A Fresh Look at a Monumental Collection
Birmingham Museum of Art celebrates 60 years with new Guide to the Collection
In conjunction with the start of the Birmingham Museum of Art’s 60th year, the BMA is releasing a new collection handbook. Birmingham Museum of Art: Guide to the Collection, published by D Giles Limited, is a richly illustrated souvenir to an encyclopedic collection. The 272-page catalog is an outstanding survey of four thousand years of art from one of America’s leading regional museums.
“I am often asked ‘what's next?’ meaning what's the next big exhibition coming to the Museum,” says Gail Andrews, the R. Hugh Daniel Director of the BMA. “While we love bringing important traveling shows to our city, we are even more proud of the significant collection we have created over our sixty-year history.”
Highlighting more than 250 artworks from the Museum’s holdings of Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American art, this catalog demonstrates how remarkably the BMA’s collection has grown since its last collection catalog in 1993, called Masterpieces East and West. The entries in the new catalog were written by the BMA’s six collection curators.
“Since our last Museum handbook, our collection has grown by more than 10,000 objects,” says Jeannine O’Grody, Chief Curator and Curator of European Art. “Much more important than the increase in sheer numbers, however, is the way in which the superb quality of these new acquisitions has strengthened the collection. I think that is particularly evident in this publication.”
Founded in 1951, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, has a remarkable collection of more than 24,000 objects representing a rich panorama of cultures. This beautifully illustrated new guidebook showcases examples of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as textiles, photographs, videos, and drawings, split into five sections with introductory essays and over 230 entries.
Of particular note are the Museum’s holdings of Asian art with works from Japan, China, Korea, and India, and the finest Vietnamese ceramics in the United States. A section on the arts of Africa and the Americas presents stunning objects from Africa, native North America, and the Andes.
The notable collection of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century European decorative arts includes English ceramics, French furniture and the Museum’s world-renowned collection of Wedgwood, the largest outside England. European painting, sculpture, prints, and drawings are represented with striking Italian, Dutch, and French works from the 14th through the 19th centuries.
The American collection constitutes outstanding masterpieces from the late 18th through 20th centuries, while the Contemporary collection includes prime examples by great artists of international repute, as well as works by a younger generation who are defining the new century.
Andrews said the new volume is both a great souvenir of the Museum and fitting as the BMA reaches an important milestone this year. “This new, beautifully illustrated handbook, timed with our 60th anniversary, is a perfect way for people to get a better understanding of what makes our Museum so significant, what you should show visitors from out of town, or what you should brag about when someone asks about our Museum.”
The Birmingham Museum of Art Guide to the Collection was made possible through the generous support of The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Robert R. Meyer Foundation, The Members of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Henry S. Lynn, Jr. in memory of George Gambrill Lynn, Jr., Asian Art Society, Collectors Circle for Contemporary Art, European Art Society, Friends of American Art, Photography Guild, and Sankofa Society: Friends of African and African-American Art.