The Baltimore Museum of Art will soon be home to a dedicated Henri Matisse study center, making the most of the museum’s collection of 1,200 works by the French master—the most in any public museum.
Set to open in 2021, the 3,400-square-foot center will be built on the museum’s first floor, and will hold rotating exhibitions of Matisse’s works on paper. Jay McKean Fisher, who was the museum’s chief curator until last summer, will be the center’s founding director.
The museum already has a wing dedicated to Matisse, highlighting works donated by Claribel and Etta Cone in 1949. The Baltimore sisters, namesakes of the Cone Wing, left the museum some 500 works of art by Matisse as part of their bequest. Later gifts, including some by Matisse’s daughter, Marguerite Duthuit, and other members of the artist’s family, increased the museum’s Matisse holdings by about 700 works.
“The importance of the Cone Collection and the subsequent gifts and acquisitions have made it nearly impossible for any museum to have a substantive Matisse exhibition without a loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art,” museum director Christopher Bedford told the Baltimore Sun. “Having a dedicated space to research the collection as well as the funds for more Matisse exhibitions, publications, and programs will redouble the [museum’s] international reputation. And it’s rather extraordinary to have this in a city like Baltimore and not in France.”
To build the facility, which will promote new Matisse scholarship efforts from visiting curators and academics, the museum has secured a $5 million donation from the local Ruth Carol Fund, established by the late Ruth R. Marder, a long-time museum supporter. It’s tied to an anonymous 2007 donation to the institution’s endowment for the second largest gift in museum history.
In addition to funding the construction, the gift will also establish an endowment for the center. In recognition of the fund’s donors, the center will be christened the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies. The museum also plans to honor Etta Cone—who had a 40-year friendship with the artist—with a 2021 exhibition dedicated to the relationship between the artist and the collector, including works that Matisse made specially for the Cone collection.
The BMA hopes to become “the epicenter of scholarship” for Matisse, Bedford told the New York Times.
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