go on a flying carpet at any moment…”


Kristin Parker enjoys flipping through old newspapers, and much more, here at the Gardner Museum as our archivist. Take a look at another archival document, a concert program for another of Isabella’s renowned soirees, in her post about Isabella’s “Manuscript Club,” here.

We hope to see you in the New Year, too. And a hint: admission is free on January 1st every year, a fitting homage to the museum’s opening over a century ago. Or celebrate at the first After Hours of ’08, on January 17. We’ll see you next year!


A Musical Feast

5 11 2007

Many people think of the Renaissance as a flowering in the visual arts, but in fact all of the arts went through vital changes during this period of European cultural rebirth. Even food changed during the Renaissance—surviving recipes from the period indicate a shift away from the boiled grains and blancmange of the Middle Ages to more refined wines (viticulture took a huge leap forward in the Renaissance), meats with complicated sauces, and even exotic New World imports such as potatoes. In short, it was the kind of European food that we’re used to in the 21st century. Wealthy noble families such as the Medicis and Gonzagas in Italy, the Burgundian dynasty in France, and the Tudors in England, competed to hire the best cooks, along with the best painters, best sculptors, and of course…the best musicians.

Unlike painting or sculpture, cooking and music are ephemeral arts that have to be recreated for each occasion. In a world where we can listen to music on demand from a dozen different sources, we often don’t appreciate how special music could be in an era when live performance was the only way music was ever heard, and no performance could ever be captured or replayed. Music was often present at great feasts and celebrations, and no feast characterized this “seize the moment” idea better than the annual festival of Martinmas, celebrated in early November.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hold your horses…

30 08 2007

We’ll be here soon.

Saint George Slaying the Dragon

In the meantime, browse more images from the Gardner Museum collection here, or check out an online exhibition by Artist-in-Residence Danijel Zezelj (who designed the graphics for After Hours) here.

Saint George Slaying the Dragon
, 1470
Carlo Crivelli, Italian (Venice), 1430-1495
Gold and tempera on wood, 94 x 47.8 cm
Purchased in 1897 from Colnaghi, London, through Berenson.