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Behind the Scenes: The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

Opens Thursday, February 11, 2021
Closes Sunday, April 18, 2021

Guided virtual tour by curator Karen Maness, Scenic Art Supervisor for Texas Performing Arts, is available on-demand.

Directions and Parking
The exhibit entrance is located under the breezeway at the TPA Administrative doors between the Butler School of Music (MRH) and McCullough Theatre (MCT). Parking is available in the San Jacinto Garage, the closest parking to the exhibit, for $6-9. From the San Jacinto Garage, head east and cross Trinity Street until you reach the breezeway. The entrance will be on your right. Please visit the Directions and Parking page for more information.

About the Exhibit

The Bass Concert Hall stage turns gallery as Texas Performing Arts presents Behind the Scenes: The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop. Visit mid-century Hollywood without leaving Austin through an up-close view of these Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio assets from February 11 through April 18. See twelve never-before publicly displayed historic paintings that reveal the lost art of Golden Age Hollywood.

In 2012, the Art Director’s Guild (ADG) Archives began the Backdrop Recovery Project, an effort to preserve the legacy of Hollywood’s motion picture scenic artists. This resulted in the preservation of 207 historic backings, creating the world’s most comprehensive archive of Hollywood scenic art history. ADG donated these historic drops to museums, motion picture archives, and academic institutions, including The University of Texas at Austin through the Texas Performing Arts scenic studio. Texas Performing Arts now houses 50 MGM backdrops used to educate the next generation of scenic artists for stage and screen.

The Texas Performing Arts collection from the Backdrop Recovery Project has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, in the Los Angeles Times, and in O, The Oprah Magazine.

Exhibit Sponsors

HEB St. David's Health Care

Reserved One-hour Admission Times:
Thursday-Friday 2:30 pm, 3:15 pm & 4 pm
Saturday-Sunday 10:00 am, 10:45 am, 11:30 am, 2:00 pm, 2:45 pm & 3:30 pm
On Saturday, April 17 and Sunday, April 18, there are additional time slots at 5 pm and 5:45 pm.


Public – $12
Non-UT Student of any age – $5
UT Students, Faculty & Staff – Free
Healthcare Professionals – Free
Essential Workers – Free
Military – Free
Texas Inner Circle Members – Free

Health and Safety Protocols as of March 15, 2021:

What to expect:

  • Everyone 2 years and older must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth while visiting the exhibit.
  • Capacity for each timed entry slot is very limited. The exhibition has been designed to promote social distancing.
  • Each timed entry reservation is for up to one hour in the exhibition. Visitors must exit the exhibition at the end of their reserved time. For example, if your reserved time is from 4-5 pm and you arrive at 4:30, you will have 30 minutes to visit the exhibit.
  • All tickets will be sold online at texasperformingarts.org and be delivered via email for mobile contactless entry.
  • Hand sanitization stations will be available at the entrance and throughout the exhibit.
  • Food and beverages, including bottled water, will not be offered for sale and are not allowed in the exhibit.
  • Coat and hat check will not be available.
  • Photos are welcome and encouraged, but you must keep your mask on at all times - even in your selfie.

To keep our community safe, Texas Performing Arts ask that:

  • Visitors conscientiously practice social distancing, frequently wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and wear a mask as required.
  • If a visitor is not feeling well or has been in close contact with someone they suspect may be infected, please stay home and contact a doctor. Contact the Ticket Office at 512.471.1444 or tickets@texasperformingarts.org to request a credit or reschedule.
  • Visitors be prepared to scan digital tickets at our ticket scanners upon arrival.
  • If the exhibition is postponed or canceled, ticketholders will be offered a choice of refund, credit for future use, or the opportunity to donate ticket value to Texas Performing Arts.

The Backdrops
Behind the Scenes: The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop features 12 of the 50 backdrops housed by Texas Performing Arts and provides the first public view of these highly guarded studio assets.

  1. Tip on a Dead Jockey (MGM 1957), Madrid rooftop panorama - 18’-9” x 12’
  2. National Velvet (MGM 1944), exterior of small cottage - Opaque Technicolor 13’-11” x 9’-4”
  3. Young Bess (MGM 1953), exterior view of Westminster Abbey in the 1950’s - 40’ x 20’-2”
  4. Young Bess (MGM 1953), exterior of Hampton Court in the 1550s - 35’ x 15’-6”
  5. Two Weeks in Another Town (MGM 1962), interior of a hotel lobby in Rome, Italy, in the 1960s - Translucent 30’ x 19’-10”
  6. National Velvet (MGM 1944), exterior of the small town of Sewels in Sussex, England in the late 1920s - Translucent 39’ x 32’
  7. The Prodigal (MGM 1955), a view of a pagan idol inside a temple in Damascus in 70 BC- Opaque Technicolor 22’-2” x 16’
  8. The Prodigal (MGM 1955), exterior temple courtyard and tents in the Gardens of Pleasure of Damascus in 70 BC - Opaque Technicolor 24’ x 22’
  9. The Student Prince (MGM 1954), interior of a German cathedral in fictional Karlsburg near the turn of the 20th century - Back Painted Translucent 35’-2” x 20’-3”
  10. Two Loves (MGM 1961), exterior view of a trailer park in Pennsylvania in 1961 - Back Painted Translucent 41’ x 30’
  11. The Outrage (MGM 1964), a view of southwestern United States, the Sonoran Desert, in the 1870s - Back Painted Translucent 30’ x 93’
  12. The Glass Bottom Boat (MGM 1966), a view of Avalon, a city on Santa Catalina Island, in 1966 - Translucent 35’-10” x 19’-10”

Behind the Scenes The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop from Texas Performing Arts on YouTube.