The Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina, is home to an American art collection that tells the story of the city and connects regional artistic voices from the past and contemporary art genres. In 1888, James Gibbes’ estate was left to the city to build an art museum. Mr. Gibbes was a patron to the arts throughout his life and The Gibbes Memorial Art Gallery was opened in 1905.
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About the Gibbes Museum of Art
The building was designed by architect Frank P. Milburn in the Beaux Arts-Style. A studio arts school is established 7 years later and the first director named in 1932.
The GIbbes was the first museum to showcase Solomon R. Guggenheim’s collection of modern art which debuted in 1936 with 128 original works by artists such as Picasso and Kandinsky. In the 1950’s The Gibbes began to shift focus towards their art education programs and in 1969, The Gibbes School of Art opened on Queen Street. The Museum was one of the first Southeastern museums to receive AAM accreditation (1972) and underwent a $1.2 million expansion in 1978.
Over the next two decades The Gibbes becomes home to the Spoleto USA, and becomes one of the forefront museums for contemporary arts in the United States through their exhibitions, scholarship foundations, and visual performing arts. The GIbbes was just reopened to the public after an 18-month renovation project in 2016 and a Five near multimillion dollar restoration and expansion that began in 2011.
The GIbbes presents several special exhibitions each year that are designed to be experimental with the platform of contemporary arts. These exhibits strive to promote creativity and new interpretations of art forms with perspectives on community and global issues. These special exhibits can be found in detail with dates on the Gibbes websites. Visitors can always look forward to these permanent exhibitions:
18th and 19th Century American Paintings and Sculpture- This collection spans three galleries (1,4 and 5) and includes works that range from American colonial times to the civil war era. There is an impressive portrait collection of political and military figures, landscape, and neoclassical sculpture. Some of the artists included in these galleries are Henry Benbridge, Angelica Kaufmann, Louis Mignot, and Samuel Morse.
20th Century American Regionalism and the Charleston Renaissance- Found in gallery 6, this exhibit focuses on the influences that French Impressionism and Japanese Woodblock had on American Contemporary Art. Social Realism is a major theme in this exhibit that features many artists and subject matter from Charleston during the years 1915-1945.
Miniature Portraits- Found in gallery five, this exhibit showcases the miniature portraits which were painted for the first time in America in Charleston. The Gibbes is home to one of the most celebrated collection of these portraits with more than 600 works that span 200 years from 100 different artists.
Modern and Contemporary- Gallery 7 encompasses many different forms and mediums of Modern and Contemporary art. Works in this gallery are from the last 4 decades and are exhibited by artists that are local to Charleston and reflect regional themes, human figures, slavery in America, and other elements that are relevant to the culture of the city.
Educational Opportunities and Tours
Visitors are always welcome to take self-guided tours of the second and third floors of the museum where the galleries are located. Tickets can be purchased from the first-floor ticket counter.
Guided Tours- Groups tours are available for adults with at least 10 people in their group. These tours are led by a museum docent, are discussion based and informative. Tours must be requested and paid for in advanced. Curator lead tours are also available for an additional cost that will give groups access to special exhibits.
Public Tours- There are one-hour tours offered with general museum admission at select times. These tours are led by museum docents and are first come first served. Visit the website for more details on schedules.
Classes and Workshops- There are workshops and classes available throughout the week for children as young as 4 through adults. These events require pre-registration. Some events may be one day only, while other may be in a series. These programs change often. Details can be found online.
There are many special events hosted at The Gibbes annually including artists opening night receptions, concerts, lectures, forums, meetings, special tours, and fundraising events. Check the calendar of events on the museum website for more details.
The Gibbes is also available to rent for private parties and business functions. Host from 25-500 guests at The Gibbes for a memorable and historical celebration.
135 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina, 29401, Phone: 843-722-2706