MAM Kicks Off Its One Hundred Year Anniversary

Jean Shin Detail
Detail of Jean Shin’s “Host”

If you’ve passed the Montclair Art Museum recently, you may have noticed a new addition to the museum’s grounds: Three sculptures, silvery compositions of utensils shaped into the form of trees and tree trunks, adorn the museum’s front yard, echoing the surrounding oaks and maples on Bloomfield and South Mountain Avenues.

The sculptures are by New York-based artist, Jean Shin, whose conceptually rich installations transform everyday objects into expressions of identity and community. Host, her sculptures for MAM, will be on long-term view at the Museum and are the first commissioned works for a new outdoor sculpture garden celebrating the Museum’s centennial.

SIMMONS Walking Petit-Four
“Walking Petit-Four” by Laurie Simmons

Shin worked with the MAM community to create Host specifically for the Museum. Constructed of metal forks, knives, and spoons, many of which have been donated by residents of the Montclair area, Host takes the form of a deconstructed tree in three parts: the stump, the trunk, and the branches. The installation marries the ritual of the family meal with suburban landscape: in Montclair’s case, its majestic and ubiquitous trees.

The installation of Shin’s gorgeous contribution, which was commissioned by Alexandra Schwartz, MAM’s curator of contemporary art, kicked off what will be the Museum’s almost year-long celebration of its centennial. Starting last week, the museum has begun  featuring 100 works of art from its collection throughout its galleries and grounds. Identified with special labels, these works are being installed in phases, with all on view by January 15, 2014, one hundred years to the day the museum opened its doors.

The first installment of the exhibition, curated by Gail Stavitsky, the museum’s chief curator, is in MAM’s Lehman Court and Roberts galleries. Lehman Court features key works from the founding collections of American and Native American art. The Roberts Gallery highlights works in the collection from the 1990s to the present.

Many of the works in the Roberts Gallery come from Patricia A. Bell, a resident of South Orange, who has donated more than 40 works from her collection to the museum. They are shown together at the museum for the first time in Looking Forward: Gifts of Contemporary Art from the Patricia A. Bell Collection, and include examples by Chuck Close, Willie Cole, Dawoud Bey, Nan Goldin, Laurie Simmons, Jasper Johns and Kara Walker. Bell’s gifts to the museum have helped MAM develop its contemporary art collection into a significant reflection of the current art world since the 1990s.

BEY Smokey
“Alfonso” by Dawoud Bey

Also on display at the museum is an exhibition by conceptual artist Robert Barry. One Billion Colored Dots is a major, limited edition work of 25 books, each comprised of 2,000 pages, each printed with 40,000 dots. Together the 25 books contain one billion dots, which Barry, who lives in Teaneck, said he created to make the number one billion “more tangible.”

Dots is complemented by selected works of Sol LeWitt, a longtime friend of Barry’s who often sent the New Jersey artist illustrated postcards during his travels. Those postcards are on display here, as well several of LeWitt’s works on paper and print.

Another work by Barry, Diptych, Window-Wallpiece for the Montclair Art Museum, can be viewed through the museum’s windows on St. Luke’s Place. The work, a scattering of words painted in bold, colorful print across the museum’s walls and windows, explore the way certain words and familiar phrases can take on an ambiguous or even poignant meaning depending on their context.

MAM’s 100 Day Countdown begins October 7 and leads up to its birthday on January 15, when the museum will open its doors to the community for an evening that will include a unique mix of dynamic programming, live music, tours, and a full-service cash bar in partnership with Egan & Sons. 100 Works for 100 Years: A Centennial Celebration, will also be fully unveiled that evening.

For more information, log on to the museum’s website at

Robert Barry Diptych 2005 installation, Photo by Mike Peters
“Diptych, Window-Wallpiece for the Montclair Art Museum” by Robert Barry. Photo by Mike Peters.

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  1. What a shame that the view and light of this glass stair gallery will be smothered by the huge building block thats soon going up.

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