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Organizers put final touches on Vatican fresco exhibit

BY WILLIAM KERNS A-J ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR



Priceless frescoes hang on the walls at the Museum of Texas Tech, enhanced security is in place and interest is increasing in the exhibit "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection," according to the Rev. Malcolm Neyland.

The exhibit opens to the public on June 2, and will remain on display through Sept. 15.

Neyland, the regional Catholic priest directing the Vatican Exhibit Foundation, indicated that, while he has not added up figures to denote a final budget, he knows that all costs have been covered.

"I really haven't had time to add up everything, and any ballpark guess I make would probably be off," he said. "But every day we have in-kind donations and contributions. And we obviously already have met our contractual agreements with the Vatican City State.

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"We would not have the frescoes already here if we had not paid the insurance premium, the packing and conservation expenditures and for the security in protecting the art traveling from Rome to Lubbock, and from Lubbock back to Rome later."

Two appreciation galas will take place this week, the first funded by University Medical Center. Between 1,200 and 1,500 guests will attend the second, according to Dave Walker, marketing executive for the exhibit; he noted that this gala will honor those whose contributions have made the exhibit possible.

Neyland added, "Dignitary dinners and a multitude of special events and evenings for a multitude of individuals, companies and corporations are being scheduled to take place all through the 31/2-month run of the exhibit.

"It seriously has been that many individuals, a multitude, all helping at different levels, sharing their treasures, that have made this exhibit possible."

How to get tickets

The priceless exhibit has no admission charge. However, free tickets must be obtained in advance. Visitors should know what day and hour they wish to attend. Visitors are admitted on an hourly basis is to limit the number of people in the gallery to 200 an hour. More than 141,000 ticket reservations have been made to date. Tickets still can be reserved in advance by calling 742-6800 locally, or long distance toll-free 866-803-6873.

Parking

Parking is available on the north and west sides of the Museum of Texas Tech in Lubbock. Parking also is available at Tech's International Cultural Center, located adjacent to the westward expansion of the museum. Should more parking be needed, Tech will provide shuttle busses running from the parking lot across the street from the United Spirit Arena, located at 18th Street and Indiana Avenue.

Hours

"Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection," will be displayed June 2-Sept. 15 at the Museum of Texas Tech. Museum hours are 1 p.m.-7 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday; and 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursday.

Audio guides

After being given the option of viewing an introductory short film orientation in the museum's auditorium, visitors may, if they wish, rent audio guides before entering the exhibit area. The rental fee is $3, and audio guides must be returned to the museum at the conclusion of each visitor's tour.

Appreciations

• May 31, University Medical Center is hosting a celebration at the International Cultural Center.

• June 1, A gala event held at the Museum of Texas Tech to salute Texas Tech Museum Association members and others whose contributions played a major role in the Vatican exhibit being brought to Lubbock. Attendance expected to be more than 1,200.

Web sites

www.vaticanexhibit.org, a Web site built by the Museum of Texas Tech and Vatican office.

www.vaticanexhbibit.com, a Web site built by lubbockonline.com, the online newspaper of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Museum galleries

• Diamond M Galleries — "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection." Thirty-one medieval frescoes from the Roman churches San Nicola in Carcere (St. Nicholas in Prison Church) and Sant'Agnes fuori le Mura (St. Agnes Outside the Walls Church). This is a one-time showing of these works in the United States. The St. Nicolas frescoes date from about 1120 to 1130, and the St. Agnes pieces from about 1280 to 1310.

• Gallery 3 — "Selected Sacred Art from the Old and New Worlds." Paintings, sculpture and sacred objects in this exhibition are on loan from the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation of Houston, and the Museo Franz Mayer and the Comision Nacional de Arte Sacro in Mexico City. These works are representations of the union of the human and the divine. These 16th and 17th century paintings come from the humanized style of Europe. The donated Mexican art includes paintings, sculptures and ceremonial objects of silver made in the 17th and 18th centuries. The silver pieces were used in the chapels and churches of Mexico, and the silver came from Mexican mines.

• Gallery 1 — "N.C. Wyeth: Illustrator, Friends and Family." Newell Convers Wyeth was one of the early 20th century's most recognized American illustrators. His influence extended to his children, including son Andrew Wyeth and daughters Henrietta Wyeth Hurd and Ann Wyeth McCoy, as well as to other artists such as Peter Hurd, whom he trained in the Brandywine School.

• Gallery 2 — "Peter Hurd Paints a Mural." Texas Tech owns its own example of true fresco painting by regional artist Peter Hurd. It was completed in the 1950s and remains on view at Holden Hall on the Tech campus. This rotunda mural, called "South Plains Mural," depicts important events and people from area history. Hurd painted this fresco at Holden Hall when it was the (former) location of the Tech museum. The exhibit in Gallery 2 includes sketches, cartoons and a model used by Hurd in creating the fresco/mural.

• Gallery 4 — "Jades and Ivories from the Diamond M Fine Arts Collection." A collection of sculptures in ivory and jade collected by C.T. and Claire McLaughlin, the creators of the Diamond M Fine Art Collection later donated to the Museum of Texas Tech by the Diamond M Foundation.

Media interest is increasing, kicking off with Bob Phillips, of the syndicated television program "Texas Country Reporter." Neyland said Phillips "probably will air his specials during the last week in May."

Networks in San Antonio have devoted "special programming" to the exhibit, he said, and the Vatican Foundation continues to send a 25-minute VHS documentary to network executives and reporters "throughout the country."

Neyland said that the video spotlights the exhibit's history, background and the significance of the art work.

Requests by other museums for presentations have increased to the point that Neyland cannot handle them all; members of the foundation's staff have given presentations at other museums in Texas.

Tickets are free, but reservations must be made in advance. There is some disparity in numbers given, with Neyland saying that more than 150,000 reservations have been made and Walker noting, "Reservations total more than 141,00 at this point."

Walker added, "I still say 150,000 would be a very conservative guess for total reservations."

Both agree that a flurry of reservations have been received in the past few weeks from nearby states Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico.

Religious and political dignitaries, said Neyland, "are more apt to make their own travel plans, with their own security, rather than going through us."

One week before the exhibit's opening, "things have gone exceptionally well, beyond all our expectations," he added.

"But judging from the experience of other international exhibits in American cities, we're now preparing for a second wave, or second phase. We feel that this second wave of interest in the frescoes probably will hit sometime in the middle of July."

wkerns@lubbockonline.com 766-8712




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