By the time The Glory of Baroque Dresden exhibition opened to the general public March 1 at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion in Jackson, scores of Mississippi hospitality industry professionals, educators and journalists, and an impressive cast of foreign dignitaries, had toured Jack Kyle`s fourth international showcase of royal riches compiled for the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange Inc. (MCICE).
The highlights of pre-exhibition events included a much heralded visit by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who participated in the inaugural ceremony and gala event, including a reception at the governor`s mansion hosted by Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha. The Minister President of Saxony, Dr. Georg Milbradt, the equivalent of a governor of an American state, was on hand for three days. Numerous art historian groups from Europe and North America have made plans to journey to the first exhibition of its kind presented in North America since the reunification of East and West Germany.
“The German Chancellor`s visit signaled the importance of The Glory of Baroque Dresden exhibition as one of the most important cultural events in the U.S. for 2004,” said Kyle, MCICE executive director. “This speaks volumes to the quality of the exhibition and to the richness of the art treasures loaned from the State Art Collections Dresden for this monumental exhibition.”
Considered the premier cultural event of 2004, the $9.5-million exhibition will run exclusively in Jackson through September 6. The economic impact of the three previous MCICE-organized exhibitions – The Palaces of St. Petersburg in 1996, The Splendors of Versailles in 1998 and The Majesty of Spain in 2001 – has totaled more than $150 million, excluding the dollar value of international publicity for the events. The economic impact for the Dresden exhibit is estimated at $50 million.
The Glory of Baroque Dresden consists of more than 400 works from the State Art Collections Dresden and reflects Baroque art during the time of August the Strong and his son August III, electors of Saxony and kings of Poland. It features the world`s largest natural green diamond, the 41-carat Dresden Green, and the elaborate world-renowned Moor sculpture. With 68 million Americans of German descent living in the U.S., Kyle anticipates a record number of visitors.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) Division of Tourism, Metropolitan Economic Development Agency (MEDA) and the MetroJackson Convention and Visitors Bureau on advertising programs relating to the exhibition as a tool for economic development,” said Kyle. “MEDA, the Mississippi Economic Council and the International Trade Center have especially been focusing on the economic development aspect of the exhibition.”
For example, MDA Division of Tourism sponsored a Feb. 23 advertisement in The Wall Street Journal. Brochures and posters are on display at metro area restaurants and hotels. Street pennants and German and American flags have been installed in downtown Jackson, and huge banners have been placed on the sides of Capital Towers and the BancorpSouth building.
“There has been a wonderful spirit of cooperation among everybody involved,” said Kyle.
Pre-inaugural week festivities began Feb. 23, with the MCICE hosting major previews of the exhibition, beginning with hospitality industry professionals in Mississippi.
“We want them to be fully familiar with the exhibition so they can converse enthusiastically with visitors to Mississippi,” said Kyle. “It would be a tremendous advantage if all those professionals knew about the exhibition firsthand.”
The week before the exhibit opened, MCICE hosted a luncheon and exhibition preview for the state community college presidents, and held an evening reception for school superintendents. Librarians have toured the exhibition, followed by school principals. Media day was also held, and Mississippi schoolteachers have toured the exhibition free of charge.
“Education is such an important part of this exhibition,” said Kyle.
Two paintings by Dutch genre painter Johannes Vermeer, considered one of the most important artisans in the 17th century, will be featured in the exhibition: “The Procuress,” which was restored last year by the Restoration Workshop for Paintings of the Old Masters Picture Gallery for the State Art Collections Dresden, and “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window.”
Interest in Vermeer`s works has peaked lately, in part because of the recently released critically acclaimed movie “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” based on Tracy Chevalier`s novel about a Vermeer painting.
“I have not seen the movie yet, only because I have been so busy, but I’d hope to see an extended run in Jackson during the exhibition,” said Kyle. “We invited Tracy Chevalier to the exhibition, but she lives in London and could not attend.”
Later this month, Susan Vreeland, author of “Girl in Hyacinth Blue,” a book based on another Vermeer painting, will guest lecture at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion, Oxford Public Library and the Hattiesburg Public Library.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.