A new exhibition dedicated to Christian symbolism has just open at the BYU Museum of Art. Of Souls and Sacraments: Symbol and Context in Christian Art features over 40 artworks from the MOA collection and several private lenders, showcasing works from the 14th to the 21st centuries in a compelling array of perspectives, styles, and media. In this exhibition, visitors will explore expressions of Christianity’s most profound themes and consider how such images have shaped doctrinal understanding and devotional practices over centuries, centering the vital role of visual imagery in individual and collective salvation.
This new installation replaces the beloved Rend the Heavens exhibition as the MOA’s new long-term religious exhibit. Thanks to the generosity of various artists and collectors, the talents of art conservators, and the generosity of donors, the Museum was able to acquire and curate works from celebrated old masters including Jusepe de Ribera, Anthony van Dyck, and Benjamin West, as well as contemporary favorites like Jorge Cocco Santangelo, Paige Anderson, Kirk Richards, and Lisa DeLong. This inspiring selection of works allows viewers to examine how particular symbols such as the Cross or the Virgin Mary evolved and adapted to new times, movements, audiences, and devotional needs while maintaining their sacred impact and how these motifs can influence patrons’ own concept of the sacred.
“This exhibit delves into some of the most notable and poignant themes in the Christian tradition and explores how depictions of these powerful symbolic ideas worked to inspire and enlighten the faithful, then and now,” noted the exhibition’s curator, Ashlee Whitaker, Roy and Carol Christensen Curator of Religious Art at the Museum. “There have been many times while working on this show, spending time with these incredible artworks, that I have been overwhelmed at insights I’ve gleaned, and we are excited for all our patrons to step into the context and messages of these works and find something for themselves.”
Audiences of all ages and religious backgrounds will find Of Souls and Sacraments illuminating as they explore the artistic world of the past eight centuries through the lens of Christian artists from several countries. Everyone from university classes to local families to art historians to tourists to faith groups will find something in the exhibition that edifies, instructs, and remains with them even after their visit is finished.
“Visitors will find a familiar gallery transformed into an edifying space for contemplation, meditation, and conversation,” added the MOA’s Head of Education, Philipp Malzl. “I am confident that this exhibition offers something of value to each visitor who comes seeking to be uplifted and inspired.”
Of Souls and Sacraments is be open to the general public free of charge until July 2024. Additional details on the exhibition, including a preview of select artworks, is available on the MOA website at https://moa.byu.edu/of-souls-and-sacraments/ .