DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park
|Established||October 10, 1950|
|Location||51 Sandy Pond Road|
|Type||Art museum and sculpture park|
|Director||John B. Ravenal|
|Public transit access||Lincoln stop on the Fitchburg MBTA Line and a 1.5 mile walk|
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is a 30-acre sculpture park and contemporary art museum on the shore of Flint's Pond in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Established in 1950, it is the largest park of its kind in New England encompassing 30 acres, 20 miles northwest of Boston. DeCordova's mission is to foster the creation, exhibition, and exploration of contemporary sculpture and art through exhibitions, learning opportunities, collection, and a unique park setting.
Providing a constantly changing landscape of large-scale, outdoor, modern and contemporary sculpture and site-specific installations, the Sculpture Park hosts more than 60 works, the majority of which are on loan to the Museum. Inside, the Museum features a robust slate of rotating exhibitions. DeCordova's permanent collection focuses on works in all media, with particular emphasis on photography and works by artists with connections to New England.
DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is located on the former estate of Julian de Cordova (1851-1945). The self-educated son of a Jamaican merchant, Julian became a successful tea broker, wholesale merchant, investor, and president of the Union Glass Company in Somerville, Massachusetts. He married into the locally prominent Dana family of Boston. Julian and his wife Elizabeth were rare tourists who traveled around the globe collecting art. Inspired by his trips to Spain and his own Spanish heritage, Julian remodeled his summer home in Lincoln, Massachusetts in 1910 to resemble a European castle. His exposure to the visual arts abroad also influenced his management of the Union Glass Company, which under his stewardship produced ornamental glass to rival the quality of his European competitors.
In his later years, Julian opened the doors of his estate to share his collection. He gave his property to the town of Lincoln in 1930 with the stipulation that his estate would become a public museum of art following his death in 1945. Julian's will established a committee of incorporation, whose duties included formulating the policy, objectives, and supervision of the new museum with the guidance of professionals in the field, such as the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. Independent appraisers determined that Julian's collections were not of substantial interest or value, so the collection was sold and the proceeds were used to create a museum of regional contemporary art. The Trustees reached this decision after they noticed the near absence of modern art exhibitions in the Boston area, and the lack of venues for works by regional contemporary artists. When it officially opened in 1950, deCordova became the only museum to focus its exhibitions and collecting activities on living New England artists, while adopting a broad educational program in the visual arts.
The Trustees chose MFA School of Art graduate Frederick P. Walkey to lead the institution as its founding director, and he aggressively organized an exhibition schedule and arts instruction program with a clear educational mandate. DeCordova established a reputation for ground-breaking exhibitions that introduced New England audiences to important trends within contemporary art both regionally and nationally, including Pop Art and Boston's post-war expressionist movement.
DeCordova's current director is John B. Ravenal, appointed January 2015.
In the summer of 2019, deCordova merged with The Trustees of Reservations, a land conservation and historic preservation non-profit organization that has a growing interest and focus on art and the landscape. The Trustees has 118 properties state-wide in Massachusetts ranging from beaches to forests to historical homes and serves the public by protecting special places in perpetuity.
New England architect John Quincy Adams designed the extensive renovations that transformed Julian de Cordova's mansion into a public museum prior to its opening in 1950. As visitors roamed the galleries below, the Museum's third floor buzzed with studio art classes. The School attracted hundreds of students, eventually overwhelming the limited space within the Museum. In 1966, deCordova constructed a complex of four studio buildings to accommodate its expanded educational programs and meet the equipment standards of a professional art studio. In the early 1980s, the Museum consolidated and renovated two existing buildings to form administrative offices for the School and its outreach programs.
In 1998, the institution completed the New Century Campaign for deCordova, an $8 million effort to upgrade its aging building. Architects Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood of Boston modernized and expanded deCordova’s educational facilities to include a new studio, a store, and a gallery dedicated to exhibitions by School instructors and students. The Museum’s exhibition space was expanded with a 20,000 square foot addition and a roof terrace to provide breath-taking views of the Park. The main galleries were renovated to install a climate control system, a café, and a library.
DeCordova's emphasis on modern and contemporary art fueled its rapid popularity during the 1950s and 1960s, but by the 1980s, the Museum faced competition from a growing number of local museums, universities, and private galleries all of which shared a similar artistic mission. With the arrival of director Paul Master-Karnik in 1982, deCordova initiated a series of curatorial programs to further strengthen its commitment to New England’s contemporary artists. Master-Karnik introduced the Annual Exhibition, formerly Artist/Visions, which featured works by emerging New England artists and provided an annual snapshot of regional talent.
To maintain the institution’s connection to New England and its support for local emerging artists, former director Dennis Kois (appointed in 2008) established the PLATFORM series, an ongoing exhibition series of site-specific installations by New England artists. In 2010 the deCordova Biennial replaced the Annual Exhibition series to expand the curatorial voice, allowing for an advisory board and co-curator opportunities. Now occurring every other year, the deCordova Biennial displays New England’s leading emerging to mid-career artists, emphasizing the quality and vitality of the art created in this region.
In order to emphasize its focus, the Museum officially changed its name in 2009 from deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. The landscaped lawns, forests, fields, and terraces of deCordova's Sculpture Park reveal a cross-section of how contemporary artists work outdoors, and how outdoor art enters into complex dialogues with sites and environmental conditions. This is accomplished with a three-tiered program of collection works, loans, and site-specific projects and commissions. The collection includes works by significant twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists that provide an art-historical context for other work in the park, and include sculptures by Dorothy Dehner, Antony Gormley, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Alexander Liberman, Nam June Paik, Beverly Pepper, Jaume Plensa, George Rickey, and Ursula von Rydingsvard. Artists with sculptures currently on loan to deCordova include Jim Dine, DeWitt Godfrey, Paul Matisse, and Isaac Witkin. Site-specific projects and special installations are designed and implemented especially for the Sculpture Park. Recent site-specific works include Steven Siegel’s Big, with Rift; Fritz Horstman's "Formwork for a Spiral Movement"; and a major installation by environmental artist Alan Sonfist, The Endangered Species of New England.
- "About deCordova". deCordova. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
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