Sunday, December 21, 2014

Discovering The Kreeger Museum

Pete and Althea
No trip to DC is complete without a visit to at least one of the many museums that the area boasts.  On my most recent get away, my friend Althea shared her discovery of The Kreeger Museum with her husband Peter and me.  It is a real gem.

With Pete on the patio's sculpture garden
The Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year but, like the Barnes Foundation, was open on a very limited basis until a few years ago.  The Museum was previously David and Carmen Kreegers' home and was designed by architect Philip Johnson as a place to showcase their art collection.  Amazingly, most of the art in the building was collected over a period of just 15 years.  Kreeger's thoughts on buying art were, "I never bought art as an investment. I bought it for love and I was lucky. Art that embodies the creative spirit of men transcends the value of money." (In case you're wondering, Mr. Kreeger made his fortune as, among other things, the chairman of Geico.)
The Great Hall is chock full of amazing modern art, including works by Picasso and Braques.  Perhaps my personal favorite was Picasso's "Woman Sitting with Hat" (1939) that greeted us when we came into the room. When the Kreegers lived in this space, they used the Great Hall for entertaining and often held concerts there. In addition to his other talents, Mr. Kreeger was an accomplished violinist and would sometimes play chamber music with Isaac Stern or the Toyko String Quartet.

After gaping at the art in the Great Hall, we entered another room and my jaw dropped even further. The room was filled with Monets and works by other Impressionist artists.  One wall is all windows, so you experience the works slightly differently depending upon the light. How perfect!
"Lament" by Emile Brzezinski (red oak - 2013)

The Museum also has space for special exhibits.  When we were there, the show was "Lure of the Forest" by Emilie Brzezinski. (Her husband Zbigniew was National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter.  This is Washington, after all.)  Ms. Brzezinski creates her wooden sculptures using a chainsaw, chisel and axe.  She says of her work, "As I carve the trunk, I retain the essential outline and gesture of the tree, uncovering within its form a symbol of its history.”  The exhibit included a video of an interview that journalist Mika Brzezinski conducted of her mother for "CBS Sunday Morning."  To see the clip, which shows how Ms. Brzezinski goes about creating her art, click here

As you might have surmised from the picture of Brzenzinski's "Lament," The Kreeger Museum also has an outdoor sculpture garden. While the sculpture garden on the patio holds more traditional bronzes by artists like Henry Moore and Jean Arp, the works on the lawn are very modern.  I was immediately drawn to these larger than life sculptures by Ledelle Moe entitled "Transition/Displacement." Although her works are made of concrete and steel, Moe is fascinated with the concept of impermanence.  To quote her website, "'[Moe's] melting, monumental forms remind us the sadness, and beauty, of decay."  Admittedly, my initial interest in the sculptures was primarily as a photo opp.  I had a vision of lying on the ground next to them, hovering in a similar state.  Althea nixed the idea quite vehemently.  (Truly, I can't imagine her objection to my rolling around on the grass next to what I'm sure are quite expensive works of art.)  So I satisfied myself--reluctantly--with a close perusal of the works before we went on our way. 

Here's to a happy holiday season and a new year filled with great discoveries! 

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