Special Milestones Deserve Special Celebrations
That was the thought that Fralin Museum Director Bruce Boucher had several years ago, when he realized that 2015 would mark the Museum’s 80th anniversary.
The resulting commemoration comes in the form of “Cavaliers Collect,” a special exhibition on view through December 20, 2015 that consists of 75 works on loan from 55 distinguished art collections of UVa alumni and friends. The exhibition beautifully represents both the diversity and the quality of the collections from which it is created, as it spans genres, mediums and centuries on its way to capturing the deep passion for the arts among the University’s vast alumni base.
Museum visitors will encounter the work of artists ranging from Jan Gossaert to Sir Anthony van Dyck, Robert Henri, Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein, and even Robert Allen Zimmerman, who made art under the name Bob Dylan. The exhibition also features a special section showcasing non-Western art, including highlight pieces representing Asian and African cultures.
“I wanted to create an exhibition that was national in scope, which would showcase the fine art and reflect the wide-ranging collecting interests of UVa alumni and friends of our Museum,” Boucher said, “while mirroring our own interests and taking stock of where we are now, where we have come from, and where we hope to be at the end of this decade.”
When the idea for the exhibition first came to him, Boucher worried that he might not receive the number of responses needed to fill The Fralin’s J. Sanford Miller Family Gallery, and thought that perhaps it might need to be supplemented by pieces from the Museum’s own collection. Instead, he quite literally got more than he bargained for, ultimately having to turn away several interested collectors and using only two pieces from The Fralin’s collection to complement, rather than supplement, the loaned pieces.
An unexpected bonus of the exhibition, Boucher said, was that it has reflected areas where the Museum traditionally has strong interests, such as 20th and 21st Century American and European art, as well as wonderful 17th Century paintings, 14th Century Italian paintings and much more. “It’s really a phenomenal mix, and by installing it in clusters, we have been able to host a section of landscapes, sculpture and glass, as well as photographs, and non-Western art. Every selected piece has surpassed our expectations.”
Boucher spent more than two years exploring the artistic treasure troves of UVa-affiliated collectors. “In my 6 1⁄2 years as director, I have travelled nationwide, as well as in our own backyard of Charlottesville, and viewed wonderful collections belonging to friends, and–– faculty, as well as undergraduate and graduate alumni of the University. President Sullivan graciously reached out to collectors whom she knew about this effort, while there were others who readily came forward and offered their pieces for this showcase.”
At times, Boucher knew exactly what he was looking for from a given collection, and other times, he was pleasantly surprised. “I often went to people I knew, and whose collections I was very familiar with, and I would ask, ‘Can you lend us this particular piece?’ In one particular instance, I was interested in borrowing two paintings from one collector, and he suggested something entirely different.”
His suggestion, Portrait of King Charles I by Sir Anthony van Dyck, gives the exhibition its own UVa-themed welcome. “The collector said, ‘Well, if this is Cavaliers Collect, you might want to consider Charles I, who was the original 'Cavalier King’!” Loaned by Neville and John H. Bryan, the painting greets visitors as they step into the upstairs galleries of the exhibition, many against backdrops adorned in Cavalier blue for the occasion.
The exhibition, according to the Museum’s namesake Heywood Fralin, has another important benefit. “I think it is wonderful that the University is bringing alumni collectors together. Many of us may not know each other and not know we are collectors, so I think it is really great to bring together these common interests in a way that I don’t think has ever been done before. I think it will create lasting interest in the Museum, and give people the opportunity to become a lot better acquainted with the Museum, as well as its objectives and goals.”
In addition to celebrating the legacy built over The Fralin’s 80 years, “Cavaliers Collect” also shines a spotlight on The Fralin’s exciting future. The Museum is in the midst of a $30 million campaign to build an addition onto the existing Thomas H. Bayly building. These plans will increase the square footage by more than 16,000 square feet, including added galleries, visible storage and educational spaces, allowing it to increase its exhibition and educational offerings, as well as serving as a beautiful gateway into the Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds.