Date: May 19, 1999
Contact: Alicia MacLeay
Phone: (207) 872-3220
Visitors to the Colby Museum of Art will find something new yet familiar this summer, art treasures too long in storage showcased in 13 new galleries built to feel like the early American homes in which the paintings originally hung.
The museum will open a new wing this summer for the exhibition of Colby's renowned collection of American art. The Lunder Wing, a 9,000-square-foot addition, will increase the museum's exhibition space by 44 percent and will enhance its stature as one of the top art museums in Maine. The new galleries will open to the public in July. An official dedication will be held October 2.
The Lunder Wing was designed by architect Frederick Fisher of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading designers of museum space. The $1.3-million addition will be used exclusively for the exhibition of some 200 American works from the permanent collection. Those pieces, including the expanded John Marin Collection, will trace the development of art in this country from the middle of the 18th century through the early 20th century.
The wing was made possible by a challenge grant made to Colby College in 1995 by Peter and Paula Lunder of Waterville. Mrs. Lunder is a trustee of the college and Mr. Lunder (a 1956 Colby graduate) is a lifetime overseer. Both Lunders received honorary degrees from Colby in 1998. The Lunders serve on the museum's board of governors and have taken an active role in the museum's development. They were instrumental in bringing to Colby the White House Crafts exhibition in 1997 and in arranging next year's exhibit of American modern and abstract art from the National Museum of American Art.
"Thanks to the Lunders' generosity, important works of art, some of which we have had to keep largely in storage, now will be on view in these handsome new galleries," said Colby President William R. Cotter. "By providing more museum space for exhibits, the Lunders have given a gift to the people of Maine and to art lovers who visit our state as well. We are grateful for all they have done to make Colby's one of the best college museums in the nation."
The elegant brick addition has a slate roof and is architecturally consistent with other campus buildings, which are predominately in the Neo-Georgian style. "We imagined it as a house," said architect Frederick Fisher, "because most of this art was created for domestic environments." The domestic scale of the galleries, with their richly colored walls, allude to the private homes where the art originally was shown.
Fisher received international recognition in 1997 when New York's P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, which he redesigned, reopened following a multi-million-dollar renovation. The Center, which this winter merged with the Museum of Modern Art, provides one of the world's largest galleries devoted to contemporary art. Fisher received further acclaim this year for a major renovation of the municipal art museum in Berlin.
At Colby, the two-story Lunder Wing will be entered from either level of the Jetté Galleries through a glass-faced connecting hall. A courtyard surrounding the museum's entrance will be restructured to accommodate a commissioned sculpture by the renowned American artist Richard Serra.
The Colby Museum of Art was founded in 1959. Under the leadership of Hugh Gourley III, who became its first full-time director in 1966, the museum has gained a national reputation and its collection has retained a distinctively American emphasis. In addition to gifts from artists and collectors, the museum has acquisition funds bequeathed by the late Jere Abbott, the first associate director of the Museum of Modern Art, and the late Ellerton Jetté. Funds earmarked for exhibitions have been available both as part of the Lunder grant and from an endowment left by the late Edward Turner, Colby's former vice president for development.
In 1996 the museum opened the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Art of Alex Katz, one of very few buildings in the nation dedicated to the work of a living artist. That wing, designed by the late Max Gordon, displays some of the more than 400 works that Katz has donated to the Colby museum.
Other leading contemporary artists represented in Colby's permanent collection include Chuck Close, Neil Welliver, Sol LeWitt, Terry Winters, Jennifer Bartlett, Mark di Suvero, Joel Shapiro, Carroll Dunham and Eric Fischl. Earlier artists represented in the collection include Fairfield Porter, Andrew Wyeth, Louise Nevelson, John Singleton Copley, Paul Manship and Robert Henri. The Joan Whitney Payson Collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art comes to Colby for one semester every two years and features works by, among others, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Picasso and Gauguin.
"As we celebrate our fortieth year, the opening of this wonderful new wing is an extraordinary event in the history of the museum, and it opens important new opportunities and flexibility for our exhibitions," said Gourley. "It is because of the loyalty and generosity of people such as Paula and Peter Lunder that the museum has flourished‹and will continue to do so in the future."