Director of BYU’s Museum of Art Mark Magleby reflects on ‘Sacred Gifts’ exhibit

Mark Magleby, of the Museum of Art, shares the wonderful messages contained in the "Sacred Gifts" exhibit currently on display. (Photo by Natalie Stoker.)
Mark Magleby, of the Museum of Art, shares messages contained in the “Sacred Gifts” exhibit currently on display. (Photo by Natalie Stoker)

BYU’s Museum of Art director, Mark Magleby, delivered Tuesday’s Devotional at the Marriott Center, reflecting on the current featured exhibition “Sacred Gifts.”

Magleby has served as art director since Jan. 1, 2012, and had previously served as an art history faculty member since 1997.

“Sacred Gifts” is an art exhibition featuring original paintings by Carl Bloch, Heinrich Hoffmann and Frans Schwartz. This exhibition opened on Nov. 15, 2013 and will close on May 26, 2014.

The exhibit has been one of BYU’s most popular exhibits and has been extended two weeks from its original close date due to popular demand. Magleby desired “Sacred Gifts” to be inclusive and inviting to people of all faiths.

“Many months ago now, the creative and committed staff of the (BYU) Museum of Art pondered how to invite the public to experience the myriad gifts of exhibition,” Magleby said. “Sacramental meaning and imagery was never far from our thoughts, and the earliest promotional text invoked Eucharistic language — come and partake.”

He reported that Schwartz’s “Agony In The Garden” was the most popular of the paintings in the exhibit even though it shows Christ being comforted by an angel with wings, which is contrary to LDS Church doctrine.

Magleby also reported that the “least-beloved” painting in the exhibit was Hofmann’s “The Capture of Christ” (Kiss of Judas).

Shortly into the address, Magleby proposed the question, “Are Latter-day Saints ‘high church Christians’ who tend to use a lot of images and favor symbolic ritual, or ‘low church Christians,’ who privilege individual spiritual experiences or ceremony?” Magleby answered his own question, stating that, “In the context of the ‘Sacred Gifts’ exhibition, many of our community will quickly discover that we have considerable connections to both camps.”

Through explanation of familiar and adored paintings in the LDS community shown in the “Sacred Gifts” exhibition, Magleby illustrated how Latter-day Saints are both “low church Christians” and “high church Christians.”

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