Client: Speed Art Museum
Location: Louisville, KY, United States
Completion date: 2016
Artwork budget: $70,000
Speed Art Museum
The 550 square-foot English Renaissance Room (ERR) at the Speed Art Museum has a complex history as a “period room” that has undergone many evolutions over time. In 2012 the Speed undertook a major, five-year renovation, including cleaning and rehousing the room. As part of this, Brian Knep was asked to create a modern-day intervention that would respond to the room's history and decorations. The resulting artwork, Echo, presents an opportunity to investigate the meaning of a “period room” as a space that reflects the imprint of many generations.
It was critical that the artwork integrate seamlessly into the English Renaissance Room, respecting its construction, the beautiful wood paneling, and its history as a living parlor, a work of art, and a museum period room. Crucially, the room has been at the Speed Art Museum since World War II and is beloved by many generations, so the artist had to be respectful of their thoughts, memories, and feelings about the room. The planning process included several site visits, including meetings with museum curators and staff, art patrons, community members, and other interested parties. These interactions informed the final artwork.
The director of the museum approached Brian Knep with the idea of creating a modern intervention in the English Renaissance Room. The artist made several site visits to spend time with the carvings. He also set up several discussions with museum visitors who love the room, to help him understand their feelings toward the space. The artists then came up with a proposal, and worked closely with the contemporary art curator, Miranda Lash, and the interim Chief Curator, Scott Erbes, to finalize the piece to make sure it was technically feasible and acceptable to the community.
The poet Ovid is championing the magic of Greek myths as a counterpoint to Roman practicality; the craftsmen, illustrators and artists are copying and building on the styles of their predecessors; the paneling itself is a way for its various owners to show wealth and respectability; and now, in an art museum, the room questions the very way we look into the past and what it tells us about ourselves. Like the tales in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, the room becomes a way for us to understand ourselves and how we fit into our world.