Late one night, in the basement of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the security guard on duty fell asleep. When he heard the sound of someone tapping on the window, the guard awoke to find an old woman in a tattered white wedding dress peering at him from behind the glass. She was the spitting image of Mrs. T, from George Bellows’s 1920 portrait Mrs. T. in Cream Silk, No. 2.
As if by magic, the woman floated through the control room door and then vanished into thin air. And as the story goes, the guard never worked the night shift again.
For the past several years, the museum has been collecting ghost stories like this one from staff and visitors and compiled the tales into a new audio tour. The tour, which is available both at the museum and online, is one of many Halloween and Día de los Muertos–inspired activities being offered by museums this fall.
Tails from the Crypt
On Halloween, the Brooklyn Museum will conduct a sensory tour of its collection of ancient Egyptian art and artifacts. Titled “Mostly Mummies,” the tour is designed especially for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. It will allow participants to experience “The Mummy Chamber” and the “Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” installations through touch, taste, and verbal descriptions.
The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts is conducting two Halloween drawing classes this year.
The first, which takes place next Wednesday, is called the “Macabre Drawing Club.”
For this event, participants will sketch a selection of Gothic and mysterious artworks from the museum’s European collection. Among them is Nicolaes Maes’s foreboding ca. 1655 painting An Old Woman Praying.
The museum is also offering a figure-drawing class that will focus primarily on skeletal anatomy. During the session, a nude model will pose with a model of the human skeleton.
Prints of Darkness
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada, several museums are honoring the artist during their Día de los Muertos and National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for example, is currently presenting the exhibition “Calaveras Mexicanas: The Art and Influence of José Guadalupe Posada” and has organized a variety of programs around the show. These activities include drawing classes that focus on Posada’s prints of skulls and skeletons, a scavenger hunt in the museum’s galleries, and a free Día de los Muertos celebration for families.
In addition to the haunted audio tour, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will offer a special Día de los Muertos tour during the month of November.
Titled “Day of the Dead: Honoring Ancestors Around the World,” the tour will explore sculptures, paintings, and decorative objects from the museum’s collection that were created in honor of the dead.
These works include an ancient Nayarit sculpture from 200 B.C.E.–400 A.D.
Traditionally, the Nayarit people buried their ancestors near their homes and regularly provided them with food and other offerings.
This sculpture depicts the Nayarit people and their deceased relatives co-existing.
Night of the Living Dead
Tomorrow, the Honolulu Museum of Art will host a special Halloween edition of its ARTafterDARK program. During the event, master Hawaiian storyteller Lopaka Kapanui will tell a series of ghost stories inspired by pieces in the museum’s Arts of Hawai’i gallery. Lionel Walden’s hazy 1924 oil painting Hawaiian Fisherman will be among the works discussed.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is currently presenting the exhibition “Witches and Wicked Bodies,” which features artist depictions of witches and witchcraft from the past 500 years. The show includes works by Albrecht Dürer, Francisco de Goya, Paula Rego, and Kiki Smith, among others.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is hosting a Halloween party that will feature musical performances, poetry readings, a screening of the animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and Tarot card readings.
For its Día de los Muertos celebration, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, is installing a community altar in remembrance of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The project is a collaboration with the Mattie Rhodes Center and will be on view though November 10.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will hold its annual costume ball on Saturday. This year’s theme is “Haunted Hollywoodland.”
The New Museum will host its costume party on Wednesday, October 30.
For those still in need of a costume, several current exhibitions might be able to provide inspiration. Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring is now on view at the Frick Collection and the museum’s gift shop is selling faux pearl earrings that could help complete the ensemble. MoMA’s exhibition “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938” also offers up some viable options.
Image on home page: José Guadalupe Posada, Calaveras Zalameras de las Coquetas Meseras (Ingratiating Skeletons of Flirtatious Waitresses), n.d., broadside, type-metal engraving. Courtesy Dan Pappalardo and Susan Bellin.