Colby to be Maine’s largest art museum

Jan 06, 2013
Refined and minimalist in design, the under-construction glass pavilion will complete a circuit with the three existing wings of the Colby College Museum of Art, unifying them and contrasting with the Georgian-style brick architecture found throughout the Waterville campus.

Waterville — Long recognized for its substantial and important American art collection, the Colby College Museum of Art will become the largest art museum in Maine this year with the opening on July 13 of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion.

Inaugural exhibitions at the expanded museum will focus on the recently donated Lunder Collection, valued at more than $100 million and widely acknowledged as one of the most important holdings of American art ever assembled by private collectors. These works will join the museum’s existing collection, which ranges from Colonial-era portraits to contemporary works by Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Kara Walker and Alex Katz.

Designed by the distinguished Los Angeles-based firm Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects, the 26,000-square-foot pavilion will create a light-filled gateway to the existing museum and provide an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Located near the Belgrade Lakes region and about an hour from Portland and from the Midcoast, the museum is part of a ring of Maine cultural sites that stretch from the Winslow Homer Studio in Prouts Neck to the offshore artists’ colonies of Vinalhaven and Monhegan islands. The museum also is near the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and from its inception has shared a close relationship with the school.

The Lunder Collection comprises more than 500 objects, 464 of them by American masters including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, George Inness, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as important contemporary American works by Alex Katz, Louise Nevelson, Romare Bearden, Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, George Rickey and Jenny Holzer.

The collection includes a remarkable concentration of works by James McNeill Whistler, including the painting “Chelsea in Ice” (1864), almost two dozen more paintings, watercolors and pastels and an astonishing group of 201 etchings and lithographs, accompanied by some 150 books, journals, photographs and archival materials related to Whistler. The Lunder Collection also includes 40 exceptional examples of Chinese ritual and mortuary ceramics dating from the prehistoric period to the Jin Dynasty (1126-1234), which complement the museum’s existing holdings in Chinese ceramics.

The donation of the Lunder Collection was announced as a promised gift in 2007. In 2009, the college approved the designs for the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, named in recognition of a gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation and the partnership and friendship between Harold Alfond and Peter Lunder. The museum formally took possession of the works in the Lunder Collection in September 2012, as construction was proceeding on the pavilion.

The pavilion will be the main entrance to the museum, providing a spacious lobby that will include a sculpture gallery and terrace as well as new exhibition galleries, classrooms, a conference room and staff offices. A glass-enclosed stairwell will be installed with a monumental, three-story wall drawing by Sol LeWitt, which will be visible from a distance to visitors arriving on the campus’s main thoroughfare. The pavilion’s upper floor is dedicated to the college’s art department, providing new studios for photography and fine art foundation classes, faculty offices and a student lounge.

The inaugural exhibition in the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion will be “The Lunder Collection: A Gift of Art to Colby College.” Also on view at the time of the opening will be a special exhibition of early works of Chinese art drawn from the museum’s Lunder-Colville Collection of Chinese Art and from loans from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Other exhibitions will include recent acquisitions from the Alex Katz Foundation and works from the museum’s rich holdings of John Marin’s work, shown alongside contemporaneous photographs from the Norma B. Marin Photography Collection.

Selected galleries are open throughout the construction period, and admission is free. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, colby.edu/museum and the museum’s social media pages.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

An artist’s rendering of the new Colby College Museum of Art pavilion as it will appear at night.
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