Under the Art

It was a double delight on Thursday evening, when Art House members were treated to a second trip to the archives in the basement of the Knoxville Museum of Art, as well as a guided tour through the Gathering Light exhibit – a collection of Beauford Delaney’s work.

Members nibbled on some delicious eats from Sunspot, and sipped a bright collection of summer wines and beer.

The KMA’s Assistant Curator, Clark Gillespie, led “group A” to the basement first.  Equipped with gloves to use when handling the most precious of works, Gillespie shared some insight into how the museum stores pieces of its permanent collection, as well as the process of deaccession, which can be a dirty word in art circles, as this refers to the removal of art from a museum’s collection.  (Rest assured, Gillespie said the KMA is committed to keeping works of art in the public space, so any work that leaves the museum’s permanent collection heads to an auction exclusive to other public institutions.)

In addition to the pieces that have been in the KMA’s possession for many, many years, Gillespie called our group’s attention to some pieces laying on a storage table.  The works are apart of the edgy, Novak Collection and include originals by printmakers Red Grooms and Sol LeWhitt.  This is a unique time for these pieces, which were gifted to the KMA by Chicago-based collectors, Helen and Russell Novak in 2015.  The pieces will be apart of the upcoming exhibit, Press Ahead, in 2018.  The selection emphasizes a broad range of printmaking techniques and formats.

What’s also fascinating is that during the group’s first tour of the archive room at the KMA, the works of Knoxville-born artist, Beauford Delaney were on that very same table…more than a year away from being on display for the public.


In February 2016, Gillespie, showed Art House members the works of Beauford Delaney, a year and a half before they were apart of the Gathering Light exhibit at the KMA. 

And now that the show, Gathering Light, is open, the KMA’s Executive Director, David Butler, led Art House on a guided tour of those same works by Delaney.

Butler shared the history of the artist’s life that includes a beginning in Knoxville and an ending in Paris with stops in Boston, then New York where the artist was a beloved member of the Harlem Renaissance.  Despite battling poverty, prejudice, and mental illness, Delaney achieved an international reputation for his portraits, scenes of city life, and free-form abstractions marked by intense colors, bold contours, and expressive surfaces.  The artist was born in 1901 and died in 1979.

What a rich night of art and conversation!

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