Williams College Museum of Art
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The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), with Louise Bourgeois' Eyes (Nine Elements) (2001) in the foreground
|Location||15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Ste 2, Williamstown, Massachusetts|
|Accreditation||American Alliance of Museums, 1993 and 2004|
|Collections||Contemporary art, photography, prints, Indian painting|
The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is a college art museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Situated at the Williams College campus close to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the Clark Art Institute. Its growing collection encompasses more than 14,000 works, with particular strengths in contemporary art, photography, prints, and Indian painting. The museum is free and open to the public.
WCMA was established in 1926 by Karl Weston, an art history professor who made it his mission to provide students a venue for firsthand experience of art. The College's art collection, in large part donated by Eliza Peters Field in 1897, had been housed in two small wings of what was then the College library, Lawrence Hall, designed by Thomas A. Tefft in 1846. When the library was moved to Stetson Hall in 1920, however, Weston transformed the octagonal brick building into an art museum, adding a T-shaped wing in order to provide additional space for galleries and the College's rapidly expanding art history curriculum.
Over the next half-century, under a series of directors, the College enlarged the art department and the museum's collection. In 1981, Director Franklin W. Robinson hired Charles Moore to redesign the building in order to raise facilities to professional standards and double exhibition space. This coincided with an expansion of WCMA's staff, educational programs, and exhibition schedule.
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1993 and re-accredited in 2004, the museum has been the site of dozens of exhibitions (see Past Exhibitions, below). In 2012, WCMA hired its current director, Christina Olsen.
Made up of 14,000 individual works, the collection has particular strengths in ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Greco-Roman objects, Indian Painting, African Sculpture, photography, art of the U.S., and international modern and contemporary art. The museum is also home to the world's largest assembly of works by the artist brothers Maurice Prendergast and Charles Prendergast. These works were donated in 1983 by Charles's widow Eugenie Prendergast, and were the basis for WCMA's Prendergast Archive and Study Center, which is maintained as a center for scholarship on the brothers and their contemporaries.
Marking its 75th anniversary in 2001, the museum installed Eyes (Nine Elements) by Louise Bourgeois. This outdoor sculpture has since become a symbol of the museum's dedication to contemporary art, as well as an iconic part of the Williams campus.
- Morning in a City (1944), by Edward Hopper
- Eyes (Nine Elements), by Louise Bourgeois
- A commissioned wall painting by Sol LeWitt
- Death on the Ridge Road (1935), by Grant Wood
- More than 400 watercolors, oils, and sketches by Charles and Maurice Prendergast
- Relief of a guardian spirit from the Assyrian Palace at Nimrud, 9th century BCE, currently on view in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Points of Interest
Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts
Established by Allan W. Fulkerson '54, the Fund is now in its fifth year and continues to support a variety of student-centered projects at WCMA. Central components include:
- WALLS (see below)
- Think Tank
- The annual Leadership in the Arts Award is presented to one graduating Master's and one College student. This award recognizes graduates who are poised to become future arts leaders. Winners are awarded a fully funded trip to meet with a prominent alumni arts leader and an American Alliance of Museums membership.
During World War Two, a body of nearly 350 servicemen and women was established to recover and protect artwork from areas affected by the conflict. This organization was known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program (MFAA), or more colloquially, the Monuments Men. Among the ranks of this enterprise were Williams graduates Charles Parkhurst '35 and Lane Faison '29, who both returned to WCMA to serve as museum directors after the war. In February 2014, Sony Pictures released The Monuments Men a feature film directed by George Clooney that has revived interest in these lesser-known heroes of the war. On March 7, 2014, WCMA celebrated its own two Monuments Men by inviting Faison's sons and Parkhurst's widow to speak at the museum.
Williams Art Mafia
This informal group studied under the trio of Lane Faison, Bill Pierson and Whitney Stoddard, and became collectively known as the Williams Art Mafia. Its members include:
- Roger Mandle '63, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design
- James N. Wood '63, former director of the Art Institute of Chicago and head of the J. Paul Getty trust
- Earl A. Powell III '66, director of the National Gallery of Art and chairman of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
- John R. "Jack" Lane '66, president of the New Art Trust
- Kirk Varnedoe '67, former curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art
- Thomas Krens '69, former director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
- Glenn Lowry '76, director of the Museum of Modern Art.
Today, Williams art students graduate ready to take on a broad variety of leadership, creative, and education roles within the art world.
Major past exhibitions
- Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project (2000) – In this installation, part of the museum's permanent collection, Carrie Mae Weems combines her concerns about individual identity, class, assimilation, education, and the legacy of slavery into a series of photographic banners that encouraged viewers to reassess their own moral and ethical boundaries, as well as the political and socioeconomic realities of twentieth-century America.
- Prelude to a Nightmare: Art, Politics, and Hitler's Early Years in Vienna, 1906–1913 (2002) – This exhibition examined the influence Vienna, Austria had on the young Adolf Hitler and how this influence was later manifested in his creation of the Nazi party. The exhibition was WCMA's contribution to The Vienna Project (2002), a collaboration among eleven arts and cultural institutions in the Berkshires that explored four centuries of art from the Austrian art mecca.
- Moving Pictures: American Art and Early Film, 1890–1910 (2005) – This exhibition explored the relationship between American art and the new medium of film at the beginning of the 20th century. Showcasing approximately 100 paintings and 50 films, "Moving Pictures" presented art and film side by side, examining the complex relationship between these two media at the turn of the last century.
- Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain (2006) – This exhibition of photographs drawn from contemporary art, advertising, and photojournalism, explores the ethics and aesthetics involved in depicting human suffering.
- Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy (2007) – Sara and Gerald Murphy are best remembered as the captivating American 'expats' who inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night. This exhibition, however, examined the two as forces in their own right who helped drive the modernist movement of the 1920s.
- Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987 (2012) – The first retrospective to present the wide-ranging work of the Chicano performance and conceptual art group Asco. Asco began as a tight-knit core group of artists from East Los Angeles composed of Harry Gamboa, Jr., Gronk, Willie Herrón, and Patssi Valdez. Taking their name from the forceful Spanish word for disgust and nausea, Asco used performance, public art, and multimedia to respond to social and political turbulence in Los Angeles and beyond.
List of Directors (1926–present)
|Karl E. Weston||1926||1948|
|S. Lane Faison||1948||1976|
|Franklin W. Robinson||1976||1979|
|Milo C. Beach||1979||1979|
|John W. Coffey II||1979||1980|
|W. Rod Faulds||1988||1989|
|Linda B. Shearer||1989||2004|
|Marion M. Goethals||2004||2005|
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