The North Carolina Museum of Art may Metamorphous into a Fabulous Museum of Art.
As a long term resident, of the “Old North State,” who has paid more than his share of state income taxes, I can only ask: Why has it taken so long? Up until the point of the museum’s probable and miraculous metamorphous, the museum is deficient in two critical areas: exhibition space, variety and quality of art exhibited.
The first museum, the Edward Durrell Stone building, was constructed in 1983 and can be located just north of interstate 40 / Wade Ave, just west of Raleigh‘s inner beltway. As you can see from the pictures below, the North Carolina Museum of Art was constructed in the modern architectural design that was so popular in the 20th Century.
This popular design from that era insured that the massive building would be a blocky, poorly lit building, with too much internal open space, and not enough wall space to exhibit the art that the people of North Carolina own, much of which (it was reported to me) is in storage.
The new building, built on the western lawn of the 164 acre campus, will be 127,000 square feet of space, which houses more than 5,000 pieces of art. Hopefully, this new museum that looks like a white paneled warehouse will allow the full collection, held in trust for the citizens of the world by the citizens of North Carolina, to be displayed rather than stored. The older museum will be revamped into a center for temporary exhibitions - visiting exhibits.
It was recounted to me, by an administrative employee of the museum, that the first visiting exhibit will be a collection of the incomparable illustrator Norman Rockwell. The great illustrator has been fixture in the collective American conscience beginning in the early 20th Century. I have always been appreciated the warmth of his perception of the innocent humor that constitutes the essence of regular folks. You know … regular folks: The ones that do most of the living and the dying in the building of this great free land. Norman Rockwell was a great man, a great American and a wonderfully perceptive artist.
I trust the art heavies, who have in the past purchased much of the huge abstract art pieces that hang on the expansive walls of the present museum, will not get their collective panties in a bunch, when the deceased Mr. Rockwell’s art is exhibited in the older museum.
In life, Norman Rockwell’s art was much maligned by the art heavies of his time, as they did not consider his controlled oil paintings as “serious.” During his day, and later, a deprecatory adjective, “Rockwellesque,” was used to describe his work, and the work of others, who did not experiment in the more acceptable styles acknowledged by the art heavies.
Finally, in 1999, some 21 after the artist’s death, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific. It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”
The moral: Even art heavies get worn down, worn out and capitulate due the lack the better argument. Soon North Carolina citizens, and others that visit our state’s museum, will get an up close view from their standing position upon the floor of the older museum of art, the exhibited art of America’s greatest illustrator.
The view looking northwest at the new museum (white panels) under construction with the rear of the covered stage of the amphitheater in the foreground: Above. One of the initial abstract sculptures along the walking trail within the museum's 164 acre campus: Below.
Since I had the audience of this unnamed administrative assistant, I took the opportunity to ask two questions: Why are there so many abstract art pieces on display and why don't you devote an entire gallery to living North Carolina Artists and an entire gallery to the best North Carolina Artists that have departed us?
The answers: Abstract art is less expensive and therefore more affordable for the larger pieces. Of course, I retorted, "You get what you pay for." And the second answer in regards to the galleries for the North Carolina artists: “It is being considered, and I hope it will be realized.” There currently residing in North Carolina a plethora of accomplished artists, with many interesting works, that would elucidate the abundance of talent in this state.
I have always thought that the North Carolina Museum of Art should cut back on the big abstract pieces, and reserve more wall space for the impressionists (the French and their disciples) and especially, the realists, who have been bullied by the talent less art heavies for decades. Who knows it may become a reality, and North Carolina will eventually have a real museum of art for her tax paying people and their visitors from out of state.
Until that time that I review the new museum, I leave you with these pictures (shot by me at 1/8th of a second, with no tripod) of the three Andrew Wyeth egg tempera paintings that hang on the main floor of the current gallery. Now, this is art we can be proud of, and is currently the best art hanging in the museum. I pray, in the future, there will be other works of art of this quality in the North Carolina Museum of Art's permanent collection or in a visiting exhibit. I am hopeful their art in storage will improve the quality that has been missing in this museum for so very long.
The first Wyeth is titled Weatherside: Inset. The second Wyeth is titled Winter 1946: Below. The third Wyeth is titled The Sea Captain: Below Winter 1946.
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.