In recent years the Philbrook Museum of Art has done a lot to breathe life into its image as more than an iconic Tulsa structure with perfectly manicured gardens.
Connecting with families, minorities and the community as a whole through innovative programming such as 2nd Saturday, 3rd Thursday and contemporary art exhibitions such as Adaptation has proven the Philbrook has a passion for seeking out what Tulsans want from their local museum and making art accessible to everyone. The heightened emphasis on special programming as a means of bringing new visitors inside its doors has proven highly successful for the museum. With 2010 attendance up 40 percent over 2009 and membership up by 20 percent in the last three years, the Philbrook is certainly doing something right. Now with plans in full swing to begin construction of a Philbrook satellite facility in the Brady Arts District, there is even more to look forward to.
Through the generosity of the George Kaiser Family Foundation the Philbrook has acquired approximately 30,000 square-feet of the former Mathews Warehouse, 100 E. Brady, which will house the Eugene B. Adkins Collection as well as the George R. Kravis II Industrial Design Collection.
With the recent decision of Gluckman Mayner Architects of New York, N.Y. as the architectural firm chosen to bring to life this vision, progress will soon be underway. Gluckman Mayner Architects is a world-renowned architectural firm that designed the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; the Picasso Museum in Malaga, Spain; the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. and the Perelman Building at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
"Gluckman Mayner has a wealth of experience to ensure this is a first-rate experience for us moving forward," said Randall Suffolk, Philbrook director.
The museum expects the new museum space to open in spring 2012. The first floor of the museum will feature modern art and work from the Kravis Design Collection. Floor one will also include a special rotating collection of work from the Adkins Collection. The museum's second floor will be devoted entirely to the Adkins collection, making the museum home to one of the finest collections of American Indian Art in the country. A study center for scholarship of the material is also a planned addition to the building.
The idea for the building originated several years ago when the work in the Adkins collection was left not to an institution, but to trustees with the responsibility of determining institutional stewards to house the art for the next 150 years. Major museums from across the region competed for the valuable collection of American Indian and Southwestern art.
The Philbrook combined a proposal with the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma that emphasized the importance of keeping the unique collection in Oklahoma. In the end, the Philbrook and the Fred Jones Museum triumphed and made the decision to divide the work so that Tulsa selected 70 percent of American Indian art and 30 percent western art while the Fred Jones Museum chose 70 percent western art and 30 percent American Indian art.
After news of the Philbrook's acquisition spread, the George Kaiser Family Foundation stepped in and offered a large exhibition space in the Mathews Warehouse to house the Adkins collection. Recent developments in the Brady District has made the area the center of Tulsa's art scene and the perfect location for the Philbrook's downtown location.
Objects of attention
The downtown annex will certainly provide another dimension to the Philbrook by providing educational programming that will complement programming already in place at the museum. The Philbrook also has no plans to stop major exhibitions of modern art from touring the museum's main facility. The Modern Art and Design Gallery is intended to function as a constructive overlap for this important time period.
The Kravis Modern Art and Design Collection will include 250 objects that reflect the evolution of modern industrial design. The collection will include Streamline and American Art Deco objects from the 30s and 40s by designers such as Norman Bel Geddes, Henry Dreyfuss and Paul Frankl. The design collection will also include mid-century modern and contemporary design objects by George Nelson, Herbert Krenchel and Russel Wright, among others.
The Philbrook began receiving these objects from the George R. Kravis II Industrial Design Collection in December 2008.
"This important gift will add a completely new dimension to the visitor's experience and provide an exceptional new platform for exhibitions, programming and research," Suffolk said.
The converted warehouse will add more than 80,000 square-feet of arts space to the Brady Arts District. In addition to the Philbrook annex -- a building that previously housed a paper company and later an auto parts warehouse -- will hold the Arts and Humanities Council's Visual Arts Center, a gallery and art studio for the University of Tulsa Art Department and four classrooms managed by the Gilcrease Museum in conjunction with the museum's youth outreach programs.
"We hope this building will identify Tulsa as a city with a passion for the arts," Suffolk said.
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