September 21, 2003
LAFAYETTE — It’s a miracle that the Auguste Rodin exhibit is even here.
“Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession” is owned by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in Beverly Hills, Calif. The exhibit has been traveling across the country for the last five years.
University Art Museum Director Herman Mhire had the opportunity to bring the exhibit to town to celebrate the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase. What he didn’t have was a building to house the exhibit.
Mhire stuck a deal with the Acadiana Arts Council and city-parish government to present the exhibit at the yet-to-be-realized Acadiana Center for the Arts in downtown Lafayette. In late May, however, it was determined that the new center would not be completed in time for the anticipated opening.
Mhire knew that if he did not secure the exhibit, there was the strong possibility that he might not be able to get it back to Lafayette, at least not any time soon.
The Lafayette Natural History Museum and Planetarium canceled an exhibit to accommodate the Rodin exhibit, and the Cantor Foundation had to approve of the museum as a suitable facility for the show.
Then there was still the need for an agreement to be ironed out between the parties involved.
Tim Breaux, Director of Community Development, said the process was an unusual situation, where an agreement needed to be reached between three parties.
“It’s a unique agreement,” he said, “because we’re dealing with two entities – one entity getting the rights to the exhibit and another entity getting to house the exhibit.”
Lafayette city-parish attorney Steve Dupuis said a final meeting was held between university officials, city-parish officials and natural history museum officials on August 11. The next day he submitted the contract to be placed on the next available agenda, which was Sept. 2. The final adoption came up Sept 16, three days after the exhibit was unloaded and unpacked at the museum and only five days before the exhibit was to open.
Jeanne Lambert knows of the headaches that come with opening an exhibit. Lambert is the chief of marketing and communications at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. The Ringling Museum hosted “Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession” from Oct. 2002 to Jan. 2003.
Lambert said that arrangements had been made for the exhibit nearly a year before it even made it into town.
“We try to plan out as far as we can. We’re planned out until January of 2005,” she said. “It’s been a constant struggle to make sure that we’re planned out in advance.”
The exhibit was a success for the museum, Lambert said.
“I think we received more visitors with the Rodin exhibition than any other exhibition. It was just phenomenal,” she said.
Judith Sobol, executive director of the Cantor Foundation, said that despite the difficulties of getting the Rodin exhibit to Lafayette, she admires how the University Art Museum has handled itself.
“They have been very creative with solving the problem with their building not being ready in time,” she said. “I salute the them and the natural history museum for pulling together to put on this show. I’ve lived in places where that never would have happened.”