The Gibbes Museum of Art is busy making plans for renovating their historic building, so they decided to try something a little different for their next exhibition. They're asking the public to select their favorite pieces of artwork from the Gibbes permanent collection to create People's Choice: A Community-Curated Exhibition, which is set to open May 3. This is the first time the Gibbes has experimented with a community-curated exhibition, and organizers are hoping it will foster more of a two-way street when it comes to the relationship between the public and the arts in Charleston.
Starting March 1, community members can vote online from a selection of 140 works from the Gibbes' collection, and the top 40 will be included in the exhibit in May. "We want to engage the people of Charleston in a new way. We want to give the community an opportunity to share with us and the rest of the world what artworks they find most inspiring," says Gibbes curator Sara Arnold. The works include a hugely diverse group of paintings, sculptures, works on paper, fine art photographs, and even video art from artists like William Aiken Walker, Mary Whyte, Charles Fraser, Jack Beal, and Henry Botkin. This initial list of works was compiled by curatorial staff members, volunteers, and interns.
Prior to the public voting, the Gibbes created a featured voter's selection, starting a dialogue about why art, and the Gibbes collection in particular, is important to the Charleston community. Organizers reached out to people like Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., cookbook author Nathalie Dupree, artist Brian Rutenberg, and events planner Tara Guérard to select their five favorite works from the Gibbes collection. "We chose noted figures from diverse backgrounds, with the hope that these folks will inspire others to contribute to the conversation when voting starts," Arnold says.
The works range from the 17th to the 21st centuries, and in subject matter from landscapes and portraits to still life and abstracts. Some of the works are mainstays in the permanent gallery spaces, while others are viewed less frequently. "Art is inspirational, and we believe our collection has something special for everyone," Arnold says. "We hope that people will be introduced to something new about the Gibbes collection and its significance to Charleston." Voting wraps up March 31.
In honor of this new exhibit, the Gibbes Museum will be open free to the public from 5-8 p.m. on Fri. March 1. Visitors and voters can check out some of the “candidates” in the Gibbes’ first floor gallery. For more information, visit gibbespeopleschoice.org.