Museum and Memory: Part three

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” »

Museum and Memory: Part two

This is the second installment of our Museum and Memory series for International Museum Day. Read part one here.

Replicating the familiar ease of Ferris Bueller’s museum jaunt was a teenage dream of mine growing up in largely languid San Antonio—a city which has numerous cultural treasures, but no home for the arts as canonical and ambitious as the Art Institute of Chicago.

During the years I attended the University of Chicago, I often dropped in on free Tuesday evenings to absorb the aura as much as the ad-hoc art history, especially when it came to contemporary marvels such as Rineke Dijkstra, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Joan Mitchell, and others who textbooks often overlook, undervalue, or have yet to uncover. You do not need scholarly or painterly aspirations, though, to find an object of fascination among the early to mid-20th-century American furniture, 16th-century European armor, and (my personal favorite) the basement trove of photographs, textiles, and dioramas. Girlfriends and I found the museum to be a highly efficient first date screening because of how quickly it could reveal incompatibility in the way people think about the confluence of history, identity, and the need to create, in the arts or otherwise. Continue reading “Museum and Memory: Part two” »

Museum and Memory: Part one

El Greco, The Repentant St. Peter, 1600-1605 or later. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 x 29 5/8 in. Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection

This is the first installment of our Museum and Memory series for International Museum Day.

My previous job was doing IT Support for a pharmaceutical testing company. They would run clinical trials on rats, monkeys, dogs, etc. It was standard procedure to “garb up” before going into the lab rooms to retrieve PCs and equipment covered in . . . organic material. Eventually (and thankfully), the contract expired and I was let go. My wife told me straight up, “Now is the time to decide what you really want to do! Most people don’t have that luxury!” Within five minutes, I told her, “I want to work in a museum.”

I will always remember the St. Peter by El Greco because I saw it for the first time waiting for my interview here at the Phillips. I kept thinking, “Please, please, please let me work here!” I could not have dreamed of a more perfect fit for an occupation, since my degree was from the University of Maryland College Park in Art Studio.

Last August, while in Spain with my family, we planned a day trip to Toledo, probably about 40 minutes from Madrid. After walking around the city for a bit, we stopped into the House of El Greco (it’s air conditioned), and I was pleasantly stunned to see a second version of The Repentant St. Peter that we have right here at the Phillips! Immediately I exclaimed to my family, “We have THIS painting in our museum!!” I will admit, our setting in D.C. is a bit more inviting, but the air conditioning was very welcome.

Sandy Lee, IT Support Specialist