For those of you who’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed some exciting things happening at the Rockwell Museum. In November 2015, it became a prestigious Smithsonian Affiliate, and just recently joined us in launching the wildly successful Urban Arts Crawl. Perhaps the most exciting happening, however, was when the museum dropped “of Western Art” from the rest of its title.
You’re probably thinking, “How is that exciting?! It’s just a little change, it’s still the same Rockwell Museum…” Not true. The name change allows The Rockwell to be a little more inclusive of what it displays, to tap into previously untouched corners of its collection and to seek acquisitions that may have been passed on in the past. It also allows the museum to do something that it’s literally never done before – to curate a gallery space exclusively with contemporary art.
By definition – and without all the pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness that’s often associated with its various genres and subgenres – contemporary art is any art produced at the present period in time. With its previous focus on pieces that told the story of “how the West was won” or celebrated the stunning beauty of our Natural Parks before photography was a thing, you can see how it would have been difficult for The Rockwell to dedicate a lot of space to art that was made just within the last decade or so. Luckily for the museum (and for you, the visitor!), that’s no longer the case.
For the first time ever, a substantial portion of the museum’s third floor will be solely dedicated to displaying contemporary art. The new ‘Modern and Contemporary’ gallery includes examples of modernism, abstraction and pop art. New artistic movements such as Social Realism and Expressionism are also featured, including brand new acquisitions purchased as recently as last year. The space itself is bright and fresh, with floor to ceiling white paint – a divergent from the Southwestern tones that cover the rest of The Rockwell’s walls.
The Rockwell’s Executive Director, Kristen Swain, told us that the new space is…
“… a fresh approach to the permanent galleries, that stems from the expansion of The Rockwell’s mission statement – Art About the American Experience – in an effort to contextualize the core collection of American Western art. Each exhibition is inspired by our vision to challenge our visitor’s perspectives – to provoke curiosity – and to reflect and engage with art about America.”
We had the unique opportunity to get a “sneak peak” of the space, and we have to say, it’s impressive. New conceptual sculptures are featured prominently in the center of the space, and abstract paintings hang proudly on the walls -another first for The Rockwell collection. Brilliantly colored canvases pop against the white walls and seem to depict real energy and movement. For us, it was love at first sight.
The ‘Modern and Contemporary’ gallery space really is a stark contrast to what you may be used to at The Rockwell, but in the best possible (and complementary) way. But, don’t just take our word for it, stop in and see it for yourself. If the last few months have been any indication of what’s in store for the museum down the road, we’re all in for a treat.
The ‘Modern and Contemporary’ gallery will be open to the public for the first time this Saturday. Also on Saturday, The Rockwell will participate in the Smithsonian Institution’s “Museum Day Live!,” an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day Live! ticket. You can learn more about the Rockwell’s participation with Museum Day Live! and register for your free ticket, HERE.