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The Nasher Museum: Modern Contemporary Art Museum in Durham
The Nasher Museum at Duke University is the manifestation of a long-time dream and namesake of Raymond D. Nasher, a Duke Alumni of 1943. Wendy Hower Livingston, the Marketing and Communications Director at the museum, said "As a student, (Nasher) felt the importance for an art museum at Duke University decades ago. The first museum was in the sixties in an old science building and classrooms were retrofitted into the museum gallery spaces.” Talks and planning continued in 1989 to build the museum and eventually, the site was on the corner of Duke University Drive and Anderson Street. According to Livingston, Raymond Nasher said it was the perfect location because he felt that it was a gateway into the community. In October 2005, the contemporary designed glass doors opened to the university community and, Livingston said, “to the outside world.” It's on central campus and the university sees the museum as a gift to the community. The museum garnered local support, and various foundations were instrumental in building the museum, including Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, and other contributors.”
The museum’s mission and the process to produce exhibits and programs are integrated into the Duke University culture and its multidisciplinary approach. Livingston explains, “Nasher has three curators and each has an area of expertise and area of study. They pursue different projects based on their interests, schedules that call for a project of a certain kind, and available funding. Developing exhibitions are extremely well-thought-out, and sometimes it takes years for a project to come to fruition. We take advantage and use the brain trust of Duke Faculty members who help curate exhibitions, and use the collections to teach students. Students are very involved in helping to put on exhibitions. There are interns in every department at the museum.” The museum will continue to add to its current permanent collection of 13,000 works of art which include Modern and Contemporary, Medieval Renaissance, African, Greek Classical Antiquities, and American and European art. In defining and growing a new museum, they also work on incubating their own shows and send them out as traveling exhibitions throughout various venues and museums across the country and throughout the world, like with the exhibit “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool,” the American artist’s first painting retrospective. The exhibit met with critical praise, reviews, and great success. Livingston said, “The exhibition opened here in February 2008 and traveled to New York, Santa Monica Museum of Art, CA, Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston.”
Nasher museum changes their exhibitions frequently, from sculptures inside and outside along with new exhibits. According to Livingston, the museum also offers a venue for local artists to be inspired by high caliber exhibitions. “We encourage visitors to just take their time to look at the art and if you don’t like it…maybe the artist was unsuccessful in communicating and that's okay. Just move onto the next one and try to find personal connections to what you see,” explained Livingston.
Durham and the Triangle community are not like New York City or other larger metropolitan cities but Nasher Museum will strive to gain a high-profile status nationally, internationally, and locally, providing a building with architectural artistry filled with first class art. Livingston said, “So when you come, there'll be something new and you can see art that you would normally have to go to New York, Paris, or Los Angeles to see.”
Video note: Watch the interview of Satch Hoyt, one of 41 artists exhibiting their works in “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl” exhibited at Nasher Museum. He is a Berlin-based artist who created a 16-foot canoe made of red 45-rpm records with an original soundscape during a 2009 artist residency at Duke University. His personal story and varied cultural background connects and influences his creative works. Watch the video and discover the insights of a fascinating artist at work. As Hoyt said, “My life is just like a one big hybrid statement.”
This groundbreaking exhibition explores the culture of vinyl records through 50 years of contemporary art. The exhibit will continue until February 6, 2011. It features work by 41 artists from Germany, Japan, Rio de Janeiro, Peru, Mali, Canada, and other countries around the world, and artists from various regions in the United States.