Various Venues, Phoenix

Six days of ceremonies have launched the opening of the new $1,000,000 wing of the Phoenix Art Museum. Under the aggressive Directorship of Forest M. Hinkhouse the Museum has grown to become the cultural heart of a vast geographical area that comprises all of Arizona, and parts of Utah, New Mexico and Texas.

The architecture of the Phoenix building is starkly simple in contrast, for example to the over-designed new Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Designed by Allen B. Dow of Midland, Michigan, it is essentially a series of massed volumes of blocks arranged around spacious courtyards. Not a great building, it is, rather, inoffensive and serves its purpose unobtrusively and well.

Gifts from important benefactors and trustees have enriched the museum’s collections. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Luce, Mr. and Mrs. Orme Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. John Pritzlaff, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bimson, all trustees, and numerous anonymous patrons have given major works.

Other recent important acquisitions include six original Jacob Epstein busts which will shortly be shipped to the Museum, a gift of Lady Epstein, and from Dr. and Mrs. Wong of Yuma, a major collection of 100 prime pieces of Yuan, Ming, and Ch’ing “Blue and White” Chinese porcelains. This collection is now augmented with the Oriental collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Luce and will have transitional representations from every dynasty. The Luce collection (not yet installed) also includes pottery, bronzes, jade vessels and statuary from the Han period. There is also a notable group of Chinese ivories from the estate of the late Sir Victor Sassoon.

The major Museum collection at present is, however, the French collection. Comprising over 100 works, it was started by the late Count Cecil Pecci-Blunt, and spans 300 years of French art, supplying a history of the successive styles leading to the 20th century. A number of fine paintings by Barbizon artists—Millet, Diaz, and Lepine have been added to the collection. An anonymous New York foundation has arranged special gifts of works by David, Greuze and others. Recent acquisitions also include the Douanier Rousseau, Gros, Courbet and representations from the School of Paris. The Harrington Collection with its 47 French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings of unusual interest and quality has now been presented to the museum. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Luce have also contributed two paintings of exceptional quality, La Lecon de Lecture, by Boucher and Le Christ au Tombeau, by Delacroix.

The main floor of the Museum now has six galleries. They are the Great Hall, which displays late 18th and early 19th century French art and artifacts, the Drawing Gallery which exhibits work from the 17th century to the present day and includes work by Pissarro, Redon, Cassatt, Rodin, Miro, and many others. The Long Gallery contains the Don Harrington Collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting. The Contemporary Gallery is the largest gallery in the Museum—an impressive, uncluttered space of 120 x 84 feet. It houses contemporary art and sculpture and will house changing exhibitions. On this floor are also the important collections of Oriental art in The Far Eastern Gallery, and a pleasant open-air sculpture court.

The second floor covers an even wider range of art history and has twelve galleries. The Medieval and Renaissance Gallery includes 14th, 15th and 16th century art. Next to it is the Baroque Gallery, with late 16th to mid-17th century paintings by Murillo, Van Dyke, and others.

Adjacent to this is the 18th and 19th century Gallery which includes Rococo artists—Boucher, Greuze and post-French Revolution painters such as David and Delacroix. The Loggia displays 19th-century romantic art, Barbizon painters and a number of bronze statues. The second floor also houses the American Gallery with 19th and 20th-century American representational painters including an unusual Stuart Davis, and excellent examples of Homer, Innes, Stella, Avery, Wyeth, and others. The 16 Thorne Miniature Rooms are here, a Colonial Room, a Decorative Arts Room, and the Roy Wayland Gallery of Far Western Art with paintings by Remington and Russell.

The downstairs, or basement, of the Museum is an unusually pleasant area, and in addition to the 200-seat auditorium and classrooms, houses the Junior League’s delightful collection of graphics and drawings. It also has a gallery of Mexican art with paintings by Orozco, Tamayo, Merida, Martinez, Rivera and others.

The Phoenix Art Museum has moved from a deprived borrower to generous lender. As a spectacularly successful venture it has, like most gargantuan children, outgrown itself more rapidly than it can accommodate to the new, ever increasing demands made on it. Already in the course of these elaborate openings it is beginning to wonder where the new and forthcoming acquisitions and collections are to be housed.

––Harriette Von Breton