Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is the oldest art museum in Tennessee. The origins of the museum date back to 1913, when Mrs. Bessie Vance Brooks donated $100,000 to the City of Memphis in memory of her late husband Mr. Samuel Hamilton Brooks. The museum opened in 1916 and was originally named the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. After several expansions and renovations over the decades, in 1983 it was renamed the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The building itself was designed in a Renaissance Revival architectural style and, due to its historic significance, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spanning 342 square feet, Brooks is the largest museum in the southern United States. The building holds a research library, a print study room, two art classrooms, an auditorium, the Brushmark Restaurant, the Holly Court garden and 29 galleries in its Overton Park residence.

The museum contains close to 9,000 pieces of artwork with works of particular significance noted as the Levy Collection of American Prints, the Goodman Book Collection, and the Hugo N. Dixon Collection of Impressionist paintings. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

»Permanent Collection

Permanent Collection

The permanent collection includes artwork owned by the museum as well as work that is on loan. It comprises African, Pre-Columbian, and American art. The Pre-Columbian collection features ceramics from both South and Central America. Within this collection, visitors can look at rarer and lesser-known work from the ancient Valdivia culture, which is thought to be one of the oldest cultures in North and South America. The collection sees a range of ceramic pots, bowls, effigies, masks, figurines, and textiles, all of which have a historic story to tell. A notable artifact that draws particular interest is the vibrant Incan feathered tabard of the Chimú culture from Peru. The tabard appears to be in very good condition despite its origins in the 15th or 16th century, which is a testament to those who made it.

The Brooks’ collection of African Art provides a fascinating selection of paintings, books, textiles, beadwork, and metal and wood carvings. A local collector, Henry Easterwood, is credited with helping to curate this collection and consequently helping to bring contemporary and past African culture into the lives of those who visit this exhibition. Amongst the interesting objects is the Malian Chiwara headdress from the late 19th to early 20th century, which was made by the Bamana people in Mali, Africa. The headdress is tall in stature and black in color, having been made from the materials of the time, such as wood, cowrie shells, monkey hair, and hemp.

Amongst the permanent collection is a lavish 154-year-old five-piece silver coffee and tea service by Eoff & Shepard. The service is styled in a chinoiserie design and dates back to 1852. Received as a gift from the Decorative Arts Trust, the service is an interesting example of the changing designs of American silver over the years.

The collection contains not only historic and culturally diverse artworks from America and South America but also some from Europe. Within the permanent collection are 130 English donated satirical prints. These engravings and etchings depict witty social and political commentary on the British royal family and renowned figures of the time such as Charles Dickens. Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee - Photo: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

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»Ongoing Programs and Education

Ongoing Programs and Education

The museum provides many opportunities to learn for both adults and children. Families looking to find out more information about the exhibits on display can pick up an Interactive Family Guide from the admissions desk. This guide is filled with information on the displays, questions to answer, and opportunities for further research outside the museum's doors. On the third Thursday of every month in spring and fall, home-schooled children and their parents are able to attend the museum for free. Additionally, during June and July the museum runs a Wacky Wednesday program, where children can visit the open artworks studio, browse the galleries with a guide, and also watch children’s international short films.

Brooks has also partnered up with local Memphis schools to deliver a visual arts enrichment program known as Art Builds Creativity (ABC). The program provides fourth graders with four 90-minute lessons (two at Brooks and two in their classrooms) using the art from the exhibitions to inspire creativity. Once the program finishes, the students’ work is displayed in the museum and the children are given free family passes for a future visit. For tours, teachers can book on the museum's website. Address: 1934 Poplar Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104, Phone: 901-544-6200

Back to: Memphis, Tennessee Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee - Photo: Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

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Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee