Women of Influence

postcard from archives

Postcard from Elmira Bier to Marjorie Phillips, undated. From The Phillips Collection archives

Women of Influence: Elmira Bier, Minnie Byers, and Marjorie Phillips is the current Reading Room exhibition just outside of the Phillips’s library, and examines the critical role that each woman played in the day to day activities of The Phillips Collection. Elmira Bier first started working at the Phillips in 1923, two years after the museum opened to the public, and retired in 1972. Bier was Duncan Phillips’s executive assistant. Fiercely protective of Phillips’s time, Bier took on many responsibilities, including serving as the first director of the music program, beginning in 1941. Despite her lack of formal training, Bier quickly established a widely acclaimed concert series that highlighted new performers and innovative music, which paralleled Duncan Phillips’s support of contemporary art.

Bier traveled extensively with Virginia McLaughlin, the sister of Jim McLaughlin, who was a curator at the Phillips. In addition to trips within the United States, they ventured to Norway and Ethiopia. Bier wrote of the latter, “This is really a wonderful experience. The people are gentle and many are handsome. Had lunch in home of young Ethiopian woman whose husband is in diplomatic corps. Nature dishes, some of them red hot! Friends assisting her alert and very feminist. They have women in parliament; we had no sense of color barrier. Saw the Emperor on Monday and heard him speak. Tiny but royal in bearing and very alert. He is particularly interested in education.”

group photo with Elmira

From left to right, seated in front row: C. Law Watkins, Elmira Bier, Marjorie Phillips, Duncan Phillips. Standing are Ira Moore [?] and on the right Charles Val Clear. Photo circa 1931.

A Different Experience of Space

In this video, Intersections artist Vesna Pavlović discusses her recently installed work at the Phillips, Illuminated Archive. “In any typical museum setting, we’re used to seeing artworks on walls,” says Pavlović. “One of the pieces in the show is a 35-foot long sheer curtain with digitally transferred black and white imagery, which offers a different experience of space.”

Unveiling Vesna

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Phillips preparators unwrap the first of several layers protecting the work. All photos: Amy Wike

Works for Vesna Pavlović‘s Intersections installation at the Phillips, Illuminated Archive, have just arrived at the museum. Here’s a first look at Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4) (2014) as Phillips preparators open it up after arrival. See this and the rest of the works on the walls (and in the staircase!) starting May 22, and don’t miss Pavlović’s talk in the galleries Thursday evening.

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Preparators put on gloves to handle the final layer of unwrapping as Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Vesela Sretenovic looks on.

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Vesna Pavlovic’s work Untitled (Swiss Peasant art exhibition, 1957.4) is unwrapped and ready for the gallery walls.