Celebrating 100 Years of Connection, Conversation, and Art

America’s First Museum of Modern Art at 100

Dear Friends,

A 100th anniversary is surely a time for joy and celebration, and we look forward to marking this major milestone with exceptional exhibitions and meaningful programs in collaboration with our community.

However, at this particular moment in our nation and in our city, we are keenly aware of our museum as part of a vital network of educational institutions that underpin our democracy. Our mission is to use the power of art to spark connection, build empathy, and catalyze ideas. While we are not politically aligned, we are by no means neutral. We have a responsibility to meet this moment, and to play our role in nourishing conversations around urgent topics and encouraging constructive debate.

Our mission is tied to a commitment to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. The dynamism and impact of our next chapter will depend on our capacity to champion women, artists of color, and marginalized voices, to open up the canon of modern and contemporary art and history to artistic expression that reflects our complex world. We are here to serve, engage with, and learn from our community.

This is a moment for reflection, critical examination, and charting new direction. Duncan Phillips founded the museum with tender and lofty ideals: as a place of solace and healing, and as an “experiment station.” How can we live up to those ideas and be truly inclusive and welcoming? How can we remain dynamic and relevant to the art and ideas of our times?

We embrace this challenge as we mark this momentous anniversary, and look forward to welcoming you all to join in the conversations and the celebrations.

Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director & CEO

Welcome back to The Phillips Collection

What a precious experience to be back in the galleries, up close to works of art, and with fellow art lovers! It is marvelous to look closely at McArthur Binion’s DNA: Black Painting: 1 made up of birth certificate words, or the jagged wood elements in Aime Mpane’s Maman Calcule, or sense the touch of the artist’s hand in the brushwork in a Stuart Davis. Art looking is about taking time, investing patience, giving into a dialogue, or, to paraphrase Duncan Phillips, about “meeting the artist half way.” Even with the necessary safety precautions of timed tickets, limited numbers, masks, social distancing, the experience is powerful.

Dorothy Kosinski with McArthur Binion, DNA: Black Painting: 1, 2015, Oil paint stick, graphite, and paper on board, 84 x 84 in, The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2016

Museums are places for art and wellness—so, naturally, the first hours of our reopening Preview Days were reserved for our many community partners, many of whom are essential workers, teachers, and health professionals; our heartfelt thanks to them for all of their heroic work through the pandemic. My thanks to our supporters, donors, and trustees for an abiding investment in our work, even as our doors have been closed. I thank our dedicated staff for engaging our audiences so creatively on myriad digital platforms during the past months, and for continuing to grow our online offerings that will be the foundation for a robust digital presence going forward. Thank you to those that have kept our building and artwork safe since March. And thank you to the frontline staff who are now on site to ensure that your visit is pleasant and safe. It has been a team effort to reopen our doors.

Scenes from our reopening Member Preview Days, October 8-11

Please visit—there is a lot to see: Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition, Moira Dryer: Back in Business (both have been extended through the end of the year), a new installation of 11 Edward Hopper paintings from the Whitney Museum of American Art, a video installation of an election theme work by Brian Dailey, and banners by conceptual artist Jenny Holzer on the main façade. And there will be more to see as we carefully open up additional galleries, and as we prepare for our centennial in 2021. Welcome back.

Remembering John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis visited The Phillips Collection in May 2008 during the whirlwind first months of my tenure as director of the museum. He joined me and curator Elsa Smithgall along with National Endowment for the Arts Chair Dana Gioia to view our installation of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. He also generously made time to talk to some of the students with whom we work. What an impression he made on all of us.

NEA Chair Dana Gioia, Dorothy Kosinski, Congressman John Lewis, and Curator Elsa Smithgall with Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series

Congressman John Lewis speaks with students in the auditorium

Congressman Lewis was friends with artist Benny Andrews (1930-2006). We are honored to have in the Phillips’s collection Andrews’s magnificent Trail of Tears, thanks to the incredible generosity of Agnes Gund. Andrews produced collages and ink drawings for the 2006 publication John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins ad Kathleen Benson. Later, in 2013, Lewis wrote a foreword for the catalogue that accompanied the exhibition Benny Andrews: There Must Be a Heaven at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York City. Lewis’s words about Andrews capture the ethical compass of his life:

Benny Andrews, Trail of Tears (Trail of Tears Series and Migrant Series), 2006, Oil on four canvases with painted fabric and mixed media collage, 76 x 145 x 1 in., Gift of Agnes Gund, 2019

“You see, for Benny, like all of us who were involved in non-violent direct action, protest is an act of love, not one of anger. Through all the jailings, beatings, protests, and prayers of the Civil Rights Movement, we always had ‘this basic idea,’ as Benny so appropriately put it, ‘that good would overcome evil.’ And it is from that place that we offered our complaint. Our desire was not to condemn, but to appeal to the better angels of all humanity. We demonstrated what was wrong to awaken that divine spark that resides in all of us with the power to build and not tear down, to reconcile and not divide, to love and not hate. This critique is an invitation to build a better world based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.”

We mourn Congressman Lewis’s passing and honor his lifelong work for and devotion to equity and justice.