♦ Collection Development at the Anderson Gallery & the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts

Arina Okorokova  

The aim of this work is to show two different ways of forming a collection at a university art museum. I would say that the Anderson Gallery in Richmond, Virginia and the Academy of Fine Arts Museum in St. Petersburg, Russian are extremely different but that makes them even more interesting to analyze. The museum in St.Petersburg is much older and inherits the tradition of eighteenth-century collection forming. The Anderson Gallery is quite modern and follows the way of presenting the newest art, but both of them are used not only for students' needs but for preserving, showing and disseminating art.

            During the 1920s, Colonel A.A. Anderson, an early resident of Richmond’s Fan District, bequeathed to the then Richmond Professional Institute of the College of William & Mary his stables for use as a fine arts gallery. Once refurbished, four exhibition spaces were created and the Anderson Gallery of Art launched what has been something of an inconstant history.

            It is important to begin to talk about the Anderson Gallery from the very beginning, from the man who gave his name to it and headed the first exhibition there. Abraham Archibald Anderson, for whom Virginia Commonwealth University’s Art Gallery was named, was a famous nineteenth-century American artist. He obtained his academic education under private tutors in Europe. In 1890 he established the American Art Association as a means of cooperation and collegiality for American artists in Paris. He focused mostly on portraiture, and his best known portraits are those of Thomas A.Edison, with whom he was a close friend,Cornelius N. Bliss in the New York Chamber of Commerce, and John W. Griggs in the capital building at Trenton.[1][2]

        While traveling to all parts of the world he gathered many rare and exquisite art objects. The original Richmond branch of the College of William & Mary (which was then part of the School of Social Work and Public Health and which now has the name of Virginia Commonwealth University) was built as an art school and a large art gallery to which they gave the name and first art exhibition to  Anderson. He selected fifty of his more important pictures for the exhibition, borrowing back some that had already been sold[3]. The exhibition was very successful, and the gallery had over sixteen hundred visitors the first week of the show[4]. As Anderson wrote in his biography, apparently no picture in the exhibition attracted more general attention than the portrait of his mother. [5]

           But this exhibition was just the first step. Anderson Galley has been changing through time, following  changes in university life. What we now see as a gallery hasn’t always been so. In the course of the university’s development, physical space requirements remained a pressing problem. Accordingly, aesthetics were sacrificed at the expense of the gallery. Portions were converted into classroom space and later the Federal Public Works Administration provided that another floor and various extensions were added to the original stable. Gradually, the entire building was given over to classroom needs with the fledgling library being installed permanently. The permanent art collection found scattered homes in offices and storage area.

            In 1966 the third floor classrooms were eliminated by the library’s expansion and not until 1970 did the library move into its new quarters and the gallery reinstated. On November 9, 1970, the Anderson Gallery formally reopened with a major student exhibition o the first floor.[6] Sale prices were set by the students with a 15% commission charged by the gallery for making the sales. The gallery fund secures these sources of revenue from the commission charge.

             Since re-opening in 1970, Anderson Gallery has become the focal point of local exhibitions of art. I think its worth talking about several different exhibitions that took place at the gallery as they relate to the story I am telling. The first showing of the University Art Collection was held in August 1972, soon after Richmond Professional Institute officially became Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The show was on display for two months, and the admission was free. A major part of the exhibition were prints from the collection of Dr. Henry Hibbs, first president of the former Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU). Items in the collection range from matchbook-sized fifteenth-century German woodcuts, to seventeenth-century Italian painting such as St. Cecilia Playing the Viol de Gamba by Bernardo Strozzi, to twentieth-century American artists Paul Cadmus and Nell Blaine. Also on a display were graphic masterpieces by Dürer, Rembrandt, Piranesi, and Manet. In addition, examples from artists on the faculty were shown. Such as artworks by Theresa Pollak, founder of the VCU School of the Arts.[7]

            Here is what F.D. Cossitt, a Times-Dispatch art critic said: “If you want to see an exhibit of stimulating art, your best bet is the Anderson Gallery.”[8] He complimented the exhibit that has just taken place there, saying that the art faculty at VCU is rather miraculous, and no other school in this part of the country can touch it and in its own context, it has vastly surpassed its own standards of a few years ago.

            The John K. Pugh Collection of Oriental Art was shown in December 1971. Sponsored by the Asian Cultural Exchange Foundation, the exhibit was one of the highlights of the Anderson’s 1971 season.[9] Throughout Pugh’s years of “informal collecting,” he studied the Buddhist philosophy of life as it represented threw out the Asian counties. He had a high respect for the eastern way of life and believed that Western technological society could be better balanced by an understanding of the harmony pervading Oriental life.

           Since 1970 however, VCU's Anderson Gallery has specialized mostly in exhibiting contemporary art. The 1979 installation of  The  Discount Store by Pop artist Red Grooms was very successful and was on display nearly a month as a loan from the Marborough Gallery in New York City. Red Grooms was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1937. He was a quite an unusual artist mixing garish colors and bold exaggerations with scenes of everyday life; he often depicted America in a fanciful and satirical manner.[10] He transformed fragments of American commercial society into works of art. The Discount Store itself was a huge, sprawling construction made of three-dimensional cutout display counters filled with make-believe panty-hose, tractor tires, cans, cash registers.

            The Anderson Gallery’s first international exhibit was open in October 1975.[11] The show was a group of Polish graphic work, pen, ink and charcoal drawings, done by twelve artists at the Jagiellonion University Academy of Art in Cracow.[12] The artists ranged from the dean of the Academy of Art to a first year student. The idea of the exhibition was to bring two schools of art together to foster a spirit of exchange and cooperation between two cultures.

              Not only painting and installations were among display at the Gallery. For example, an unusual exhibition devoted to metals was held in 1976.[13] That exhibition featured work by students and faculty of twenty-eight schools and universities. Although no one theme or style of metal work predominated the show, it was an excellent cross section of the quality and variety of metal being produced that day. Included in the exhibit were jewelry pieces, functional containers, nonfunctional objects. All of these executed in materials ranging from yellow gold, enamels, and pattern-welded steel to leather, antler, and plexiglass.

            Of the recent exhibitions one of the most interesting was an “Arnaldo Roche-Rabell: The Uncommonwealth” held in 1997.[14] This artist from Puerto Rico has his own unique style and manner. He proposes challenges such as building alliances between First and Third World countries. In his art, Roche mounts a double-edged critique that ultimately refracts power: he criticizes the colonial from the point of view of an American citizen and then reverses himself by considering America from the perspective of a colonial. Roche is from Puerto Rico, a region and a political entity mined to reveal the uncertainty of identity in our post modern world.[15]

                In 2004 "Works on Paper" by Theresa Pollak were presented. In 1928 she founded the Art Department at the Richmond Professional Institute, which later became VCU. She also was a Chairman of the Arts Faculty from 1942 to 1950. “Expressions such as “patron saint of the visual arts,” “one of the most influential Richmonders,” and “legendary talent” have been synonymous with the artist and art educator, Theresa Pollak (1899-2002) and her profolic body of work,” wrote Amy G. Moorefield, Assistant Prefessor, Assistant Director and Curator of Collections. [16] Theresa was an astute observer of nature and human condition. She portrayed life and all its activities, such as bus interiors, high-ways, cafes and restaurants, museums. The resulting exhibition “Origins,” curated by Amy Moorefield, focused on over thirty works chosen from hundreds of examples, and demonstrated first and foremost, Pollak’s passion for drawing.

             University Art Museums were developed to help students analyze art and the Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia is not an exception. The Academy itself was established long ago in 1757 by one of the most powerful Russian aristocrats, Ivan Shuvalov. Academies of Fine Arts were opening all over the world; it was a time when people had strong opinions about art, when patrons knew exactly what kind of paintings they wanted to see in their houses, and artist responded with what they knew  they had to produce.

            For these young artists, Shuvalov established his Academy.  Traveling was not so common and easy at that time and it was hard for an artist to go to Italy, for example, and see the sculptures of Michalengelo and the paintings of Raphael. So the solution was to send a pupil there and he will copy some of the works and then you can handle them in your school so other artists would have a view of how such paintings look and benefit from the best. This idea wasn’t really new. Albrecht Durer in Germany used printmaking to distribute art among a greater number of people and such copies became quite popular. Later artists also made copies of famous art works to distribute. That is what Katherine the Great, for example, would request before she decided to buy any work of art. Her agents showed her these small copies of art works held in an album and she would decide whether to buy this painting or not.

            So this was the principle on which the museum in Saint Petersburg was established which is quite the opposite from the Anderson Gallery.  That is why it is really interesting to compare them. The Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Saint Petersburg has a long history, but what unites these two museums is that they both were modern for the time in which they were founded. The Academy of Fine Arts Museum was based on principle of knowing the heritage and copies of this heritage, which now is a big point of controversy. As for the Anderson Gallery, they chose the opposite way of presenting the newest artist, contemporary and relevant art.

            The Academy of Fine Arts Museum is located at the same building whith Academy itself what which is explained by the purpose of the museum. Students have to be close to museum every time to have an access to the collection and to work with it. Even in the beginning, Shuvalov also presented his own private collection to the museum’s educational purposes. And his collection had canvases by Raphael, Veronese, Rubens and other masters that became a core of the Museum collection. The collection was put in Shuvalov’s palace, and numerous architectures designed the building. Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe constructed the Neoclassical edifice and Konstantin Thon decorated the interiors. They both are worth mentioning, especially Vallin de la Mothe who’s most famous work is the Winter Palace, exactly Small Hermitage. The Winter Palace is a complex of several buildings, including Small Hermitage, occupied by Hermitage Museum. Famous Gostiny  Dvor (one of the oldest trade centers in Russia) on Nevsky Prospect is his work too.

            The museum collection has continued to grow through the years. Most of them were copies, such as copies of Raphael frescos in the Vatican Museums, Bossi’s drawing copying The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci and cartoons for frescos of the Vatican Library. But in 1862, Count N. Kushelev-Besborodko presented his collection to the museum. It contained numerous valuable works of art such as Peter Bruegel the Elder’s Adoration of the Magi, The King is Drinking by J. Jordans, Christ in the Crown of Thorns by Peter Paul Rubens, as well as paintings by the famous French artists Delacroix, Millet, Corrot, Rousseau.

            Slowly the museum and collection began to take shape. Some of the most famous artists of that period donated their works to it. For example among them were French sculptor Falconet and master of landscapes Lorren, who gave 160 of his drawings to the Academy’s museum. The collection of sculptures is impressive and it gives an opportunity to trace the history of sculpture from ancient Egypt to the eighteenth-century. It contains original antique and Western-European sculptures made in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. It cannot be rivaled by any other collection of sculptures in Russia; on display are works of L. Bernini, B. Torwaldsen, A. Moderatti and other artists.


 

 Bibliography

Academy of Fine Arts Museum

1. http://en.rah.ru/  Russian Academy of Arts

2. http://www.artroots.com/ra/index.html  The St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of 

Fine Arts, Sculpture and Architecture

3. "Unknown Socialist Realism. The Leningrad School" Sergey Ivanov 2007

4. http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artcolleges/ArtCollege/Ilya+Repin+St.+Petersburg+State+Academic+Institute+of++Fine+Arts,+Sculpture+and+Architecture/408.html  St. Petersburg State Academic Institute Of Fine Arts, Sculpture And Architecture

5. www.museum.ru/N26057 Article from the magazine “Museum” : Музей Академии художеств. Взгляд в будущее (Academy of Fine Arts Museum and its development).

6. http://www.nasledie-rus.ru/podshivka/6508.php  Журнал "Наше Наследие" - История, Культура, Искусство. Вероника Богдан “Музей Академии художеств” (An article from magazine “Our Heritage”. Veronica Bogdan “Academy of Fine Arts Museum”)

7. A Survey of the Martin S. Ackerman Foundation at VCUarts Anderson Gallery. Girard, Elizabeth 2009

Anderson Gallery

1. Abraham Archibald Anderson, James T.White and Co. New York MCMXXX.  From the National Cyclopedia of American Biography

2. Experiences and Impressions – The autobiography of the Colonel A.A. Anderson, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1933

3. Polish Exhibit has Graphic Appeal, Newspaper VCU Today Vol. 5, No. 2, September 17, 1975 p.3

4. Art in Virginia. Anderson Sets Pace, by F.D.Cossitt. Newspaper Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sun., April 18, 1976.

5. Featuring gold, enamel, steel. Metals on display at Anderson Gallery. Newspaper, The commonwealth times, Volume 7/Number 16, Friday, February 6, 1976. p.10

6. VCU to sponsor 1st showing of University Art Collection, VCU information Services, August 30, 1972

7. Press release Anderson Gallery, March, 1979

8. Arnaldo Roche-Rabell: The Uncommonwealth, Robert Hobbs, Anderson Gallery, School of the Arts, VCU, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1997

9. Origins, Works on Paper By Theresa Pollak. Curated by Amy Moorefield, VCU, School of the Arts, Anderson Gallery. Catalog of an exhibition, 2004

10. VCU Magazine, winter 1971-1972



[1] Experiences and Impressions – The autobiography of the Colonel A.A. Anderson, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1933


[2] Abraham Archibald Anderson, James T.White and Co. New York MCMXXX.  From the National Cyclopedia of American Biography


[3] Experiences and Impressions – The autobiography of the Colonel A.A. Anderson, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1933 p.143

[4] Illustration №1

[5] Experiences and Impressions – The autobiography of the Colonel A.A. Anderson, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1933,p.145  Ill.№2

[6] VCU Magazine, winter 1971-1972    p. 10

[7] VCU to sponsor 1st showing of University Art Collection, VCU information Services, August 30, 1972

[8] Art in Virginia. Anderson Sets Pace, by F.D.Cossitt. Newspaper Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sun., April 18, 1976.

[9]  VCU Magazine, winter 1971-1972 p. 10

[10]  Press release Anderson Gallery, March, 1979

[11] 3 Polish Exhibit has Graphic Appeal, Newspaper VCU Today Vol. 5, No. 2, September 17, 1975 p.3

[12] Ill. №3

[13] Featuring gold, enamel, steel. Metals on display at Anderson Gallery. Newspaper, The commonwealth times, Volume 7/Number 16, Friday, February 6, 1976. p.10

[14]  Arnaldo Roche-Rabell: The Uncommonwealth, Robert Hobbs, Anderson Gallery, School of the Arts, VCU, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1997

[15]  Same, p.23 , Ill.№4

[16] Origins, Works on Paper By Theresa Pollak. Curated by Amy Moorefield, VCU, School of the Arts, Anderson Gallery. Catalog of an exhibition, 2004