Published: March 16, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – As the centerpiece of The Phillips Collection’s centennial celebrations, the museum presents the exhibition, “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century.” Building on Duncan Phillips’s founding principle of inspiring others to “see beautifully,” and drawn from the museum’s growing permanent collection of nearly 6,000 works, “Seeing Differently” will highlight more than 200 diverse artistic expressions by artists from the Nineteenth Century to the present, including paintings, works on paper, prints, photographs, sculptures, quilts and videos. Spread throughout the entire museum, the exhibition will explore the complexities of our ever-changing world through four themes – identity, history, place and the senses – with special focus on recent acquisitions that showcase how the museum’s dynamic collection continues to evolve. “Seeing Differently” will be on view through September 12.
In 2021, The Phillips Collection, America’s first museum of modern art, celebrates its centennial. The museum opened its doors 100 years ago as a memorial to founder Duncan Phillips’s father, Duncan Clinch Phillips, and brother, James, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Recognizing the healing power of art, Phillips sought to share his “living” collection in a welcoming space and to inspire others to find beauty in the artist’s unique way of seeing the world. “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century” at once commemorates the museum’s centennial and launches its next vibrant chapter.
To develop this major exhibition, the Phillips’s curatorial team worked in close collaboration with a group of community advisors across disciplines who brought a multiplicity of perspectives to help shape the exhibition concept, interpretation, programming and community engagement.
“Since the early stages of planning ‘Seeing Differently,’ our world has endured major upheaval – from a health and economic crisis wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic to social ferment in the fight to end systemic racism. Collaborating this past year with a community advisory group, the Phillips engaged in meaningful discussions about creating inclusive spaces for our visitors that use art to spark connection, reflection and dialogue around pressing issues of our day,” says Elsa Smithgall, senior curator. “Thanks to the valuable input of our advisors, we have shaped a rich array of exhibitions, programs and events over the course of the centennial year, including a juried summer invitational to support the creative talents of artists in our local community.” Serving broad and diverse communities remains at the heart of the Phillips’s mission. “Seeing Differently” integrates local voices into all aspects of the project, including incorporating community written labels in the galleries. By creating spaces for the community to respond to the multicultural artistic expressions in our growing collection, the exhibition moves beyond curatorial voices to empower others to develop personal connections to art. Artist voices will also be present through video clips of Phillips-conducted interviews with David Driskell, John Edmonds, Whitfield Lovell and Alyson Shotz.
A highlight of the centennial will be the juried exhibition, “Inside Outside, Upside Down,” to be presented from June 12 to September 12. At a time when people’s lives have been upended by Covid-19 and civil unrest, our open call will invite artists in the area to submit work that speaks to the struggle and resiliency of the human spirit. Juried artist prizes will be offered as well as a crowd-sourced people’s choice award. This exhibition builds on our museum’s important legacy of presenting, acquiring and championing the work of living artists in the local community.
Duncan Phillips organized regular exhibitions dedicated to artists of the Washington, DC, region and sought to support and nurture their talents through acquisitions and training in an art school formerly set up in the museum.
The Phillips Collection is at 1600 21st Street NW. For information, 202-387-2151 or www.phillipscollection.org.
All photos courtesy The Phillips Collection
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