Mar 10, 2011
09:31 AM
Discover Connecticut

Weekend Discovery: Yale Center for British Art

Weekend Discovery: Yale Center for British Art

In New Haven, there are two world-class art galleries directly across Chapel Street from one another, yet to me, one shines much more brightly: The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA).

Opened in 1974 thanks to the incredible generosity of arts uber patron Paul Mellon, YCBA is home to "the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the United Kingdom." The permanent collection features paintings, sculpture, prints, rare books and other works of art, including works by William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and J.M.W. Turner.

Unlike the Yale Art Gallery across the street, which seems to be enduring an endless renovation that prevents the majority of its collection to be on display, YCBA is fully open and a true architectural gem. Designed by Louis I. Kahn, it features spacious, handsome galleries arranged in a simple geometric layout; it's also a bright place, incorporating generous amounts of diffused natural light, which allows better viewing of art showcased here—a lot less glare on paintings because not as many direct spotlights are needed.

Currently, there are two visiting exhibitions: into the light of things, featuring a variety of works by abstract artist Rebecca Salter; and Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance, which is the only North American stop for this retrospective of one of Britain's most renowned Regency portrait painters.

Maybe my preference for the YCBA is partly due to my expectations—it seems with its resources and prestigious name, the Yale Art Gallery should be able to stage amazing exhibitions, yet I can hardly recall any event in the past few years where I said, "Wow, I have to see that." Of course, that could be part of the renovations hampering what the curators can do, and may change when the gallery is fully open again. I could also be prejudiced as I got a wonderful look behind-the-scenes at YCBA in October 2009.

Obviously, there's no reason why you can't visit both museums, as they are both open and free to the public. But until the work is completed at Yale Art Gallery, YCBA is my choice. (Although be warned: The New Haven St. Patrick's Day parade is this Sunday at 1, and runs right past the museum.)

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Weekend Discovery: Yale Center for British Art

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