New acquisitions to the collection are always exciting, and this summer the Gibbes has been very fortunate. Thanks to William and Susanne McGuire and the McGuire Family Foundation, an acquisition fund was established in 2011 to bolster the museum’s sculpture collection in preparation for the renovation and reopening of the Gibbes. Recognizing the significance of the Rotunda gallery to the architectural history of the building and to visitors’ experience, the McGuires have been working closely with the Gibbes staff for the last three years to find sculptural pieces that will enhance the reinstallation of the collection in this magnificent gallery which was originally designed to function as a grand sculpture gallery. Our goal has been to locate exceptional examples of nineteenth-century marble sculpture by American artists in keeping with the tradition of Charlestonians who patronized American artists working in Italy during that era. This summer, two remarkable works of neoclassical sculpture were secured as part of this effort. Full size busts of Faith, by sculptor Hiram Powers and Helen of Troy by Pierce Francis Connelly (a student of Powers’) are premier examples of work by these nineteenth-century American artists. These remarkable statues will soon reside in the beautifully restored Rotunda, with the support of Board members Susan and Van Campbell.
In addition to our major sculpture acquisitions we also received a very generous donation of two watercolor paintings Wednesday Chores (2004) and Sweet Potato Pie (1998) by Charleston artist Mary Whyte. Donated by David Inge of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, these works are featured in Whyte’s book Down Bohicket Road: An Artist’s Journey. Paintings from this series— including the two in this donation—document the Gullah women of the Hebron Saint Francis Center on John’s Island. Soon after her permanent move to Charleston, Whyte joined the group’s weekly fellowship meetings and began to sketch portraits of the women and their activities—bible study, quilting and meal preparation. The experience represents a turning point in the artist’s career and resulted in an acclaimed series of watercolors honoring the women and their dedication to family and faith.
Finally, as part of our effort to develop an outstanding collection of contemporary art by southern artists, the Gibbes purchased Wave Upon Wave (2014) by John Westmark from the recent solo exhibition John Westmark: Narratives organized by the Gibbes and on view from April 4–August 3, 2014. Westmark was the 2012 recipient of the Factor Prize for Contemporary Southern Art (now the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art). His large-scale paintings explore the human figure through an innovative use of text and paper sewing patterns collaged on canvas. Westmark’s paintings depict strong courageous women, some portrayed as stoic martyrs and others as warriors engaged in conflicts of rebellion.
We are looking forward to seeing all of these new additions to the permanent collection on view in the renovated gallery spaces!
—Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections