Julia Marciari-Alexander, Director of the Walters Art Museum, is the author of this tri-annual letter.
In February 1934 the Walters Art Gallery opened its doors as a public museum. This opening of the Museum as a fully functioning public arts institution was made possible by one of the greatest acts of cultural philanthropy of the twentieth century: Henry Walters’ gift to the City of Baltimore—by his bequest—of the collections of 23,000 works of art that he and his father, William, had put together over their eighty years of collecting; the family home at 5 West Mt. Vernon Place and the Palazzo he had built to house the collection on the corner of Charles and Centre Street; and a quarter of his fortune as an endowment to run this magnificent museum in perpetuity “for the benefit of the public.”
As we embark on this anniversary year, we have chosen to highlight the nature of the museum and its history as a collection of collections. Featured first are the newest objects to be added to our treasures, the Betsy and Robert Feinberg collection of contemporary Japanese ceramics. The timing of this major exhibition is particularly appropriate as the Walters’ collection of East Asian ceramics was a cornerstone of the museum that opened in 1934. Also featured in this issue are various articles discussing our current exhibitions through the lens of collecting, and we are especially grateful to Betsy Feinberg and Eddie and Sylvia Brown for sharing with us what drives them as collectors.
2014 rings in another anniversary for the Walters: twenty- five years of Art Blooms, the signature annual event put on by the museum’s Women’s Committee. Accordingly, this year we will toast the Women’s Committee at an elegant Celebration Dinner on Saturday, April 6. This extraordinary group continues to drive philanthropy and engagement at the museum, and I hope you will join me in thanking them for all their hard work and success over the past quarter-century.
As I approach my own one-year anniversary at the Walters, I would like to thank each of you and every member of the staff and the Board of Trustees for the wonderful welcome my family and I have enjoyed over the last year. The Walters, which began as a home and became a museum, truly feels like my home and you, my family. It will be such fun to celebrate our eighty years of excellence as a public museum with you!
See you in the Museum!