Welcome to Off the Wall. We’ve skimmed the news around the museum, and want to share the highlights with you.
Written while on my eleventh cup of coffee.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” –Winston Churchill
ARTCEPTION: ART WITHIN THE ART
When you have an enormous collection of beautiful artwork, the logical necessity is an equally beautiful place for that art to be on display. Here at the Fred Jones, we’re lucky to have a gorgeously designed building, with detailed and unusual architecture. Back in 1971, the original building (the Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center) was built, thanks to a donation by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Jones of Oklahoma City. This building housed the University of Oklahoma Museum of Art, the School of Art, and the administrative offices of the College of Fine Arts. In 1992, our space finally officially became the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art–and all was right with the world.
EXPLAIN MORE THINGS.
Even though we finally had our cool new name, we weren’t done going through puberty yet. In 2005, the museum opened a new addition, designed by acclaimed architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen of Washington, D.C. Named to honor Mary and Howard Lester of San Francisco, the Lester Wing adds more than 34,000 square feet to the earlier 27,000 square-foot building. The Lester Wing includes the galleries that house the Weitzenhoffer Collection (remember that?), a 150-seat auditorium, an orientation room, a classroom, a museum store, a new main entrance, and new galleries. Jacobsen definitely has an identifiable style, as you can see by comparing this house he designed to the museum. The museum addition that he designed was referred to by one article as Little Huts on the Prairie. The idea behind the design was that most art is created to be viewed in homes–so he brought homes to the art. Each little ‘hut’ is about the size of a room, allowing visitors to enjoy art in the kind of space it was created to fill. After the new addition, it got us thinking about renovating the original 1971 building. We followed in the footsteps of Meg Ryan and got some work done. Thankfully though, our facelift turned out much better than hers and, in 2011, the Stuart Wing was officially opened. This wing holds many of the collections acquired within the past 15 years. It was designed by noted architect Rand Elliott. Sound familiar? You can especially see Elliott’s work around central Oklahoma like here and here. Back to the museum, the Stuart Wing was named in honor of a $3 million lead gift from the Stuart Family Foundation and includes the Eugene B. Adkins Gallery, a new photography gallery, and new administrative offices.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT IT?
Our building isn’t just another pretty face. Every aspect of the architecture has a unique meaning behind it. Remember us mentioning the Eugene B. Adkins Collection that one (millionth) time? It happens to be among the nation’s most important private collections of works by the Taos Society of Artists, as well as Native American works of art. NBD. Its grand total comes to more than 3,300 objects, including 1,100 two-dimensional works, 370 pieces of pottery, and more than 1,600 examples of jewelry and silverwork, and nearly 250 pieces of other Native arts. The concept for the museum is actually inspired by the forms, color, and landscapes that are found in the paintings, photography, and artifacts of the collection. The abstract interpretation of the contents connects the time and place of the subject matter and places it in the 21st Century space.
I’M JUST NOT SEEING HOW THE BUILDING LOOKS LIKE THE ART.
See the central staircase with the rising wood sidewalls? That’s supposed to suggest a beautiful canyon in the American Southwest. The sunset window in the Stuart Wing is rarely open, because sunlight can easily damage the art. When it is open, however, the peaks of the unique pyramid roof design peep into view, resembling mountains on the horizon. After a hike up to the mezzanine, the thick mobile walls are clearly visible, giving visitors the impression of a less-colorful adobe. A frequent element found in the collection is water. This is represented by our 55-foot, 3-story blue moiré wall. It is directly adjacent to the central staircase that travels from the basement to the top of the building. The Stuart Wing acts as the architectural bridge between the 1971 Fred Jones Jr. Art Center (a.k.a. the School of Art & Art History) and the 2005 Lester Wing. The Stuart Wing connects the buildings with horizontal lines, the gray slate roof color, and compatible proportions to create a unified composition. The exterior gray glass reflects the sky and clouds, suggesting the painted skies within the gallery, and hinting at the contents of the museum.
REPEAT AFTER ME…
WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOUR SKINNY FRIEND JUST FINISHED HER TWO CHEESE BURGERS AND ASKS IF YOU WANT TO ORDER A PIZZA…
Yes. But also, where do you put it all? This question is probably pretty applicable to our collection of art, too. We keep throwing out these huge numbers to quantify how many objects exist in our collections, and you’re probably wondering where it all goes. Here’s the rundown:
40,000 square feet of exhibition space between the two wings
17,000 works of art in our permanent collection
1,293 works on display
88-percent of the collection currently stored in the vaults
THINGS TO KNOW
Leigh: Not the flower necklace they give you when you get off the plane in Hawaii. William R. Leigh was an American artist who specialized in scenes depicting the West. We’re fortunate enough to have a couple of his works nestled into the Adkins Collection.
Jacobson v. Jacobsen: There wasn’t a court case about them, they’re just both influential figures in our museum history. It’s easy to get them confused. When I first started working here, I didn’t catch the subtle one-letter difference, and thought that Oscar B. Jacobson was still alive and designing buildings at the age of…133? Something seemed fishy about that. So what you need to know is this: Jacobson = art director. Jacobsen = architect. If you can’t keep it straight, just remember that ‘director’ and ‘Jacobson’ have an ‘o,’ and Jacobsen and ‘architect’ have an ‘e.’ You’re welcome.
artists born several years ago this week:
3/16 Jean-Antoine Gros, Juan Martinez Montanes, Rosa Bonheur | 3/17 Francois Girardon, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Mikhail Vrubel | 3/18 Adam Elsheimer | 3/19 Albert Pinkham Ryder | 3/20 Edward Poynter, George Caleb Bingham, Jean-Antoine Houdon, John Lavery | 3/21 Hans Hofmann | 3/22 Anthony Van Dyck, Anton Raphael Mengs, John Frederick Kensett, Yayoi Kusama