I visited Washington, D.C. accompanying my husband who attended a meeting of the National Academy of Engineering. Each year there I have been offered a choice of two exceptional tours followed by lunch. I had the delight of joining a group of individuals attending the meeting who had come from all over the United States and beyond, as we visited the Kreeger Museum.
Our group had the special treat of being the only visitors to the museum that day-a day when the museum is closed. It is not open on Sunday or Monday. When our group left the bus that transported us to the museum, we were warmly greeted by the staff and divided into two groups. The docent that lead the tour that I joined was Louise Harkavy, who was the perfect guide, fascinating and very knowledgeable. The Museum is remarkable in its combination of five and a half acres that are wooded and dotted with sculpture, significant paintings, and musical opportunities and an architecturally significant building.
We gathered in a small room near the entrance where there were historic paintings. Most noteworthy were two very large paintings of David and Carmen Kreeger. David Kreeger met his wife in Puerto Rico and Carmen brought with her a love of plants, music and dance. The building is architecturally noteworthy. It was designed in 1963 by Pritzker Prize winning architect Philip Johnson with Richard Foster. Because the architects were not designing private homes, it was agreed that the structure would serve as a home and museum combined and then, ultimately a museum. We were told that the building is a combination of squares that are put together in many different ways to create different shapes.
The modern art collection that was begun in 1959 and continued for 15 years represents a shared vision. Mr. and Mrs. Kreeger both agreed on every piece in the Museum. The Kreegers’ approach to collecting was a personal one. As David Kreeger said “I never bought art as an investment. I bought it for love and I was lucky. Art that embodies the creative spirit of men transcends the value of money.” Color and texture and a musical quality are the themes that unite the works that are eclectic.
The space is beautiful with exquisite woods and a unique system for hanging the paintings. Greenery is woven into the structure of the home/museum in many ways. The great hall with its grand piano is acoustically designed for concerts. Each of the rooms that border the patio are enhanced by the beautiful sculptures, mostly of women. Some of these are on loan, as are some of the paintings.
Recently, phase II of the reinstallation of the permanent collection opened in the lower galleries. This phase of the reinstallation focuses on the Museum’s postwar and contemporary art holdings, including a bold vertical canvas by Abstract Expressionist Hans Hofmann, which has not been displayed for several years. On view for the first time are new works by Paul Reed and Willem de Looper. One room features works of local artists, while another room highlights the Museum’s outstanding collection of African masks. Our group was delighted and intrigued by everything we saw.
The Kreeger Museum opened its doors to the public on June 1, 1994, under the directorship of Judy A. Greenberg. The mission of The Kreeger Museum is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture and music. This objective serves as the overarching guideline for our educational programs and initiatives, lectures, panel discussions, gallery talks and exhibitions.
Photos: B. Keer
For additional information visit the kreegermuseum website