News / USA

Fire-Damaged Museum Reopens in Time for 90th Birthday

Masters are displayed alongside contemporary American artists at the Phillips Museum

Howard Hodgkin’s 'As Time Goes By,' is one of the Phillips Collection's newest installations to coincide with the museum's 90th anniversary.
Howard Hodgkin’s 'As Time Goes By,' is one of the Phillips Collection's newest installations to coincide with the museum's 90th anniversary.

Multimedia

Many art lovers consider the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., one of the premier private museums of modern art. The extraordinary collection, with about 3,000 works, includes French Impressionist masterpieces as well as works by prized contemporary American artists. The museum recently celebrated its 90th anniversary with several new additions.  

Intimate setting

The Phillips Collection is a small, private art museum tucked away in the heart of downtown Washington, where it’s been open to the public since 1921. It was originally the home of Duncan Phillips, a passionate collector who transformed his boyhood home into the first museum of modern art in America.

Marjorie and Duncan Phillips in front of Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' (1880-81), ca. 1954.
Marjorie and Duncan Phillips in front of Renoir's 'Luncheon of the Boating Party' (1880-81), ca. 1954.

The museum was damaged in a fire last year, but it reopened in January, just in time for its 90th anniversary. More than 6,000 people stood in line to see the renovated galleries, and to take a peek at some special cakes that were created just for the opening.

Dorothy Kosinski, director of the museum, says that the gallery’s intimate setting is just one of the characteristics that distinguishes the Phillips Collection from other museums.

"Other museums have grand, huge atriums and very public spaces," she says, which gives them more of a corporate feel.

The Phillips is not only smaller, but it also has a very narrow focus; namely, a devotion to modern art rarely seen in larger museums where one might see Egyptian, European and pre-Columbian art, all under one roof.

"Here it really is Duncan Phillips’ vision of great, modernist paintings," she says.

Diverse collection

The museum’s big draws include priceless masterpieces by French impressionists, such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s "Luncheon of the Boating Party," which Kosinski believes is one of the most beloved works of art in the collection.

"It’s a master work of high Impressionism," she says.

Another draw is an entire room of paintings by abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, who died in 1970.

According to Kosinski, the artist personally consulted with Phillips about the placement of his paintings, and even suggested the lighting conditions to create a spiritual environment.

Another popular attraction at the Phillips is a series of paintings by African-American painter Jacob Lawrence, which Kosinski describes as "poignant, moving and powerful."

"It’s this complex and wonderful narrative of the migration of the blacks from rural south to urban north and the difficulties of that wrenching, profound change in life," she says.
"I think the Phillips Collection played a very interesting, positive role in Washington, D.C., when this was still quite a segregated city."

According to Kosinski, it was important to Duncan Phillips to juxtapose great European paintings with American artists to prove that the Americans were equally important.

She gives the example of American modernist Arthur Dove whose work Phillips was particularly fond of.

In fact it was Dove's painting, "Flour Mill II" that inspired another popular abstract painter, Sam Gilliam, to create a site-specific work for the museum's main stairwell, in time for its 90th anniversary.

Newest attractions

Another new installation coinciding with the museum's anniversary includes two massive etchings, titled "As Time Goes By," by British painter Sir Howard Hodgkin.  

"They are really incredible just in terms of their complexity, their beauty, their explosive power," says Kosinski.

They are among the largest etchings ever made, each measuring 12 square meters. They are mirror images of each other, but in different colors.

Displaying Impressionist masterpieces alongside bold contemporary pieces is just one reason Kosinski believes the Phillips Collection is unique and appreciated.

"People come and really feel at home here and really engage, and it’s a powerful force," she says. "Goodness knows the world needs the salubrious (healthy) impact of art in our lives."

With treasures both old and new, the Phillips Collection is committed to fulfilling its founder’s vision of bold exploration, within a warm and intimate setting.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs