Museum's crown jewels get newly renovated home

The basement of the El Paso art museum is home to art collection. (KFOX14)

In the basement of the El Paso art museum, it's a homecoming celebration in the making. For the past two weeks, workers have been taking a stunning collection of portraits and landscapes out of storage and into their newly restored destination.

These are breathtaking creations from Boticelli, Bellotto and Van Dyck, just to name a few. Old masters returning to a place worthy of their merit.

“It’s the first time I haven’t seen it without the frame. It looks great," said Elizabeth Dwyer, who has been in El Paso for the past several months coordinating the rebirth of this extraordinary collection of art.

“Actually seeing the paintings in the galleries, it’s so different," Dwyer said. "You get a sense of the ceilings and floors and the colors. It’s phenomenal.”

Dwyer is the Kress Foundation Interpretive Fellow, which means she's an expert on the Kress collection that was donated to the El Paso Museum of Art in 1958. The collection includes 59 stunning master works that were created as early as the 13th century. The story behind Samuel Kress and how part of his art collection ended up in El Paso is coming up next week. For now, the focus is on returning this collection to the Kress Gallery at the El Paso Museum of art, which just underwent extensive renovations.

This is an exclusive first look at the newly remodeled galleries, which open to the public on Friday.

“It showcases to the community the caliber of the museum that is about to come to be," said Victoria Ramirez, the director of El Paso Art Museum. Rivera said the new Kress galleries include a redesigned floor plan to better showcase the museum's works.

“We started to think about the need to re-interpret and represent the museum’s permanent collection so when El Pasoans and visitors come through our doors they see the significance of it," Ramirez said.

Gone are the red walls and black ceilings, now the Kress galleries are awash in a calm color scheme, which better reflects the way these pieces may have been displayed domestically.

“I think the color and the new lighting is fantastic because you can really see the pieces in a different way," said Michelle Villa, the museum's registrar. "The skin tones pop a lot more than they did before with the darker colors and the whole feeling in here is just more elegant.”

During the remodeling phase, the paintings were cleaned and frames were either refurbished or removed altogether. And now the public can once again enjoy one of the museum's crown jewels, a once-in-a-lifetime collection that was gifted to El Paso.

“If we were to start a museum today, it would be impossible to get a collection like that," said Ramirez.

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