Uncovering the Shared History of the Guggenheim and the Gibbes Museums
After nearly three years of planning, this Saturday Realm of the Spirit: Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection and the Gibbes Museum of Art opens to the public. This long awaited exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum, New York, in partnership with the Gibbes, features 36 masterworks by modern artists including Vasily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Robert Delaunay, Amedeo Modigliani, and Georges Seurat. All of the artworks were displayed on the walls at the Gibbes for this first time in the 1930s when Solomon R. Guggenheim chose Charleston as the venue to debut his collection in 1936. A second exhibition of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection of Non-Objective Paintings at the Gibbes followed in 1938.
While to some, the traditional environment of Charleston may seem an unlikely place for these early avante-garde exhibitions, several factors converged at the time to bring about these exciting shows. Originally curated by Hilla Rebay (first director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), the 1930s exhibitions garnered international attention. The shows also offered the first catalogues documenting Guggenheim’s holdings. These catalogues were distributed across the country and even overseas. Over the last several years Guggenheim Museum curators, Tracey Bashkoff and Lauren Hinkson, and Gibbes curator Sara Arnold have scoured their respective institutional archives for news clippings, letters, telegrams, scrapbooks, and installation photographs, relating to these historic exhibitions hoping to uncover a broader picture of these early shows. Why did Guggenheim choose Charleston? Did the exhibitions play a role in his art collecting? What was the public’s reaction? Many of these questions are answered in the new exhibition catalog Realm of the Spirit: Solomon R. Guggenheim and the Gibbes Museum of Art and will be explored this Sunday at “A Show Without an Object” with Lauren Hinkson, Assistant Curator of Collections at the Guggenheim Museum, who will examine the contrast between Charleston’s traditional values and Guggenheim’s futuristic paintings, and the media event that resulted.
We look forward to seeing you during the run of the exhibition, on view October 22, 2016 – January 15, 2017!
Top image: The curatorial dream team: Guggenheim Museum curator of collections and exhibitions, Tracey Bashkoff, and Guggenheim assistant curator of collections Lauren Hinkson, with Gibbes Museum curator of collections Sara Arnold in the 2016 exhibition at the Gibbes.
Published October 19, 2016