May 23, 2024

Inspiring Set Designs from ‘Around the World’ On View in Summer Exhibition

San Antonio, TX (McNay Art Museum) – The McNay Art Museum will present an exhibition titled “Around the World in 80 Designs,” on view from May 2 to August 4, 2024. The exhibition will feature forty artworks from the McNay’s Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts alongside forty companion images.

The exhibition will explore the connection between theatre arts and various destinations around the world. Visitors will be able to see scene and costume designs and maquettes (small-scale models) from productions like “Aida,” “Death in Venice,” and “Nixon in China.” The artworks will be paired with images that depict the real-life locations that inspired the designs.

“We hope ‘Around the World in 80 Designs’ ignites imaginations and visually transports visitors from the McNay to exciting new places without leaving San Antonio,” said Matthew McLendon, the McNay’s director and CEO.

The Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts is one of the finest collections of its kind, consisting of more than 12,000 artworks from around the globe. The exhibition will offer visitors a unique opportunity to see how theatre designers create visual representations of far-flung places.

One example is a scene design from “Talley’s Folly,” the 1980 play that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The design, by Dan Hannon, depicts the Talley farm boathouse in Missouri. The McNay will also display an early 1900s photograph of Little Piney River in rural Missouri, inviting visitors to compare and contrast the real and imagined settings.

The exhibition will also feature theatrical interpretations of historical settings. For example, a costume design for a Nautch dancer in “The Tourists,” a 1906 musical set in India, will be paired with a photograph of a Nautch dancer from the same time period.

Scene designs from classic operas will also be on view. Visitors will see John Piper’s 1973 scene design for “Death in Venice,” which depicts St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. The design will be paired with a view of the cathedral on a clear day, providing greater context for the backdrop.

The exhibition will include a maquette of the Nile scene designed by Helen Pond and Herbert Senn for a 1980 production of “Aida.” The work will be shown in context with an 1863 image overlooking the Nile River.

“It is amazing to see the different ways designers creatively represent, reinterpret, or sometimes re-invent, real-world places for stage performances,” says R. Scott Blackshire, Ph.D., curator of the Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts. “The exhibition will allow visitors to experience the thrill of traveling the world without leaving the McNay’s galleries.”

The Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts represents more than 500 years of excellence in theatre arts. The collection includes paintings, works on paper, maquettes, sculpture, and rare books of European and American theatre design from 1600 to the present. The collection is the life’s work of the late philanthropist Robert L.B. Tobin.