Celebrated UM Art Collection Marks 120th Anniversary

MISSOULA – This year, the Montana Museum of Art & Culture with its Permanent Collection at the University of Montana celebrates its 120th anniversary. As part of the birthday celebration, MMAC has created the first-ever handbook to the collection, featuring 120 objects throughout history and across cultures to represent the museum’s 120 years. A parallel exhibition, titled “Art of the State: Celebrating 120 Years of the MMAC Permanent Collection” is on display Jan. 22 to May 23 in the Paxson and Meloy galleries of the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center. 

An opening reception and celebration to welcome UM students back to campus will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, in the PAR/TV Center lobby. The event will feature cake, live music by John Floridis, and Mayor John Engen and UM Vice President for Integrated Communications Peggy Kuhr will provide remarks at 5:45 p.m. UM Mascot Monte also will make a special appearance. The event is free and open to the public.

Throughout its history, the MMAC has been committed to making its Permanent Collection an important resource for not only UM but also for the people of the state and region. The exhibition and handbook represent 120 pieces carefully selected from distinguished collections of American and European paintings, prints, ceramics, photography, decorative, religious art, tapestries, Asian works on paper, traditional and contemporary Native American art and Southeast Asian textiles.

While conducting research for the exhibition and handbook, MMAC staff worked with international scholars, art historians and institutions including The British Museum in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and many more. 

Generous support for the handbook was supplied by the Gallagher Western Montana Charitable Foundation. The Morris and Helen Silver Foundation underwrote photography and additional printing costs. Design, editing and printing costs were supported by Cultural and Aesthetic Project grant funds from the state of Montana. In addition, support was given by the UM offices of the president, provost and vice president for integrated communications, and MMAC donors. Softcover editions are available for $35 and hardcover copies cost $55. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.

Due to their size and condition, the tapestries will not be on display during the course of the exhibition. Instead, there will be a special viewing of the tapestries “Le Joueur de Cornemuse (The Bagpipe Player)” and “Judith with the Head of Holofernes” beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 19, in the Masquer Theater of the PAR/TV Center.

The inability to display portions of the collection such as the tapestries, points to a pressing need. This vast collection – Montana’s largest public art collection – does not have a dedicated facility. MMAC exhibits are displayed in the Meloy and Paxson galleries in the PAR/TV Center, and other pieces are displayed in buildings across the UM campus. The majority of the Permanent Collection remains in storage.

“This celebration of the Permanent Collection provides needed public awareness of MMAC’s lack of a museum building,” Koostra said. “We hope that through the exhibition and handbook, the public will learn about the quality and scope of this enormous resource that is held in trust for them. As the only designated state museum dedicated to fine art and culture, it is vital this vast resource be made more readily available to Montana and the region.”

Several programs are planned throughout the exhibition, including a special Montana Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (MOLLI) class titled An Insider’s Guide to the Montana Museum of Art & Culture: 120 Artworks for 120 Years with Brandon Reintjes, MMAC curator of Art. Preregistration with MOLLI is required. Learn more at http://www.umt.edu/sell/programs/molli/

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Reintjes will present an evening lecture titled “Rudy Autio and the Birth of Contemporary Ceramics,” which explores the impact the UM professor emeritus had on Montana art and the field of ceramics. The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Masquer Theater of the PAR/TV Center.  

On Thursday, Feb. 19, College of Humanities and Sciences Dean and biology and neuroscience Professor Chris Comer, will present a talk about how the human brain interprets visual art in a talk titled “A View of Art Through Your Brain." The event begins at 7 p.m. in the Montana Theatre of the PAR/TV Center. 

At 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 3, art history and criticism Professor H. Rafael Chacón will present a talk titled “Predilections and Possibilities: the Virtues of a Teaching Collection” in the Masquer Theater of the PAR/TV Center. All three talks are free and open to the public.

In addition, special docent tours focused on various aspects of the exhibition will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Friday, Feb. 6: Montana Art and Artists 
  • Thursday, Feb. 26: Native American Art
  • Thursday, March 19: European and American Masterworks
  • Thursday, April 9: Contemporary and Modern Art 

Also, Family Treasure Hunt Days will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7, and Saturday, May 2, in the PAR/TV Center Lobby.

MMAC’s academic year gallery hours are noon-3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and noon-6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum.

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Contact: Barbara Koostra, director, Montana Museum of Art & Culture, 406-243-2019, barbara.koostra@mso.umt.edu; Brandon Reintjes, MMAC curator of art, brandon.reintjes@mso.umt.ed.