September 16, 2012 – January 6, 2013 // Jemison Galleries // Included with admission to Norman Rockwell's America:
In conjunction with the blockbuster Norman Rockwell's America, the Museum presents The Golden Age: American Illustration from the Collection. Illustration experienced unprecedented popularity in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The print industry saw numerous technical developments that enabled popular magazines to drop their cover prices, while at the same time, the size of the middle class rapidly increased and their leisure time and income increased. The American public demanded entertainment, and the print industry supplied it in the form of colorfully illustrated literary magazines, periodicals, and novels. As readership grew, the need for illustrators surged. However, like most other industries, publishing suffered during the Great Depression, and photography came to replace illustrations, thus drawing to a close the Golden Age of American illustration.
Featuring twenty illustrations from the Museum’s works on paper collection and a selection of volumes from the Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. Library’s rare books collection, The Golden Age examines the role of American illustration during this period through the works of well-known artists such as George Henry Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, and Frederic Remington.
February 17–June 16, 2013 // Arrington Gallery // Free
The Museum is delighted to share the unique, amusing, and beautiful porcelain table service from the collection of Richard Baron Cohen. Combining two of his greatest collecting passions–ceramics and hippos–Mr. Cohen commissioned a large dinner service from the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory in Denmark that captures the spirit and personality of his favorite animal.
The story of the service began in 2004, when Mr. Cohen sent photographer Sarah Louise Galbraith on a year-long journey around the world to photograph hippopotami in zoos and in their natural environment. Using these photos, master porcelain painter Jørgen Nielsen painted delightful “portraits” of the hippos on the various pieces of the service. Completed in four years, the service includes 144 pieces.
This family-friendly exhibition focuses on the stories of the hippos, who they are and where they live, and Galbraith’s travels around the world to photograph them.
Join us for a new in-gallery family experience! On Tuesdays and selected Saturdays at 10:30am, children aged 3 to 8 and their adult companions are invited to join Museum educators to explore Hip, Hippo, Hooray!, discover activities that make looking at art fun and exciting, and create new family memories about art and hippos. No reservations are required.
Hippo Adventures are also available by appointment for groups of 10 or more children aged 3 to 8 and their adult companions. For more information or to schedule a tour, click here or call 205.254.2964.
All photos of hippos taken by and copyright Sarah Louise Galbraith.
Art Speaks: 50 Years Forward is sponsored by Alabama Power Company, Protective Life Foundation, the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, and Vulcan Materials Company. Additional support for individual exhibitions is provided by Regions Bank and Walter Energy (Etched in Collective History), PNC Bank (The Birmingham Project), and EBSCO Media.
Hank Willis Thomas, Chris Johnson, Bayete Ross Smith, Kamal Sinclair // October 6 – December 29, 2013
Question Bridge is a trans-media art project that counters established notions of Black masculinity in the United States. The project presents more than three hours of videotaped interviews with several dozen Black men, who are seen on multiple video screens. As a multi-generational and cross-national project, Question Bridge addresses pressing issues that Black men face in the United States. Men from Birmingham are included in this dialogue that encompasses issues of race, class, sexuality, and economic status, asking questions that are political, humorous, painful, and poignant. Visitors are invited to experience an intimate exchange between subjects of the project. The installation creates a platform for participants to represent and redefine Black male identity in America.
June 24–September 16, 2012 // Contemporary Galleries // Free
Warhol and Cars: American Icons is the first exhibition to examine Andy Warhol’s enduring fascination with automotive vehicles as products of American consumer society. The exhibition features more than forty drawings, paintings, photographs, sculptural models, and related archival material spanning the Pop Art icon’s entire career. As one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century, Andy Warhol has helped to define America. His signature images, whether American products such as Campbell’s soup cans or Coca-Cola bottles, or celebrities like Liz Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, are instantly recognizable worldwide.
Warhol and Cars highlights include early line drawings and 1950s commercial work, paintings, and works on paper from the 1960s through the 1980s that present his signature silkscreen process. Also included is a 1979 film of Warhol painting and discussing a BMW M1 as part of the BMW Art Race Car Projects introduced by French racer Hervé Poulain.
Warhol and Cars was organized by the Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey, and curated by Gail Stavitsky, MAM chief curator. The majority of the work in the exhibition is from the permanent collection of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog, Warhol and Cars: American Icons, published by the Montclair Art Museum. The catalog is available for purchase through the Museum Store.
Complement your visit to Warhol and Cars with an audio tour, available through any internet-enabled device (smartphone, MP3, tablet). Simply scan the QR code or enter the web address from the label next to the artwork, tap Play, and enjoy insight from curator Gail Stavitsky. Please note that earphones are required; bring your own, or purchase earbuds in the Museum Store for $1.50. A transcript is available in the gallery for visitors without internet-enabled devices or for those with hearing impairments.
Click here to book a group tour.
This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of PNC Bank.
New Gallery of African Ceramics Opens // February 22, 2013
On February 22, 2013 the Museum unveiled the superb Jemison Collection of African Ceramics in a newly dedicated gallery. The works come primarily from West, Central, and Southern Africa, and were created for utilitarian and ritual use. Visitors will not only appreciate the variety, technological skill and artistry represented in African ceramics, but they can explore the styles influenced by place, the similarities and differences of neighboring cultures, and an object’s role in communication.
cLOSING SEPTEMBER 9 // Third Floor Hallway
This exhibition features approximately fifty-five works of African ceramics and iron art, including vessels, musical instruments, currency objects, sculpted figures, staffs, tools and ritual objects. The objects come primarily from the countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Iron and clay are extremely important materials and media in West African culture. They are valued not only for their practical use in the fabrication of essential tools, weapons, currency, and vessels, but also for their spiritual potency. Objects made of iron and clay play important roles in rites of passage, healing rituals, divination, governance, religious practice, and conflict mediation. Many myths and legends recount the importance of the blacksmith and the potter in African society.
Throughout Africa, blacksmiths are generally born into their occupational specialty, and may only marry women from other blacksmith families. While the men smelt and forge iron, the women in their families specialize in ceramics, creating vessels for daily use and ritual objects. It is fire that transforms raw clay and iron ore into the secular and sacred objects that are essential to the well-being of African communities. This specialized occupational knowledge is jealously guarded by these men and women, who acknowledge that it was originally imparted by a divine source, usually as part of a sacred covenant.
The ceramics in this exhibition are on loan to the Museum from The Dick Jemison Collection. Jemison, an artist who divides his time between Birmingham and the American Southwest, is interested in tribal arts from across the globe. The iron objects in the exhibition were given to the Museum in 2004 by Mort and Sue Fuller, of New York.
June 9–September 1, 2013 // Bohorfoush Gallery
The Museum actively acquires African American art for the permanent collection. The Birmingham Museum of Art’s Sankofa Society: Friends of American and African Art support group plays an integral role in supporting the Museum’s mission of building the African American art collection. Sankofa has and continues to help the Museum by acquiring African American art. As a celebration of Sankofa’s contributions to the Museum, this exhibition will highlight the group’s acquisitions and acquisitions made in honor of Sankofa.
May 13th - August 5th // Jemison Galleries
The final feather in the Museum’s 60th anniversary cap is an exhibition of more than 150 works that have been purchased or gifted in honor of our diamond anniversary. The works, spanning all collecting departments and periods, range from a superb 3rd-century Gandharan head—to an intricately carved German ivory hunting horn—to a voluminous 18th-century Aubusson rug—to a 2010 sculpture by the Alabama-born, internationally recognized artist William Christenberry. This vast panorama of gifts underscores the Museum’s strong commitment to collecting broadly and in depth, as the state’s only comprehensive art museum. The exhibition installation is organized chronologically, which provides a horizontal view across cultures at any given moment, and opens unusual opportunities for dialogue between works that are otherwise generally separated by region.
With this exhibition, we recognize the fundamental role that gifts play in the ongoing effort to build the finest collection in the southeast. Since the Museum’s inception in 1951, the generosity of our patrons has grown the collection to more than 24,000 objects in just sixty years. Quality and excellence remain twin criteria as we consider each and every work of art.
So what does the title, Future Perfect mean? Grammatically, the future perfect tense talks about the past in the future—a fitting tribute to this moment in the history of your museum, as we reflect on the collection we have built and strive to make it even greater in the future.
Visitors often ask, “How does the Museum decide which artworks to collect?” This exhibition provides both a glimpse into that process as well as a preview of our plans. Future Perfect celebrates the gifts and purchases made to honor the sixtieth year of the Museum, and reveals how and why it acquires artworks. The wide variety of art in these galleries underscores the Museum’s strong commitment to build on our existing strengths, by collecting broadly and in depth.
The works, spanning all collecting departments and periods, range from a superb 3rd-century Gandharan head – to an intricately carved German ivory hunting horn – to a voluminous 18th-century Aubusson rug – to a 2010 sculpture by the Alabama-born, internationally-recognized William Christenberry. The exhibition is installed chronologically, across geographical regions, which allows for interesting and unusual juxtapositions.
So what does the title – Future Perfect – mean? Grammatically, the future perfect tense of a verb refers to an action in the present that will be complete in the future: a fitting description of this moment in the collecting history of the Museum. Join us to reflect on the collection we have built as we strive to make it better for the future.
Gifts are one way that art collections grow. Each of the Museum’s curatorial departments – American, the Americas and Africa, Asian, decorative arts, European, and modern and contemporary – develops a five-year plan and works with collectors and foundations to help fulfill it. Types of gifts include:
- Unrestricted gifts, granting full ownership to the Museum
- Fractional gifts, transferring ownership gradually to the Museum over a period of time
- Promised gifts, expressing the owner’s intent to give an artwork to the Museum at a future time
- Bequests, bequeathing artwork to the Museum through the owner’s will or estate
On occasion, the Museum and a donor make a gift-purchase agreement, in which the owner donates a percentage of an artwork’s value; the Museum purchases the balance.
Building the Collection
The Museum builds its collections through purchases, gifts, or a combination of the two. Before curators add an object to the permanent collection, it must successfully pass each step of a demanding approval process.
First, the curator researches the history of an artwork, assesses its quality, and considers how it fits into the collection, what gap it fills, and how it furthers the Museum’s mission. If the artwork stands up under scrutiny, then he or she proposes to the Museum’s director and curatorial staff to acquire it. Next, the curator defends the object to and answers questions from the board of trustees’ subcommittee on collections, a group that meets six times each year. If approved, the curator presents it to the entire board of trustees, after which the Museum’s registration department assigns it a permanent object number.
Looking to the Future
Each of the Museum’s curatorial departments develops a strategic collecting plan every five years. These plans establish the collections’ strengths, identify potential new artworks that could build on those strengths, and pinpoint gaps. Below are some priorities for each collection:
- 20th-century Modernism and design
The Americas and Africa
- Contemporary Native-American art
- Islamic, Christian, and Jewish art from Africa
- A major work of African contemporary art that reflects upon traditional African art
- Hindu art from India
- Buddhist sculpture from Japan
- Indian miniature paintings
- 18th-century English ceramics
- Wedgwood ceramics
- 19th- and 20th-century European decorative arts and English silver
- 16th-century Mannerist art
- 16th- through 18th-century Italian, Dutch, and French sculpture
- 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings
Modern and Contemporary
- African-American and Latin-American art
- Alabama masterworks
Tracing our History
- April 8: Birmingham Museum of Art opens in five large galleries in City Hall.
- The Samuel H. Kress Foundation loans 27 Renaissance and Baroque works.
- Progress Study Club donates first Asian artwork, a pair of women’s shoes from China.
- American Cast Iron Pipe Company places the Gustav Lamprecht collection of 19th-century European cast iron on long-term loan. ACIPCO donates the collection in 1986.
- Oscar and Helen Wells bequeath their collection of European and American prints, including etchings by Rembrandt and Whistler.
- The Museum purchases its first important American painting, Childe Hassam’s Building the Schooner, Provincetown.
- The Museum acquires a large group of Native American art of the Pacific Northwest Coast from the Rasmussen collection.
- The Museum moves to its present site, the Oscar Wells Memorial Building, built with funds from Helen Jacob Wells in memory of her husband.
- The Kress Foundation donates the 27 paintings on loan since 1951, as well as 12 additional works.
- Dr. Harold and Regina Simon begin to give their nationally known collection of art of the American West. They eventually established the Simon Fund for the acquisition of American art, ensuring the growth of the collection for generations to come.
- The Museum acquires Frank Stella’s Flin Flon VI, its first major work of contemporary art.
- Frances Oliver bequeaths her collection of English silver and ceramics and continental porcelain.
- The Birmingham Public Library lends Albert Bierstadt’s Looking Down the Yosemite Valley, California. The Library donates the painting in 1991.
- The Museum makes its first purchase of Asian art, a Korean jar.
- Birmingham natives Dwight & Lucille Beeson begin to give more than 1400 pieces of early Wedgwood pottery, establishing the Museum as a major center of Wedgwood ceramics.
- The Museum purchases Georgia O’Keeffe’s The Green Apple with funds from the 1981 and 1982 Museum Dinners and Balls and Mr. & Mrs. Jack McSpadden.
- Eleanor Lee Brakefield bequeaths her collection of approximately 32,000 late 19th- and early 20th-century postcards. They are accessioned as a single object.
- The Museum acquires the monumental Chinese wall fresco The Pure Land of Amitabha.
- The Museum receives the Eugenia Woodward Hitt collection, comprising more than 500 18th-century French paintings and decorative arts.
- Silvia Pizitz bequeaths her collection of modern art, including works by Josef Albers, El Lissitsky, and Charmion von Wiegand.
- The Museum purchases the Elizabeth Chellis Wedgwood Library.
- A 50,000-square-foot addition, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, opens.
- Robert & Helen Cargo donate their collection of more than 300 Alabama-made quilts and an accompanying library, which chart the state’s rich quilt history.
- The Museum receives the Catherine H. Collins collection of 18th-century English ceramics.
- The Museum purchases an important Creek bandolier bag with funds from the annual Museum Ball.
- Rita Judge Smith gives 56 works of Pre-Columbian art.
- Funds from the Merton Brown Estate and the Thelma Brown Trust enable the purchase of Bonjour Julie, a major work by Abstract Expressionist painter Joan Mitchell.
- Funds provided by Dr. & Mrs. John Poynor and the Bluff Park Art Association, in honor of the Museum’s 50th anniversary, enable it to commission Bands of Color in Various Directions from Sol LeWitt.
- Eivor and Alston Callahan donate the Indian sculpture Sarasvati.
- The Museum purchases the John Stevenson library on Vietnamese ceramics, one of the most extensive of its kind.
- Mortimer & Sue Fuller give 256 works of African iron and ceramics.
- The Museum receives the library of Walter & Molly Bareiss, consisting of approximately 350 volumes on African art.
- The Museum acquires the Buten Wedgwood collection, comprising more than 8000 ceramics from the 18th through mid-20th centuries. The Museum also receives the Buten Wedgwood library and archives, consisting of approximately 600 rare or unique books, photographs, slides, and archival materials.
- The Museum receives a large collection of Alabama folk pottery from the Weissman-Sellers family in honor of Nancy Stone.
- The Museum is the one institution in Alabama selected to receive 50 works of modern and contemporary art from the Herbert & Dorothy Vogel collection’s Fifty Works for Fifty States initiative.
- The Museum purchases Robert Seldon Duncanson’s A Dream of Italy.
- The Museum’s European Art Society purchases the Artemis library, comprising over 5800 volumes on prints and drawings.
- A major gift from the estate of longtime city council member Nina Miglionico enables the purchase of an early sculpture by Mino Da Fiesole and Italian Renaissance pottery.
- Birmingham native Robert Kaufmann, longtime decorative arts librarian at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequeaths his library of more than 2000 books on art history, Victoriana, and food culture and history.
- William M. Spencer III bequeaths major collection of Vietnamese ceramics.
- William Hull donates a large collection of 20th-century Danish pottery.
- Birmingham artist and collector Dick Jemison gives his collection of more than 400 works of African earthenware.
- Birmingham collector and longtime Museum volunteer Guy R. Kreusch gives the Museum a collection of more than 200 pieces of Roseville Pottery.
- The Birmingham Museum of Art’s collection totals approximately 24,000 works of art.
Spring 2013 // Sculpture Garden
Horizons is an outdoor installation by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir (pronounced Stay-nun Thor-orens-daughter). The exhibition comprises 12 androgynous, life-sized iron figures, eleven standing and one seated. Each sculpture is unique, and has a polished glass band inserted in its torso. The arrangement of Horizons is not predetermined; at the BMA, the twelve figures will be interspersed between the Upper Plaza and the Sculpture Pit, requiring viewers to interact and connect with the sculptures over time and in different places.
OCTOBER 7–DECEMBER 30, 2012 // ARRINGTON GALLERY
From the arrival of Spanish settlers in the mid-1500s to their forced move to reservations in the 19th century, the Navajo people have a long history of adapting their resources and practices to changes in their environment. The practice of weaving, in particular, has been an important part of Navajo identity since its introduction by their Pueblo neighbors in the 16th century. This historic art form has survived many changes in Navajo life. The Navajo people adapted the art of weaving, both in design and materials, in order to better suit their needs.
Woven Splendor showcases 17 rugs and five chief blankets from the Museum’s permanent collection, dating from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries. The chief blankets represent designs popular before American traders established trading posts as the main public outsource of Navajo textiles. These “blankets,” worn by Navajo men and women, were also traded to neighboring tribes and Spanish settlers, who considered them symbols of high status. After the arrival of American traders, the chief blanket was replaced by the rug, which was highly desired by the American market on the East Coast. The variety of rugs shown in this exhibition depicts a small selection of the vast array of designs that the Navajo people created for their new Anglo-American customers.