The Gibbes Museum of Art reopened its doors to the public May 28 after an extensive two-year, multimillion-dollar renovation. The 111-year-old museum houses a premier collection of more than 10,000 works telling the story of American art. In addition to the museum’s permanent exhibitions, the Gibbes will showcase six to eight special exhibitions per year to promote creativity, introduce new art forms and provide perspective on larger community issues.
“When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls,” said Angela Mack, the museum’s executive director. “The reopening of the Gibbes signifies a renewed connection between the community, art and artists.”
The activity-filled first floor of the Gibbes is free and open to the public and features artist studios, classrooms for all ages, a museum store, event space and a café set to open midsummer. Along the Angela D. Mack Promenade, visitors will see artists at work in the resident studio spaces and classes taking place in the hands-on education centers. At the end of the hallway, guests are invited to reflect upon the art and relax in the classically landscaped Lenhardt Garden, part of The Gateway Walk.
“The reopening of the Gibbes Museum of Art signifies a new chapter in both the museum’s and City of Charleston’s history,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg. “When the city found the crumpled blueprints years ago, it was clear it would take a special team to restore the museum to its original layout and purpose. The years of renovation have been worth the wait, and we’re proud of the museum’s renewed vision to embrace visitors and the Charleston community like never before.”
The newly expanded gallery space on the second and third floors of the museum showcases more than 600 works from the permanent collection, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, decorative art objects and installations. The permanent collection spans four centuries and provides a dynamic introduction to the visual culture of America and the South from the colonial era to the present. With the first-ever American miniature portraits painted in Charleston in watercolor on thin disks of ivory, the Gibbes is home to one of the most prestigious American portrait miniature collections in the country.
In addition to the museum’s permanent collection, the Gibbes reopens with two blockbuster exhibitions available for viewing until October 9, 2016:
Beyond Catfish Row: The Art of Porgy and Bess celebrates George Gershwin’s famed opera, as interpreted by visual artists since its creation. The exhibition includes a number of paintings from the 1930s era, including works by American regionalist George Biddle, who illustrated the original Porgy and Bess libretto in 1935. Beyond Catfish Rowalso includes paintings by Gershwin himself and works by American modernist Henry Botkin, who accompanied the composer to Charleston while he wrote the opera. The 1930s works are paired with more recent interpretations by contemporary artists Kara Walker and Jonathan Green.
The Things We Carry: Contemporary Art in the South features paintings, sculpture, photography, and mixed media works by a diverse group of nationally known contemporary artists. Together, these artists address the troubled history of the American South and the many ways that history is represented today, including artistic responses to the tragic shooting of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015. The exhibition provides a venue where the Charleston community and visitors alike can come together in the spirit of understanding and unity, inspired by the art on view.
The newly renovated museum aims to unite the public with artwork and artists through its collections, events and dynamic ground floor offerings. The Gibbes will remain open until 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, encouraging visitors to experience the museum in a different light.