Pardon our dust while we update this corner of the website.
With the advent of the new millennium, the Twentieth-Century Art Department became known as the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. The galleries subsequently underwent a program of improvements--the first such renovations in 25 years--and were reopened seven months later. March 2000 saw the opening of the exhibition The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome, with a black-tie gala and a city-wide publicity boost in the form of a "wrapped" Phlash bus featuring a huge reproduction of Giovanni Paolo Panini's painting Colosseum.
A few months later, on June 15, the recently purchased Reliance Standard Life Insurance Building was dedicated as the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in honor of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and his wife. Also in June, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced a grant of $750,000 to support a four-year project to arrange, describe, and preserve a number of important archival collections at the Museum; papers relating to Fiske Kimball, John G. Johnson, Louise and Walter Arensberg, Thomas Eakins, and Marcel Duchamp were to be catalogued and made accessible to scholars via the Internet.
In December, the Museum received an extraordinary $10 million gift from Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, one that coincided perfectly with the public launch of the 2001 FUND. This unprecedented $200 million capital campaign aimed to increase endowment, help expand the Museum’s physical facilities, and support scholarship, exhibitions, conservation, and programming. In addition to the FUND, the Museum launched an ambitious drive to dramatically enrich its collections through gifts of outstanding works of art and contributions of funds toward special purchases.
The Museum kicked off its 125th Anniversary year in 2001 by opening on New Year’s Day for the first time ever. More than 4,700 visitors enjoyed this free family day, strolling through the galleries and taking part in craft activities, prize drawings, and a jazz brunch. The Museum System (TMS), a new collections management system, went live later that month, with the first record entered at 1:56 p.m. By year’s end, more than 40 staff members would have access to some 110,000 object records converted from old databases or manually entered into the new system.
On May 10, the Museum officially celebrated its 125th birthday. The festivities began at Memorial Hall, with Philadelphia Mayor John Street and First Lady of Pennsylvania Michele Ridge arriving in a horse-drawn coach, just as President Ulysses S. Grant had arrived in 1876 to open the Centennial Exhibition. At 11 a.m., various community groups, cultural organizations, city and state officials, ambassadors and representatives from eight foreign countries joined third- and fourth-graders from Philadelphia's Samuel Powell and Ellwood public schools in a spirited rendition of "Happy Birthday." A 4' x 6' cake, created by The School of Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the shape of the Neoclassical building, was served along with Hires Root Beer--a beverage first introduced to the public at the Centennial Exhibition. The event was capped by a gala evening at the Museum with dining, dancing, and an extravagant fireworks display.
The next month, the Museum acquired the Julien Levy collection of photographs, in part as a gift from Levy's widow, Jean Farley Levy, and with a major contribution from longtime Philadelphia residents and philanthropists Lynne and Harold Honickman. The collection, a trove of more than 2,000 images amassed by one of the most influential and colorful proponents of modern art (specifically Surrealism) and photography in the United States, represented both major and little-known works by American and European photographers active between the World Wars. September saw the opening of the special exhibition Thomas Eakins: American Realist. The show was originally to be installed on September 11, 2001. It was heartening evidence of the solidarity of the national museum community that, despite the unimaginable tragedy of that day and the consequent disruption of air travel, every loan was on the walls by the time of the gala on the 25th. The following year, the Museum offered free admission on the anniversary of September 11 in the hope that its galleries would serve as quiet spaces for reflection where visitors could experience the healing power of art.
In October 2001, the Museum began extending its hours on Friday nights until 8:45 p.m., providing visitors additional time to discover the galleries, to find meaning in the collections, and to participate in a variety of exciting events. By early 2002, a new series of weekly performances by prominent and emerging jazz artists from around the world had been launched in conjunction with the extended hours, establishing the ever-popular Art After 5 program. Also in 2002, Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker designated the Museum a Commonwealth Treasure for the year, recognizing the institution as an outstanding example of the state’s rich historical and cultural resources. Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an extraordinary exhibition of the "birthday presents" of works of art and special purchases made possible by the contributions of hundreds of generous donors, opened in the fall. Much of the credit for the campaign's success went to Trustee Harvey S. Shipley Miller, who served as Chairman of the Committee for Collections 2001. The fall of 2002 saw the establishment of the Center for American Art, supported by a $5 million endowment from Robert L. McNeil, Jr., for the purpose of promoting--through symposia, lectures, fellowships, publications, and research--the study of this country's artistic and cultural heritage with particular emphasis on the contributions of Philadelphia.
In early 2003, the Museum announced the publication of its Spanish-language Handbook to the Collections--Museo de Arte de Filadelfia: Guía de las collecciones. The translation and publication of the Guía was made possible by the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores de México y del Consulado de México in Philadelphia and other generous donors. Degas and the Dance, organized by the American Federation of Arts, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, opened on February 12 to overwhelming critical acclaim. After just a month, extended hours were already being added and more than 143,000 tickets had been booked, with visitors coming from 45 states as well as Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Israel, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico. In July, the special exhibition’s website was named Site of the Day by Macromedia. Also in July, the Museum launched a Kid’s Audio Tour of the American collections--filled with music, sound effects, games, and unusual facts. The tour was an enormous hit with children aged five to twelve.
September marked the opening of Mountain Dreams: Contemporary Ceramics by Yoon Kwang-cho, the first exhibition in an American museum dedicated to the innovative work of this Korean artist. Another groundbreaking exhibition opened that month as well--Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli--a revealing look at just how far the designer pushed the boundaries of fashion into the realm of art. The year came to a close with the December dedication of the West Foyer as Lenfest Hall, a salute to Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest’s profound commitment to the Museum.
The 2001 FUND 125th Anniversary Campaign concluded the following year, exceeding its goal and raising over $246 million. Further good news came during a summer ceremony in the Great Stair Hall, when Wachovia announced its generous gift to the Museum to create the Wachovia Education Resource Center, to be located in the new Perelman Building. Shortly thereafter, construction began on the building: the installation of temporary utilities, the separation of the Annex from the Fairmount and Pennsylvania building wings, and interior nonstructural demolition. A groundbreaking celebration and a Museum salute to leadership donors were held on October 26, 2004.
Thanks to remarkable loans from collectors and museums all over the world as well as the visionary support of ADVANTA, February 2005 saw the opening of Salvador Daíi, the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work ever presented in the United States and a centerpiece of the international celebration of the centennial of his birth. The show would ultimately draw more than 370,000 visitors from 50 states and 33 countries during its three-month run. Again, the exhibition’s website was named Site of the Day by Macromedia. In March, a suitably surreal and massive 36-foot-tall, 47-foot-wide image of the artist was installed on the majestic steps leading from Eakins Oval to the Museum’s East Entrance.
2005 also saw the publication of the first two titles in a new series of Primary Sources in American Art, A Drawing Manual by Thomas Eakins and The 1772 Philadelphia Furniture Price Book. Both were supported by the Center for American Art’s endowment. With the Drawing Manual, the Museum was at last able to fulfill Eakins’s dream of publishing the manuscript and illustrations created as instruction for his students in the 1880s.
In the summer of 2005, a three-year grant from the Freeman Foundation allowed the Museum to create materials and programs to teach children in kindergarten through 12th grade about the art and cultures of East Asia. As part of this course, the Division of Education published teaching kits inspired by the Museum’s collections of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art. A multi-year commitment from The Comcast Foundation also allowed the Museum to begin developing new learning materials for hundreds of thousands of children and their teachers in Philadelphia and beyond. Magnificent gifts indeed, especially as the Division of Education celebrated its 75th anniversary. In another remarkable development of the year, The Albert M. Greenfield Foundation made a generous commitment to establish a Visual and Digital Resources Center for the Library and Archives to provide staff, volunteers, and visiting speakers with easy and flexible access to digital images, slides, DVDs, CD-ROMs, videos, and other electronic resources on the Museum’s collections and the visual arts in general. September saw the Museum receive the “Beyond the Ramp” Award from Creative Access, which salutes innovation in making the arts accessible to those who are deaf or hearing impaired, and the year ended with the first-ever Winter Family Studio, which served 1,066 children and adults during its four-day run.
2006 began with the launch of a redesigned Museum website. The new site, which featured a searchable database of the Museum’s collections, video streaming, and an interactive map of the galleries, was selected as an official Adobe Site of the Day in March. A few months later, the International Communications Industry Association certified the Museum’s Audio Visual Department as an Audio Visual Solutions Provider at the Gold Level--the industry’s highest level of certification. The exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic opened in the spring, offering new insights into the work of one of America’s most beloved artists. The show focused on Wyeth's representations of everyday things and the way they reflected universal concepts and emotions. Spring also saw the opening of Fit for a Princess: Grace Kelly’s Wedding Dress, marking the 50th anniversary of the native Philadelphian’s royal wedding. One of the most iconic objects in the collection, the dress was greeted by an outpouring of public interest and affection.
The Board of Trustees announced in October 2006 that Frank O. Gehry and his team of talented architects had been selected to take on the challenge of expanding and restoring the Museum’s main building, with the goal of providing beautiful and ample space for the Museum’s rapidly growing collections of American, Asian, and modern and contemporary art. The following month brought rather shocking news to the Museum, when Thomas Jefferson University made the announcement that Thomas Eakins’s 1875 masterpiece, The Gross Clinic, was to be sold to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas--unless local art museums and governmental institutions were able to match its price by December 26 of that year. For the next several weeks, Philadelphia was at the center of an extraordinary flood of support in the effort to keep the painting in the city where it was created. The Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, various public and private institutions, city officials, civic leaders, and individuals all joined forces in an effort to raise the necessary $68 million. "The Fund for Eakins’s Masterpiece" was established, and in early December, Kathleen A. Foster, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art, eloquently spoke about what made the painting so extraordinary in her lecture "Ten Reasons to Keep Eakins’s Gross Clinic in Philadelphia." National cultural, civic, and community leaders also united to broaden the public’s understanding of the historic and artistic importance of the painting. Ultimately, sufficient funds were raised for the Museum to jointly purchase The Gross Clinic with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and it has been alternating on view between the two institutions since the completion of the sale in early 2007.
While the Museum began an exterior renovation project of the stone facades and roof of the Main Building in 2007, a great deal of the year was spent in anticipation of the fall opening of the Perelman Building. In March, members of the Library and Archives staff oversaw, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the move of 200,000 volumes, 200,000 photographic slides, and 1,400 linear feet (or approximately 1.6 million pages) of archival materials to their new home. The Library also added 3,000 important volumes to its holdings during the year. Home to much needed space for the display, study, conservation, and enjoyment of the Museum’s internationally celebrated collections, the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building opened to enthusiastic visitors and a chorus of praise from the news media on September 15, 2007. Wachovia underwrote free admission to the new building through the end of the year to ensure that this new resource and its treasures could be discovered by and accessible to as many people as possible.
2008 began with Frida Kahlo, an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Mexican artist whose life--passionate, political, artistic, tragic, and heroic--was the central subject of her paintings. Over 100 photographs of Kahlo and her circle from her own personal collection complemented the paintings in the show. In conjunction with the exhibition, a tightly-focused presentation of work by Kahlo’s close friend Juan Soriano opened in the Museum’s Modern and Contemporary wing. The year continued with the thrilling news from the Department of State that the Museum and Bruce Nauman would represent the United States at the 2009 Venice Biennale. In the spring, the Jean and Julien Levy Foundation for the Arts donated the Julien Levy Papers to the Archives, and the Museum was busy preparing for the summer opening of two exhibitions of Indian art. These were Rhythms of India: The Art of Nandalal Bose, the first traveling exhibition outside Asia to highlight the works of the "father of modern art in India," and Multiple Modernities: India, 1905–2005, a presentation of more than 25 drawings, prints, and watercolor paintings produced by South Asian artists before and after the region’s independence and subsequent partition into India and Pakistan.
In June, however, the Museum was struck by unimaginable sadness and loss with the sudden passing of Anne d’Harnoncourt, the Museum's Director and Chief Executive Officer. D’Harnoncourt, who had joined the staff in 1967 as a curatorial assistant, was named Curator of Twentieth-Century Painting in 1972, and had gracefully led the institution as Director since 1982 and Director/CEO since 1996, died of cardiac arrest on Sunday, June 1, 2008 at her home in Center City. Thursday, June 19, 2008, was declared an official day of appreciation in Philadelphia to honor d’Harnoncourt’s legacy. On this special day, the Museum was open and free to the public from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. At 11:30 a.m., the City Council issued a resolution honoring her extraordinary leadership and public service. In the Museum, guest books were on display in which visitors shared thoughts and memories, and a complimentary audio tour of the "Director’s Delights" was available. At 6:00 p.m. the public was invited to gather on the East Terrace for a tribute.
Also on June 19, the Board of Trustees announced their unanimous vote to appoint Chief Operating Officer Gail Harrity as Interim Chief Executive Officer, and Associate Director for Collections and Project Support Alice Beamesderfer as Interim Head of Curatorial Affairs. In addition to these appointments, the Board established a Curatorial Advisory Group. Consisting of Joseph R. Rishel (the Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, the John G. Johnson Collection, and the Rodin Museum); Innis Shoemaker (the Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs); and Kathleen A. Foster (the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Senior Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art), this group worked closely with Beamesderfer on curatorial matters. Meanwhile, a selection committee co-chaired by Trustees Martha Morris and Keith Sachs was organized to search for a permanent successor.
Despite the heavy cloud that hung over the Museum that summer, the exhibitions continued to draw crowds. In July, Calder Jewelry opened in the Perelman Building’s Exhibition Gallery--the first show devoted to the famed sculptor’s metal necklaces, bracelets, brooches, earrings, and tiaras; while the following month saw the opening of Philadelphia Treasures: Eakins’s Gross Clinic and Saint-Gaudens’s Angel of Purity. Not only were these two masterpieces among the decade’s most important acquisitions, but their creators--Eakins and Saint-Gaudens--were two of 19th-century America’s finest artists (not to mention close friends). Outside the galleries, construction continued on a brand new parking facility that was being built into the hill behind the West Entrance. A marvel of green design and landscaping, the project inspired the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office to award the Museum its first Leading By Example certificate of excellence. This certificate recognized the institution for “providing leadership in developing a truly remarkable and innovative design that incorporates energy efficiencies and protects the waters of Philadelphia.”
In the fall of 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series for the first time since 1980. In celebration, the Museum Store gave away its own signature baseballs to the first 100 members and the first 100 general purchasers of tickets for the upcoming Cézanne and Beyond exhibition. Meanwhile, a number of major gifts in memory of Anne d’Harnoncourt began to enter the collections. These gifts would continue well into 2009 and included remarkable paintings by Gilbert Stuart, Georges Seurat, and Frank Stella, as well as an important drawing by Claes Oldenburg. They came from her friends, fellow museum professionals, artists, dealers, collectors, and others who wanted to remember her and contribute to her legacy. In addition to the gifts, the Museum purchased Seine, one of Ellsworth Kelly’s early works, with funds contributed in d'Harnoncourt’s memory.
In February 2009, the Museum’s new parking facility opened to the public, increasing parking capacity by 442 spaces. Applauded for its low-impact, environmentally sensitive systems and design, the facility featured a spectacular 26,000-square-foot "green roof" among its sustainable features. February also saw the opening of Cezanne and Beyond. Nearly five years in the making, the exhibition presented some 150 works by Cézanne, along with those of 16 later artists for whom Cézanne had been a central inspiration. It garnered rave reviews and drew visitors from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as 21 foreign countries including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, France, Hungary, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, and South Korea.
Early summer 2009 proved a remarkable time for the Museum, beginning in June with one of the most prestigious international events in the field of contemporary art: the 53rd International Art Exhibition--La Biennale di Venezia--popularly known as the Venice Biennale. The Museum organized the Biennale’s U.S. presentation, a multifaceted, multi-site exhibition that examined the central themes of one influential artist’s extraordinary 40-year career. The exhibition, Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, was composed of three interrelated components on view at three separate locations throughout Venice, Italy, and included video, installation, performance, sculpture, and neon. It went on to receive the Golden Lion for the Best National Participation, marking the first time since 1990 that the United States had received the coveted award.
June drew to a close with a major press conference held in the Great Stair Hall to announce the election of Timothy Rub as the Museum’s new George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. Serving at the time as the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Rub was the unanimous choice of the Board of Trustees after a year-long, international search. Said Chairman Gerry Lenfest, "Timothy Rub brings a proven track record in scholarship, connoisseurship and excellent management and fundraising skills. He comes with strong expertise in planning at a time when the Museum is preparing to move forward with the next phase of its renovation and growth. With his experience and leadership I believe that we will be able to sustain the great traditions of this institution and look to the future with confidence."
July saw the opening of the first exhibition to examine the genesis, construction, and reception of Marcel Duchamp’s final masterpiece, Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage, which had entered the collection in 1969. Celebrating the 40th anniversary of this enigmatic assemblage, Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés also featured almost 100 related works of art including books, photographs, works on paper, "erotic objects," and a number of previously unknown sculptures and studies. The catalogue that accompanied the show, written by curator Michael Taylor with members of the Conservation staff, was honored with two prestigious art publishing prizes; the George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award and the Association of Art Museum Curators 2009 award for Outstanding Catalogue for a Permanent Collection.
With weather still warm and the sun shining, the Museum saw yet another milestone achieved for its Master Plan--the official opening of the new parking facility’s rooftop Sculpture Garden on September 15. The inaugural installation was Isamu Noguchi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, an especially significant choice because of the longstanding ties that Noguchi had with Anne d’Harnoncourt.
The following month saw the premiere of Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, the first comprehensive survey of the Armenian-born artist’s work in nearly three decades. A monumental acquisition of two early Renaissance armors for horse and man was also made possible in October 2009 through the generosity of Athena and Nicholas Karabots and the Karabots Foundation. Created in 1507 by Wilhelm von Worms the Elder, the exceptionally rare horse armor was the only example to have become available in 45 years and one of only a handful in existence to be of such an early date. The man armor, created around 1505 by the armorer Matthes Deutsch in Landshut, was one of fewer than a dozen complete, or near complete, field armors of its period to have survived. On October 21, the armors were unveiled by a group of 30 fourth graders from the Russell Byers Charter School, along with Director Timothy Rub, the J.J. Medveckis Associate Curator of Arms and Armor Pierre Terjanian, and donors Athena and Nicholas Karabots.
2009 ended with a bang, quite literally. In December, the Museum presented Cai Guo-Qiang: Fallen Blossoms, a multi-site exhibition held in conjunction with the Fabric Workshop and Museum. Among the show’s highlights was an extraordinary "explosion event" featuring a flower-shaped gunpowder fuse that was ignited at sunset on Friday, December 11. For one minute, the East façade of the Main Building was transformed into a gigantic, fiery bloom that lit up the winter evening. Inspired by the memory of Anne d'Harnoncourt, the event addressed themes of memory, loss, and renewal on both a personal and public level.
2000: The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome
2001: Thomas Eakins: American Realist; Dox Thrash: An African American Master Printmaker Rediscovered
2002: Barnett Newman; Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
2003: Degas and the Dance; "Shocking!" The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli
2004: Manet and the Sea; African Art, African Voices: Long Steps Never Broke a Back
2005: Salvador Dalí
2006: Andrew Wyeth: Memory and Magic; Tesoros/Treasures/Tesouros: The Arts in Latin America, 1492–1820; Mexico and Modern Printmaking: A Revolution in the Graphic Arts, 1920–1950
2007: Thomas Chimes: Adventures in 'Pataphysics; Renoir Landscapes
2008: Frida Kahlo; Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt; Henri Matisse and Modern Art on the French Riviera; James Castle: A Retrospective
2009: Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés; A Director’s Vision: The Legacy of Anne d’Harnoncourt; Cézanne and Beyond; Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective
Major Gifts and Acquisitions
2000: Schwan (2) by Gerhard Richter; Kalachakra Mandala
2001: The Julien Levy Collection of Photographs; Catenary by Jasper Johns
2002: Self-Portrait with His Wife, Ida by Israhel van Meckenem;
Flowers by Andy Warhol
2003: Mermaid by Edvard Munch; Danaid (The Source) by Auguste Rodin
2004: Prunus and Bamboo by Ike no Taiga; The Alvin O. Bellak Collection of Indian Paintings
2005: Angel of Purity by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
2006: Red Poppies (Roter Mohn) by Emil Nolde; The Four Elements by Paul Manship
2007: Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) by Thomas Eakins; The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths by Bruce Nauman
2008: Plant City by Frank Stella; Moored Boats and Trees by Georges Seurat