Ways of Seeing

The Art of Travel, Trade, and Transportation

Apr 17, 2021 - Jan 02, 2022

Ways of Seeing: The Art of Travel, Trade, and Transportation is an exhibition that brings together over seventy objects from BMA’s permanent collection to explore subjects of travelling for both pleasure and necessity.

Even in the digital age, access to affordable, reliable, and safe transportation is vital to life. Transportation—beginning with our feet—supports all travel and thus all trade, which includes securing food for survival, access to work, and connections to communities that are necessary to thrive. The Art of Travel, Trade & Transportation, the fifth iteration of the exhibition series Ways of Seeing, explores the experience of the wider world through not only the visual arts, but also the very materials that comprise them. 

Both artists who traveled to foreign lands and those who stayed closer to home, generated aspirational and enjoyable imagery for the armchair traveler—often their intended audience. The joys of leisure travel are contrasted by the more poignant aspects of necessities of travel—for economic opportunity, military service, fleeing hardship, or being transported against one’s will. Localized and globalized trade in prized goods such as silver, ivory, tea, tobacco and glass have a lasting and complicated legacy of beauty and tragedy. These works of art will surprise and delight viewers as well as provide room for reflection on the costs and benefits of travel, trade and transportation. 

Drawn entirely from the Museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition features over 70 works, many of which have never been seen by the public. Nearly all media is represented ranging from paintings to woodblock prints, lithographs and photographs to quilts and jewelry. Works range in date from the 2nd to the 20th centuries and feature works by artists from: China, Cote d’Ivoire, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mali, Navajo Nation, Scotland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United States of America—including a number of Alabama artists.

Highlights include: Paintings and drawings by Thomas Birch, Richard Blauvelt Coe, Giacomo Guardi, Li Kui, Ya Ming, Reverend Benjamin Franklin Perkins, Rosalie Pettus Price, Arnold Rönnebeck, Deng Tao, Kwan S. Wong, Wu Zuoren. Photographs by Sid Avery, Ed Willis Barnett, Anton Bruehl, Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Phyllis Galembo, Adama Kouyaté, Willy Ronis, and Peter Stackpole among others. Prints by John Taylor Arms, Radcliffe Bailey, Thomas Hart Benton, Louis Lozowick, Reginald Marsh, James McBey, Hasegawa Sadanobu II, Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, Hiroshi Yoshida, Utagawa Yoshikazu, Utagawa Yoshikuni I, and Utagawa Yoshitora. Textile arts by Helen McCain Cargo, Ramona Faye McCormick McRae, Louise Nez, Opal Wenonah McCormick Villadsen

Ways of Seeing: The Art of Travel, Trade and Transportation is the latest iteration of the BMA’s Ways of Seeing series that explores themes, perspectives, and ideas from across the Museum’s global art collections.