DEBORAHPOLITAN MUSEUM OF MODERN ART BICENTENNIAL EXHIBITION
November 19, 1974
BICENTENNIAL EXHIBITION TITLE “AMERICA’S GREAT STONE FACES.”
Our museum is a large contemporary museum with a very high budget. It’s located in the heart of a large city. It’s the only art museum in that city. We have lots of community support from the rich people living in apartments all around us. There are three main galleries in our museum. One houses the permanent collection, another, the costume and textile collection, and biggest gallery is for temporary exhibitions. The temporary exhibition gallery will be used for the Bicentennial exhibit because it has plenty of floor space and a nice high ceiling.
The museum has fifty trustees, all of whom vote on almost everything (even changing light bulbs). Luckily the vote is usually tied, and I'm called in to break the tie. This bicentennial exhibition on American stone sculpture was voted in after 2 months of debate. One of the men who pushed hardest for the exhibit had a great grandfather who was a stone cutter. The man still has his great grandfather's tools and wants to donate them to the museum. I told him to wait and just loan them for the exhibit. I’m waiting until after the show to tell him the tools really don’t belong in an art museum. Another one of our trustees is chairman of the board at Forest Lawn cemetery, which has lots of very old and interesting gravestones. Anyway, this man has a hobby of making gravestone rubbings. He’s agreed to loan us his 150 gravestone rubbings. He is also photographing all the stones in his cemetery that date before 1776.
Our receptionist knows a good friend of Henry Moore and has heard rumors that Moore has a new series of sculptures he wants to exhibit. I told her I’d have to see them first before accepting them.
I got in touch with a local historical society which is trying to preserve old New England stone sculpture. They gave me pamphlets and loaned me a speaker to give a lecture every week for the next 6 months.
We have many small stone sculptures done by local artists in our permanent collection. We also have rare photos of the carving of Mount Rushmore. We also have an old Calder mobile made of drift wood and beach stones. I thought it would look nice over the low lying Moores. But the insurance company was afraid it might fall apart and damage one of the Moores insured for 100,000 dollars. So I hung it over the receptionist’s desk; the insurance company said it was the only place they’d allow us to hang it. (It appears damaging a receptionist cost less.)
The catalog for the show is now being printed. On its cover we put a photo of the most impressive piece in the show, a 25-foot Moore loaned to us by a private donor. The private donor doesn’t want his name to be given in connection with the piece. I asked why; he said “It would be embarrassing to him if people heard that he bought a 25-foot sculpture for his apartment on the 8th floor that only has a ten-foot high ceiling.” Our high budget allowed us to put photos of every piece in the show in the catalog and twenty color plates.
The museum’s education department has planned two courses on stone rubbing. One for children and the other for adults. The courses are free to senior citizens. They’ve also planned to have a local sculptor to come in every Sunday to give demonstrations. They are also going to show a series of films made of interviews with American stone sculptors.
The museum’s travel department has planned of American stone sculpture. They also plan to have tours of artists studios.
We’ve planned the opening for July 4th, 1976, but if we receive too many negative R.S.V.P.’s, we will have to change it. The exhibit will last 6 months. In total there are 1,700 pieces. Good thing the gallery is on the first floor.
Copyright © 1974 by Deborah Mortensen and 2011 by Thomas Coley Allen.
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