ALBANY ─ “Homecoming,” a museumwide exhibition celebrating the return of the permanent collection of the Albany Museum of Art, is in its final two weeks.
The exhibition closes at 5 p.m. on Aug. 13. The AMA is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and admission is free for everyone.
Before “Homecoming” opened on May 12, none of the 154 art objects in the AMA galleries had been on display to the public since December 2016. On Jan 2, 2017, hurricane-force straight-line winds breached the roof of the museum, forcing the AMA to move all of its artworks to safe locations and to close for nearly nine months.
“We wanted to celebrate the return of our museum’s treasures, many of which had been away from the Albany Museum of Art for more than five years,” AMA Executive Director Andrew J. Wulf said in a news release. “While exhibitions before that storm included objects from the collection, many of these pieces may have not been seen long before the storm. Certainly, this is a rare opportunity to enjoy this much of the collection at the same time.”
The AMA collection includes work by nationally and internationally known artists, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Athos Menaboni, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Henry Sharp, and others. In addition to European and American artworks from the 19th through the 21st century, the AMA’s permanent collection has the largest collection of Sub-Saharan African art in the Southeast outside of a university setting.
“While what we have on display in ‘Homecoming’ represents less than 9% of our total collection, our director of curatorial affairs, Katie Dillard, did a fine job of presenting a good, representative cross-section, while also showing multiple pieces by artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein,” Wulf said. “It has been a joy this summer to have these wonderful artworks out of the vaults and in the galleries where all may enjoy them.”
All artwork was removed from the building in the wake of the storm, and no objects were destroyed by the wind and the rain that poured into the building during the 2017 storm, the first of the destructive “twin disasters” that barreled through Albany and southwest Georgia about three weeks apart.
Art objects that did not need conservation were taken to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The High generously housed 908 pieces of the collection while the AMA recovered and prepared for their return, which occurred in October 2020.
“This number includes many of the Asante gold weights, many of our African artifacts, and large-scale, unglazed paintings,” Dillard noted.
The AMA has more than 350 gold weights and 130 African masks in its collection.
Another 893 art objects were taken to the Conservation Center in Chicago.
“Every single work on paper, photograph, textile, sculpture, furniture, basketry, weaving, and small painting behind glazing or framed glass that was directly damaged by water and rising humidity went to Chicago for restorative work,” Dillard said.
That portion of the collection returned to the AMA this past April, making the 905-mile trek from Chicago in 75 crates and packages, and as stand-alone sculptures.
“It was an amazing — in some ways, miraculous — journey for our artwork, as well as a testament to those who worked diligently the day after the January 2017 storm to preserve and protect these priceless, often fragile works of art,” Wulf said. “The disaster may have been a low point for the AMA, but the dedication and wherewithal that were bravely displayed was a high point indeed.
“As a museum, we are charged to protect these invaluable objects for future generations. The AMA and its ardent supporters rose to the occasion on that fateful day, and we shall rise to any occasion as we move to the future.”
Wulf said he hopes local and regional residents will take the opportunity to see the collection this month.
“It is a rare opportunity,” he said. “If you have not been out to see this exhibition, we hope you drop in and experience these inspiring artworks.”
The Albany Museum of Art is located at 311 Meadowlark Drive, adjacent to Albany State University’s West Campus just off Gillionville Road. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is free.