The Greenville County Museum of Art is home to the Southern Collection, an acclaimed range of artwork spanning from 1726 to the present day. From Federalist portraits to contemporary abstractions, the collection aims to be representative of American art history.
In addition, the museum hosts the most extensive collection of watercolors by American artist Andrew Wyeth, and a substantial collection of paintings and prints by Jasper Johns, himself from South Carolina.
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), is one of the most well-known American artists of the mid-20th century. Wyeth was a realist painter who painted in a regionalist style, meaning he depicted rural and small-town American scenes, primarily of his hometown in Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. Wyeth launched his career in 1937 with a sold-out exhibition of his watercolors in New York. He did not use traditional oil paints and instead preferred egg tempera and watercolor. The Greenville County Museum's Wyeth collection emphasizes his preference for painting intimate subjects, including his family, his homes, his memories, and his favorite models. Wyeth himself said, "I am an illustrator of my own life."
Jasper Johns (b 1930) is possibly the world’s most critically acclaimed living artist. Johns spent his childhood in South Carolina and attended the University of South Carolina for three semesters before moving to New York to pursue a career in art. Johns’ work is closely associated with abstract expressionism, and subsequent movements including the Neo-Dada, Pop Art, and Conceptual Art movements. He is an internationally renowned artist with deep ties to South Carolina.
History: The Greenville County Museum of Art began in as an idea in 1935, when a small group of artists and collectors first met to establish the Greenville Fine Arts League. This small association purchased its first home to display artworks, the Gassaway Mansion, in 1958. In 1962, the Greenville County Museum Commission was established as the governing body of the Greenville County Museum of Art by the South Carolina General Assembly. In 1974, the GCMA formed a public-private partnership to raise funds for a new facility in response to the need for a building that would not only keep the artwork safe and secure, but could also display the works in a modern setting capable of handling upwards of 100,00 visitors per year. This current building is now home to approximately 70,000 square feet of space for exhibitions, classrooms, and storage. GCMA operations are currently funded through state property taxes, although programming is made possible through private donations. The museum is free to visitors.
Ongoing Programs & Education
Every Sunday at 2:00pm, the museum hosts a range of free educational events ranging from gallery talks and lectures to musical performances and hands-on demonstrations. Past events have included a local artist’s demonstration of various watercolor techniques used by Andrew Wyeth, gallery talks by contemporary artists whose work is currently on display, and family-friendly events such as collage and painting workshops for kids. The museum offers 3-day summer camps for children ages 5 to 14 who wish to explore art and creativity with professional art educators. For groups, docents guide school-group tours Wednesdays through Fridays each week. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. The curriculum for these tours can be customized, and past examples of school-group study topics include Close Reading: Uncovering Layers of Meaning and other ways to help students critically look at art and find meaning in the details while understanding the big picture and historical context.
Past & Future Exhibits
In addition to visiting exhibits, the museum’s collection is so large that works from the permanent collection are displayed through curated exhibits that rotate throughout the year. Past exhibitions of works from the permanent collection include Andrew Wyeth’s Places, a collection of paintings which draw from Wyeth’s most distinctive and most loved places, and “Jasper Johns,” a collection of original works along with prints that demonstrate the evolution of John’s evolving relationship with objects – both personal and borrowed from the works of others.
The current facility is located in downtown Greenville’s Heritage Green. Heritage Green is the upstate's urban arts and cultural campus and is home to the Greenville County Hughes Library, the Upcountry History Museum, the Little Theater, and the Children's Museum of the Upstate, in addition to the Greenville County Museum of Art.
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420 College Street, Greenville SC 29601, Phone: 864-271-7570