The ceremonial and civic front of the Philadelphia Art Museum faces the city.
Photo from the net
Protesters facing the museum after the murder of George Floyd, May 25, 2020. East front of the museum
The Museum was built in 1928 under the aegis and with funds from the economic elite of the Philadelphia area.
They, the city and the state and Federal funding have maintained the museum since.
The museum sits on a bluff over the Schuylkill River and is at the eastern end of Fairmount Park, a natural park stretching for miles along that river.
The west (rear) of the Philadelphia Art Museum overlooks the Schuylkill River on a bluff. Photo from the net.
The customary entrance to the museum has been at her west, river end.
Taking the stairway either right or left takes you up to the great hall of the traditional museum: two levels of galleries.
The great hall looks west to City Hall and the center of the city:
At its east end, Diana is hunting (1892-93, gilded copper sheets;
Augustus Saint-Gaudens, American born Ireland, 1848-1907).
Here are two levels of galleries on either side holding the museum’s mature collections and special exhibition space.
Renovations designed by Frank Gehry (Candadian-American born 1929) have been installed below the museum’s two traditional floors.
Very little of the museum’s exterior has been touched.
Planned for twenty years and executed, as a first phase, in four, the renovation has added 90,000 square feet of space for a collection much of which has been in storage for ever.
The architect used a freight entrance on the north side of the building to transform the heart-guts of the museum.
Photo from the net
You enter a new reception area. This leads to a shop on the right and a long, double corridor on the left
Photo from the net
The double corridor, one of wider width than the other, traverses the museum’s north-south axis.
Two Box Structure, 1961, stainless steel.
David Smith, 1906-1965, American. Philadelphia Art Museum
Guastavino tilework lines the vaulted ceiling of the wider corridor
The narrower of the two corridors has access to real light through a metal trellis mimicking the vaulting.
The ubiqitous food in one part of the narrower of the two corridors
The renovation has used the same Kasota limestone – pale gold, red and grey hues – from the same quarries in a small town in southern Minnesota with which the original building was built.
Care has been taken to match stone blocks so that our eyes don’t bounce around in the soft and shifting gold haze.
In the guts of the building, the double corridor has been dissected by a new meeting place and performance area:
the Williams Forum. This replaces an auditorium of the 1970s.
Fire (United States of the Americas), 2017/2020, charcoal.
Teresita Fernandez, American born 1968. Promised gift to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
The charcoal represents scorched earth here.
From the Williams Forum, steps lead up to the old West entrance which was our habitual entrance.
The double corridor continues south from the Williams Forum to the south entrance.
At its terminus is vestibule space for large sculpture.
Malcolm X #3, 1969, polished bronze, rayon cotton.
Barbara Chase Riboud, American born 1939. Philadelphia Art Museum
Nuria, 2017, stainless steel.
Jaume Plensa, Spanish born 1955. Philadelphia Art Museum
Nur is light in Arabic.
Nur/Nuri in Amharic means ‘be’ or ‘live’ and similar words may represent the same meaning in other Semitic languages.
Núria is a valley in Catalonia, Spain.
Splotch, 2003, fiberglass, construction foam, plywood epoxy resin, acrylic paint.
Sol Lewitt, 1928-2007, American. Philadelphia Museum of Art
In this vestibule, you are at ground level with natural light pouring through the south entrance door.
From the Williams Forum upwards to the old west entrance.
the old West entrance to the museum
Right and left on this floor are hung two new galleries.
We are at ground level and below the traditional galleries.
New galleries run on a north-south axis above and on either side of the Williams Forum.
From the Williams Forum to the old West entrance at the top
Looking down from the area of the new galleries into the Williams Forum
Galleries dedicated to contemporary art on the north side are exhibiting an inaugural collection of the work of artists who are native Philadelphians or who have worked or are working in the city.
Entrance to the new galleries for contemporary art
Walls of Change, 2021, acrylic latex paint on wall.
Designed by Odili Donald Odita, American born 1966 Nigeria. Philadelphia Art Museum
And on the south, American galleries:
And at its entrance, an exceptional statement posted by the museum.
Portrait of Lord Lapowinsa, oil on canvas.
Gusavus Hessellus, American born Sweden, 1689-1755. Photo from the net
These are portraits of two men, known as Lenape leaders.
They met with the sons of William Penn in 1735 to resolve a land dispute. They were painted at that time.
Two years later they and their people were deceived out of agreements made.
The fate of the Lenni Lenape in south-east Pennsylvania resulted from crimes committed against them: notably the expropriation of their lands and their removal from their ancestral home.
Most were placed in concentration camps and deported west, many to lands assigned to the Cherokee in Oklahoma without the say-so of the Cherokee.
Portrait of Tishcohan, c. 1735-37, oil on canvas.
Gusavus Hessellus, American born Sweden, 1689-1755
The museum’s contrition and regret has been long in the making;
as a result of the historic violation by William Penn’s own sons of his governing law for the city of Philadelphia (1682) and the state of Pennsylvania (1682-84):
the Quaker principle and plan of action known as the Holy Experiment;
the long redress sought by American Indians;
the world-wide emotional shock of an example of the workings of a second original, continuing, sin of the North American state in the murder of George Floyd in May 2020;
and a clear statement of recognition in 2021 by the US Supreme Court
that a significant portion of the state of Oklahoma is sovreign Indian land, given as a consequence of the ethnic cleansing of the Cherokee from south-eastern United States.
(On May 11, 2021, the Metropolitan Museum of Art also affixed a bronze plaque recognizing that it sits in lands which belonged to the Lenape diaspora.
Recognizing that it is action that is important, the Met has committed “to pursue substantive collaborations with diverse Indigenous communities, to actively embody our respectful acknowledgment, and to effect social change beyond our doors…”)
You enter the American galleries to be greeted by works discussing a part of the European legacy of South America,
slavery in North America
and the history of art and artifacts in North America.
The Archangel Michael, made in Peru, is there. He is killing one of the many dragons which beset us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, 1700s, oil on canvas. Peru (Cuzco)
Onwards, then, with the evolution of one of Pennsylvania’s most important institutions
and one of the nation’s primary collectors and interpretors of its history through the media of art and artisanal work.
Setter of example and giver of hope to the young.