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Phillips Collection at 90


Sir Howard Hodgkin's As Time Goes By (2009) (Courtesy: The Phillips Collection)

By Jacqueline Trescott

The 90 years of artistic innovation at the Phillips Collection will be celebrated in 2011 with a series of installation flashbacks.

The Phillips, opened in a Dupont Circle mansion in 1921, announced Tuesday that its ninth decade will feature a series of reviews and reinstallations of shows that made the Phillips a pioneering museum in several art movements.

Under the slogan "90 Years of New" the museum will recreate its 1938 Klee Room, the first gallery anywhere in the world dedicated exclusively to the work of expressionist Paul Klee. In 1928 the Phillips gave abstract artist Augustus Vincent Tack his first commission. That series of paintings will be reinstalled in the original mansion's Music Room.

Contemporary artists, who were given shows early in their careers, will have special roles. In 1967 Sam Gilliam the Washington abstract artist, held his first solo show at the Phillips. The gallery has commissioned Gilliam to create a draped canvas for the 90th anniversary that will hang from the main staircase.

The Phillips also announced Tuesday that it had purchased a pair of 20-foot hand-painted etchings by Sir Howard Hodgkin, the abstract painter. Hodgkin, winner of the coveted Turner Prize, had his first American exhibit at the Phillips in 1984. The panels of "As Time Goes By," created in 2009, will be hung in the first room that founder Duncan Phillips used as a gallery.

The staff of the Phillips started planning the events last spring and did not reconsider after a recent fire damaged parts of the original building. The fire on September 2 started on the roof of the historic mansion and spread down to the top floor of offices. There was extensive water damage to twelve of the mansion's galleries but all the art work was rescued and undamaged. The mansion is closed but the staff hopes parts will reopen by Thanksgiving.

The anniversary programs and shows blend the history of the Phillips, along with new approaches to learning about the collection and the artists. A mobile application will debut with a guide to "things to do in 90 minutes at the Phillips."

"For the 90th anniversary, we're striking a very deliberate balance between the art and artists that are most readily identified with the Phillips Collection and a broad array of innovative projects that allow us to forefront our dialogue with today," said museum director Dorothy Kosinski.

The Phillips was the first museum to buy a work by Georgia O'Keefe and Jacob Lawrence. It mounted the first U.S. exhibitions of Henry Moore, Pierre Bonnard and Marc Chagall.

The anniversary events start with a free weekend January 15 and 16.

Hodgkin's monumental work will be displayed from January 8 to May 8.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | September 28, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Galleries, Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  The Phillips Collection  
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