After months of sneak-preview tours, final preparations, and a rush to get opening exhibitions arranged just so, the Nasher Museum of Art officially opened its doors October 2, offering visitors a day of free admission, family-oriented music, art events, and extended viewing hours.
Durham Mayor Bill Bell and various museum and university leaders took part in an opening ceremony early in the afternoon, musicians and entertainers were in abundant supply, and artist Patrick Dougherty spent the day creating a massive sculpture outside the museum's main entrance consisting of saplings and twigs gathered from Duke Forest.
The long-awaited $24-million, 65,000-square-foot museum, which occupies a semi-wooded site on Anderson Street, between Campus Drive and Duke University Road, will create a new center for the arts on campus and serve the surrounding community.
Designed by architect Rafael ViÒoly, the Nasher features a 13,000-square-foot hall of steel and glass, surrounded by five pavilions comprising three large galleries, a lecture hall, classroom and office space, a cafÈ, and a museum shop, as well as outdoor sculpture gardens.
Opening-day visitors were treated to two inaugural special exhibitions: "The Evolution of the Nasher Collection," on view through May 21, 2006, and "The Forest: Politics, Poetics, and Practice," on view through January 29, 2006. Both reflect the new museum's increased focus on modern and contemporary art. Guests met several artists whose work is featured in "The Forest" at a late afternoon discussion panel. Panelists included New York artist Petah Coyne, whose Untitled #1165 (Paris Blue) is a delicate sculptural assemblage of blue velvet, silk flowers, chicken wire, wax, wood, tassels, and feathers; IÒigo Manglano-Ovalle of Spain, who examines issues of nuclear threat in his four-minute video, Oppenheimer; and Alan Sonfist, an artist who proposes real-life answers to problems that threaten forests and who created the drawing on the photograph titled "The Monument to the Lost Falcon of Westphalia."
Earlier in the week, Raymond D. Nasher '43, the museum's namesake, and ViÒoly presented a public lecture on the vision and design for the museum. Nasher also discussed how he and his late wife, Patsy Rabinowitz Nasher, created one of the world's most significant collections of twentieth-century sculpture. Much of the Nashers' collection--including works by Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Smith, and di Suvero-is on view in "The Evolution of the Nasher Collection." In addition to sculpture, the exhibit examines the Nashers' interest in emerging artists, tribal and ancient American art, textiles, early American modernism, and contemporary architecture.
The Thursday before the opening, Duke students were treated to "Devil's Night," a special preview of the museum. They strolled the galleries, examining the sculptures and paintings, and heard from Nasher himself, who told them, "I'm just so glad you're here." Several students sought Nasher out to thank him personally for his gift. Museum administrators, who had expected a few hundred students to attend, said they were pleased to find themselves playing host to nearly 2,000 over the course of the evening.
The festivities did not end with the opening. Throughout the fall and winter, the museum has scheduled performing-arts and music programs, Family Day events with tours and crafts for all ages, film and lecture series that complement the two special exhibitions, meet-the-artist events, and guided tours.
Admission to the museum is free for Duke students, faculty and staff members, children sixteen and younger, and Durham residents; $5 for adults; $4 for senior citizens and Duke alumni; and $3 for other students.