When Brian Allen was assembling the fall exhibitions for Addison Gallery of American Art, the director had no inkling it would be his last on the campus of Phillips Academy.
Addison unveils a new cycle of exhibitions three times a year, with the shows taking shape months, even years before they are hung.
And so, this fall’s quartet of shows formed long before the New York Historical Society set its sights on Allen as its next museum director and vice president.
In June, Allen announced that come the end of the year, he would be leaving behind his post of nearly a decade at Addison to lead the oldest art museum in New York.
As summer turned to fall, Allen set about the bittersweet task of overseeing the installation of his final show as director at Addison.
True, he will leave behind a schedule of exhibitions planned out for the next two years to allow his predecessor time to grow familiar with the gallery and its impressive permanent collection. But he won’t be the one bringing those next shows to life within Addison’s halls.
Had he scripted the fall shows as his last for Addison, Allen isn’t sure he would have done things much differently.
As it turns out, the treasures show in the upstairs gallery, which houses a rotating array of pieces from Addison’s permanent collection, features all of the works the director has grown most fond of.
“It really has all my favorite things that I love the most in the collection,” Allen said last week.
There are also personal connections among this fall’s featured exhibitions.
One of the shows highlights the work of James Prosek, a former student of Allen’s when he was working as a teacher.
Allen said Prosek has gone on to become “a naturalist, environmental activist, a great teacher and a great artist.” Inspired by the long tradition of natural history painting as well as contemporary influences, Prosek’s work questions the way one understands, classifies and interprets the natural world. Prosek is also serving as this fall’s Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence at Addison.