Catching Up On The New Parrish Museum

Tomorrow night, the Parrish Art Museum holds its last midsummer benefit in its Italianate mansion home in Southampton, Long Island — by next summer, the Parrish will have moved to its new digs in nearby Water Mill.

This has been a long time coming, as followers will recall — because its first expansion plan was scrapped  by the economic crisis: too big, too involved, too expensive. The new new Parrish, which will open next November, is smaller, less difficult to maintain, and still — probably — beautiful. For once, a museum blinked, reconsidered, and reconfigured to match its resouces. That’s a good thing, and I wish more over-expanded museums had done that.

You can read more about the current situation in an article I wrote, commissioned by Hamptons Magazine, out today.

One main gain in the new building is this:

November will bring the first-ever installation featuring art from all periods in the Parrish’s 2,600-work permanent collection. Many will be completely new to visitors, including some from the more than 30 works that have been acquired in the ongoing “Campaign for Art.” They include a large Louise Nevelson sculpture, Dorothea Rockburne’s Touchstone and Rainer Fetting’s Two Sunsets in East Hampton. [Terrie] Sultan, like every museum director, has her eye on more. “We covet a major Jackson Pollock, and some more great Abstract Expressionism pieces,” she says. “We have some, but it would be nice to have more works by Fischl, Salle, Bleckner, Close, Alice Aycock….”

After the first year, when visitors flock to new museums just because they are new, visitorship usually drops and become exhibition-driven. The Parrish should have plenty of ammunition within its permanent collection to create related exhibitions that will be fresh. It has already begun that, with shows of still lifes and artists like Dorothea Rockburne in the last few years. The new Parrish needs to be ambitious without ignoring its roots in the art of artists who lived and worked on Long Island. That leaves it plenty of territory to explore.  

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Parrish Museum

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