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Arts / Culture

The New Sarasota Art Museum To Display 'Art Of Our Time'

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The Sarasota Art Museum is the region's first museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. CREDIT: Ryan Gamma

Sarasota is home to several museums. But until now the city didn't have one dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. On Saturday, the public can visit the region’s first institution focused on the ‘art of our time’ with the opening of The Sarasota Art Museum of Ringling College at the site of the original Sarasota High School.

Constructed in 1926 in the Collegiate-Gothic style, the building was designed by renowned Florida architect, M. Leo Elliott and in 1984, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Larry Thompson, President of Ringling College of Art & Design said the museum is the culmination of many years of work.

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Credit Ryan Gamma
The second-floor galleries will host a large-scale retrospective by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, best known for his photographic recreations of historical art works.

“This museum really started as an idea about 16 years ago,” he said. “The concept and the fundraising started with volunteers and the college came on board in 2007, so this is really an amazing effort by so many people. The museum is another jewel in Sarasota’s arts and culture crown.”

The Sarasota Art Museum, or SAM for short, is a “kunsthalle,” meaning a museum without a permanent collection.

“It's just a fancy German word and it means art hall,” said Anne-Marie Russell, the museum’s executive director and chief curator. “The region has so many wonderful things happening culturally, but what we don't have are as many institutions devoted exclusively to contemporary art. I think what's really great about this period, is that it is the art of our time. We all love Renaissance art but to really understand it, you need to be fairly well-schooled in the political, social and economic history of that period. When you're dealing with contemporary art, you just need to be a conscious, curious person living in the world today.”

Russell says the Sarasota Art Museum takes on the whole contemporary period, post-World War II to the present, with a greater emphasis on newer art. Generally, the term contemporary art refers to painting, sculpture, photography, installation, performance, and video art produced from today, back to approximately the late 1960’s or early 70’s.

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Credit Ryan Gamma
Artist Sheila Hicks is known for her use of weaving and textiles in her sculptural installations.

The museum’s exhibitions will typically change out every four to five months and there could be two or three different exhibitions happening at any moment in time. For its initial offerings, the museum is featuring two exhibitions and several installations. The second-floor galleries will host a large-scale retrospective by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, best known for his photographic recreations of historical art works. Muniz uses a wide variety of found materials from toys to trash to create his work. The third-floor galleries will feature an exhibit called “Color. Theory. & B/W,” a group exhibition anchored by a towering installation by artist Sheila Hicks who is known for her use of weaving and textiles in her sculptural installations.

For Russell, the new Sarasota Art Museum builds upon a legacy of art in Sarasota.

“Sarasota in the 40’s and 50’s was a really thriving place where artists who were practicing here were mixing with artists visiting from New York and there was a very active and dynamic salon-like dialogue going on with cutting edge avant-garde ideas," she said. "There was this sort of freedom of experimentation and all sorts of collective creative activity and I think that's a really wonderful tradition for our institutions to build on here.”