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The Milwaukee Art Museum’s Milwaukee Collects exhibition offers visitors a rare and unique glimpse into some of the city’s most interesting private art collections. On view March 10–May 21, the exhibition draws works from nearly 50 collections and includes more than 100 objects, bringing the community’s passion for collecting art into focus. Artworks in the exhibition span centuries, media and artistic styles, including early American paintings, contemporary sculpture, icons of modern photography, Impressionist canvases and hallmarks of Art Deco design.
Artists represented in Milwaukee Collects include Jules Chéret, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, John Sloan, Thomas Sully, Edward Weston and many others—names one is likely to encounter in the Museum’s Collection Galleries. Since the institution’s inception nearly 130 years ago, the Museum’s Collection, our region’s largest artistic asset, has been thoughtfully shaped by the symbiotic relationship between local private collectors and the Museum.
“The works of art at the Museum are a direct expression of our city’s culture, reflecting the interests of the people who reside here,” said Marcelle Polednik, Ph.D., Donna and Donald Baumgartner director. “As an institution, we’ve been wonderfully shaped by the collecting interests of the community, and that’s evident in what hangs on our walls and is stored in our vaults.”
This Milwaukee Art Museum-produced exhibition is a product of the entire curatorial team. Milwaukee Collects follows last year’s major renovation and reinstallation of the Collection Galleries. As the Museum’s new director, Polednik was inspired by the breadth and depth of Milwaukee’s shared collecting interests, which are evident in the exhibition, including decorative arts, German art, text-based art, and contemporary art with a focus on work by the Chicago Imagists.
“Milwaukee’s collectors have very carefully considered and built their collections based on their personal interests and unique artistic eye,” said Polednik. “While we inherently knew Milwaukee as an active collecting community, we were time and again pleasantly surprised by the deliberation and great care with which these collections were built.”
A robust lineup of public programs accompanying the exhibition helps convey the message that anyone can become a collector, and the importance of art collecting to a community. There are opportunities to hear from area collectors and to explore the significant ways in which private collections and collaborative efforts like support groups contribute to Milwaukee’s collecting practices. There are also offerings designed to inspire and educate the next generation of art aficionados.
“Milwaukee Collects is a celebration of how art connects us to each other and our community,” said Polednik. “We hope this exhibition inspires future generations to continue Milwaukee’s long-standing tradition of collecting and sharing art with others.”