Picker Art Gallery

The Picker Art Gallery debuted its newest exhibition Original Materials: The Picker Art Gallery and the Building of a Collection with an opening reception on Thursday, September 5. Admirers of art, amateur and professional alike, had an opportunity to appreciate a wide array of pieces. The works may seem unrelated upon the first walk around the gallery, but are ultimately connected by their common history as pieces from Picker Art collections of the past.

According to the collection’s curator Nick West, “Original Materials is about the past, present, and future of the art collection at the Picker Art Gallery. We wanted to celebrate Colgate’s Bicentennial by looking back at where we’ve been as a museum, but also wanted to be sure we were casting a critical eye to where we are at the beginning of Colgate’s third century so that we could envision the future of collections on campus.”

With an amalgam of styles and concepts coupled with interactive activities, the exhibition encourages its viewers to think about the different narratives that can be created by reorganizing works of art and the varying approaches to engaging with controversial ideas, artists, or artworks. 

This collection is raw and personal in a way that openly invites the Colgate community to recognize the museum’s shortcomings. Nick West’s hope is that,“by being honest about some of what we don’t know, members of our academic community will be inspired to help contribute to knowledge generation about the collection.”

To display the importance of constant progression, the museum labels discuss issues that the Picker Art Gallery tries to combat. One addresses the problem of lacking representation of art from the twenty-first century, another describes the difficulty in researching provenance, the origin and source of a work of art. 

Although provenance wasn’t always a priority, it is becoming increasingly important to put time and effort into researching the history behind the pieces that get showcased. This information is crucial in achieving a more complete understanding of a collection and verifying its authenticity. 

In fact, in response to the opening of the new exhibition, Professor of Art and Art History Elizabeth Marlowe said, “it also raises issues around the art market, how value is determined, how objects have changed hands at different moments in history, how little we know about many of our artworks’ own pasts and how the ethical standards around all those matters have evolved over time. Not every museum is willing to shine a light on these complex – and not always flattering – issues. But our curator Nick West has bravely taken them on. It’s a bold exhibition, and it is precisely the kind of exhibition we should be doing regularly at a university museum.”

Thus, while it is about the individual pieces of art and their histories, this display as a whole is also meant to showcase and celebrate Colgate and the museum itself in the season of its bicentennial. Old black and white photos of distant, yet familiar Colgate ‘art spaces’ adorn the walls to commemorate a meaningful past. 

Yet, while it is undoubtedly nostalgic, there is an added breath of freshness to the artwork that harkens to Picker Art Gallery’s promise to continue advancing, expanding, and unfolding truths through art. By using the museum labels to relay information that is known as well as what isn’t yet known, Original Materials keeps the discussion open to students and faculty. 

This exhibit will be on display to explore through December 15.

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