Image from Crystal Bridges website, http://crystalbridges.org/mediaroom/press_building
A fellow librarian at Crystal Bridges tipped me off to check out the foreword in their brand new permanent collection catalogue which just arrived on my desk. I was already excited to get a peek at what was soon to be revealed down there in Bentonville, Arkansas, an unprecedented effort to collect the best works of American art and present them in a beautifully designed structure, harmonious with nature and clearly separate from the art worlds of the cosmopolitan coasts. News stories and New Yorker profiles have whetted my appetite for years now. The cover of the catalogue we received, which apparently is one of multiple designs, is a beautiful detail of Arthur Dove’s Moon and Sea II, (selected especially for us?). Flipping through to the foreword by Don Bacigalupi, director of Crystal Bridges, I see Duncan Phillips’s philosophy as a collector and museum director mirrored in the objectives of this brand new fellow institution:
The noted critic Robert Hughes once described the experience of visiting another museum founded by an extraordinary patron-collector, Duncan Phillips, as a “gift of intimacy and unhurried ease.” While we at Crystal Bridges welcome as many visitors as possible to this new museum nestled in the Ozark foothills, we want to ensure that the experience is like the gift that Hughes described: welcoming, special, and the opposite of rushed.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens November 11, 2011.
This post is the first in a series in honor of the Blue Star Museums Initiative.
The Phillips Collection, with over 1,500 other institutions across the country, has been participating in the Blue Star Museums program since Memorial Day. The initiative, which encourages military families to spend time together at a museum or other cultural institution by offering free admission, ends Labor Day.
I’m probably not unique in being a museum professional with very little exposure to the military. And when I first heard about Blue Star Museums, I have to admit that the collaboration didn’t make sense to me. What would a joint venture between the military and an art museum look like? I went to the Blue Star Museums blog to learn more.
It was this video that really made an impact on me. Though their voices sound casual, the comments from these military family members describe fundamental experiences that civilian families take for granted: the importance of simply spending time together, making new memories to carry with them while they’re apart, getting to know their home towns in different ways between deployments or new homes while stationed in unfamiliar places. Blue Star Museums is a worthy project and highlights the effect museums, cultural institutions, and art can have on people in times that are challenging.
The power of art and museums on national spirit was not lost on our founder Duncan Phillips. Even some of the artists in our collection, military service members themselves, benefited from his efforts. In upcoming posts this week, I’ll explore the relationship between war and patriotism as seen in our museum’s history and collection.
This is the third installment of our Museum and Memory series for International Museum Day. Read part one and part two here.
John Marin, Tunk Mountains, Autumn, Maine, 1945. Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in. Acquired 1946. The Phillips Collection
In 1955 my grandparents moved into a custom-built home overlooking Chehalis, Washington, a town located about half way between Seattle and Portland. They drove to Seattle specifically in search of a work of art to hang above their stately fireplace, the focal point of the brick house. The only one they could agree on reminded them of summer vacations spent with their four small children at Lake Chelan in Eastern Washington State. It was a relatively inexpensive reproduction of an oil on canvas, with “Marin 45” scrawled in black in the lower right corner. Over time that “painting” came to symbolize home for the whole family, but knowing very little about art, we didn’t know who the artist was, what year it was painted, its title, or how to find those things. In 2006, when my grandmother followed my grandfather in passing, at the reading of the will the grandchildren were given an opportunity to select a work of art from their collection to keep for ourselves. Instead of one of my grandfather’s high-value Japanese prints I chose the tobacco-stained reproduction above the fireplace as a remembrance of them, and of the countless good times we spent together in that house. My sister had it wrapped and boxed, and she shipped it to me in San Francisco, where I lived at the time. It was too big to hang in my tiny apartment, and so I left my sentimental treasure boxed and secured under my bed. Continue reading “Museum and Memory: Part three” »