March 27 - June 6
The consensus of opinion holds that 2020 was not a great year for anyone or anything. A noteworthy exception may be the permanent collection of the Morris Museum of Art. The current exhibition of highlights from this year’s more than two hundred acquisitions, on display in the museum’s Coggins Gallery, is a celebration—of the art of the South and the artists who created it, as well as of the many generous donors whose gifts of art have broadened and deepened the museum’s already admired collection: Kathy McLean, late of Atlanta; John Welsh, who divides his time between homes in Savannah and upstate South Carolina; Nelson Danish, longtime resident of Burke County who now lives in North Augusta; Timothy Hyde from Washington, D.C., who has, over the years, brought many good photographs and good photographers to the museum’s attention; Bobbi Adams, a stalwart figure in South Carolina’s art scene from her aerie in Bishopville; Mary Frances Gardner in New Orleans; the estate of Lucile Eleanor Caraker through the intercession of Jean Michael and Cole Murphy; and the dozens of donors to acquisitions funds that honor the memories of museum cofounder Sissie Morris, the museum’s founding director Louise Keith Claussen, and much-beloved artist Philip Morsberger. They have brought paintings, watercolors, and mixed-media work by Bobbi Adams, Rolland Golden, Tommy Goodman, Myrtle Jones, Blue Sky, Edgar Hewitt Nye, Hattie Saussy, and Gladys Nelson Smith into the collection. The American Academy of Arts and Letters, through its Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Purchase Fund, has directed work by Ridley Howard, a painter from Athens, Georgia, and Trenton Doyle Hancock, a multimedia artist who resides in Houston, Texas, to the museum. Both artists are new to the museum’s collection. In addition to the kind of art that one expects to find at the Morris, the exhibition includes examples of work by an Arkansas Living Treasure, renowned basketmaker Leon Niehues. These are recent transfers to the museum’s collection from the Julia J. Norrell Grantor Trust, and they point to a developing direction for the museum’s collection—regional crafts. Other recently acquired works of art include two spectacular paintings by Gordon Hope Grant in the Images of the Civil War gallery. This exhibition underscores the fact that good museums do not remain static, and neither do their collections. Collections grow and change, bringing fresh information and opportunities for engagement to the public.