The Mint Museum in Charlotte is not only North Carolina's oldest art museum, it is also possesses one of the Southeast's largest art collections. Originally the home of the Charlotte Mint, the art museum opened in 1936 as the Mint Museum Randolph. Through the museum's collection of art from around the world, visitors are offered transformative and inspiring experiences. The Mint Museum is made up of two dynamic visual arts facilities: Mint Museum Randolph and Mint Museum Uptown. The Mint Museum Randolph focuses more on ancient art, while the Mint Museum Uptown possesses an emphasis on more contemporary and modern art.
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A broad scoped art collection of over 2,500 works of art from the ancient Americas is showcased at the Mint Museum. This collection, representing one of human civilization's illustrious cradles, is one of the country's largest collections of its kind. It dates from 2800 B.C.E to 1500 C.E., spanning 4,300 years of artistic creativity. The artwork presents over fourty of the major societies from ancient Andean South America (Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru), Central America (Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua), and Mesoamerica (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Mexico). The ancient Americas art collection is displayed in two galleries at the Mint Museum Randolph, exploring the artwork from two different viewpoints.
The pieces in the collection are first explored as windows into the ancient society that created them. This borrows the "material culture" approach from archaeology and anthropology. The works of art reveal the daily routines, politics, social practices, spiritual beliefs, and intellectual accomplishments of these societies. The Mint Museum also views these works equally as art, or in other words, considers them as a display of technical expertise and human creativity that showcase the universal drive to create emotion-filled, well-crafted objects. Both the creative techniques and aesthetics of the artists of the ancient Americas are explored equally in the two galleries. The artwork in this collection includes works in silver, gold, shell, fiber, jadeite, and other stones; and preserves and personifies the now-lost civilization of the ancient Americas.
The collection of Native American Art at the Mint Museum showcases contemporary and modern Native arts of the Americas. The collection features artwork from the nineteenth century to the present from the United States, Canada, Guatemala, and Mexico. For five hundred years native peoples throughout the Americas have persevered through persecution and colonization since the sixteenth century. The artwork of these peoples played a significant part in their survival, preserving their cultural identity and the essential principles of spirituality and society that maintain all human civilizations.
The works of art in this collection complement the Mint Museum's comprehensive collection of art from the ancient Americas, providing a rare chance to compare modern and Pre-Columbian Native expressions in an array of media. Gretchen and Nelson Grice started their collection of Native American art in the late 1980's, and then donated their collection to the Mint Museum. They admired the spectacular craftsmanship of the works in fiber, wood, and clay. Within the Grice collection are four different forms of art: Maya textiles from Mexico and Guatemala, Canadian and Native American basketry, contemporary ceramics from the Southwest and other Native peoples in the United States, and performance masks from Canada, the United States, Guatemala, and Mexico.
An assortment of traditional styles of clothing are featured in the Maya textile collection. The clothing distinguishes the different towns and peoples of Guatemala and southern Mexico. The collection of baskets showcases several early examples of excellent quality, such as the baskets from northern California. The ceramics are mostly from the American Southwest, featuring artists and pottery styles primarily from Arizona and New Mexico. Much of the performance mask collection is from Mexico. These masks illustrate several different dance pageants and their many characters that are key to contemporary community life. Many of the works of art collected by the Grices were acquired before the artists became famous, several of whom the couple visited in their workshops. The collection showcases both an outstanding range of artistic style and several early pieces of Native artists who are now prominent artists.
Among the pieces in the American Art collection at the Mint Museum are sculpture, photographs, unique works on paper, paintings, and prints from the Colonial Era to World War II. Three areas of strength are included within this time frame: Federal portraiture, nineteenth century landscape painting, and early twentieth century realism. Until the mid-nineteenth century, portraiture was the main artform in the country. The portrait collection at the Mint Museum includes artwork by several of this period's leading artists, such as Thomas Sully, Gilbert Stuart, and John Singleton Copley. These artists' paintings allow visitors to view the cultural values, fashions, and personalities of their ancestors. Subjects of these paintings range from young children to significant historical figures.
Landscape painting began to increase in popularity beginning throughout the nineteenth century. The development of this art genre can be traced through the museum's collection from work by painters of the Hudson River School, including Sanford Gifford and Thomas Cole. These painters concentrated on the natural beauty of America's topography through rise of Impressionism, a movement that emphasized a more subjective, abstract view of artists' surroundings. A new generation of artists in America desired an alternative to Impressionism by the twentieth century. Sometimes known as The Ashcan School, these realists focused on the common man and everyday life. The Mint Museum contains important works by several of these artists, including their leader, Robert Henri, and his associates George Bellows, Ernest Lawson, Everett Shin, William Glackens, and George Luks.
The Mint Museum's Craft and Design collection showcases extraordinary moments of design and artistic excellence in the mediums of metal, glass, studio jewelry, fiber art, studio furniture, clay, wood art, and design. While the museum focuses on collecting contemporary pieces from the twenty-first century, the collection dates from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The Mint Museum Uptown, opened in 2010 with an expanded exhibition space, provides an excellent opportunity to display more of the permanent craft and design collection of the museum.
The museum continually collects masterworks, collaborates with contemporary artists, produces scholarly publications, and keeps the Mint Museum at the forefront of contemporary decorative arts. There have been significant changes in the craft and design world since 1999, when the Mint Museum of Craft and Design first opened its doors. As a result, the Mint Museum continues to strive to become a forum for dialogue concerning current issues of concern in the area of art, such as technology, aesthetics, and craft theory. The museum continues to find new ways to integrate craft and design into the broader conversation about society and art.
Decorative arts have the extraordinary power to connect with people nearly in an instant, possibly more so than any other form of art. While most people don't own pieces such as plantation owner's sideboard or a seventeenth-century Chinese teapot, many of the artifacts visitors will find within the Mint Museum's Decorative Arts collection can be associated with more current, similar objects found in today's households. The museum's collection contains more than 12,500 objects in areas such as ceramics, glass, silver, and fine furniture. The museum's holdings include works from continental Europe and England, as well as noteworthy pieces of Asian porcelain and American art pottery. The country's largest North Carolina ceramics public collection can also be found at the Mint Museum.
Contemporary art is art of the present time, or art that showcases diverse identities, pertinent issues, and societal values. The Mint Museum's Modern and Contemporary Art collection represents a perspective that echoes the area's own vibrant and diverse community through works of global vision and significance. The museum is committed to building a collection of photography, paintings, new media (video, time-based works, and digital), works on paper, installations, sculptures, and artist books that convey significant stylistic innovations and cultural developments.
Encompassing materials and publications from the seventeenth to twenty-first century, the Special Collections of the Mint Museum Library and Archives contains rare and unique items that possess a particular significance to the Mint Museum, its collections, and its history. The Library Special Collections contain limited edition artist's books, scarce historical texts, elaborately bound special editions, and first editions. Because of the value, age, fragility, and scarcity of these books, they are kept separate from the journals and books in the library's general collections.
The Mint Museum Archives is a special collection in itself due to its holdings' uniqueness to the institution. Among the items in the Archives collection are scrapbooks, documents, ephemera, videos, photographs, and objects that tell the role the Mint Museum has played in the community. The items in the archives and library collections not only provide their own intrinsic value but also context for objects and artists in the Mint Museum's object collections. These items are put on display on a rotating basis at the Mint Museum Randolph.
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500 S Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202, Phone: 704-337-2000
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