A group of Charleston citizens, including prominent businessmen and political leaders, organize the Carolina Art Association to promote fine arts in South Carolina through exhibitions and to create a permanent collection. The Association stages its first exhibition in April at the Apprentices Library Society on Horlbeck Alley, displaying 176 works borrowed from private collections around the city. The Association is awarded its official state charter on December 21.
James Shoolbred Gibbes, Sr., a loyal patron of the arts, writes a contingency in his will leaving in trust to the Mayor of Charleston and three private individuals $100,000 “for the erection or purchase of a suitable building to be used as a Hall or Halls for the exhibition of paintings and for necessary rooms for students in the fine arts…”.
The Gibbes Memorial Art Gallery (now the Gibbes Museum of Art) opens with great fanfare on April 11th. Named for its benefactor, James Shoolbred Gibbes, Sr., and designed in the Beaux Arts-style by architect Frank P. Milburn, the building becomes home to the Carolina Art Association.
In an effort spearheaded by the Charleston Sketch Club—an auxiliary group of the Gibbes formed in 1912—a studio art school is established at the Gibbes with artist Alfred Hutty as the first director.
The first professional director, Robert N. S. Whitelaw, is hired. Whitelaw develops the museum’s earliest collecting policy focusing on American art of the South, and spearheads an ambitious exhibition program.
The Gibbes makes international history hosting the first-ever public showing of Solomon R. Guggenheim’s collection of modern art. The exhibition is monumental, featuring 128 original works by artists such as Rudolf Bauer, Vasily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso.
During World War II, museums, like businesses, factories, and other organizations, alter their normal routines to bolster wartime morale on the home front. Home to the Charleston Naval Shipyard and several military bases, Charleston is a hub of wartime activities. The Gibbes Museum hosts promotional and educational exhibitions relating to the war.
Gibbes Art Gallery Auxiliary volunteer core (today’s Women’s Council) forms to promote arts education and boost operational support for the Gibbes through fundraising initiatives.
The Gibbes School of Art opens at 76 Queen Street.
The Gibbes is among the first museums in the Southeast to receive accreditation from the American Association of Museums (now American Alliance of Museums).
A $1,200,000 renovation, including the addition of a new wraparound wing designed by Simons, Mitchell, Small and Donahue Architects, is completed. The addition increases gallery space, storage, and provides staff office space.
The Gibbes becomes the chief venue for visual arts for Spoleto USA and over the next decade presents pivotal exhibitions of contemporary American artists including Louise Nevelson, Sol LeWitt, and Roy Lichtenstein.
The landmark exhibition In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad, 1740-1860 debuts, featuring 145 works of fine and decorative arts. The exhibition is complemented by groundbreaking scholarship on more than a century of cultural exchange between Europe and South Carolina. Organized by the Gibbes and presented in cooperation with the Historic Charleston Foundation, the exhibit receives international recognition.
The Gibbes establishes a prize for contemporary southern art awarding $10,000 to an artist whose work contributes to a new understanding of art in the South. The 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art is awarded annually by Society 1858, a member auxiliary group of the Gibbes comprised of dynamic young professionals who support the museum with social and educational programs.
The Gibbes embarks upon a five-year, $13.5M capital campaign for a renovation and expansion to restore the Beaux Arts-style building to its original grandeur and function, expand gallery spaces, reopen artists’ studios and classrooms, and fully update the Museum’s climate control and security systems, and art storage facilities.
The Gibbes reopens to the public after an eighteen month renovation project.